The Codrington Plantation
William Fleetwood’s annual sermon for the Society in 1711, shortly after the Codrington bequest, signalled an acceptance of slavery, while at the same time suggesting that enslaved people were used ‘cruelly’ by some masters, and that under the Society’s ownership, they would learn to become ‘as Godly and Religious’ as the masters themselves. This was a complex and contradictory view, encapsulated by Travis Glasson’s assertion that the Society’s ownership of the plantations ‘was couched in a strongly reformist language and infused with hope that Codrington would be the foundation of wider missionary success’.
From 1711 onwards, the SPG’s mission aims must be understood to be closely entangled with its ownership of the Codrington plantation. The Society desired to make profits in order to finance and expand its mission operations, and in its view, to resource its good work in spreading the word of God, but this resource came directly from the labour of those enslaved on its own plantations. the SPG’s use of slave labour continued for 100 years, and the legacies of this continue to this day. University College London’s ‘Legacies of British Slavery’ project shows that as of 1836 the SPG owned 410 enslaved people and received compensation of £8500 after abolition. The success and expansion of SPG (later called USPG) as a global mission organisation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries needs to be contextualised alongside its origins as a slave-owning organisation.
'Barbados 4215 (Codrington)', Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, http://wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/6568 [accessed 2nd December 2020].
Travis Glasson, Mastering Christianity: Missionary Anglicanism and Slavery in the Atlantic World, (Oxford, 2011) pp.99-100.