“I was going to school at that time to the Rev. Alexander Ewing at the Parsonage in Pembroke Parish. I began to go to school to him in 1804 when I was 8 years old. I had been taught to read and write at home by Miss Molly Yates, who lived in my father’s family as a sort of housekeeper and assistant to my mother, a custom which was very common in Bermuda families during slavery where there were many children. She left our family a few years afterward and set up a little school near Paget Church in which neighbourhood she had a number of relatives. I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of her assiduous kindness to me and my older sisters. After I returned from England and began to get ahead in the world, I am sure there were few of my friends who took a more sincere and lively interest in my welfare as she did as long as she lived.”
— excerpt from
“The Journal of J. H. Darrell,” 136-137.
Using evidence, can you explain what might have been the perspective of a wealthy Bermudian slave-owner’s son in regard to his life in Bermuda and to the enslaved people claimed as property by his family?
John Harvey Darrell was born 4 March 1796. His father was Richard Darrell, and he grew up in Cavendish, which he later owned. He was first cousin to the second Bermudian to claim Mary Prince as property, Betsey Williams. John Harvey Darrell was about eight or nine years younger than Mary Prince, but he would have been the same age as some of Mary’s siblings who probably lived at Cavendish with their mother, after Mary and her sisters Hannah and Dinah were sold. Their mother is “Sue” listed in the October 1812 Devonshire Parish Record for Richard Darrell. Cavendish is where Mary was hidden in a "hole in the rocks," when she ran away from the Ingham farm. When the October 1812 assessment was taken, John Harvey Darrell would have been 14 years old.
Richard Darrell, October 1812, Devonshire Parish Records, 1798-1839, p. 100. This image is used with permission of the Government of Bermuda Archives.
Richard Darrell purchased Cavendish in 1797. He was Betsey Williams's uncle. Richard Darrell's son, John Harvey Darrell, eventually got the house from his father. In later years, he added the new section at the front of the house. This photograph was taken in 1856 and is provided courtesy of the Bermuda Historical Society.
Please read the "Journal of John Harvey Darrell," which is in the Primary Sources section of this website. Here John Harvey Darrell tells readers about his schooling and other incidents in his life when he was young. He also explains the development of Cavendish, and gives insight into his family.
Who are John Harvey Darrell's friends?
How is John Harvey Darrell schooled?
Does John Harvey Darrell mention enslavement, or the work of enslaved people, in his journal?
Please also read Thomas Pringle's supplement to The History of Mary Prince. You can find the supplement on pages 24-40 of the digitized copy of The History of Mary Prince that is linked to this website. It is located under The Slave Narrative tab.
John Harvey Darrell does not dwell on the topic of enslavement in his journal, but his privileged life shows that he benefitted from it. Alternatively, in his supplement, Pringle takes on not only John Adams Wood Jr., the fifth Bermudian to claim Mary Prince as property, but all of West Indians who claimed other people as property generally. His pen is his sword. He writes of West Indian slavery as "revolting," that there are acts of "inhuman oppression and brutality," and that "[s]lavery is a curse to the oppressor scarcely less that to the oppressed: its natural tendency is to brutalize both" (37). Through the lens of Pringle's supplement, men like John Harvey Darrell, though applauded by some for good works, are nonetheless seen as upholders of an oppressive system that benefitted those who claimed others as property.
Mary Prince's and John Harvey Darrell's families were intergenerationally connected. You may read more about this in "Mary Prince, Enslavement, Cavendish, and Historic Timber," an article that was first published in 2018 in Historical Geography. There is a link to this article under this website's Learn tab.