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The Maroons of Jamaica
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2001

During the 18th century, the powerful Maroons, escaped ex-slaves who settled in the mountains of Jamaica, carved out a significant area of influence. Through the use of slave labor, the production of sugar in this British colony flourished. But the courageous resistance of the Maroons threatened this prosperous industry. These efforts included plantation raids, the killing of white militiamen, and the freeing of slaves. The threat to the system was clear and present; hence, the planters were willing to sign a treaty with the Maroons in 1738. The treaty offers good insight to the relationship between the planters and the Maroons at the time, and deserves further attention.

On March 1, 1738, the articles of pacification with the Maroons of Trelawny Town signaled to Jamaica that a new era was emerging. The English planters had feared the rising power of the Maroons, and therefore tried to subdue them. This proved to be unsuccessful, consequently causing the English to realize that making peace with the Maroons was the only possible solution. This treaty was the first of its kind and it demonstrated that a group of rebellious ex-slaves had forced a powerful class of planters to come to terms. This was an unlikely event during the eighteenth century, given the dominance of the planter class across the Caribbean. Yet the fact remains that the treaty did not solely serve the planters’ interest. For example, article three of the treaty states that the Maroons were given 1500 acres of crown land, a necessity for the Maroons to maintain their independent way of life. In addition, it made a boundary between the Maroons and the planters, which was to avoid future conflicts. [More]

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