• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Half Title
 Dedication
 Title Page
 Preface
 Foreword
 Table of Contents
 The non-legal union today
 The spread of non-legalism
 The family in slavery
 The plantation and the African...
 A field survey
 A field survey (continued)
 The impact of slavery on the non-legal...
 Life in the family
 The extended family and the...
 Conclusion
 References
 Bibliography














Group Title: Caribbean affairs
Title: Crisis of the West Indian family
CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00078458/00001
 Material Information
Title: Crisis of the West Indian family a sample study
Series Title: Caribbean affairs
Physical Description: 117 p. : ; 22 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Matthews, Basil
Publisher: Extra Mural Dept., University College of the West Indies
Place of Publication: Mona Jamaica
Publication Date: 1953
 Subjects
Subject: Family -- Trinidad and Tobago   ( lcsh )
Marriage -- Trinidad and Tobago   ( lcsh )
Blacks -- Social conditions -- Trinidad and Tobago   ( lcsh )
Slavery -- Trinidad and Tobago   ( lcsh )
Illegitimacy -- Trinidad and Tobago   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Trinidad and Tobago
 Notes
Bibliography: "Reference": p. 109-114. Bibliography: p. 115-117.
Statement of Responsibility: by Dom Basil Matthews.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00078458
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltuf - AAD4652
oclc - 26876497
alephbibnum - 000030741
lccn - a 57006424

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Front Matter 1
        Front Matter 2
    Half Title
        Half Title 1
        Half Title 2
    Dedication
        Dedication 1
        Dedication 2
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Preface
        Preface 1
        Preface 2
        Preface 3
        Preface 4
    Foreword
        Foreword 1
        Foreword 2
        Foreword 3
        Foreword 4
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents 1
        Table of Contents 2
    The non-legal union today
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    The spread of non-legalism
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
    The family in slavery
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
    The plantation and the African heritage
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
    A field survey
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
    A field survey (continued)
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
    The impact of slavery on the non-legal union
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
    Life in the family
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
    The extended family and the community
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
    Conclusion
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
    References
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
    Bibliography
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
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COVER :
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CRISIS OF THE
WEST INDIAN FAMILY























iS ebitation

To CHRIST REDEEMER OF MANKIND








CRISIS OF THE

WEST INDIAN FAMILY


A SAMPLE STUDY




BY

DOM BASIL MATTHEWS, O.S.B., M.A., Ph.D.


Published by the Extra Mural Department
of the University College of the West
Indies in the series "Caribbean Affairs"











EDITORIAL PREFACE


Crisis of the West Indian Family is the most ambitious work yet
published in the series Caribbean Affairs which, along with Caribbean
Quarterly, is sponsored by the Extra-Mural Department of the
University College of the West Indies. The aim of these publica-
tions is embraced by the general purpose of the Department,
which is the mobilisation and circulation of scholarly and imagina-
tive resources in the West Indian community so that the methods
of the scholar and the scientist become more widely accepted as
valuable approaches to the solution of problems and the handling of
living ideas. We hope that this book will provide a basis for free
and well-informed discussion, in the midst of our society, of one of
the most weighty issues of the day.

Dom Basil in the present work scrutinises the growth of the
Trinidad family under slavery, through the free rural community
up to the present stage of rapid change under urban conditions. In
doing so he makes use of historical documentary sources and
contemporary data collected by means of quantitative and des-
criptive surveys. In addition he is able to draw heavily on many-
tongued oral tradition which has surrounded him since his early
years when he was growing up in the house of his father, a school-
master, in a remote village in Trinidad, his native land. His own
experience not only adds to the richness of the picture drawn, but
gives to the readers a sense that the writer is identifying himself
with the life of the folk, so that he has thus been able to see the
creative aspect of the struggle by the folk for a self-respecting way
of life, in circumstances which could hardly have been more
challenging.
Another significant element in the work is that Dom Basil has
intervened powerfully in the social process as a priest of the Roman
Catholic Church, the most important religious force in the com-
munity. The practices and attitudes of the people are presented,
and evaluated according to Catholic ethical principles. The
importance of this is that the evaluation is no mere academic
question, but it indicates clearly the nature of the influence which







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY

that most important social institution in Trinidad society, the
Catholic Church, has been exercising and will continue to exercise.
It remains to be said that Dom Basil Matthews is one of the
most assiduous and determined of the part-time tutors working
with the Extra-Mural Department of the University College of the
West Indies, and that nothing could give us greater pleasure than
to welcome a colleague's publication.


ANDREW PEARSE

Port-of-Spain,
July, 1953.























vermilsu Suctoritatio rectcesiasticae










FOREWORD


THIS BOOK attacks a very great problem. It is a study in the
structure and organization of the family among the descendants
of the West African peoples who were introduced to the West
Indies and to the New World in general as slaves. The subject is
one which has increasingly engaged the attention of scholars in
recent years. Professor Franklin Frazier's monumental work
" The Negro Family in the United States needs no further
introduction. On the Afro-West Indian family Professor Melville
Herskovits has written Life in a Haitian Valley" and
" Trinidad Village ". Professor James Leyburn also wrote a book
on The Haitian People ". Dr. Martha Warren Beckwith's
" Black Roadways is a study of Jamaican folk life. Professor
Charles S. Johnson has presented a picture of Negro life in a
particular community in the Southern United States. There have
been other distinguished writers who gave some attention to the
problem as it affects Brazil and Cuba and Puerto Rico and
Martinique.
The present treatise concentrates on the Afro-West Indian
family in Trinidad as its sample, but its conclusions are applicable
to the West Indies generally. This essay is directed not towards
the family in Trinidad in a general way, rather it is focused upon
that form of family organization known popularly as living in
sin ". It is the form which is coming to be designated officially
as common law marriage ", but which is designated the non-legal
union all through this book. The method of the progressive and
comparative survey of remote hamlet, intermediate rural town
and sophisticated urban centre adopted in these pages differs
from that followed in any of the works of scholars named above.
And the contents of the present contribution were, in substance,
first submitted and accepted as a prescribed portion of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Depart-
ment of Political Philosophy and the Social Sciences at Fordham
University, New York, six years ago. In preparing the current
version for the public press, three new chapters have been added
to the original dissertation, others have been rewritten, and still
others omitted wholly or in part. The order of the whole has
been rearranged.







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


The ethnographic material was extracted from five sources
principally :
(1) The field survey of the family's life cycle in six remote
villages, two rural towns, and two urban centres.
The reason for studying socially divergent areas is to
facilitate distinction between what is constant and
what is variable in social organization in general, and
in marital organization in particular ; and to determine
what influence, if any, does greater exposure tq Western
civilization make in the social arrangements of the
Trinidad family. The writer conducted the field
survey during two years and was assisted by a team
of sixteen research workers trained for this purpose in
the then Institute of Social Research.
(2) Two hundred and fifty life histories of developing youth.
(3) Tens of thousands of interviews and case studies
conducted by the writer and his colleagues at the
Benedictine Abbey of Mount St. Benedict, Trinidad,
during some fifteen to twenty years.
(4) Social and economic sample surveys carried out by
the former Trinidad Social Welfare Department,
the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, the
Department of Agriculture.
(5) The writer's own analysis of 1,000 West Indian folk
tales, including significant versions and variants,
900 West Indian proverbs, 800 riddles. All these were
analyzed and classified, sometimes from several
different points of view.
On the historical side my review embraced works on the socio-
economic history of the West Indies in general, and of Trinidad,
Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Grenada, in particular. Documenta-
tion on the social history as such of Trinidad is extremely scant.
However, the following list indicates in a general way the sort of
documentation employed for Trinidad :-
(1) 1595-1820: 900 Manuscripts and other notices released
by the Trinidad Historical Society.
(2) 1820-1875: Personal Memoirs -Mrs. Carmichael
Count de Verteuil
and W. H. Burnley
W. H. Gamble
Memoranda Charles Kingsley
(3) 1595-1912: 4 Historical Memoranda by Fraser, Borde,
Joseph and Brierly.






FOREWORD


(4) 1912-1945: Travel Books by Vaquero, Manington,
Calder-Marshall.
(5) Economic studies covering different historical periods
by Mathieson, Van Hall, Shephard, the Trinidad
Department of Agriculture, Commissions and
Committees on Labour Conditions.
(6) Others, besides the files of Newspapers, included
Legislative Council papers, Census Statistics, the Files
of the Supreme Court Registry on Marriage and Divorce,
the Files of the Registrar General on Vital Statistics,
the Files of the Registrar of Friendly Societies, the
Files of the Town Hall on title deeds in slave days.
(7) Folk Lore Notices by Jacob Thomas and L. O. Inniss.
I am aware of the controversy about West Indian Family
Organization which appeared in the first two numbers of the
Caribbean Quarterly for 1951. What my views are on the theories
severally advanced by Mr. Henriques of Jamaica and Professor
Herskovits of Northwestern University, Chicago, may be seen in
Chapter IV of this book.
This volume purports to be an objective study of the situation
established in regard to cohabitation and family or quasi-family
life in the West Indies generally, and, more particularly in Trinidad.
It should however be clearly understood that this book is neither a
defence, nor an excuse, nor even a plea ad misericordiam for the
said situation. For the Christian only Christian marriage is good
enough. Anything short of this is infra dig. The true character of
this work is a diagnosis of a condition which is inherently patho-
logical morally, and therefore also socially, as, alas, is only too
well known. No amount or degree of official recognition or
licensing of cohabitation on the part of the State can expunge the
moral pathology of the case, far less make it an ideal of marriage
or family life. The results of the sorry Jamaican experiment in
the mass legalization of cohabitation is a severe warning to those
who are prone to think otherwise. It is obvious, moreover, that
State legislation is incapable of putting any cohabitational or
matrimonial adventure on the superior level of the dignity of
Christian marriage. And not only on the score of dignity, but also
on that of social worth and social efficiency. History has no record
of any form of marriage or the family which has made a greater
contribution to the civilization of mankind than the Christian
family. Referring to the efficiency of the family developed in the
Christian Middle Ages, Professor W. F. Ogburn, of the University
of Chicago, wrote as follows in the Survey Graphic for December






CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


1927 : It is possible that during the past two or three thousand
years the family as a functioning agency reached the highest point
it has ever attained." The Christian family of the Middle Ages,
the Ages of Faith, is the most highly integrated family known
to history.
And now it is my very pleasing duty to pay the tribute of my
sincere thanks to my friends of the research group, collectively and
individually, for the excellent help given me in the collecting and
the interpretation of material. It is good to see that the merits of
so many of this band trained in my school have received recognition
at the hands of important educational, research, and administrative
agencies in the West Indies. I am grateful to my colleagues of
the Abbey of Mount St. Benedict, upon the resources of whose
valuable experience I was always free to draw. I am grateful,
in the way only an author can be grateful, to the Extra-Mural
Department of the University of the West Indies, to Dr. Peter Pau
and his good friends, all of whom by their encouragement and
practical assistance have made this publication possible at this
time. I must not forget my friend Monsieur Andre Midas of the
Caribbean Commission who kindly undertook to see to the typing
of the manuscript.
I have no good wish for this book except that it may
disseminate information, provoke sober discussion, and promote
studies along a salutary line of inquiry much too neglected in this
part of the world.
D.B.M.
Mount St. Benedict,
Trinidad, B.W.I.
May 13, 1952.










CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE
I. THE NON-LEGAL UNION TODAY 1

II. THE SPREAD OF NON-LEGALISM 9

III. THE FAMILY IN SLAVERY 14

IV. THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN
HERITAGE 27

V. A FIELD SURVEY. 44

VI. A FIELD SURVEY (Contd.) 53

VII. THE IMPACT OF SLAVERY ON THE
NON-LEGAL UNION 63

VIII. LIFE IN THE FAMILY 77

IX. THE EXTENDED FAMILY AND THE
COMMUNITY 89

X. CONCLUSION 104







THE NON-LEGAL UNION TODAY


CHAPTER I

THE NON-LEGAL UNION TODAY

FROM the uncertain and irregular linkage of mates in the slave
family a pilgrimage formed and headed for the stable marriage bond
of the Christian home. It was a long and difficult pilgrimage.
At times the human caravan moved in rapid leaps ; at other times
it slowed down to creeping pace. And there were the pains of
rebirth, and the ample agony of disintegrated mankind at conflict
with a self which it no longer recognized, nor understood, nor quite
believed in. It was the dark night of the human soul. That night
held within its pitch tragedy more pitiful and sorrow more dreadful
than any horrors of the notorious middle passage. And always
there was movement in the pilgrimage, sometimes forward,
sometimes backward. But nobody ever quite got back to starting
point. For it was no more. With this sole exception, however,
various metamorphoses of the marital union are to be found
marking the various stages in the process from the dissolution of
slavery to reintegration in Christ.
The crucial stage in the cultural process, and that which
therefore gives the best cross-section of it, is a non-llgaLform of
marital union which is popularly known as lin in .
It is the most remarkable resultant of the impact of European
civilization upon the Nego in conditions of slavery in the
New Vorld. Thirt to forty per cent.' of the adult Negro and
Negroid population of Trinidad today adhere to this form of marital
organization which is the distinctive feature in the development of
the West Indian family from the disintegration of slavery and the
plantation to complete rehabilitation according to Christian and
Western standards. For, on the dawn of Emancipation in L838,
concubinage was the rule, and marriage the exception.2 And this
remained very general until the 1880's. For if today the extent
of concubinage is thry to fory per cent. when the marriage rate
is .7'Z5 arriages per 1,00_0 people,3 it was tremendously more
widespread in the period when the marriage rate was steadily
fifty per cent. lower, or about 4 per 1,000,4and the initial number of
families increased in the same period-by more than one hundred
per cent. This was the case in the period of 1848-18805.
During the forty years from 1901 to 1942 the comparable percentage
rate of family increase was fifty.6 In the present study that
Afro-West Indian type of marital organization is. termed a
non-legal union.







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


As far as is known to this writer, there is nothing exactly or
nearly like the non-legal union of the West dies in the civilization
ofIeThld World. It has no historical counterpart in the non-
plantation economy of the North and West of the United States of
America. In the cotton belt of the Southern United States it is
widespread,7 though often veiled by the fiction of common law
marriage. Nevertheless, the general attitude taken towards it by
the folk people of the cotton belt so completely lacks the sense of
guilt,s that the non-legal union is in that region significantly
different from its West Indian counterpart. For here it is popularly
branded as living in sin ". In Latin America the phenomenon
is common and it also carries the self-confessed stigma of sin.
But there its principal patrons are Latins ose ancestors, unlike
the Afro-West Indian, were committed for long ages to the Christian
and Western mode of marriage.
Although the above mentioned differences in the manifestations
of the non-legal union among Afro-West Indians, Latin Americans,
and the cotton workers of the Southern United States are real,
they are accidental differences only, as may be inferred from the
analytic definition of the non-legal union presently to be given.
They are modifications of one and the same product of the New
World plantation economy which was originally integrated as part
of the system of slavery in the New World. The slavery-geared
plantation economy of the New World wrought more or less
uniformly upon all its victims regardless of their cultural past,
their race, religion, or country of residence. We say the New
World' designedly, because both slavery and the plantation were
known to Negroes in their ancestral home in West Africa.
Yet their non-legal union in the sense here defined did not emerge
in authentic West African society. It is a New World phenomenon.
Without the New World plantation the non-legal union is
unexplained. What is the non-legal union ?
4 The non-legal union is a marital union, which is in principle
monogamous, between two unmarried but marriageable folk
people giving under one roof, originating in the New World planta-
tion economy, relatively durable, and entered into without any
formal religious, civil, or social ceremony. The feeling of not
being sufficiently socially respectable to enter marriage is often
characteristic of persons in the non-legal union.9
The non-legal union is here said to be monogamous in principle,
not because the folk have articulated any theory about it, but
because this is implicit in its general practice. That is to say,
polygamy as well as promiscuity is sharply disapproved of, even







THE NON-LEGAL UNION TODAY


when tolerated. These practices are disapproved of as much by
non-legal partners as by other persons in Afro-West Indian society.
The non-legal union is therefore monogamic in principle, despite
occurrences of plural contact in fact.
The union is said to be under one roof in order to exclude
casual or other relationships which are not ordained towards a
domestic or family economy.
It is said to be a union between folk people, firstly, because,
the more Christian, civilized and educated thluppulatin becomes
the more is this mode of life abandoned by them. This is amply
borne out in our field survey of remote village, rural town, and
urban centre.'0 And secondly, because only the more rustic and
uneducated enter it with a sort of quasi good faith. This brand of
good faith will be scrutinized later. The definition leaves room for
degrees of rusticity and quasi good faith which it is practically
impossible to assess. To be a genuine non-legal union in the sense
of our definition the two parties must normally be unmarried but
legally marriageable.
The plantation origin of the non-legal union has already been
sketched. It will be developed at length in our study of the causes
of non-legalism.
The non-legal union stands in sharp contrast with marriage.
It is unblessed by the Church; it is juridicially unrecognized by the
State; no family or community ceremonyy or feasting or congratula-
tions surround entrance into this state of life. Its existence is
merely noted by the community while the new family unit is
drawn into the web of continuing social relationships, not because
of, but in spite of its non-legalism, as it were.
Unless otherwise stated, the term marriage as used in this study
denotes Christian marriage. For the folk mind thinks of marriage
in terms of a Church or Christian marriage. With few exceptions
this is still the way marriage is conceived of by the native born
population as a whole.
Although the non-legal union is not recognized by the State,
and it therefore carries no civic rights as an institution, this union
is not declared illegal by the State. In the Christian moral order,
however, the non-legal union is strictly illegal and is accepted to
be morally illegal and not merely socially improper by the native
born population. Despite its acknowledged specific moral illegality
the union is here designated by the lax term non-legal in order to
avoid the mental confusion that might arise from generally desig-
nating as illegal something which is at the same time not illegal
according to the present laws of the land.







CRISIS OF THE WEST INIIAN FAMILY


N Lastly. the non-legal union is relatively durable. From
general observation and field surveys as well as from the testimony
of missionaries and other religious social workers, the following
points can be made. Cases of more than twenty years duration
are relatively infrequent. Cases of from fifteen to twenty years
duratTon are fairly, though not very common. Cases of fifteen
years and under are common and they are also those which attract
most attention by reason of the relatively frequent domestic and
other disturbances which arise in the course of mutual adjustment.
The unsettled character of these unions contrasts with the relative
/ tranquillity of the domestic life of regularly married persons. At
an important centre of family guidance in Trinidad, only about one
in every five cases of domestic disturbance on record is that of
persons in Christian wedlock. Judged by the record, this centre
handles about twenty thousand cases annually. While these
figures arc not advanced as an accurate index of the proportion of
unsettlement in married and non-legal families, it certainly is a
reliable index. This fact is confirmed by the persistent efforts
and by the troubled yearnings of non-legal females to the end that
their non-legal partners should get settled and marry them.
The implication is that marriage puts an end to their unsettled
course. Unsettlement is not the usual complaint of married couples
as the writer knows from his experience in religious and social
work with thousands of marital cases of both types.
Non-legal unions of more than twenty years duration were
noted as infrequent. How is this explained? Persons united for
this length of time are naturally forty years and over, while, as will
be shown, the largest age group living the non-legal way is the group
20-30 years old as regards both men and women. Does this
comparison mean that the non-legal union is essentially a matter
of youthful folly and only accidentally a product of the plantation
economy? While the play of youthful passion is as undeniable
as it is immeasurable in exact terms, facts and figures do not lend
support to this interpretation. From calculations based upon the
Trinidad Census for the normal year of 1931, nearly every second
person between 40 and 50 was married, whereas only every fourth
or fifth person between 20 and 30 was married. Thus the crude
proportion of marriages amongst persons between 40 and 50 was
slightly better than twice the proportion in the age group 20-30.
From the evidence of these figures alone, to say nothing of the
human realities behind them, the conclusion is inescapable that the
. greater unrestraint of youth is a factor contributing to the non-legal
union situation. It does not follow, however, that the existence of







THE NON-LEGAL UNION TODAY


the non-legal union is either primarily or fundamentally or indepen-
dently attributable to the waywardness of youth considered apart
from the setting, the arrangements, and the ensnarements of the
plantation economy. For in that case, wherever youth is found in
any social class, there the non-legal union should also be prevalent.
But the non-legal union is hardly found among the youth of social
classes other than the lower classes within the plantation sphere of
influence. The nature of the connection between the plantation
system and the non-legal way of life therefore remains to be investi-
gated.
The infrequency of non-legal unions of more than twenty years
duration is attributable to a number of factors, the first of which is
the sharp decline in the population over 40 years of age. For
instance, in a sample survey" of 406 persons in 100 poorer working
class families in the suburban area of Behnont, Port-of-Spain,
86 adults were in the age group 20-30, and only 32 or just about
50 per cent. less were in the age group 40-50. In the age group
20-40 there were 134 persons as against 41 persons or about 70 per
cent. less in the group 40-60.
Other factors determining the infrequency of non-legal unions
of more than twenty years duration include the supernatural fear
of approaching death and the sanctions to follow; the relief of the
socio-economic burdens of marriage that becomes available to older
married couples through the assistance of grown-up sons and the
marrying of grown-up daughters; the improvement of one's socio-
economic status through the years or the abandonment of hope to
improve it, and the loss of the haunting fear of younger people,
namely, that by early marriage the young woman, relying on the
civil sanctions of marriage, may become too independent",
that is, develop into an upstart and a difficult person. These
combined factors operate in persons of maturer years to induce a
readiness to marry. The operation of these factors will be fully
discussed in our examination of the causes of the non-legal union.
Let us pass from explaining the definition on to the division of the
non-legal union.
For the sake of convenience the non-legal union may be con-
sidered (a) in the restricted or narrow sense, and (b) in the broad
sense. In the narrow sense the non-legal union is the one defined
above and is restricted to folk people and to umnarried persons.
In the broad sense it is a marital union between any two people,
regardless of whether they are rustics or not, or whether one or
both of the partners are otherwise married.







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


It seemed fit to make the distinction because, in the first
instance, the degree of rusticity affects the question of good faith,
and may be the dividing line between a folk arrangement and the
companionate associations between unmarried persons observable
in any modern city. But since these latter unions are also popu-
larly designated living in sin ", it is well to classify them with the
non-legal union broadly understood.
An unblessed union in which at least one person is otherwise
married, that is, an adulterine union, is also popularly termed
" living in sin ". But a qualification is added. The unmarried
party is said to be living in sin with a married man or woman ".
This clear popular distinction calls for a sub-division in its own
right, and also because this union, which is adulterine in character,
is a very secondary and unusual marital union among folk people in
Trinidad, the main concern of this study. Even among the sophis-
ticated an adulterine union is not often conducted by two persons
living under a single roof in a familial economy. The adulterine
union should therefore be clearly distinguished from the standard
type of non-legal union, even though popular usage leads us to
classify it with non-legal unions broadly understood.
The adulterine marital union is apparently not unusual among
genuine folk people in the cotton belt of the Southern United States
and is under little if any censure." This is an added reason for
adopting the popular West Indian classification of the adulterine
union as a non-legal union. It enables us better to compare and
contrast the United States non-legal union with its West Indian
counterpart. In Trinidad and in the West Indies adulterine unions
of any sort, marital or non-marital, are the object of heavy censure
by all people, including the folk people. This is perhaps why
these unions are usually clandestinely conducted, in contrast with
the non-legal union in the primary sense which is a patently public
association. By its apologetic, underground character the adul-
terine marital union separates itself from the non-legal union
strictly so-called. The feeling of not being sufficiently socially
respectable to get married, commonly associated with the non-
legal union, is also absent from the adulterine union. For, at least
one party is married.
On the basis of its structure the non-legal union can be further
considered (a) simply as a type of marital bond, and (b) as a system
of family life and organization.
The non-legal union is a cultural hybrid. It is not common-
law marriage, because it is outside the established and recognized
law of the community. The variable element of apparent family






THE NON-LEGAL UNION TODAY


and folk community sanction supporting it gives it a superficial
resemblance to the African tribal marriage. This resemblance is,
however, entirely superficial if only for the fact that what looks
like a sanction is in reality nothing but the uncritical acceptance of
historical precedent or resignation to a situation of stubborn fact.
No one canonizes what he condemns as sinful. Persons in the non-
legal union are said to live in sin, and consider themselves so to do.
Because the non-legal union is monogamic, at least in theory, /
and thereby differs from the absolutely casual nature of the slave
marital union, it superficially resembles the Christian and Western
pattern. But it is neither African, nor Christian, nor Western.
It is not found either as a native product or as an accredited
customary institution either in Europe or in West Africa, the ances-
tral home of ninety-three per cent. of all British and French West
Indians.'3
There is no such thing as an accredited non-legal union either
in West Africa in general, or in Nigeria.'4 Among the Yorubas,
whose cultural influence predominates in the folk society of Trinidad,
recognized marriage is always according to the legal pattern
prescribed by the community. The ceremonial may be solemn or
simple, but it must be observed. The solemn form is the normal
way, and it consists of three stages, formal declaration of intention
by the boy's parents to the girl's parents, betrothal, and marriage
by family ceremonial with or without public liturgical solemnity.
The simple form requires as a minimum, mutual consent of the
contracting parties and, indispensably, the distinct approval by
the man's family prior to courtship, or to intimacy of any kind
between the parties. And this foregoing parental approval is in
fact within the Yoruba culture a moral and legal sanction of the
marriage to be contracted. It is not an acceptance of an established
fact or moral relationship, or pre-arranged understanding on the
part of the prospective couple. No mere mutual agreement
suffices for the legitimization of marriage among the Yorubas.
The simple marriage ceremonial was the exception, not the
rule, and it was limited to certain specific situations. Such, for
instance, would be the case of a girl who grew up to find she did not
like the partner chosen for her by her parents in her infancy. A
widow who missed the opportunity of marrying as and when
widows normally do, could use the simple pattern. A father who
neglected to make a match for his youthful daughter, may, under the
simple prescription, give her away when she grows up, to some
desirable man. And he shall receive no dowry or bride price for
this. It is strictly a saraka ", that is, a free gift of God ".







S CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY

Although, formally, the non-legal union is so unlike Christian
or Western or African marriage by its lack of either a religious or a
civil or a genuine social sanction, it is very like to them in its general
organization for the purposes of family life. We hope to establish
and illustrate this in another place.






THE SPREAD OF NON-LEGALISM


CHAPTER II

THE SPREAD OF NON-LEGALISM

AVAILABLE STATISTICS show that marriage in the Christian or
Western sense played a relatively restricted part in the organization
of the traditional Trinidad family. History and observation
corroborate the statistical chart.
On Emancipation Day, August 1, 1838, marriages were the
exception; concubinage the rule," wrote a contemporary historian.
Ten years later in 1848 the number of marriages for the year was 364.
In 1851, with the island's population at just over 68,000, the marri-
age total was 391, or just under six marriages per thousand people.
The marriage rate in England in 1871 was just under eight per
thousand. But in that same year, although the number of Trinidad
marriages rose to 416, the rate fell to 3.96 per thousand people.'
The population had increased by 41,000 or sixty per cent.; the legally
marrying population did not increase proportionately. Twenty-
five thousand, or more than half of the census rise represented
natural increase by the birth rate.
A new tide, rising again in 1854, brought among others East
Indian immigrants from India.2 The ceremonial marriages of the
overwhelming majority of this group of people according to their
religious rites received no legal recognition or the chance of recog-
nition until the Hindu Marriage Bill of 1945. One must allow for
this circumstance in interpreting the statistical record of marriages.
The other newcomers came principally from the British Caribbean
Islands and the abolitionist Negro population of Civil War United
States of America. Socially these new arrivals belonged to the
bulk of the non-marryinir class of their brethren in Trinidad, and
for similar reasons.
Due allowances made for the legalistic anomaly in the non-
recognition of the validity of East Indian marriages, the Trinidad
marriage rate continued to be far beneath the average maintained
in European countries and the United States of America. In 1881
the score was still just under 4 per thousand head of population.3
Twenty years later, or three quarters of a century since emanci-
pation, the marriage rate doubled itself, reaching 8.32 per thousand
in 1911.4 This was just about where the English rate stood in 1871,
forty years earlier. The great increase is accounted for by the
maturing of the progressively mounting infant population born
since 1851 and exposed to better religious and socio-economic






CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


opportunity in the new era of freedom. The years 1870-1920
formed the golden age in the history of the peasant proprietary in
the colony. Even so, the marriage record remained comparatively
low. The average maintained during the eight years 1912-1919
was 7.52 marriages per thousand persons,5 or only one and a half
more marriages per thousand than there were in 1851, prior to
significant increase in population by way of immigration and by
natural births. The balance had now, however, been regained,
despite the discount of East Indian marriages without legal recog-
nition.
Indians, up to the date of this study, never totalled a third of
the general population. If, on the basis of their percentage of the
population, we were to allow an exaggerated maximum additional
increase of 30 per cent. to the general marriage rate by way of
ceremonially (though not legally) valid East Indian marriages,
the resulting average marriage rate (10.2 per thousand) for th.
whole population in 1912-1919 would still have been several times
below that of European and North American countries about
that time.
In 1900, the percentage of married persons to the total popu-
lation in any great country of Catholic Europe, excepting Ireland,
was at least 30 per cent. In Trinidad it was 14.4 per cent.
Martinique, Jamaica, Cuba, and Puerto Rico ranged from 10.8 per
cent. to 16.6 per cent. In the same year in the United States
55.3 per cent. of the adult population (over 15 years) was married;
in Trinidad 29 per cent. The highest figure in a Caribbean island
was 29.6 per cent. in Puerto Rico. The United States' figure
included common law marriages6.
Not only the figures for marriage, but the high illegitimate
birth rate also indicates that a very large segment of the Trinidad
population involving a large number of families, is not accounted
for by legally recognized marriages. It is true that since 1925 the
overall illegitimate birth rate has steadily, though very gradually,
declined. Nevertheless, in 1921, 65 per cent. of all births were
illegitimate ; in 1939 the figure was again 65.0 per cent. In 1942
it slid down to 61.8 per cent., and in 1943 it eased itself down to
61.0 per cent. In 1949 the figure was 55.8 per cent., and in 1950
it was 56.2 per cent. These figures include children born of
ceremonially valid but legally unrecognized East Indian marriages.
However, in 1939 the percentage of illegitimate births among
non-East Indians was 54.3 per cent. of the non-East Indian
population ; in 1942 the percentage declined to 50.6 per cent.,






THE SPREAD OF NON-LEGALISM


from where it inched down to 49.6 per cent. in 1943.7 The corre-
sponding figure for 1949 was 48.9 per cent. and 51.7 per cent. for
1950. For purposes of systematic inquiry we set aside the East
Indian populace and concentrate on the so-called creole West
Indians, who in this study comprise all non-East Indians.
This covers the estimated (pre-World War II) maximum 7 per cent.
of the total population deemed white.8 We here propose to study
the marital organization of these creole families nearly 50 per cent.
of whose children are illegitimately born.
It is possible to determine approximately the percentage of
the total creole population of Trinidad which adheres to the non-
legal union. In 1942, 50 per cent. of the children born to the
creole West Indian population, that is, non-East Indians, were
illegitimates.9 Since all illegitimate births together were half the
total creole West Indian population of Trinidad, those illegitimately
born in non-legal unions alone were together less than half the
creole West Indian population. And sizeably less than half.
For it is common knowledge that illegitimates born to spurious or
casual unions form a very considerable though undetermined
proportion of all illegitimate children. Now, according to private
surveys, and also according to calculations based upon the
statistics in Trinidad Government Council Paper No. 84 of 1933, the
average Trinidad family counts 4.5 children. Therefore two
parents may be reckoned for every 4.5 children. Accordingly,
the number of partners in non-legal unions will be about half the
number of children born to those unions. As this number is
sizeably less than half the creole West Indian population, the
number of adults involved in non-legal unions must be sizeably
less than a quarter or 25 per cent. of the total creole West Indian
population. 18 to 20 per cent. is a reasonable and safe estimate.
And this figure is roughly equivalent to about 30 per cent. of the
adult creole West Indian population.
The reliability of this estimate is supported by the Census
Report for 1946 when the percentage of illegitimate births for the
creole West Indian population was the same as it stood in 1942,
or 50 per cent. in round numbers. In 1946 for the first time an
attempt was made to enumerate common law marriages".
According to the Census tables 16 per cent. or 38,000 out of the
total 241,000 creole West Indian population was involved in
" common law unions. The Census figure is probably too low.
As separations in these unions are frequent many partners may
have been living singly on the day of the Census. Again, few
non-legal partners believe, or would have anyone believe, their







12 CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY

union is a marriage in any socially accepted sense. And common
law marriage is a new and meaningless term to most people in
non-legal unions. Much of the accuracy of the result would depend
on the approach of the individual census-taker. When all these
considerations are taken into account it will be readily appreciated
that the Census figure of 16 per cent. suggests the reliability of my
18 to 20 per cent. estimate for non-legal unions in the total creole
West Indian population.
From figures given in the Trinidad Census Returns for 1931,
it can also be statistically ascertained what age groups of men
and women are most addicted to the non-legal style. Excluding
minors, there are fewest unmarried women in the age group 30 to
40 years : the greatest number of unmarried women is in the
largest age group, 20 to 30 years. Minors excluded, there are
fewest married men in the largest age group 20 to 30 years;
most married men are in the age group 40 to 50 years. It is a
reasonable inference that the greatest number of non-legal unions
exists in the largest available adult group, that is, in the largest
unmarried adult population. This is comprised of men and women
between the ages of 20 and 30. In a census of Cuba done by the
United States Government in 1899 the greatest proportion of
non-legal unions was found among persons under 25 years of age.
Between the ages of 25 and 55, regular marriages were almost
double the number of non-legal unions.
A mode of life which retains a firm hold on about one-third of
the adult creole population of Trinidad, and which, to that extent,
has resisted, in an era of freedom from bondage, a hundred years of
challenge from Christianity and Western civilization, must have
deep, widespread, and entangled rootage. Where so many other
usages incidental to folk life have, in the process of generations,
fallen by the way, been modified, or readapted, the non-legal union
has, to the extent of some 30 per cent. in the creole population,
remained a constant. Where half of all marital unions among
Christians are of the non-legal sort, that is to say, illegal within the
Christian economy, the Christian Church is evidently beset with a
grave and knotty problem. The problem is as serious a threat to
Western social organization according to which the legal family is
the unit of society. Many, if not most, of the social problems of
the West Indies ", states a British administrative report, centre
round weakness in family organization." Truly said. In
Trinidad 721- per cent. of all registered cases of juvenile
delinquency originate in the non-legal union. To every case
registered there are presumably ten which are not registered.







THE SPREAD OF NON-LEGALISM


We are reaping a whirlwind. Who sowed the wind ? The non-
legal union is a problem to Church and State alike.
At this point the writer would like to introduce his readers to
the non-legal union outside of the British West Indies and outside
of the people of African origin and tradition. Far too many noted
writers on the subject overlook the fact that the authentic non-legal
union is not limited to people of African descent, that it is practised
by perhaps altogether more white and other people in the New
World than by Negroids. One result of this shortsightedness is
that causes and explanations of the non-legal union are put forward
which do not fit the full facts, and the real facts are distorted and
twisted to fit into pet theories. A rapid glance at the prevalence
of the non-legal union in the Latin American countries should
serve to guard us against this danger.
Dr. Calvani-Silva in a study on illegitimacy in Venezuela has
this to say : Sixty per cent. of Venezuelans are of natural
filiation and thus carry the appellative only of their mother."
Illegitimacy is a pretty good index of concubinage. Dr. Silva
continues : "In our milieu, concubinage or free union in the
immense majority of cases is public, absolutely public. Suffice it
to visit the districts of our poor in the interior of the country to
convince yourself of this fact."'0 Silva gives statistics on
illegitimacy for various Latin American countries. For Venezuela
the figure for 1936 was 60 per cent. ; for 1937, 62 per cent.; for 1938
to 1940, 61 per cent. The Argentine figure for 1936 was 25.4 per
cent.; Colombia for 1933 was 29.2 per cent.; Costa Rica 1931,
22.5 per cent.; Cuba 1929, 19.7 per cent.; Chile 1929, 31.7 per cent.;
Guatemala 1928, 52.9 per cent.; Panama 1934, 60.6 per cent.;
Paraguay 1934, 67.3 per cent.; El Salvador 1933, 59.9 per cent.;
Uruguay 1933, 28.6 per cent.







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


CHAPTER III

THE FAMILY IN SLAVERY

THIRTY YEARS before the Mayflower landed the Pilgrim
Fathers on the shores of New England, and before the first Negro
slave was disembarked in North America, his fellow Negro was
pioneering in Trinidad in 1591 settling the resources of this new
Spanish territory. HT-was there as the slave o oJon Antonio de
Berrio, successor to the civil and military governorship of Guiana
and the Island of Trinidad. This island, perching upon the left
shoulder of Venezuela, had been discovered a hundred years before
by Columbus ; but its vast potentialities had been overlooked in
the dazzling horizon of the nearby El Dorado. In that obscure
interim of a century Trinidad served as a post for the raiding of
aboriginal Indians to work in the gold and silver mines of South
America or in the pearl fisheries of the Spanish Caribbean island
of Cubagua and Margarita.' This is only another way of saying
that Indian slavery preceded Negro slavery in Trinidad. lere, or
Land of the Humming Bird, as the Indians named Trinidad, moved
into prominence relatively late ; but not too late to witness some of
that romance and adventure which Providence seemed to have
reserved for the conquests of Spain overseas. It was here that
from Mexico Don Diego de Ordaz, companion of the famous
conquistador Fernando Cortez, came to dispute the governorship
with Don Antonio Sedeno in 1532. In less than a century from
De Berrio's arrival with his Negroes in 1591, Iere was ten times
invaded by foreign armies, the English under Sir Walter Raleigh,
the Dutch, and the French, all mutual enemies in the colonial
enterprise geared to the slave plantation.
The slave system in Trinidad was unique in several ways.
In its heday it was practised on the largest scale by French
nationals with French slaves within a territory owned, occupied,
and administered by the Spaniards. Then the British conquered
the island, exploited and further developed the system, but were
ruled by Spanish Law within their own national domains. Then
again, in this island whose total population never exceeded 50,000
at any time in slavery (1828 was the peak year)2 there were two
rival slave industries ", cacao and sugar-cane, in the hands,
significantly, of the rival Spanish and French who eventually each
retreated before the other, and both before the British, not only, in
sugar-cane, but at length also in cacao. And now, as long as







THE FAMILY IN SLAVERY


Trinidad was under the Spanish flag, the ordering of the slave
economy and the disposition of the_slaves' lives, even on French
plantations, remained a. domestic affair among Catholics. The
British had hardly entered the scene than treatment of slaves took
a turrrfor the worse under Picton's code,3 and eventually became
the subject of the bitter religious and political controversy of the
Abolitionist and Emancipationist periods ; but with this
difference, that in Trinidad the prevailing Spanish Slave Code
became, in one form or other, the major weapoff of defience by te
planters, and of offence by the Governor and the British
Parliament. The planters protested that their slave treatment
was near ideal; Parliament in effect replied : "Then why
bother about a few reforms along the lines of the Spanish Code."4
But, insisted the planters vainly, everything, or almost every-
thing, it (the reforming Slave Act) rendered obligatory was either
provided for by the Law of the Colony or prescribed by long
established custom."5 By their protests the planters condemned
themselves.
Thus, the course of the Trinidad family in slavery was
determined principally by :-
(a) The attitude of the slave traders and planters towards
slaves. This attitude depended considerably upon the
ethnic character of the master class.
(b) The basic economic pursuit, cacao or sugar-cane, on the
plantation.
(c) The general social framework created by the Spanish
Law especially the Slave Code of 1789 which was drafted
in Trinidad and promulgated by the King over the
whole Spanish overseas Empire.
(d) The Catholic Religion which exercised a controlling
influence in the Spanish dominated social and political
order of slavetime Trinidad.
Notwithstanding the counteracting influences of the Church
and the Spanish Civil Law, disintegration was, by andJarge, the
keynote of the family's life in slavery. Indeed, the disintegration
~cimenced before the slave came within the orbit of Spanish Law.
It started with his abduction from his native tribe, worsened with
the sale of the family's or clan's members to different slave traders
bound for different countries, went a step further when the remain-
ing family members were scattered among different West Indian
estates, and again dismembered by subsequent transfers.
A stable marital organization which would have hplpod th family
to reknit effectively on the slave plantation was discouraged or







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


disregarded by the planters. These remarks hold good for all
slavery, aboriginal Indian or Negro, and for all planters, Spanish,
French, or British.
Slavery in Trinidad can be divided broadly into two main
periods. In the first, lasting from 1500 to 1780, slavery, with
Indians and Negroes as slaves, was entirely a Spanish concern;
during the second, 1780-1838, the French and the British swarmed
in. We know from the activities of the monk Las Casas that up
to the promulgation of the New Laws in the Indies in 1552, the
enslavement of the aboriginal Indian all over the islands resulted in
"disugrsion of the villages," and division of families."6
He thundered against the encomienda, (a system oFrfowing Indians
to work for Spanish colonists in return for Christian education,
protection, and welfare) because the Spaniards did not remunerate
the Indians, did not teach them, kept them away from their
families night and day, over-worked and starved them.7 The New
Laws were directed against the physical and moral disintegration
of the Indian family. It was for this reason that the encomiendas
were suppressed, and the control, spiritual and temporal, of Indians
all over the Empire, was entrusted to the missionaries. The
existence of the missionary encomiendas in Trinidad from 1687s
to 1708 was thus a protest against the disintegrating avarice of the
Trinidad Spanish planters who took no r.st until they in turn
succeeded in suppressing the corrective missionary establishment.
The missions continued, but the missionaries, as previously noted,
were relieved of the temporal care of the Indians which passed
over to white Corregidors or Magistrates.9
The Spanish Slave Code of 1789'0 railed against the physical,
moral, economic, personal and family disintegration of Negro
slaves in all the Spanish possessions in America, and specified what
was to be done in education, health, work, recreation, marriage,
criminal procedure, for the physical, moral and spiritual
rehabilitation of slaves and their families. Despite British laws
which in 1797 repealed" earlier laws making possible the dis-
memberment of slave families by sale or transfer, the process of
dismemberment went on apace in the intercolonial slave trade
after 1807.'2 So that in 1823 one of the provisions of Governor
Woodford's Slave Act was expressly directed against the abuse.13
And as late as February, 1834, a few months before the Declaration
of Emancipation, Governor Hill felt it necessary to reassure the
Home Government concerning 207 African Negroes he had
introduced to Trinidad from Cuba. He pleaded his care in keeping
those together attached by relationship or friendship ".'4 Further






THE FAMILY IN SLAVERY


evidence of the high incidence of disintegration in the Negro family
on the Trinidad plantation is the large number of fugitive slaves.
The frequent expeditions15 sent out to destroy their camps were,
in effect, so many other hard blows struck at the reassembling
Negro family. Thus the slave family in Trinidad, especially the
Negro slave family, was a disintegrating family all through the
centuries of slavery. For to the plantation owner everything,
including the slave family, was incidental. The only thing that
mattered was labour, cheap labour.'6 The Negro family was
without the protection of the missions, and was subject to less
consideration from the British Code of Governor Picton and British
slave owners than from the humane Spanish Code and the Spanish
and French settlers."7
However, in Trinidad with its virgin soil and its mostly small
and secluded estates, the relatively few slaves7"a resident on each
estate were drawn into a softening, semi-patriarchal relationship
with the planters, particularly the Spanish and French planters.
Seventy-seven slaves sufficed for Mrs. Carmichael's sugar estate.
The Bonne Aventure estate at Pointe-a-Pierre was sold in 1829 with
" all those forty Negroes and other slaves ". The Exchange estate
was sold in 1803 with its all and singular 77 slaves ".'7b Slaves
were so few on most estates that in 1815 an ordinance was enacted
requiring each man to own at least one slave for every five acres
or forfeit his land. A French settler drafted the liberal Slave Code
of 1789 for the amiable Spanish Governor Chacon.'s
It is upon the specific disintegration of the Negro family in
slavery that this study will concentrate. First, however, the
immediate social background of Negro Slavery in Trinidad.

THE SOCIAL BACKGROUND
The intensive period of slavery in Trinidad commenced in 1783.
In that year the Spanish monarch uttered a cedula or project of
population in which he invited all men of any national or political
allegiance to come and settle in Trinidad with its vast unexplored
natural wealth. All settlers had, however, to be members of the
Catholic religion. New settlers were granted relief from taxation,
livestock and agricultural tools were to be imported at cost and
free of duty. In the year 1783 there were 310 slaves in Trinidad,
and the total population, including 2,000 aboriginal Indians, was
less than 3,000.'9 In 1789, the white settlers alone were more
than 2,000, and they had in their service 10,000 slaves.20 Where
did these slaves come from, and whence the great influx of whites ?






CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


The facilities offered by the King of Spain attracted a large
scale immigration of French families in 1781 from Martinique where
the government of Louis XVI had been compelling them to sell all
their sugar to France, thus forcing them out of more profitable
markets.2' Between 1784 and 1789 there was another great
wave of immigration. This time the French swarmed in from
Grenada where they were having the worst of a do-or-die struggle
with the British,22 and from Guadeloupe, and were followed by
other crowds from Martinique.23 A few English and a few Irish
families came in on this tide which raised the Trinidad population
from 2,500 to 10,000. From 1786 to 1796 one current after another
of migrants from Haiti streamed into the Land of the Humming
Bird.'2 They were fleeing from the splutterings of the French
Revolution and from the slave rebellion which bore Toussaint
L'Ouverture aloft to international fame and subsequent infamy.
All white and free coloured migrant families brought along slaves
with them.
After 1800, a turn in the tide swept in the British with their
slaves from the old, exhausted, over-exploited lands in the British
Caribbean. Trinidad had shortly before fallen helpless victim to
British arms. Their 660 whites in 1802 were a little more numerous
than the 500 Spanish settlers but only a little more than half of
the 1,100 French whites.25 Altogether they were less than
50 per cent. of French and Spanish combined. In that year,
however, the number of all slaves had risen beyond 28,000 or nearly
fourteen times as great as the entire white population. Between
1813 and 1821, some 4,000 more slaves were brought in from British
Caribbean islands.26 Meanwhile some 5,000 recaptured Africans
were introduced to the Trinidad plantations by the British in the
thirty-five years that elapsed since the beginning of the XIXth
century.27 The free coloured population grew from 5,000 in 1797
to 16,000 in 1828, and constituted the overwhelming majority of
the free residents.28 They had recently been freed from slavery.
There were then 4,300 whites. Four-fifths of the total Trinidad
population belonged to the Catholic Church.29
Nearly all Trinidad slaves were born in the Caribbean of
African parents, and similarly the overwhelming majority were
born in the French islands.30 The same is true of the majority of
the free coloured population. African born workers at no time
constituted more than 25 per cent. of the Negro slave population.31
A little republic of their own was formed by 1,000 American
Negroes whom the British had transported to Trinidad in
return for loyal support in the War of 1812. In Trinidad







THE FAMILY IN SLAVERY


they were offered apprenticeship which they declined with thanks,
at the same time indicating preference for land grants which they
received. They were very industrious but some of them, reported
the Governor, had incautiously boasted of the part they had
taken against their Masters in America, of having killed them
during the last war."32 This completes the picture of the
countries of origin of the total population.

THE YORUBAS
The Negroes in Trinidad represented various African tribal
stocks. Sociologically, the most important of them all were the
Yoruba people whose cultural institutions were the major African
determinant in the solution of Trinidad society. Nigeria is the
home of the Yorubas. Their empire33 once covered all Southern
Nigeria, embraced Togoland and Dahomey and reached the confines
of the Gold Coast. Eventually it shrank back to Nigeria where the
original seat of government was at ancient Oyo. A people
covering so wide an expanse of territory obviously included many
sub-tribes. They were therefore divided into the Yorubas proper,
and the other Yorubas. The Yorubas proper, comprising four
provinces, later drew into their camp two sub-tribes well known
in Trinidad, namely : The Egbas and the Goshas. It is the
people of the whole encampment of Yorubas proper who are
important in the ethnic development of Trinidad. De Verteuil
records the impression they made in Trinidad :

The Yarribas or Yarrabas deserve a particular notice.
They are a fine race, tall and well proportioned ; some of them
with fine features, intelligent, reflective, and can appreciate the
benefits of civilization and Christianity. They are laborious,
usually working for day wages on estates, but preferring job work.
The women are mostly occupied in petty trade and huckstering ;
some also in the culture of ground provisions ; their houses are
comfortable, and kept in perfect order within. In character they
are generally honest, and in disposition proud, and even haughty ;
so that the cases are rare where a Yarraba is brought before the
magistrate for theft, breach of contract, or other misdemeanor.
They are besides guided, in a marked degree, by the sense of
association ; and the principle of combination for the common
weal has been fully sustained wherever they have settled in any
numbers ; in fact, the whole Yarraba family in the colony may be
said to form a sort of social league for mutual support and
protection."34

Another colonist, a Protestant missionary, reflects: The
Yarrabas dwell in clusters.... The Yarrabas are obviously,
in every sense, a superior people to the other tribes we have here ....
The African, especially the Yarriba, is apt in learning languages."35







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


The disintegration of the Negro family took place during the
movements of a concert of European nations in Trinidad. The
theme was cheap labour, the setting was slavery and the plantation.
As the concert progressed through its various movements the
melody was carried first by the Spaniards then by the French, and
then by the British. And through it all, the Negro family,
here enslaved, here free, figured as ground bass. We shall now
trace the disintegration of the Negro family commencing with the
institution of marriage itself and reaching down to the last of the
family's characteristic functions.

MARRIAGE
The evidence of disintegration in the marriage organization of
the African in West Indian slavery is striking. In West Africa,
the Negro married to remain married ".36 Divorce was practi-
cally unknown. There was no such thing as trial marriage37.
The West Indian slave, with few exceptions, bluntly refused to be
bound by any matrimonial tie. All but two of the slaves on a
Trinidad estate preferred death to marriageS3. From their words
it is clear that what they objected to was not Christian marriage,
but any stable or legal tie with fellow Negroes. They alleged that
Negroes had lost in the New World all stability and restraint.39
There was nothing to hold them faithful to the bonds of matrimony
If Massa King George ordered them to marry white wives they
would marry as many of them as he wished. Meanwhile the utmost
they were willing to do was to try to live wid 'em first a little bit
for trial."40
In West Africa there were three steps in marriage: the decla-
ration of intention to marry by the boys' parents, the betrothal,
and then the marriage by a family ritual.4' In the West Indies all
three steps were dropped, since hardly anyone contemplated a
matrimonial tie. All we can read of is promiscuity and unions for
convenience.42 We read of girls taking husbands at 16 or 17,
and boys taking girl wives a year or two later;43 we read of
house-warming parties when young couples take possession of their
new house. We do not read of any social rituals preceding or
marking the contracting of a marital union.44
In West Africa the bride-price established the legitimacy of a
marriage, was offered as a guarantee of its stability and a pledge of
good conduct between the spouses.45 In the West Indies the
bride-price disappeared, and with it the legitimacy and the stability
of the genuinely primitive folk union. The New World slave trade
and the New World slave plantation wrought the destruction of the






THE FAMILY IN SLAVERY


African family organization and left the slave family in a shambles
of confusion, mutual distrust, and insecurity.46 Something
remained of the African marriage institution, namely, the theory
and practice of polygamy. But this remnant was a ruin, for this
was no longer the legalized and controlled polygamy of Africa;
it was the license of the West Indian slave plantation.47 The
bond of affection between spouses is necessarily at its weakest in
a family committed to marital unions of the type adopted by the
Trinidad slave.

THE FAMILY'S FUNCTIONS
Authority in the Family-The repudiation of a marriage bond
and the general currency of trial marriages had already under-
mined the natural foundations of authority in the slave family. But
the slave owner exercised over the woman an alien authority which,
if it belonged to anybody, belonged to her husband. The master
punished the female slave with whips and, placed strong emphasis
on his right to do so. He took the gravest alarm "48 at the 42nd
clause in a Parliamentary Act of 1824 which would forbid masters
the punishment of female slaves, protested vehemently and success-
fully against it. He allowed no slave, husband or wife or child,
any rights as against his master or independently of him, and thus
all but completed the wreckage of the foundations of authority in
the slave family.49 This was no academic or paper issue.
In daily practice the planter ordained the work the woman of
the house had to do; he decided how soon pregnant women were
relieved of field work and how soon they were to return.50 He
further maimed family authority by setting up court martial "
which encouraged the already loosely attached family members to
appeal to ultimate authority in ordinary petty family discords."l
Mutual distrust, insubordination, and insecurity thus grew apace
in the family. The reputed husband's authority was thus restricted
to the residue of the woman's time, strength, and good pleasure.
Concretely, this reduced itself to cooking his meals, keeping his
house, and washing his clothes. If he was dissatisfied with her
performance he put her away, or he beat her.52
The mother's authority over her children was also residual,
and for similar reasons. Her child was taken away from her
almost immediately after birth and entrusted to the care and train-
ing of an estate nurse.53 Thus the child's affection and disposition
were quite naturally weaned away from its mother to its nurse.54
The stage for estrangement and insubordination was thereby set.
Parental orders were countermanded by the master's orders.55






CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


Children were economically dependent on the master from whom
they likewise received land of their own to work for themselves for
profit, independently of their parents.56 Because of these things,
and also because of the incidental character of the marital tie,
children were insubordinate to their parents and cared little for
their fathers.57 As soon as the law deprived masters of the power
of punishing the children of slaves, immediately filial reverence and
respect became a prominent family feature.58 So nearly complete
was the appropriation of children by the estate that among planters
it was a boast that slave parents had no burden at all with their
children."
Affection-The affectional tie was seriously strained as between
man and wife, no less than between all estate slaves. The peaceful
discipline of the closely knit African family compound6" had broken
down. Men were reported to be most cruel to their wives and
some mothers allegedly became so unnatural as to prefer their pig
to their children ".6I Slavery did not, however, succeed in destroy-
ing the affectional tie altogether, thanks to the Legislative
reforms.GIa For there was not any circumstance which provokes
a Negro so much as saying or hinting anything disrespectful with
regard to his mother."'' The difference of affectional attitude
towards father and mother was due to the fact that whatever
time was left the child with its parents was spent entirely with its
mother. She was the stable element in the unstable family. Her
reputed husbands were liable to frequent separation both from
their own whims as from estate requirements.63 But wherever she
went, her infant children, like Mary's lamb, "were sure to go", even
though that did not mean that they were consigned to her personal
care and training. Another strong family tie was that between
persons, especially aged persons and their godchildren. So much
were these godchildren considered part of the immediate family
that, failing blood relations of a deceased person, they became
the natural heirs. And there was the greatest accuracy and atten-
tion in regard to these points."64 Godchildren also acknowledged
it as their filial duty to cook for their aged or infirm godparents
and work their grounds for them. Godparents were held in equal
respect with parents. The tradition which forbade marital unions
between godparents and godchildren was so strong in slavery that
it is still active today. In an interview the writer had with a
semi-urbanized matron she actually questioned the right of the
Church to grant a dispensation for marriage between persons so
intimately connected. The intimacy of the link created by baptism
was felt to be such that the slaves and their descendants used the







THE FAMILY IN SLAVERY


most profound kinship term to express it, namely co-parenthood."
They thus equated it morally to biological parenthood. This kin-
ship group was no mere relationship of sympathetic symbiosis.
Accordingly it is readily seen how in this respect the West Indian
concept of family differed significantly from the Western concept
of it. In Africa a family's not just husband, wife, and children.
To us it is a number of households. Perhaps two thousand persons
make a family." All members of such households are pronounced
" brother and sister ".65
The Economic Function-The disintegration of the African
family in the West Indies is evident in this field also. In Africa
the family's land was jointly possessed, even though wives were
allowed supplementary parcels of land for themselves.66 But
they were supplementary, and therefore did not disturb the concen-
tration of family interest and co-operation of the family's common
plot. But in slavery the West Indian had neither conjoint use,
nor ownership, nor management of land. As regards land, man
and wife ran mutually independent economies.67 Each depended
for his or her temporary land grant on the planter-proprietor, not
on each other. There was a minimum of co-operation in the
working of land in personal use because both parties spent all but
one working day of the week on the plantation.8 The free day
was mostly taken up with one's own business. Even children had
their personal property to look after, although they gave some
help to their mothers with their gardens.69 Financially, too, the
women were independent of the men. They had their own money
over which the men had absolutely no right.70 Tampering with the
reputed wife's money or garden produce was a major crime as
disreputable as theft by a common stranger.7" This economic
organization was part and parcel of the loose and unprotected
marital union.
The Educational Function-By this function is usually under-
stood the physical rearing of the child by its parents and relatives,
its moral education, and its informal preparation for the activities
of adult life. In the West African, as in any normally functioning
family, all of these processes took place within the bosom of the
family. In the West Indian slave family the principal part played
by the mother was the washing, dressing, and suckling of her infant
in the morning before going out to work three weeks after confine-
ment, and in the evening on her returning at 6.30.72 For the rest
of the time and until the age of 16, the child remained in the estate
nursery, even spending the night there in its infancy.73 When
the children helped their mothers to work in their gardens they







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


thereby received some informal agricultural instruction and moral
discipline. But this was subsidiary only. For their vocational
education was taken care of by the exquisitely organized plantation
machinery.74 At 4 years of age the children were in the juvenile
vine gang gathering vines for the plantation live-stock. At 8 or 9,
they got a hoe put into their hands for weeding the young canes.
At 12 they were rearing chickens and making a pretty dollar. At 16
they were turned over to common field duty. At that age, girls had
already acquired skill at serving and were choosing husbands from
youths a year or two older.75 Thus the moral education of the
child from birth to adolescence was lifted, along with its informal
vocational education, out of the reach of the family and transferred
to the plantation. Parents shared a little more in the educational
process when the law of 1823 reserved to them the right to punish
their own children.76 Faults which drew down corporal punish-
ment included fighting, stealing, torturing animals, absconding
from the vine gang, vagrancy, indisputable guilt of most disgrace-
ful and immoral conduct ", failure to address one's father as Sir "
and one's mother as Ma'am ".77 Punishment for not stirring
or ma'aming one's parents represents an artificial attempt to
induce for parenthood a compensating respect and recognition which
could hardly develop in the marital union on the slave plantation.
The Religious Function-The breakdown of the moral and
social organization of the Afro-West Indian family discussed under
marriage, authority, and affection, indicates the disintegration of
the African folk religion. For although the cult of ancestors was
not the whole of the old religion, it was this cult, pagan though it
was, that gave the African family its moral sanction and even deter-
mined the physical grouping of its members into the various kinship
and/or totemic units. With the disorganization of the folk religion
came that utter relaxation of moral and familial sanctions which
swept distrust and insecurity into the West Indian slave family,
and made marriage so great a hazard.
Another sign of the breakup of the tribal religion was the spread
of the practice of witchcraft, or obeah. Obeah consists in the
fragmentation of the elements of religious ritual and in the employ-
ment of the fragments for purpose of mischief, or at least, of white
magic. In either case there is fragmentation and deviation from
the original purpose of the folk religion. And this means disintegra-
tion.78 Obeah is anti-social; it breaks up family organization by
injecting distrust, fear, insecurity, enmity, hatred, into the several
groups, and thereby undoes exactly what the cement of the old
religion accomplished. Again, when religious rites come to be







THE FAMILY IN SLAVERY


employed principally as safeguards or precautions lest some harm
might befall if they were omitted, then religion has lost its former
hold on men's minds and becomes a magical art. Quite often
magic was resorted to by West Indian slaves to counteract Obeah.
They hung bottles in and around their houses and gardens to
prevent the Obeah from affecting them."79 The bottles contained
an allegedly sacred brew of some kind or other. The members of
the slave family also wore amulets and other protective charms.
The practice of Obeah was rampant among slave families, and it

operates upon them to such a degree, as not infrequently to
produce death. There is not perhaps a single West Indian estate,
upon which there is not one or more Obeah men or women ;
the Negroes know who they are, but it is very difficult for white
people to find them out..... I knew of an instance where
fifteen people, in the course of a few months, died from no other
cause. It is in vain to reason with them,-" Misses, I'm obeahed
-I know I'll go dead ", is all you can obtain from them."80

Cut adrift from the moorings of the old religion the West
Indian slave family commenced gradually to rebuild itself around
the new religion of Christianity which it accepted. It took
godparenthood and made it to replace and enlarge the link which
formerly bound the members of the populous West African
compound as brother and sister ".A There was no unbaptized
adult members8 in the domestic slave family which could now be
seen in its first imperfect attempts to exercise new religious functions.
Family members, Catholic and Protestant, said prayers every
evening ; many prayed morning and evening. Several homes had
regular family prayers at which Negroes of other families
attended.83 Both Catholic children and adults distinguished
themselves by their better religious knowledge and moral training.
Slave children of Catholic families knew the answers to all the
ordinary questions put to them by a Protestant slave owner.84
They all knew the Lord's Prayer and the "I Believe ".
They would sometimes cross themselves when they pronounced
the name of Jesus. On the other hand, their notion of the Holy
Spirit was confused with the folk idea of spirits, and Mrs. Carmichael
could find no Protestant Negro who could tell that the Son of God
was the Redeemer of mankind. We never knew 'bout him, "
they would all affirm, even though a fair amount of them could
recite the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. All Negroes formed the
habit of punctuating their sentences with Please God," or
If the Lord will ".8







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


The Mental Bond-The mental bond of the family consists in
the development of common ideals, common interests, and common
purposes among the members of the family.6 The cultivation of
these objectives gives rise to a sense of family, or family
consciousness. According as the mental bond is weak or strong,
the attitudes of family members may swing all the way from
extreme individualism to the utmost uniformity in outlook and
behaviour.87 Community of life implies differences in social
rank, and calls for subordination and co-ordination of the
individual's activities to the common good of the family.
The West Indian slave family did not have the opportunities for
the type of social contacts which are necessary for the development
of a strong mental bond.
The economic interests and activities of man, wife, and children
were, as previously shown, extremely individualistic and left
little room for common thought, common planning, and common
work. The highest degree of individualism in marriage is trial
marriage or the experimental indulgence in sex on a marital basis.
This was the common rule in slavery. Again, slavery broke
woman loose from her confinement in the African family home and
let her loose without any new armoury of control in the dead level
equality and uniformity of slave society. Christianity had not
yet grown into the ruling code of Afro-West Indian life.
Rudderless, and more restless than the male slave who had always
been accustomed to greater freedom of movement and open air
activity, the West Indian female slave gained notoriety for being
the most unmanageable and the most prone to give offence ".88
In other words, in her new restlessness, woman became unsociably
individualistic. The mental bond in all slaves snapped with the
crashing of their family and kinship arrangements by the New
World slave trade and the New World slave plantation.
The destruction was, however, not total.
A profound mutual interest developed between mother and
son. The family habit of sitting outdoors at night together cooking,
eating, telling stories, and singing songs, helped to form personal
bonds and inspire the common ideals and interests which later
welded the family together in emancipation, and even before, in
the camps of runaway slaves.89







THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN HERITAGE


CHAPTER IV

THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN HERITAGE

THE PLANTATION

IN the year of Our Lord 1842 there appeared a book which,
because of its singular value as source material for Trinidad social
and economic history, may very well be styled the book of the
century. The title of the book is Observations On The Present
Condition of The Island of Trinidad and The Actual State of
The Experiment of Negro Emancipation ". The book was written
by William Hardin Burnley, Chairman of the Agricultural and
Immigration Society in Trinidad and acknowledged Dean of
Trinidad Planters. The book was written in support of a plea to
the Imperial Government to make available for plantations in
Trinidad a cheap supply of free immigrant labour from the coasts
of Africa. In this book is contained the findings of the Agricultural
Society's sub-committee appointed to inquire and report
respecting the state of the agricultural interests of the colony since
the abolition of apprenticeship in August, 1838, their present
condition and future prospects, and to recommend such measures
as they may think conducive to the general prosperity."
The essential features of the economy of the plantation appear in
bold relief in Mr. Burnley's book. Here is a summary of the
observations of the Chairman and his Society On the Present
Condition of the Island of Trinidad ".

In the period following emancipation the general conditions
of the Island-much uncultivated land available for purchase
(p. 60, 107) or squatting (p. 66, 100, 111, 112), the relatively
scanty, population (p. 4) and the fact that only necessity could
compel free labour to work on plantations-caused a rise in
wages (p. 64, 66) and a decrease in the number of working hours.
At this time it was customary to pay part of the wages in
allowances of food, rum and rent (p. 51, 80. 131). The custom
of rum allowances was mainly responsible for the general increase
in drunkenness which was the major cause of cases of disorderly
conduct (p. 59, 85). However, despite this, the general moral
and religious conduct of labourers in the post-emancipation
period was greatly improved (p. 94, 95) ; one of the evidences of
this is the increase in marriages (p. 56, 58, 95), another is the
increased support of churches, schools, and benefit societies
(p. 95, 98), particularly those of the Catholic Church which was
most deeply rooted in the native Trinidadian population (p. 76) ;
and there was relatively little crime (p. 164) despite the inadequacy
and inefficiency of the police (p. 53, 84.)







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


During this period many ex-slaves purchased property (p. 54)
and there was a large increase in the number of cottage settlers
(p. 119), but not enough to make any appreciable difference in
the economy (p. 105). Most gardening was done for home
consumption (p. 54), undoubtedly in many instances because of
the inaccessibility of markets (p. 63).
Vagrancy increased during this period, especially among
the immigrants (p. 18, 66, 96) many of whom deserted their
former employment to engage in trade or other more pleasing
occupations (p. 116, 161).
Squatters had been encouraged to settle on Crown lands
before emancipation (p. 111) ; however, immediately afterwards,
the planters with government approval and assistance tried to
eject squatters (p. 111, 168). The object is ..... to condense
and keep together the population in such a manner that it may
always contain a due proportion of labourers (p. 139, 140).
Another means by which the government co-operated with
the planters to maintain a due proportion of labourers was
by diminishing the facilities of obtaining land ..... by fixing
the price of fresh land so high as to place it above the reach of
the poorest class of settlers (p. 138).
There was a large increase in the influx of immigrant
labourers (p. 123) who were encouraged by the planters (p. 68,
124) because additional workers meant competition for jobs and
this in turn would lead to lower wages.
Despite occasional differences between the proprietors and
the colonial government as to means and methods (p. 158) we
find that in the basic matter of economic relationships the govern-
ment acts to the benefit of the proprietor, frequently at the
expense of labour (p. 130, 131, 132, 138, 139, 140, 111, 168).
Fear of the growth of economic independence among the people
and of political democracy-loss of profit, loss of autocratic
powers-underlies this mutuality of interest between the
proprietors and the state in this period (p. 10, 12).
The annual export of labourers from Africa was advocated
"for the purpose of raising sugar in our colonies" (p. 33).
Twice the amount of sugar produced with African slave labour
could be produced by the same amount of free African labour
(p. 33) and at a greatly reduced expense. We could therefore
furnish a more abundant supply to the sugar market at a cheaper
rate (p. 33). It is easily reducible to calculation that one-
sixth part only of the cultivable surface of Trinidad would more
than supply the actual demand of Great Britain for sugar (p. 40).
Trinidad possesses peculiar fitness for a great sugar producing
colony (p. 41).

Thompson has described the plantation as characterized by
forced labour, open resources and concentration on a staple crop.
By forced labour must be understood not slavery exclusively, but
also the application of economic, moral or social pressure.
Associated with forced labour is cheap wages. Open resources
means an abundance of available agricultural lands ; and
concentration on a staple crop is a die-hard insistence upon the
maintenance of a one-crop economy as the main resource of a
country. Burnley's "Present Conditions of the Island of







THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN HERITAGE


Trinidad ", fits into this pattern exactly. And, as we shall see
presently, the features of the Trinidad plantation as described by
Burnley for the period 1833-1845 continued essentially the same
after that date.
The predominant features of the plantation economy in
Trinidad were the same not only after Burnley's time, but also
before. Consider the case of the aboriginal Indians on the
encomiendas, the cocoa plantations of the Spaniards in Trinidad
during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The encomienda
was a system by which Queen Isabella allotted Indians to work
for Spanish planters overseas in return for fair pay, adequate food,
and instruction in the Christian religion. The labour contract
was to be free, was to have a definite term, and was not to apply to
hazardous or over-strenuous work. The Indians had a right to
time to work for themselves, and to rest if they were tired or ill,
and to be instructed in Christianity. They were to reside in
missions under the immediate supervision of the missionaries.
At least so Queen Isabella had planned it. The system was
introduced to Trinidad in 1687.
But, alas, the Spanish planters welcomed the encomienda not
in the spirit of Isabella but in that of the exploiting Commander
de Lares, the West Indian Governor who, in order to commandeer
the Indian labour force, advised the Queen to entrust the native
Indians to the immediate care of the planters. For, he argued,
let alone, the Indians ran away both from work and from religious
instruction. The Spaniards in Trinidad had long resented the
missionary control of the labour force. Now they urged that the
colony's agriculture was threatened for lack of labour. And besides,
they added, life in the shelter of the missions made the Indians
indolent and gave them time to foment revolts. They supported
their argument by pointing to the Indian revolt at San Francisco
de los Arenales in 1699 in which a Governor and three missionaries
were massacred. The planters obtained control over the labour of
the Indians. Already under the former system the Indians
returned from the cocoa fields exhausted, sick with hunger,
untaught and unpaid. The Church intervened directly to protect
the workers from the rigours of the regime and to soften and to
mitigate the regime itself. It was by way of concession to ecclesi-
astical action that the Government appointed a corregidor or
civil magistrate to take care of the social welfare of the Indians.
But conditions grew steadily worse. In the hands of the planters
the encomienda became an instrument not of uplift but of
oppression. The Indians retaliated by promptly deserting and







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


taking to the mountains. The story of the plantation then, as
later, is a story of forced labour, open resources, and concentration
on a staple crop.
From the facts so far presented it is apparent that the planta-
tion as known to tradition is an economic system which, somewhat
like the system of slavery, achieves its own effects and does so by
methods proper to itself regardless of who operates the system.
The race or nationality or personal character of the planter has
made no difference to the essential nature and operation of the
system. It is therefore idle to discuss the plantation in terms of
planters as individuals. And this is a point which I should like to
underscore heavily at this stage both for its own sake and for the
sake of those of my friends and readers associated with the planter
class. This chapter is not a discussion of personalities or of social
classes, but of the nature and operation of an impersonal system
of economics. If we cannot help speaking of planters, then we
speak of them considered not as individuals or as families but
merely as the agents and operators of a system the creation of
which they had little to do with. In any event, the planters,
even considered as a social class, have little to fear from the verdict
of history. For when all is said and done it remains true that the
West Indies, as Professor C. Y. Shephard observes, have not known
better friends. Nevertheless there is a logic in the plantation,
and it works itself out independently of interference, and the
planters themselves became, in their own way, victims of its
inexorable logic.
The plantation in freedom is the heir and repository of a vast
New World tradition, a living tradition of customs and attitudes,
adopted or adapted, established and developed within the
institution of slavery and as part of the institution. The general
attitude of the descendants of the master class towards the
descendants of the servile class and of these towards their masters
and towards themselves is part of this tradition. By way of
illustration let us consider an instance noted in a 1939 British
administrative report on labour conditions in the West Indies.
The slave labour tradition on the free plantation shows itself in
the wage earner's persistent belief that he belongs to the estate
owner almost as much as the estate itself, and therefore ought to
be taken care of as much by his employer as by himself.
Even the plantation owners, continues the report, have grown into
that tradition. They feel pressed by the prescriptions of custom,
even though the law of the land abolished certain patriarchal
duties formerly binding upon the ex-slave owner towards the






THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN HERITAGE


ex-slave. For example, estate owners felt bound to provide
residence on the estate for the body of workpeople although the
tradition no longer enjoyed legal support. The free worker today,
states the report, tends to expect not only housing, but medical
attention and other privileges beyond his wages. He still tends
to regard the squalid, dilapidated barracks as his home and to
protest vigorously if required to leave.
Along with slavery traditions the slave mentality was also
carried over into the era of the free plantation the whole structure
and operation of which were calculated to foster and promote the
continuance of the servile mentality. Unfortunately, the propaga-
tion of the slave mentality by the plantation system also meant
the reinforcement and, in effect, the sanctioning of the ideals and
practices developed by the servile class in respect of marriage under
the system of slavery. Things that were heretofore done under
a system repudiated by the decree of Emancipation now became
on the free plantation the new order of an emancipated society.
In particular, the sexual nomadism of slavery settled down on the -
free plantation to become the non-legal union. In slavery a secure
union between the sexes was practically impossible. Slaves were
subject to sale or transfer at any time ; to the slave owner the -
slave family was incidental ; among Trinidad slaves marriage
was the exception, concubinage th& rule, writes De Verteuil.
And concubinage was of the random and irresponsible type.
Marital unions among slaves in Trinidad, we are told by
Mrs. Carmichael, the Tacarigua slave owner, were eclectic, and
"for trial ", and accordingly subject to frequent change. Children
owed obedience first and foremost not to their parents but to the
plantation owner and to his deputy, the Nannie in charge of the
child-rearing farm. All these conditions operated against the
establishment of stable unions and of family life on the slave
plantation. But on the free plantation people were free to settle
down with whom they wished for as long as they wished;
partners could not be sold away any more ; women were no longer .
economically dependent on the plantation owner but upon the
mate who now provided both support and protection. Children
belonged to their parents. A measure of security in family life
now became possible and the non-legal union swung into being as
a way of family organization-a thing previously impossible for
all but a negligible -few of the servile class. Thus the free plantation
became, in its own right, the matrix of a complex of ideas and
practices concerning marriage the roots of which went back into
the system of slavery. The free plantation is indeed the







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


inaugurator of the non-legal union as a social institution. For
although all the elements of this union had already been forged on
the anvil of slavery the slave, we stress once more, did not have a
chance of forming a union 'either durable in time or familistic in
its organization or stable in its anchorage.
Besides being of its very nature a favourable breeding ground
for the non-legal union, the free plantation carried over from
slavery a tradition of indifference to marriage in so far as the servile
I class was concerned. And so, the plantation-symbol of the
social order of its day-can be seen quite clearly to preside at the
formation of public opinion in the matter of non-legal unions for
the populace.
Along with its indifference to marriage as regards the labouring
class, the plantocracy was traditionally and notoriously hostile
to the education of this class. This means that the helpless
inhabitants of the plantation village, already isolated from the
centres of civilization, were further not effectively exposed to the
civilizing influence of Christianity and education. In 1838
Lord Grey, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, instructed
Lord Harris, Governor of Trinidad, that the emancipated should
be made to look to labour on neighboring estates as their main
dependence ". The peasants should be put in circumstances in
which a greater amount of labour than at present shall be required
to supply their wants ".' To meet the educational needs of the
Negro Lord Grey proposed a new type of school. Its object,
Lord Grey pointed out, was to correct the deficiency of labour.
The school programme should be largely industrial. Every school
would have a garden attached to it. And, if possible, a cane field !
This education would create new wants and tastes and would
stimulate a love of employment ". The end in view, comments
the fair-minded historian Mathieson seemed not so much mental
as sugar cultivation ".2 One of the weighty objections to the
implementation of this scheme, reports Mathieson, was the attitude
with which Catholics would view the fate of religious teaching in
such a school. The scheme failed but its hostile spirit towards
the education of the people is unmistakable. And it was the spirit
of the traditional plantation. If anything is clear in the social
history of Trinidad it is this, namely, that the more Christian and
the more civilized the people become the more they abandon the
non-legal union as a way of life. The greater the isolation,
ignorance and illiteracy of the rural population the greater,
generally speaking, is the prevalence and the entrenchment of the
non-legal union.







THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN HERITAGE


One result of his ignorance was that the freed man of the
plantation was ill prepared for the responsibilities of economic
freedom. In 1824 a law was passed enabling slaves to purchase
their freedom. Many preferred to purchase land rather than
freedom. When freedom bells rang out in August, 1838 there
was a mad rush on the part of the freed men to acquire lands.
They bought up lots of fifty by a hundred feet fronting the public
road at $116 a lot, and lots of seventy by a hundred feet
immediately behind at $110 a lot. So widespread was the acquisi-
tion of land and so rapidly did the emancipated settle down into
villages that planters were haunted by the fear that few freed men
would remain working as labourers above a year.s The years
1780 to 1920 constituted the golden age of peasant proprietorship
in Trinidad. Not a great deal of good husbandry was called for.
There was a great deal of wild and irresponsible spending, careless
borrowing, injudicious mortgaging of properties, and blind
improvidence for the future. This was true of all people but more
especially true of the recently emancipated. Despite this tempting
of fate Prosperity flowed with the tide and wealth was there for
the taking. As late as 1939 seventy per cent. of cocoa planters were
persons who cultivated less than ten acres of land, and roughly
half of all land under cocoa was owned by planters having less
than fifty acres each. But already by 1920 a tide of adverse
circumstances had set in. Few were prepared to breast it. The
race of small owners is today practically extinct. The multitude
of small homesteads have been absorbed into the big business
enterprises. Why have so many people lost title to ownership
of their native land ? There were economic factors beyond the
control of the local proprietors. But greater than all these is the
one which seems to be fundamental. And to describe it the words
of Charles S. Johnson in his study of "The Shadow of the
Plantation can be made our own : Such families as escape
from the prevailing economy of dependence into the new
responsibilities which go with independence find economic
complications and shades of social conflict which manifest
themselves in various ways, sometimes prompting them to migration,
but as often leading to resignation and relapse from the owner-
ship status to tenantry."
If the freedman was unprepared for the responsibilities of
economic life, he was still more unprepared for the moral responsi-
bilities of civilized life in the West. Cut adrift from the controls
of the tribal organization, ineffectively exposed to the influence of
Christian religion and education, the freedman was abandoned to
his own designs, that is to say, to the promptings of impulse, the







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


call of passion and the sway of concupiscence. The attitude of
all but two of the slaves on Mrs. Carmichael's estate at Laurel Hill
is revealing and suggestive of a great truth about life within the
orbit of the plantation. These slaves preferred to hang themselves
in the estate forest rather than contemplate monogamous marriage
or, indeed, any binding form of marriage with their own kind.
This attitude on the part of the men was shared by the women
slaves. Why ? Because, as the women put it, on the plantation
" Negers run 'bout here, dere and everywhere "-a statement which
is borne out by a review of the illegitimate birth rate down through
the years. The free people spoke more truly than they perhaps
realized when they explained freedom to mean that there is to
be no massas at all ".4
Unrestraint is not the whole story of the free plantation, that
repository of so many of the traditions of slavery. The shiftlessness
and social stagnation that stem from the one-crop economy helped
to cripple in a newly free people that initiative which was already
so badly broken in the machinery of slavery. Worse still, the
one-crop economy set in motion forces which made for the servile
dependence of the worker upon the landlord, and of both upon
the fluctuation of seasons and markets and the imperatives of
Empire trade. This economy had the effect of binding the worker
hand and foot to the estate owners who themselves were largely
robots in the overall system of the plantation. We took notice of
Lord Grey's directive to make estate labour the main dependence
of the emancipated. His Lordship further directed that the price
of Crown lands be raised very considerably ", that village lots
be sold at a high price ". The Negroes replied to these conditions
by resorting to wholesale squatting. The planters pressed the
Colonial Office hard to obtain the ejection of squatters and the
prevention of squatting. A step in this direction was a change in
the Prisons' regulations which ordered the heads of debtors shaved.
A squatters' riot ensued. A tumultuous deputation was ejected
from the Council Chamber. It retaliated by breaking the windows.
The summoned troops were violently stoned. In reply they fired
upon the crowd killing two persons and wounding one mortally.
The Governor's carriage was pelted, his coachman severely
wounded. Several estates were fired.
Other methods employed to restrict free labour to the estates
were less forcible in character. The following familiar plantation
device needs no commentary. In the second quarter of the
nineteenth century John Lamont was taking practical measures
to ameliorate his labour difficulties in Naparima. (He) sold off
44 small parcels of land at Canaan to emancipated slaves in order







THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN HERITAGE


to settle them on the estate. On these lots they built their own
houses, and worked on the estates, instead of drifting to the towns.
Thus was formed what is known as Bamboo Village at the junction
of the Dumfries Road and the Southern Main Road."5
In the 1860's a nice legal arrangement was made by which the
negroid squatters of 1849 were allowed to retain their holdings.
The move assured the continued supply of produce ", and there
arose a prosperous peasantry whose production swelled the exports
of the Colony ". Sugar exports stepped up from 20,000 tons in
1850 to 67,000 tons in 1879; cacao from less than four million
pounds in 1850 to nearly twelve million pounds in 1879. In
similar strain we read that Owing to the difficulty of securing
adequate capital for carrying on estate cultivation, and with the
additional object of persuading East Indians, whose period of
indenture had expired, to remain in the island, the sugar estates
began, in the nineties, to encourage the production of cane by
peasants for sale to the factory."6 Employers offered the Indians
small tracts of land either rent-free or at a nominal rent. But
there was a condition. The land was to be cultivated in cane and
in food crops, but primarily in cane. Two-thirds of the said
land fully in sugar-cane runs the formula of the contract. The
terms of this contract may be read on page 69 of Council Paper
No. 70 of the year 1926.
Servile economic dependence upon the plantation and the
economic insecurity that was necessarily associated with that
dependence did not help to stabilize or to regularize the shattered
family life of the ex-slave. Moreover, low wages and poor working
conditions seem to be inherent in the plantation economy as known
to tradition. This fact is amply and specifically borne out by an
official document as recent as Command Paper 6179 on Labour
Conditions in the West Indies. The writer may therefore be
dispensed from any further display of the unpalatable details of the
historical evidence. The low wages and working conditions, in
conjunction with the moral and social handicaps of the plantation
previously discussed, have operated to consolidate those low
standards and that low grade mentality which the scourge of
slavery during four hundred years burnt into the souls of the
subject folk. What is the bearing of this on the non-legal union?
It is common knowledge that this low grade mentality constitutes
the moral climate in which the non-legal union flourishes. There
can be no gainsaying that fact.
The arrangements of the plantation, whether in slavery or in
freedom, wrought its evils on all alike, regardless of race. Thus







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


we see lower class free white men on the West Indian slave planta-
tion cultivating the organized non-legal union which their free
Negro counterparts could only pursue effectively on the free
plantation after Emancipation. On this point there is a striking
passage in Mrs. Carmichael's diary:
Before concluding this imperfect sketch of the white
population, I would offer a few observations upon the condition
of the secondary class of whites, with reference chiefly to the
demoralizing influence of slavery upon their characters and
habits,-facts applicable to all West Indian colonies. Slavery
operates prejudiciously on the higher classes ; but its demoralizing
effect operates in a different manner, and still more prejudicially,
upon the lower orders of white people, who, having seldom or
ever any females in their own situation in life to associate with,
and to whom they might be respectably married, they get a
negro (probably belonging to the estate they are employed upon)
to live with them, until they gradually forget their country, and
their early instructions, and become as the expression is, almost
a white negro. These, I think, are the effects of slavery among
those whose business it is to manage slaves. "7

The passage is valuable not only for what it openly states. It is
a solid warning that the existence of the authentic non-legal union
can be explained without recourse to either an African heritage or
to personal or group enslavement on the plantation.

THE AFRICAN HERITAGE
Fragments of the African heritage entered into the moulding
of West Indian attitudes towards marriage in general. Other
fragments lent support to the sexual nomadism of slavery, and yet
other fragments helped to fashion patterns of behaviour within
the non-legal union itself. However, the initiation of the charac-
teristic relationships between the sexes on the slave plantation
was not an ordinance of the African tradition, but rather, and quite
obviously the creation of the machinery of slavery itself. Indeed
the relationships between the sexes on the slave holding represented
an almost complete travesty of the arrangements in West African
society. The abnormal in Yoruba society became the normal on
the Trinidad slave plantation; what was perverse there became
standard here. This was the case, for instance, with sexual relations
between persons who had no intention of getting married. This
was the case, too, with concubinage.
The non-legal union of the West Indies or the organized
family-like concubinage of the free plantation received aid and
comfort not from the standard West African code but from marginal
practices within the twilight zone of that code. And just as the
African heritage did not ordain the nomadic sex arrangements of







THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN HERITAGE


slavery, so also this heritage did not initiate or sponsor the non-
legal union. At most it underscored something which, as history
is there to show, issued directly from the play of factors quite
distinct from the heritage of Africa. If we wish to saddle Africa
with the authorship of the non-legal union of the West Indies then
that responsibility is more nearly correctly placed not on the African
heritage but on the heritage of African abuses-a very different
thing. But even this kind of negative African authorship of the
non-legal union in the West Indies cannot be established from the
relevant facts of the situation.
For firstly, the arrangements of the plantation economy suffice,
as we have already shown, to explain the emergence of the
authentic non-legal union among lower class plantation folk of
both races, or indeed of any race. In the case of the Negro, if we
take into account the sexual anarchy of his slavery background, the
impact upon him of the supervening agency of the plantation in
freedom offers an even fuller explanation of the origins of the non-
legal union.
Secondly, those who propound the African heritage theory in
respect of the non-legal union rest their case on two traditions or
institutions in the culture of West African society, namely, polygyny
or the plurality of wives, and concubinage. Now polygyny and
concubinage as practised in West Africa, and particularly so in
Yoruba land, constitute a singularly insecure foundation upon
which to base the theory in question.
What is the frequency and distribution of polygyny among
the Yoruba? Polygyny is of two kinds. It is, reports Father
Ward, simple or multiple. It is simple when one man has from
two to four wives. It is multiple where a husband has five or
more wives, acquired in the usual marriage fashion. Although
multiple polygynous unions are to be found in every district
however remote, it can be stated as a general rule that where
polygyny exists it is of the simple type. Father Ward says that I
both from systematic observation and from the analysis of popula-
tion statistics, the practice of polygyny cannot be very wide- *"
spread, and it is certainly not as widespread as is commonly believed.
In the Official Government Statistics of 1912 the Yoruba people
were numbered as follows : Males, 996,320 ; females, 1,117,091 ;
total, 2,113,411. Percentage of totals : Males 47%
females, 53%/o. According to these figures there were, when
taken analytically, in every one hundred persons in the Yoruba
population, six more females than males ..... If we are to
place any reliance on the carefully prepared government statistics
which tell us of the relative equality of the sexes, and on the fact
that the majority of males find a mate sometime in life, we are
forced to the conclusion that the number of (polygynous) unions
cannot be so very high. "s







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


And in the accumulation of wives, even among the big men,
sex interest plays only a minor part; in some cases only a rela-
tively slight part. The achievement of status is the major interest.

( The majority of the marriages, as far as he sees, are, Father
Ward insists, monogamous, that is, one man is married to one
woman. This form is rarely found among the marriage unions
-of kings, chiefs, or people with money. I have never known a
pagan chief to be monogamous. And in the whole of the land,
only a few of those chiefs who profess to be Christian are content
with one wife. Among the rank and file, however, monoge;ay is
the common form."9 As the overwhelming majority of West
Indian slaves were rank and file it is evident that they boasted no
heritage of the practice of polygyny. It is therefore difficult to
see how this heritage enters as a factor in the production of the
non-legal union so universally and so suddenly all at once. This
solution is unnecessarily far-fetched.
The case for West African concubinage as a start for the non-
legal union in the New World rests on no better foundations than
the case for polygyny. Concubinage as a cultural unit in the
West Indies can be shown to be essentially different from the cul-
tural unit which constitutes concubinage in West African society.
Once more we must revert to Yoruba land because of its intimate
and necessary connection with Afro-West Indian society in Trinidad.
There are two component parts of concubinage as a social insti-
tution. There is the external fact of the marital union of two
people outside of wedlock, and then there is the other and more
important element of the social significance of the external fact
within a particular society. The social significance is revealed by
the attitude of society towards the external fact. The same fact
may be viewed and valued differently in different societies, and
this will alter its true character and meaning from society to society.
Unless we take the whole institution, body and soul, matter and
meaning, it is impossible to tell whether an institution is really
common to two or more given societies. One man's meat may be
another man's poison. The glory of one is the shame of another.
When concubinage in Trinidad is compared in this way with
concubinage among the Yoruba the result is not a comparison but a
contrast.
The external fact is the same in Trinidad as in Africa or in
any other part of the globe. But the social attitudes towards the
Sfact in Trinidad and in Yoruba land are poles apart. Among the
Yoruba there exists a truly formidable public censure against







THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN HERITAGE


concubinage, not indeed on moral but on social grounds. Let me
quote from Ward.'"

In the Yoruba country, public opinion is not against a man
living with a concubine. People do not see anything morally
wrong in the sexual angle of that ..... It seems to be chiefly the
question of status which is involved. The chief means of acquiring
status in the Yoruba country is by paying the dowry for a number
of wives and by taking them with ceremonies in the accustomed
way. A man pushes up his social position a peg with every wife
he acquires. Concubines do not count much. They are not
included among the legitimately acquired wives. Social status
means too much to the ordinary native for him to neglect this."
(p. 16).

People speak derisively of a woman acquired without the
customary marriage ceremonies as a 'lover', a concubine in other
words" (p. 15). Again, "A girl attached to the harem of a
polygynist without having had the marriage ceremony performed,
occupies, in the opinion of society, a lower place in the harem than
do the other wives. Dowry may have been handed bver for her
and in reality her husband may class her among his wives, but the
people do not see this. There has been no marriage ceremony
performed. Consequently, the girl's people are not slow to cry out
against a husband who might want to follow this course. The
girl herself is very apt to resent such treatment for the same reason
and may give him plenty of trouble in his marital experience if he
persists. On the other hand, when the full marriage has taken
place, both she and her group are always proud to advertise the
fact in order to show the world that she has the full status of a
wife (pp. 16, 17). Among the Yoruba, concubinage is resorted
to by daredevils and by those who hope to escape detection by
absorption into the harem of a rich man's married wives, or who
hope to deflect social criticism by attachment to a single man
of overwhelming social prestige.
The Yoruba attitude towards unwed mothers is also note-
worthy. The unwed mother is usually debarred from getting
married in the ordinary ceremonial way. She has lost status and
her parents will not receive the full dowry or bride-price for her.
Here again it is the loss of social status and not the stigma of giving
birth to a child outside of wedlock that matters. No such stigma
seems to be present as a general rule. Such a depreciated girl is
nearly always certain to find a man with whom to live, who will
protect and care for her and the child in return for services.
Concubinage in this case is a refugium peccatorum, and, as before,
the status of the girl will be beneath that of legitimately married
women."






CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


How does the Trinidad situation compare with the West
African? It is true that in Trinidad the concubine, both in her own
eyes and in those of her social set as well as of society at large, is
held to be socially quite beneath the respectable married woman";
it is true that when she succeeds in pulling off a marriage the
Trinidad concubine, like her African counterpart, is proud and
eager to advertise the fact in order to show the world that she has
the full status of a wife. It is also true that among the lower classes
in Trinidad parents themselves sometimes give their daughter in
concubinage to a bigger man if formal marriage is not forth-
coming. But here the similarities end. And, be it noted, these
points of similarity are not characteristic of Africa and the West
Indies; they are commonly associated with concubingae in most
parts of the Western world. And as to parental connivance in a
concubinal arrangement for their daughters, that is easily and
naturally explained by the circumstances surrounding a girl of
humble and insecure station, or of uncertain prospects, particularly
if she has happened to conceive in fault for a bigger man or
even for one who is not so big but who is able to fend for his
own and for her support. Such negotiations with lower class white
and other men by free coloured mothers in the interest of their own
daughters were notorious in nineteenth century Trinidad society,
and are recorded by Mrs. Carmichael: The majority of (coloured)
parents have little anxiety upon the subject; and to make a good
bargain-that is, a good legal settlement for their daughter-is all
they aim at; and if this be properly and legally managed, they
consider marriage of little import." And when the connexion is
with a white man the coloured women always glory in the tie.""'
The tempting similarities suggesting lineage between African
and West Indian concubinage lose their plausibility when confronted
with the significant differences between the two. And not only
this; the West Indian features of resemblance then appear to be
quite fortuitous and to form no part of the genuine African article.
Is the West Indian concubine the object of derision or of carping
criticism in her social set or in society at large? Not at all. On the
contrary, while her state is not admired, she is the object of a sort
of benign sympathy, the sort of sympathy with which one looks
upon the victim of a necessary evil. I am not saying that concu-
binage is a necessary evil; I am saying that whereas in Africa the
evil is a deliberate choice contrary to accepted standards and duly
castigated, in the West Indies the lower class patrons of concu-
binage generally seem to feel that they have little or no choice in the
matter. Hence the attitude towards them of that certain kind of
sympathy so difficult to describe because so complex. Complex







THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN HERITAGE


because it proceeds from a dual outlook by which one part of the
mind, so to speak, sympathizes, and the other part disapproves on
both social and religious grounds. Disapproval, overt or covert,
on religious and moral grounds is another difference that puts
West Indian concubinage in an entirely different category from
the African institution.
Again: Do lower class West Indian parents cry out and take
vigorous action against a suitor who plans to enter into concubinage
with their daughter? Not indeed; they almost encourage him.
There are, of course, exceptions. Does the West Indian girl candi-
date for concubinage resent that course, or does she plot reprisals
on the man if she is forced into that state? She is the most obliging
and obsequious partner in the world, incomparably more obsequious
and obliging than lawfully married women are, and more obliging
than she herself will be when she succeeds in pulling off that marriage.
Her attitude is explained by her need of security on the one hand,
and on the other by the absence of public censure. Is West Indian
concubinage a refugium peccatorum in the sense of a hiding place
or an escape for fallen girls? It is this in some instances. But in
general it is neither hiding place nor escape; nor is it reserved for
women fallen by strange men but is an ordinary career for a man
and his chosen spouse.
Considered as a whole or complete social phenomenon, that is,
considered as an organic social institution, concubinage in the West
Indies does not appear to derive from its African counterpart.
It is more simply and more naturally and historically explained
independently of specific West African influence. And, finally,
concubinage in the West Indies turns out, upon close examination,
to be essentially different from that item in West Africa. The
connection between the two things in the concrete is external and
accidental, and the integral West Indian article is naturally well
explained without recourse to African concubinage.
In summary, then, it is my finding thatWest African polygamy
and West African concubinage have no significant bearing upon the
structure and the patterns of behaviour within the non-legal
union in the West Indies. I am satisfied, however, that there are
portions of the West African heritage which have exerted a direct
and substantial influence on certain West Indian attitudes towards
marriage in general, and upon certain patterns of behaviour within
the non-legal union in particular. Not even slavery and the
plantation could fashion the West Indian Negro out of nothing.
Only God can do that. The slave could not help bringing to the
plantation that which he was. It was upon what the Negro was







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


that slavery wrought and the plantation in freedom re-wrought.
It is therefore important to know what the rank and file Negro was
and thought and did for ages and ages in West Africa before he
came as a slave to the West Indies. And here we are concerned
with the field of marriage organization only.
Among the Yoruba a man usually has sex relations before
formal marriage with the first girl whom he is engaged to wed.
As the rank and file marry but one wife it can be said generally
that among the Yoruba the engaged usually get to know each
other sexually before marriage. The purpose of this relationship is
to find out whether the girl can conceive.'3 Because this practice
is so universal among the Yoruba it is easy to see the connection
between it and similar beliefs among the descendants of the Yoruba
in the West Indies. There is a lingering belief in Trinidad that
sexual intercourse as between persons engaged to be married does
not fall under the proscriptions of the sixth and ninth command-
ments of the Decalogue. It is also common to find concubines
postponing marriage on the ground that the woman must first
" prove herself ", that is, bear a child. For, says the man, I do
not want to marry a mule.
Another important item with the Yoruba is solemnization of
the marriage ceremony and the great emphasis on the elaborate-
ness of the festival to follow. These rituals are intended both to
mark and to augment social prestige. Forms of marriage cere-
monial differ from region to region, tribe to tribe, and even within
the same tribes. Of the forms best known all include a bridal
procession involving a great deal of conference with the prospective
bridegroom. In remote regions the procession also involves
considerable ceremonial ill-treatment of the bridegroom by the
parents, relatives and friends of the bride. In all cases the formal
marriage ceremony ends with the introduction or admission of the
bride to his home by the bridegroom. This is the moment and the
ceremony of climax. On the night of the wedding all are enter-
tained lavishly by the host, the bridegroom, and the night is spent
in a riot of song, drunkenness and dance. The elaborate enter-
tainment provides plenty of the best pounded yams of the place,
good, well-cooked bush meat and palm wine in abundance." The
feast is dear to the heart of every Yoruba. All look forward to it.
It costs them nothing and the host spends himself and is spent
even though he may have to go begging for the future."'' In
Trinidad we know with what eagerness neighbours and friends
look forward to the freeness of a wedding feast. And the
West Indian attaches such importance to the elaborateness of his







THE PLANTATION AND THE AFRICAN HERITAGE


wedding festival that, unlike other Western peoples who also love
wedding pomp and splendour, he would rather not go through
with the wedding ceremony if he cannot provide the elaborate
festivity. Once more the connection between this distinctive
trait and its West African archetype is easily and naturally
established.
The sexual liberty allowed married men among the Yoruba is
also pertinent to behaviour within the non-legal union. It is by
no means the whole explanation of extra-marital relationships,
but since all husbands practised it in the old country it cannot but
be an influence on the conduct of the male partner in the new
country. The liberties allowed in the West African code grew in
part out of the lengthy periods of abstention from his wife during
pregnancy and lactation imposed by the tribal code. Partly also
out of consideration for the man who was financially unable to
afford the price of a new wife." This man may, without incurring
the censure of his people, have recourse to outside women. A
certain type of woman with whom married men thus associate is
designated a friend ". The West Indian expression "to be
friendin with somebody is used in exactly the same way as among
the Yoruba.






CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


CHAPTER V

A FIELD SURVEY

THE non-legal union is an attempt to rebuild the solidarity of
the family disintegrated by the attack of slavery and the New World
plantation. Strangely, the non-legal union emerged in a country
which was Christian in profession, Western by allegiance, and in
an era of freedom. Why did not the effort of family re-organization
follow the Christian and Western patterns all the way through
instead of adopting these patterns in certain respects only ?
Why is the non-legal union so heavily seasoned with the salt of
abject servile dependence and servile indignity ? It may be that
the country while Christian in principle was only initially Christian
in practice ; that while theoretically it was all Western in allegiance,
in fact it was Western only in spots and in varying degrees;
that while it was free constitutionally, it was not spiritually free
from the chains of slavery: An answer to these queries is given in
the present chapter which undertakes to isolate the factors
operative in the non-legal union, by means of a sociological
field survey.
In the field survey we follow the progression of family organiza-
tion from the remote districts or villages through the intermediate
rural towns to the urban or urbanized areas. Six villages, two
rural towns, and three urban areas are reviewed in this way.
The purpose of this survey is to test whether the presence or absence
of the non-legal union varies concomitantly with the presence or
absence of a given set of conditions in the remote village, the town
and the urban centre. If the variations are found to correspond
mutually, then it is a logical conclusion that the presence or absence
of the given conditions is causally connected with the existence of
the non-legal union. The set of conditions has to do with active
remnants or projections of the institution of Alavery, the exposure
to Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, the
diffusion of Western civilization, the level of education, social
status, the economic standards and the moral climate of the
plantation economy. Once more, if this set of conditions is present
where the non-legal union is present, and absent where it is also
absent, then this set of conditions is a causal factor of the non-
legal union. And the same is true if the prevalence of the non-
legal union is proportionate to the prevalence of these conditions
and vice versa. It is not necessary that all these conditions be







A FIELD SURVEY


present together. It is sufficient that a few of them of decisive
importance be present together.

REMOTE DISTRICTS
1. The North-East County of St. David. The great majority
of peasants in this county originally came from the neighboring
island-ward of Tobago, 18 miles distant across the sea. Because of
the thin, scattered, and more or less Tobagonian population, the
five districts of this culture area with their 1,200 people have been
studied as one district in order to arrive at substantial results.
The principal district is Toco which often gives its name to the
whole area. This region is reached either on foot or by occasional
motor traffic all or part of the way. In either case the trip, at the
time of this survey in 1944, was a terrible ordeal. If one travels by
the irregular bus connection from Port-of-Spain, dark, dead,
night may close in on you in the dense tropic jungle. Agriculture
is the principal occupation. Until very recently the inhabitants
settled in barrack rooms on village lots owned by large estate
proprietors. In recent years many peasants in this area acquired
five and six acre lots under a Government Land Settlement
scheme. There are about half a dozen upper class residents;
a handful of civil officials, nearly all strangers, and a few native
petty proprietors constitute the middle class. The lower class
comprises the remainder of the population, our chief object of
study.
Some of this group live in shanties built of undressed timber
with roofs of palm leaves and partitions made of strips of roseau,
a timbrous tropical reed. Members of this group shun estate
work, grow just what is necessary to keep them alive, and for meat
they hunt wild game on moonlight nights. Another group occupies
barrack rooms on large estates. Their bed is the floor and their
mats are cocoa bags lent by the estate manager. Persons in this
group migrate from estate to estate spending a year or less at each.
They work for the estate about three days altogether every week,
taking the rest of the week to themselves. A third group hires
itself out on the estates for most of the time. Few in any group
can read, and fewer still are able to write. They change religions
frequently, but the Seventh Day Adventists seem to attract the
majority. There is a sprinkling of Shouter Baptists. Originally,
the people of Toco, in the main migrants from the island of Tobago,
were chiefly Anglicans and Moravians. There are two and a half
times as many Protestants as Catholics in this overwhelmingly
Negro district.' People are remote from churches and recreation
centres. Superstitious beliefs and practices, especially Obeah,







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


are said to be stronger here than elsewhere in Trinidad. African
cults are prevalent. A few Obeahmen who are also bush "
doctors ply a lucrative trade. Their knowledge and use of medicinal
herbs are remarkable. People go to the extent of selling their cows,
goats, pigs, &c., in order to avail themselves of the Obeah doctor's
skill and advice.
In this district, truly remote from civilization and difficult
of access, the form of marital union known popularly as living in
sin is a commonplace. So much so that a resident observer
there, in an otherwise detailed and colourful report, completely
overlooked that phenomenon. In 1931, according to the census
For that year, there were three times as many illegitimately born
children as legitimates. One hundred and fifty couples lived in
wedlock. The high rate of illegitimacy here, as in most rural
districts of Trinidad, is a pretty reliable index to the prevalence
of the non-legal union.
The attitude towards marriage in St. David, the most north-
easterly corner of Trinidad, is comparable to the same attitude in
Brighton, a small industrial asphalt district in the deep South,
nestled among a plantation people in a plantation area. Very few
of the inhabitants know who is the Governor of Trinidad, or who
is their representative on the Legislative Council. According to
a resident observer posted there, and a community leader, the
non-legal union is rather an accepted custom" among
Brightonians. Marriage is not taken seriously ", even though
wages and working conditions are comparatively good and
relatively far superior to working conditions in Toco or any other
primarily agricultural district. Couples live together as man and
wife for years, some practically all their adult life with apparently
no social compunction ". Yet there is a distinct feeling of social
inferiority to those in the married state. The attitude of the
community towards young unattached mothers is reported to be
" compromising" ; and young women seemed unblushingly
willing and happy mothers of illegitimate children. This Negro
community, interspersed with a few Chinese shopkeepers and some
East Indians, was twice visited by the writer in the course of this
research. The barrack yard system, a relic of the plantation,
is still much in evidence even in the lay-out of certain more
comfortable" company buildings assigned for workers' families.
Superstitious beliefs and practices are rampant. African cults
are resorted to much. Recourse is had to notorious Obeahmen
in outlying areas.
2. The North-West County of St. George. Blanchisseuse is a
north coast district. Its inhabitants, who are nearly all Catholic,







A FIELD SURVEY


are partly the descendants of French Negroes, and partly Spanish
Negroids. There is a sprinkling of aboriginal Carib Indian.
This place is very difficult of access at any time, even in 1951.
No motor car, at the time of the survey in 1945, would enter upon
that tortuous and dangerously hilly road without a special govern-
ment permit. In the rainy season there might have been no road.
In 1942 there was one bicycle in the district, in 1943 there were
five, and nine in 1944.2 A truck conveys the villagers' garden
produce to the towns once or twice a week. In recent years a
government bus moves people in and out of the district twice a day.
The great extent of land under minor's property is one token of
the strong family and kinship feeling there. Illiteracy is high,
the village school notwithstanding ; illegitimacy is extraordinarily
high. The illegitimately born in 1940 were five times as many as
the legitimates. The population which was 800 in 1931 rose to
1,000 in 1944.3 In 1931, the total number of married persons was
161 or 20 per cent. of the population. In 1945, ninety per cent.
of the 140 families were found to be living in non-legal households.4
Occupations were fishing in the fishing season, gardening, work on
the public roads, and estate or plantation work. All people perform
all these types of activity according to convenience and disposition.
An enterprising American woman from New York runs a much
sought but truly rustic beach hotel which contrives to feature a
"Blue Room". Shades of New York's Hotel Lincoln!
There is no Obeahman in the district, but the superstitious are
known to leave the district in search of his ministrations. Of the
three researchers who together covered this area, one resided there
for three years and did continuing research under specific direction
of this writer.

There is nothing like "blue rooms" in the mountain fastness
of La Pastora, a Catholic village of Spanish Negroids. Until the
very recent housing project the population was about 400.
The compactness of this small village of peasant proprietors and
the general uniformity of its ways rendered a statistical survey
unnecessary for the purposes of this study. The attitude there
towards marriage and the family was observed by one who resided
there continuously for three years, acquiring in the process a perfect
knowledge of the folkways of this strictly agricultural community
in which he was ranked as a blood cousin by the La Pastorians.
He would have been quite unwelcome if the villagers could not
find some way of incorporating him into their family pattern.
There is no Obeahman, but the usual West Indian beliefs and
superstitions are active. Illiteracy is high.







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


Adolescent girls are withheld from free association with boys
of their own age or above. The women of the village notify a
mother of her daughter's companionship with any particular boy.
Thereupon the village elders, in this instance, the women, are
consulted. They approve of the match if in their judgment the
young man suits the girl. He suits if he is one who would
be acceptable to the family if trouble comes ". Approval or
disapproval of the suitor rests entirely with the old women.
If trouble comes to the girl from an acceptable suitor, she is com-
forted by all. If he is not favourably connected with the family
she is treated with contempt. Nevertheless, efforts to marry the
couple are always made by those interested. The young man
however is usually not inclined, but he does all that is required of a
father for the welfare of the prospective mother and child.
Once the child is born all adverse opinion against an unsuitable
father is at end ; the birth of the child is the signal for joy in the
family and neighbourhood. Birth in or out of wedlock then
becomes a matter of complete indifference to the family, the
community, the child, and its mother. By this time, the child's
parents are living together in the non-legal union, and to all
appearances, with the implicit or explicit agreement of their
families and the folk community in general. The majority of
marital unions in this district are non-legal, and are formed in this
way. The efforts made by the interested families to marry the
couple point to the respectability which attaches to marriage in
this as in other rural communities. By implication a certain
social reproach is felt about living together without being married.
Among their fellows non-legal partners seem to experience no
social compunction about their marital status. But the moment
they are confronted with the company of married people,
particularly of those a trifle better off socially, it is with blushing
resignation or ruffled embarrassment that they admit they are
not married.
These Catholic people of La Pastora actually harbour an
ambition, be it ever so ineffectual, to enter the married state ;
and they make an effort, be it ever so feeble, to do so. Above all
they strive not to be overtaken by death in the throes of an
unmarried union. It is a sheer farce to say, as some do, that such
folk, either as individuals or as a community, give genuine and
unreserved sanction to the non-legal marital union. They are
really never completely comfortable about it, as we said before.
This in itself betrays the absence of a genuine sanction of the non-
legal way of life. This malaise differs in degree from individual
to individual, and from community to community, but it is a fact







A FIELD SURVEY


which, if not universally present, is at least generally, that is,
almost always present, and in almost every village, Catholic or
Protestant. It may be that certain foreign researchers fail to see it
partly because they come prepared not to see it, and partly because
they are not the right persons with the right tools to get at this
kind of moral and social reality. Four hundred years of Christian
preaching have meant something to Trinidad and the West Indies.
3. The Middle West and West. Todds Road is a small and
strictly plantation village neatly tucked away in a pocket of the
mid-west, skirting the great sugar belt of the Caroni Plain.
It is a halt on the Princes Town railroad. The population, which
is Negro, with a little Spanish admixture, rises at 5.30 a.m. to the
loud and weird blasts of the conch shell on the neighboring estates.
By 6.30 all workers, men and women, are assembled in the estate
yard to receive their task assignments for the day. From there
they scatter in the various fields of sugar-cane and cocoa whence
they return home about 4.30 p.m. The inhabitants are of diverse
religious persuasions, but a good many are Catholic. All are
served by the one little Catholic school in the district. The teachers
in this school, in good village tradition, are nearly all of them
native or naturalized Todds Roadites. Villagers live in the usual
mud shacks with thatched roof and partial or total wooden floors.
A wooden house with iron roof indicates a man of parts.
The poorest live in one room tenements in barrack ranges. In 1945,
some 80 per cent. of the adult inhabitants lived in sin ", the
majority of children were born illegitimate.5 The attitude towards
their children and the non-legal union is similar to what it was in
La Pastora or Blanchisseuse. That is to say, although in practice
marriage is little patronized, yet, on divers public occasions non-
legal partners manifest a renewed awareness of sin and even of
social compunction. A noted occasion of religious compunction
among Catholics is the period for the fulfilment of the annual
Easter duty from which public sinners are debarred. Much social
embarrassment is also shown when the Census Officer asks for the
facts on marital status. An occasion of both social and religious
compunction is the christening of illegitimates on a different day
and with less external solemnity than that decreed for legitimates
by the Church.
Further West and less remote than any so far considered is the
village of St. John, ten miles to the east of Port-of-Spain, the capital
of Trinidad. This village is in an interesting transition stage from
remote district to rural town. Perched on the foothills of Mount
St. Benedict it contained a population of 400 in 1945 exclusive of
the settlers in Japan ", a one-year-old settlement of expatriated







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


villagers from Caura, a former adjacent and twin village to La
Pastora. The St. John folk are Negro with Spanish admixtures.
They are chiefly agricultural workers, but also tradesmen and
chauffeurs. Most, if not all the families, own a plot of land and
their little house. Every roof of the eighty homes in St. John was
of galvanized iron, a sign of progress and relative prosperity. The
village boasts four modern villas that would adorn the middle
class residential quarter on the West side of Los Angeles, California.
Thirty years ago St. John was a remote little peasant com-
munity. The married families could have beencounted on the fingers
of less than one hand. Nearly all persons were then, as now,
Catholic. The villagers, generally, either regard living in sin "
with apparently great indifference or have no articulated opinion
on it, that is, when it concerns people in the humbler walks of life.
Their comments on better-off persons living the non-legal way are
reproachful and uncomplimentary. Objections to this mode of
life as regards humble folk may be raised in its preparatory or initial
stages. And here we see the disapproving mind. If, however,
the parties concerned are stubborn and go through with their plans,
the objections are silenced and the community settles down to
accept the situation. There have been instances of this type of
community reaction in the fairly recent past, and there was another
case a year or two ago. In every day routine affairs no social
distinction is made between persons in wedlock and persons living
in the non-legal fashion. Absolutely no social barriers are erected,
not even by the lawfully married.
The majority of people agree that marriage, because of the
social respectability it confers, is of the greatest importance in
starting a family. To be respectable one must marry, an irregular
marital union is not fair to one's children. In thirty years,
St. John's has become marriage conscious. In 1945 there were only
three families living in sin, and these families were either wholly or
partly not native to the village. Families which formerly adhered
to the non-legal pattern have either got married or broken up the
union. This is a process with which the Benedictine monastery
overlooking the village from the hilltop had quite a lot to do. The
traditional St. John mentality on marriage is however, accurately
depicted as follows: Non-legal unions are in practice though not
in theory a sort of preliminary to Christian marriage; somewhere
in the recesses of their hearts and minds the partners secrete an
intention and a desire to marry. For a variety of inter-locking
reasons, social and economic, domestic and legal and historical,
they feel they cannot make the grade ". An alliance is struck
up, avowedly to see what resources both can together combine.







A FIELD SURVEY


The alliance is not always planned in this way. A chance affair may
have gotten a girl into trouble ". Rather than see the girl put
out of her home, or maltreated, the man sets up a temporary
home of his own waiting to be overtaken by better times, and
marriage. This attitude is clearly far removed from approval
and sanction of the non-legal union as a standard.

CONCLUSION FOR REMOTE COUNTRY DISTRICTS
Although not general, the non-legal union is widespread in the
rural areas. In certain districts it is general, covering as it does,
80 to 90 per cent. of all marital unions. The prevailing folk atti-
tude towards this type of union is pretty general. That is to say,
nearly all folk people, regardless of their own marital status, accept
though they do not approve, recognize though they do not sanction,
do not show any active concern about, or are indifferent to, the
phenomenon when it affects the humbler classes. It might perhaps
be said with greater correctness that they, for reasons of what they
consider practical necessity, approve it with one part of their
minds; and for certain other social and religious motives disapprove
with another part of their minds. Nevertheless, all persons,
including non-legal families, exhibit a regard and respect for the
married state and married people which they do not accord to the
non-legal state and non-legal partners. The illegitimate status of
the children issuing from the non-legal union is hardly a question in
the minds of remote villagers in routine daily affairs. The non-
legal union is entered into shrewdly and hopefully, and with hardly
any externally noticeable qualms of conscience except in situations
of social or religious embarrassment. At times non-legal partners
put up a moral defence of their conduct, usually a plea of necessity
under the circumstances.
In the remote country district the non-legal union is drawn
against a plantation background, and usually in an actual planta-
tion setting. It is tied up with physical and social remoteness,
its principal patrons are folk of humble social status. Occupational
differences within the given social context seem to be irrelevant to
the appeal of the non-legal union. Even where actual plantation
conditions no longer exist or have been substantially modified, as
in Brighton and St. John, the mental attitude developed towards
the non-legal union in the plantation past persists.
The non-legal pattern is not restricted to people of any parti-
cular religious creed or particular racial stock. In the minds of
folk partners there is an implicit general desire for marriage. All
people manifest a consciousness of sin, which they keep alive in
the common self-reproaching expression living in sin ". This







52 CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY

consciousness seems to be more vividly developed in Catholic
communities because of the more frequent impact of certain rules
and practices of the Catholic Church. The non-legal union is
adapted by so-called force of circumstance, or by free personal
choice. It is monogamic, at least in theory, and is governed by an
unwritten but clearly recognisable code. Superstitious beliefs and
practices abound wherever the pattern prevails. Illiteracy and
general ignorance likewise.







A FIELD SURVEY


CHAPTER VI

A FIELD SURVEY

RURAL TOWNS

A DISTINCTION must be drawn between non-plantation and
plantation towns. Non-plantation townsmen are artisans, clerks
civil servants, school-teachers, mechanics, general workers, traders.
On the whole they are neither directly nor absolutely dependent
for a living on estate or plantation work. Such a town is Arima,
and also Tunapuna, as regards the majority of its creole West
Indian population. Plantation towns are directly and absolutely
dependent, or nearly so, on plantation work for wages and prosperity.
The people are more rural than town in their outlook, and the
plantation supplies the dynamic of all life. In the matter of non-
legal unions there is no anpreciable difference between such towns
and the remote country districts. Such towns are Sangre Grande
(prior to United States base construction work during World War II),
Couva, and Chaguanas in the heart of a sugar zone, and Princes
Town, another living sugar town in the South.
In rural towns as distinct from plantation towns there is a greater
or lesser number of people, marginal men, who follow the non-legal
pattern. Again these are rustics in their education, outlook,
immediate surroundings and general behaviour. Sociologically
they may, broadly speaking, be catalogued with the remote country
districts. And so we need not consider them here. It is the
" forward looking townspeople proper who show a significantly
different attitude towards non-legalism. These townspeople belong
to the middle and upper classes as well as to the lower class. All of
them are very conscious of the respectable and respected society
about them, and all struggle to maintain or to improve their social
position.
The townswomen in the lower class never cease prodding
their men to marry them. There is a sort of race to inveigle one's
" keeper into marriage. The pace grows hotter as competition
and the opportunities for promiscuity increase. Female quarrels,
threats of separation, pleas for just treatment and fair settlement
are aired. Some of the most persistent women of this class are
found in that numerically considerable section which has given not
only companionship and toil to their reputed husbands, but also
worthwhile financial help drawn from the opportunities for good
earning possible to them in the towns and urbanized areas.






CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


The significantly different attitude of the townspeople towards
non-legalism may be noticed in the apologetic explanation which
they offer the public for their conduct. In all social classes illicit
pregnancy is an accident ", or a misfortune ". The higher the
social status the more painful and the more regrettable the
" accident ". Other things equal, the townsman involved in these
complications usually marries the girl after a while. Living in
sin is rationalized as making the best of a bad case in order to do
" the half way right thing and take the burden off the girl's family.
Economic need, lower class women tell you, drove them into non-
legal unions which seemed to be the lesser of two evils, namely,
living with one man instead of running around with many. In the
middle classes the parties will not associate in a non-legal union.
These conclusions are the results of surveys carried out in the
townships of Tunapuna and Arima, and of several thousand case
studies conducted independently through a period of years.
Arima is an old Catholic town of about 7,500 residents of whom
a third is now Protestant. Twenty-five per cent. of the township
were married persons in 1942.1 In 1939 the illegitimately born
were one and a half times as numerous as the legitimately born.2
The resident field observer lived in his town twenty-one years.
Tunapuna is a frontier town ethnographically, socially, and in
religious composition. In 1942 there were 9,000 inhabitants.
According to a field observer who has resided there for fifteen
years, the Tunapuna attitude towards illegitimacy is one of benign
complacency ". This remark does not apply generally to the
middle class townspeople, but the following one includes every-
body. So far as Tunapuna is concerned ", the report states,
" The mere fact of illegitimate birth in no wise debars anyone's
progress or alienates him from his just due as a human being, as a
unit of society, in business and other affairs. . . Legitimate
children generally recognize illegitimate brothers and sisters.
.... This attitude is extended to more distant illegitimate relatives.
Occasionally fathers tend to seek or to effect the admission of their
illegitimate offspring into their own legitimate circle. One thing is
certain: no slur whatsoever attaches to illegitimacy in Tunapuna"
i.e., in every day routine affairs. The same is true of Arima.
Not infrequently in the country towns accidents and
mistakes involve a boy of better social standing and a girl
of inferior status. An appreciable portion of the female population
in rural towns is composed of women of the humbler classes who
almost invariably take to domestic service. It is with this type of
girl that a better class boy sometimes becomes involved. This sort
of case affords the clearest insight into the significant town attitude






A FIELD SURVEY


of rejection as regards the non-legal union. Pressure is brought to
bear upon the boy to mind the child. No pressure is exerted
to make him marry the girl. There is no thought of asking him to
live with her non-legally. The paramount question is whether
the man is going to acknowledge his responsibility, pay expenses
incidental to childbirth, and underwrite the upbringing and educa-
tion of the child. If he meets his obligations all is well; if he
refuses, he may be sued for maintenance in a court of law.
What of the middle class girl who gets into a rural town
accident "? She will rarely be compromised with any man who
is not of equal or superior social status. She will be the butt
of reproach of her family, but hardly by anyone else. Everyone
is sorry for her. Social compunction is predominant, and moral
compunction hardly less so. Whether or not the girl retains her
social dignity depends upon the social standing of the man through
whom she has conceived. If he is married, or is party to a non-
legal union, her social circle may gradually cut her loose, eventually
forcing her to find new friends. If the man is a bachelor the possi-
bility of marriage is open. She will still be reproached at home,
but her social acceptance is hardly affected. The parents of the
middle class girl do everything in their power to induce the middle
class man to marry their daughter and make her a lady ". While
the parents are busy about their daughter's dignity she avoids the
public gaze as much as possible. Should the parents fail in their
objective, or should they deem the boy too far beneath them socially,
the situation is dismissed as a bad job ". Bad jobs frequently
terminate in law suits for the maintenance of the illegitimate child.
The anxiety of the rural town middle class to avoid motherhood
out of wedlock is illustrated by an extraordinarily interesting case.
A girl visited with a boy and his family at some distance from her
own home. In the week following this visit she wrote asking the
boy to accept paternity for the child she had conceived, and to
marry her, pleading that she was a young, unmarried girl still
in her mother's house ", i.e., of fair name and good repute.
She became a mother six months after the alleged first visit to
this boy. This was the boy's story. It may or may not be true
in every detail. The important thing to note here is the girl's
impulsive reaction to the uncomfortable prospect of motherhood
outside marriage.
In rural towns one comes across what may be called sophisti-
cated concubinage. This is not the authentic non-legal union of
simple folk. It is anti-legal, being a more or less planned and
conscious defiance of moral principle, and the exploiting of a
particular social situation. Marriage is excluded from the start






CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


by at least one party. Here, too, the consciousness of sin is evident.
An extreme but clear instance of the attitude behind the sophisti-
cated union is that of the man who snarled at his mate : 'is two
things you won't see : God's face and my ring." Industrial
workers, chauffeurs, commuters, frontiermen and women of sea-
port and inland town are notoriously conspicuous in this context.
This type of sophisticated concubinage evidences the further
disintegration of family life under the impact of modern influences.

CONCLUSIONS FOR RURAL TOWN
Social respectability is highly prized by the townsfolk proper
who are all extremely ambitious to attain it. This respectability
consists in respect and social esteem for persons in the married
state. When one gets married, one has arrived ". Middle class
townspeople shun the non-legal union, the humbler townsman
makes use of it with an apology or a rationalization. All towns-
people proper are embarrassed by prospective motherhood outside
wedlock. Blame is attached to the girl ; economic responsibility
is fixed upon the man who will not be pressed to marry by the
humbler classes. He will be pressed by the socially better placed
if he is socially acceptable. No social stigma attaches to the
illegitimate child in ordinary everyday matters either in Catholic
Arima or in frontier Tunapuna. The members of the rural town
groups here reviewed are nearly all literate. Their economic
position is respectable, while their social status carried a certain
prestige in their community.

URBAN AND SUBURBAN AREAS
Port-of-Spain, the sea, and, at the time of the survey, also the
air port capital city, is at the cross-roads of the Caribbean and
functions as a gateway to South America. Its 100,000 population
is very cosmopolitan. Nearly any language of Central Europe
and the Near East can be heard on its streets. Chinese from China,
Indians from British India, Portuguese from Madeira and Portugal,
form part of the native population whose bulk is of Negro, French,
and Spanish ancestry. Port-of-Spain is an old Catholic centre
suffused with Catholic traditions and observances. In 1942
Catholics numbered 50,000 ; Anglicans were 40,000.3 The
remainder shared its allegiance with a variety of Protestant sects.
Port-of-Spain has evolved from a big plantation town to a modern
commercial city displaying abundant membership in all grades of
the social hierarchy.
This city and its suburbs contain large segments of population
living in non-legal unions modelled, it would seem, after the






A FIELD SURVEY


authentic rustic mode. These families contrast with those father-
less families which result from temporary, casual, or promiscuous
unions. Fatherless families of this kind are found chiefly among
the humbler classes in Port-of-Spain as elsewhere. The type is
however more distributed in urban areas than in rural towns.
It is not generally common in the remote country district. It is
one of the symptoms of family disintegration under the impact of
a multiplicity of social forces active in the urban area. Of this,
more later. The urban non-legal family and the urban fatherless
families are conspicuous in the slum sections such as East Dry
River, sectors of Belmont, and parts of Lower Laventille.
Belmont is a suburban community of various racial stocks
and many different religious persuasions. In a recent sample
survey4 of 100 poorer working class families, 32 per cent. of the
people over 14 years of age, or 80 persons out of 257 adults were
non-legally united. The lawfully married were 74. More than
50 per cent. of all children (under 14 years) covered in this survey
were illegitimate, and two-fifths or 40 per cent. of them lived with
one parent only, that is to say, belonged to fatherless families.
Thus the urban slum induces or generates family types partly
similar and partly dissimilar to those produced by the remote
plantation village.
In urban centres, the non-legal union, in the sense defined,
is practically non-existent in the upper middle and upper classes.
One could not adopt it and maintain caste. Non-legal unions are
scattered through the lower middle class and they are rationalized
in the same way as in the rural towns. The attitude towards
prospective illegitimate mothers and their children is likewise
similar to the attitude prevalent in the rural town. This attitude
of the lower urban middle class differs significantly from the line
adopted towards illegitimacy by upper and upper middle class
citizens.
Although in the upper and middle classes the prospective
illegitimate mother is no longer expelled from the home or socially
ostracized, as was done formerly, sharp correction awaits her from
her parents and relatives at home. Her social set lets loose a
flood of gossip and she becomes the object of uncharitable and often
spiteful criticism. The sympathy of the closely knit rural town
middle class for the accident girl is not much in evidence,
except among the girl's friends, in the heated social rivalry common
among the better class citizenry.
The attitude of the urban elite towards the prospective
illegitimate mother contrasts with the attitude adopted by them
nowadays towards illegitimate children. Formerly these children







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


would be passed off as nephews and nieces of the household.
Now their parentage is readily acknowledged. Formerly when
the illegitimate daughter of Doctor X walked into a drawing-room
party, a rustling embarrassment would disturb the air. All this
has passed. One reason for the change of attitude seems to be
the fact that a great many illegitimates have made good in society
and are exemplary citizens in every way. In accordance with this
attitude the new mother is rapidly restored to favour in her family
and in society. The degree of favour varies with the social accept-
ability of the man. For marriage, suitable marriage, is in the
forefront of the urban consciousness, and that's the reason why
" we will not throw her out, she may go worse ; now, at least,
she may chance to get a decent man to marry her." In all
probability she will.
The changing urban attitude towards marriage conventions
and illegitimacy is illustrated by the following example. A certain
upper class man had children by one of his domestic employees.
He would not dare to live openly with her in marital fashion.
Nor would he brave social convention and marry her who was so
noticeably his social inferior. In time, another upper class man
married his educated daughter by this woman. Other daughters
of this same pair subsequently also married well. The father,
noting the new social outlook, changed his mind and married his
children's mother.
Sophisticated concubinage, described earlier in this chapter,
is essentially a marriage of convenience. It is, as previously noted,
present on a wider scale in urban centres than in rural towns.
This type of union, when openly adopted by city persons living
under one roof, is practically restricted to humbler folk.
Otherwise it is not confined to any particular social class. And then
the relationship is a secret one, usually an open secret, more or less.
At this point we should like to pause for a check. As we
advanced from remote plantation districts to intermediate rural
towns and finally to the city areas it was found that not only was
there a progressive abandonment of the non-legal marital union ;
but, even more strikingly, there was a sharp and progressive change
in outlook, attitude, and public feeling in regard to the non-legal
union. Actually, the change recorded in mentality is of greater
importance and social significance than mere quantitative
differences in the prevalence of the non-legal union as between
remote hamlet, rural town, and urban area. Nevertheless, the
difference in outlook and behaviour are reflected almost dramatically
in some of the Vital Statistics for 1939 as published in Council






A FIELD SURVEY


Paper 25 of 1940. In Port-of-Spain there was more than once as
many legitimately born children as illegitimately born. In Arima
the illegitimately born exceeded the legitimately born by one and a
half times. In Blanchisseuse the illegitimates exceeded the
legitimates by five times ; in Toco by more than three times ;
in Cunupia by more than three times ; in Tamana by two and
one-third times ; in Cocal, Nariva, by four times. The figures
for illegitimacy in Trinidad are a pretty reliable index of the non-
legal union situation. In conclusion attention should be directed
to the fact that the progressive differences observed from area to
area correspond fairly closely to progressive differences in the
levels of social condition and economic status.
The emergence of non-legal unions and of the sophisticated
marriage of convenience under single or separate roofs may be
observed under conditions approaching those of a social experiment
in the social transformation in process at Point Fortin in the deep
South of Trinidad. The Point Fortin of this chapter is now a
modern industrial town projected upon the United British Oilfields
there. Its development from a strictly plantation settlement
to its present near modern urban status presents a most interesting
" social experiment ". When the oil winners commenced
operation in 1920 on three cocoa and coconut estates a foreign
industry simply moved into the Great House of the plantation.
The workers, all urban and townsmen, were introduced,
many for the first time in their lives, to the worst features of
plantation life. The sordid chickencoop barracks, the wretched
sanitation, poor working conditions, the virtual absence of social
facilities combined to make a social landscape which rapidly and
notoriously became a matrix of wholesale prostitution, reckless
gambling, and drunkenness. The men, turning in disgust from
the revolting housing and living conditions, refused to bring their
" respectable families into the area. They went home week-ends,
but they spent twenty-two days of every month on the project
which was surrounded by the poverty stricken population which
worked on the village plantations. Non-legal unions, plantation
style and alliances of convenience, city style, mounted. The men
rationalized their conduct in the same way that other middle class
people do. There was unconcealed guilt in their admission of a
double moral standard. Back home in the metropolitan and
related areas, mothers literally wept and bewailed the rapid
degeneracy of their sons, and banned other sons from the greasy
civilization of the oil wells.
An era of far-reaching social reform followed the strikes, the
bloody riots, the Royal Commission and the Board of Arbitration







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


of 1937-38. In housing, sanitation, labour conditions, welfare,
social facilities, Point Fortin was gradually transformed by a
liberal and wealthy Oil Company into a miniature modern
industrial city of compact, complete and self-contained flats,
each adorned with a green court.
The men brought in their families ; concubinage, non-legalism,
and intemperance declined visibly ; literary and social activity
began to blossom ; church life which had been sadly abandoned,
entered into something of a second spring. A wonderful inter-
mediate school has been erected in the village by the local
population to meet the need and the craving for education which
are stirring not only the oil project but the entire neighbourhood.
These good results were effected immediately, the men are
convinced, by the salutary discipline and inspiration of regular
family life, and this was in turn made practicable for them by the
great improvement in social environment and working conditions.
We said that Point Fortin was in a process of transformation.
It may yet serve as an experiment to show, on the one hand, how
and to what extent the evils attendant upon industrialism take
hold of a society ; and, on the other, how and to what extent
these evils can be stemmed and counteracted by religious action
and social planning.

NAMES AND MODES OF ADDRESS IN NON-LEGAL UNIONS
In city, town, and village the assigning of a family name to an
illegitimate is regulated by certain rules and customs. By civil
and ecclesiastical prescription a natural child must carry its
mother's name. Often, however, this name is carried by the
records only. Commonly, if the father belongs to a well known
family the child is given his name because it will help him to acquire
social degree. Jerry, an illegitimate child, carried his mother's
name until he qualified in one of the learned professions. As soon
as he started practice he adopted his father's prominent name.
The father's name is sometimes assumed not to enhance social
position but to buttonhole a father with inclinations to shirk
paternal responsibility. The middle class customs of naming the
child after its mother suggests that nothing is gained by taking
the father's title. Arima ridicules the practice of attaching to any
illegitimate child any but its mother's family name.
Great emphasis is placed on the use of her marriage name by
the newly wed ex-mistress in the urbanized areas. In a window
to window quarrel she may be heard to exclaim thwartingly :
" Who are you anyway ? .... I am a respectable married woman,
you know, I am Mrs. Gonzales." Conscious of her newly acquired







A FIELD SURVEY


respectability and prestige she early teaches her pre-school child
to spell its name and surname.
In a village one's last name is of little social significance.
Except for the civic officers, usually outsiders, and the school-
master, everybody is addressed by his first name with Mr., Miss,
Ma or Madam suitably prefixed. Quite often a married woman
is Missed even when her marriage name is added. On the
contrary, after Miss Rose, a folk woman, has led a common life
with Mr. John for some time, and especially after the birth of her
first child, she becomes Ma (meaning Mrs.) John. This practice
comes down from the slave plantation. Non-legal partners were
conveniently accepted and designated husband and wife"
by the planter who both followed and inspired the slaves.
The conventional use of first names in the village reflects and
fosters non-discrimination between legitimates and illegitimates.
The discriminating forms Mrs. ", Ma ", and Miss show
appreciation of the difference between the single and the married
state. But the use of Miss in addressing a lawfully married
woman reflects no lack of apprehension of the legal difference,
for her husband's name is immediately added. Neither does it
imply the instability of marriage to the folk mind : Ma (Mrs.)
is employed in respect of those non-legal unions only which have
some semblance of permanence. Nor is it meant to subordinate
Christian marriage to the non-legal union : The superior prestige
and respectability imparted by Christian marriage is recognized
by everybody, not excepting the families involved in non-legal
unions.

CONCLUSIONS DRAWN FROM THE FIELD SURVEY
Like the rest of the social process in Trinidad and the West
Indies, the non-legal union is the result of the exposure of the
subject group largely of African descent to a complex of social,
economic, religious, and other conditions introduced by the repre-
sentatives of Western civilization. Because the social process is
determined by exposure to Westernism and because the degree of
exposure varies in remote village, intermediate rural town, and
urban centre as regards duration of time as well as in respect of
the amount and kind of contact, the social result varies correspond-
ingly. The regional variation in the practice of the non-legal
union, and still more in the attitudes towards non-legalism and
illegitimacy, strongly suggest this.
From our survey it also appears that the difference noted
in attitudes towards the non-legal union in village, town, and city
is primarily a difference in the degree and kind of contact with







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


Christianity, combined with exposure to better social and
economic position, education, and Western standards in general.
The non-legal union was least frequent where these factors
were most intensively and extensively combined, as in the
urban areas.
The evolution of the industrial centre of Point Fortin from
remote village to modern urban area afforded an almost complete
social experiment of the social process of non-legalism. This
concrete case sets off the fact that, separately taken, the greatest
of the relevant factors in the non-legal situation is the plantation
complex. The disintegrated industrial workers were educated
far above the average West Indian labourer ; yet when plunged
into the thick of the plantation economy they too seemed to revert
to plantationism. The case of these decivilized pioneer industrial
workers should not be confused with the concubinal habits of
sophisticated workers under normal conditions of city life.
In La Pastora, all people are Catholic, but, unlike the industrial
workers, they are generally uneducated. Among them non-
legalism flourished in primitive vigour not because of, but in spite
of, their Catholicism. The economy of the remote plantation was
the greatest common denominator between them and the early
industrialists. Thus the plantation complex overbalanced the
normal effects of both the religious and the educational factors,
the opportunities for the exercise of which were just moderate,
or hardly so.
The devotees of non-legalism say they are sincere in their
profession of Christianity and their desire to enter Christian
marriage. Are they ?
Our survey revealed that the entire village of St. John gradually
passed from non-legalism to Christian marriage. This process
does not support the suspicion of insincerity in the allegations of
non-legal partners. The cases reviewed in this study show that
the folk mind considers non-legalism a necessary evil. It is
impossible to accept this view as valid objectively. But if we
accept it for the sake of argument, then it is not difficult to reconcile
even that state of mind with a sincere desire for Christian marriage.
The readiness of non-legalists to marry when sufficiently powerfully
exposed to favourable spiritual stimuli such as the Lenten Mission
together with improved material circumstances, lends support
to the sincerity of their contention, if not to its objective truth.
The practice of non-legalism is altogether inconsistent with the
profession of Christianity and Catholicism. It is not necessarily
inconsistent with sincerity in the profession of these great ideals.







THE IMPACT OF SLAVERY ON THE NON-LEGAL UNION


CHAPTER VII

THE IMPACT OF SLAVERY ON THE NON-LEGAL UNION

SLAVERY AND THE PLANTATION ECONOMY

THE non-legal pattern is a marked feature of folk life in the
West Indies, the Southern United States,' Brazil, Venezuela and the
rest of Latin America. It crosses the boundaries of race and colour.
In Cuba in 1899, 15 per cent. of the coloured people and 12 per
cent. of the white people (proportionately reckoned) were in the
non-legal union. These unions were also greatest and least in the
same localities for both racial groups.2 In Puerto Rico in 1940,
12 per cent. of all white couples lived in the non-legal union. This
percentage has been nearly constant since 1910. In an earlier
chapter figures for other Latin American countries were given.
Many of the New World areas in which the system is found were
axes of slavery and the slave plantation. All of them are planta-
tin areas. In the West Indies in our times the non-legal union
is most prevalent and most anchored in those regions where slavery
was most concentrated, on the plantation. Figures are not avail-
able for the non-legal union as indulged in on the aboriginal Indian
semi-slave plantation. In Trinidad, however, among the subject
class, concubinage was the rule (luring slavery, marriage the_
exception ".3 This exception and rule relationship continued
long into the Emancipation Era, and was associated primarily
with the plantation.4 It is reliably estimated that in Haiti today
not more than one in every hundred marital couples is joined
together in lawful marriage.5 In our own era in Cuba non-legal
unions are thickest in the provinces of Santiago and Matanzas,
that is, in regions most densely populated by the descendants of
former slaves. In respect of the Negro, slavery as a predisposing
cause, and the New World plantation economy as the proximate
and efficient cause conjointly originated the non-legal union. The
formal cause of the non-legal union was, of course, the choice of the
parties themselves. This union persists wherever the conditions of
the traditional plantation or the mentality developed in those
conditions survive in substantive form. The comparative survey of
remote village, town, and urban zone illustrates this concretely.
The plantation economists found in the temporary concu-
binal union a convenient instrument to perpetuate the slave system
on the slave plantation. In freedom this union settled down to
become the non-legal family union. It cannot be reasonably







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


said that the planters unilaterally created the non-legal union
ex nihilo. Given the socially disruptive methods of slavery, the
tribal disorganization of the Africans, their inadequate exposure to
Christianity and education as well as the indiscriminate dispersion
of slaves in the New World, non-legalism was practically bound to
result, plantation or no plantation. Since, however, the New
World slave economy was for the plantation, and without the
plantation there would have been no such slave economy, the New
World plantation, and specifically, the New World plantation in
freedom, is in a very real sense, the originator of the non-legal
union. It certainly was its matrix.
Just as New World J s opposed the baptism of slaves on
the inverted biblical grounds that Christians could not be held in
bondage, so they did not encourage marriage and a normal family
life because these tings obstructed their free disposal of the unfree.
They did everything to discourage the married African household.6
Newly arriving or newly captured lamiles were dismembered, the
human stud farm was introduced, pregnant women were driven to
the last minute, births sometimes occurring on the field. Mothers
were returned to estate work a few days after the birth of their
infants. Even on certain milder plantations, as for instance, the
Spanish, slaves were permitted to marry provided they belonged to
the same plantation.7 The policy is quite clear: marriage must
be subordinated to the needs and interests of the plantation fetish.
The Industrial Revolution latterly degraded man to a robot exis-
tence and activity; the New World plantation dehumanized the
slave, reducing him to the level of animal existence. Slavery
prepared the way for, and deposited the germ of the non-legal
union.
In 1799, a Legislative Committee in Tobago plainly admitted
that the Legislature has not, for the last ten years, taken any
measures towards bettering the situation of the Negroes."* At
the request of the Governor the committee thereupon considered
a number of queries devolving from a Resolution in the House of
Commons dated 6th April, 1797. One of these queries was
" Whether the Legislature can hold out some encouragement to
marriage which may tend to counteract that disposition which leads
the young woman to prostitution." The answer indicates that,
at the turn of the eighteenth century, the promotion of slave
marriage was still considered a matter of doubtful utility, at least
in the British Colonies: We think it might be useful to hold out
some encouragement to matrimony among the Negroes, such as
the erection of a comfortable house at the Master's expense... &c."






THE IMPACT OF SLAVERY ON THE NON-LEGAL UNION 65

A Parliamentary dispatch of July, 1823 urged upon the
governors of self-governing colonies for immediate adoption a
number of desired ameliorations in the condition of slaves.9 Among
these were religious instruction, encouragement of marriage, and
the registration of Christian unions. At the invitation of Earl
Bathurst, Governor Woodford of Trinidad drafted a plan for the
introduction of these reforms in the Crown Colonies.'1 Speciously,
many planters of that bygone day in Trinidad and elsewhere
argued with missionaries that encouraging Negroes to marry one
wife, when we know they would still retain others, was only making
bad worse.""' The better amongst them however, planned a
long range educational system which would help to improve the
situation. They failed to see that the lack of education was far
from being the chief obstacle to the progress of Christian morals.
Inconsistently they set up Domestic Relations Courts12 (called
Court Martial by the Negroes) whose effect was the promotion and
protection of concubinage on the slave plantation.
When marriage was permitted on the slave plantation, or when
legislation urged it, the slave ", as de Verteuil points out,
" possessing no civil right had no interest, as he had no benefit,
in any civil contract."'' He had very little authority over his
children who moreover were early taken from him and handed over
to a functionary to be reared for the service of the plantation.
Children, being bound to obey and serve the master, were actually
led to cast aside the respect and attention due to parents." The
plantation in freedom inherited in substance the attitude towards
marriage of the plantation in slavery. There was no violent break
between the two.

THE FORCE OF EXAMPLE
The white population of the time, being mostly without women
of their own race, exploited the situation which they helped to
create on the slave plantation. They took unto themselves women
of the subject race, actually glamourizing thereby the new non-
legal social pattern. Head Negroes, such as drivers, boilermen,
and others, readily followed suit, taking as many concubines as
they could afford, usually four. Coloured women learned to glory
in the concubinal tie with a white man, usually a secondary class
of white man, if we may believe Mrs. Carmichael.'4 But Professor
Ragatz, more correctly, shows that concubinage pervaded all
ranks and classes of plantation society in the Caribbean.'5 Negro
mothers' only ambition was to make a good (non-legal) bargain "
for their daughters.'6







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


The tide of habits and attitudes developed during generations
of slavery in the West Indies had its effect on life on the plantation
later on. The force of example gave added impetus to the promp-
tings of unruly desire. I quote James Saunders, a former Tunapuna
man, 63 years old at the time of this survey. He spoke from
personal knowledge: Most people considered it as a 'fame to
have many concubines. Some of the old African people used to
criticize it as being not right." James Saunders is the grandson
of Elizabeth Lambert, an emancipated African slave by whom he
was brought up. She was drowned in a flood at Belmont on October
6th, 1892, and buried at Taearigua on October 8th, where her
husband Monteith Lambert had been manager of the Orange Grove
Estate then owned by Burnely Eccles.
It is pathetic to watch the Negro and his descendants writhe
in the grip of non-legalism. A great emotional upsurge evoked
by the declaration of Emancipation, or by an epidemic of cholera
in 1854," or by an earthquake in Jamaica"8 in 1907, or by a
stirring Lenten mission, brings a flood of couples to the altar. No
sooner has the emotion spent itself than the waves of conversion
subside. Self-confidence departs. Frustration and despair reassert
themselves. No teeth of slavery's chains bite quite as hard as these.

DISORGANIZATION OF SLAVE FAMILY
The non-legal union, sponsored remotely by the arrangements
of slavery on the slave plantation, received gigantic support from
the mental confusion and moral chaos, the outcome of the detribal-
ization and the disintegration of the African family. This confu-
sion added fine fuel to the flame of innate human perverseness.
In the earthshaking upheaval, the strange New World surroundings,
the new economic occupations, the African, bereft of his customary
social controls, was lost not only to his kin, but also to himself.
It was not merely that Nobody knows Bill here ", but also,
" Who is Bill anyway?" The backbone of social control in West
African society, namely the tribal religion, was badly broken. No
alternative religious or moral system was as yet effectively intro-
duced.'9 The social function filled by the old tribal religion
remained vacant. The results to society and the individual were
disastrous. Turn to any sphere of slave activity, conduct, work,
crime, folk literature, folk music, educational outlook, the reading
of the cultural barometer is the same-anarchy, with a strong
suggestion of cultural frustration.zo
Only against this background is it possible to assess culturally
and morally the reportedly premature, promiscuous and unre-
strained intercourse which takes place between the sexes. .... the








THE IMPACT OF SLAVERY ON THE NON-LEGAL UNION


young Negro women ..... being under no restraint from shame of
any law, human or divine."2" Only against the background of the
New World slave trade and slave plantation, and only within that
setting can it be conceded that the free coloured population of
the 1820's as a population are peculiarly inclined to immorality."22
This attempt of the planters of the time to shed all responsibility
for the laying of the foundations of non-legalism, and their readiness
to pass this responsibility on to the inherent traits of the Negro,
breaks down under scientific scrutiny.23 The exquisite pre-colonial
West African family organization and strict moral discipline within
the known law give the lie direct to the hypothesis of inherent
Negro wantonness.

THE ABSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY
Where opportunity for religious instruction was given the
Negro, the difference in his personal and social conduct was manifest.
De Verteuil reports that those who received more direct and
constant lessons showed themselves worthy of their privileges,
while those deprived of these means of instruction declined in
morality, civilization and comfort."2- Mrs. Carmichael, the
Protestant lay missionary and slave owner of Trinidad and
St. Vincent records: I had myself ever found the even nominal
Roman Catholic Negro much better disposed and more attentive
to his duties than those of other persuasions." And again:
" However some Protestants may smile at aught that savours of
Popery, I can tell them that ..... (Catholics) most conscientiously
teach (their slaves) by means of missionaries sent for the purpose,
to fear God, to behave honestly ..... &c."25
But on the whole no formal religious instruction was afforded
the majority of slaves. Their sole knowledge of Christianity
was derived from the very few prayers taught them by their masters,
and occasional Sunday sermons by ministers of religion."2' When
in 1838 the Primary School system was established ministers of
religion were forbidden the entrance of the schoolroom for religious
instruction.27 Yet in the circumstances there was no other
way in which religion could have been effectively and continu-
ously taught the children. Emancipation had, however, increased
the opportunities for the Christian apostolate amongst the Negroes.
The result of the good work is registered in the rise of marriages
from 364 in 1848 to 632 in 1880.28 The phenomenal figure of 1625
marriages in the cholera epidemic year of 1854, together with the
subsequent increasing marriage rate is crucial evidence of the
receptivity and the sensitiveness to the Christian moral ideal







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


developed by the Negro in two generations after slavery. For at
the end of the slavery period all the features of the social and
cultural complex of the plantation besides the organization of
religious instruction remained practically the same with the sole
exception of legalized slavery. The incipient transition from the
concubinal union to the Christian pattern is therefore logically
attributed primarily to the formal introduction of the religious
factor.
The failure to expose the detribalized African to training and
citizenship in the Christian Church was less a feature of the
Spanish plantation than of the British and other plantation.
The Spanish Cedula of 1789 reprobated abuses and rehearsed
decrees with respect to education, treatment and occupation ....
which masters are obliged to give (slaves) agreeable to the principles
and rules of Religion, humanity and the good of the State."
When the British had not yet begun to consider steps for the
encouragement of marriage the Spanish monarch was remonstrating
and recapitulating :

The Master of slaves must not allow the unlawful intercourse
of the two sexes but must encourage matrimony. Neither must
he hinder them from marrying with slaves of other masters ;
in which case if the estates were distant from one another, so
that the new married couple fulfil the object of marriage, the
wife shall follow her husband whose master shall buy her ......
&c."29

In Cuba, the laws for the protection of slaves were unusually
humane. Almost from the beginning slaves had a right to purchase
their freedom or change their masters, and long before slavery
was abolished they could own property and contract marriage.
As a result the proportion of free coloured slaves has always been
large ...... Their condition for many years has been far better
than the coloured population of any of the West Indian Islands
under foreign control, and their personal privileges much greater."3o
The organized introduction of religion to the Negro in Trinidad
was the work of the Catholic Church which, prior to Emancipation
laboured almost alone among the lowly and benighted slaves.
The two Moravian ministers who endeavoured to evangelize the
slave-holding received short shrift at the hands of the Protestant
British planters. Such as it was at the time, the Established
Church, also checkmated by the Anglican planters, limited its
ministrations in the Caribbean solely to the white residents.3'
Up to 1832, no missionary of the Established Church would
condescend to minister at the level of the lowly Trinidad slave.32







THE IMPACT OF SLAVERY ON THE NON-LEGAL UNION


5. Poverty and Marriage. Is poverty a contributing cause
to the non-legal situation ? This is a sixty-four dollar question.
A study of the yearly number of marriages per thousand head of
population over a forty year period33 points to a correlation
between the marriage rate and the fluctuations of economic activity.
For example, for the nine years from 1911 to 1919 the marriage
rate per thousand dropped steadily from 8.32 to 6.69. In 1914
there was an increase of .78, then a drop by .55 in 1915, to rise by
.71 in the following year. From then on it declined until 1920,
the annus mirabilis of peasant proprietors in cocoa, when it
practically doubled the figure of the year preceding it. Then, in
1921, it fell to less than half of the 1920 figure and continued down
to 1924 the steady drop which had commenced in 1914-twelve
years of continuous backsliding, a period of sustained unsettlement
and discontent in the sugar industry.34
In 1925, the rate per thousand climbed one point to score 6.47.
The next year it suddenly doubled and kept on jumping till it regis-
tered 16.46 in 1928 the highest on record till that time. There was
then a turn in the tide which ebbed gracefully, except in 1932-33
when it leaped three points downward, and gradually descended
from there to 9.29-the lowest rate but one in the ten years, from
1926 to 1936, the best long term period. In 1937, opening year of
a new spell of oilfield prosperity, the marriage rate shot up two
points and climbed evenly up to 1942 when the sudden onrush of
wartime prosperity induced by construction work on U.S. bases
jerked the record up to the all time high of 19.85. The wave of
prosperity was over in 1943 when the figure yanked down to 15.85
marriages per thousand and continued its decline in 1944.
(According to a 1952 correction by the Office of Vital Statistics
all high percentage marriage rates up to 1949 have been halved.
This does not affect the general increase in the marriage rate.)
The fluctuation in the marriage rates corresponds roughly to
periods of economic growth and economic decline, prosperity and
depression. The movement of the rates reflects in summary fashion
the fortunes of sugar-cane, cocoa, the oil industry and American
war work in Trinidad. Undoubtedly the poverty of the working
lower classes has to do with slowing down of marriage, and by
implication, with the persistence of the folk in their non-legal
unions. A generalization of this kind does not, however, satisfy
the scientist and is of little help to the reformer. It should be
established whether poverty is or has always been a barrier to
marriage, and in just what way and why.
Poverty does not explain the persistence of a large and
important section of the folk people in the non-legal union.






CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


Specifically this is true of what are called factory workers in the
sugar estates. Factory hands are people occupied with matters
concerning the processing of the sugar-cane, machine work, boiling,
bagging, stores, &c. Four-fifths of all factory workers are creole
West Indians. Most prosperous of all agricultural workers, they
do very well according to local standards and are virtually a class
within a class. On a certain estate these workers in 1940 averaged
twenty-seven dollars a fortnight or fifty-four dollars a month,
or more than the monthly salary of the majority of school-teachers
at that time. On this same estate the factory man spends, dresses,
gambles and drinks liberally. He buys a forty dollar suit without
turning a hair. He reports for work in rags, but if sent on a minor
errand to the neighboring town he immediately dresses up in his
near Sunday best. A former General Manager of this estate was
in the habit of saying : "I like the Creoles, (that is, the West
Indians) they are great spenders." The implication of this state-
ment was that. the estate would never lack factory workers.
Those who live on the estate enjoy free housing. Do they marry ?
No. They blandly keep a woman either on the estate or in the
neighboring town. They stave off the day of marriage until
their self-respect can no longer withstand the protracted prodding
and the taunts of their would-be respectable wives. Clearly,
in this case, the lack of money has not been an obstacle to marriage
or a cause of its delay.
The field workers on this estate are largely East Indians.
Their pay is normally about one half of that of the factory hand.
The Indians' style is to enter formal marriage according to their
religious rites and traditions. The non-legal union has been,
until quite recently, an exceptional phenomenon among East
Indians. The same is true in general of the poorer school-teachers.
The tremendous expenses-several hundred of dollars-even
amongst the poorest Indians, involved in dowries, preparations and
entertainment surrounding an Indian wedding, bear no comparison
to the little that the Negro spends on marriage ceremony, prepara-
tions, entertainment and all. Clearly poverty is not a relevant
factor in the non-legalism of factory workers.
On the alleged obstacle of the marriage fee even the common
poor cannot and do not pretend that the lack of the marriage fee
debars them from marriage. In the Protestant churches no
honorarium is generally offered ; the lack of a marriage fee never
disqualified or disbarred anybody from marriage in the Catholic
Church. The lack of a marriage fee, including expenses incidental
to the publication of marriage banns, is sometimes, but not always,
a feature of unblessed unions. It is not usually, and never






THE IMPACT OF SLAVERY ON THE NON-LEGAL UNION


principally, a factor in the initiation of a non-legal association.
This has been sufficiently evident from our field survey.
Consequently the contention of some writers that poverty is a
cause of the recourse to non-legal unions is factually and logically
baseless. Inconstant causes do not exist in science. If poverty is
the true cause of non-marriage, then wherever we find unmarried
partners we should find poverty. Similarly, wherever we find
prosperity we should not find unmarried partners. But this is
very far from being the case in Trinidad and the West Indies.

PLANTATION PSYCHOLOGY
There is a sense in which poverty delays marriage. It has to
do with living standards and a persisting plantation psychology,
not with marriage fees. If the folk people would be content to
live in matrimony with the same amount of economic resource,
and psychological and social contentment which satisfy them in
the non-legal state, it would be easy to get people to marry,
and the problem could be wiped off over a week-end. I am far
from saying that they should be so satisfied. Nor am I saying
that the low living standard justifies a non-legal union. As a
matter of fact, it does not. However it costs no more to run a
married household than it costs to run a concubinal one. Neverthe-
less, to the folk mind, respectability, as previously illustrated,
is the primary and indispensable social concomitant of the married
state. But respectability is the last thing the folk associate with
the social condition of the common plantation hand. The poverty
that restrains from marriage and sustains the non-legal union is
not the dearth of funds, but the loss of essential self-respect in
those benighted individuals whom the mischief of slave-patterned
plantation economy relegated to a substandard level of existence,
robbing them of their elementary human self-respect and
sustaining a low grade mentality.
In the plantation history, there is a something that operates
unwholesomely, independently of the great good will of the benev-
olent planters. Plantation machinery was geared to fit into a
slave economy ; and that machinery operates with as crushing
an effect upon the fibres of slave-grown sugar-cane as upon the
fine spun silk of human self-respect. This is the tragedy of the
traditional plantation. Hundreds and hundreds of people have
been individually shown that it costs no more to live together in
matrimony than it costs to live the other way. They all accept
this statement. That is true they agree. But it has been a
hopeless task to pass from that and make them decide to regularize







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


their unions. With the best will in the world, they explain:
" We can't do it so, wait a while ; we must put aside something
first." This from folks who have been living maritally from five
to twenty years and more This attitude expresses itself in the
crudest and most crushing form thus: "Marriage ain't make
for me."
The preparations that non-legal partners make for marriage
disclose what they consider the minimum of respectability
compatible with the married life. They must have a large bed
with high posts and canopy. They must have a press ", that
is, a wardrobe, and a piece or two of decent living-room furniture.
The man must be settled in a job before he can settle down ",
i.e. marry. In other words, they want security and public esteem.
All would like to own at least a home, no matter how poor, so that
they can leave it to their children, all of them. Children take
great pride in the family house and in the claim to a share of it.
Minors' property, i.e. real estate left to the family conjointly and
from generation to generation, is a common social feature of
Trinidad life. Many partners spend long years in common toil
and common sacrifice with the sole aim of building a home of their
own and then getting married. Not infrequently, however, the
man has improved considerably in social status when that
objective has been attained. He then discovers that his companion
through the years is presently beneath him socially and he marries
or promises early marriage to someone else. Taxi drivers,
carpenters, tradesmen, in general, seem to be the biggest offenders
in this connection. They add left-handed testimony to the
significant association of respectability with marriage in the
popular mind. Misplaced emphasis on external respectability is
a major factor in the persistence of the non-legal union and in the
discouragement of marriage. This over-emphasis on the externals
of respectability is perhaps a form of overcompensation for the
loss of self-respect developed in the plantation tradition.
THE SCARE OF INDEPENDENCE
Other things equal, nothing keeps the folk man so much out
of marriage, or so much in the non-legal union, than the fear that
the woman will become too independent ". This is not true of
the middle and upper classes in the rural towns and cities. This
woman-scare tradition stems from the slave plantation and is an
integral part of the plantation complex after slavery. A Trinidad
slave owner suggested to his slave, a head cooper, that he marry
his concubine, a dutiful woman whom he had already kept alone
for twelve years. The slave rejoined : True, me massa, very






THE IMPACT OF SLAVERY ON THE NON-LEGAL UNION


good as she is ; but me massa, pose (suppose) me marry S., I say,
'S., do so ;' she my wife then, massa-so she say, No !' Well,
pose massa, now me say S., do so ; she do it ; cause she know
if she no do it, me put her away....." M"e massa, afore me
marry one wife, me go hang me self in Paradise wood first."
And this was the view of all but two Negroes on that estate.35
Added to this was the complete mutual distrust of man and woman
engendered by the promiscuity of the slave plantation.
Self-supporting women especially put no silencer on their fears :
" Negers run bout here, dere, and everywhere." Negro tribes36
people in the West African principalities did not and do not speak
in this way. There marriage according to their customary law is
held in honour and is governed by a striking and well disciplined
organization down to the last detail of authority in the family
economic life, property, inheritance, duties of parents and children,
conjugal fidelity and so on.37 The fear is based upon the legal
sanction which the recently married woman out of the non-legal
union will not hesitate to invoke and certainly does not hesitate to
threaten. The newly married ex-concubine's aggressiveness may
also be a form of over-compensation for previous servility. It is
noteworthy that men contemplating marriage to a single woman
do not express fear of an exaggerated independence or upstartness
on the part of their future wives.

What the folk man is afraid of today, viz., the effect of
improvement in the social status of woman, is exactly what the
slave owners of a hundred years ago dreaded as inevitably
ruinous to the property of the master ; injurious and demoralizing
to the slave."38 The Slave Amelioration Act of 1825 had
prohibited the punishment of female slaves by whips, and cat-o-nine
tails.39 The planters gathered at Tacarigua and raised a hue and
cry. They suggested a streamlined version which by-passed the
question of female punishment and made it clear that no further
concession was to be expected or required."40 The Governor,
Sir Ralph Woodford, conceded this class (of female slaves) is
allowed by all to be the most prone to give offence .... It will
become even more difficult than at present to restrain them from
the knowledge that their master cannot punish them as he was
accustomed to do."41 The Secretary of State for the Colonies
thereupon issued a compromise order permitting masters to use
certain mild types of punishment authorized by the Governor.
After a year of experimenting with it the planters unanimously
deplored the rapid growth of crime among the lower classes .....
and the proofs of insubordination which are ..... apparent."42






CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


It is generally true that the newly married ex-concubines
hold the whip of their freshly gained rights over the head of their
husbands, decrease in obsequiousness, and are less afraid to be
insubordinate. On three consecutive days after marriage an
estate workman waited in vain for his wife to bring him his lunch
at work as she was wont to do before marriage. When on the
third day he demanded an explanation this is what he heard :
I is you wife now." In one of the better known Trinidad folk
tales a panel of judges meets to pass sentence on Compere Tiger
who was guilty of the most execrable offence of cursing his mother.
The judges-Comperes Lapin (the rabbit), Chien (the dog),
Cheval (the horse), Crapaud (the frog) and Macaque (the monkey)
unanimously sentenced Tiger to get married. Compere Tiger
was heard to remark sometime after that like Cain's "his
punishment was harder than he could bear."43
The self-assertion of the newly-wed folk female formerly
suppressed by consideration of economic dependence, is the cause
of many a broken marriage. Many cases of the early break-up of
marriages contracted after long years in the non-legal union have
been recorded and are the matter of common observation. This
relapse is the basis of the popular superstition that if we marry
things may turn out worse." This superstition feeds and supports
the established belief that the non-legal union is good enough for
humble country people. The belief is propagated through the
continuous contact of children in the family with adults of this
frame of mind. The new dignity of the newly married woman,
legitimate in itself though not always discreet in its expression,
and the legality of her new married status create a novel relation-
ship between the partners which their plantation psychology of
marriage ill equips them to meet. The break-up reflects not so
much the intolerance of the husband as the maladjustment and
moral unpreparedness of an ignorant husband and wife for their
new state of life.
Some writers and professors contend that it is the introduction
of Christian marriage into the primitive way of life which is the
relevant factor of disorganization in situations such as the one
just cited. This view, so far as the West Indies is concerned, is
not supported by the facts. In the first place, the non-legal union
is not a primitive way of life. Secondly, the folk people all aspire
to Christian marriage. And thirdly, persons separating after the
regularization of their marriage have been known to separate once
or more times while still living in sin ". Many thousands of
case studies conducted over a period of many years suggest that
the number of break-ups per month, temporary or otherwise, is at






THE IMPACT OF SLAVERY ON THE NON-LEGAL UNION


least twice as great in the non-legal union as in the married state.
Marriage does not introduce instability into the non-legal union,
but puts its instability into bold relief, focussing attention on a
separation which, in the absence of marriage, would have been
passed over as nothing phenomenal.

SOCIAL REMOTENESS
The adverse operation of this remoteness is important and
deserves to be singled out and developed. In 1940, in Blanchisseuse,
the illegitimate births were five times as many as the legitimates;
in Cocal four times ; in Cunupia more than three times;
in Valencia two and a half times ; in Trinity, Mayaro, two and a
quarter times ; in Moruga the same. These statistics cover the
happenings in the last year before World War 11.44 At that time
these districts along with Toco were among the most remote socially
in the island. Those wards and districts then most exposed to
education and other Western contacts were among the best in the
scale of legitimacy. Port-of-Spain, St. Ann's, Naparima,
San Fernando, Tacarigua, had each at least once as many legitimate
births as illegitimate. Diego Martin, which is fairly remote had
as good a rate as Port-of-Spain. This shows that factors other
than education and Western contacts are operative. One of these
is the size and geographic distribution of the population.
The favourable rates for remote Manzanilla, Turure, Guayaguayare
and other remote small areas with scattered population support
this fact. Among wards and districts holding a more favourable
middle position were the town of Arima, the district of Arima,
San Rafael, Siparia and Montserrat.
According to the U.S. Census of Cuba in 1899, the two provinces
of Habana and Puerto Principe which were highest in the literacy
rate were also lowest in the rate of consent unions. Habana and
Principe were also among three districts with the largest urban
populations. The highest in concubinage was the last but one
in literacy, Santiago. The lowest in literacy, Pinar del Rio,
occupied a middle position in consent unions. The lack of
correspondence between the rates for literacy and those for the
consent unions shows that factors beside education are operative
in the total complex. Santiago and Pinar were the two lowest
in terms of urban population.
According to the Puerto Rico census for 1940, consent unions
in the urban areas accounted for somewhat more than a third of
the adult population, i.e. over 15 years ; a little less than two-
thirds of these unions were in rural or plantation districts.
The relative position was about the same in the 1930 census.







76 CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY

But as the rural population was somewhat more than twice the
urban population, the consensual unions were, proportionally
speaking, fairly evenly distributed between urban and rural areas.
The anomalously high relative proportion of non-legal unions in
urban Puerto Rico is accounted for by the steadily and anomalously
high rate of migration of families from country to urban area since
1910. Thus, it is still true that exposure to education and western
influences tend to diminish the popularity of consent unions.
Observation and experience have, however, revealed that exposure
to multiple social contacts under frontier conditions, as in
Tunapuna and Port-of-Spain (Trinidad), also make for greater
family disintegration. This is exhibited in the greater degree of
illegitimacy arising from promiscuous contacts and sophisticated
concubinage.






LIFE IN THE FAMILY


CHAPTER VIII

LIFE IN THE FAMILY

THREE STAGES may be distinguished in the development of
the Afro-West Indian family in Trinidad: (1) The period of
enslavement from 1606-1838, a period of moral and social
disintegration. (2) The near century from Emancipation in 1838
to about 1920 during which time the family set about reknitting
itself; the non-legal union was part of this effort. (3) The
modern age, in which the developing family has been brought
under the industrial and associated influences which affect the
family in the civilization of the Western World. To West Indians
who live in the present day, the free family in the middle period
after Emancipation represents the traditional family.
The traditional family built itself in villages of its own making,
and deployed its characteristic institutions within the village
precincts. Accordingly this chapter treats of the emergence of the
village. After looking into the homes in which the family lives
we shall consider the structure of the family and its functioning
(a) on the domestic level; (b) on the level of the extended family;
and (c) on the village level.

EMERGENCE OF THE VILLAGE
The emergence of the Trinidad village is a story of glowing
romance, thrilling adventure, full of the challenge of the frontier.
It rings with the echoes of the underground. The village of today
was the mountain fastness of yesterday which opened to receive
the fugitive from the slave compound.' Or it was the retreat of
Negroid peons from the South American mainland and of the freshly
emancipated liberating himself from the apprentice system devised
as a so-called introduction to civilization.2 In this retreat peons
and Negroes squatted on public lands, defied all efforts of the law
to dislodge them, planned and shaped their own destiny in virtual
freedom from outside interference Montserrat Ward played host
to many squatting communities. Or again, the new village was a
nominally priced, rent-free, cost-free settlement in the neighbour-
hood of a plantation, holding an easily accessible immigrant labour
force ready to ease the labour shortage created by freedmen who
said they were disgusted with the plantation and all its works.
This was the origin of Bamboo Village, Endeavour Land Village,
and others.4 Today's village was also yesterday's encomienda,
the Indian mission superintended by the Spanish missionaries who








CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


gave to Trinidad not only its heritage of Catholicism, but the seed of
its golden prosperity. This seed was none other than the pit of the
cacao which came to be known as the golden bean ". Arima and
Princes Town were such missions.5 The populous centre of 1946
as, for instance, the Naparimas, was the virginal soil of the 1790's,
the refuge of sugar planters from the French Caribbean with their
retinue of Negro slaves.6 Or like Lopinot, which adjoins the
village of La Pastora, it was first settled by the enterprising Count
Lopinot who, with his suite of slaves from Haiti, experimented with
novel, aesthetic and rewarding methods in cocoa-planting.7
By 1859 a new artisan class developed amongst the Trinidad
Negroes to meet the growing demand for mechanics on the estates.8
Significantly, this class made a centre of Tunapuna, a village at the
border of Orange Grove, one of the largest and most prosperous
estates of the time.9
Most significantly, today's village marks some fertile spot
discovered by members of those romantic gangs of roving and
dissatisfied work-people ever in search of more rewarding pastures,
pitching their tents wherever they pleased. A bold adventurer
would be followed on such a selected area by his family, and by his
family's family, and so on, until this migration of families would
empty an old village of some of its hardiest residents. Coryal
Village. near the Central Range of Mt. Tamana, a famous hide-out
for runaway slaves, was built in this way as recently as 1910. The
overflow of families came from Santa Cruz and their kinsfolk from
Arima, both in the foothills of the distant Northern Range. When
they got to Coryal the caravan settled down to cultivate the
"golden bean". When his father left his headquarters up North to
bring the St. Mary's School to these settlers, the writer, being
then an infant, was caught in the gold rush. The St. Mary's
School soon came to serve additionally as a Mission Chapel.
Gradually the essential social services were introduced, registration,
health, postal services, cemeteries, and all were entrusted to my
father's keeping. In 1921 I jogged along with him through thicket
and across stream and up the hillsides, and down the ravines. He
was taking the Census of the Village. There were nine hundred
and ninety-seven souls. They belonged roughly to three or four
clans, geographically separated, with each clan well scattered over
its particular region. One section, Salmadie or Los Armadillos,
was covered by former Negro residents of Santa Cruz and their
Spanish-Negroid kinsmen from Arima. Their preferred speech was
French patois. Another section extending towards Four Roads.
Tamana, was the territory of predominantly Spanish-speaking folk
who peacefully penetrated from a south-westerly direction. These








LIFE IN THE FAMILY


two groups wrapped themselves as it were about the western and
upper eastern arms of an obtuse-angled triangle along whose southern
base another clan, chiefly of Grenadian extraction, extended
itself at the back of the Upper Cumuto district. The Grenadians
spoke Patois and English with equal ease. Along the lower eastern
arms of the triangle, roughly about Guaico-Tamana, stretched a
clanship of Negroes and Spanish-Negroids which came East from
Manzanilla and Sangre Grande, at home in patois and able to
manipulate with Spanish. There was scarcely anybody in this
triangle who was not related either by blood or by marital alliance,
and, of course, by spiritual affinity through godchildren. Not more
than half a dozen creole West Indian families were unrelated to any
of the clans by blood or marriage alliance.
The closely-knit web of families in Coryal duplicated the
common social pattern existing in all villages and townships prior
to the invasion induced in varying degrees by the means of modern
transport and communication. In the traditional village and town,
that is to say, until about 1920, the family was society, even in the
capital city of Port-of-Spain where the clanships were even more
clearly marked, racially and geographically. And society was the
family, that is, the network of kinship relationships.

THE FAMILY HOME
The Trinidad family lives in one of eight or nine different
types of houses which correspond to social status and social outlook.
The three most common house types are (1) the unplastered tapia
(mud) house. with thatched roof and wooden floor: this is the
regular working class dwelling in the remote country district. Then
(2) there are the plastered or unplastered tapia (mud) houses with
galvanized iron-roof and wooden floor; and (3) the wooden house
with galvanized iron roof and wooden floor. Both these latter
types are standard in the rural towns. The wooden house was
typical of urban and suburban areas until the very recent introduc-
tion of hollow tiles. When wooden or plastered iron-roof houses
are raised from the ground and have open or closed galleries and
separate living and dining rooms they represent two types of middle
class cottage. The grade next above is (6) the modern flat which
is approximate to the next above, namely; the suburban villa (7)
of the upper middle class in a particular district. The barrack
room (8) the worst type of house is inhabited by the plantation
hand residing on the estate, and by the slum dweller. The decaying
estate house or the Great House of plantation lore is still to be
seen. Generally, it is a one-storied building raised on pillars some







CRISIS OF THE WEST INDIAN FAMILY


twelve feet in height, the space between the rooms and the ground
being formerly utilized as buggy-shed, storeroom, &c.
Grocery shopkeepers all over the island generally live at the
back or upstairs of their business premises. Westernizing East
Indians live in any of the suitable types of houses described.
(Although the East Indian community is too distinct to form a
specific part of the present study, it may be noted for the sake of
perspective that the East Indian masses live in mud (tapia) huts
built on the ground with low roofs of thatch and often with no
windows.)
The kitchen shed, always an outbuilding in the traditional
Trinidad family, is the first part of the home built by the villager.
The village kitchen is a daytime meeting place where female gossip
fans the flames that leap between the mud walls of the raised
fireside, or the three-stone fireplace. The kitchen is a living-room
where of an afternoon the tired family gathers about the enlivening
fires that hold the promise of the evening's meal.
Next, the undressed wooden frame of the dwelling goes up
and is crowned with the thatch and the flag of triumph. Many
months will elapse before the erection of the walls, and the laying
of the floor. By means of various makeshift contraptions the open
hut offers partial protection against wind and rain. Under the
thatch roof is an attic. This the humble peasant uses for sleeping
purposes until the completion of his home. This attic is known by
the hispanicized aboriginal Indian name of troja.
Some indication of the relative distribution of house types in
the Trinidad population (including East Indians) is. given in the
Census for 1931. In that listing there are only three types:
dwelling-house, barracks, and rooms in backyards or slum tene-
ments. To every dwelling-house there were then six barrack rooms
and five rooms in backyards. These are breeding grounds of the
non-legal union.
The furniture in the remote village home consists of a hammock,
a wooden bench, a grocery box used as a seat, and a wooden bed
which is fixed in an unchanging position. The high-post bed with
canopy is characteristic. The sparse sitting accommodation is
noteworthy for the absence of backrests; even the ottoma or settee,
which in Trinidad is a couch and not a foot-rest, is without back
supports. The sitting person tends to lean forwards not backwards.
In the remote village kitchen, sitting accommodation is provided
by a cylindrical or rectangular block of undressed native timber.
In La Pastora, this block may be seen in almost every kitchen.
The mortar, for pounding grain or vegetable, is converted into a




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