The late 1700s, saw the beginnings of a significant historical population expansion in the islands. By 1790, with the influx of British Loyalists from America, along with their slaves, the Governor soon realised they had a problem. The problem, was an oversupply of negro and mulatto slave labour.

Negro and mulatto slaves, despite not being allowed to learn how to read or write, were learning trades, in order to earn money. They needed to feed themselves, as well as hopefully save enough, to buy their freedom.

Through observation, practice and a little ingenuity, they started to become artisans, butchers and blacksmiths, etc. They grew fruits and vegetables on small allotments, which they hawked for sale in the market on the Bay. Negroes and mulattoes began hiring themselves out as labourers. This meant they were wandering about the island of New Providence, which upset many white inhabitants.

For slaves, a portion of the money they earned, would be given over to their masters, as payment for letting them work for others.

All of this quickly began to be a problem, as slaves, were soon taking over occupations and trades that were meant for free white inhabitants of Nassau.

Bahamas Governor, John Murray Dunmore and the Assembly, decided a solution would be, to tax negro and mulatto slaves. The tax would be put into a fund for white apprentices. When white apprentices completed their apprenticeship period, the taxes levied on negroes and mulattoes, would then be used to buy tools and things for whites inhabitants.

Government measures like this, would usher in, a new history of economic inequality between the races, which began with vengeful taxation.

A law would also be introduced to specifically prevent slaves from engaging in the business of butchering meat.


May 26, Pennsylvania

News from the Bahama Islands, May 8, 1790

“Much injury has been already sustained by the three white inhabitants of the islands from suffering negro and mulatto slaves to follow the several mechanical occupations and trades.

A law is therefore in preparation for laying a considerable tax upon all slaves following any mechanical business whatsoever, such taxes to be appropriated and reserved as a fund to answer the purpose of a bounty to all free men who shall have served a proper apprenticeship to be paid unto such at the period of the apprenticeship, for the purpose of purchasing tools, et cetera.

A bill has also been introduced to prevent negroes, mulattoes, and mustees, whether bound or free, from wandering up and down these islands, and retailing out goods, wares or merchandise— and also to prevent such Negroes, mulattos, et cetera from exercising the trade or business of a butcher.

If tax be laid upon these last, however, it will not produce anything considerable, as there is very little to be killed, except fish and sea conchs.”

(The Pennsylvania Packet, Saturday, 29 May 1790)
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