Blayney Townley Balfour was Lieutenant Governor of the Bahama Islands between 1833 to 1835. He took official charge of the islands, as Governor, after the ousting of Sir James Carmichael Smythe (in office 1829-1833). Smythe was ousted by the Assembly for his sympathetic favouring towards the slaves and negroes in the colony. It was Liet. Governor Balfour who presided over the tumultuous end to slavery in the Bahamas. Though from all appearances, some write of the smooth transition from slavery to relative freedom in the islands, we characterise the period as tumultuous. It was tumultuous because there was great acrimony between colonial slave owners and England, regarding what was to be done about the loss of their economic property, and how much compensation was to be directed towards them.
FLABBERGASTED TO SAY THE LEAST
The townsfolk of Nassau and the out islands, must have been flabbergasted at Balfour, the the successor to Governor Smythe. Patting themselves on the back for being able to rid themselves of Smythe and his abolitionist leanings, Balfour steps into the role of Governor, even more bombastic and outrageous than Smythe.
Balfour, months before the official end of slavery, threw the colony into an international war of words, when he threatened to have a group of Americans, whose ship was wrecked on a reef hanged if they tried to remove their slaves from the official territory of Britain.
Far from letting the incident go, the Americans from South Carolina were outraged. Their outrage would go farther than anyone in Nassau could have imagined. Balfour’s pronouncement and the removal of forty-five slaves, which must have represented a great fortune to the passengers on the wrecked ship, would eventually go all the way to the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.
From the papers south of us we learn that a signal instance of injustice and inhumanity was latest manifested by the authorities of Nassau, New Providence, towards the crew and passengers of the packet brig Encomium. It appears that the brig left Charleston on the first of February, bound for New Orleans, and was wrecked on Fish Key Reef on the night of the 3d.
There were the passengers and crew, sixty-nine in number remained four days, on very short allowance. They were afterwards taken by the wreckers to Green Turtle Key, and thence to Nassau. After having been visited by the health officer, the searcher of the port went on board, and seized, in the name of the King of England, forty-five slaves, the property of American citizens.
Notwithstanding their sufferings and privations, the passengers were forbidden intercourse with the shore, till permission should be obtained from the Governor. This was at length granted, and they were “treated with the most politeness” by the white inhabitants, but grossly insulted by the negroes, and on application for permission to reclaim their slaves, were informed by the Governor, through the American Consul, “that if they presumed to remove the negroes they would be hanged.”
Thus the affair rests.
We have no doubt that the United States Government will thoroughly investigate the matter and take the course which becomes it.
Friday 4th April 1834