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Lewis Cameron (1777-1854)

For family tree see Lewis Cameron on Ancestry (subscription required)

Lewis Cameron was born in Dalmeny, Midlothian and was in Berbice by the early 1800s. He was in partnership with Donald Charles Cameron in ownership of Canefield on Canje Creek, Berbice, and had 39 slaves of his own. He also made returns as attorney on behalf of five other planters - for Belladrum’s Golden Fleece, Reelig’s No 23 & 28, William Fraser and Colin Mackenzie’s Union, the deceased John Mackenzie’s Dunrobin and his deceased father-in-law [van Batenburg]’s Reliance.

In 1814 he was one of those in the colony recommended to Lord Seaforth by James Baillie Fraser as someone who could be trusted to investigate the alleged mismanagement of Seaforth's estates in Berbice. Fraser described Lewis Cameron as ‘the gentleman kept in charge of my father’s affairs’ and noted that he also managed Fraser of Culbokie's business and the concerns of the late Robert Gordon [Gordon of Drakies, died at plantation Huntly, Demerara, 1809].

In 1814 Cameron married Elizabeth, daughter of the governor, van Batenburg, and had, with her, nine children.

From the Fraser of Reelig papers there is some more detail of Lewis's role as attorney (manager) of the Union Plantation and his intervention to prevent 'excessive' punishment of slaves [these notes from Stephen Foster, Australia, from his forthcoming A Private Empire]:
In 1812, on one of the Fraser estates that had once formed part of Union, the attorney Lewis Cameron sacked the manager, James McDougall, for treating a ‘Negro’ family ‘in a most Wanton & Cruel manner’. According to McDougall, the Negro carpenter Willitick and his wife Dobie were troublesome and insolent, so he was obliged ‘to lick them’. When Cameron returned from a visit to Stabroek, he discovered from the other slaves what this meant. The manager, who was given to ‘Violent passions’, had beaten Willitick to the ground with a stick, thrown him into the stocks and then had him flogged; and he had forced Dobie to lie stretched out on the ground, tied to pickets, leaving her there for two hours (the other Negroes said four) before having her flogged. Two days later he had repeated the punishment; and when the three children, terrified by what was happening to their parents, left work to plead on their behalf, they too were subjected to brutal treatment.

McDougall protested that Cameron had no right to interfere in such a trifling matter. But Cameron was adamant: ‘in my opinion nothing can justify such inhumanity’ – and rather than connive at such treatment he would instantly resign the charge of any estate. McDougall, he said, might have known how to plant cotton, but he had no idea of how to manage Negroes. ‘I am very sensible how necessary it is to support proper order & discipline amongst Negroes’, he told Edward Satchwell Fraser; ‘but the facts that I have related are very wide of my ideas on that subject’. Two of the neighbours reported the case to the colony’s legal officer, but Cameron in any case had no doubt that McDougall was ‘finished’ in the colony – no other planter would give him a job.

Cameron remained in Guyana after emancipation and in 1841 he was living on Plantation Union, with his wife and four of their children (BG Census, 1841).


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