History: Christmas Report from 1816

December 25, 2010

In “Slavery in Bermuda”, historian James E Smith records that the big holiday of the year was Christmas; but he goes on to say that “their festive activities were not always greeted with stoic calm by the rest of the community.”

Mr Smith quotes a newspaper article from November 1816 that was looking forward to the coming Christmas of 1816, still a whole month away: “The time approaches when the Negroes expect their holiday presents, and prepare to amuse themselves with their usual diversions. It is by no means improper that they should be allowed a suitable indulgence for recreation; but this indulgence is often liable to be carried to an extreme that produces great licentiousness.”

“The Negroes, at their dances, generally indulge in very copious draughts of New Rum that disorders & stupefies their faculties & undermines the animal constitution. Perhaps a little more restraint imposed by their masters, & a little more vigilance on the part of Magistrates at this season, would be attended with no bad consequences.”

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