Christmas Rebellion

Rev Hope Masterton Waddell’s report on the Christmas Rebellion

27 December 1831

REV HOPE MASTERTON WADDELL was an Irish-born missionary who served in Jamaica and then Calabar, Nigeria. He arrived in the Caribbean when the struggle against slavery was reaching crisis point. Sam Sharpe, an enslaved man who was a literate and well respected deacon in charge of a missionary chapel in Montego Bay, was agitating for complete emancipation. At Christmas 1831, Sharpe – using the network of Native Baptist churches – organised a rebellion in the mistaken belief that freedom had already been granted by the British Parliament but was being withheld by the planters. His plan was to withhold labour at a time when the cane needed to be cut, but events quickly spiralled out of control, as Masterton Waddell recounts.

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