The Maroon negroes were descendants of slaves who had escaped from seventeenth century Spanish rule in Jamaica, and who had been joined by other runaways during the years of British colonisation. They were said to derive their name from the Spanish marrano (young pig), from their diet of wild pig hunted in Jamaica's wooded mountains. By the 1730s the Maroons, under the leadership of their General, Cudjoe, had grown very strong, raiding white settlements and then retreating to mountain hideouts where they were impossible to pursue.
In 1734 Captain Stoddart attacked and razed the Maroon town of Nanny. In 1737 the British recruited Mosquito indians as scouts and formed free negroes, mulattoes and local indians into military companies, increasing their success against the insurgents. Both sides tired of skirmishing and in 1738 Edward Trelawny (1699-1754), Governor of Jamaica, made overtures of peace to Cudjoe. The Articles of Pacification with the Maroons of Trelawny Town, between the English and the Maroon leaders Cudjoe, Accompong, Johnny, Cuffee and Quaco, were agreed on 1 March 1738.
Engraved in Bryan Edwards's An Historical Survey... (London, 1801) by Scott, the print describes Brunias's picture as 'drawn from the life', although he may have been depicting an event of thirty years before. He would have certainly have drawn the imposing Maroon warriors from life: 'Their demeanour is lofty, their walk firm, and their persons erect' (Edwards, op. cit., p.327). The tall negro at the centre of the painting is supposedly Cudjoe, leader of the the Maroon insurgence, surrounded by his captains Accompong, Johnny, Cuffee and Quaco. Under the terms of the Pacification, the Maroons were given 1500 acres of land around their settlement of Trelawny Town (20 miles from Montego Bay) in return for giving up arms. They were to get £3 for handing over every runaway slave who tried to join them.
In the early 1770s, when Brunias painted the subject, relations between the Maroons and European plantation owners were fairly good. Edwards's Historical Survey describes a mock battle staged in Trelawny Town before the Governor of Jamaica in 1764. It culminated when the Maroons waved their rusty swords over the Governor's head, lightly touched it and then piled their muskets before him in a gesture of respect and loyalty, and this more nearly contemporary event may be the subject Brunias depicts here.
The peaceful state of affairs achieved in 1764 did not last long. In July 1795 the Trelawny Town Maroons again rose in revolt. Exasperated by an intractable problem, in June 1796 six hundred Trelawny Maroons were deported to Halifax, Nova Scotia on the orders of the Earl of Balcarres.