Van Cooten family history progress and collaboration
Summary of evidence at John Smith trial by Henry Van Cooten on 3rd November 1823, as reported in the Demerara Chronicle and Demerara Gazette of 5th March 1824.
I reside at Vryheids Lust, on the East Coast. I am a planter. I know the prisoner, I remember his arrival in this Colony, but cannot recollect the precise period; I dont remember his expressing any wish, in particular, concerning the chapel after his arrival; Mr. Smith was desirous of having the chapel removed nearer the water side. I have attended the prisoners chapel; it is impossible for me to recollect the tenor of his discourse; I have not attended the past twelve months. Several of my negroes attend the chapel, with my approbationMars, Azore, Mary, and others of the field negroes. I have been myself a subscriber to the Missionary Society, and I believe several on the Coast; the same Society to which the Prisoner belongs. I have perceived, I think, some alteration in my negroes, since their attendance; I rather think they have been more obedient than formerly. I have told this sometimes, but cannot recollect to whom; I think I have to the Prisoner. The negroes have had books from the prisoner, but I cannot say they have purchased them; I have not objected to their having them; I thought it would do no harm. I have heard of the negroes throwing up money in the chapel, but do not know it; I do not recollect ever having been there when money has been collected. I do not recollect ever hearing Mr. Davies preach a collection sermon in that chapel. I was on my estate when I gave the first donation to the Missionary Society; it was my draft on a house in Londonfirst my subscription, then a draft; I never gave a draft in the chapel. I had no suspicions of the revolt, previous to its taking place. About ten or twelve days previous, some negroes of Le Resouvenir came to me, to complain of the manager. It seemed some were unwilling, but none absolutely refused to work, as I know; a few absented themselves, but came back the next day. I know of no particular reason for their returning; they came with a complaint against the manager, and returned, I suppose, when they knew I had settled it. I do not recollect that any of my sons, or my son-in-law, went aback to speak to them. I recollect there was a rumour, some time before the revolt, that the negroes expected something to be done for them, hearing that the Court of Policy was sitting; there was a confused idea among them. I have been in this country fifty years, last February. I have observed the character of the negroes, I suppose, from the beginning of that time. In general, they relate, I think, very badly any conversation that passes in their presence; some better than others. It is not customary to send them with verbal messages, where accuracy is required; at least I would not, because I think them, in general, bad messengersno one is over correct. I am the attorney of Le Resouvenir. I do not consider myself or the manager bound to communicate to the prisoner any official orders concerning the negroes. After they attended the chapel, I did not know of any difference in their dress.
Cross-examined by the Court.In my judgment, I think the negroes nigh remembered the substance of my conversation concerning a revolt, or the soldiers being stronger than they are. I do not know Bristol, Seaton, or Emanuel; I cannot say that the negroes on Le Resouvenir were more obedient since their attendance in chapel; I observed no difference; they did not attend chapel so well as on the other neighbouring estates; I heard that from the Prisoner. The negroes on Le Resouvenir behaved themselves ill to the manager, they took the arms from him; I was not present; according to reports, they certainly did join in the revolt; I would not have prevented the Prisoner instructing the negroes on my estate, whilst Bethel Chapel was shut, had I been asked. In my opinion, some negroes might recollect the heads of a short discourse, and repeat the meaning of the lecturer.