Jamaica: Overcoming All Odds In The 18th Century

There has never been a dull moment in Jamaica’s history. The amount of transitions the country has undergone over the centuries can be drawn as a series of fluctuations, which inadvertently, creates economic instability. As a World-player, Jamaica’s competitive advantage is that, it truly knows how to thrive, especially when the possibilities are grim. Thus, Investors will simply have to be comfortable with extreme volatility, to do business with Jamaica.

Life in Jamaica had started long before the 18th Century, but let’s begin there. By then, the British took over Jamaica, from the Spanish who had been occupying the island since the late 17th century. Subsequently, the British brought over hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans from Africa to work on the Sugar Plantations. For every plantation, there was a median of approximately 150 Africans, all owned by wealthy Englishmen.Jamaica

When the Spanish left, there were remnants of enslaved Africans who fled to the mountainous interiors of Jamaica. They were known as the Maroons, a term meaning a slave who escaped. So, while there were new enslaved Africans brought over to work on the Sugar plantations, there were these Maroons that were living independently in the same country.

The Maroons were thriving under their own organized structure. Settlements were created. There were intermarriages with native people of Jamaica, and their livelihood came  from subsistence farming and raiding the plantations, looking for food no doubt. The First Maroon War took a toll on the British troops; and as such in 1739, an agreement, between the British and the Maroons, was written. The terms included: (1) The Maroons would remain in their 5 towns (Accompong, Trelawny Town, Moore Town, Scott’s Pass, and Nanny Town),  (2) They had to live under their own ruler and a British Supervisor. (3) They could not harbour runaway slaves, but to catch them instead. (4)  They served to protect the Island from invaders. The leader of one of the settlements, Cudjoe, “felt that the only hope for the future was honorable peace with the enemy, which was just what the British were thinking.”

Jamaica Given the fact that the wealthy Englishmen were living in England, they hired buccaneers or pirate to control the plantations. Obviously, this arrangement did not go so well. It’s similar to having criminals head an organization. Who does that?! Naturally, the results weren’t pretty. In 1760, the Tacky revolt broke out. These uprisings are generally the result of working under difficult conditions, and the enslaved workers were not being treated well. One of the slave overseer on the St. Mary Plantation, Tacky, most-likely a mixed race individual, led a group of enslaved Africans in taking over the Frontier and Trinity plantations while killing their enslavers. This uprising ended poorly because approximately 70 to 80 mounted militia came along with Maroons (bounded by treaty) to suppress the rebellion. Tacky was shot, and his head cut off as deterrence to any who dared the same. The rest of Tacky’s men committed suicide, a better solution than to go back to slavery.


While the First Maroon War resulted in Cudjoe’s Treaty of 1739, the Second Maroon War started because there was a breach of the said treaty. Two Maroons were flogged by a Black Overseer because they stole two pigs. When the grievance was taken to the British by six maroons, they found themselves held prisoners. This led to a five month guerrilla warfare. Both sides were strong; the British outnumbered the Maroons 10-1, but the Maroons knew the mountains and forests well, and used the terrain to their advantage. In the end, the Maroons surrendered because of the stalemate. The British told them they had three days to “beg for apology”. Beg? These brave heroes were going to beg? Well, the Maroons surrendered in there own way, and not my the rules set out by the British. It was not until two months passed, mid-March, before they decided to thrown in the white cloth. Why did they? I would like to think it was because of so many years of fighting, and there leader was now old and not as brave as he one were. When they did, the British chose to remove them from the island immediately because of the risk of more rebellions. The first ship was sailing to Nova, Scotia, Canada, and history had it, the Trelawny Maroons were sent to live there for approximately four years before they were returned to Africa. If not, there would certainly be more rebellions in Jamaica.

RelatedPort Royal

The take-away in this time period is that the Maroons (fellow Jamaicans) demonstrated continuous perseverance, courage, and unity to stand up to the British. Additionally, the uprisings from the enslaved Africans are actually notable victories; and demonstrates the immense  desire to survive, the willingness to risk it all (including life), for the sake of freedom. Jamaica’s history speaks volume about the gene that is still running in every Jamaican’s vein, down to the very soil that can tell the story of the countless men and women it has covered. Obstacles are not obstacles, only another challenge to demonstrate the vivacity of the people. It is why the businesses and the people that come from this country thrive. If you can be successful in that small island, you can be successful anywhere in the world.

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