A manumission with a declaration of paternity

I have looked in the past at the documents and background details surrounding the manumission of two young enslaved people, whose freedom was purchased by my husband’s 3rd great-grandfather, Frederick Walton Mallalieu of St Kitts. No relationship is specified between Frederick and the two young people. In my research into my husband’s Cannonier ancestors, in documents kindly provided by the Montserrat National Trust, I found a different story of manumission involving an Edward Daniel Cannonier, who is likely a distant relative to my husband. Edward was the son of Tobias Cannonier and grandson of John Cannonier Sr, mariner of Montserrat.

In the Register of Deeds held by the National Trust is an entry from 1830 describing in great detail the arrangements made by Edward Daniel Cannonier for an enslaved girl named Ann, of the Palmetto Point estate, who Edward openly declared to be his “natural” daughter (born out of wedlock), for whom he feels “love and affection”. Ann is described as a mustee child, a racial term generally used to describe a person of one eighth African ancestry (typically with a white European father and a mother with one quarter African ancestry).

Edward Daniel pledged to pay 10 shillings to a carpenter named Henry Irish, who was Ann’s slave holder. Ten shillings was apparently commonly used as a token amount of money when purchasing an enslaved person’s freedom, instead of a current market amount. Edward further committed to transfer to Henry Irish two enslaved people described as “a Cabress Woman Slave Nanny and her child Hannah”. Cabress, another racial term, was often used to describe someone of three quarters African ancestry (and in some cases also with indigenous heritage). The deed stated that if the “exchange” of Ann for Nanny and Hannah didn’t take place immediately, then Irish could make use of Nanny’s work services, and even her future offspring, as a financial means to ensure the “support, maintenance, and education” of Ann.

The public acknowledgement of Ann as Edward Daniel Cannonier’s well loved daughter is interesting and doesn’t seem to have been extremely common. What is the explanation though, for the complicated arrangements involving Nanny and Hannah, the token amount of ten shillings, and the possible extended period of wait before Ann is brought to Edward? The slave holders of Montserrat doubtless knew in 1830 that the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies was only a few years away (actually starting in 1834), so what was Cannonier’s motivation to manumit his daughter in 1830, when he could have waited a few years for it to happen automatically? No doubt there is more background to the story that isn’t given in the text of the deed. Perhaps Cannonier and Irish were friends or neighbors. Maybe Cannonier decided that it was in Ann’s best interest that she remain on the estate where she was living. Notes on the Cannonier surname from the Montserrat National Trust contains a line stating that Mary Irish, an enslaved woman, gave birth to Ann in 1828. Because Ann would have been only about two years old in 1830, the plan may have been to leave her in the care of her mother, at least for a time.

Of course, the arrangement could have been of a more financial nature, with two men simply making a business deal that suited them both. We can hope that Cannonier was sincere in his declaration of affection for his daughter, and that she was well cared for and properly educated, as the deed promised.


  1. Montserrat National Trust Registry of Deeds
  2. Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834 by B W Higman, 1995

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