Catalogue description Despatch from P Bonham, 'governor ad interim' of Surinam [Suriname], dated 30 March...

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Details of CO 278/17
Reference: CO 278/17

Despatch from P Bonham, 'governor ad interim' of Surinam [Suriname], dated 30 March 1812, in response to request for information about the population. Bonham states that he has made enquiries of the various ministers of religion. It has been ascertained that no church registers of any description have been kept, but the following information has been provided:

  • Reverend J P Van Esch, Dutch Reformed Church, states his congregation to be about 1200, the majority of whom are white. Because of their scattered habitations no more detailed information can be provided;
  • Reverend Jan. And. Koops, Lutheran Church, states his congregation at 450-500;
  • Reverend Scherik, Roman Catholic Church, states his congregation at 291;
  • The eight Moravian Brethren all follow 'some trade'. Their congregation in Paramaribo consists of 326 'negro slaves', 21 'colored people', 83 'Negro free people', and 20 'colored free people'; a total of 450;
  • The congregation of the 'German Jew Synagogue' is stated as 547 whites, and 16 'colored people';
  • The congregation of the 'Portuguese Jew Synagogue' is stated as 745 whites and 79 'colored people';
  • Reverend Richard Austin, Church of England, is named as the only clergyman receiving a colonial salary; he is also chaplain to the garrison. No information is provided by the governor about any Anglican congregation.

The governor further states that he cannot find that any record has been kept of births or deaths of enslaved persons, or that any laws or regulations have been made for the amelioration or instruction of the slaves. Nor does it seem that any slaves have been seized as prize or otherwise since the enactment of the British legislation to abolish the slave trade. He lists the total population as follows:

  • White Inhabitants with their Families: 2,029;
  • Their Slaves of all descriptions: 7,115;
  • The Free Colored & Black with their Families 3,075;
  • Their Slaves: 2,599;
  • Total number of Slaves of Plantation or Residence: 42,223;
  • Total number of Souls: 57,041.

Following the governor's despatch there is a list of names of 981 white heads of families, together with the numbers of individuals in their families and the numbers of their slaves. There then follow population [census] returns collected as required by the governor's proclamation of 17 October 1811. The 200 returns in this volume are for the white population and their slaves, and each return gives:

  • the names of the white inhabitants, together with their 'calling, trade or other means of subsistence';
  • the names of slaves, in the categories 'coloured people' and 'negroes', together with their 'handicraft, calling or trade';
  • the names of slaves 'belonging to plantation, employed by the subscriber at Paramaribo';
  • 'general total of slaves' categorised under 'coloured people' and 'negroes' and further categorised as men, women, boys or girls. Further sections of the printed form asking for numbers of slaves born or died during the period 1 January to 30 September 1811 have rarely been completed.

Some of the forms have been completed in English; but the majority are in Dutch. The returns continue in CO 278/18.

Date: 1811
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: Dutch and English
Closure status: Open Document, Open Description

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