The 1807 Act to abolish the British slave trade determined that those Africans seized by the British navy from illegally operating slave ships would be enlisted into the armed forces or indentured for a maximum of 14 years. In 1821, a Royal Commission was sent to the West Indies to investigate the ‘state’ and ‘condition’ of those Africans who had been indentured under the Act. This article focuses on the work of the Commission – as it became riven by a personal and political dispute – in Tortola. It pays particular attention to the testimonies of the indentured Africans documented in the records. Their dissident narratives further disrupted the inquiry as they refused to answer to either redemptive abolitionism or instrumental political economy – the overlapping discourses framing the ways in which alternatives to enslaved labour were conceptualised during the 1820s.