During the Swedish period in Gustavia, as a free coloured person, you could be asked to prove you were indeed free. If not able to do so, Police would put you in jail. One had a maximum of three months to bring documents proving so, if not, he would be sold for the benefit of the Crown and the accuser. The below document is dated the 27th of August 1814, but it is only a « reminder » published in the local newspaper « The Report of Saint Bartholomew ».
This article is the same story of Hester ARRINDELL we had seen in a previous article.
On the 21st of June 1809, « John GUMBS, a free coloured man of this island, formerly the property of Benjamin GUMBS esquire of Anguilla, most humbly sheweth
That your petitioner this some time past, has had the misfortune of being arrested by the officer of police and placed in the common gaol of this island, in consequence of his not being able to prove his freedom and that whereas your petitioner has since procured the necessary documents to that effect, which will fully prove his manumission, he begs leave to lay them before the humble council and most humbly request, your Excellency and the humble Members of the Court of Police, will be pleased to order your petitioner to be released and set at liberty
Whereof, he will ever return a great full sens and pray »
On the 28th of June 1809, the Court receives a letter dated the 27th of June in Gustavia.
« The petition of Phibba GUMBS, a free coloured woman of the island of Anguilla, formerly the property of Colonel GUMBS, respectfully sheweth
That your petitioner being the mother of the free coloured man named John GUMBS at present confined in the common gaol of this island, humbly begs leave to assure your Excellency and the humble Council, that your petitioner has seen the said John GUMBS, and can by the most solemn of oaths, declare him to be her son, and furthermore, begs leave to lay before the humble Council of Police, a certificate signed by Mr. William COCK, of this island and Mr. Francis HYNDMAN, who has known your petitioner these several years past, and in consequence thereof, have asserted her to be the person here so fore mentioned, and the mother of the said John GUMBS.
Your petitioner requests the honorable Council will be pleased to take these proofs, together with other vouchers already exhibited in consideration, and cause the son of your petitioner to be released from prison »
On the same day, both William COCK and Francis HYNDMAN produce their confirmation that they know both Phibba GUMBS and her son John GUMBS, and that both are free.
As another proof of his freedom, John GUMBS produces the certified copy of a document dated the 13th of June 1808 and written in Anguilla.
« I Benjamin GUMBS senior of the island aforesaid, for divers causes and considerations me hereunto moving have given and granted and by virtue of these presents do freely give grant and confirm unto my negroe woman called and known by the name of Phibba and her two sons by the names of Richard and John, their manumission or freedom and to be considered and cleared free from all slavery ».
Witnesses are John LAKE and William BRYAN senior
The copy of the manumission letter written by Colonel Benjamin GUMBS is certified by a written oath of John LAKE that he signed in front of the Deputy Governor of Anguilla, William RICHARDSON on the 17th of May 1809.
The next day, William RICHARDSON confirms in writing that the manumission has been recorded in the secretary office in Book F page 83.
The letter seems to reach Saint-Barth on the 20th of June 1809 as per the signature of Mr. Carl William THENSTEDT, notary.
No further information is known, but we can presume John GUMBS walked a freeman again, a year only after his manumission.
Walking the streets of Gustavia was not easy for a free coloured man back then !