Essay Example on Magistrate Caught in Bind: Abina's Case Poses Tough Decision

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1022 Words
Date:  2023-05-23

Mr. William Melton, the acting magistrate for the Cape Coast Castle, a British colony at the time, finds himself in a bind concerning the intricacies and technicalities of Abina's case as the case presents opposing yet consenting facts regarding Her Majesty's directive to abolish slave trade and ownership. The magistrate is at a loss whether to abide by the directive of her Majesty the Queen or conform to the whims wealthy palm oil growers who perpetrate slavery at the Gold Coast. In as much the magistrate wants to follow the law and do good in the eyes of the law, and what is just, he as well does not want to provoke the wealthy merchants, who, in his own words, 'pay taxes which pay him and the likes of court interpreters like Mr. James Davis' (Getz & Clarke, 2016). Such is the bind facing the magistrate. He is at a loss whether to conform to the dictates of the law o the whims of the slave masters who are crucial to the earning of the colonizers, the British government.

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To understand the context of Mr. Melton's predicament, one has first to understand the context within which Abina's case was presented. With the help of her new boss, Mr. James Davis, Abina filed a court case seeking to get protection from the court against her former master. Abina came to Cape Coast in seeking freedom, and here she was referred to a Mr. James Davis, who was a young and ambitious court interpreter for the British government.

Initially, save for making her his house-help, Mr. Davis said there is nothing much he could do to help Abina. However, at one time, Abina went to the market and saw her former master, Mr. Quamina Eddoo. This encounter made her apprehensive that Mr. Eddoo will find a way to abduct her and take her to her old life. Abina pleaded with Davis till he consented to help her fill a motion before the then Cape Coast magistrate, Mr. William Melton. It is at this point that the magistrate met his most trying trial, so unique yet judiciously precedent as all other cases the court handled concerning slave issues.

For one, James Hutton Brew, Quamina Eddoo's lawyer, presented that Abina never saw any monetary transactions between her master and the slave trade merchants. She was also never called a slave, at least her master never used the term 'slave' about her persona. Also, Melton considers the form of payment meted out to Abina. The defense lawyer claimed that Abina was fed and clothed by her master. To the accused, this mode of remuneration was enough payment for a girl of her stature. The nature of the works given to Abina also did not classify her as a slave.

Moreover, Quamina Eddoo referred to her slaves as apprentices, and this presented a huge dilemma to the magistrate. To add on the difficulty Mr. Welton finds himself in, at the time of her sale, Abina's beads were cut, and she was presented with new clothes, albeit unaccompanied by a ceremony. During this time, a service always proceeded with a new slave(s) acquisition.

Mr. Welton, the magistrate, is a staunch adherent to justice and what the law stands for. However, Abina's case presents possible contradicting reactions. Adhering to the law will set Abina free and ignite revulsion amongst the palm oil traders. Subsequently, a verdict in favor of Abina could incentivize other slave girls from the Gold Coast to rebel against their masters, and this would cripple palm oil production. Other than the civil unrest that might ensue at the Gold Coast, the British government stands to lose significant revenue from taxation of the palm oil industry.

To cut the chase, Magistrate Melton ruled in favor of Quamina Eddoo. This verdict portrays the state of hypocrisy amidst the British imperialism. It is evident that the British only uphold such virtues and legislation as might be beneficial unto themselves. Other than the simple and clear ideals presented by the case of Abina, Mr. Melton sought hard evidence to convict Mr. Eddoo of perpetrating slavery. As Kipling (1899) narrated, the slaves took up the burden of the white men and worked to fulfill their wishes and support the economy, yet the slaves stood to gain nothing from their hard labor.

Abina's case does not necessarily complicate the lofty ideals behind British imperialism. In its most uncomplicated depiction, this case highlights the hypocrisy with which the British government rules the world. It is evident from the fact that if Mr. Melton were to stand with what was right and just according to law, regardless of the ensuing uprising, then the colonizers would have found favor in the eyes of the colonized. However, the government, through her representative magistrate at Cape Coast, portrayed the imperialists' irresolute beliefs to abolish that which is of gain unto themselves.

The imperialists cast their burdens unto the unwilling backs of colonizers, permit to say, slaves. The colonized are unwilling to abide by the doctrines stipulated by their masters. However, they are weak in unison to revolt against that which is harmful to their wellbeing. Though fed and clothed, the so-called slaves have a right to freedom as science records no lesser being. That being the case, therefore, it stands to reason that the weak are only as strong as the mighty permit. The case of Abina and her master, Mr. Eddoo, had actual and factual merit in the before the law and all reasonable prudential assessments. Yet, due to the white man's superiority and subjugation of the black man's dignity and right to freedom, the court chose to make a ruling against the honest individual who sought nothing but the truth and call for justice. Abina had heard that everyone in Cape Coast was free, only to find out that one is as free as the white man interests will dictate.


Getz, T. R., & Clarke, L. (2016). Abina and the important men: A graphic history. Oxford University Press, USA.

Kipling, R. (1899). Modern History Sourcebook: The White Man's Burden. Fordham University

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