John Smith (d. 1824)

Mark Fackler

READ : Deuteronomy 24:14-15

You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor. (v. 15)

Demerara was one of three counties in the Caribbean colony of British Guyana, now Guyana. Slavery was the rule in Demerara, the way of life. Whatever else happened, slavery was not to be questioned.

Smith, sent by the London Missionary Society, arrived in 1817. In his first interview with Governor Murray the rules were made quite clear: teaching slaves to read was forbidden. Reading leads to intelligence, which promotes the heart to freedom. The job of the mission station was to teach contentment, not to educate.

Five years into his work, Smith faced the inevitable crisis. Slaves in Demerara revolted, placing their British masters under house arrest. Murray mustered the militia, rescued the managers, and suppressed the revolt. Smith was arrested under suspicion that he knew about the plan and failed to sound the warning.

Tried by a military court, Smith was sentenced to hang as a co-conspirator with the African rebels. The London Missionary Society was outraged at this news—that a British missionary could be executed by British military on British soil, following a mock trial. Before his commutation arrived from Britain, Smith was dead, the victim of pneumonia caught in the stink and stench of his Guyana jail, waiting word from London.


When justice is lost, when violence threatens, when power intimidates, give me Light, my precious Savior.