Will of James Hart

Scope and Content

This volume contains the will of James Hart with two codicils as well as an account of the expenditure of George Hart, following his father's death. It also includes a letter to Thomas, Rebecca, Ann, Sarah and Elizabeth Hart following their brother, George's, death, relating to the subsequent division of the assets left to him by their father.

It is a bound volume containing handwritten legal documents relating to James Hart and endorsed by Thomas Smith. The volume contains a will, dated 1796, and two codicils amending the original document dated 1796 and 1800. These documents detail how Hart would like his land, property, furniture, money and slaves to be distributed between his friends and family when he dies. Hart specifies how he would like his children and their mothers, both free black women, to be accommodated on his estates with particular conditions. A four page account of the expenditure of Hart's son, George, which spans the years 1801-1815, follows the will. Hart had left money for the support and education of George Hart until his 21st birthday. After the account, is a copy of a letter dated 1816 sent to George's siblings in Jamaica when George died, detailing how the money left to him by their father would be divided amongst them.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Hart, a planter and landowner in Jamaica, died on 11 August 1800. He lived in the parish of St Elizabeth in the county of Cornwall in Jamaica and owned land and slaves in the parishes of St Elizabeth and Westmoreland. James Hart travelled between New York, Great Britain and Jamaica. He had a son named John who lived in Great Britain. In addition, he had three children named Margaret, William and Robert by Elizabeth Green, a free black woman. He fathered a further six children by Mary Scott, also a free black woman, named Rebecca, Ann, Sarah, Elizabeth, Thomas and George.

Cornwall is one of three counties in Jamaica and is situated on the west of the island. The parishes of St Elizabeth and Westmoreland are in the south west of Jamaica. English settlers in Jamaica benefitted from the cultivation of sugar cane and coffee using largely African slave labour. The logging industry was also particularly prosperous in Cornwall.

By 1800 Jamaica's slave population out-numbered their white masters by 300,000 to 30,000. The island experienced regular slave revolts and communities of maroons, or escaped slaves, were well-established. Free black communities also existed in Jamaica. It was not unusual for white slave owners to have relations, and often children, with black women.

Conditions Governing Access


Acquisition Information

Donated to SOAS in May 2006 by Cornwall Record Office (UK)

Other Finding Aids

Handlist available

Custodial History

Originally donated to Cornwall Record Office (UK) by Fladgate Solicitors, London

Geographical Names