Reformation and the Wickedness of Port Royal, Jamaica, 1655-c.1692

  • David Manning
Part of the Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1500–1800 book series (CTAW)


In March 1664, John Tillotson (1630–94) delivered a cautionary sermon against the ‘wickedness’ of practical and speculative ‘atheism’ at St Paul’s Cathedral, London.1 Along with denouncing the wild ideas and licentious behaviour of unbelievers, Tillotson emphasised the role of testimony in identifying religious truths by drawing upon a topical analogy (at least in the printed version of the sermon): ‘No man can demonstrate to me that there is such an Island in America as Jamaica; yet upon the Testimony of credible persons who have seen it, and Authors who have written of it, I am as free from all doubt concerning it, as I am from doubting the clearest Mathematical Demonstration’.2 There are several things about this passage which are intriguing: the positioning of Jamaica in an American, rather than ‘West Indian’, locale; presenting the testimony of credible persons as similar to a mathematical proof; and the apparent affinity between knowing religious and geographical truths. It is, however, also rather curious that Tillotson felt able to reference Jamaica in his attack against ‘wickedness’ without acknowledging the extent to which this recent colonial acquisition was fast becoming a repository for all manner of undesirables, at least as far as the Restoration Church of England was concerned.


Oxford Dictionary Foreign Plantation Credible Person Bodleian Library Late Earthquake 
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