Sessional Papers: Sierra Leone (CO 270): 1792-1801

Call Number: HIL-MICL FC LPR .G7C6S5S4
Category: Great Britain
Creator: Great Britain. Colonial Office
Description: Electronic textural records (5 volumes) ; 51.50 GB; 1529 images; 300 ppi colour
            Sessional papers from British colonies contain sessional papers from colonial governments relating to legislative and administrative business undertaken within colonies in question. Sessional papers produced by colonial governments tend to be of three types: records of the Legislative Council, the Executive Council and the administration reports of the local government departments.

In 1787 the Province of Freedom was created in England and a group of freed slaves arrived in Sierra Leone from England that year to form a settlement. It failed but was revived by the Sierra Leone Company, a commercial company sponsored by English opponents of the slave trade. 1791, the Sierra Leone Company received its first charter. Black settlers, including previously enslaved people and loyalists who had migrated to Nova Scotia after the American Revolution, were brought over in 1792 from Nova Scotia and built a new settlement, named Freetown. These settlers gave women the vote, and elected different levels of political representatives, tithingmen, who represented each dozen settlers and hundreders who represented larger amounts. Resettlement problems included the Crown not supplying enough basic supplies and provisions and the settlers being continually threatened by illegal slave trading and the risk of re-enslavement. During the Napoleonic Wars, the French raided and burned Freetown in 1794.

In July 1799, the Province of Freedom was now known as Sierra Leone Colony under the Sierra Leone Company. The Sierra Leone Company, controlled by London investors, had refused to allow the settlers to take freehold of the land. Tensions rose and some of the settlers revolted. In 1800, Maroons, escaped enslaved people in Jamaica, were also brought in via Nova Scotia, where they had been transported to in 1796. They contributed to the put down of the revolt, which affected the relationship between the Maroons and Nova Scotians. By this point local African rulers, realising they were losing their land forever, attacked Freetown in 1801, 1802 and 1807, but were defeated on each occasion and ended up by signing away perpetual sovereignty to the Sierra Leone Company.

After the British Parliament made the slave trade illegal in 1807, the settlement became a Crown colony as of January 1, 1808, as a naval base against the slave trade and as a centre to which slaves, captured in transit across the Atlantic, could be brought and freed.
            Digital material; contact staff for access.

Contains handwritten Minutes of Council meetings (1792 February 14-1801 December 29) held at Freetown, Sierra Leone, and provides details such as dates of meetings, names of members present, statements of resolutions taken, also, transcripts of addresses, the names of those elected to council, oaths of allegiance by officials, enactments and movements of bills, ordinances, individual memorials and petitions, complaints and criminal proceedings, transcripts of letters received and details of subsequent actions, proclamations, reports, and approval of various estimates and contracts.  The minutes refer to matters relating to administering this new settlement in West Africa, and documents the challenges in creating this new society of freed Black people. Among the subjects covered are: Sierra Leone Company; government and governing; colonialism; the economy and public revenue; the judiciary; communications; population; public works; public health; social history and society; Black history - migration, Nova Scotia, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Maroons; agriculture; land and property; natives and native relations; British military and military relations; Napoleonic Wars and French relations and conflict; and trade and commodities.

Agent to the settlement was Doctor Alexander Falconbridge from January 1791 to March 1792, when he died, and Superintendent to the community was John Clarkson, abolitionist, from March to July 1792. Governors of the Colony of Sierra Leone and present in the sessional records were the following: John Clarkson (July – 31 December 1792); William Dawes (31 December 1792 – March 1794); Zachary Macaulay (March 1794 – 6 May 1795); William Dawes (6 May 1795 – March 1796); Zachary Macaulay (March 1796 – April 1799); John Gray (April – May 1799); Thomas Ludlam (May 1799 – 1800); John Gray (1800 – January 1801); and William Dawes (January 1801 – February 1803).


Volume 2, 1792 February 14 - 1794 July 9

Volume 3, 1794 July 14 - 1796 March 17

Volume 4, 1796 March 19 - 1799 December 30

Volume 5, 1800 January 1 - 1801 April 29 - Contains Appendix (pp 90-120) with detailed documents related to rebellion in colony 25 Sept. 1800, including amongst them, #1. - controversy surrounding the administration of justice (covering the measures taken in England for administration of justice in the colony, reasons Hundredors and Tythingmen gave for appointing judges themselves, and reasons governor and council refused to agree); #2 - Paper of laws stuck up [posted] at Abram Smith's house by Hundredors and Tythingmen and controversy surrounding "seditious" acts; and #3. - Narrative of the Rebellion.

Volume 6, 1801 January 1 - December 29

Originals purchased from The National Archives (TNA).

Archival Ref. No.:

TNA CO 270/2; CO 270/3; CO 270/4; CO 270/5; CO 270/6

Finding Aids:
            Indexes available at start of each volume. Name and subjects included, but not evident it is comprehensive - every name or every subject. Volume 4, index appears to be missing pages from letter "L" to "Q." Volume 5 is more brief than the rest. Volume 6 has more detailed index at the end of the volume.

Electronic: Index volumes 2-4 have been typed and made available online; see Electronic Finding Aid section.
Electronic Finding Aid Record: Index - CO 270 volume 2.pdf
Index - CO 270 volume 3.pdf
Index - CO 270 volume 4.pdf
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