The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 42, Issue 2

Article 4
The Native Baptist Church’s Political Role in Jamaica: Alexander Bedward’s Trial for Sedition

Roxanne Watson


Abstract

This article examines the prosecution of Alexander Bedward, a religious leader in the Jamaican Native Baptist Church, for sedition in the 1890s. In Jamaican folklore Bedward is portrayed as a lunatic who was committed to an insane asylum after he failed an alleged bid to ascend to heaven. Less is known of his commitment for lunacy by a jury, unable to find him guilty of sedition, after he urged his followers to resist White authority. Even prior to Bedward’s time, the Native Baptist Church had played an important role in both pre- and postemancipation Jamaica in striving for better conditions for Blacks. Bedward’s commitment for insanity took place in the context of the fear of the privileged classes that the Native Baptist Church was becoming a social force in Jamaica and that such a situation would lead to an uprising by the lower classes in an attempt to change the status quo.