How the Stono Rebels Learned Of Britain’s War with Spain





How the Stono Rebels Learned Of Britain’s War with Spain


Joel S. Berson is a writer and researcher living in Arlington, Massachusetts. His article entitled, How the Stono Rebels Learned of Britain’s War with Spain, describes the Stono Rebellion of 1739 that occurred close to Charles Town inSouth Carolina. He gives a detailed description of the means through which slaves possibly found out about the war between Spain and Britain, just before the Stono Rebellion. The reports about the war seemingly reached Charles Town through the media and word of mouth. These reports allegedly caused them to plan the revolt at around September 9th 1739. The article provides proof of the dates and methods in which the report reached Charles Town. The writer describes the likelihood of the slaves having prior information about the war between Spain and England, before organizing the Stono Rebellion. The first example that provided information to the slaves was the Spanish gesture of providing the slaves in England with freedom. The second example was the print out by the South-Carolina Gazette issued by Jamaica calling for peace negotiations. The third example was the Security Act published by the South-Carolina Gazette.


            The first example describes the offer by the Spanish to grant slaves freedom. According to the article, freedom was to be offered to all slaves who disowned the British. It is evident that the Carolina slaves were trying to break away from the English rule long before the war. This is elaborated by the Spanish efforts of offering them freedom since 1697, before the war. Continued pressure from the Spanish over the years created awareness among groups of slaves. The writer also implies that slaves also became aware through a contract that allowed Spanish militia groups for organizing raids and attacks, to incorporate former British slaves. This came shortly after they learnt that the Spanish forces were welcoming them.

            The second example outlines the call for peace by Maroon communities in Jamaica. They were advocating for peace between the British and the rebels. This notion was published through an article on 28th July 1738 in the South-Carolina Gazette. The published article put pressure from overseas on the English governor, to negotiate with the force of rebels who had broken away from slavery. The article in the gazette implied that the British were willing to accommodate the rebels rather than to subdue them. Furthermore, it stated that the rebels and the British had reached an agreement that required a meeting, in order to solve the problem. The meeting was to be held by the English governor and the council in order to be resolved. The published articles were based on offering rebels who had formed maroon communities total freedom. Therefore, the Stono rebels thought that they could attain freedom by themselves because of the existence of some maroon communities in South Carolina.

            The third example describes the formulation of the Security Act published ion 18th August 1739 by the South-Carolina Gazette. This act allowed all white citizens to possess firearms in church. The act was to be effective from 29th September of the same year to prepare white citizens in case of attack. This law was made due to the ineffectiveness of a previous law formulated to protect white citizens. This law was created after discovering that slaves had free time on Sundays when white citizens went to church. The law was meant to block any attacking opportunity by the slaves and rebels. The writer assumes that the slaves possibly believed that an attack on their masters sooner would be much more advantageous to them. This is because they were not heavily armed before the law was made. The introduction of the law was a warning sign of the war between Spain and England.

            The first example and the evidence provided to support it is an acceptable warning sign to the slaves. The Stono slaves were offered freedom by the Spanish without the knowledge of the British. This shows that they wanted to lure the rebels into their army as a tactical strategy during attacks on England. The persistence of Spain over the years shows their determination of defeating England. The fall out between white citizens and the rebels just before the war was a sign of the forthcoming battle. However, the evidence described by the writer is vague and could be regarded as unacceptable. This is because it does not describe how the information reached Charles Town. Moreover it does not give the exact date when the information reached and the first recipient of the report.

            The second example and supporting evidence is also an acceptable as a warning sign to the slaves. The fact that the published article was printed before the war commenced possibly implies that the Stono rebels got information from the media. The writer outlines that the white citizens and the rebels had reached an agreement. This was not the case in real sense. The English governor did not want to show Spain that they were struggling with the problem of rebels. Therefore, the media provided the public with false information about the peace situation in England. However, the example is also unacceptable because it does not outline the exact date when the gazette published the article. This makes it difficult to determine if the slaves received the report just before, or during the war. The writer does not show the exact date when the rebels broke away from slavery therefore, it is hard to establish how they received the information about the war.

            The third example and the evidence provided to support it is acceptable. It was reported that many hostilities were occurring between Spain and England. This explains the reason for revising the Security Act of 1739. These raids and hostilities occurred just before the rebellion began. The news of these attacks is reported to have reached Charles Town through the media. According to Berson, the only historian who described the entry of the news into Charles Town was Ian Steele (57). The statement explains that it was not possible for the slaves to receive the news just before the war. This shows that the news about the exact means by which it reached Charles Town is unknown. Some theories have been developed to try to explain the manner and the route taken by the information but no clear conclusions have been made. As a result, the third example could be dismissed as evidence.

            In writing, a primary source is the information that is reported at the time an event is occurring. This information is normally not obtained from external sources and relies on gathering data collected in real time. A secondary source on the other hand is the information that has been reported and is not recorded at the exact time that an event has occurred. An example of a primary source is the Security act of 18th August published by the South-Carolina Gazette. The source provided information about the nature of the Security Act and explains the reasons that led to its establishment. This information assisted the writer in developing the plot for the story. An example of a secondary source is the information provided on the ways that Spanish people were offering the slaves freedom. This is a secondary source because the writer is conveying the information based on an event that took place in the past. This information gives an insight on the approach used by the Spanish people to form an alliance with the first group of slaves who ran away.

            The writer of the article avoided bias through discussing the intentions of all groups involved in the story. He has explained the reasons that prompted the Stono Rebellion and warfare between Spain and England.  Moreover, he has explained the various reasons that led to the formation of alliances and peace agreements. These explanations assist scholars in understanding the main aim of the passage. The article is also well organized as seen from the clear flow of ideas by the author. The dates given also enable a reader to visualize the events that were taking place at the time.

Although the readability of the article was simple, some of the words used were not grammatically correct. This is because some words have been shortened. Moreover, slang has been used and this distorts the meaning of a sentence. It also makes reading and understanding the article difficult. An improvement that should be made on the article is the use of proper English throughout the story. This improves the readability of the article and creates a form of reality to an audience. Another improvement that should be made is to reduce the amount of quotes used. This will help in establishing the main points of the story easily and making the reading interesting. It also reduces confusion while reading the story.


            In conclusion, the various ways in which the news of the war between Spain and England could have reached the Stono rebels have been discussed. Evidence has also been provided to support the examples showing that the news reached the rebels. However, it is not possible that the information indeed reached the slaves just before the rebellion because the evidence is not concrete enough. The evidence could also be dismissed because the evidence has many opposing opinions.


Berson, Joel. “How the Stono Rebels Learned Of Britain’s War with Spain.” The South Carolina Historical Magazine Jan. 2009: 53-68. Print.

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