Great-great-great-great grandfather Cubjoe McPherson’s letter to Governor Wodehouse

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February, in the United States, is designated African American History month. This is the month set aside to honour the triumphs and struggles of African Americans throughout America’s history. In Guyana, February is the month that marks Guyana’s achievement as a Republican nation, and also the month that marks the Berbice Slave Rebellion led by National Hero Cuffy, on 23rd February 1763, that held the Dutch enslavers at bay for almost a year.

As a descendant in the New World of enslaved Africans, ours have been a history of many struggles and triumphs. Though over the years there have been several attempts to miniaturise or equalise the horrors of chattel slavery, in efforts to present the African race as lazy and unaccomplished, ours is a legacy, inspite of the pains and sufferings, to be very proud of.

One of my known connection to the period of slavery is my great-great-great-great grandfather Cudjoe McPherson, who was owner of lands, an entrepreneur, very intelligent, literate and a man of influence in the community. In marking this month, I share with you a letter written by him on 10th September 1858 to Sir Philip Edmond Wodehouse, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the colony of British Guiana. Cudjoe’s letter was a petition to the Governor seeking clemency for a fellow villager, John McDonald.

Said letter, in Cudjoe’s handwriting, is reproduced as far as discernable: –


Litchfield Village W. Coast Berbice

September 10th, 1858

To His Excellency P.E. Wodehouse

Governor and Commander-in Chief in the Colony of British Guiana

May it please your Excellency:

The humble petition of Cudjoe McPherson of Litchfield Village- most respectfully submit:

That your humbly petitioner presume to bring to your Excellency’s gracious notice that a man of this village, Litchfield, was convicted in the Supreme Court of criminal decision for the County of Demerary in the month of January 1854 by the name of John McDonald and has served a sentence of (7) years ——Your petitioner now presume with all humility the state, that the said John McDonald, is now in the (5th) fifth year since conviction: he therefore, with conference on your Excellency [indecipherable word] most respectfully beg, that his case be enter your gracious consideration, now will be place, in the exercising of your clemency to grant the said John McDonald a “Ticket of Leave” for the remaining two years.

Your petitioner also most respectfully beg to state to your Excellency, that the said John McDonald was one among the party engaged, and employed in the expedition of the River Cuyuni last year, and he has also gained the good recommendation of the 2 officers in the charge of them, and that since January last he is until now a (domestic) servant to their resident Commissioner, which such selection are computation of good conduct —-and that there are 2 gentlemen whom he is [indecipherable words]that have promised to him their employment.

Your petitioner therefore on the strength of the same, most humbly respectfully, and earnestly entreat, and implore, your Excellency’s benevolent clemency by granting the unfortunate man an indenture ticket.

Your Excellency’s most humbly petitioner and in duty now will ever pray.

Signed Cudjoe McPherson

Chief proprietor and majority of Litchfield Village W. C. Berbice

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