Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

Slavery St Helena

[slavery - sexual offences]

Source: H.R. Janisch, Extracts from the St Helena Records (Benjamin Grant, St Helena, 1885)



Aug 12. - John Sinsenigs for using blasphemous words during his pains and sufferings to do penance in the Church by recommendation of the new Minister.



Jan 7. - John Knipe complains of Bridget Coates refusing to marry him as promised, that she sat in the lap of the Butcher of the Modena, and let him kiss her, that he asked her if he were not as good as the Butcher.  Wherefore she called him downe look dog and compared him to an old dog of her father's.  Bridget to pay £15 damages.



Oct 19th. - Mr. Hawkes papers having been seized by order of the governor, amongst them was found a letter from Mrs. Tovey to him in which she speaks of Govr Smith as an old Rogue Partiall doating old Foole - Monster Brute, Beast, Serpent.  She is committed to prison for it.


Oct 20th. -  Mr. Hawkes ... That he afterward stand in the Pillory from the hour of 11 till 12 at noon and that Margaret Tovey widow be placed upon the Pillory by him, there to continue during the time aforesaid.



March 1st. - Mr. Free placed in the pillory because three or four days before Mr. Hawkes departure from the island he had allowed Mrs. Tovey to stay at his house where she had interviews with Mr. Hawkes.



No date. Nathaniel Cressener's punishment for expressing his sympathy with Eleanor Isaac saying "to save her being whipt he would be willing to lie two hours neck and heels to save her each lash."  Since he is so desirous to bear some punishment in favour of his wench he was ordered to be tried neck and heels in the usual manner an hour and if he likes it and continues in the same mind the governor will make a bargain with him and excuse the wench one lash for every two he will be tied neck and heels if she shall hereafter deserve punishment.


July 9th. In the appraisement of Widow Powell's estate, the Executors desired to be informed whether the children of a free Wench begotten by a Slave Man should be accounted as free children.  To this they were answered that as it was Law in His Majesty's Colonies in the West Indies and confirmed by the king that all children begotten of a free woman should be deemed and taken to Slaves, the Executors were directed to have the children valued, viz: three Girls and two Boys amounting to £33.



August. - Bates accused of saying that he believed it was no sin to shoot the Governor.  He is ordered to be whipped with 30 stripes at the common whipping post.


Aug. 3. Mary Gurling's child examined by Council and two midwives who pronounce it to be a black man's child.  Mary Girling to be severely punished for her false swearing and imprisoned till she tells who is the real father.

   James Powell fined 40 l.  for cruel whipping of a slave girl twelve days after her delivery of a child.


Sep. 14.  Mary Girling's confession and that of Andrew the Black - she ordered to receive 39 lashed and he to be deprived of his virility.


Nov. 16th. - Thomas Swindle a soldier for having a child by a free black wench ordered to ride the wooden horse two hours with his face blacked all over.  The wench, as soon as she is out of the straw, is to be publicly whipped and herself and child made slaves to the company.



May 3. - The Wench and child herein mentioned have been restored to freedom. (Note: Referring to the case of a free woman consigned to slavery in the preceding year for having a child by Swindle, a soldier.)



March 25 - The widow of Jack the carpenter has a white child with red hair by John Cummings the gardener.  John Cummings imprudently justifying it is committed to prison.  Begs pardon and is fined £10.



Sept 26. - A Slave woman killed from inhuman usage, blows and stripes inflicted in her two days before by Hawkins, Smith, Davis and her master Meacocks.  The four were fined £6 10 0 in all.



Letters to England

June 17. - We have received your orders investing us with power to hold Courts Civil and criminal and that of Oyer and Terminer.



Jan. 25. - Mercury and Fly returned from Madagascar with 16 men slaves and 2 boys, 107 cwt. Rice, 32 cwt paddy.  An insurrection occurred among the slaves 29th Nob 1764 8 days after leaving Madagascar on board the Mercury at two in the morning - captain mortally wounded with five stabs and mate's scull fractured.  The slaves were fired upon killing two and wounding three.  Cupifore a slave sent from St Helena as interpreter speaking the language of the natives of Madagascar alleged to have excited the revolt "by filling their heads with shocking notions of their wretched fate as slaves."  Cupidore and Winchester one of the slaves were tried after arrival at St. Helena for the above, and executed for murder.



Jan. 6 - Judgments of death against Tetherick and Swartsing not warranted by law.  Not burglary to break in to a Warehouse except as part of a dwelling House. [Note: Tetherick a soldier had already been hung for breaking into the Stores.]



Dec. 13 - Woodbery a slave complains of inhuman punishment from his master who ran fish hooks through his ears and burnt his hands by putting greased wick between the fingers so as to destroy the nerves of one of the hands.  The Council consider that the oath of a slave cannot be taken against his master and that therefore a statement of the case should be referred to the Company.



July 11 - James Youd Sergeant-Major in the Garrison tried for murder of nanny his woman slave by beating her with a wooden staff, giving her one mortal wound in the head one inch broad and one inch deep - and a mortal wound in the shoulder 3 inches broad 1/2 inch deep.  Sarah Cash an evidence heard prisoner beat Nancy twelve tines on 28th Feby. Acquitted.


July 16. - Nelly - Burglary - found guilty - her youth &c., mentioned and Jury told to reconsider.  Adhered to verdict guilty.  Nelly sentenced death - pleaded quick with child.  Jury of matrons ordered. 17th July Nelly delivered of a dead male child.  Nelly under respite from 15 July hung herself in prison 19th Nov.



July 13. - Elizabeth Rention wife of James Rention shopkeeper for murder of Slave girl Peg by stabbing her with a carving knife under the left shoulder giving a wound 4 ½ inches deep.  Acquitted.



June 11 - Mr. Worrall claims his slave Yon who had been condemned to death and received a free pardon.  Decided that he should receive £15 the sum payable when a slave is executed and that Yon be ordered to the company's works.  In this case both Yon and his master William Worrall were detected in sheep stealing; the only witnesses being slaves whose evidence could not be taken against a white man. Yon alone was convicted.

 This event led to an alteration in the law and thereafter slaves who understood the nature of an oath were admitted as competent witnesses in all cases.


July 15 - William Whalley, highway robbery (stealing a piece of cloth from a sailor in the street at 8 p.m. and running away with it.) Hung 24th July.



March 28 - Java Sparrows. - prohibition against catching any for one year.  Penalty - if a child to be whopped, if a grown person, fined.



Jan 15.  Job, Mr. Defountain's slave for robbing James Warren soldr on Half-Tree-Hollow road.  Warren drinking and Joib having snatched the bottle, &c., from him.  Hung 24th Jany.



Nov. - Nancy Mary a free black for stealing fowls sentenced to receive 300 lashes - viz: 50 from different parts of the town, tied to the cart's tail and wearing a paper with large letters "Fowl Stealer" on it.  Her husband sentenced the same punishment on the "strongest presumption of his guilt."



Aug 2. - Two Chinese shot on 1st August by a party of soldiers quelling a tumult.  Coroner's verdict - Wilful Murder against 15 persons Soldiers of the Guard.

Aug 23. - Special Sessions - After a patient hearing of 14 hours the soldiers were acquitted.  The Chinese had assembled in large numbers with knives and other weapons and first attacked the soldiers (who were sent to quell the tumult) with stones and glass bottles. [See also Aug 6.]



Oct 15. - Chinese Acho sentenced death for burglary.



Aug 26 - The Vestry having recommended a Tax on Free Blacks the Governor points out that they cannot recognise any distinction of Colour in legislation and that in the case of hundreds of individuals it would not be an easy matter to determine whether they ought to be classed as Whites or Blacks. 

   The Law recognise three classes only.  The Military governed by Articles of War, Slaves by a Special Code, and the rest of the inhabitants who do not come within these two descriptions.



Oct 1. - Wm. Rookes and James Unsworth - selling Rum in which the dead body of Mrs. Grant had been preserved on board of ship.  The spirits kept by Henry Seale carpenter to answer for Turpentine, but sold by prisoners to several persons who were made ill by it.  18 months in irons at hard labor.

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