In 1784, the Loyalists began a campaign of intimidation, bordering on terrorism, in Nassau. What else would you call a line of foreigner white men, on horseback, with their biggest burliest negro slaves marching in front, carrying sharp hatchets on their shoulders, moving up and down Bay Street, on sleepy, small New Providence island?
It wasn’t the May Day parade that’s for sure!
When the Loyalists began to arrive in the Bahama Islands, after Britain lost the United States in the war for independence, they thought very little of the ‘Conchs’ the white Bahamians. They thought even less of Governor Maxwell, Britain’s appointed head, and the planter members of the Assembly.
The Loyalists really thought the Bahamas was a joke. Of course it was better than staying in America after the war, and being shot by the new Americans as British sympathisers. Nevertheless, after living in more built up places in the United States, the Bahamas must have seemed like landing on the rocky side of the moon. New Providence only extended partially to the left and right of the wharf on the Bay. The interior, to the South, West and the far East areas, were impassable jungle. Only a small portion of the small island had been cultivated.
When they arrived, the Loyalists expected the proverbial red carpet welcome to be laid out for them. They wanted land. Lots of it. They wanted the laws changed to suit them. They wanted control of the government. In essence, they took one look at the provincial looking Bahamians, their lax ways of dealing with their slaves and quickly decided to try to seize power.
In August 1784, the Loyalists began a campaign of intimidation, and for the time, the 18th century, it was downright terrorism on the tiny island of New Providence.
PHILADELPHIA, October 27,
Extract from a letter from Charleston (South Carolina) dated September 28,
“By a gentleman lately arrived from New Providence, we learn, that the people called loyalists, who have lately quitted East-Florida, and taken refuge in New Providence, have given proofs of their loyalty in the following manner: On Sunday, the 22nd of August last, being in a house opposite the church, the leaders of them had a drum beating and fife playing during the afternoon service, to the great disturbance of the congregation; and in the evening they got possession of the church, ringing the bells at intervals till near midnight; — on the Friday following they went up, in number about twelve or or thirteen, on horseback, to the eastward, where they paraded through the highroads, and in the afternoon came down in an Indian file with drums beating, and preceded by two Negroes carrying hatchets on their shoulders, two boats belonging to the Porcupine sloop of war keeping way with them, fully manned.
In this manner they proceeded along the strand, headed by the Captain of the said man-of-war, with his cutlass drawn, and a pistol at his side. When the court met at the end of the month, two of them went into the court, abused the bench, denied the authority of the Governor and of the court, and at last so far gain their ends, as to have the court adjourned to the next term; they have formed themselves into a committee, appointed the Chairman and Secretary, and are endeavouring to overturn the constitution of the government, and to erect on the ruins thereof their favourite banner of anarchy and confusion.
“It is rumoured that the refugees intend to make a descent from the Bahama Islands upon some part of the Spanish main and by force to settle themselves where they please.”