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Colonial Cases

Bahamas

Crooked Island

Carmarthen Journal, 15 May 1829   

COLONIAL BARBARITY. - Henry Moss, Esq. of Crooked Island, having been accused of excessive cruelty to a negro slave, by confining her for the period of seventeen days and nights in the stocks, without intermission, by giving her, while in that situation, tasks which she was unable to perform, and by causing her to be repeatedly flogged for the non-performance of such tasks; and after releasing her from the stocks, by having sent her to labour in the fields, before she had recovered from the effects of her confinement, and by having caused her to be flogged in the fields (the girl having died in the field on the morning after she had received one of those floggings); and Mr. Henry Moss, jointly with his wife Helen, having been accused of rubbing red pepper (capsicum) upon the eyes of the girl - the Attorney-General preferred a bill of indictment against Mr. moss and his wife for murder. The Grab Jury having returned "Not Found" upon this bill, the Attorney-General preferred two other bills for misdemeanours, one against Mr. Moss, the other against Mr. Miss and wife.

   Both these bills were found by the Grand Jury, and after a full and patient investigation of the circumstances of the case before the petit jury, during a trial of upwards of sixteen hours' duration, a verdict of Guilty was returned on both indictments.  The Court sentenced Mr. and Mrs. Moss to imprisonment in the common gaol at Nassau, for five calendar months; and Mr. Moss to the payment of a fine of £300 over and besides the costs of prosecution.

"I have been solicited (says Mr. President Munnings) to remit or to shorten the term of Mrs. Moss's imprisonment, but I shall in no degree whatever alter the sentence of the general Court, by the extension of mercy to those by whom it appears none was exercised."

   General Grant on his return to the Bahamas was immediately applied to "by the most respectable inhabitants of the town and colony," to remit the sentence of Mr. and Mrs. Moss; and he lost no time in applying to the British Government, to authorizes such remission, "The unfortunate Henry and Helen Moss," he tells his Lordship, "are rather to be pitied for the untoward melancholy occurrence which has taken place."

   To which Mr. Huskisson replied,

The cruelties committed by Henry and Helen Moss are incontrovertibly proved; that there was a provocation to them might have been believed without the evidence, for it could scarcely be in human nature to commit them from mere wantonness; but they are totally unjustified by any such provocation; they constitute an offence of an aggravated character, and for which I cannot consider the sentence of five months' imprisonment, and fines amounting to £300 to be by any means unduly severe.  I am, therefore, unable to advise his Majesty to remit any part of this sentence.

   And, with reference to that part of your dispatch of the 3d of July, in which you 'request my approbation to relinquish the mulct, in order in some degree to remove the impression of their being deemed habitually and notoriously cruel,' I can only stay, that it is not in my power to remove the impression which may have been produced on the public mind, but I sincerely hope that Henry and Helen Miss will, by their future conduct to their slaves, as far as in them lies, retrieve the character which they are said to have borne heretofore. - Ant-Slavery reporter.

 

Hog Island

Nassau (Bahamas)

The Spectator, 6 September 1828 (5)

   A jury of inquest, at Hog Island, near Nassau, upon Peter Swanson, a seaman on board his Majesty's schooner Nimble, has returned a verdict "that it appeared that the death of the man was caused by his having been confined by cords tied round his arms, and being gagged by an iron bolt of his mouth."

 

St. George's 1826

The Cambrian, 4 February 1826

   The Bermuda papers contain an account of a very horrid murder at St. George's, in that colony, a crime unprecedented there.  It appears that several; wanton outrages having been committed in that place, Mr. Hunter, the Magistrate, considered it proper to take notice of a complaint preferred by a free man of colour, against one Benj. Gwynn, which terminated by his ordering the latter to find sureties to keep the peace, and as this order was set at defiance, Gwynn was finally commuted to gaol.  On consequence of this, Joseph Gwynn, the father of B, Gwynn, declared he would murder Mr. Hunter, and after furnishing himself with arms, he proceeded, on the 5th of December, about six o'clock, to the house of Mr. Hunter, but this gentleman having been informed of his intentions, refused to see him.  Mt. Hunter sent a messenger to Mr. Folger, at St. George's, stating that he understood Gwynn was armed with pistols for the purpose of shooting him, which induced Mr. F. to set out for Mr. H.'s  house; on his way to which he met Gwynn, who was uttering violent threats against the Magistrate, which induced Mr. F. to remonstrate with him, and the result was that Gwynn finally discharged the contents of a pistol into the body of Mr. F., of which wound he expired at three o'clock on the following morning.  The Coroner's Inquest had returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against Gwynn, and he has been committed for trial, as well as his two sons, as accessories before the fact.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School