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Demerara Rebellion of 1823

The Demerara Rebellion of 1823 was an uprising involving more than ten thousand enslaved people in the Crown colony of Demerara-Essequibo (now part of Guyana) on the coast of South America. The rebellion took place on August 18, 1823, and lasted two days. No particular incident sparked the rebellion; the enslaved simply grew tired of their servitude and sought to resist in the most direct way they could.

Planning for the rebellion began on August 17, 1823, at Plantation Success, one of the largest estates in the area. Two leaders emerged during the planning period: Jack Gladstone, who was a cooper on Plantation Success, and his father, Quamina, who was a senior deacon at a church led by John Smith who was an English Protestant missionary. Gladstone and others planned the uprising, but Quamina objected to any bloodshed and suggested instead that the enslaved should go on strike. Quamina and other leaders visited John Smith, informing him of his son’s plans.  Smith urged the enslaved to remain peaceful, exercise patience, and wait for new laws that would reduce their suffering. Quamina carried Smith’s message back to the plantations.

Quamina’s call to remain peaceful fell on deaf ears when the enslaved on Plantation Success rebelled the next evening, August 18, 1823. They attempted to seize all firearms on the plantation, lock up the whites during the night, and then present them to Sir John Murray, the governor of the colony, the next day with the demand for the colonial government to issue new laws regarding the treatment of the enslaved. They did not see their rebellion as a challenge to slavery itself. They did not call for the abolition of the institution in Demerara-Essequibo.

Most of the enslaved remained loyal to their masters. An enslaved house servant, Joseph Packwood, told his owner, John Simpson, about the planned revolt before it began. Simpson, in turn, informed Governor Murray who, leading militia, met a large group of enslaved people on the road. The enslaved demanded their rights. Governor Murray

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