JAMAICAN HISTORY I

1494-1692
COLUMBUS TO THE DESTRUCTION OF PORT ROYAL

The recorded history of Jamaica may be roughly divided into six periods:

The first period may be said to date from Columbusí arrival in the island in 1494 to the destruction of Port Royal in 1692. This covers nearly 200 years. But very little is known about the days when the Spaniards were masters of Jamaica. On the other hand, a good deal is known about the first fifty years of Jamaica as a British colony.

The second period of our history extends from.the destruction of Port Royal to the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. During this time Jamaica flourished as an agricultural colony and became very rich. It reached the height of its prosperity just before the slave trade was abolished; that is, just before the British Government decided that no more slaves were to be brought from Africa and sold as private property

The third period of Jamaican history covers the years between the abolition of the slave trade and the Morant Bay rebellion in 1865. During the 46 years between the abolition of the slave trade and the rebellion, the country passed through many misfortunes and there was a great deal of misery and ill-feeling among the different classes of people in the island.

The fourth period dates from 1865 to the end of July, 1914.

The fifth period began with the outbreak of the First World War on August 1, 1914 and ended on August 1962.

The sixth period began on August 6, 1962, and records the history of Jamaica as an independent country.

In 1494 on May 4, Christopher Columbus arrived at the island of Jamaica. This was on his second voyage to the New World, which was afterwards called America. Columbus annexed the island in the name of his master and mistress. the King and Queen of Spain. But it was not occupied until Juan de Esquivel came from Santo Domingo in 1509. and for 146 years Jamaica remained a Spanish colony.

    Jamaica was then inhabited by a gentle race of people called the Arawaks or Tainos. They had probably come from the country now known as Guyana, where Arawak Indians are still to be found. They were short people, rather stout, with straight black hair and flattish noses; they were copper-coloured. They lived in huts shaped like those of the peasants of Jamaica. They slept in hammocks. They made rough seats of wood, and spears tipped with stone, or with the teeth of sharks. They did not have the bow and arrow. The men were skilful fishermen, and caught fish and turtle to eat. They made their cooking vessels out of clay, and burnt them in fire till they became hard. The women grew cassava, corn and sweet potatoes for food. Cotton grew wild in the island, and they twisted the fibre into cloth, strips of which they wore around their waists. They also wore strings of beads and shells.

    But the Spaniards made slaves of them and put them to difficult tasks. The Spaniards treated the Arawaks so harshly that in about fifty years all of them were dead. They had numbered fully sixty thousand. The Spaniards got slaves from Africa to take their place.

    The Spaniards first settled on that part of the northern coast of Jamaica which is now known as the parish of St. Ann. There they built a town called Sevilla Nueva, or New Seville. Afterwards they moved to the southern part of the island and built the town of St. Jago de la Vega (St. James of the Plain), which is still called Spanish Town. The island was given to the Columbus family as a personal estate in 1540, but they did nothing to develop it. The Spanish colony in Jamaica was never a very large or a very flourishing one.

In 1655 on May 10, a body of English sailors and soldiers landed at Passage Fort, in Kingston harbour, and marched towards Spanish Town. They were commanded by Admiral Penn and General Venables, who had been sent by Oliver Cromwell to capture the island of Hispaniola. Penn and Venables failed to take the city of Santo Domingo and sailed on to Jamaica. On May 11, the Spaniards surrendered. They were allowed a few days to leave the island. Some of them went to Cuba, but others secretly went to the northside of Jamaica.

    In the month of October, General Sedgwicke arrived from England and took charge of the colony. Many of the English sailors and soldiers, and the people who came with Sedgwicke, died from the fevers of the country and the hard food and water they consumed. Sedgwicke himself died shortly after his arrival, and General Brayne was sent out to manage the affairs of the colony. He expected he would be attacked by the Spaniards of Cuba, and so he fortified the positions occupied by the English. General Brayne died in 1656, and General Doyley, an officer of the army, became Governor.

In 1657 Don Cristobal Arnaldo de Ysassi led strong guerrilla forces in the interior. He had been appointed the last Spanish Governor of Jamaica. Two expeditions from Cuba came to the north coast to help him. General Doyley attacked both times by sailing around the island from Kingston. He defeated Ysassi near Ocho Rios in 1657 and at Rio Nuevo in 1658, the last named being the biggest battle ever fought in Jamaica. Ysassi continued to hold out until 1660, when the defection of Maroon allies made his cause hopeless, and he and his followers escaped to Cuba in canoes.

In 1661 a Commission arrived from England formally appointing Doyley as Governor of Jamaica, and commanding him to establish a Council to assist him in the government of the colony. This Council was to be elected by the colonists.

In 1662 Lord Windsor arrived as Governor of Jamaica. He brought with him a Royal Proclamation declaring that all children born of English subjects in Jamaica should be regarded as free citizens of England. Lord Windsor retired from the Government of Jamaica within the year, and Sir Charles Lyttleton became Deputy Governor. There were then 4,205 persons in Jamaica. Santiago de Cuba was captured and looted by Admiral Myngs.

In 1663 an expedition sailed from Jamaica to attack the Spanish town of Campeche, in Central America. After some misfortunes, this effort succeeded, and much booty and many ships were taken by the English. In the same year we first hear of the English trying to suppress the Maroons. These were descendants of former slaves of the Spanish. They escaped to the mountains and forests in the interior, where they lived a wild, free life and, it was rumoured, murdered every white person they came across. An expedition was sent against them under Juan de Bolas, a former Maroon who had aided the English. The soldiers were defeated. Peace was patched up shortly afterwards between the Maroons and the English, but it did not last for long.

In 1664 the first House of Assembly was called together. It consisted of twenty members elected by the people. It met at Spanish Town and passed 45 laws for the government of the colony.

    Sir Thomas Modyford arrived from Barbados with a thousand settlers. He was a Barbadian planter and had once governed Barbados before he was sent to Jamaica as Governor. He helped and protected the English buccaneers under Henry Morgan who had moved to Port Royal from Tortuga. The ships and the plunder they brought vastly enriched Port Royal. Modyford encouraged agriculture, especially the cultivation of cocoa and the sugar-cane. During this time a large number of slaves were brought from Africa to Jamaica. However, the slave trade with Jamaica had commenced before this date.

In 1673 there were 17,272 persons in Jamaica. In that year Sir Henry Morgan became Lieutenant-Governor.

In 1674 Lord Vaughan arrived as Governor. The next year 1,200 settlers from Surinam came to Jamaica and started sugar planting.

In 1677 Lord Vaughan left Jamaica, and Sir Henry Morgan once more became Lieutenant-Governor. He was again Lieutenant-Governor in 1680. This was the same Henry Morgan who, in 1668, attacked Porto Bello on the Isthmus of Panama, and plundered it. In 1671, leading a body of buccaneers from Jamaica, he attacked and captured the old city of Panama, plundered it and burnt it to the ground.

In 1678 the Earl of Carlisle arrived as Governor. He brought with him instructions that before any laws were passed by the House of Assembly, a draft of them should be submitted to the King for his alterations or approval. Before this, the House of Assembly had first passed laws, and then sent them to England for the KingÆs approval. The House strongly protested against this change, which would have reduced its power and authority very much. After a long struggle, the English Government yielded, and the old system was continued.

In 1687 the Duke of Albemarle as Governor. With him came Sir Hans Sloane as his physician. Sir Hans Sloane wrote two large volumes on Jamaica. Albemarle favoured Sir Henry Morgan, who died in 1688 and was buried with honours at Port Royal.

In 1690 the Earl of Inchiquin arrived as Governor. During this year a rebellion of the slaves took place at Chapelton in Clarendon. It was suppressed, and the ringleaders were executed. Some of the slaves, however, escaped to the mountains, where they joined the Maroons.

In 1692 Sir William Beeston became Governor of Jamaica.

    On June 7, the great Port Royal earthquake occurred. Port Royal was then the chief city in Jamaica, famous for its riches. The House of Assembly met there. The buccaneers took their prizes there. The houses were substantially built of stone. The inhabitants lived a wild, reckless life, and Port Royal was described as one of the wickedest places on earth.

    At about 20 minutes to 12, on the forenoon of June, the 7, the inhabitants of the town were startled by a noise like thunder, which seemed to come from the north. Immediately the earth began to shake, and then the walls of the houses fell on every side. There were three shocks. The first was not very severe; the last was the worst. A considerable portion of the city sank beneath the sea. The sea receded, then rushed back with terrible force, sweeping over the land and drowning hundreds of persons. Thousands perished. Minor shocks occurred all that day and for several days afterwards. The earthquake was felt all over the island; great landslides occurred and some springs disappeared. The dead bodies of the people floated in harbour and rotted on the land. Port Royal was almost completely ruined. Its surviving inhabitants endeavored to restore what was left of it to its former importance, but in 1704, a fire broke out in one of its warehouses and destroyed every building except the forts.