First Maroon War

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The First Maroon War was a conflict between the Jamaican Maroons and the colonial British authorities that reached a climax in 1731.


In 1655, the British defeated the Spanish colonists and took control of most of Jamaica. After the Spanish fled, Africans they had previously enslaved joined the Amerindian population, and some others who had previously escaped slavery, in the centre of Jamaica to form the Windward Maroon communities. The area is known as the Blue Mountains. The population on the island of Jamaica boomed between 1655 and 1661, swelling to roughly 12,000 inhabitants. In 1662, however, only a little over 3,000 remained.[1] The white population to slave worker ratio dwindled in the following decades, leaving a majority of slaves and very few white settlers. British forces were unable to establish control over the whole island, so a large portion remained in the hands of the Maroons. For 76 years, there were periodic skirmishes between the British and the Maroons, alongside occasional slave revolts. In 1673, a revolt of 200 slaves in St. Ann's Parish created a separate group, the Leeward Maroons. These Maroons united with a group of Madagascars who had survived a shipwreck and formed their own maroon community in St. George's parish. Several more rebellions strengthened the numbers of this Leeward group. Notably, in 1690 a revolt of 400 slaves at Sutton's plantation, Clarendon considerably strengthened the Leeward Maroons.[2] In September 1728, the British sent more troops to Jamaica, changing the balance of power with the Windward Maroons.

In 1739–40, the British government in Jamaica recognized that it could not defeat the Maroons, so they came to an agreement with them instead. The Maroons were to remain in their five main towns: Accompong, Trelawny Town, Moore Town, Scott's Pass and Nanny Town, living under their own rulers and a British supervisor.

In exchange, they were asked to agree not to harbor new runaway slaves, but rather to help catch them. This last clause in the treaty caused a split between the Maroons and the rest of the black population, although from time to time runaways from the plantations still found their way into Maroon settlements. Another provision of the agreement was that the Maroons would serve to protect the island from invaders.

The person responsible for the compromise with the British was the Leeward Maroon leader, Cudjoe, who for years fought to maintain his people's independence. As he grew older, however, Cudjoe became increasingly disillusioned. He ran into quarrels with his lieutenants and with other Maroon groups. He felt that the only hope for the future was an honorable peace with the enemy. A year later, the even more rebellious Windward Maroons of Trelawny Town also agreed to sign a treaty under pressure from both white Jamaicans and the Leeward Maroons. This discontentment with the treaty later led to the Second Maroon War.


  1. ^ Patterson, Orlando (1970-01-01). "Slavery and Slave Revolts: A Sociohistorical Analysis of the First Maroon War, 1655 – 1740". Social and Economic Studies. 19 (3): 289–325. JSTOR 27856434. 
  2. ^ Patterson 1970, pp. 256–258

Works cited

  • Patterson, Orlando (1970), "Slavery and Slave Revolts: A Sociohistorical Analysis of the First Maroon War, 1665-1740", in Price, Richard, Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas, Anchor Books (published 1973), ISBN 0-385-06508-6 
  • Campbell, Mavis C. (1990), The Maroons of Jamaica, 1655-1796, Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, ISBN 0-86543-096-9 

Among the early historians to mention the Jamaican Maroons and the First Maroon War were the following:

  • Dallas, R. C. (1803), The History of the Maroons, From Their Origin to the Establishment of their Chief Tribe at Sierra Leone, London: Longman 
  • Edwards, Bryan (1793), History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies 
  • Long, Edward (1774), The History of Jamaica 
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