the demerara martyr.
DEMERARA SLAVE REBELLION - HAMPDEN, John. To Sir M. W. Ridley, Bart. Newcastle, J. Clark, Printer, 8th June 1826.
Broadside, measuring 52 x 22 cm; lower half or left-hand margin cut close to printed surface, light spotting to margins, two horizontal folds.
In this very rare ephemeral survival issued during the 1826 election campaign by John Hampden, who attacks the prosecutors and opponents of the missionary John Smith who had supported a slave rebellion in 1823 in Demerara in Guyana, a case which attracted the attention of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.
'Smith [had] arrived in Demerara on 23 February 1817. He was warmly received by the slaves at Le Resouvenir but had a difficult first meeting with the governor, Major-General Murray. Murray warned him not to teach the local people to read; otherwise, he would be banished. Smith, however, notwithstanding the undisguised hostility of the white population, laboured among the slaves with considerable success. In August 1823 Smith's health worsened dramatically, and a doctor recommended that he leave the colony. But on 18 August a slave rebellion broke out, and three days later Smith was arrested for refusing to take up arms against the slaves. He was tried by court martial on the charge of having promoted discontent among them. After a trial lasting twenty-seven days, he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, though the court recommended mercy. While awaiting the decision of the home government, he was confined in an unhealthy gaol and died there of ‘pulmonary consumption’ on 6 February 1824, before news that mercy had been granted reached the colony … News of Smith's imprisonment created a considerable stir in England. The publication of the documents connected with the case by the London Missionary Society intensified the excitement, and more than 200 petitions on his behalf were presented to parliament in eleven days' (ODNB).
John Hampden attacks Ridley for not opposing the trial and its supporters with enough vigour, and for various other failings not to be expected from 'a professional Whig'. He exclaims 'You said nothing against Mr Smith - neither did you alledge that he had done any thing "worthy of bonds" you seemed to admit the violent nature of the proceedings against him, but then as Mr Canning had expressed his disapprobation of this breach of the constiution, and as the trial of the Missionary by a Military Court was more favourable (as you stated) to him than he had been left to the civil tribunals of the colony you thought enough had been done'. Hampden then explains the complicated constitutional and legal situation in Demerara, which had been seized recenly by the British from the Netherlands, and where Dutch colonial legislation had not been completely abolished. 'The criminal law of the place is founded upon the well known ordinance of Philip II published in 1570, which continuing to be law of Holland …'
COPAC locates merely one broadside with this title, at Durham, signed not by Hampden but by 'the Mentor'. This is only 28 cm tall and probably deals with different matters.