Landscapes and plantations on Tobago


Material Information

Landscapes and plantations on Tobago a regional perspective
Physical Description:
xx, 274 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Clement, Christopher Ohm, 1960-
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Plantations -- Tobago   ( lcsh )
Sugar trade -- Tobago   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1995.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 259-272).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Christopher Ohm Clement.
General Note:
General Note:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002054085
notis - AKP2057
oclc - 33472887
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Full Text







Copyright 1995


Christopher Ohm Clement

"A people without a knowledge of their past
history, origin and culture is like a tree without
Marcus Garvey


Any research project is a cooperative effort involving

not only the researcher, but a host of others. Peter R.

Schmidt served as my committee chair. He reined me in when

I got overly enthusiastic, and provided a sounding board for

my ideas. Peter's principal contribution, however, was his

faith that I would do my part professionally. In addition,

his knowledge of African cultures, both past and present,

made me aware of potential avenues for understanding slave

life on Tobago.

I have been privileged to be associated with Michael E.

Moseley since 1985, when he rescued me from graduate apathy

by agreeing to oversee my master's research. Mike remains

on my committee, and has continued to be both a mentor and

friend during the course of this dissertation. Though I am

no longer directly associated with his Peruvian research,

the direction I have taken on Tobago is largely a result of

Mike's influence. In addition, the technical and analytical

skills I needed to complete the St. David's Archaeological

Survey were built on skills developed under his direction.

Kathleen A. Deagan and William F. Keegan are the

remaining two anthropologists on my committee. Between the

two of them, I had access to a great deal of knowledge about


Caribbean history and prehistory. In addition, Kathy's

commitment to the archaeological record and her insistence

that excavation should only be undertaken in the absence of

other data sources led to a largely survey methodology,

while Bill's positivist epistemology within an economic

framework contributed a great deal to the theoretical

underpinnings of my research.

The final member of my committee, Ralph B. Johnson,

provided a non-anthropological viewpoint, encouraging me to

present my research in a way that could be understood by a

less specialized audience.

Thomas Hales Eubanks, along with Mike Moseley, is the

codirector of the Tobago Archaeological Program. He

developed much of the infrastructural support and contacts

on Tobago that I later tapped into, and has been most

responsible for the continuing ability of Program

researchers to work on Tobago. My research would not have

been possible without the groundwork that he laid. In

addition, he travelled to Tobago on several occasions to

visit me in the field. His timely arrivals at critical

junctures of the fieldwork provided both moral support and

invaluable expertise. Above all, however, Tom introduced me

to Tobago.

David L. Niddrie, though he did not know me, spent

several hours discussing my research, and went so far as to

lend me his field notes from research he undertook on Tobago

in the late 1950s. His in depth knowledge of Tobagonian

land-use practices provided a base-line for much of my


Funding for this research came from two sources. The

preliminary study was funded by a research grant from the

Amoco Foundation, Inc., sponsored by Amoco Trinidad Ltd.,

while the bulk of the research was performed under a

National Science Foundation dissertation improvement grant.

Finally, the majority of the excavation at the Courland

estate village was supported by a second Amoco grant. These

were the second and third Amoco grants Program researchers

have received. We greatly value their continued support of

our efforts on Tobago.

Several friends on Tobago were instrumental in this

research, though in less tangible ways. To them I owe a

debt of friendship. George Stanley Beard, and his wife,

Shirley, provided a home and family for much of my stay on

Tobago. Their unfailing good cheer, their willingness to

include me in their lives, and their friendship made

research in a foreign country for extended periods a joy.

Ricarda Solomon also provided a home on Tobago for part of

my stay. In addition, her enthusiasm for my work was

infectious, keeping my own enthusiasm high. She also

introduced me to the Tobago Tropical Riders, who supplied

many hours of diversion on rides throughout the island.

Dexter Harris, of Signal Hill, served as my principal

assistant throughout most of the research. His enthusiasm

was also infectious, as was his willingness to work. Above

all, however, his humor and his ability to put up with my

out-of-place-on-Tobago American impatience is greatly

appreciated. Leon Duncan and James Trim both volunteered

their time during portions of the fieldwork. James showed

me several sites in a short period of time, sites that would

otherwise have taken me weeks to locate. Leon helped

excavate test pits at Les Coteaux Estate, rapidly

accelerating that phase of research.

Excavations at Courland Estate were undertaken with the

help of Dennison Herbert, Vivien Lincoln, Maxson Ramsey,

Dave Webster, Emile Williams, and Roland Williams, all of

Black Rock. Though none had previous experience in

archaeological fieldwork, all learned quickly. Their

constant high spirits more than offset the tedium of

archaeological excavation. Surveying equipment used during

those excavations, as well as the services of a trained

surveyor, were provided through the Tobago House of

Assembly, who thus continued their long-term support of the

Tobago Archaeological Program. Permission to work at the

Courland estate village was granted by Neal and Massey

Corporation, Trinidad. The coarse earthenware ceramics from

the site were analyzed by Jim Peterson.


David Phillips shared his extensive knowledge of local
history and his valuable collection of historic maps and

documents. His library on general Caribbean history is

unequalled on the island, and provided me with reference

materials during my stay on the island. Leo Cooper, Richard

Grant, Clarence Thomas, Mrs. Quashie, Lloyd Joseph, Mr.

Spence, Archie Halifax, and Conrad Price served as local

informants, answering my questions and showing me--or giving

me directions to--sites. Though this list is not

exhaustive, it is indicative of the unfailing willingness of

Tobagonians to help strangers. Throughout my stay on

Tobago, I was never at a loss for someone to talk to.

Though I was only able to visit Trinidad on two

occasions, the help I received there equalled that of

Tobagonians. Keith Laurence, Bridget Brereton, and Selwyn

Carrington, of the University of the West Indies, St.

Augustine, History Department, all discussed various aspects

of my research with me, while Dr. Laurence was instrumental

in getting me access to the William Young manuscripts at the

UWI library. Claire Broadbridge, Director of the National

Museum of Trinidad and Tobago, visited my research sites and

provided encouragement. She also offered housing on

Trinidad should I need it.

Final production of this dissertation has been a long

process, aided along the way by many people. Bryan Page

kindly abandoned his office in the University of Miami


Anthropology Department so that I would have a place to

write, while his colleagues, Ann Brittain, Robert

Halberstein, Edward LiPuma and Linda Taylor have all

provided moral support and occasional guidance. Natasha

Elmslie had an unfailingly sympathetic ear and cheerful

words of encouragement. The Departments of Architectural

Engineering and Geography, University of Miami, allowed me

to use their computers to produce the graphics included in

this dissertation, as did the University of Florida

Department of Surveying and Mapping and the University of

South Carolina Department of Civil Engineering.

While many fellow students at the University of Florida

were important in my graduate career, only four will be

mentioned here. Diego Hay read my first draft and helped me

better understand the economic history of the Caribbean.

Greg Smith's editorial comments on various of my writings,

including the proposal that received the majority of my.

dissertation funding, greatly strengthened my work. Nina

Borremans, because she shared my office for so long,

actively participated in the genesis of many of my ideas

during the earliest stages of my research. Anne Stokes, by

believing in my professional capabilities, has provided

confidence-building support for many years. More

importantly, all are good friends.

Lastly, this dissertation would not have been possible

without the support of those closest to me. My wife,

Maureen E. Vicaria-Clement, put up with a more than six

month separation during our first year of marriage so that I

could conduct fieldwork, and accommodated my long working

hours since I returned to the US. In addition, she

cheerfully worked full-time to support me while I wrote,

while simultaneously pursuing her own graduate career. My

parents, Mug and Jackie Clement, supported me throughout

graduate school. They recognize the value of education, and

never demurred when I was forced to rely on them for moral

or financial support. I hope I can show the same wisdom and

patience to my children that my parents have shown to me.


The government of the Caribbean island of Tobago has

recently embarked on an ambitious plan to develop the island

for tourism. In doing so they enter into direct competition

with more established Caribbean destinations. Although the

present development plan focuses primarily on the "sun and

fun" vacationers that typify Caribbean tourism, the

government recognizes that due to the relatively undeveloped

status of the island the natural environment offers an

additional selling point.

The underdevelopment of Tobago has resulted in the

preservation of a broad variety of archaeological sites on

the island. Most have yet to be systematically explored.

In recognition of the potential value these cultural

resources have for tourism development, the Tobago

Archaeological Program, a joint effort of the Tobago House

of Assembly and the University of Florida Institute of

Archaeology and Paleoenvironmental Studies, was initiated to

conduct archaeological research on Tobago in 1986. The

focus of the Tobago Archaeological Program to date has been

on the remains of the many sugar estates on the island. The

survey results reported here continue that effort. Future

research will focus on additional site types, both

prehistoric and historic.

Sugar estates have been the focus of the Tobago

Archaeological research program because they are the most

visible extant material evidence of Tobago's past. All date

primarily from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth

century, and record the colonization of Tobago by the

British in the 1760s, her rise to prominence as the foremost

sugar-producing Caribbean island at the turn of the

nineteenth century, and her gradual fall into obscurity with

the eventual collapse of the Caribbean sugar industry.

Although the island was occupied by the French on two

occasions after British colonization in 1763, for the most

part it remained in British hands. In 1898 it was made a

ward of the neighboring and much larger island of Trinidad,

the two becoming an independent republic in 1962.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .......................................... iv

PREFACE..... .... ..... ...................... .............. xi

LIST OF TABLES............................... .............xvi

LIST OF FIGURES.........................................xviii

ABSTRACT ...................... .............. .............. xix

SURVEY......................... .... .................. 1

Research Goals and Significance...................... 1
Methods ............................................... 5
Organization .............................................6


Physical Description ................................ 8
Geomorphology............................ ............10
Topography and Hydrology............................ 14
Climatic Conditions. ................ ..... .18
Epidemiology .............................. ...... 19
Modern Settlement...............................20


Early History.........................................24
Sugar ................................................25
Slavery............................................. .32
The Settlement of Tobago............................35
Initial Settlement................................... 38

CHAPTER 4. SUCCESSFUL COLONIZATION..........................40

Land Sales...................................................41
The Tobago Economy ..................................49
1763-1781................................... 51
1781-1793.. ................................... 56
1794-1800....................... ........... ....63


CHAPTER 5. DECLINING FORTUNES .............................67

1800-1807 ......................................72
Abolition and Amelioration ..................... 75
Apprenticeship ................................. 81
Emancipation.. .................................. 83
Metayage............ ........ ....... ..........87
Encumbered Estates............................ 93


Research Design......................... ........... .96
The Study Area ..................................... 97
Methods......... ................. ........ ......... 99
Summary of Estate Features......................102
Crushing Mills and Power Sources...............103
The Sugar Works............................... 107
Estate Houses.................................114
Estate Villages...............................115
Summary... ... ........ .. .. .... ......... ..9.......... .. 117


Site Descriptions................................121
Adventure Estate ............................. 121
Amity Hope Estate......... ..................... 132
Arnos Vale Estate .............................134
Castara Downs Estate........................... 137
Courland Estate................. ...............138
Craig Hall Estate.............................138
Culloden Estate.................... ............139
Dunvegan and Providence Estates................141
Franklyn's Estate...........................144
Golden Lane Estate...........*..................145
Highlands Estate................. ..............147
Indian Walk Estate..............................148
King Peter's Estate............................. 150
Les Coteaux Estate..............................151
Lower Quarter Estate...........................151
Mary's Hill Estate ...........................153
Mt. Dillon Estate .............................155
Orange Hill Estate............................. 156
Providence Estate.............................. 156
Runnemede Estate............................. 156
Whim Estate........................ ..... ..... 159
Woodlands Estate............. .................. 161
Additional Structures.........................162
Summary of Regional Survey.........................164



Courland Estate...................................... 166
Previous Research ............................ 169
Additional Research............................. ..173
Area 1................................ ........175
Area 2 .................. ....................... 180
Area 2 Artifacts.............................187
Area 3.........................................194
Les Coteaux Estate ........... .... ............... 194
Orange Hill Estate..................................207
Summary of Intensive Survey........................ 212

CHAPTER 9. A REGIONAL PERSPECTIVE......................217

Constraints to Production and Layout................217
A Model Estate ...................................... 223
The Estate House................................225
The Estate Village............................231
A Dynamic Perspective ................................ 232
Slave Life....................... .......... ....... 236
Free Blacks and Indigenous Inhabitants.............248
Free Laborers ..................................... 250
Conclusion.............................. .... ..........254

REFERENCES CITED.........................................259

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ....................................273


Table 2-1. Average rainfall in Tobago....................19

Table 4-1. Land sales on Tobago...........................42

Table 4-2. Distribution of land grants ....................43

Table 4-3. Per acre cost of land grants by parish.........47

Table 4-4. Per acre cost of land grants, 1765-1771........47

Table 4-5. Intended disposition of lands, 1765............48

Table 4-6. Cleared lands, 1771-1775......................49

Table 4-7. Cleared lands by parish......................49

Table 4-8. Sugar mills, 1771-1775........................50

Table 4-9. Sugar exports, 1770-1780.......................52

Table 4-10. Cotton exports, 1794-1809......................53

Table 4-11. Island population, 1770-1780..................54

Table 4-12. Island population by parish, 1770-1780........55

Table 4-13. Population statistics, 1780....................57

Table 4-14. Sugar and cotton production, 1785-1789........58

Table 4-15. Estates producing sugar, cotton and indigo
by parish, 1786....................................... 60

Table 4-16. Crop distribution by parish, 1786.............60

Table 4-17. Sugar mills, 1786.............................61

Table 4-18. Island population by parish, 1786.............62

Table 4-19. Population densities and ratios, 1786.........62

Table 4-20. Volume of exports, 1794-1800.................64


Table 4-21. Income of an idealized estate producing 150
Hhds. (99 tons) of sugar with 200 slaves, 1796-
1798.... .... ....... .................. ..........65

Table 5-1. Income of an idealized estate producing 150
Hhds. (99 tons) of sugar with 200 slaves, 1805-
1807...................... ..... .. .... .......... ..... 68

Table 5-2. Sugar estates in cultivation for various
years ................................................69

Table 5-3. Sugar exports, 1800-1809.....................75

Table 5-4. Change in slave population, 1808-1811...........78

Table 5-5. Sugar exports, 1814-1869, 1872-1888 and 1890-
1891............................... .......... ......... 79

Table 5-6. Per diem pay scale for apprentice labor,
1836............................ ......... ............ 82

Table 5-7. Change in sugar production during first year
of apprenticeship, St. Paul's Parish.................84

Table 7-1. Summary of estate components identified
during the regional survey.......................... 123

Table 7-2. Estate and lot ownership for various years....124

Table 7-3. Summary of St. David's Estates, 1811..........128



Figure 1-1. Tobago Parishes.............................. 2

Figure 2-1. Physical features.............................9

Figure 2-2. Principle geologic structures................11

Figure 2-3. Topographic and hydrologic regimes.............15

Figure 2-4. Principle roads and towns.....................21

Figure 6-1. Providence Sugar Factory, ca. 1830...........109

Figure 7-1. St. David's Parish Estates...................122

Figure 7-2. St. David's Parish Lots......................129

Figure 8-1. Courland Estate.............................. 167

Figure 8-2. Courland Sugar Factory........................171

Figure 8-3. Courland Estate Village and Old Estate
House Complex ............... .................... 176

Figure 8-4. Courland Old Estate House.....................178

Figure 8-5. Courland Estate Village Structures A and B...184

Figure 8-6. Les Coteaux Estate...........................195

Figure 8-7. Les Coteaux Sugar Factory Complex............ 198

Figure 8-8. Les Coteaux Estate House....................201

Figure 8-9. Orange Hill Estate...........................208

Figure 8-10. Orange Hill Estate House.....................213


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Christopher Ohm Clement

May, 1995

Chair: Peter R. Schmidt
Major Department: Anthropology

Final colonization of Tobago occurred in 1763 when the

island was ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris.

Almost immediately, efforts were made to put the land into

sugar production. The survey reported here focused on

locating all extant remains associated with sugar estates in

St. David's Parish, covering an area of approximately 8720

acres (13.6 square miles). These include primarily sugar

factories where muscovado sugar, molasses and rum were

produced, estate houses where the estate owner lived, and

estate villages where the labor used on the estate was

housed. A variety of ancillary structures may also be

present on a given sugar estate.


The survey located remains associated with 20 of the 22

sugar estates extant in St. David's Parish in 1811. These

included 22 sugar factories, 15 estate houses and three

estate villages. Based on these results, a model of

plantation layout was formulated. The principal factor

affecting layout is the location of the sugar factory.

Factories are sited with primary reference to a water source

for rum production and access to transport. Estate houses

are located in peripheral positions overlooking factory

locations. Secondary factors affecting estate house

location appear to be visibility and view, discussed with

reference to internal functions enhancing estate operation,

and external functions enhancing the status of the planter.

The concept of a "premier estate" that produces goods for

sale to other estates is introduced, and preliminary

archaeological and historical criteria by which such estates

can be defined are presented.

Limited subsurface survey and excavation was undertaken

in one estate village. This program was intended to reveal

the internal layout within the village, but met with only

limited success. Sufficient material was recovered,

however, to give a preliminary view of slave life on Tobago,

discussed with reference to the economic history of the

island and with reference to first-hand observations

presented in contemporary, often unpublished, sources.


The archaeological survey reported here examines the

settlement pattern of sugar estates within St. David's

Parish, one of seven parishes that make up the Caribbean

island of Tobago (Figure 1-1). These parishes were defined

by survey between 1763 and 1765 (Niddrie 1961) after the

island, whose ownership had been in dispute throughout the

265 years since its discovery by Columbus in 1498 (Archibald

1987:6), was finally ceded to the British by the Treaty of

Paris in 1763 (Ragatz 1963). St. David's Parish covered an

area of 8720 acres (approximately 13.6 square miles) as

originally surveyed (Jefferys 1778). In 1811 22 sugar

estates were in operation within the parish (Young 1812a).

Research Goals and Significance

The central research question addressed by the St.

David's Archaeological Survey is: how did the major

cultural groups occupying Tobago during the period of

British colonial occupation view and utilize the available

landscape? Primarily, these groups consisted of European

planters and African slaves. Each group had different and

largely separate goals and needs rising from their disparate

cultural backgrounds and their dissimilar roles within the

plantation production system. Both groups met these goals

and needs by accessing the available natural environment

using familiar, culturally-derived techniques appropriate to

their African and European backgrounds.

The primary goal of the Saint David's Survey was to

generate a model to account for the patterned arrangement of

sugar estates on Tobago with specific focus on the location

and layout of the structures present on those estates.1

Higman (1988) has presented a model of plantation layout

which forms the departure point for this dissertation. His

research is derived from a collection of 1000 eighteenth and

nineteenth century estate plans in the National Library of

Jamaica showing the internal structure of the mapped

properties. Higman's documentary sources were created

primarily to show estate boundaries and the locations of

buildings and activity areas relative to each other. This

focus on the cultural environment built by the Jamaican

planters was at the expense of detail relating to the

natural environment.2 Higman's analysis is therefore

1 These include primarily estate houses, sugar
factories and estate villages. A variety of other
structures may also be present on an estate.
2 Natural features are incorporated into the Jamaican
plans only when they have direct relevance to the economic
value of the estate. Thus, rivers that supply water to
drive the water wheel are commonly represented while
alternative water sources that may have other uses are

limited both by the difficulties early cartographers had

portraying three-dimensional space in a two-dimensional

medium before the advent of contour lines and by the

omission of many natural environmental features. As a

result, his model is of limited utility to anthropologists.

The internal patterning of estates, both within and

between structures and areas, reflects constraints imposed

by the natural environment. Internal patterning is also

affected by the culturally derived preferences of the

planters who built the estates. Without a clear

understanding of the natural constraints to estate layout

cultural preferences are masked by unclear variation

resulting from natural conditions. To understand and

explain cultural preferences a model that better

incorporates environmental constraints is necessary.

This dissertation presents a model of plantation layout

that initially focuses on the natural environment. With

constraints to layout resulting from environmental factors

such as local topography and hydrology understood, it

becomes possible to profitably examine the choices made by

the planters in establishing a particular layout. These

choices reflect both the economic goal of sugar production,

that of amassing funds, and culturally dictated preferences

for one location or layout over another. These include

primarily the selection of estate lands with minimal

impediments to transport and construction of the built

environment to reflect their British heritage and cultural



The individual methods adopted here are standard

practice for prehistoric and historical archaeologists. As

integrated elements in an overall research design these

methods have not been applied by plantation archaeologists.

The specific methods included:

1--A documents search of primary and secondary
sources to identify sites and their approximate
locations, and to create a historical context
within which the research results could be

2--A regional surface survey to physically locate
the material remains of identified sites and the
local environmental contexts within which they
occur. Based on this survey, broad patterns of
site layout are identified and an initial model

3--Intensive surface survey at selected sites to
reveal specific variation not accounted for by the
initial model.

4--Limited excavation at an estate village to
recover archaeological data that was not otherwise
available relating to the village's internal

3 In the course of the documents search data were
encountered which did not have direct relevance to the
research problems addressed. Where these data are not
otherwise available in the published literature or appear in
obscure or rare books they are included in this
dissertation, primarily in tabular format, to increase their


The structure of this dissertation reflects the methods

employed. The first part, Chapters 2 through 5, is

primarily derived from the documents search. It presents

the historical and environmental context within which the

settlement of Tobago occurred. Chapter 2 describes the

island's physical features, features which constrained

settlement in some areas while encouraging settlement in

others. Chapter 3 addresses the question of why, within the

context of a rapidly developing Caribbean economy, permanent

settlement did not occur on Tobago until the mid-eighteenth

century. Chapters 4 and 5 present an economic history of

Tobago. While several good, book length economic histories

of the Caribbean have been published (e.g. Curtin 1990;

Green 1976; Knight 1978; Ragatz 1963; Williams 1970) only

one focuses specifically on Tobago (Nardin 1969). As it is

in French and has only a limited distribution, Chapters 4

and 5 are presented to familiarize the reader with economic

trends that effected Tobago.

The second part of the dissertation, Chapters 6 through

8, is archaeologically oriented. Although it reflects

information encountered in the documents, particularly

spatial information projected graphically, for the most part

Chapters 6 through 8 present the approach to and results of

archaeological research. Chapter 6 discusses the survey

research design, derived from a materialist theoretical

perspective. Chapters 7 and 8 present the data recovered

during the course of archaeological research--Chapter 7 the

results of the regional survey and Chapter 8 the results of

the intensive survey and limited excavation.

In the final chapter, Chapter 9, synchronic and

diachronic models of estate layout are presented. They are

based initially on a functional interpretation of building

location and layout. In turn, instances where enhanced

function does not appear to be a principal goal of the

builders are specifically defined. In these instances more

speculative cognitive or symbolic explanations are

discussed. Though the recovery of material culture from

subsurface contexts was not a primary goal of this research,

a discussion of the artifacts recovered during excavations

at one estate village is presented.


Physical Description

The Caribbean island of Tobago is situated at latitude

1115' N and longitude 60040' W, the extreme southeastern

point of the Lesser Antillean island chain. Its closest

neighbor is the island of Trinidad, 18 miles to the

southwest, while the island of Grenada lies approximately 80

miles to the northwest.

Tobago is small, covering an area of approximately 116

square miles (Figure 2-1). The island trends from northeast

to southwest, and is approximately 26 miles long by eight

miles wide at its widest point. A typical width, however,

is more on the order of three to five miles. The most

prominent feature of the island is the dorsal main ridge,

which extends about 13 miles southwest from the northeast

end of the island. Roughly 550 to 580 meters in height, the

ridge is not dominated by any single peak. Rather, there

are several peaks over 520 meters in height distributed all

along the ridge-line. The northern and eastern flanks of

the main ridge slope steeply down to the sea, while to the

southeast they are somewhat less steep. To the southwest,

foothills of the main ridge give way to rolling terrain, and





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eventually to a relatively flat littoral plain at the

island's extreme southwestern tip at Crown Point.

The British colonization of Tobago was undertaken with

the express intention to create an agricultural economy

based on the large-scale production of crops for export to

foreign markets. At the time of settlement it was widely

recognized that sugar was the most lucrative of these crops.

The configuration of early settlement reflects the perceived

suitability of lands for the production and processing of

cane. In the eyes of the would-be planters, the most

important considerations in the choice of plantation lands

were topographic and, secondarily, hydrologic constraints.

The factors effecting island topography and hydrology rest

on the underlying geologic structure of the island (Figure



The most recent geomorphological studies of Tobago

indicate that the island's current position at the

northeastern corner of the South American continental shelf

is serendipitous. Rather than being closely related to the

South American continent, as Trinidad is, it now appears

that the geologic components of Tobago are petrographically

and geochemically distinct from those of Trinidad, despite

their close proximity (Wadge and McDonald 1985), and that

the two islands are separated by a major fault zone



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(Robertson and Burke 1989; Speed et al. 1989). Instead,

Tobago is the eastern-most member of an oceanic island

archipelago that formed some 120 million years ago.

Subsequently, tectonic movement resulted in a collision

between this archipelago and the South American continental

shelf. This gradual collision proceeded from west to east,

with Tobago being the last island involved. By a complex

process, then, it, along with the islands of the Dutch

Antilles and several of the Venezuelan possessions, was

accreted to the continental shelf by tectonic drift some 65-

70 million years ago (Snoke et al. 1990b).

While the relationship between Tobago and the rest of

the Lesser Antilles to the north is more uncertain, Tobago

appears to be geomorphologically distinct from the more

northerly members of the island chain. Where the majority

of the Lesser Antillean islands are characterized by

features of recent or current volcanic activity and a

volcanic core surrounded by effluvial skirts sloping gently

to the sea (Niddrie 1961:2), the rocks of Tobago are

primarily a complex intermixture of igneous and metamorphic

origin (Snoke et al. 1990a, 1990b).

The geologic core of Tobago, the basement rocks around

and upon which the island is formed, is composed of three

pre-Cenozoic belts trending east-west and roughly

transecting the island (Snoke et al. 1990b). The oldest of

these belts, the North Coast Schist (NCS), contains rocks of

volcanic origin that were heated, compressed and tilted by

an intrusive group of rocks which had solidified far below

the earth's surface. The NCS forms Tobago's Main Ridge and

the steeply sloping north coast. The plutonic intrusion

caused intensive warping, deformities and fractures in the

NCS, and are the second component of Tobago's three pre-

Cenozoic belts. The plutonic intrusion, together with the

NCS, forms the jagged interior of the island. The intrusion

also uplifted other rocks of volcanic and sedimentary

origin, the Tobago Volcanic Group (TVG), which overlay the

plutonic group. The TVG is the final component of Tobago's

geological underpinnings, and is exposed on the southern

skirts of the island, extending around the southwestern

flanks of the main ridge.

Once Tobago's core had formed, the genesis of a fourth

rock group was initiated by erosion/deposition of existing

rock and by offshore coral growth. The primary component is

coralline limestone, which makes up the coral lowlands that

dominate the southwestern end of the island. The presence

of this formation is indicative of as yet undated tectonic

uplift and/or sea level subsidence (Snoke et al. 1990b).

This may have occurred in two stages, as a terrace is

evident in the coral lowlands at about 20 meters above sea

level (Niddrie 1961:5).

Topography and Hydrology

The four rock groups which form Tobago are

differentially resistant to erosion. In addition, their

resistance to erosion is enhanced or mitigated by their

slope. These factors allow the division of the island into

four topographic and hydrologic regimes (Figure 2-3). As

moisture falls on the island in the form of rain, it forms

rivulets, streams and rivers which carry it to the sea.

Depending on the erosional resistance and slope of the

underlying geological structures, these drainages may be

short and steep or long and gently sloping.

The shortest and steepest drainages exist on the

northern slopes of the main ridge, and run to the Caribbean

Sea. While the NCS which underlies the ridge has a high

erosional resistance, it is steeply sloped. Runoff water is

thus fast moving and creates steep declivities, particularly

in the presence of the localized faulting characteristic of

the NCS. Little southern drifting of the headwaters of

these streams has occurred, an action which would have

lengthened their courses, because at the top of the ridge

the transported water has not yet developed either the speed

or the volume which would allow it to downcut the underlying


A second topographic and hydrologic regime exists on

the southeastern flanks of the main ridge. Here the

underlying structure consists of the intrusive plutonics and


- 0%








0 3
a 0

I I I I1

TVG groups. Both erosional resistance and slope are less

acute, resulting in a series of fairly long but deeply

incised drainages. Shelfs of more resistant rock occur at

elevations of about 60 meters above sea level and lower

shelfs cut by wave action when sea level was higher relative

to land surface occur at about 20 and 7.5 meters above sea

level. All cause waterfalls or rapids at these elevations.

In addition to falls and rapids, the rivers and streams of

the southeastern flank are characterized by low-lying,

occasionally broad floodplains as they approach the

southeastern coast. Due to the size of their drainage

basins, all are perennial and subject to frequent and

violent flooding during the rainy season. In contrast,

during the dry months from December to June, the water

courses may not even have sufficient flow to break through

the sand bar barriers erected by wave action at their mouths

(Eubanks 1992:57; Niddrie 1961:4-5). Drainages in this, the

island's southeastern slope, feed and include the Bacolet

River, the East and West Hillsborough Rivers, the

Goldsborough River, the Richmond River, the Argyle River,

and the Louis d'Or River.

The sole member of the third topographic and hydrologic

regime is the Courland River. Arising in the NCS group, the

Courland has managed to break through to the broad, gently

sloping members of the TVG that occupy the area immediately

southwest of the main ridge. While the same shelves that


affect the southeastern drainages affect the Courland, the

more gently sloping terrain has resulted in a decreased flow

velocity and a corresponding reduction in river downcutting.

The hills in the Courland drainage area, while still steep,

are thus less high above the river than their counterparts

on the southeastern slope. Decreased slope has also allowed

the river to take on a more meandering aspect than its

counterparts, creating a rolling countryside and reducing

the violence of seasonal flooding (Niddrie 1961:4).

The final topographic and hydrologic regime covers the

coral lowlands at the southwestern extremity of the island.

Almost flat, drainage in this area occurs more by seepage

through the limestone itself, and rather less by surface

runoff. Surface water is scarce during the dry season,

occurring most frequently as springs where underlying TVG

rocks approach the surface. The frequently heavy

precipitation of the rainy season, however, has produced a

system of shallow (ca. 35 ft) valleys throughout the coral

lowlands, providing at least some topographic relief

(Niddrie 1961). The presence of at least two volcanic

"necks" (the more erosionally resistant core of extinct

volcanoes) in the vicinity of the village of Mt. Pleasant

contributes further topographic variety (Eubanks 1992).

Climatic Conditions

The two most important elements of Tobago's weather

patterns affecting cultivation are precipitation and the

velocity and direction of the prevailing winds. As with the

other islands of the Lesser Antilles, Tobago experiences a

very predictable breeze. Blowing on a year-round basis at a

fairly steady 5-12 knots, the breeze is from the northeast

during most of the year. During mid-summer, however,

without losing any velocity it may shift towards the south,

picking up additional moisture, raising humidity and

resulting in at least some rainfall throughout the year

(Niddrie 1961:5-6).

By far the majority of the rainfall, however, is

seasonal. Although the amount of seasonal rain varies

throughout the island (Table 2-1), Tobagonians generally

refer to a wet season running from June to December and a

dry season extending from January to May. Wet season

rainfall usually occurs in the form of heavy convectional

thunder storms of short duration, producing locally violent

winds that last for but a short time. More continuous but

less frequent rains are delivered by frontal systems

accompanying the Intertropical Convergence Zone, and

rainfall of up to one inch per hour has been recorded during

these events. Fortunately for the inhabitants of Tobago,

the island lies to the south of the main hurricane belt.

Although tropical storms and hurricanes do occur, they are


rare, and tend to be less destructive than similar storms to

the north. The last major hurricane to impact Tobago was

Hurricane Flora in 1963. Prior to that, one must go all the

way back to 1847 for a storm of similar magnitude, although

smaller storms hit the island in 1780, 1790, 1831, 1891,

1909, 1918, 1928, and 1933 (Eubanks 1992:60-61; Niddrie


Table 2-1. Average rainfall in Tobago
Monh Average rainfall (in.)

January 4.8
February 2.8
March 2.3
April 3.7
May 5.6
June 9.2
July 9.6
August 8.8
September 8.9
October 9.1
November 9.4
December 11.4
Total 85.6
After Niddrie 1961:6


A third consideration for the early planters when

selecting their lands was epidemiological. Tobago's river

valleys tend to be deep, with a corresponding high degree of

humidity, and river and stream mouths are frequently blocked

by wave-borne sand bars in the dry season, creating pools

stagnant water. In both instances, an ideal mosquito

breeding ground is present. Where these features are

coupled with coastal lagoons and mangrove swamps, malarial

and other tropical infections became a real threat. Indeed,

the early planters were highly cognizant of the fact that in

Tobago's tropical climate, death by malaria or other

tropical disease was a very real possibility (Young 1812a).

Although they may not have recognized the disease vector,

they attempted to minimize infection, avoiding high risk

areas by locating in elevated positions where possible.

Settlement pattern reflected these decisions, and in large

part, these patterns persist today (Niddrie 1961:8).

Modern Settlement

Most of Tobago's existing road network has been in

existence since at least the early nineteenth century. The

modern towns and villages, on the other hand, were primarily

founded in the post-emancipation period, after 1838, when

former slaves left the estate villages provided them by

estate owners. Figure 2-4 shows these features.

Today, life on Tobago revolves around the capital town

of Scarborough. The Government is the single largest

employer on the island, and most government offices are

located in the capital. Banks and many small businesses are

located in Scarborough as well. The largest population



a aI


Er .


I R4J *
U2 *

concentration is within the town's environs, while many

other people commute in on a daily basis, using both public

and private transportation.

Though neither compares with Scarborough, two

additional population centers are Roxborough and Plymouth.

Roxborough is located towards the eastern end of the island

on the southeastern coast, and since travel-time to

Scarborough from there is fairly long, it duplicates many of

the services available in the capital. It is likely that it

existed prior to emancipation, at least as a village, though

none of the contemporary maps confirm this.

Plymouth, in contrast, was one of the islands's

earliest permanent settlements (see Chapter 4). Indeed, it

may have been the very first town, as the Dutch settled

nearby as early as 1628 (Boomert et al. 1987:9-10).

Plymouth is located towards the western end of the island,

and is the only major town on the northern coast. Though

travel to and from Scarborough is easier than from

Roxborough, Plymouth too duplicates many of the functions of

Scarborough. Plymouth serves a portion of the burgeoning

tourism industry as well. The luxury tourist hotels are

located nearby, and since at least some tourists do not

bother to rent transport, Plymouth serves as a marketplace

for groceries or other necessary items. Plymouth also

maintains much of the "quaintness" of former times, and many

visitors to the island spend time in the town sightseeing.

Since the development of Crown Point Airport at the

extreme southwestern tip of the island, the area in its

vicinity has been developing rapidly. This area, too,

serves primarily tourists, though of a different kind. The

majority of the island's guest houses--small, inexpensive

hotels offering functional living spaces--are located near

the airport in the villages of Bon Accord and Canaan,

principally in the former. These guest houses attract a

less opulent clientele than the luxury hotels near Plymouth,

and many small businesses have developed to serve them.

Souvenir and grocery shops and stands abound, as do small

restaurants and bars. The village of Buccoo, on Buccoo Bay,

is rapidly being transformed from a fishing village into

something more akin to Bon Accord, primarily due to its

proximity to Buccoo Reef.

The remainder of the villages on Tobago remain largely

unchanged. Most developed at around the time of

emancipation, when freed slaves left the estates to pursue a

livelihood based on peasant agriculture and wage labor on

plantations (Niddrie 1961--see Chapter 5). Villages located

in the interior of the island are primarily agricultural,

while those on the coast support both agriculture and the

local fishing industry. Examples of the former include

Bethel, Les Coteaux and Mt. Pleasant, while examples of the

latter include Castara, Charlotteville and Mt. St. George

(Figure 2-4).


Early History

Tobago's early history is complex. From its first

discovery by Europeans in 1498 until its final recapture by

the British in 1804, the island changed hands more

frequently than any other in the Caribbean (Niddrie

1961:42). The colonial flags of England, France, Spain,

Holland, and the Duchy of Courland (modern-day Latvia), as

well as the independent Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,

have all flown over the island at one time or another.

Comprehensive treatments of the early history of Tobago are

available in Archibald (1987), Eubanks (1992) and Lichtveld

(1974). Rather than simply reiterating their discussions,

this chapter presents a broader treatment of events

affecting the early history of Tobago. Foremost among these

was the adoption of sugar cane as the major cash crop of the

Caribbean, with the concomitant reliance on African slaves

as labor. The events which led to the primacy of sugar are

best understood by focusing on Europe, and on European

attitudes towards the Caribbean (Mintz 1985; Wolf 1982).


Columbus's voyages of discovery were sponsored by the

Spanish crown, and Spain became the first dominant European

power in the Caribbean and the rest of the New World.

During the earliest period of Spanish supremacy there was a

brief fluorescence of agricultural production in the

American colonies. The Spanish recognized the potential of

sugar very early in their colonization efforts. Cane was

first introduced into Hispaniola by Columbus in 1493 on his

second voyage (Mintz 1985:32). By the mid-sixteenth

century, 40 to 50 sugar factories were in operation on

Hispaniola alone (Las Casas, in Williams 1970:26,519).

While these factories were fairly primitive when compared to

the nineteenth century technology, they produced copious

amounts of sugar (Williams 1970). During the initial period

of Spanish production, however, Caribbean sugar was mostly

sold in the extremely limited New World market, while the

more extensive Old World demand was supplied by the

Portuguese possessions in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic

(Williams 1970).

By the second quarter of the sixteenth century the

attention of the Spanish in the New World shifted away from

agricultural production. After 1520 the goal of Spanish

exploration was primarily the acquisition of precious

metals. Indeed, precious metals were so important to the

Spanish that one Historian states that " was gold which


determined the location of Spanish settlements, which led to

their concentration on the Greater Antilles and to their

neglect of the Lesser Antilles, except those which had

strategic significance for the protection of the trade

routes" (Williams 1970:24).

Initially, gold was recovered from deposits on

Hispaniola. These were rapidly depleted however, and the

focus of exploration shifted to other Caribbean islands and

to mainland Central and South America. The vast riches of

the Aztec and Inca Empires fired the imagination of

Spaniards (Williams 1970). Many residents of the Caribbean

re-emigrated to the mainland, while new arrivals from Spain

tended to bypass the Caribbean entirely. Interest in the

agricultural potential of the Caribbean declined as a

result. The Spanish colonies on Hispaniola, and

particularly Cuba, became key strategic points for

protecting Spanish gold and silver shipments during the

hazardous initial stages of the Atlantic crossing (Knight


Spanish dominance of the Caribbean lasted until the

second quarter of the seventeenth century. During this

period of Spanish hegemony no other European power possessed

both the strength and the desire to gain a foothold in the

Caribbean. It was not until the cessation, in 1621, of a

truce between the Spanish and the Dutch that any European

power could successfully challenge Spanish dominance. With

the end of the treaty, however, the Dutch quickly moved to

usurp Spanish power. They accomplished this by first

gaining control of the Atlantic sea-lanes. Dutch harassment

and eventual destruction of the Spanish navy opened the way

to settlement of the Caribbean by other European powers

(Parry 1963). The British quickly moved in, settling

Barbados and part of St. Croix (1625), Nevis (1628), Antigua

and Montserrat (1632), and St. Lucia (1638). They, in turn,

were rapidly followed by the French (Martinique and

Guadeloupe) (Knight 1978:37-38). It was also during this

period that European adventurers made the first serious

attempts to settle Tobago (Eubanks 1992:67).

British and French forays into the Caribbean were made

with the intent to establish agricultural colonies (Curtin

1990:77). Despite early Spanish success in cane

cultivation, however, the crop was not immediately adopted

by the British and French colonists. In part, this was

because a market was not immediately available to the

British and the French. Due to the nearly continuous

warfare between the various European powers during the

sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, what little sugar

made it to the British and French home markets was very

expensive. The resulting price put sugar beyond the means

of the majority of the population. It was only with the

initiation of production in the British and French Caribbean

in the mid-seventeenth century that prices began to decline,

and popularity of the new commodity began to rise. From its

early beginnings as a tasty but rare condiment on the

European table, the market demand became increasingly

elastic and sugar production rapidly expanded (Mintz 1985).

During the first fifteen to twenty years of

colonization, after an initial period of experimentation

with a variety of crops, it became apparent that tobacco

production offered the most lucrative returns, and the early

successes of the new colonies were largely based on this

crop (Batie 1991). The economic potential of tobacco was

first realized by the British colonists of Virginia. They

first began growing the crop around 1616, and by 1619 a

planter could make profits of up to 200 yearly at a time

when the average laborer in England was making a mere 10

8s. per year (Batie 1991:39). The Caribbean colonists

quickly adopted tobacco cultivation.

The success of tobacco was so great that Europeans

emigrated to the new colonies in large numbers, either to

set themselves up as planters or to work as laborers for a

period of indenture, after which they could hope to be free

to buy land and start plantations of their own.

Predictably, the steady increase in the number of tobacco

planters and laborers soon caused production to outstrip

demand. By 1635 prices were in decline. Though this price

reduction affected all colonists, it was particularly hard

on those in Virginia, where few other crops could be grown.

To protect the colonies from price fluctuations, officials

in Virginia and the Caribbean agreed to increase the price

of tobacco artificially by severely limiting its production

in the Caribbean. The French were coerced by threats of

force into joining in this effort.

With the enactment of this agreement, the economy of

the Virginia colony at least was stabilized. In the

Caribbean, however, production of a new staple crop was

necessarily promoted. Initially, cotton was the dominant

replacement. It grew well in the Caribbean environment, and

the knowledge, technology and labor required for its

cultivation were minimal. In fact, cotton was so suited to

the Caribbean environment that by 1639 prices were dropping,

like those of tobacco had before, because of over

production. By this time, however, the preconditions that

would allow the successful cultivation of cane and

manufacture of sugar had been met (Batie 1991). This

initially occurred in Barbados.

Before sugar cane could be successfully adopted in the

Caribbean as the dominant crop, three preconditions had to

be met. The first preconditions relate, at least

indirectly, to the high cost of the equipment necessary for

sugar production. First, the islands upon which sugar

production occurred had to be safe from foreign attack.

Economically, it was poor practice to invest in sugar

production hardware if that hardware was liable to


destruction by foreign invaders. Second, individuals needed

access to sufficient capital to afford the initial

investments in sugar technology. Both of these

preconditions were realized in the Caribbean as a result of

earlier tobacco and cotton production, and by the

intervention of the Dutch.

In the early seventeenth century Britain was in the

depths of a depression and on the verge of civil war, and

many people chose to migrate to the New World. When tobacco

prices began to drop in 1635, British emigrants to the

colonies began to opt for the Caribbean, where a broader

variety of opportunities was available, rather than

Virginia. Barbados was a particularly desirable

destination, as its environment proved to be particularly

suitable for cotton production. Thus, by the time cotton

prices began to fall, Barbados already had a greater

population density than any other colony in the New World.

The sheer numbers of residents, particularly when combined

with Barbados' windward location (Curtin 1990), made the

island reasonably safe from foreign invasion. At the same

time, the success of cotton in Barbados created a sizeable

upper class, an upper class that could afford to risk

capital by investing in the equipment required for sugar

production (Batie 1991).

The final requirement for successful sugar production

was technical knowledge. The production of sugar is a

complex process, particularly in contrast to the relative

simplicity of tobacco and cotton production. With sugar,

aside from simply growing and harvesting the cane, one has

to know how to reduce the cane juice to sugar and molasses,

and how to produce rum. Knowledge of the processes was

fairly commonplace by the late 1630s, but talent

concentrated in other parts of the world. It remained for

the Dutch to import the crucial knowledge.

The Dutch had initiated settlement in the Caribbean

concurrently with the British and the French. However,

rather than choosing to settle arable islands as the British

and French had, the Dutch colonized the smaller, less

agriculturally productive islands of Curagao, St. Eustatius,

St. Maarten, and Saba (Knight 1978:37). Their intention was

to create trade entrep6ts, an activity which, on a larger

scale, had successfully supported the Dutch homeland. The

success of these incipient trading centers, however,

required a viable Caribbean economy. It was therefore in

the Dutch interest to help the other colonists. As part of

their campaign against the Spanish, the Dutch had earlier

taken Portuguese Brazil, challenging the united kingdoms of

Spain and Portugal.1 The Brazilian economy at that time

was dependent largely on sugar, and it was a relatively

simple matter to transport the knowledge of sugar production

During this period the Portuguese and Spanish crowns
were united, and any action against Portugal was an action
against Spain.


from Brazil to Barbados (Batie 1991:45); in need of a cash

crop to replace cotton and support the dense Barbadian

population, the island's officials simply looked the other

way. The Dutch, in turn, assured themselves of a ready

market for their goods, foremost of which were African



Europeans brought African slaves to the New World

shortly after initial settlement. As early as 1502, the

Spanish on Hispaniola began importing Africans (Rout 1976).

This was initially done as an experiment, as the Spanish

were quick to realize that the locally available labor,

decimated by European diseases and debilitating labor in the

fields and mines, was unsuited to the Spanish regime. By

1514, only 23,000 to 30,000 native inhabitants were left on

the island, an island that may have supported up to eight

million inhabitants in 1492 (Borah and Cook 1971-1977; Cook

1981). The Spanish travelled to other islands in search of

additional labor, and these islands, too, were soon

effectively depopulated.

While the enslavement of Africans was certainly

practiced by the Spanish in the New World, it was not until

the introduction of an economy based upon sugar production

that slavery in the Americas reached full maturity. This

initially occurred in northeastern Brazil. During the

period when Spain exercised exclusive control in the

Caribbean and amassed a fortune in gold and silver from the

conquests of Mexico and Peru, Portugal controlled an equally

lucrative empire centered about the Mediterranean Sea and

extending down the west coast of Africa. They also

controlled northeastern Brazil, where they quietly

instituted a plantation economy.

Not surprisingly given their previous experience with

the crop in their Old World possessions, the Portuguese

planters developed a sugar economy in Brazil. As had the

Spanish, they quickly recognized the susceptibility of the

local Native American populations to disease, and their

consequent unsuitability for labor (Rawley 1981). Indeed,

the situation in Brazil was exacerbated by the fact that

Native American slaves could easily absent themselves from

the plantations, fleeing to the interior where they could

re-institute the economic and cultural system that had

supported them in the past (Wagley 1971). Having been

exposed to Europeans and their diseases for decades,

however, and having immunity to a host of other tropical

diseases common to both Africa and the New World, in

Africans the Portuguese had the ideal labor force for New

World plantations. An additional advantage was that

enslaved African had little or no means of escape. As

Eubanks (1992:42) puts it: "they were as alien off the

plantation as they were on it."

When the Dutch conquered Portuguese Brazil in 1630

(Curtin 1990:91), they found a full-blown plantation economy

based on the production of sugar and the enslavement of

Africans already in place. Nevertheless, the Dutch

recognized that without a steady supply of new slaves this

type of economy could not last, since even with their

disease immunities the African population of Brazil was not

self-reproducing. This was due in part to the arduous

working conditions of the plantation regime, and in part to

the skewed sex-ratios of imported Africans--many more males

were imported than females (Curtin 1969, 1979). To ensure

the continued success of their new holdings, the Dutch

seized Portuguese-held African ports on the Gold Coast and

in Angola, securing for themselves a steady supply of slaves

(Curtin 1990).

With access to slaves and with growing entrep6ts in the

Caribbean in need of a viable market, the Dutch were willing

to share their knowledge of sugar production, stolen from

Brazil, with the British colonists on Barbados (Batie

1991:45). The first recorded shipment of sugar reached

England from Barbados in 1643 (Batie 1991:46). In that same

year, production was initiated on the British-held portion

of St. Kitts, and by 1644 the French had begun to produce

sugar on Guadeloupe. The sugar boom was on in the

Caribbean, and the rhythms of sugar production would

eventually dominate almost the entire archipelago.

The Settlement of Tobago2

With the beginning of the industrial revolution, sugar

was rapidly transformed from a luxury good, accessible only

to the rich, to a staple food additive demanded by the vast

European laboring population. It is within the context of

this rapid increase in demand that the eventual settlement

of Tobago is best understood. However, this did not occur

until 1765, 122 years after the initiation of sugar

production on Barbados. The question is, why, with the

feasibility of such a potentially lucrative crop widely

recognized, did Britain, France or Spain not bring Tobago

into sugar production at an earlier date? The answer lies

in a combination of factors, the most important of which is

that it was advantageous for each government to deny access

to Tobago to the others.

During the seventeenth century, when the agricultural

resources of the Caribbean began to thrive, the geo-

political importance of Tobago was recognized. With the

exception of Barbados, Tobago is the most easterly of all

the Caribbean islands. This was an era of sailing ships

2 Care must be taken when thinking of the "settlement"
of Tobago. Tobago was "settled" on numerous occasions prior
to 1763, most notably by the Dutch and the Courlanders in
the 17th century. In addition, while the island had neutral
status from 1748 to 1763, several individuals of various
nationalities maintained permanent or temporary residences
there, primarily for turtling. In this dissertation, the
term "settlement" is used to denote the period of permanent
occupation by British planters engaged in the cultivation of
cash crops.

and, from Tobago, sailing ships catching the prevailing

easterly trade winds could sweep the entire Caribbean island

chain, bringing naval pressure to bear wherever and whenever

the possessors of Tobago pleased. By the same token, ships

from other islands had a difficult time maneuvering to

Tobago in its upwind location. Thus, in the days of sailing

ships Tobago occupied a very strategic position relative to

the rest of the Caribbean. As the economic importance of

the Caribbean increased with the realization of sugar as a

cash crop, so too did Tobago's strategic importance.

Consequently, no European power could afford to have Tobago

colonized by another.

The strategic importance of Tobago lasted throughout

the age of the sailing ship. As late as the beginning of

the nineteenth century the rights to Tobago were still

contested by the French because of its coveted strategic

location. Indeed, French maps of Tobago made during the

1780s, and the road system along the rugged windward coast

that they constructed during their occupation of that period

indicate their preoccupation with Man o' War Bay at

Charlotteville. They envisioned this as a possible naval

depot from which to threaten the rest of the Caribbean, and

its potential drew them back to the island as late as 1803-

1804. The British, too, frequently included details of Man

o' War Bay on their maps (e.g., Jefferys 1765), indicating

that they also recognized this strategic potential.

Strategic location was the major factor which delayed

the occupation of Tobago. Contributing to this was the

incipient nature of cane cultivation and sugar production

and soil fertility on the established islands of the British

and French Caribbean. Following their successful

introduction to Barbados in the mid-seventeenth century,

cane cultivation and sugar production were rapidly

introduced to other British and French islands during the

late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Their

spread was driven by the need to meet an ever-increasing

demand for sugar (Mintz 1985:36), as well as decreasing soil

fertility on long-established plantations, caused by

repeated mono-cropping and the corresponding decline in soil

nutrients (Ragatz 1963). Nevertheless, it took time for

sugar production to spread to all of the land suitable for

cane cultivation, particularly on the larger islands of

Jamaica and French Hispaniola (Haiti), and, to a lesser

extent, Martinique and Guadaloupe. Whatever the cause of

this continuous extension of cane cultivation, sufficient

unoccupied land was available on established islands until

the mid-eighteenth century.

Another factor contributing to the late settlement of

Tobago was the island's topography. As noted in Chapter 2,

Tobago is dominated by a mountainous interior. The sheer

ruggedness of the topography make the main ridge, roughly

two thirds of the island's total area, marginal at best for

sugar production. Transportation, from the cane fields to

the sugar works, and from the sugar works to shipping

points, would have been extremely difficult; maintenance

costs were high, both for the estate roads themselves, and

for the vehicles and the teams used to draw them. In short,

much of Tobago was less well-suited for sugar production

than many other Caribbean islands, and as a result it was

one of the last to be brought on-line. Even during the

height of its sugar production in the early nineteenth

century, Tobago had only 35,134 of its roughly 74,400 acres

occupied by sugar estates (Young 1812a).

Initial Settlement

The strategic location of Tobago, combined with the

availability of land on other islands and the unsuitability

of Tobago's topography for sugar production, acted to delay

the effective settlement of Tobago until the last half of

the eighteenth century. That strategic location was the

most critical factor is evidenced by the fact that when the

Treaty of Paris gave Britain the legal right to settle

Tobago colonization almost immediately began, with a letter

of patent dated 7 October, 1763. By 1765 an initial survey

had been completed which began laying out lots for estates

(Simpson 1765), and on 20 May, 1765, the first estate,

consisting of lots 7 and 8 in St. George's Parish, was sold

to Alexander Stevenson (Nardin 1969:298-299).3 This later

became known as Hope Estate.

3 There is some contention about the primacy of this
sale. Woodcock (1866:41) says that the first lot sold, lot
1 in St. David's Parish, was sold to James Simpson on 20
March, 1766, while Archibald (1987:107) contends that
Simpson bought this lot at the first land sale in May of



Tobago is one of the so-called "ceded islands" acquired

by the British as a result of the Treaty of Paris in 1763

(Ragatz 1963).1 With the acquisition of the ceded islands,

the British parliament imposed two conditions on settlement.

First, in response to concerns that most of the new lands

would remain idle in the hands of speculators, parliament

required steady and large payments on purchased land,

payments that could only be met by immediately putting the

land into production.

(Lands)...should be put up to sale at a price not
less than five pounds per acre of the lands that
were cleared and if the lands were uncleared at a
price no less than one pound sterling per
acre...(the purchaser)...should thereupon pay
down twenty per cent of the whole purchase money
and six pence sterling for every acre of which the
lots should consist for the expense of surveying
the same. ...(O)ver and above the twenty pounds
per cent of the whole purchase money he should pay
down ten pounds per cent of the whole purchase
money within one year from the date of such Bill
of Sale, ten pounds per cent more within the
second year after the date of such Bill of Sale
and twenty per cent within every successive year
until the whole was paid... (CO 101/1:75, in
Nardin 1969:296).

1 The others are Dominica, St. Vincent, Grenada and the

Second, parliament limited the amount of land that

could be purchased by any individual, in order to limit the

influence of individual planters in the plantocratic lobby:

That no purchaser should be seized in his own name
or names of others in trust for him of more than
five hundred acres in the islands where the lands
lie, ...and if so seized of a greater number,
...that the purchase and grant of so many as
should exceed that number should be void and a
proportionable part of the money paid thereon
forfeited and the lands resumed and again exposed
to sale (CO 101/1:75, in Nardin 1969:296).

Parliament's goal was to guarantee steadily increasing

imports into the mother country without surrendering

additional political power to the planter class. The effect

was to impose twin constraints on Tobagonian planters:

potentially insufficient land coupled with a payment

schedule that could, perhaps, prove insurmountable (Ragatz


Land Sales

In all, seven land sales were held on the island (Table

4-1). The distribution of the acreage involved in these

sales says much about the perceptions the European colonists

had of the various parts of the island (Table 4-2). The

first lots sold were primarily in St. George's Parish (see

Figure 1-1). St. George's Parish was initially envisioned

as the most acceptable site for a capital town, to be called

Georgetown, by virtue of its proximity Barbados Bay. The

most attractive selling point for Barbados Bay as the

Table 4-1. Land sales on Tobago

Convening Date Acres Sold
19 May 1765 4000
12 May 1766 11,096
1767 14,975
1768 4632
9 April 1769 5183
5 June 1770 10,362
11 May 1771 8160
TOTAL 58,408
After Archibald 1987:107-123

location of Georgetown was its centrality relative to the

rest of the island.

Barbados Bay had the advantage of a central
situation and tendered equal facilities for resort
on business to the people of St. Mary's, St.
Paul's and St. John's (the northeastern portion of
the island),- or to St. Andrew's, St. Patrick's
and St. David's (the southwestern portion of the
island) (Young, in Archibald 1987:117).

In addition to its central location, the area of Barbados

Bay was thought by the original colonists to be less

conducive to the host of tropical diseases known to exist on

the island.

Despite the central location of Georgetown and Barbados

Bay, by the second land sale, buyer attention had shifted

primarily to St. David's Parish (although with the exception

of St. John's Parish land was sold throughout the island).

This shift is attributed to the move by James Simpson to

purchase Courland Estate, at either the first land sale or

early in 1766 (see Chapter 3, note 3, above). Simpson, as

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the island's Chief Surveyor, possessed a degree of

familiarity with the island beyond that of the other

potential buyers. It appears that they recognized this

advantage, following his lead in this second round of land

sales (Archibald 1987:108).

By the third sale the buyers had further refined their

estimates of the relative merits of the various parishes.

In a trade-off that must have represented a difficult

business decision on the part of the planters, purchases

during the third sale were confined primarily to the nearly

flat parishes of St. Andrew's and St. Patrick's. The

planters were faced with two choices. On the one hand, St.

Andrew's and particularly St. Patrick's Parishes offer few

limitations to transport. Getting the crop from field to

factory, and later getting the finished products--muscovado

sugar, molasses and rum--from the factory to suitable points

for shipment to overseas markets was greatly facilitated in

the flatter parishes. On the other hand, the flat parishes

suffered from a decided lack of surface water. In general,

the streams and rivers of St. Patrick's and St. Andrew's

were too small and too gently sloped to operate water-

powered sugar mills. The lot choices of the third land sale

indicate that early Tobago planters opted for ease of

transport over the advantages of a water-based power supply.

This is a particularly telling point in that

... (o)n the computation of our most intelligent
planters, a 'water mill' adds to the value of the

Plantation one fifth, and one fifth more income
from the proceeds of the crop, never being at a
stand, or even retarded; from the Negroes never
being employed in cutting canes, which eventually
there may be no wind to grind, and the labours be
lost as well as canes, from canes being taken off
in their prime, and at the most seasonable and
convenient moment, with a certainty of immediate
manufacture, and generally from a saving of
produce, time, and labour (Young 1812c:78--
emphasis in original).

One consequence of the preference for land at the

southwestern end of the island was the virtual abandonment

of Georgetown. Although Plymouth was recognized as the best

alternative choice, Scarborough was established as Tobago's

capital city in 1767. According to Young (in Archibald

1987:115-117), the choice of Scarborough as the capital was

a poor one, based more on individual influence than on the

good of the colony as a whole.

The prepondering influence of the Surveyor
General, Mr. Simpson, then Speaker of the
Assembly, prevented the selection of Plymouth
Town; where (as he is reported to have said) I
that establishment of Government and trade would
occasion a concourse of people to disturb his
great plantation in the neighbourhood (ie.
Courland Estate); his slaves would all be
corrupted; the men in Tipplng Houses; and the
women by sailors! The interests of the rich
Leeward planters cooperating or temporizing with
Mr. Simpson, the measure of removing the Sessions
of Legislature from George Town, and the
transferring it to Scarboro; was carried by
personal influence and intrigue... (in Archibald

In the fourth land sale, buyers focused on St. John's

Parish. Since this area was far removed from the newly

established capital at Scarborough and from the preferred

locale of St. Patrick's and St. Andrew's Parishes at the


southwestern end of the island, it seems likely that other

factors accounted for this shift. By 1768, most of the

coastal lands in more proximate relation to Scarborough had

been claimed. Rather than choosing inland sites, where

overland transport was difficult, buyers selected coastal

lands where sea transport was possible. This pattern of

purchasing land in St. John's Parish continued through the

fifth round of land sales in 1769.

By the sixth land offering, in 1770, sales were more

broadly distributed, concentrating in St. David's, St.

Paul's, St. John's, and St. Mary's parishes. These may have

been the more inland sites. The seventh and final land sale

was held in 1771. Sales were concentrated in the eastern

three parishes of St. John's, St. Mary's and St. Paul's


Table 4-3 documents the prices brought at the land

sales by Parish. Although a brief glance at the table

indicates that the most costly lands were located in St.

John's and St. Paul's parishes, this does not necessarily

reflect accurately the perceived value of lands. Rather,

the table reflects the fact that the later a lot was sold,

the better price it fetched. Table 4-4, showing costs per

acre on a year-by-year basis, confirms this observation.

Indeed, Young notes that:

...the price paid per acre (on a parish-by-parish
basis) are (sic) no criterion of comparative value
of the lands purchased. At commencement of the
adventure the country was little known, and the

Table 4-3. Per acre cost of land grants by parish

Parish Avg. cost per acre (-s)
St. George 2-0
St. David 2-16
St. Andrew 2-2
St. Patrick 1-5
St. Mary 2-19
St. Paul 3-12
St. John 3-12
After Young 1812c:81

Table 4-4. Per acre costs of land grants, 1765-1771

Year Avg. cost per acre (-s)
1765 1-0
1766 1-0
1767 1-10
1768 1-10
1769 2-15
1770 5-17
1771 4-14
After Young 1812c:81

bidders were cautious. In due course the soil was
further examined and better known, it was more
highly appreciated, and in the latter years a
competition raised the price of interior lands
(Young 1812c:81-82).

At the conclusion of the land sales, 57,408 acres had

been sold for plantations, at a total cost of 154,058

(Young 1812c:81). Archibald (1987:123) notes that this

represented 77 percent of all land on the island. When

combined with the 1520 acres reserved for poor settlers and

the 1000 acres reserved for crown usage, the resulting

59,928 acres (Table 4-5) account for nearly 81 percent of

the island's total acreage. The remaining acreage was to be

left in woods "for the preservation of the rains."

Table 4-5. Intended disposition of lands. 1765

Acres Acres Acres
granted reserved Total reserved
for for Poor acres for
Parish Estates Settlers granted Crown
St. Andrew's 3170 450 3620 200
St. George's 11,192 120 11,312 100
St. Mary's 10,447 100 10,547 100
St. Paul's 7558 100 7658 100
St. John's 10,520 450 10,970 200
St. David's 8720 100 8820 200
St. Patrick's 5801 200 6001 100
TOTAL 57,408 1520 58,928 1000

Young 1812b:38

While the Tobago land sales were highly successful,

putting the land into production was a different matter,

requiring substantial clearing operations in Tobago's

densely forested environment. While the data available on

land clearing are sparse, they indicate that clearing

occurred steadily, but unevenly, throughout the island.

Table 4-6 documents clearing operations from 1771 to 1775.

Table 4-7 breaks down clearing operations by parish for the

years 1775, 1786 and 1811. The latter table shows that the

amount of clearing in the rugged parishes at the eastern end

of the island lagged far behind that of the others. By

1786, St. Andrew's Parish could begin to realize its

productive potential while the eastern parishes continued to

lag behind. By 1811, St. Patrick's and St. David's parishes

were also nearly completely cleared.

Table 4-6. Cleared lands, 1771-1775

Year Acres cleared
1771 7042
1772 9601
1773 12,451
1774 15,060
1775 17,514
iAter Young 1812c:83

Table 4-7. Cleared lands by parish

Acres cleared
Parish 1775 1786 1811
St. Andrew 2338 2874 2910
St. George 4211 5837 6000
St. Mary 1906 3642 4218
St. Paul 1510 2595 4721
St. John 1320 2778 3570
St. David 2424 5106 8650
St. Patrick 2338 5083 5465
TOTAL 17,514 27,925 35,534
After Young 181a:99, 12c:89 and 92

The Tobago Economy

Tobago differed from all other ceded islands in that it

still remained undeveloped in 1763. Where the other islands

continued to produce the crops they previously had relied

on, Tobago became a sugar colony from the first (Ragatz

1963:40-41). The adoption of sugar cane as the major crop

was abetted by fiscal policies enacted by the British

government which, in the Mercantilist period, levied high

taxes on Caribbean products other than sugar and rum (Nardin

1969:227). In 1770 the first shipment of sugar left Tobago

for England (Archibald 1987:122),2 ushering in a period of

phenomenal growth for the island's sugar industry. The

maturation of this industry was so rapid that in 1799

Tobago, though a relatively small island, exported more

sugar (7,393 tons) than any other British Caribbean colony.

The number of sugar mills on the island during various years

gives a preliminary idea of the rapid development of the

sugar industry (Table 4-8).

Table 4-8. Sugar mills, 1771-1775
Year Water Animal Wind Total
1771 2 18 9 29
1772 3 22 9 34
1773 6 29 15 50
1775 9 52 23 84
lardin 1969:230

Sugar was not the only export of the colony during its

initial years, however. Anxious to meet payments on their

lands, needing to raise more capital, and believing that

even with higher taxes the returns would be adequate, at

least some Tobagonian planters cultivated crops that did not

require additional expenditures for processing equipment

2 Nardin (1969:228) points out that this is the first
official shipment by virtue of its transport directly to
England. He notes that a shipment left Tobago in 1769 as
well, but since it went to England via Barbados, it has not
been noted by other researchers.

(Nardin 1969:227-228). Although not in large quantities,

cotton was produced by 1773 (992 Ibs.),' indigo by 1774

(3273 lbs.), and coffee by 1775 (591 lbs.) (Young 1809:57,

1812a:83). In 1776, pimento, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves

were also produced (Lavaysse 1969 [1820]:348). These

supplementary crops would more than prove their worth during

subsequent years, when sugar production fell short of



Table 4-9 documents increasing sugar exports from 1771

to 1780. It is apparent that development did not proceed at

a uniform pace.' During the early years of settlement,

several events, of both a natural and political nature,

impeded economic progress on the island. The first of these

occurred between the years 1776 and 1780 with an infestation

of "sugar ants." This natural plague coincided with the

American revolution, which also dampened trade (Young

1812c:90). Sugar ants were first noted in Grenada in 1770

(John Castles, in Edwards 1819 vol. 1:397). Early in 1776,

3 All weights are given in US units (ie. one pound
equals 16 ounces, one ton equals 2000 pounds).

A variety of production and export figures for sugar
are available in the literature. I have relied primarily on
Deerr's (1949:202) export figures because they are the most
extensive. Where Deerr does not present figures, I have
relied on alternative sources. The reader is cautioned,
however, to differentiate between production figures and
export figures.

Table 4-9. Sugar exports, 1770-1780
Year Sugar exports (tons)
1770 75
1771 198
1772 608
1773 632
1774 1,383
1775 1,551
1776 2,105
1777 614
1778 1,202
1779 696
1780 1,033
After Deerr 1949:202

however, swarms of them appeared on Tobago, first in St.

George's and St. Mary's parishes, but spreading rapidly to

all other parts of the island. The infestation ended

abruptly in 1780, for unknown reasons.5 By that time,


The cultivation of other staples had superseded
that of sugar and the lands and buildings for
grinding the cane, and the boiling and granulation
of its juice could not be suddenly reapplied to
their ancient uses (Young 1812c:91).

During this period, and throughout the first 50 years

of settlement, Tobagonian planters tended to switch emphasis

from sugar to other crops during times of economic hardship.

By far the most important of these crops was cotton. While

only 42,548 lbs. were produced in 1775, two years later,

5 Castles believed that the ants on Grenada were wiped
out by the rains and winds associated with the hurricane of
1770. It may be coincidence, but in October of 1780, the
most violent storm of the 18th century effected Tobago
(Tannehill 1944:145, 240).


after the ants had largely destroyed the cane crop (Table 4-

9), a total of 1,693,800 lbs. of cotton were harvested

(Young 1812c:89, 96).' In 1780, Tobago cotton comprised

35.4 percent of all Caribbean cotton imported into Britain

(Nardin 1969:242). Cotton proved to be so successful on

Tobago that significant amounts were produced at least

through 1809 (Table 4-10).7 Cotton was not the only fall-

Table 4-10. Cotton exports, 1794-1809
Year Cotton Exports (lbs.)
1794 413,182
1795 297,409
1796 364,636
1797 66,955
1798 23,591
1799 7,227
1800 8,182
1801 28,182
1802 21,955
1803 24,000
1804 17,455
1805 32,182
1806 26,591
1807 25,500
1808 18,545
1809 31,227
After Woodcock 1966:appendix 1

Nardin (1969:233) disagrees with these figures,
perhaps because he was relying on a different data-base.
For the years 1774 through 1780 he gives cotton production
figures of 96,500, 258,031, 574,800, 731,100, 1,644,600,
1,846,200, and 1,845,600 lbs. respectively.

7 No records for cotton production are available after
1809, but it seems unlikely that production was halted after
that date.

back crop however. Records indicate that indigo, ginger,

dyewood and tumeric were also produced during this first

period of declining sugar production between 1776 and 1780

(Nardin 1969:242; Young 1809:62, 1812a:96). To these crops

can also probably be added coffee, pimento, cinnamon, and

ginger, discussed above.

In contrast to production and export figures, census

data show a steady increase in both the white and black

populations during the earliest years of settlement (Table

4-11). Table 4-12 shows the same data broken down by

Table 4-11. Island population, 1770-1780
Year White Population Black Population
1770 238 3164
June 1771 250 4926
Sept. 1771 284 5124
1772 339 5921
May 1773 416 7396
Oct. 1773 431 7861
1774 367 7694
1775 391 8675
1780 474 10,701
After Nardin 1969:140

parish, and indicates that, as with clearing operations, the

eastern parishes tended to lag behind the western ones in

terms of the number of slaves on the estates. In addition,

by 1773 the white population had already become concentrated

in the town of Scarborough (St. Andrew's Parish), while by

1780 Plymouth (St. Patrick's Parish) had a fairly large

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through examination of Table 4-13, which shows that by 1780,

parity in population between parishes, including both white

and black inhabitants, was being approached.


The recovery of the sugar industry from the ant

infestation was dramatically slowed by the first of two

French occupations of the island. From 1781 to 1793

political control of the island was in the hands of the

French, although Tobago's population and culture remained

essentially British (Woodcock 1866:55-58). This was a

period of difficulty for the planters. With the French in

control, loans and other funds were not forthcoming from the

sources traditionally available to the British planters. As

a result, the repairs to the sugar works necessitated by the

forced shut-down during the ant infestation could not be

made (Young 1812c:93-95). During the French tenure, many

sugar works remained idle.

The planters' problems were further increased by the

occurrence of the French and Haitian revolutions during this

period. The French government had far too much on its hands

to worry about a small colony composed primarily of people

loyal to a foreign government. Its response was to leave

Tobago to its own devices. The first French occupation of

Tobago was characterized by a period of self-government and

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self-protection (Young 1812c:95). At least once during this

period, near anarchy reigned. In 1791, in a demonstration

of support for the revolutionary movement in France, the

garrison at Fort King George (called Fort Castries by the

French) rioted. The soldiers burned the capitol town of

Scarborough (renamed Port Louis during the French tenure)

almost completely, leaving only the taverns "which the

drunkards had reserved, probably for their carousals" (Young


The economy of Tobago suffered as a result of the

French disinterest. Not only was there a marked decline in

sugar production (Table 4-14), but production of all

supplementary crops decreased as well. Young (1812c:95,

101) notes that indigo exports dropped from 25,000 lbs. in

1780, the year before the French took the island, to 10,909

lbs. in 1786, to 3965 lbs. in 1788 and to 3636 Ibs. in 1789.

The decline of cotton was less pronounced (Table 4-14), and

it remained the principal export throughout the first French

occupation (Young 1812c:93-95), much of it probably being

Table 4-14. Sugar and cotton production, 1785-1789

Sugar Cotton
Year (tons) (Ibs)
1785 9,329 32,182
1786 9,158 26,599
1787 9,042 25,500
1788 7,844 18,545
1789 8,118 31,227

f: ter Young 1812a:2 6

exported to Britain (Ragatz 1963:200, 201). Table 4-15

shows the principal products grown on estates during this

period, while Table 4-16 shows land-use patterns. These

data indicate that while cotton production was spread

relatively evenly about the island, sugar was produced

primarily in St. Patrick's and St. David's Parishes.

Indigo, on the other hand, was produced almost entirely in

St. Paul's Parish, on a single estate.

Finally, the difficulties engendered by French rule

were compounded by a major hurricane which struck Tobago in

August of 1790 (Tannehill 1944:146-147). While the

destruction caused by this event is not well documented, it

did destroy 20 vessels and the estate house and sugar works

at Riseland Estate (Woodcock 1866:60-61). A more accurate

picture of the destruction is given by an elderly person to

whom Woodcock spoke in person some seventy years after the

fact. She described the 1790 event as being of the same

magnitude as the hurricane of 1847 (discussed below)

(Woodcock 1866:60).

Trends with positive economic consequences were

apparent during this period as well. In particular, there

was a decreased reliance on traction animals as sugar mill

power sources. Table 4-17 shows a significant decrease in

the number of cattle mills on the island when compared to

1775, while also showing an increase in wind and water

powered mills (see Table 4-8). Since there was also a



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significant decrease in the total number of mills, it seems

probable that estates relying on wind or water powered mills

were more likely to remain in production.

Population figures for 1786 show that many of the

trends noted for the preceding period (1763-1781) continued

(Tables 4-18 and 4-19). By this time the ratio of whites to

slaves had become even further skewed in favor of the

slaves, indicating the full maturation of Tobago as a

plantation society.8 These figures also give the first

intimation of a developing free colored population. As one

a Table 4-18 also shows a decline in the number of
whites on the island when compared to the 1780 figure (Table
4-12). This may indicate the concentration of acreage into
fewer hands.

Parish Water Animal Wind TOTAL
George 4 4 0 8
Mary 0 1 1 2
Paul 5 2 0 7
John 0 2 1 3
Patrick 0 9 15 24
David 1 5 6 12
Andrew 0 3 7 10
TOTAL 10 26 30 66

able 4-17

Table 4-18. Island population by parish, 1786

Parish Whites Free Colored Slaves
George 51 21 1950
Mary 21 9 1135
Paul 30 9 1151
John 40 14 1297
Patrick 50 9 2662
David 71 16 2434
Andrew 141 72 2049
TOTAL 437 149 11,638
ATter Young 1812c:92

Table 4-19. Population densities and ratio, 1786

Ratio of
Density per Density per whites to
Parish km2 (Whites) km2 (Slaves) slaves
George 1.1 43 38.2
Mary 0.5 28 54.0
Paul 1.0 37 38.4
John 0.9 31 32.4
Patrick 2.2 116 53.2
David 2.0 69 34.3
Andrew 10.8 158 14.5
r 1 1

x ter Young 8 2c:92

would expect, they were primarily concentrated in

Scarborough. Few chose to locate in Plymouth, indicating

its decreasing importance as a significant economic base of



In April of 1793 Tobago was retaken by the British by

force of arms. Sugar soon returned to its pre-eminent

position as the staple export (Table 4-20).' At the same

time, cotton exports drastically declined, and cotton

production was nearly phased out by 1800. Given the success

that Tobagonian planters had with cotton, and the high

esteem with which it was held by the proprietors of

Manchester's cotton mills (Lavaysse, in Nardin 1969:234), it

is difficult to understand why cotton was so readily and

rapidly abandoned. The major contributing factor was the

increasing availability of cotton from other sources,

particularly the United States, which paid significantly

lower duties on cotton at the close of the eighteenth

century than did competing British Caribbean colonies

(Carrington 1987:159; Ragatz 1963:370-371). In addition,

cotton and sugar were harvested in the same months. Thus,

competing timetables made them mutually exclusive (Turnbull,

in Nardin 1969:235).

9 No data is available for the years between 1789 and

Table 4-20. Volume of exports, 1794-1800

Sugar Cotton
Year (tons) (Ibs.)
1794 4,733 413,181
1795 3,465 297,409
1796 4,358 364,636
1797 4,429 66,954
1798 5,787 23,590
1799 7,939 7,227
1800 5,983 8,181
After Deerr 1949:202; Woodcock 1866:appendix 1

From 1794 to 1801, Tobago's sugar exports rose from

4,733 tons to 6,626 tons. These were the golden years of

the Tobago plantation era, for it was during this period

that the island reached its highest sugar output. Much of

the success of the Tobagonian planters can be attributed to

the near total destruction of the Haitian economy during the

revolution there. "The sudden withdrawal of (Haiti's)

immense supplies of tropical produce from the general

European market occasioned widespread scarcity; continental

buyers hastily turned across the English Channel to fill

their needs" (Ragatz 1963:205). As a result, the price

fetched by sugar in the British market rose rapidly. From

1795 until the end of the century, the price of sugar on the

British market never fell below 50s. per cwt exclusive of

duties (Ragatz 1963:205). Table 4-21 gives an idea of the




















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kinds of profits achievable by Tobagonian sugar planters

during this period.10

10 Even during times of peak sugar production cotton
was never completely abandoned (see Table 4-10). Despite
documentary emphasis on sugar production, Tobago cannot be
characterized by monocropping.


Throughout the first decade of the nineteenth century

sugar prices tumbled. Several factors combined to drive the

price of sugar down until, by 1807, the per unit cost of

production was greater than the market price (Ragatz 1963).

The foremost cause was renewed access to non-British markets

by non-British producers. In the last decade of the

eighteenth century, the British colonies were the primary

suppliers of tropical products to all of Europe. Sugar and

other products were exported to Britain from the Caribbean,

and then re-exported to the continent to meet foreign

demand. As a result, prices for sugar were artificially

high. By the early nineteenth century, foreign production

was again reaching the continental market. The increased

competition caused declining sugar prices. The situation

was further exacerbated by increased production. In short,

what had been a sellers' market rapidly changed into a

buyers' market, hurting planters across the board. Table 5-

1 shows the effect of this decline on the Tobagonian

planters by 1805 (compare with Table 4-21). Of particular

note, the net profit derived from one hogshead of sugar

dropped from a high of 31.17 in 1796 to a low of 1.19 in

,C m -

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1806, a staggering 96 percent decline. By 1807, only 30,537

acres remained in sugar cane on Tobago (Young, in Ragatz


From 1807 onwards, there was a continual struggle on

the part of Tobagonian planters to save their way of life.

Under constant pressure from declining prices, they suffered

a gradual reversal of their fortunes. The island went from

being a jewel in the crown of England to being a colonial

backwater contributing little to the British economy. The

primary events affecting Tobago during this period were the

abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the advent of

apprenticeship in 1834, the emancipation of the slaves in

1838, and the passage of the Encumbered Estates Act of 1854.

Table 5-2 shows the estates in cultivation throughout Tobago

for the years 1811, 1824, 1832, and 1862.

Table 5-2. Sugar estates in cultivation for various years
In cultivation:

Estate Parish 1811 1824 1832 1862
Adelphi St. George's XX XX XX
Adventure St. David's XX XX XX XX
Amity Hope St. David's XX XX XX
Argyle St. Paul's XX XX XX
Arnos Vale St. David's XX XX XX XX
Auchenskeoch St. Andrew's XX XX XX XX
Bacolet St. George's XX XX XX XX
Belle Garden St. Paul's XX XX XX XX
Belmont St. George's XX XX XX XX
Betsey's Hope St. Paul's XX XX XX XX
Bon Accord St. Patrick's XX XX XX XX

Table 5-2 (cntd.).

In cultivation:

Estate Parish 1811 1824 1832 1862
Buccoo St. Patrick's XX XX XX XX
Burleigh Castle St. Andrew's XX XX XX XX
Calder Hall St. Andrew's XX XX XX XX
Campbellton St. John's XX
Cardiff St. Mary's XX
Carnbee St. Andrew's XX XX XX XX
Castara St. John's XX XX XX XX
Cinnamon Hill St. George's XX XX
Charlotteville St. John's XX XX XX XX
Concordia St. George's XX XX XX XX
Courland St. David's XX XX XX XX
Cove St. Patrick's XX XX
Cradley St. George's XX XX XX XX
Craig Hall St. David's XX XX XX XX
Cromstane St. Patrick's XX
Culloden St. David's XX XX XX XX
Delaford St. Paul's XX XX
Dunvegan St. David's XX XX XX XX
Franklyns St. David's XX XX XX XX
Friendsfield St. George's XX XX XX XX
Friendship St. George's XX
Friendship St. Patrick's XX XX XX
Glamorgan St. Mary's XX XX XX XX
Golden Grove St. Patrick's XX XX XX
Golden Lane St. David's XX XX XX XX
Goldsborough St. Mary's XX XX XX XX
Goodwood St. Mary's XX
Grafton St. Patrick's XX XX XX XX
Grange St. Patrick's XX XX XX XX
Greenhill St. George's XX XX XX XX
Hampden St. Andrew's XX XX XX

Table 5-2 (cntd.).

In cultivation:

Estate Parish 1811 1824 1832 1862
Hermitage St. John's XX XX XX XX
Highlands St. David's XX XX XX
Hope St. George's XX XX XX XX
Indian Walk St. David's XX XX XX XX
Invera St. Paul's XX XX XX
Inverarden St. Mary's XX
Kendal Place St. Paul's XX XX XX XX
Kilgwyn St. Patrick's XX XX XX XX
King's Bay St. Paul's XX XX XX XX
Lambeau St. Andrew's XX XX XX XX
Les Coteaux St. David's XX XX XX XX
Lower Quarter St. David's XX XX XX XX
Lowlands St. Andrew's XX XX XX XX
Lucy Vale St. John's XX XX
Lure St. Mary's XX XX XX XX
Mary's Hill St. David's XX XX XX XX
Merchiston St. Paul's XX XX XX
Montpelier St. Andrew's XX XX XX XX
Mt. Dillon St. David's XX XX XX XX
Mt. Irvine St. Patrick's XX XX XX XX
Mt. St. George St. George's XX XX XX XX
New Grange St. Patrick's XX XX XX XX
Nutmeg Grove St. George's XX XX XX XX
Orange Hill St. David's XX XX XX
Orange Valley St. Patrick's XX XX XX
Pembroke St. Mary's XX XX XX XX
Prospect St. Patrick's XX XX XX XX
Providence St. David's XX XX XX XX
Richmond St. Mary's XX XX XX
Riseland St. Andrew's XX XX XX XX
Roxborough St. Paul's XX XX XX XX

Table 5-2 (cntd.).



Declining revenues and the abolition movement

affected planters throughout the British Caribbean. Though

this is not reflected in the production or export figures,

as business men the Tobagonian planters would have been

keenly aware that sugar prices were dropping, that their

political power in Britain was in decline and that their

labor force might be removed from their control in the

future. Following so quickly on the heels of the boom years

of the 1790s, it is unlikely that these realizations did

more than create a background of stress in the minds of the

In cultivation:
Estate Parish 1811 1824 1832 1862
Runnemede St. David's XX XX XX
Shervan St. Patrick's XX XX XX XX
Sherwood Park St. Andrew's XX XX XX XX
Smithfield Unknown XX
Speyside St. John's XX XX XX XX
Spring Garden St. Andrew's XX XX
Studley Park St. George's XX XX XX XX
Telescope St. John's XX XX XX
Trois Rivieres St. John's XX
Unity St. Mary's XX XX XX
Whim St. David's XX XX XX
Woodlands St. David's XX XX XX
TOTAL 80 70 74 65
After Ottley 1950:142-144; Woodcock 18 6:app You


1812a 71-95.

planters, particularly given the other events occurring on


The Tobago slaves may have perceived the trend towards

abolition and eventual emancipation as well. In 1801 they

planned an insurrection, the first on the island since the

very earliest years of settlement. Set for Christmas eve,

the plan was to set fire to canes near each estate house.

When the planters came to fight the fires they were to be

put to death along with the slaves who remained loyal to

them. In short, the system of slavery on Tobago was to be

overthrown and replaced by an Afro-tobagonian government

(Woodcock 1866:72-73).'

Fortunately for the Tobago planters, and unfortunately

for their slaves, the 1801 insurrection was discovered

before it had even begun. Thirty ringleaders were caught,

incarcerated and sentenced to death. At the order of

General Carmichael, commander of the Tobago military

garrison, only one slave was actually hung, however. To

give the impression of a thorough reprisal, his body was

hoisted up the flag staff at Fort King George 30 times, with

As discussed earlier (Chapter 4) three revolts
occurred in 1770 and 1771. While it is likely that others
were planned during the intervening years, apparently none
went beyond the planning stages or came to the attention of
the authorities. Genovese (1979:3) has argued that early
revolts were "restorationist"--designed to secure freedom
from slavery for the participants. Later revolts are
characterize as revolutionary attempts to overthrow the
system of slavery (see also Gaspar 1985:255-258). The 1801
revolt on Tobago certainly falls into this latter category.

a signal gun at each hoist. Believing that all of their

leaders were dead, the revolutionary tendencies of the mass

of slaves were shattered.2

In 1802, by the Treaty of Amiens, Tobago again reverted

to French control, only to be recaptured by the British in

1803 (Ottley 1950:49). From a cultural perspective, little

significance can be attached to this event as it was of such

short duration. In addition, during the French tenure,

British law and the rights of Tobagonians accorded by that

law were maintained. The Tobago legislature was so grateful

that it voted a bonus of 4000 to the French-appointed

governor above and beyond his 3300 salary, the same salary

as that afforded to British governors (Woodcock 1866:54).

The same cannot be said of the economic circumstances

of the Tobagonian planters during and immediately following

the French occupation. Several factors contributed to a

declining economy. First, with the advent of French rule,

exports to Britain, or to any other country but France, were

immediately banned by the new government (Ottley 1950:49).

Table 5-3 shows a sharp decline in sugar exports in 1803,

reflecting the consequences of this ban. Although exports

rose back to their customary level after the British

2 Carmichael's move was interpreted as magnanimous at
the time and has been cited as an example of the generally
good relations which existed between blacks and whites on
Tobago (Woodcock 1866). A more cynical interpreter might
wonder what became of the revenues from the selling off-
island of 29 slaves.

Table 5-3. Sugar exports, 1800-1809

Year (tons)
1800 5,983
1801 6,626
1802 7,724
1803 4,706
1804 6,394
1805 7,680
1806 7,412
1807 6,046
1808 6,278
1809 6,456
After Deerr 1949:202

recapture of Tobago, uncertainty about the future status of

the island prompted the passage of "the Limitation Act" by

the British parliament in 1805, limiting economic aid to all

West Indian islands ceded to the French by the Treaty of

Amiens. This hardly reassured the Tobagonian planters and

had the added detrimental effect of "induc[ing] creditors to

sue and mortgagers to foreclose" (Young 1812c:119). As a

result, there was an exodus of planters from the island

(Young 1812c:121), and a brief upsurge of cotton production,

which nearly doubled from 17,454 lbs. in 1804 to 32,182 lbs.

in 1805 (Woodcock 1866:appendix 1).

Abolition and Amelioration

In 1807, the British parliament enacted the Abolition

Act, making the importation of African slaves into the

colonies illegal. This was a devastating blow to Tobago's

planter class. Up until abolition, planters had been

guaranteed a constant supply of labor in the form of steady

slave importation. In the labor intensive environment of a

sugar plantation, slaves were thought to be a necessity.

Their work was arduous and because of the nature of cane

cultivation and sugar production, for much of the year

nearly constant. This took a heavy toll on the labor force,

to such an extent that most plantation slave populations in

the Caribbean were non-reproducing. That is to say, the

death-rate exceeded the birth-rate, so that the slave

population could not be maintained without importation of

fresh slaves from a foreign source. The planters problems

were aggravated by the War of 1812 which brought about a

decline in access to foreign produced provisions (Ragatz

1963:343-344). While this affected the food supply of the

entire population of Tobago, the slaves were by far the

hardest hit.

In response to the abolition of the slave trade, and to

some extent preempting the adverse effect of the war, the

Tobagonian planters took steps to increase the general

health, and thus the birth-rate, of their slaves. From a

sugar production perspective, perhaps the most significant

of these steps was the initiation of an Agricultural Society

in 1807 to increase self-sufficiency and slave nutrition.

Although the society was short-lived, by 1808 triple the

acreage on estates was given over to provisions (Young

1812a:no page number, and in Ragatz 1963:325). As a result,

sugar production declined from 9,741 tons in 1807 (Young

1809:98) to 7,602 tons in 1811 (Young 1812a:99).

Table 5-4 shows that the planter's ameliorative efforts

had little beneficial effect on the slave population. In

four years, despite the efforts of the planters, the overall

decrease in the slave population was 362. In only one

parish, St. Patrick's, was there an increase, and only of

three slaves. One cause of the decrease is apparent through

examination of the Special Returns of 1811 (Table 5-4)--in

all parishes, except St. Patrick's, males outnumber females.

By 1824 the decrease brought about by abolition was even

more marked. Census data given by Ottley for that year

(1950:142-144) show only 10,632 slaves on Tobago's estates,

a decrease of nearly 17 percent since 1811.

A particularly bad year for Tobagonian planters

occurred in 1827, when only 2,739 tons of sugar were

exported (Table 5-5). None of the various histories of the

island account for such a miserable year. A similar

decline, though of a lesser magnitude, occurred on many

other Caribbean islands (Deerr 1949). On most, it can be

accounted for by crop destruction accompanying a major

hurricane that affected all of the Leeward Island group

(Ragatz 1963:375; Tannehill 1944:150-151).

= ; = ; I = P =

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Table 5-5. Sugar exports from Tobago, 1814-1869, 1872-1888
and 1890-1891
Year Sugar (tons)
1814 5,383
1815 5,397
1816 6,213
1817 6,179
1818 5,042
1819 5,911
1820 5,321
1821 4,833
1822 5,390
1823 5,045
1824 5,530
1825 4,971
1826 5,384
1827 2,739
1828 5,471
1829 4,047
1830 4,173
1831 5,413
1832 4,827
1833 3,863
1834 3,528
1835 3,450
1836 5,253
1837 4,054
1838 3,198
1839 4,144
1840 2,301
1841 2,150
1842 2,094
1843 2,046
1844 2,201
1845 2,844
1846 1,733

Figure 5-5 (cntd.).

Year Sugar (tons)
1847 3,538
1848 2,388
1849 2,290
1850 1,978
1851 2,283
1852 3,052
1853 2,587
1854 1,983
1855 1,756
1856 2,616
1857 1,525
1858 3,031
1859 2,634
1860 2,299
1861 2,471
1862 3,228
1863 2,122
1864 1,981
1865 2,353
1866 4,035
1867 3,192
1868 2,084
1869 2,641
1872 3,468
1873 3,630
1874 3,882
1875 4,603
1876 3,394
1877 2,924
1878 2,832
1879 2,896
1880 2,970
1881 3,240
1882 2,249
1883 2,270