Emancipation Declaration

This declaration was read out to a crowd gathered around the House of Assembly and Court House on what is today Victoria Street by the British Lieutenant Governor John Longley on 28 July 1838. Copies of the declaration in English and French were also read out by Justices of the Peace at points around the island and were printed in the local papers.


Of His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor to the Labouring Population of Dominica.

My Good Friends.

The Queen has sent me here to be your Lieutenant Governor, - I have been here but a few weeks, but I came at a time that you will always remember - I landed here three days after your Masters - the Legislators of this Island, had made a law, to give you the same Freedom as themselves, and as all others of the Queen of England's Subjects.

This law, made by the Gentlemen, with whom you have lived, and for whom you have worked with all give great pleasure to the Queen of England: - And on the 1st of August - Wednesday next, we must all go to Church and Chapel, and thank God who rules and disposes of every thing on earth - that it hath pleased Him, that this law, should be made in Dominica,

Now let me tell you, my friends in a few words what this law is to do. -It is to make you free but not to make you idle - It is to make you free but not to make you vagrants; - that is Men wandering about with no regular faxed home.

All Free men are governed by laws: - And these laws are made for the punishment of wicked men, for the encouragement of good men - and for the protection of the lives and properties of us all.

The very same laws govern every person now in Dominica; there is no difference, the Wicked man will be punished, and the Good man will be protected, and it is the duty of all of us to find out the Wicked man, and bring him to Justice.

Now let me tell you what the law has ordered for you; now you are to be free men, - You may remain in the Houses, and on the Estates where you are until the 1st of October, if you wish to do so:- The Houses in which you live and the Grounds which you have planted, are not yours; but if you continue to work by agreements with your Master, and work as the Labourers work in England, and all other free Countries cheerfully and diligently for your Employer he will let you live in his House, - and plant your Provisions on his Ground. This is what I advise you to do; - what I know the Queen, would wish you to do.

Now, let me tell you, there is another law, which regulates all the Contracts, and Agreements, between the Master and the Servant.

Your will make Agreement's with your Masters- some agreements will be for Money - some agreements for Work - some for Clothes - some for Food, - some for Work with part Produce, & c. - If there are any disputes about these agreement's the Justices of the Peace, will settle them; - they will know the law - hear the disputes, and determine justly and fairly between the two Free Men - the Master and the Servant; and that is the way all the disputes will be settled. - Remember, that by keeping your agreement - serving your Master faithfully, and diligently, you will get a good character - and if you change your Master when your agreement is over, you will have a good character to take away with you.

There is an other law- which orders, that no man can go and Plant, - or Build, - upon ground, which does not belong to him; - if he does, he will be taken up a Vagrant and punished by the law.

If the Queen chooses to have some of the Ground which belongs to her in Dominica cultivated, and Houses built upon it, she will give me, her Lieutenant Governor, orders, how it is to be done, and I shall see it done, according to her commands.

Now, to take care that all these law are attended to, and not broken by any persons; it is necessary to have Constables, to find out the law-breakers, and to bring them - whether They be thieves, or Squatters and to bring them - whether they be Idle fellows - before the Justice of the Peace - And these Constables, who will be called the Rural Constables. And will wear a mark of distinction, to show they have authority, - will be selected by me, from the best and most orderly men amongst you, - And the Justices will be at certain fix times at the different  Police Stations. In many parts of the Island, and to these Police Stations, the Rural Constables will bring all the persons they know have been breaking the laws.

Let me advise you not to think of going away from Dominica, there is plenty of Employment for every body in this island: - and whatever your engagement with your Masters may be - keep them faithfully by working diligently.

And also if you wish to be quite happy in this new state of Freedom, - let me tell you that the only way to be so, is to be Religious and grateful to God for all his blessings, to be Honest, to be Orderly, and to be Sober; to send your Children to the Schools your Legislators have been so kind as to desire to be built for you; and if you attend to what I have said you will become HAPPY MEN as well as FREE MEN.

Remember the 1st of August will be the day on which your Masters, the Legislators of Dominica, have by a Law made you, (Two Years sooner thou was expected). As FREE as themselves. Every Church and every Chapel in the Island will be open, - go there on that day, with grateful Feelings to your Masters - Humbly to thanks GOD for the Blessings be has granted to you: - And to all of us.




Lieut Governor.

Government House, Roseau, July 28th, 1838.


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