THE IRISH-BORN ‘CHAMPION OF THE SLAVES

 


‘Slavery has divided society into two classes:
to the one it has given power, but to the other it has not
extended protection. One of those classes is above public
opinion and the other below it; neither one therefore is
under its influence.


Lord Sligo, Governor General of Jamaica.


The above observation, in view of the present struggle for racial equality worldwide, seems as relevant today as when first written in 1836.

Lord Sligo, from Westport House, Co. Mayo, Ireland was appointed Governor General of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in April 1834. While the importation of slaves from Africa had been abolished in 1807 slavery, the cornerstone of sugar production and profit, continued. Evangelical missionaries conveyed the horrors of slavery to the British public and in 1833 the government passed an Emancipation Act which Sligo was entrusted to implement in Jamaica.

The Emancipation Act, however, did not give immediate freedom to the slaves, who merely became ‘apprenticed’ to their masters for a further six years. Described as ‘slavery under another name’ the controversial ‘Apprenticeship System’ was nonetheless resisted by the Jamaican Plantocracy and by powerful commercial and political vested interests in Britain.

As the owner of two plantations on the island which he has inherited from his grandmother, Elizabeth Kelly, heiress of Denis Kelly from Co. Galway, former Chief Justice of Jamaica, the Jamaican planters expected Sligo to be on their side. His objective, however, as he told them on his arrival as Governor General in April 1834, to establish a social system ‘absolved forever from the reproach of Slavery’ set them on a bitter collision course.

Sligo found the savagery of the slavery system he encountered personally abhorrent. From the flogging of field workers with cart whips, branding with hot iron, to the whipping of female slaves ‘the cruelties are past all idea,’ he told the Jamaican Assembly. ‘I call on you to put an end to conduct so repugnant to humanity.’

To counteract the worst excesses he maintained personal contact and control over the sixty Special Magistrates appointed to oversee the implementation of the new Apprenticeship System in the nine hundred plantations throughout the island. As he wrote to a friend

It is treason in Jamaica to talk of a Negro as a free man
or to speak to him or to give him any knowledge of the
extent to which the law protects him…

Much to the derision and indignation of their masters, and unprecedented in the colonies, to alleviate such inequality he personally ‘gave a patient hearing to the poorest Negro which might carry his grievance to Government House…’

Against opposition from the Jamaican parliament he advocated the education of the black population so they might extract maximum benefit from their future freedom. He supported the building of the first schools on the island, two of which he established on his own property. He was the first plantation owner to initiate a wage system for black workers on his own plantations and later, after emancipation, to divide his lands into small farms which were leased to the former slaves. His efforts to improve Jamaica’s infrastructure, land reclamation and better husbandry practices, as well as to steer the economy away from its dependence on sugar, lead to the establishment of Agricultural Societies of which he became patron.

His efforts on behalf of the majority black population were bitterly opposed by the planter-dominated Jamaican Assembly who accused him ‘of interpreting the laws ‘in favour of the negro’ and who, as Sligo noted, set out ‘to make Jamaica too hot to hold me’. Derisorily referring to him as ‘The Great Leviathan of Black Humanity’ they withdrew his salary and commenced a campaign of vilification against him in the Jamaican and British press. With the connivance of powerful commercial and political vested interests it resulted in his removal from office in 1836.

To the Jamaican black population, however, Sligo was their champion and protector as the pro-emancipation press on the island recorded:

‘The shout of fiendish triumph that sends Lord Sligo from
the shores of the colony is the prelude to the acclamations
that will hail him a DELIVERER of the human race, as a
friend of suffering humanity, as one of the truest champions
of liberty…’

In an unprecedented gesture the black population presented him with a magnificent silver candelabra inscribed:
-
‘in grateful remembrance they entertain of his
unremitting efforts to alleviate their suffering and
to redress their wrongs during his just and enlightened
administration of the Government of the Island…’

Lord Sligo’s experience in Jamaica turned him from a supporter of the Apprenticeship system into, as he recorded, ‘the warmest advocate for full and immediate emancipation’. On his return he became active in the anti-slavery movement in Britain.

One of his published pamphlets ‘Jamaica Under the Apprenticeship System’ detailing his personal experiences and views on slavery, influenced the ‘Great Debate’ on Emancipation held in the British parliament in February 1838.

On 22 March 1838 being, as he wrote, ‘well aware that it would put and end to the [slavery] system’ Sligo announced in the House of Lords, that regardless of the outcome of the government’s deliberations, he would free all Apprentices on his own plantations in Jamaica on 1 August 1838.

‘I am confident that no person who is acquainted with the
state of the West Indian colonies and at the same time
uninfected with colonial prejudices will deny that the time
is now come when it is important to effect a final
arrangement of this question.

His public pronouncement left the British Government with no alternative but to implement full and immediate emancipation on the same date.

Sligo’s efforts in Jamaica also influenced the struggle for emancipation in America. In September 1836 in New York and Philadelphia he met with members of the newly-formed American Anti-Slavery Society, as well as with individual clergymen at the forefront of the emancipation struggle and, as was recorded, ‘all who met him formed an exalted opinion of his integrity and friendship for the poor.’

Lord Sligo earned an honoured and respected place in the history of Jamaica, where he is acknowledged as ‘Champion of the Slaves’ and where Sligoville, the first free slave village in the world, is named in his honour. In 1838 his name, together with Wilberforce and Buxton, leading figures in the anti-slavery movement in Britain, was commemorated in an emancipation memorial medal.

That many of the racially-motivated inequalities and injustices that Sligo sought to eradicate during his lifetime still exist one hundred and seventy-five years after his death he could undoubtedly not have envisaged.

As statues of historic figures involved in slavery over the preceding centuries are toppled from their plinths…perhaps one should be erected to this 19th century abolitionist.


The Great Leviathan – The Life of Howe Peter Browne 2nd Marquess of Sligo, 1788-1845. (New Island Books)
(available amazon.com and as an e-book)

Boyhood home of the Duke of Wellington

 

 

DANGAN CASTLE, Summerhill. Co Meath, boyhood home of the famous Duke of Wellington.

What history these ruins encompass and what potential they could provide to the local economy as a tourist destination for the millions of Wellington devotees worldwide.

The Great Leviathan, Marquess of Sligo: The Irish ‘Champion of the Slaves’

In-Depth Interview with Anne Chambers

 

The story of a man who became known as Champion of the Slaves.

 

From Ireland, England, France, Austria, Greece, Turkey, and Italy to America and the West Indies, overflowing with historic events, from the French Revolution to the Great Irish Famine, Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo, spy, sailor, and jailbird, lived life to the absolute limits.


At 21, Howe Peter Browne inherited five titles in the peerage, an estate in the West of Ireland and valuable plantations in Jamaica. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, his early years conformed to the popular image of a ‘regency buck’ in the notorious circle of the Prince Regent, including the company of such profligates as Thomas de Quincey, Lord Byron, John Cam Hobhouse, and Scrope Davies.


In 1816 he married Catherine de Burgh and settled on his estates in West Ireland. He alleviated the desperate circumstances of his tenants and established a cotton and corduroy factory in Westport. As famine engulfed the west of Ireland in 1831, at his own expense, he imported cargos of grain and potatoes, built a hospital and dispensary to care for the sick, and raised money in London for relief and additional public works.


On his appointment as Governor General of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in 1834, Sligo took on the brutal system of slavery. His objective to establish “a social system absolved forever from the reproach of Slavery,” set him on a bitter collision course with the local planters. He was the first plantation owner to initiate a wage system for black workers and after emancipation, to divide his lands into numerous farms to lease to the former slaves. The planters commenced a campaign of vilification against him in the Jamaican and British press.

Lord Sligo earned an honored place in the history of Jamaica, where he is acknowledged as ‘Champion of the Slaves’ and where the town of Sligoville, the first free slave village in the world, still bears his name.

 

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Anne Chambers is author of ten biographies, including the best-selling Grace O’Malley – The Biography of Ireland’s Pirate Queen 1530-1603, a historical novel and a collection of short stories. Her latest biography, The Great Leviathan: The Life of Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo, 1788-1845 was published in 2018. Her books have been translated into many languages and have been the subject of TV and Radio documentaries for Discovery, The Learning Channel, Travel Channel, ABC Australia, BBC, BBC World Service, RTE, and Lyric FM. In 2018 she was awarded the Wild Atlantic Way Words Festival Hall of Fame Award in recognition of her contribution to Ireland’s literary tradition.

 

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2nd Marquess of Sligo: The Forgotten Irish ‘Emancipator of Slaves’ 

★ANCIENT ORIGINS INTERNET MAGAZINE★

★FROM WESTPORT TO THE WEST INDIES★

ANNE writes about the remarkable life of Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo from Westport House, Co Mayo

Click this link to read the article on ANCIENT ORIGINS INTERNET MAGAZINE or click read more below. 

https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/marquess-sligo-0013541

 


The only child and heir of John Denis, 1 st Marquess of Sligo, Westport House estate, Co Mayo and his wife Louisa,daughter and co-heiress of Admiral Richard Howe, British naval hero, victor of the ‘Glorious First of June’ and counsellor to King George III, Howe Peter Browne was reared in a climate of wealth and privilege.

Early Years: A Thrill Seeker With an Ambition for More

At 21 he inherited five titles in the peerage, a 200,000-acre estate in the West of Ireland and valuable plantations in Jamaica. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, his early years conformed to the popular image of a ‘regency buck’ in the notorious world of the Prince Regent at Holland House, Brighton and Newmarket, the gambling houses, bawd houses and theatres of London, to the fashionable salons of Paris, in the company of such profligates as Thomas de Quincey, Lord Byron, John Cam Hobhouse and Scrope Davies. A patron of pugilists, dancers, courtesans, artists and jockeys, Sligo later became a successful horse breeder and was a founder member and steward of the Irish Turf Club.

In 1810, at the height of the Napoleonic War , joining the radical Lady Hester Stanhope and her lover, Michael (Lavallette) Bruce, in Gibraltar, Sligo set out on the mandatory ‘grand tour’. Chartering a ship in Malta to go ‘treasure-seeking’ in Greece, en route he kidnapped some navy seamen from a British warship. Linking up with Byron the two friends shared many escapades in Greece and journeyed together from Athens to Corinth. Sligo excavated at the Acropolis and at Mycenae where he located the famous columns to the Treasury of Atreus (now on view in the British Museum) before moving on to Turkey.

Despite his grandfather’s status as a national maritime hero, on his return to London, Sligo was indicted by the British Admiralty. In a ‘celebrity’ trial in December 1812 at the Old Bailey, he was found guilty of “unlawfully receiving on board his ship at Malta…seamen in the King’s service,” fined and imprisoned for four months in Newgate prison. On his release, in true Gilbert and Sullivan mode, he found that his trial judge had, as Byron recorded, “passed sentence of matrimony” on his mother, the widowed Marchioness of Sligo. Following a tour of the German states and to the battlefield at Leipzig, scene of one of the greatest slaughters of the Napoleonic Wars, Sligo journeyed to the island of Elba. There, courtesy of Fanny Dillon, whose family originated from County Mayo and who was married to Henri-Gatien Bertrand, Napoleon’s loyal marshal and confidante, he was accorded a private audience with the former emperor. His letters home from Italy “giving a long account of Napoleon” were intercepted by the British authorities, however, and never reached their destination.

 

 

 

THE ROYAL VISIT TO IRELAND - MARCH 2020

 

PRINCE WILLIAM’S ‘forgotten’ Irish ancestor

 

ELEANOR COUNTESS OF DESMOND


‘Out of every corner of the woods and glens they came creeping forth upon their hands for their legs could not bear them, they looked like anatomies of death, they spoke like ghosts, crying out of their grave…’

So the English poet Edmund Spenser described the province of Munster in 1583. While the dreadful spectacle of famine and decay may have appalled his eyes, Spenser, together with friends such as Walter Raleigh, had actively participated in and benefited from Munster’s ruin, as the English Crown wrested the province from the grip of its once powerful overlord – Gearoid (Gerald) Fitzgerald, 14th Earl of Desmond.

By 1579 the writing was on the wall for Desmond. Rooted in the feudal tradition of a bygone era, from which he derived his status and wealth, the world outside his Munster domain had moved on. Queen Elizabeth I viewed him as a threat to her power in Ireland, his intrigues with Spain a threat to England’s security and the vast acres under his control in Ireland as a potential goldmine. After years of prevarication in 1579 Elizabeth finally let loose the dogs of war. Desmond was proclaimed a traitor, a price on his head and his lands and castles up for grabs.

For three years a savage military campaign was waged against him by Elizabeth’s military generals, aided by her cousin the Earl of Ormond, Desmond’s bitter rival for power in Ireland. Abandoned by his Spanish allies, ill from dropsy and dysentery, too weak to even mount his horse, Desmond was hunted like a wild animal across the despoiled acres of his vast lordship. Despite his overwhelming liabilities, however, he had one remaining asset - his countess, Eleanor.

Educated, intelligent, courageous and able, daughter of Edmund Butler, Baron of Dunboyne, from Kiltinan Castle, county Tipperary, Eleanor’s destiny was as a wife, mother and chatelaine. But instead her marriage in 1565 to the Earl of Desmond, hurled her into a maelstrom of a bitter family feud, international political intrigue, a religious war, the enforced rebellion of her husband and finally social and political melt-down and ostracism.

With amazing skill, courage and diplomacy, Eleanor at first tried to mediate with Elizabeth and her administrators. Her letters are pragmatic, astute and knowledgeable, as she tried to keep at bay avaricious officials in the Queen’s pay in Ireland, predatory military generals, as well as power-hungry rivals from within her husband’s own family – all of whom hoped to profit from his downfall. Enduring imprisonment in Dublin Castle and in the Tower of London, exile in the slums of Southwark, her only son held hostage in the Tower of London, her mission, to save the House of Desmond, her husband, her children and herself from annihilation, became her obsession.

And when her efforts as a mediator between her husband and Queen Elizabeth were overtaken by international events, she endured three horrific years on the run with Gearoid across the wastelands of his Munster lordship. Enduring a knife-edge existence in desolate hastily-erected shelters in forests and mountains desperately she tried to keep her husband alive until either the vacillating English Queen called off her war dogs or help came from her husband’s fickle Spanish allies.

When her husband was finally run to ground and ignobly beheaded in a lonely cave near Tralee in the winter of 1583, his head pickled in a wine cask, sent to London to end up on a spike at the entrance to the Tower of London, Eleanor set out to salvage what she could from the ruins of his estates for their children. Deserted as the wife of a ‘traitor’ by family and friends, a political and social outcast, pocketing her pride, forced to beg her bread with her five young daughters on the streets of Dublin, pawning everything she possessed, she took her case to the heart of the Machiavellian Tudor Court in London, experiencing humiliation, isolation and imprisonment in the process.

Her persistence and courage finally paid dividends, however, when she won both the respect and assistance of Queen Elizabeth 1 and the love and protection of a new husband, Donagh O’Connor Sligo.

Fighting her cause to the very end of her long and remarkable life until well into her nineties, Eleanor rebutted the many spurious claims made in the Courts of Chancery, in both Dublin and London, to her second husband’s property by the new wave of English carpetbaggers who descended on Sligo after the fall of Gaelic Ireland in the years following the Battle of Kinsale and the Flight of the Earls.

Eleanor, Countess of Desmond died in 1638 and is buried in Sligo Abbey where her tomb can be seen today.

Eleanor’s third daughter, Lady Katherine FitzGerald married her first cousin Maurice Roche, Viscount Fermoy. Through the Viscount Fermoy line Eleanor’s descendants include the late Princess Diana and her sons Princes William and Harry.

Eleanor’s childhood home, Kiltinan Castle, Fethard, County Tipperary, is now owned by the composer, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber

© Anne Chambers 2020
Eleanor, Countess of Desmond, 1545-1638 by Anne Chambers (Gill Books)

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Fearless leader by land and by sea, political pragmatist and tactician, rebel, pirate and matriarch, the ’most notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland’ GRACE O’MALLEY challenges and manipulates the turbulent politics of the 16th century

Grace O'Malley: The Biography of Ireland's Pirate Queen, 1530-1603 is the sole published biographical account of Grace O’Malley, sourced from original manuscript material, both in public and in private domain. For the latter, the author, Anne Chambers, had sole and exclusive access. Much of this material was located and decyphered in its original form (i.e.16th century manuscripts) by the author and is exclusive to her book. Furthermore, the presentation, opinions and analyses in the book are exclusive to the author. The author reserves all her rights in this book. No part of her book may be reproduced or utilised in any form or media, written or oral, or by means digital, electronic or mechanical, including photographic, film, video recording, photocopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system. Permission from the author and publisher must first be obtained to reproduce any part of or quotations from the book. Any transgression in this regard will be addressed. For more information, comments or enquiries please contact: Info: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Copyright © 2020.

 

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