Slavery wasn’t officially abolished in the British West Indies until August 1834. This included the Bahama Islands. Slaves landed in the Bahamas, either by fate or design, after 1st August 1834, were lawfully free persons.
In February 1834, however, several months before abolition, we see the then Lieutenant Governor B.T. Balfour giving a most extraordinary warning to a group of Americans stranded in Nassau in New Providence.
When they requested the return of their slaves, as they made their way back to America, Balfour informed them that if they attempted to remove a single slave, they would all be hanged, as well as any accessaries who helped them.
London Times 29th March 1834
More Good News
The New Orleans Bee, of the 4th inst. contains a long statement from the passengers and officers of the brig Encomium lately wrecked on a voyage from Charleston to New Orleans. – The vessel struck about midnight, on 3 February, on Fish Key Reef, off the north-east part of Abaco, and the passengers and crew, 69 in number, succeeded in making their way to the nearest land, where they remained for four days and nights subsisting on rice which was drenched with salt water and what fish they were able to catch. They were taken from there by wreckers to Nassau, in the island of New Providence, where the state they were treated in the most insulting and inhospitable manner by the British authorities.
A number of slaves, belonging to the passengers, were landed and conducted to the Customs House, and it cleared to be free and independent subjects of William the Fourth. Their masters waited on the American Cousul, and desired to know whether the slaves could be taken back to the United States. The council thought it advisable to have a Governor’s opinion on the subject, and accordingly addressed him a polite note, stating that some of the slaves were extremely anxious to return to their masters, to which the Lieutenant Governor, B. T. Balfour, replied that if the gentlemen presumed to remove the slaves, they should be hanged and all the accessaries should be considered equally implicated and meet a similar fate.
Several ladies were on board the wrecked vessel, and respectable merchant of Charleston and New Orleans.