Illustration showing the 'Government Penn in Jamaica'
Maria’s journal records a constant round of social engagements - “gentlemen at breakfast, chiefly Scotch – long discussion on Burns’ poems”. For the rest she reports dances, carriage rides in the mountains, various kinds of gossip about the small circle of administrators or military officers and occasional meetings in which she explained Christian principles to the domestic slaves. Apart from her continual prayers to the Almighty to preserve General Nugent’s health it was a life of relative ease.
However, her journal also contains a certain amount of sympathy for the “blackies”, although her coyness seems a bit odd, given that she was born in a slave owning society. She devotes part of her time to explaining Christianity to the slaves. She argues with planters about their conditions, noting that a certain planter was ‘prejudiced’ and ‘hard-hearted’. Later on, she outlines the case of a sixteen year old boy recruited by an older slave to steal a watch. The boy is sentenced by the local magistrates to hang, and although her husband, the Governor, struggles to have the boy’s sentence changed to hard labour in another island, he can’t persuade the locals. The case causes Maria some distress, but as time goes on her attitudes harden.