The Methodist Society
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The hierarchical order which had constituted the organizational principle of the plantation society had become seriously undermined by the end of the eighteenth century. As already noted, many of the planters who were the formal heads of the main socioeconomic units in the colonies resided in Europe and ran their West Indian estates through managers who had neither a personal nor a long-term interest in the plantations. The hierarchical units of the plantations therefore lacked effective heads, leaving the slaves both without the protection and the control usually associated with patriarchal relations.1 At the same time, a growing number of slaves had been able to obtain their legal freedom and thus removed themselves from the authority of their former masters. They lived a sort of liminal existence in the plantation society having no formal position in it. They were “unappropriated people”, as Handler has termed them in his discussion of freedmen in the slave society of Barbados (1974:71). This was because the hierarchical order failed to incorporate the rapidly expanding free segment of the population, just as it lacked the sort of leadership which was necessary to uphold the system of authority and deference which underlined this order.