The Black Poor Committee:
Indians, Smeathman and Sierra Leone


These minutes of the Black Poor Committee show the presence of destitute Indians among the Black poor. They refer to 23 'Glossary - opens new windowEast Indians' who had arrived in Britain in ships of the British navy, a further 23 in East India Company ships, and four in foreign vessels. According to the committee, these men were willing to be resettled in Sierra Leone, together with other poor Black people. It is not known whether they actually moved to Africa.

The minutes also discuss Henry Smeathman, the originator of the scheme to resettle poor Black people in Sierra Leone. It is clear that, before his death the previous month, the committee had become disillusioned with him. He was to have been paid a fee of £14 for each emigrant, but the committee suspected that he intended to engage in slave trading.

The document also shows that at this point Jonas Hanway, the Chairman of the committee, thought New Brunswick in Canada would be a better choice for the colony than Sierra Leone. This may have been because the government wanted the emigrants to act as servants for the White Loyalists settled there.

T 1/634, no. 2012 (4 August 1786)

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