Macintosh and the Maroons

Detail of A new plan of the island of Grenada (1780).

Detail of A new plan of the island of Grenada (1780). John Carter Brown Library, Brown University, Cabinet Es780 Pi.

Whilst there is a certain liberality of sentiment in Macintosh’s political philosophy, particularly as it concerned individual rights, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that Macintosh was both a slave owner and a tool of imperial control and repression in Grenada. Although the Maroons of Grenada (i.e., those slaves who had escaped from subjugation and who lived in isolated communities in rural areas) were never considered by British colonial administrators to be quite the threat that their counterparts in Jamaica were, Grenadian Maroons became a particular source of concern during the late 1760s as their numbers increased.

The late Grenadian politician George Brizan, in his 1984 volume Grenada: island of conflict, demonstrates that Macintosh had a particular role in the repression of Grenada’s Maroons during this period. Brizan (p. 97) notes that

As more and more runaway slaves joined their ranks the numbers of Maroons increased, and their sporadic acts of depredation [i.e., cattle theft] continued. In the latter part of 1769 these were the cause of great alarm in St Andrew’s. By 13 December 1770, the situation was  such that [Robert] Melville had to despatch an officer of the militia with 20 men to assist the inhabitants of St Andrew’s, whom the Governor instructed to form groups and patrol the area in an attempt to suppress these “internal enemies”. The Justice of the Peace in the St Andrew’s area, William McIntosh [sic], featured prominently in the organisation of these activities.

Determining what, precisely, Macintosh’s role was, will require some unpicking. Brizan’s supporting endnote for this information is unhelpful, listing only “Letter Book 1765-66“. The bibliography is not any more helpful, referring only to “Letter Books; 1763-1895. Selected Volumes: 1763-71, 1771-99, 1815-95” under the subheading “Grenada”. In his acknowledgements, Brizan does thank the librarian of the Grenada Public Library, so it is possible that this is where the letter books were held. The library is now the Grenada National Archives, but the their collections were badly damaged by a 2004 hurricane. Sadly, the letter book covering the early 1770s does not appear to have been digitised as part of the the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme. Once again, William Macintosh resists straightforward investigation.

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