William Abbatt collection  1927-1931
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Collection Scope and Content Note

Dr. William Henderson, a physician in Aberdeen, Scotland, received these 14 letters and 3 financial reports concerning the affairs of the Friendship Plantation in Saint Thomas Parish, Jamaica, between 1846 and 1849. R. G. Kirkland, its manager after 1847, wrote 9 of the letters about Friendship's financial problems and about the local labor situation, including the difficulty of hiring freed slaves and of retaining workers "imported" from Africa and India. Other letters from Henderson's Jamaican associates provide additional information on the plantation's production and finances.

All of the letters concern the plantation's business and financial affairs, including letters pertaining to overseer D. Siveright's alleged mismanagement and a legal action against his estate. Most items report directly on Friendship's sugarcane production, including 2 partially printed documents which enumerate the wages paid for each of the plantation's jobs; list the number of workers used daily; and inventory livestock holdings, financial assets, and liabilities (January-February 1847 and November 1848). An additional manuscript document reports on the disposition of crops in 1846 and 1847 (May 17, 1848).

R. G. Kirkland and W. F. Henderson periodically updated Henderson about the plantation's affairs, often commenting on labor difficulties caused, in part, by recent emancipation. Both described aspects of the Jamaican labor market and provided negative opinions on the locals' work ethic, affected, they believed, by the ongoing influence of African religions, among other factors. They also detailed their efforts to hire "imported" workers from Africa and southern Asia, though these workers often fled the plantation. Along with writing about Friendship's business affairs, Kirkland inquired about his children, whom he had sent to Scotland for schooling, and about local education in Jamaica and social conditions (May 22, 1849).

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