Cuffy was a man who was very powerful and he took his strengths and expanded on them when he led the Berbice Slave Rebellion of 1763. While being under the Dutch colonization, Cuffy successfully took control of over eight plantations during the eleven-month long revolution. Dutch Governor Van Hoogenheim found out and grew frantic, alerting all the Europeans in nearby plantations to flee because Cuffy threatened them and seized all their ammunition and any source of power they held.
He knew this would be a powerful message for Van Hoogenheim to show that they were determined to develop a free black nation (Blair, 1984). Continuing through his journey through different plantations in his colony, Cuffy began to encounter difficulties with his troops. Specifically, his followers felt that defeating the Europeans meant that they could now act as they pleased; they often “roamed across the countryside plundering abandoned estates, others spent most of their time drinking rum and dressing up in European clothing while plundering the plantations” (Blair, 1984).
When Cuffy realized that Hoogenheim had alerted the European settlers, Cuffy decided to write letters to him to allow a negotiation period for the slaves’ freedom. He sent eight letters to the Governor in a time span of ten months and while he thought he was making progress with Van Hoogenheim, he was instead being stalled while the Dutch prepared to attack them unexpectedly (Ismael, 2013). Cuffy recognized Van Hoogenheim’s strategy too late and, alongside his followers, he was ambushed; they had an unsuccessful final battle.
This defeat brought disunity amongst Cuffy’s people and they quickly changed their view about him. They expected to obtain freedom after fighting for an entire year, but instead, their efforts cost many brave slaves their lives. This was a turning point in Cuffy’s rebellion because another head slave made an executive decision to have Cuffy step down as leader of the Berbice colony. At this time, Cuffy thought that he proved to have beneficial leadership and organization skills when he was able to overrun the plantations where he and his fellow slaves labored.
Unfortunately, because of their lost, he was no longer seen amongst them as such. In the end, Cuffy took his life in the belief that by taking his own life, his soul would return to Africa for all the good he attempted. Inspired by the Berbice Slave rebellion, Quamina’s Demerara Rebellion of 1823 fought against the inequality of slaves in addition to the ill treatment against enslaved people. The rebellion was sparked because when the news came out, some slaves misinterpreted the news and any forms of what it meant spread all throughout Demerara.
Instead, the proposals sent from the British about was actually them being involved on how to improve the conditions for slaves (Ishmael, 2013) Quamina’s son, Jack Gladstone, who labored on the Success plantation, heard of the rumor. He wrote a letter to the members of Bethel Chapel, a local church near their estate, informing them of the matter and signed his father’s name on it (Ismael, 2013). Quamina was a deacon of Bethel Chapel. Initially, he was not told about what Jack did and once he was alerted, he became very reluctant to support his son’s actions.
Quamina spoke to the pastor, John Smith, about the matter and this was his first mistake. Smith did not advise him about leading the potential uprising, but after Quamina brought many slaves to his father to show him why he should lead them, he agreed to do it. The Demerara Rebellion began on July 25th, 1823 and lasted two days because he wavered toward the end because of uncertainty as to its success (Ramkarran, 2016). During those two days, slaves captured whites and locked them away without seizing their weapons. Consequently, the sudden movement lerted the British Governor John Murray, who had to quickly assemble his military forces. By the third day, Quamina quickly recognized that he and his followers were outnumbered. Quamina “was shot dead by these Amerindian slave-catchers on 16 September and his body was later publicly hanged by the side of the public road at Success” (Ishmael, 2013). Jack, however, was able to escape, and he hid until he was finally captured “after a three-hour standoff on 6 September. ”
Instead of being executed, lack was “tried, convicted, and deported to St. Lucia where he was sold as a slave” (Ishmael, 2013). Quamina’s journey showed that being a reluctant leader affected his ability to have a successful rebellion because his religious background essentially determined his strategy and tactics as well as lend a hand to catalyzing a conversation between Smith and Governor John Murray about the potential movement. In addition, Quamina was never able to build a unity with the rebels who participated because he did not have as strong of a mission and goal, he only had an idea of how he wished to see the enslaved people live amongst the whites.
The first comparison between rebellions is the way Cuffy and Quamina envisioned the possible change in the lives of the enslaved people. While Cuffy’s main goal was to overrun the Dutch, remove them completely and create a free black nation, Quamina wanted the slaves and white British settlers to coexist peacefully. Cuffy’s determination to create a free black nation caused him to start a conversation with Gov. Van Hoogenheim. He wanted to develop a mutual understanding that the whites and the blacks needed to live separately and freely in their own separate colonies without the needs of violence.
During eleven months of back-and-forth exchange with Gov. Van Hoogenheim, Cuffy worked toward his goal by seizing the weapons and gunpowder held on each plantation owned by the whites. This tactic was meant to begin separating the slaves from the settlers by taking the Dutch’s resources and the source of their power. Cuffy also used the time between each letter exchange to familiarize himself with the way the Dutch operated. With this in mind, he would assume the weaknesses and strengths in Gov. Van Hoogenheim military as well as what kind of outside parties could essentially be involved.
He recognized that Gov. Van Hoogenheim felt threatened of the idea of a largely developing slave rebellion because Gov. Van Hoogenheim did not show any promise to granting Cuffy and his followers their freedom, and essentially their independence. In addition, there was also a point in time where Gov. Van Hoogenheim told Cuffy that he did not have sole control in terms of granting the slaves their freedom. Cuffy used this to build a platform to show the Dutch how much power and authority he had with the help of his fellow slaves to overrun the Dutch and achieve his mission.