John Stockdale map, A Map of the West Indies from the best Authorities.
Published 1794, London
Size: 16" X 10"
A rare map by John Stockdale of the Caribbean from the southern tip of Florida to the Northern reaches of South America that was originally published in 1794 in Bryan Edwards’ The History Civil & Commercial of the British Colonies… and in Jedidiah Morse’s The American Geography. Morse, popularly known as the “father of American geography”, published important works that were used as textbooks in the late 18th and early 19th Century, whereas, Edwards’, a Jamaican plantation owner and Jamaican and Uk Parliamentarian, in his History focused exclusively on describing the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean and the subsequent colonial history and government including that of slavery and the sugar industry and its relation to Britain and the newly independent United States of America. Edwards’ History, which eventually went on to publish five editions “became the standard history of the British West Indies”. Such was his success with his History, that Edwards was elected to The Royal Society in 1794 and was elected as a member of the British parliament in 1796.
Of particular importance with Edwards, was his support for opening trade relations between the British Caribbean Colonies and the newly formed United States. In fact, as early as 1783, Edwards protested the Orders-in-Council of the British Board of Trade that prohibited trade between the independent United States and the British West Indian colonies. It is also important to note that Edwards was involved in the resistance towards the Haitian Revolution that broke out in 1791. By 1794, the year of the publication of the second edition of his History, which now included important maps of the region, British troops were sent to Haiti to quell the uprising, but to no avail. Edwards’ position on the subject matter of the abolitionist movement that led to the Haitian Revolution was somewhat nuanced. His position was that of evolution over time away from slavery rather than through revolution and the immediate abolition of the slave trade that could have put the British interests in the region at peril. Although Edwards’ arguments were initially persuasive in Parliament, the abolition of the slave trade by Britain in 1807 occurred shortly after his death.
Edwards’ important work and the maps of the Caribbean that were subsequently published in his History provided the public and decision makers alike context and an essential and opposing view point in order to make crucial decisions related to the eventual abolition of slavery by Britain in its West Indian colonies.
(Sources: Blouet, Olwyn M., Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 54, No. 2, May 2000)