Volume 24 Nos 1 & 2
March June, 1978
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.
1 Juan de Bolas and His Pelinco
S.A.G. Taylor and David Buisseret
8 Hugh Clifford in Trinidad 1903-1907
34 The Early Laws of Montserrat (1668-1680): The Legal Schema of a
Howard A. Fergus
44 Analysis of the 1750 Carriacou Census
Frances Kay Brinkley
61 Antonio Soberanis and the Disturbances in Belize 1934-37
Peter D. Ashdown
75 Grandiose Schemes for Foreign Colonization in Guyana: A Survey
of their Origin, Provisions and Abandonment
James W. Vining
90 Transportation Memorandum
92 British Museum and After
94 Sources of Jamaican History 1655-1838: A Bibliographical Survey
with particular reference to Manuscript Sources by K.E. Ingram
reviewed by Elsa V. Goveia
VOL. 24 NOS. 1 & 2
96 The Guiana Maroons: A Historical and Bibliographical Introduction
by Richard Price
reviewed by Barbara K. Kopytoff
98 Notes on Contributors
99 Books Received
100 Publications of the Department
101 Information for Contributors
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
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Roy Augier, Pro-Vice- Chancellor, Mona, Jamaica
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University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this University.
The writing of West Indian history still challenges scholars and others to continuing
and active re-assessment and review. This issue of Caribbean Quarterly implicitly
addresses the challenge in a set of contributions which in part query conclusions drawn
by writers from certain sources on West Indian history; demonstrate the use of known
sources to forge new insights into West Indian society, and conversely reinforce and
confirm certain fairly well established conclusions about West Indian society, from
new primary sources.
Juan de Bolas and His Pelinco written by S.A.G. Taylor and David Buisseret seeks
to set the record straight by drawing on "a fair number of hitherto unused manuscript
sources." To these two historians de Bolas is no hero as he clearly is to the novelist
Vic Reid (see his "The Jamaicans"). The lesson here may well be that the combination
of curiosity, imagination, wit and creative literary gifts is no substitute for verifiable
accounting through the use of primary and secondary material the stock-in-trade of
professional historians. A.J. Stockwell's account of the Hugh Clifford tour of duty in
Trinidad between 1903 and 1907 as Colonial Secretary and Acting Governor (Hugh
Clifford in Trinidad 1903-1907), not only brings to light the existence of primary
sources in the Trinidad Archives and the Colonial Office but also throws further light
on the character of the Crown Officials in the administration of West Indian colonies
which were as much the beneficiaries of sane and enlightened efficiency as they were
of gubernatorial insensitivity and administrative paralysis. It was the ineptitude of
Sir Alfred Moloney and his Colonial Secretary that added fuel to the "water riots" of
1903 and confirmed the Commission of Enquiry in the view that both officials had to
be recalled. This made place for someone with "exceptional personal qualifications"
and "one of the very few men in the Colonial Service having a real and responsive
insight into the genius of alien races" a reported reference, granted, to Clifford's
Malayan rather than his Trinidadian tour of duty.
Responsive insights into colonial West Indian society were reflected in the laws
created for it, according to Howard Fergus in his contribution The Early Laws of
Monsterrat (1668-1680): The Legal Schema of a Slave Society. The analysis of some
43 laws enacted between 1668 and 1680 confirms the general features of West Indian
slave society as are evident in several pertinent studies of British Caribbean societies.
The society's raison d'etre was commercial profit, hence the materialistic and exploita-
tive nature of the production relations which found little or no relief from the veneer
of an overt religiosity. Rather, the society was buttressed by a racist regime. The
pre-occupation (a) with legislation to protect property or to effect the social control
and strict management of slaves and (b) with defence affairs for self-preservation,
reflect the siege mentality of the West Indian plantocracy. Such a permanent state of
emergency might have prompted legislation for greater planter welfare but Mr Fergus
reminds readers that even health and security which the laws indeed took into account
were ancillary to wealth. A show of scrupulousness in trade and merchandising is
attributed to the need for attracting traders and shippers rather than to honesty per se;
and the diversification of agriculture though it admittedly, prevented Monsterrat from
being a one-crop economy in the 17th century, primarily provided means of extracting
penalties in tobacco, indigo and cotton. Mr Fergus concedes that the incompleteness
of this set of laws enacted over a short period of less than 20 years may be no firm
basis for incontrovertible conclusions but the conclusions derive some "validity from
comparison with the findings of other related studies" such as have been done by
Elsa V. Goveia, R.S. Dunn and George L. Beckford.
The examination and analysis of documentary historical evidence is also under-
taken by Frances Kay Brinkley in her article An Analysis of the 1750 Carriacou
Census. The census was taken by Lt De La Bourgerie de Sablon and is to be found in
the Archives of Paris. He presented the census with an unusual wealth of detail includ-
ing names, ages, colour, status (slave or free), sex, tribal origin, state of health (crippled
or sick in some cases). In the recapitulation at the end of the census the categories
make curious reading: the population was divided into Men, Women, Children,
Negroes, Negresses and Little Negroes. Frances Kay Brinkley comments: "Although
the text of the census gives mulattoes as well, this category does not appear in the
recapitulation. Of the fifteen mulattoes on the island one was a man, two were
women and twelve, children. Eleven of the fifteen were free and counted as Little
Negroes. Of the four free negroes, two men and two women, the two men counted as
Men, the women as Negresses, even though one was head of a household." Free
negresses, head of a household or not, were listed under "negresses" betraying more
sexual than colour prejudice in Carriacou of 1750.
The recency of the British Honduran disturbances of the 1930's as recounted by
Peter D. Ashdown in his Antonio Soberanis and the Disturbances in Belize 1934-37
has not led the author Peter Ashdown to the use of eyewitness accounts through the
device of interviews. Instead he has drawn on the written records of the times as well
as on printed secondary sources. The result, nonetheless, fills a gap in the general
narrative of the wider West Indian disturbances of the 1930's which legitimate
organised labour and spearheaded political independence. As with the rest of the
region the disturbances threw up a popular labour leader from the British Honduran
(later Belizean) grass-roots Soberanis. Why then did the movement not succeed in
Belize as it did in Trinidad or Jamaica? Mr Ashdown suggests a reason: "Soberanis
was no Cipriani or Bustamante. He lacked an elitist background, monied and influential
friends and a formal education." His charisma among the unemployed who supported
him and his "transparent sincerity" were clearly not enough to register lasting impact
on the Belizean labour movement or political development. Antonio Soberanis died in
1975, in contemporary anonymity.
The well-known contemporary efforts by an independent Guyana to find settlers
for a country which has a land area as large as the United Kingdom but with fewer
than 1 million people, have antecedents in history. In Grandiose Schemes for Foreign
Colonization in Guyana: A Survey of Their Origin, Provisions and Abandonment,
James M. Vining traces the origins of population augmentation schemes pursued by
the colonial government of the then British Guiana. "This Commonwealth Caribbean
republic suffers from overpopulation but at the same time it suffers from under-
population." The need to open up the interest and to maintain an ample and cheap
labour supply for the colony's sugar industry resulted in five grandiose schemes for
the "foreign colonization of Guyana." Mr Vining surveys these five schemes all of
which failed but all of which influenced in some way the course of government-
sponsored land settlement in Guyana. For example, the schemes resulted in some
detailed land studies which were subsequently utilized by planners in resettlement
projects which, on Mr Vining's account "began in 1880 and continues to this day."
Two poems by Fred Nunes and Velma Pollard deal with themes in Caribbean
History and Professor Elsa Goveia and Dr Barbara Kopytoff review two historical
studies separately K.B. Ingram's bibliographical survey of Jamaican historical sources
from the English conquest to the emancipation of slavery in the case of the one, and
Richard Price's historical and bibliographical introduction to the Guiana Maroons in
the case of the other.
JUAN DE BOLAS AND HIS PELINCO
There is a prevailing notion, initiated perhaps by Edward Long, that the sources for
the history of Jamaica during the 17th and 18th centuries are very thin. One hears it said,
for instance, that a good deal of licence is possible in writing about Juan de Bolas 'since
we really know so little about him'. The aim of this article is to demonstrate the false-
hood of this belief, at least in this particular case, and to set out the facts of Juan de
Bolas' life as we at present know them.
1. Pelinco at Murmuring Brook
(a) 11th Article of Capitulation 'That all the slaves, Negroes and others, be
ordered by their masters to appear on the 26th of this month before His
Excellency in the Savanna near this town to hear and understand the favours
and acts of grace that will be told them concerning their freedom' (transla-
tion by J.L. Pietersz, The Jamaican Historical Review, I (1945) 115).
(b) Ysassi to the king of Spain, 16 August 1658 'I have not done a small
thing in conserving [the fugitive Negroes], keeping them under my obedience,
when they have been sought after with papers from the enemy. I have pro-
mised their Chiefs freedom in Your Majesty's name but have not given it until
I receive an order for it' (F. Cundall and J.L. Pietersz, Jamaica under the
Spaniards, Kingston 1919, p. 81).
On May 10th, 1655,1 the English began landing a force of about 7,000 men at what they
called Passage Fort.2 The Spaniards could muster less than 200 ill-armed militiamen to
resist them, and by May 17th were consequently obliged to agree to the surrender-terms,
one of which is set out in (a) above. We have, of course, no means of knowing if Venables
intended to grant favourss and acts of grace' to those whom the Spaniards had enslaved.
In any case, most of them very soon freed themselves, retreating to the woods from which
they began to wage guerilla warfare on the English invaders.
Christobal de Ysassi, who emerged as the leader of the Spanish resistance, claimed
that he collected these 'fugitive Negroes' and settled them under their own leaders at three
places in the interior. We cannot tell how important Ysassi's role really was in the emer-
gence of these settlements, or how closely he was able to control them. However, it looks
as though he at least maintained contact with them, and as he claims in (b), succeeded
for some years in persuading them not to make peace with the English.
One of the three settlements was in the hills above Guanaboa Vale, and its leader was
Juan Lubolo. The precise site of his pelinco3 has now been lost, but it seems very likely
that it was just to the south of Murmuring Brook, in the district now called Juan de
Bolas.4 Here the guerillas, who eventually numbered about 180,5 built up a thriving
settlement, constructing a town and planting about 200 acres of provisions.6 This food
probably played an important part in supplying parties moving through Murmuring
Brook in order to strike at the English outposts.
In the first months after the English invasion, Lubolo's men were probably active on
the plain below, picking off stragglers from the invading army. However, once Edward
D'Oyley had begun to organize the English more effectively, such random actions be-
came fewer; after that it was chiefly the raiding-parties organized by Ysassi which carried
the war on. We have accounts of these operations from both sides, and they do not
suggest that Lubolo and his pehnco were very active in this phase of the struggle.
2. Discovery and surrender
(a) from D'Oyley's journal 'Order issued to Mr. Peter Pugh to pay Lt.
Carman as a reward out of the impost money for taking two Negroes,
twenty pounds sterling, dated 16th January 1660' (British Library, Addition-
al Manuscripts 12423, fo. 83r0).
(b) Colonel Edward Tyson to the Admiralty, 1 February 1660 '[I] have
had the good success of finding out where the Negroes have lurked these
four years undiscovered, who have built a town and planted about 200 acres
of provisions, [I am] now in parley with them and doubt not a good issue'
(Calendar of State Papers, America and West Indies, 1675-1676, No.332).
One of the English regiments had been quartered in Guanaboa Vale, on the plain below
Lubolo's settlement. In January 1660 colonel Barrington commanding this regiment was
accidentally shot by a sentry while returning to his quarters; that same month Lt.
Carman 'took twc Negroes' (see (a) above). It is tempting to surmise that the latter
revealed Lubolo's settlement to the English; at all events, colonel Edward Tyson, who
succeeded Barrington, instigated a vigorous drive against the Negroes in the hills above
Leading a large party into the hills, he reached what we know as Lluidas Vale, and
made contact with Lubolo. The bulk of the English party then remained at the pelinco,
while a few went with three of Lubolo's men to 'Port Cagway' (the embryonic Port
Royal). There they saw D'Oyley, and came to an agreement; as one Englishman wrote
home, they 'miraculously made peace with us'.7 The terms of this peace were that Juan
de Bblas should change sides, in exchange for which he would be recognized as governor
of a free settlement, presumably on the site of the pelinco.
(a) Ysassi to the king of Spain, 10 August 1660 'At this time [in February
1660] I had news that one of the three Negro settlements in the island had
been attacked by the enemy accompanied by other Negroes from another
settlement of Juan Lubolo, and that these had made a league against me and
against the other two settlements' (Institute of Jamaica, Seville Papers, second
(b) Cornelius Burrough to Robert Blackthorne, 10 April 1660 .. the
enemy having proffered their friendship and delivered up twelve hostages to
make good their promise, . they, with our men, routed and destroyed
two settlements of other Negroes and then took them to the Spanish camp,
where of about 140 we took and killed about 80' (Calendar of State Papers
as above, no 335).
(c) Cornelius Burrough to Admiralty, 27 May 1660 'The enemy in our
bowels ... are now become our bloodhounds .. and they are in our behalf
more violent and fierce against their fellows than we possibly can be'
(Calendar of State Papers, America and West Indies, 1675-1676, n0345).
After joining the English, Juan de Bolas' first act was to attack his former comrades in
one of the other two Negro settlements. This was probably the one at Vermejales8
commanded by Juan de Serras; indeed, it was from this settlement that Ysassi first learn-
ed of Juan de Bolas' change of heart.9 After attacking Juan de Serras and his men, Juan
de Bolas turned on the other Negro settlement, which he also 'routed and destroyed'
He then guided a party of 80 Englishmen and 21 of his own men, all under the com-
mand of Tyson, to the Spanish camp. There about half the Spaniards were killed in a
surprise attack. Ysassi escaped, but his position was now desperate, and late in April he
sailed for Cuba with the majority of his men. A few Spaniards were still left in the island
at this stage, and there were also some Negroes who had survived the onslaught of Juan de
Bolas. The latter now did his best to wipe out these survivors, as we learn from (c).
(a) from D'Oyley's journal 'Order issued this last January 1660 to William
Bispham to deliver for the use of the Negroes come into us, to dresse their
victualls, two brasse kettles and a new panne' (British Library, Additional
Manuscripts 12423, fo. 83ro).
Juan de Bolas and his party were now rapidly absorbed into the English military adminis-
tration. Almost at once they received two kettles and a pan 'to dresse their victualls'
(a); the following day, 1 February 1660, an order was issued for them to receive 'one
dozen of ruggs'.1u Thereafter D'Oyley's journal shows that they received money and
rations in the same way as the soldiers of the English regiments.
In March Captain Burrough, steward-general, was re-imbursed for expenses incurred
in 'accomodatinge ye Negroes lately come in to us'.11 In May, Juan de Bolas received
'twenty shillings, his M. de Campo and Sergt. Major twenty shillings more for their
weekly maintenance'.12 In June Captain Rudgierd received eighteen pounds 'for so much
expended on Juan de Bola and his company'.13 In November 'Juan de Bola' received
three gallons of brandy, part of a general issue to the army.14 It is therefore plain that he
and his men had now in every sense joined the English.
5. Establishment : military
(a) eleventh of D'Oyley's Instructions, February 1661 'You are to give
such encouragements as securely you may to such Negroes, natives and others,
as shall submit to live peaceably under His Majesty's obedience, and in the
due submission to the government of the island' (Journals of the Assembly of
Jamaica, vol. I, Jamaica 1811, Statistical Papers p. 3).
(b) from a report on Jamaica written in 1661 'Over the river is planted
Negroes, a pelinco of them, having Don Wall Bolo their governor under the
command of the English, being much our friends, having their freedom as
other planters' (British Library, Additional Manuscripts 11410, fo. 4).
(c) from a census of Jamaica taken in October 1662 'There are likewise a
pelinco of Negroes, about one hundred and fifty, under one Boulo, which
are lanciers and archers, and many of the private, men-of-war men' (Journals
of the Assembly of Jamaica, as above, p. 20).
The position of D'Oyley, one of Cromwell's officers, was rather ambiguous after the
restoration of Charles II in England. However, late in May 1661 D'Oyley received his
Commission and Instructions from his new sovereign. Among the Instructions was (a)
above; it covered the case of Juan de Bolas, who continued to live on his pelinco 'over
the river'. It is not clear which this river was, but it is plain that Juan de Bolas and his
settlement were duly integrated into the new government.
6. Establishment : civil
(a) Declaration of February 1663 ... the said Juan lu Bola and all the free
Negroes shall be in the same state and freedom as the English enjoy, and shall
for every head (being eighteen years old) receive thirty acres of improvable
land to be set in such places as shall be thought fit by the Governor and
Council to them and their heirs for ever . .' (Institute of Jamaica, Council
Minutes MST 60, fo. 61-3).
(b) Order of the Council, 28 April 1663 'that the Spanish Negroes be
exercised in martial discipline, under the command of Juan Luyola' (Calen-
dar of State Papers, America and West Indies, 1661-8, no 446).
Full civil government came with a new Governor, Lord Windsor, who arrived in Jamaica
in August 1662. Juan de Bolas had been appointed 'governor' of his pelinco under the
military government; now, in February 1663, the Governor and Council attempted to
regularize his position by terminating that commission and appointing him instead
'Colonel of the Black Regiment'.15 That this was not intended to be a sinecure is suggest-
ed by (b); the English probably valued de Bolas' men in particular for their skill as
lancersrs. Men armed with lances (the 'cowkillers') had played a large part in Penn and
Venables' repulse from Santo Domingo, and the English retained a healthy respect for
The declaration of February 1663 regulating Juan de Bolas' position contains many
other interesting features. Those who drafted it believed that there was 'no enemy now in
the island', a belief soon to be shattered. They also required the children of Juan de Bolas'
settlement to be '[brought up] to the English tongue', and promised similar freedom to
any 'Negroes who through discontent have taken to the mountains'.
(a) from Beeston's journal 'On the first day of November the outlying
Negroes met with Juan de Bola and cut him to pieces; else all things were
quiet in the country' (Interesting tracts relating to the island of Jamaica,
Spanish Town 1800, p. 281).
Among those who had 'taken to the mountains' was probably Juan de Serras, the
Vermejales leader who had escaped Juan de Bolas' onslaught in February 1660. We can
imagine with what feelings he and his comrades viewed first of all Juan de Bolas'
treachery, and then his rapid ascension in the English hierarchy. We have no means of
knowing how actively Juan de Bolas pursued these 'outlying Negroes' after the middle of
the year 1660, but we may guess that he lost no opportunity to hunt them down. On the
1st of November 1663 one such foray ended fatally for him, when he fell into an ambush.
The death of Juan de Bolas did not at once mean the end of his pelinco. On the map
published in 1671 by John Ogilby, 'Juan de Bola polink' is shown just south of'Luidas
pastures', in the neighbourhood of Murmuring Brook; there his followers continued their
cultivation. In 1676, during a rebellion in the island, the Council ordered that 'six
Spanish Negroes [were] to be sent over to assist with their lances'.16 In the 1680 census,
we read of '5 free Negroes' in St. Johns,17 on the southern fringe of the pelinco; in that
same year we know that 120 acres west of Lluidas Vale were held by 'Spanish Negroes'.18
After that time, however, we lose track of Juan de Bolas' settlement. It is marked on
the map drawn about 1682 by Charles Bochart and Humphrey Knollis, but then seems
to fade even out of cartographic knowledge until relatively recent times. Two recent
authors may be correct in suggesting that 'the survivors of Juan de Bolas' band may have
begun a westward migration that brought them towards gradual identification with the
fugitive Maroons of Trelawny',19 or else they may simply have been absorbed into the
emergent anglophone society.
In the course of this article we have drawn on a fair number of hitherto unused
manuscript sources. There is no doubt that many more await discovery. We have not been
able, for instance, to go through the correspondence of the English governors, preserved
at the Public Record Office in London. Nor have we been able to carry out research in
Spain, where much information concerning Jamaica up to 1660 must still exist.
However, we rather doubt if fresh discoveries will much change the account of
Lubolo's last years, as we have tried to describe them. Obliged to come in to the English,
when his provision-grounds were discovered, he turned on his former comrades and
then on the Spaniards with astonishing zest, and in the process carved out for himself a
secure place in the emergent plantocracy. His death seems to us an act of justice; as
Carey Robinson has well written,20 he was 'the great traitor'.
DAVID BUISSERET AND
1. According to the Old Style dating used by the English; dates for Spanish documents are New
2. The site of this landing-place has now been obscured by the extensive works at Portmore.
3. Pelinco, palenque or polink, an archaic word meaning a small farm or provision-ground.
4. In this area, which is now rather remote, there are also a river and a mountain named after him.
5. British Library, Harleian MSS 3361, fo. 26.
6. Calendar of State Papers, America and West Indies [henceforward CSP], no 332.
7. CSP 1675-1676, no 334.
8. For the significance of the settlement at Los Vermejales, see S.A.G. Taylorv The Western
Design (Kingston 1965).
9. Institute of Jamaica, Seville Papers Second Series, letter from Ysassi to the King of Spain, 10
10. British Library, Additional MSS 12423, fo. 83ro.
11. ibidem, fo. 112.
12. ibidem, fo. 112.
13. ibidem, fo. 112.
14. ibidem, fo. 98vo.
15. The full text of this declaration may be found at the Institute of Jamaica, MST 60,
'Transcripts of Council minutes', fo. 61-63.
16. CSP 1675-6, no 793.
17. Public Record Office, CO 1/45, 59, p. 109.
18. Quoted by Craton and Walvin in A Jamaican plantation (London/New York 1970) p. 37.
19. op. cit., p. 37.
20. The fighting maroons of Jamaica (London/Kingston 1969).
HUGH CLIFFORD IN TRINIDAD 1903-1907
Hugh Clifford served in Trinidad as Colonial Secretary between September 1903 and
February 1907, and for some twelve months of this period he acted as Governor. It was
a time of considerable delicacy for the administration and of significance for the history
of the colony because in March 1903 a severe riot in Port of Spain had led to complete
paralysis of government.
To Clifford, however, the offer of a Caribbean appointment was unexpected and
unwelcome. He had spent the previous twenty years of his colonial career1 in Malaya and
North Borneo, and, after a long period of home sick-leave (during which he had supple-
mented his half-pay by writing), he was looking forward to returning to the Malay States
as Resident of Pahang. But one Sunday in the late summer of 1903, while he was grouse
shooting in Scotland, he received a telegram from Charles Lucas, Assistant Under-
Secretary at the Colonial Office, asking him to return to London for consultations.
Clifford travelled back to town, stayed in the Travellers' Club and the next morning walk-
ed over to Downing Street to meet Lucas. Lucas asked him to go to Trinidad.2
Following the riot the Colonial Office had determined to make changes at the top of
the local administration. Their first nominee for the post of Colonial Secretary had died
soon after accepting the appointment and so the Secretary of State, Joseph Chamberlain,
was advised to turn to Clifford. Although he had had no experience of the West Indies,
the Colonial Office had been impressed by Clifford's tireless efforts to restore order in
the Malay States, by his administrative ability and by his understanding of and sympathy
for alien peoples under British rule. Clifford was in a quandary: acceptance would mean
an indefinite, perhaps final, separation from Malaya and the Malays, the added responsi-
bilities of grappling with a chaotic administration in an unfamiliar environment, and,
strangely, a drop in salary, a sacrifice in pension rights and the expense of financing his
own journey to the Caribbean. "He told Mr. Lucas that if he was promoted three times
like that he would receive a Governorship for nothing."3 But refusal would sorely damage
his prospects in the colonial service. Clifford consulted his old chief, Sir Cecil Clementi
Smith,4 who had led the recent Commission of Enquiry into the Port of Spain riot.
Clementi Smith insisted that he should go to Trinidad. With a heavy heart Clifford formal-
ly accepted the offer on 3 September.
In those days a colonial servant who was transferred from colony to colony stood to
lose financially as he moved out of one system of salaries and pensions into another.
Clifford pointed out to the Colonial Office that, "My transfer to Trinidad will... entail
upon me a loss approximately equivalent to one third of my official income," and he
demanded recognition of his previous service in Malaya in the calculation of his pension.5
The Colonial Office went a little way to allay Clifford's anxieties. They requested the
Governor of Trinidad to obtain from his Legislative Council a special vote that would
provide Clifford a half salary during his transatlantic passage and to amend the Trinidad
pension regulations in order to accommodate Clifford's case. Nonetheless, despite these
minor concessions and although the head of the family, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, pro-
vided the money for Hugh's removal to the West Indies, the lack of uniformity of salaries
and pensions across the various administrative services of the colonial empire was to
worry Clifford throughout the rest of his career. For example, in 1917 he complained to
the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State that this lack of uniformity stood in the way
of an improved administration of the empire as a whole since it deterred good officers
from accepting transfers to other dependencies.6 Clifford returned to this theme in 1924
when, as Governor of Nigeria, he wrote to the Secretary of State with some suggestions
for the modification of the colonial pensions scheme which the Department was then
considering. Clifford pointed out that had he remained in Malayan service he would by
March 1921 have reached the post of Resident of Perak with pensionable emoluments
considerably in excess of 2,000 whereas owing to his transfer first to Trinidad and then
my total prospective pension for the nine and twenty years and more of
service that preceded my first appointment to a Governorship works out at
only 6 2 2 per annum.7
When in January 1928, shortly after his return to Malaya for his final posting, Clifford
sent the Colonial Office a memorandum prepared by his predecessor, Sir Lawrence
Guillemard, on the expenses and emoluments of the Governor and High Commissioner
of Malaya, he added three paragraphs on which Sidney Caine of the Colonial Office subse-
quently minuted, "Sir H. Clifford takes the opportunity to complain again about his
beggarly l ,300a year pension."8
Having accepted the Trinidad appointment Clifford prepared for his return to active
service. He wrote to Mead of the Colonial Office telling him of his literary activities during
the two years of sickness and convalescence:
I intend now to lay this completely aside, but I should like you to understand
that a good deal of work which has already been done will continue to appear
from time to time for a long period to come.9
And, having listed the many articles and stories placed with Blackwood's, Cornhill,
Macmillan's, the Spectator, etc. the book on exploration which Lawrence and Bullen
were about to bring out and two volumes of short stories and sketches that awaited
publication, he continued,
This sounds an appalling confession of prolificacy, now that I come to write it
down, but my only object in wearying you with these details is to warn you
that this large amount of literary work is actually done, that it is the result of
my long spell of "idleness" in England, and that not a line of it will have been
written during my sojourn in Trinidad.
Though never so prolific again, Clifford's literary career did not, however, come to an
abrupt halt in the autumn of 1903. At the same time he wrote to George Blackwood ask-
ing for an advance on Sally as "I want every penny of ready money that I can scrape
together just at this moment when I have heavy expenses in connection with my new
departure."10 He told Blackwood of his misgivings with regard to the Trinidad job:
I shall take up the appointment with no high hopes, and with heavy odds
against my chances of scoring anything approaching to success, but there is
work to be done, and God helping me, I hope to be able to cope with it, at
any rate to the best of my abilities ... It is a case of: "He either fears his fate
too much etc." and I look upon it as the turning point, for good or evil,
in my official career.
The appointment had been made at too short notice to arrange for his wife, Minna and
family to accompany him; they would follow later. Meanwhile, Clifford was to embark
from Southampton on 16 September. Once in the boat-train Clifford opened the letter
satchel which he had picked up at the Colonial Office. As he read of the appalling situa-
tion that awaited him in Trinidad he began to fear that he had made the greatest mistake
of his life.11
The Trinidadian Problem
We shall pause here to examine those developments that culminated in the Port of
Spain riot on 23 March 1903.12 The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were
periods of unprecedented economic growth in Trinidad as the exploitation of asphalt and
oil got underway. Relative prosperity induced an awareness amongst the non-European
communities of the unequal distribution of wealth as between whites and non-whites,
and also afforded the latter the leisure for political discussion, organisation and agitation.
Behind the unrest at the turn of the century lay a determination on the part of the
leaders of the non-white population to resist any attempts, be they real or imagined, to
undermine their newly acquired standard of living, and a resolve to advance their role in
the government of the country. Although there were divisions within each of the two
groups for example, French creoles stood apart from the British while the predominant-
ly rural Indian community had nothing in common with the urbanized negroes in
general the whites were united in a desire to maintain their political control and the
coloured groups agreed on the demand for participation in government. Ever since the
early 1890's radical agitation for reform of both the central government of Trinidad and
the Port of Spain Municipal Borough Council had been growing in proportion to the
decline in the opportunities for unofficial representation on government bodies. In 1898
the unofficial lost their majority on the colony's Legislative Council and at the same time
Governor Jerningham, acting on the instructions of Chamberlain, abolished the Port of
Spain Municipal Council, whose elected members had run the town board close to
bankruptcy. Four years later the unofficial discovered that they were unable to compen-
sate for their dwindling representation when they failed to assert themselves in the key
Finance Committee of the Legislative Council. Moderates now supported radicals in their
demands for greater representative government.
In this campaign for constitutional reform the Trinidad press played an important
role. In the 1890's The Port of Spain Gazette, which had been founded in 1825, came
under French creole control and with A.P.T. Ambard as editor (1898-1925) it advocated
the extension of the franchise to a restricted group of propertied people. In 1924 it was
to turn against the French creole radical, Cipriani when he espoused the cause of "the
barefoot man." In 1898 The Mirror was started by an English journalist, Ralph Mole,
and until its demise in 1916 (when it was succeeded by the much more conservative The
Trinidad Guardian) was the chief organ of Trinidad's political agitators. It was The Mirror
that would condemn the paternalism of Hugh Clifford.
Governor Jerningham (1897-1900) had been able to control this increasing political
activity. His successor, Sir Alfred Moloney (1900-1904) satisfactorily fulfilled the duties
of routine administration but, like many a governor posted in a low-ranking dependency,
he proved unequal to the challenge of local politics. The proposed Water Works Ordinance
of 1903 provided a focal point for grievances which included the demarcation between
central and municipal government, rates and government finance and, of course, the issue
of representation. The Ordinance is best viewed as more the occasion of the upheaval
rather than its cause. Moloney, unlike other officials both in Port of Spain and in London,
was astute enough to recognize that the protests against the Ordinance in reality involved
wider considerations than the levy of a controversial water rate. Let us turn to Moloney's
own account of the disturbances as contained in a long telegram which an impatient
Colonial Office, already apprised of events by cabled press reports, received at 8 a.m. on
25 March.13 On 16 March, as the Council was preparing to debate the new Water Works
Bill, a crowd entered the Chamber and proved so obstreperous as to necessitate the
Council's adjournment. To guard against a recurrence of unruly behaviour it was decided
to admit the public by ticket only when the Council returned to the Bill. On 21 March a
public meeting was convened to protest against the ticket-only regulation and, when two
days later the Council assembled to discuss the water measure, the Committee of the
Ratepayer's Association, supported by a crowd some 1,000 strong, demanded entry. As
the Council proceeded with its business the noise outside grew louder and at two o'clock
demonstrators began to hurl stones into the Chamber. Half an hour later the Public
Buildings (known as the Red House) were fired in two places. Then the Riot Act was read
twice from the gallery on each side of the building, and, this having failed to dampen the
spirits of the rioters, the police opened fire. At this the mob rapidly dispersed as a contin-
gent of local troops together with a large force which had been rapidly landed from HMS
"Pallas" arrived on the scene. The destruction that afternoon was considerable: the
Governor's landau was irreparably damaged but, much worse, the police barracks were
damaged by fire; the Red House together with nearly all the official records was burned
to the ground (it was to cost some 50,000 levied by a special punitive rate to erect new
buildings); nine people were killed and forty were wounded in the shooting. The Govern-
ment's hold on the country appeared weak: Moloney cabled for reinforcements from
neighboring Barbados, and, as he awaited the arrival of two hundred Lancashire fusiliers,
he telegraphed a request to the Colonial Office: the immediate appointment of a Commis-
sion of Enquiry.
Joseph Chamberlain agreed to the despatch of a Commission to Trinidad.14 The three
Commissioners Sir Cecil Clementi Smith (formerly Governor of the Straits Settlements),
Sir H. Evan Murchison James (of the Indian Civil Service), and Mr. Stuart Macaskie (of
Sheffield City Council) arrived at Port of Spain on 28 April. During the next three
weeks they carried out their investigations and embarked for England on 22 May. On 2
July the Colonial Office received their report which was presented to Parliament later in
the same month. The Report15 was highly critical of the Trinidad Government's apathy
in the immediate aftermath of the riot, instead of boldly reasserting its authority it
delayed bringing the instigators of disorder to trial. The Commissioners also found fault
with the conduct of the police; they recommended a further commission of enquiry into
this aspect of the crisis, and they also called for the re-organisation both of the police
force and of the fire brigade. Turning to what it regarded as the cause of the riot, the
Commission proposed that a new Water Works Bill be considered by a Select Committee
of the Trinidad Legislative Council. The Report drew attention to the generally poor
relations between the rulers and the ruled in the colony, and, as a means to bridge this
gulf, the Commissioners voiced their hope for the eventual restoration of municipal
boards with elected members.
Even before the Report was in their hands officials in Downing Street had expressed
anxiety about "the sort of paralysis which seems to have fallen upon the Trinidad
Govt. (sic)."16 The evidence of the Enquiry confirmed their disapproval of both Moloney
and of his Colonial Secretary, Sir Courtenay Knollys. The Colonial Office felt that changes
were necessary not merely in the organisation of the police and fire brigade but at much
higher levels. Knollys was replaced (he was later appointed Governor of the Leewards)
and then, a week before Clifford left to take over as Colonial Secretary, Lucas considered
the future of the Governor himself. Lucas wrote of Moloney, "It seems to be generally
admitted that after the riot he completely lost nerve." 17 He went on to suggest his remov-
al "on the general outcome it is not possible to say that Sir A. Moloney was equal to
the position." This was the general view of the Department but the timing of Moloney's
departure presented a problem. His immediate recall would, it was thought, be a con-
cession to the malcontents of Trinidad, besides it would be hard on Clifford who had yet
to play himself in as Colonial Secretary and unjust to Moloney himself who had other-
wise been a loyal servant of the empire. It was decided, therefore, to make Moloney's
replacement as painless as possible; the Colonial Office hoped that when he returned on
leave early the following year he would save faces all round by obtaining a medical certi-
ficate testifying to his lack of fitness for continued tropical service.
So it was that in the autumn of 1903 Clifford arrived in Trinidad to, as he later put it,
"take charge during the concluding months of a discredited Governor's term of office,
and at a moment of great difficulty and emergency." First for six months as Acting
Colonial Secretary (for Knollys, though recalled, remained nominally the substantive
holder of the post until September 1904) and later, after the departure of Moloney, for
five months as Acting Governor, he was "solely responsible for the administration of the
Colony." Although Clifford was "filling an interregnum" he arrived "with instructions
to get as much controversial matter off the slate as possible so as to give the in-coming
Governor ... a fair and square start."' 8
September 1903-August 1904 Colonial Secretary under Moloney and Acting
Governor: the aftermath of the riot
The tasks facing the Trinidad administration in the autumn of 1903 were daunting
indeed. The specific recommendations of the Clementi Smith Commission had to be
implemented; the more long-term objective of improving the general relationship between
the executive and the people bulked large for the future; those projects that the Govern-
ment had had in hand before the riot had to be re-opened from scratch since the files
had been lost in the Red House fire.19 With HMS "Retribution" remaining in Port of
Spain to subdue the local populace, the trials of the ring leaders of the riot were at last
completed, Sir Henry Bovell, Chief Justice of British Guiana, who had arrived in early
August to carry out an enquiry into police conduct during the riot and to recommend
ways in which the force could be improved, furnished the government with his report on
7 October. The few proposals it contained were put into effect during the following year.
Provoked by the Water Bill, the riot had thwarted its passage. The Government now
faced the problem of getting the measure, or some similar, through the Legislative Coun-
cil at a time when its weaknesses were obvious to a more than usually militant opposition.
A fortnight after he had landed in Port of Spain, Clifford received a deputation of the
Ratepayers' Association that organisation which had been to the forefront in the
recent campaign against the administration. The delegates listed their many complaints
to the new Colonial Secretary who had barely grown acclimatised to the tropics again, let
alone in tune with the subtleties of Trinidadian politics. Nonetheless he managed well -
sympathetically listening to grievances, frankly asking for information on points where he
was ignorant and boldly demonstrating the illogicality of his critics at times when their
reasoning faltered. He ended the meeting with these words:
I cannot of course say that I shall invariably share your views, but I shall
always be glad to hear them, and to consider them to the best of my ability.
I would like you also to understand that in this, as in every matter, the
Government of this Country is simply an organisation trying to run the
Country for no benefit of their own, but for the benefit of the inhabitants
of it, so that it whouls be a place where people may live in security of life and
property, and be able to attend to their own affairs. The duty of the Govern-
ment is to run the Country as best they can for the general good of the
Those who had been the most ardent opponents of the Government earlier in the year
were impressed by the approach of the new Colonial Secretary to the problems of Trini-
dad. The Trinidad Chamber of Commerce which, like the Ratepayers' Association, had
consistently opposed the Government during the events leading up to the riot, stated in
its Report for 1903:
With the advent of the Hon. Hugh Clifford, as Acting Colonial Secretary, a
new and much more happy era has commenced. The opinion of the Chamber
on many subjects has been courteously sought and carefully considered, and
it is hoped that the relations between the Government and the Chamber may
permanently be of a reciprocally cordial nature.21
The same report continued:
It is worthy of note . that the Government has now pursued a course -
which it is a matter of profound regret it had not done in the first instance -
by appointing a large Committee composed of Official and Unofficial Mem-
bers of Council with members of the general public, of whom four are also
members of this Chamber, to go thoroughly into the Water Question and to
advise on the drafting of the necessary Ordinance.
Indeed, as the Clementi Commission had advised, a Special Committee was appointed
to consider a new Water Works Bill. Its sessions were delayed by the need to make a prior
settlement of the sewerage question, and it was not until mid-January 1904 that the
committee met for the first time. It was chaired by Clifford and included certain mem-
bers of the public who, Moloney claimed, were "very representative of the varied interests
and opinions of the public of Port of Spain:"22 Dr. Masson, a coloured representative
who had taken a prominent part in the public discussion on the water question; Mr.
Vasconcello who represented the Portugese property-holders; Mr. Prudhomme David, a
coloured member whom we shall meet again; Mr. Adam Smith, the Hon. Secretary of the
Trinidad Chamber of Commerce; Mr. Randolph Rust, a spokesman of the Ratepayers'
Association; Mr. Bernstein, a businessman "who has a somewhat special aptitude for
figures"; Mr. Horsford of the Town Commissioners; and Mr. J.B.D. Sellier who represent-
ed the French community. The Committee considered the original Bill which had provok-
ed popular outcry and suggested numerous amendments. The Committee's Report was
presented to the Legislative Council, which, having amended it in several places, adopted
it with a completely free Official vote on 8 August. As Clifford (then Acting Governor)
reported to the Secretary of State on 25 August:
It is a source of great satisfaction to me to be able to report that the Ordin-
ance which was the ostensible cause of the deplorable events of March, 1903,
has now passed through the Legislative Council, and that in a form which
commends itself alike to the Government and the general public in Port of
Spain. In principle the Bill has undergone no material alteration, but in detail
it has been very considerably improved.23
This fact that the Bill, while resembling the original measure so closely, passed through
the Legislative Council so easily led Clifford to affirm:
The agitation against the original Ordinance, however, I am persuaded,was due
less to a reasoned disapproval of its provisions than to a determination to
make it an opportunity for the ventilation of a sense of grievance, in some
respects justified, in other respects lacking justification, which at that time
was very generally felt. The very elaborate treatment which the Bill has now
received appears to me to have been valuable, not merely because it has
tended to the improvement of the Ordinance itself, but primarily because I
hope and believe that it has been instrumental in restoring the confidence of
the public in the administration and in removing from the public mind the
impression that their wishes were persistently ignored that unquestionably
prevailed until recently.
In his efforts to repair the breach between rulers and ruled in Trinidad, Clifford drew
his chief's attention to the question of local representation on government bodies. In early
December 1903 a despatch to the Colonial Office24 contained the argument that
Trinidad's problems stemmed not from government indiscretion but from certain structur-
al faults in society notably the divisive colour question which could be corrected
only by reforms that went a good deal further than the measures introduced to deal with
the emergency situation in the wake of the March disturbances. Of course, Moloney was
anxious to justify his governorship and to persuade London to reconsider his future,
nonetheless the despatch, which as Lucas remarked "bears signs of Clifford's handi-
work,"25 proposed two changes that were of much greater import for the long-term
constitutional development of Trinidad the enlargement of the Executive Council and
the restoration of the Port of Spain Municipal Council. On the first Moloney was over-
ruled by London; action on the second, which had been recommended by both the
Clementi Smith Commission and Joseph Chamberlain,26 was postponed until the arrival
of Moloney's successor in the Colony. That Clifford was the driving force at the Trinidad
end behind this reappraisal of policy is demonstrated when, towards the end of January
1904, he took the opportunity presented by an imminent vacancy on the Legislative
Council to draft a Memorandum to the Governor proposing a re-ordering of the Council
so as to make it representative of every section of Trinidad.27 A Legislative Council
representative of every local community was, he emphasised, especially important in a
constitution where the final power lay with the Executive. Moreover:
5. I would submit that the proportion of Non-Creoles to Creoles, and of
Protestants to Roman Catholics is too high, that the planting interest is too
fully, and the coloured element too inadequately represented.
6. I would submit that the increased representation of the coloured interest
should be our first care, since it appears to me that so long as the coloured
population is inadequately represented on the Council, so long will it be
spoken for by self-appointed spokesmen of the Maressa-Smith28 type men
who are unworthy to represent it, and who yet, since it has no other repre-
sentatives, claim, with some show of truth, to be the duly accredited expon-
ents of its views and the champions of its interests. It should be the policy of
the Government, I submit, to bring into prominence the men of moderation,
of judgment and of discretion who are the true representatives of their people,
but who, at the present time, remain in the background while their place is
taken by noisy agitators who only bring those for whom they profess to
speak into contempt with right-thinking men, thereby inflicting a serious
injury upon their people.
7. The appointment of a negro member to the Council is, therefore, I consi-
der, a matter of some urgency, and later, I think, a member should also be
appointed to represent the East Indian community of the Colony . .
10. I am convinced that the adoption of the suggestions which I have
ventured to submit for your Excellency's consideration will offend many of
the rooted prejudices of the white population of this Island, but I am also
convinced that sound policy demands that certain sections of the population
should be adequately represented who hitherto have been more or less
articulate, or have been able only to make their opinions and feelings known
by means of newspaper articles and speeches delivered at public meetings.
11. I would ask forgiveness for the length of this minute, and indeed for
obtruding my views at all upon Your Excellency with regard to a matter the
decision of which lies wholly without my province. My sole excuse is the great
importance of the matter, and my firm conviction that the Legislative Council
is capable of being a far more representative and, therefore, a far more useful
institution than it is at the present moment.
I have quoted this memorandum at some length because it indicates Clifford's views on
colonial administration in general and on the Trinidadian case in particular. His reasoning
was not that of a liberal eager to share power with those non-Europeans who most closely
resembled their European overlords. On the contrary, Clifford had no time for British
"sentimentalists and faddists"29 who, in ignorance or in the dubious hope of winning
popularity, advocated the sharing of power with self-styled leaders of local society pro-
fessing political aspirations akin to those of any European parvenu, and in so doing
endanger the permanence of that British influence that Clifford and men like him "had
suffered so much to create."30 Certainly this memorandum voices the thoughts of the
administrator who believes "what e'er is best administered is best"; it expresses the real-
politik of the colonial ruler. But it also contains an indelible streak of idealism; here too
is the "noblesse oblige" of the aristocrat, the "white man's burden" of the British over-
seas. For Clifford, in the interest of ruler and ruled alike, is wary of those he sees as politi-
cal manipulators who, for selfish designs but in the name of the common good, hamper
the processes of government, shake the confidence of the people in the regime, and
thereby poorly serve the true interests of the community. Like the patricians of old
Clifford is anxious to protect his people from themselves and he would question
Campbell-Bannerman's aphorism that "good government can never be a satisfactory
substitute for self-government." In Trinidad, for the first time in his colonial career he has
come across that sort of political activity which in his own country, he felt, was contri-
buting to the demise of a way of life to which the Cliffords had been bred31 changes
which incidentally had played their part in inducing the sons of decaying families of
feudal England to seek overseas, if not fortune, at least a position of authority in keeping
with their traditions. First in Trinidad, later in Ceylon and West Africa, Clifford sought
to prune what he took to be the extravagant claims of groups of professional politicians
whose strength amounted to no more than their own "gaseous outpourings"32 backed
by a scurrilous and abusive press. These men, in Clifford's view, represented no one but
themselves; their claims to lead the people as a whole could never be entertained. In
Ceylon and in West Africa, as earlier in the Malay States, Clifford trusted in the continued
prestige of the traditional leaders Sultans, Chiefs, Emirs to sustain a stable society;
he came to accommodate the westernised elites not as the leaders of the people as a whole
but rather as a special group to be treated apart from the rest of the community. In
Trinidad there was no long-standing indigenous leadership or accepted social hierarchy
which the colonial regime might adopt for its own purposes; here Clifford preferred to
remove the opportunities for the activity of the agitator while at the same time he
nurtured the more reliable elements in local society.
In this instance the instance that had provoked Clifford to write the memorandum
on local representation on the Trinidad Legislative Council Clifford felt that the negro
population should be represented by Mr. Prudhomme David, a leading Creole lawyer in
Port of Spain. Moloney was clearly not prepared to embark on any major reorganisation
of the Council at a time when he had but two months left to him as Governor, and, while
he sympathised with Clifford's point of view indeed he asked Clifford to prepare a
copy of his memorandum for the Colonial Office he felt that the imminent vacancy
on the Council should be filled by the reappointment of the present incumbent, Mr. G.
Goodwille, the representative of the dry goods merchants. Clifford had little time for
Goodwille (one suspects that Goodwille was a time-server using his position on the Coun-
cil to further his business interests and his own popularity) and urged the Governor to
bring new blood onto the Council if only from the limited sector of the dry goods
interest. It was too late to alter the nature of local representation in time to fill the
vacancy that fell due on 6 February with the result that Goodwille was reappointed to the
Council. However, in his despatch to the Colonial Office33 four days later Moloney
made clear the reservations the administration had with regard to Goodwille and endorsed
Clifford's opinion about the inadequate representation of the coloured population.
Moloney thus proposed that the next place to fall vacant, that of Mr. Gordon Gordon,
should be filled by David. The Colonial Office agreed with the Governor's recommenda-
tions and in its reply reiterated points recently made in connection with constitutional
affairs of Ceylon, that the administration should ensure that the Legislative Council
reflected all the major interests of colonial society and should be on its guard against the
automatic re-appointment of unofficial members. So it was that, when in May Gordon's
place fell vacant, Clifford, as Acting Governor, appointed David to the Council. At the
same time, rather than await the arrival of the next Governor, Clifford decided to broach
the matter of the appointments of two further unofficial, G.T. Fenwick and Charles
Leotaud, whose terms of service were due to expire at the beginning of July. Although
he recommended the reappointment of the former, he suggested that Leotaud be replaced.
The Colonial Office agreed to this proposal.34 But this decision not to reappoint
Leotaud brought down upon the Acting Governor the abuse of the Trinidad press. The
Mirror, in particular, attacked Clifford's egotism, superior attitude and lack of wisdom,
and attributed these flaws to his years in Malaya where, the paper argued, he had never
met with criticism.35
In his capacity as Acting Governor Clifford responded by taking the unusual step of
submitting to the Trinidadian press a letter explaining his action. He justified this move
to the Secretary of State as follows:
I have reason to believe that these attacks were deliberately designed to shake
the confidence of the ignorant public in the Government, just at a moment
when the confidence had been completely restored . unless some action
were promptly taken to counteract this systematic poisoning of the public
mind, much of what has been achieved during the past few months would be
completely undone . silence was only too likely to cause a recrudescence
of the kind of agitation which led up to the events of the 23rd of March.
Prior to my arrival in Trinidad I have always held strongly to the opinion
that newspaper criticism, and above all newspaper abuse, are best ignored,
but since I began to learn more of local conditions I have seen reason to
modify this view in so far as this Colony is concerned. The Press in Trinidad
exercises great influence over the bulk of the population, because while our
people can and do read, they think for themselves but little, and are accus-
tomed to accept ready-made opinions without troubling themselves to
exercise much judgement or discrimination.
I anticipate that the immediate result of my action, in so far as I myself
am concerned, will be a fresh out-pouring of scurrility and abuse, but for the
moment I have the ear and to some extent the confidence of the public, and
those of my advisers who are the best acquainted with the people of Trinidad
are convinced that my letter will be productive of nothing but good, and will
serve, at any rate to an appreciable degree, to frustrate the present deliberate
and organised attempt to stir up ill-feeling between the Government and the
It seemed that Clifford's honeymoon with the people of Trinidad was drawing to a close.
All this happened while Clifford was Acting Governor. On 25 March 1904 Moloney
had embarked on leave of absence; he never returned to serve in Trinidad or in any other
dependency. As we have seen, the Colonial Office were determined to remove him as dis-
creetly as possible. Soon after his arrival in England, Moloney was furnished with a
medical certificate that would allow an honourable and pensionable retirement, (the
first years of which were to be plagued by illness and requests from the Colonial Office
for information as to the whereabouts of over one hundred official and confidential files
that went missing at the time of his departure from the Colony). It was hoped in some
quarters that Clifford would succeed Moloney; Moloney himself wrote in glowing terms
of his "able, conscientious, tactful and hardworking colleague" whose "help during some
trying months has been invaluable" and to whom "much credit indeed is due" for the
solution of "practically all the difficult and abnormal questions that arose consequent on
the Riot."37 As Clifford wrote to Blackwood at about the same time, "I have been work-
ed off my legs ever since my arrival here now nearly six months ago," and we may accept
that it was largely due to Clifford's efforts as Colonial Secretary that the next Governor
would be able to turn his attention to the future development of the Colony rather than
be deflected by the aftermath of the water riot. But since Clifford was yet to be confirm-
ed as Colonial Secretary and since his further promotion to the substantive rank of
Governor would have gone against the practice of bringing in Governors from outside the
Colony, the Colonial Office selected Sir Henry Jackson as Moloney's successor.
August 1904-October 1906 Colonial Secretary under Jackson and Acting Governor:
reform of Port of Spain's municipal government
Jackson had been Governor of Fiji and High Commissioner for the Western Pacific
since 1902, but, unlike Clifford, he was not a newcomer to the Caribbean. He had been
ADC and Private Secretary to Sir Henry Irving, Governor of Trinidad 1874-76, and
again to Sir A. Havelock, Governor of Trinidad, in 1884. In 1885 he had been sent as
Commissioner to the Turks Islands and in 1890 he had been appointed Colonial Secretary
to the Bahamas where until 1893 he had frequently acted as Governor. Before his posting
to Fiji he had served two years as Governor of the Leeward Islands. In addition Jackson
had worked in Newfoundland, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast and Gibraltar. Jackson's
career particularly his time in the Bahamas where, as elected member for the City of
Nassau, he had been leader of the elected House of Assembly had given him some ex-
perience of, and a taste for, representative government. "I have learnt," he vowed, "to
look on the frank expression of public opinion as something to be desired rather than
repressed"38 and his years as Governor of Trinidad, 1904-1908, were to be marked by
relatively peaceful agitation on the part of the politically active elements since Jackson
was "genuinely interested in extending the principle of elective government at the munici-
pal as well as the rural level."39
When Jackson assumed charge of the administration of the Colony on 30 August
1904, his Colonial Secretary presented him with a memorandum of the various questions
requiring immediate attention. Of paramount importance was the reform of the municipal
administration of Port of Spain. The elected Municipal Council had been abolished in
1898 largely because of desperate financial straits the Council had levied an inadequate-
ly low rate and its collection had been inefficient. Thereafter the management of the town
had been vested in a Board of nominated Town Commissioners who later came to fulfill
the functions of the Municipal Water Authority and Sewerage Board. Fresh Ordinances
for water and sewerage having been passed just before Jackson's arrival and new authori-
ties for these matters having been set up shortly afterwards, there were in Port of Spain
three municipal bodies each with its own organisation, each raising its own rates and each
composed entirely of ex officio members nominated by the Governor. In addition to the
overwhelming desire to replace a highly inconvenient system of town management by a
single municipal authority, a second reason for reform was an official directive to consi-
der the revival of a modified version of the Borough Council that had been abolished six
years earlier. The Clementi Smith Commission though it had dismissed the view that the
riots of March 1903 had been provoked by the absence of local representation on the
administration of Port of Spain, had nonetheless expressed the hope
that gradually, and at no very distant date, there will be not only nominated,
but elected members on the Board or Boards appointed to deal with such
questions as water, sewerage, and other Municipal matters.40
Similarly, in his comments on the Report, Chamberlain had stated:
The constitution of the water authority is one of the points to be considered
by the proposed Select Committee of the Legislative Council; and when this
and other matters connected with water and sewerage have been settled for
the time being, I should hope that it may be possible to go a step further and
consider whether a Borough Council for Port of Spain should not be revived,
modified on the lines which are followed in India and some of the Eastern
Colonies, but containing a proportion of elected members.41
Clifford must have had this Despatch in mind when, as early as mid-October 1903, he
had suggested to Moloney legislation "on the lines of the 'Sanitary Board Enactments' in
use in the towns of the Malay Peninsula."42 Two weeks after this proposal, the Legisla-
tive Council of Trinidad had approved in principle the establishment of local boards
(starting with Port of Spain) and had agreed upon the need to study kindred schemes in
other dependencies (such as India, Ceylon, the Straits Settlements and the Federated
Malay States) before drafting plans for Trinidad.
Jackson, however, decided to postpone action on this important issue of the reform of
the Municipal Authority until he had closely studied local conditions. Meanwhile, other
business, set in train long before his arrival, was concluded: the reorganisation of the
police force was completed in the spring of 1905, the question of the Crown Lands was
dealt with a few months later and by the end of the year the Labour Commission reached
its final stage.
In April 1905, with the new Governor firmly installed, Clifford went on home leave.
Since his posting to Trinidad, Clifford had had few leisure moments, and, on returning to
England, he first sought relaxation: "We put in a couple of months in London, and were,
for a space, very busy doing nothing, as is the way of London in the Season. We, however,
contrived to see a great many of our friends."43 He was also able to arrange the publica-
tion of an article or two. Although for the past year and a half he had had very little time
for literary pursuits a thing of considerable regret "for this place is crammed with
copy"44 he had managed to write "Time and Tobago," an essay on the island's history,
which appeared in the September issue of Blackwood's and again in the following year
when Smith, Elder and Co. published another collection of his short pieces entitled
Heroes of Exile; Being certain rescued fragments of submerged romance. He also supplied
Blackwood with "The Administration of Tropical Dependencies," an article suggested
by Professor Ireland's recently published The Far Eastern Tropics: Studies in Administra-
tion (London, 1905). Clifford asked Blackwood to print this article anonymously or
under a pseudonym the name "Ethnologist" was adopted in the end "since it deals
with questions in which I am actively engaged in my capacity as a civil servant of the
Crown."45 Clifford assumed the pen-name "Imperialist" when, at about the same time,
The Fortnightly Review accepted his article "The Problem of the West Indies,"46 which
contained an argument in favour of an Anglo-American exchange of the British West
Indies and the Philippines.
It was in his official capacity and at the request of Lucas that during the first few
weeks of leave Clifford produced a "Memorandum on the Existing Condition of Race-
Feeling in the Island of Trinidad."47 This memorandum is characteristically fluent and
forthright and impressed Lucas to such a degree that he suggested a meeting between
Clifford and the Secretary of State, Lyttleton. The memorandum is worth examining at
some length as the reflections of an official at the half-way point not just of his term of
office in Trinidad but also of his colonial career as a whole. Clifford starts by declaring
that the colour question, though completely ignored in the Report of the Clementi Smith
Commission, "is the one, all pervading, and immensely difficult question that underlies,
and affects, more or less vitally, every matter connected with the administration of the
Colony," and he predicts "that any serious and important breaches of the peace that may
hereafter occur in Trinidad will be found, if their causes are sifted to the bottom, to have
their origin, direct or indirect, in the Colour Question." His subsequent analysis of the
problem is couched in the striking, simplistic and quasi-Darwinian terms then adopted in
discussions of racial differences and takes the form of a comparison of the Trinidadian
situation with that which Clifford had observed in the East.
The colour problem in Trinidad, says Clifford, differs from the same question in the
East in four principal aspects. Firstly, in the East the brown people respect the European
for his justice, whereas in the West Indies the negro, having been robbed of justice under
the old slave system, has grown to hate the white man and all authority. The emancipa-
tion of the slaves only served to demonstrate to the black man the contemptible weakness
of the European and the superiority of the negro over the white man. Secondly, those
born of mixed parentage Eurasians in the East, Coloureds in the West Indies occupy
different positions; in Asia they are "outcast of both the white and the brown races" but
in Trinidad the Coloured man shares the blackman's hatred and suspicion of the whites
and is "the recognized leader and inspire of the blacks." Like the negro, the Coloured is
held in contempt by the white communities, but unlike the negro he "receives from the
strain of white blood in his veins that quickened intelligence which enables him to make
his sentiments articulate and to stir up the animosities of those he aspires to lead." Many
Coloureds, writes Clifford, continuing this theme, "have Latin blood in their veins, which
when blent [sic] with that of the negro makes an exceedingly inflammable mixture. They
appear to me to be of a quicker intelligence, and they certainly are more enthusiastic,
more excitable, more ambitious, and more lacking in ballast and stability than are the
half-breeds who come of British parentage." Many too, reading French, "have devoured
Jean Jacques Rousseau and the more 'heady' of the French revolutionary writers" and
have developed socialist and revolutionary opinions which they employ to fan the dis-
content amongst the black community.
Moving on to the third characteristic of the colour question Clifford regrets that in the
West Indies the white man "has never maintained his position in relation to the coloured
and black peoples in the way that has kept up the white man's reputation and authority
in the East." In the East, "so that his presence may not be a discredit to the race to
which he belongs," the white man has learned to recoup his strength by periodic visits to
Europe; but in the West Indies climate and the presence of a large number of poor whites
have contributed to the physical and moral degeneration of the local white population.
Contemptuous of the blacks and coloureds and by them despised, the whites were none-
theless fearful of personal unpopularity and thus unable to make a strong stand on any
point of principle. It is for this reason, argues Clifford, that the whites, though afraid of
the spectre of majority rule, were prepared to pay lip service to some of the more extreme
demands of the other communities. Similarly, those indigent whites who controlled the
popular press, were, Clifford maintains, eager to play up to the anti-white prejudices of
the majority of the population in order to sell more newspapers. "The whole tone of the
white population of the Colony ... shows a complete indifference to that tradition of
honour which, in the East to-day at any rate, deters the meanest of us from falling below
a certain standard, and makes the reputation of Englishmen stand high in the estimation
of the brown people." Finally, Clifford points to the fourth element in the problem -
the lack of cohesion and solidarity amongst the whites themselves. This feature again
not to be found in the East was the result of the varied European origins of the white
communities and contributed to the government's isolation in the colony.
It is interesting to note that Clifford makes no mention of the large community of
East Indians who formed something like one third of the total population of Trinidad. Of
all the races thrown into the Caribbean melting-pot they found the greatest difficulty in
regarding themselves as West Indians.48 Imported as indentured labourers to fill the gap
on the sugar plantations after the emancipation of the negro slaves, the East Indian
immigrants retained their own customs, religions and languages, and proved difficult to
absorb into the Trinidadian population. As far as indentured labourers were concerned
there was a special government department for their protection. Indeed, for the length of
their term of indenture generally a period of five years the immigrants were depen-
dent on the good offices of the Protector of Immigrants, the official appointed to ensure
that the terms of the contracts were kept by all parties. When, for example, a body styled
The East Indian National Association of Trinidad attempted to assume the role of spokes-
man for indentured labourers, Clifford had commented:
An Association of this character is likely to have a very bad effect. The
Protector's Dept. is specially maintained for the purpose of looking after the
labourers who are under indenture, & until the term of indenture has expired
interference from others is not likely to be productive of good & is certainly
unnecessary. The Association wd. be well advised if it were to devote its
attention exclusively to free immigrants.49
Although the vast majority of East Indians settled down as small farmers or as merchants
once their period of indenture had run its course, it seems that the government, or at
least Clifford, persisted in regarding them as birds of passage who, like the Chinese and
later the Indian immigrants in Malaya, were not an intrinsic part of local society.
But to return to Clifford's memorandum on the colour question, what conclusions did
he draw from his analysis? Clifford rejected the notion that power should be devolved
onto the local population of Trinidad; the white community which was in the dominant
political position had long lost the respect of the non-white peoples, while the political
immaturity of the latter meant that it would be dangerous to allow them to exercise
power upon any large scale. In this connection Clifford referred to Thomas a Kempis'
maxim, which he frequently quoted during the course of his career, "No man securely
commands save he who hath learned well to obey." He also implied that a system of
"government by advice" such as pertained in the Malay States was inapplicable to Trini-
dad where the leaders of the local communities appeared to be so unreliable. Therefore,
he concluded, "the only salvation for the Colony to-day, and it may be for many years to
come, lies in the administration of its affairs being entrusted to men who are free from all
local ties and interests . Government by selected white officials, who are instructed to
acquaint themselves in the most painstaking fashion with local needs and requirements,
to give a sympathetic hearing to all parties, and to decide every question to the best of
their ability for the good of the community as a whole, without fear and without favour,
without affection and without ill-will, is, I venture to think, the only form of government
in the least suited to the conditions which prevail in this Colony." Once again we see
Clifford shouldering "the white man's burden," once again we have evidence of his
creed that good government administered by an alien regime is infinitely preferable to
self-government whereby a minority attempts to delude and exploit the majority. Without
doubt, Clifford realized that such a course would incur the hostility of local leaders, and
he insisted that the moral force of British paternalism should be backed up by a more
substantial military presence in the Colony.
After two months in London, Hugh and Minna Clifford travelled to Lancashire where
they stayed with Hugh's elder sister, Blanche, and her husband, William Fitz-herbert
Brockholes of Claughton Hall. Then, towards the end of July, they repaired to Somerset
"for peace and quietude, the sea-side, golf, rest and the society of our children."50 The
family was rapidly growing up; Hugh, the eldest, was eight and a half, Mary was just over
a year younger, and Monica, who had been born four months before Clifford's posting to
Trinidad, was now two. Perhaps the greatest sacrifice which colonial servants were call-
ed upon to make, especially in those days of slower travel and less reliable medical
services, was the frequent and prolonged separation from their families, and when in
September Clifford once again set out for Trinidad; he did so "alas, alone."51 His wife
and Monica were to join him towards the end of the following year, while the two elder
children, having already started school, would remain in England.
On Clifford's return to the Colony, Jackson decided that the time was ripe to broach
the question of the reconstitution of the Municipal Authority of Port of Spain and of
local government in the rural areas. With regard to Port of Spain, the Governor and
Colonial Secretary discussed the matter thoroughly together and agreed that the tri-
partite division of power should end and that a single institution should be established
to administer the affairs of the town. As to the form which the new authority should
assume, both Jackson and Clifford were of the opinion that the guidelines previously laid
down in the Report of the Clementi Smith Commission and the subsequent Despatch of
Joseph Chamberlain namely, that the new municipal authority should contain "a pro-
portion of elected members" should be followed. It was decided that His Excellency
would lay the matter before the Legislative Council and propose the appointment of a
special committee to draft a suitable scheme. Jackson was assured by Clifford that, pro-
vided the committee were carefully selected and chaired by the Colonial Secretary, he
would have no difficulty in obtaining an agreement to what both of them desired a
mixed Board of nominated and elected members. Before the matter was brought to the
Legislative Council, however, Jackson proposed that his Colonial Secretary should go on
a fact-finding mission to neighboring British Guiana:
As the question of a municipality for Port of Spain, and incidentally the
establishment of some form of local govt. in addition to, and possibly in
substitution for, local Roads Bds. has to be gone into at a very early date, it
would be useful if you could make yourself acquainted with the B. Guiana
system. It is specially desirable to make clear their system of rating and to
ascertain whether the sources from which they derive their funds for sanita-
tion & road maintenance in the country districts are not already tapped in
T.dad for General Revenue purposes. The composition of their Local Councils
is also important.52
Clifford set sail on 11 November, reached Georgetown two days later and, having spent
some ten days in British Guiana, arrived back in Port of Spain on 24 November. His long
Confidential Report,53 which he submitted to the Governor on 13 December, covered
the Municipal System in British Guiana, Local Government System, Public Institutions,
and General Observations. Of the four sections the first was the most important; in this
Clifford argued against the introduction into Port of Spain of the Municipal system pertain-
ing in British Guiana where the town councils were entirely composed of elected
In British Guiana, partly owing to the character of the people, partly also, no
doubt, to the knowledge they possess that their system of Government
places the power of taxation in their own hands, the municipal system works
with a quite lethargic quiet: in Trinidad I do not think that it would have
even this advantage.
On the contrary, he maintained, a Town Council of the British Guiana type in Port of
Spain would be
seized upon eagerly as an instrument for political agitation; the temptation
to win a worthless popularity, which is one of the curses of our public life in
this Colony, would operate as a strong inducement to reduce rates to an
impossible figure, financial embarrassment would ensue, as it before ensued,
and the spirit of the place, unfortunately, favouring the notion that Govern-
ment should pay for everything on every conceivable occasion, the General
Revenue would be looked to as a means of extricating the Council from a
difficulty of its own contrivance. The inevitable refusal would, in its turn,
lead to a popular outcry against the Government and to political agitation in
a Colony in which, in my opinion, political agitations are highly danger-
ous owing to the inflammable character of our people whose chief lacks are
ballast, sound judgment and common sense.
Having rejected the idea of a wholly elected municipal council, Clifford recommended a
mixed board one containing a proportion of nominated members for Port of Spain.
Jackson agreed. With regard to the system of local government (i.e. in the rural areas),
I believe that a purely autocratic system, such as exists in British Guiana,
would be best suited to our needs, but given the existence of the Local Road
Boards, I do not think that any similar system could at this stage be introduc-
ed with success. Instead I would advocate the abolition of the Local Road
Boards, their absorption into other Boards with wider powers of a municipal
character, and the granting to these Boards of the power of imposing direct
taxation while allotting to ihem an income independent of doles from the
Clifford suggested that this proposal might be discussed at the Committee on Local
Government. Again Jackson approved of Clifford's recommendations: "I entirely share
your conclusions, especially as to the District Boards . ." which he felt were "the only
practicable means of educating the people to take a real share in the management of their
Before this report was finished, the question of the reconstitution of Trinidad's munici-
pal and local government had already been laid before the Legislative Council. At its
meeting on 4 December the Council resolved that a special committee be appointed to
examine the matter in detail. The committee was, as previously agreed between Jackson
and Clifford, chaired by the Colonial Secretary who was given a free hand in selecting
both its official and unofficial members. Its terms of reference were: firstly, to make
recommendations with regard to the reform of Port of Spain's Municipal Authority, and,
secondly, to report upon a possible re-organisation of the Local Road Boards and the
question of the extension of local government throughout the country districts of the
colony. The first task was administratively the more pressing and politically the more
explosive, but Jackson had at this stage every confidence in Clifford's claim that he
would be able to secure agreement to a Mixed Board. The committee did not report on
the second part of its reference a disappointing and misconceived piece of work in
Jackson's view55 until late in 1906 by which time Clifford had long vacated the chair,
and this aspect of its duties need not detain us here.
The committee met for the first time on 3 January 1906 but Clifford's hopes for an
agreement to a Mixed Board for Port of Spain were quickly dashed. In retrospect
Jackson was "inclined to think that their refusal to entertain the suggestion was due, in
part at least, to the fact that no definite proposal as to the composition of a Mixed Board
was ever submitted to them. Failing this the Committee appear to have anticipated that
its composition would be similar to that of the Legislative Council, so that there would
be on it a Government majority."56 Whatever the reason, it very soon became clear that
agreement to a Mixed Board would not be forthcoming and the remaining choice lay
between a wholly nominated and a wholly elected board.
An impasse having been reached, the committee decided that it would be valueless to
prolong its deliberations and so reported back to the Legislative Council. It made two
recommendations, viz: (i) that the Town Commissioners, Water Authority and Sewerage
Board should be amalgamated into a single Municipal Body; and (ii) that the new body
should not be composed of members partly elected and partly nominated by the Execu-
tive on the lines suggested by Joseph Chamberlain. No one could quarrel with the first
proposal but the second merely foisted on to the Legislative Council the task of weighing
up the relative merits of a wholly nominated and a wholly elected board. The report was
laid before the Council on 5 February 1906, a fortnight later Clifford moved its formal
adoption. Then Jackson intervened with a personal suggestion. He proposed that a
nominated council be appointed at once to take over the duties of the Town Commission-
ers, Water Authority and Sewerage Board, but that after three years one third of the
members should be replaced by elected representatives and that similar substitutions
should occur at the end of the fourth and fifth years so that five years after its inaugura-
tion the council would be transformed from an entirely nominated body to one which
was wholly elected and one which in turn elected its own chairman or mayor. By the
time Jackson put forward his scheme, however, Councillors were divided, Clifford tells
us,57 into two camps; those in favour of a wholly elected board and those who advocated
one composed of only nominated members. Representatives of the former group wanted
a speedier transition to an elected council and were unsatisfied with the Governor's
time-table, others in the Council felt that neither system was workable in the circum-
stances of Port of Spain. Moreover, since the idea of a Mixed Board was now a dead duck
and since, according to his own account, Clifford had thought that any scheme leading
to an entirely elected council would be contrary to official policy, the Colonial Secretary
had already committed himself to, and had persuaded others of, the need for a Town
Board composed completely of government nominees. They could not in all conscience
alter their stance now; they could do no other than vote for that amendment which urged
an entirely nominated Town Board. This resolution was carried by 14 votes to 6.
The administration was now in an embarrassing position. A carefully thought out
solution by the Governor had been rejected by the vote of his own officers including
principally the Colonial Secretary. Of course the officials would have voted otherwise had
the proposal come as an official move instead of as the personal suggestion of His
Excellency; the Governor in his turn would have been free to introduce his suggestion as
government policy if this course had not threatened to ride roughshod over the findings
of the special committee. The vote in the Legislative Council stirred the press to put about
reports of government divisions and conflicts between the Governor and his Colonial
Secretary. Moreover, it alarmed many of the better informed and politically influential
among the local inhabitants who, fearful lest the government should fly in the face of the
public, somewhat belatedly presented Jackson on the eve of his departure for home
leave with a petition asking him to set aside the vote of the Legislative Council and to
re-introduce, this time as official policy, his own scheme for the Municipal Council of
Port of Spain. This then was the situation in the early summer of 1906: the Legislative
Council had voted that the new Town Board should be a wholly nominated body; the
Colonial Secretary, though originally a proponent of a Mixed Board, accepted the deci-
sion and as Acting Governor was prepared to put it into effect; the Governor, who had
returned to England, favoured a transition to an entirely elected council and was now
supported by a considerable number of the more articulate members of the Port of Spain
citizenry. Clifford appealed to the Secretary of State not to go against the vote of the
Legislative Council as it would then be deemed to be an unrepresentative and useless
institution.58 Jackson, while reluctant to set aside the Council's resolution, suggested a
way out of the dilemma, namely the immediate establishment of a wholly nominated
board whose composition should be reviewed after the lapse of two years.59
At the Colonial Office Macnaughten felt that this matter does not appear to
have been dealt with very happily by the Colonial Authorities ... The whole
business is further proof if any is needed that the very best men occasion-
ally make mistakes.60
Indeed, a lack of guidance from the Governor and a lack of flexibility on the part of the
Colonial Secretary had contributed to the government's predicament. Clifford maintained
that it was not until he had committed himself and persuaded others in the Legislative
Council to follow him that he realized that the Governor was prepared in fact to make
greater concessions than had, in his view, been originally intended. He also gave Downing
Street the impression that Jackson's personal suggestion came as a surprise to him. Jack-
son himself doubted whether Clifford can have been under a misapprehension as to his
views and he claimed to have taken his Colonial Secretary into his confidence at every
stage in the debate and also to have discussed with him the manner in which the guberna-
torial scheme should be presented to the Council; and yet, inferred Jackson, Clifford had
induced many members of both the special committee and the Council itself to opt for a
wholly nominated board, and he had studiously avoided a thorough assessment of public
opinion on the matter. He implied that Clifford's Eastern experience had perhaps not
equipped him to cope with the very different constitutional requirements of the Carib-
bean, and while he was careful officially to exonerate Clifford from any blame for the
uneasy situation that had arisen and while he paid tribute to the "marked ability" of his
colleague "to whose opinions I attach great weight . for whom I entertain a strong
personal regard" and in whom "my confidence .. is in no way shaken" Jackson, like
others before and after this episode, called attention to a certain intransigence in the
His only fault, if I may say so, is a tendency to form his conclusions too
rapidly without going carefully into all sides of the question ... like the ma-
jority of people who form strong and uncompromising opinions, it is some-
times difficult for Mr. Clifford to see both sides of a question, or even to
admit that there can be any other point of view than that which seems so
plain to him.61
On the constitutional question a marked disparity between the views of Governor and
Colonial Secretary is revealed. We have already noted that Jackson's experience and par-
ticularly his membership of the Bahamas' House of Assembly had given him a predilec-
tion for representative government. On the other hand, Clifford's years as British advis-
er to Malay potentates together with his more recent encounters with the volatile
communities of Trinidad had served to strengthen his almost congenital distrust of
unguided democracy. Although both men had agreed upon the advantages of a Mixed
Board, they came to differ as regards its precise and, as it turned out, fundamental -
nature. Clifford envisaged an institution where there would be a strong government con-
tingent; from the Clementi Smith Commission Report and the Chamberlain Despatch
I drew the conclusion that the utmost concession which would meet with
approval in this connection would be limited to the grant of a proportion,
possibly even a majority, of elected members on a Borough Council which
contained also, as an essential condition, a certain number of nominated
members. I was also under the impression... that the Governor regarded the
presence of some nominated members upon the Municipal Council hereafter
to be created as a necessity, and that upon this point no surrender could be
Reviewing Clifford's account from London, Jackson considered Clifford's views to be
"most unfortunate misunderstandings"63 since
I considered that it would have been sufficient to have on it as ex-officio
members, the Director of Public Works, the Treasurer and the Surgeon-
General, and that rate-payers should be in the large majority.64
After the rejection of a Mixed Board and with the reduction of discussion to a confronta-
tion between the proponents of a nominated council and those of an elected one,
Clifford was drawn to support the former whereas, as we have seen, Jackson adopted the
cause of the latter. The Governor was dismayed by what seemed to him to be Clifford's
"strong objection to the elective principle" for he himself was anxious to educate the
general populace in the processes of election and their representatives in the obligations
of government. While Clifford felt that the extension of the elective principle should await
the emergence of a sound public opinion, Jackson declared, "Until the public is compell-
ed to take a responsible share in the management of its municipal affairs, there is little
hope of a sound public opinion."65 His scheme, argued Jackson, was scarcely a "leap in
the dark" since an elected municipality had administered Port of Spain for the half
century before 1898 and still obtained in the towns of San Fernando and Arima. In
Clifford's view, however, the Governor's proposal would lead to the creation of just that
type of body existing in British Guiana which, they had both agreed, was not suitable for
Port of Spain. Moreover, it flouted not only the Committee's recommendations but also
the lessons of history: the rapid evolution of a wholly elected Municipal Council would,
Clifford emphasised, merely facilitate a repetition of the events which in 1898 had led to
the abolition of a similar institution. Clifford, pursuing his argument to extremes, urged
the Government to heed only "the personal expression [of views] given privately"66
by the most responsible and best informed members of the public a course which,
Jackson averred, would result in government by clique and sour the administration's
relations with the local people.67
The episode was not an uncomplicated confrontation between advocates of self-
government and paternalism. For just as Jackson was not planning the demission of
empire in Trinidad so Clifford was by no means opposed to representative institutions in
themselves; we have, for example, already cited his submission for the increased represen-
tation of the coloured interests on the Legislative Council so that it might reflect the
needs of every section of Trinidad society. How did he square this view with that express-
ed in his memorandum on race feeling and again during the debate on the municipal
question? Clifford was afraid that a wholly elected Municipal Council of the pre-1898
type would mean a return to bad administration since it would be used as a political
forum not as an instrument of government. Political activities for instance popular
attempts to reduce rates would lead to clashes with the Legislative Council and thus
weaken the latter's authority and its own claim to represent the people of Trinidad. Now,
as we have seen, in his proposal to reorder the Legislative Council Clifford insisted on the
active role of the Government in selecting the representatives of the people in authority
"the men of moderation, of judgment and of discretion who are the true representatives
of their people" and of eradicating the opportunities for the "noisy agitators" to inflict
"serious injury upon their people." What he feared in a system of election, as opposed to
one of nomination, was that it would, as in Trinidad in the past or in British Guiana at
present, become a "hole-in-the-corner fix," allowing the ascendency of the irresponsible
political manipulator. Therefore, he argued, if the Government in the end were to decide
that the Municipal Council should be an elected one, then a complete overhaul of the
electoral system would be required "to rob a purely elected Borough Council of its power
for most inconvenient political mischief."68 For example, if an insufficient proportion of
people cast their votes, the Government should be empowered to nominate the member,
for, while this proviso would limit the principle of election, it would at least place the
power of selection in responsible hands.
Being in possession of Clifford's despatches and of a memorandum by Jackson, who
had been consulted during his period of leave, the Colonial Office now had to adjudicate
in the matter of Port of Spain's municipal government. Lucas was not perturbed by the
differences between Governor and Colonial Secretary; "I do not think that any harm has
been done," he commented, and he praised Clifford's account of, and apologia for, his
part in the episode as an "excellent confidential despatch."69 Indeed, Clifford was thank-
ed by the Secretary of State "for the frank and able manner in which you have placed
your views before me,"70 and, though he made mention of "some slight misunderstand-
ing in connexion with this matter," Lord Elgin, like Jackson, saw no reason for reproving
Clifford. In his open reply to the Acting Governor on 21 June, the Secretary of State
incorporated advice supplied by Jackson's memorandum: for the present the vote of the
Legislative Council should stand and a Municipal Board to take over the duties of the
three existing authorities should be nominated by the Governor, with the provision that
after two years the question of the composition of the Board should once again be sub-
mitted to the vote of the Legislative Council. On the long term development of municipal
government London felt that the best chance for administrative efficiency and political
acceptability lay in the combination of an elected body with a paid government chairman.
This policy, which represented a compromise between the opposing lines of Jackson and
Clifford, was put into effect in Ordinance 19 of 1907. When, in 1909, the question of the
Port of Spain Municipal Council came up for review neither Jackson nor Clifford were
serving in Trinidad. The then Governor, Le Hunte, shared none of Jackson's enthusiasm
for local government reform with the result that the matter languished and an elective
council was not restored in Port of Spain until the eve of World War I.
Clifford's last months as Colonial Secretary, Trinidad
In the spring of 1906, when he was beginning his second term as Acting Governor,
Clifford had been joined by his wife and youngest child, Monica. In all Minna spent barely
twenty four months in Trinidad but, as Presidente de la Societee des Amantes de Jesus
and as Founder and President of the Home Industries and Self-Help Association, she
endeared herself to the local populace and "did in the place as big a bit of work for the
Empire as the five years' service of many a score of men engaged in the public administra-
tion in England's name has often been able to accomplish."71 In August the three of
them spent a month on Tobago where Clifford, for one, had "a most delightful holiday
riding about this lovely island and only getting official mails from Trinidad three times a
fortnight,"72 though a dislocated knee soon afterwards put him out of sporting activities
for a little while.
At the end of October, after an absence of seven months, Jackson returned to the
colony and Clifford reverted to the position of Colonial Secretary. The Governor found
that the Colonial Secretary's Department, the Supreme Court and some other Depart-
ments had at the beginning of the month moved into the new government buildings which
were nearing completion. Both Jackson and Clifford felt that the formal opening of the
buildings in the New Year would be a propitious moment for the Government to make a
gesture of goodwill and abandon the punitive 2% rate which had been imposed to finance
the replacement of government property destroyed during the water riot.73 Eventually
London, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to this symbolic mollification by the rulers of the
ruled after several years of enmity.74 Nevertheless, that peppery opponent of the regime,
The Mirror, denied that the gulf between the Government and the community had been
bridged. Though it praised the Colonial Secretary's charm and courtesy, it recalled the
occasions of LUotaud's retirement from the Legislative Council and the reorganisation of
the Port of Spain municipality as examples of his want of sympathy for the people of the
colony. "We only hope," remarked The Mirror as Clifford's term of service in Trinidad
drew to a close, "by this time he has realized that there are vast differences between West
Indians and Malayans, and that the same treatment will not do for both."75
By the time Jackson got back Clifford was looking forward to a period of leave in
England but he was dismayed by the turn events had taken at home since the Liberal
landslide at the recent general election. He was horrified by "this new parody of a House
of Commons,"76 and early in November he wrote to Blackwood:
Watching with keen interest and keener anxiety from afar off, one cannot
but be immensely depressed by Home politics, and by the doings and sayings
of that appalling collection of extremists, cranks, faddists, false-sentimental-
ists and haters of their country which forms the majority in the present
House of Commons. Thank God that the House of Lords has assumed so un-
compromising an attitude with regard to the Education Bill. Once more that
much abused institution seems to me to have saved the country from its folly
and its abundant naughtiness.77
The situation was all the more unpromising for men with Clifford's political affiliations
who hoped for advancement. Clifford was certainly on the look-out for a new appoint-
ment at this time, but Sir Frank Swettenham, a friend from his Malayan days, wrote
rather discouragingly from retirement:
The impossible thing about the C.O. is that they make no difference between
good men & bad ones & that is the most disheartening thing in the world ...
I suppose with Hopwood at the C.O. all his Radical friends will be given
Governments & I have heard it said that the Government "wants no followers
of Chamberlain & Alfred Lyttleton." It is all very disgusting but I can't help
blaming Ommanney & Lucas though the latter does everything for con-
Swettenham was being unjust to the Colonial Office. When on 11 October Clifford
applied by telegram to succeed Sir Frederick Lugard as High Commissioner for Northern
Nigeria, S. Olivier, R. Antrobus (Assistant Under-Secretary) and Ommanney himself gave
serious consideration to the candidacy "of one of the very few men in the Colonial Service
having a real and responsive insight into the genius of alien races."79 Admittedly this
observation was made specifically with Clifford's Malayan rather than his Trinidadian
reputation in mind, and it is true that in the end Elgin selected another man,80 but the
decision resulted from a reluctance to import into West Africa in the wake of Maxwell,
McCallum, Egerton, Thorburn and Rodger yet another official trained in the East. How-
ever, Clifford's "exceptional personal qualifications"81 were not forgotten, and in
December he accepted the offer of Colonial Secretary, Hong Kong, which, as he himself
admitted, was "substantial promotion and must lead to something of First Class rank in a
reasonable number of years."82 But an unexpected preferment was on its way. Francis
May, who was to have been transferred from Hong Kong to be Colonial Secretary in
Ceylon, suddenly withdrew his acceptance; the result was that, the post in Hong Kong no
longer being vacant, Clifford was offered the more prestigious and better paid appoint-
ment in Ceylon, Britain's premier colony.
But this triumph came at a bitter moment in his life. One morning in mid-November
Minna had been driving her dog-cart around Queen's Park near the Cliffords' residence. On
reaching the Queen's Park Hotel the horse automatically turned in through the entrance
at the very moment when Minna had swung round to acknowledge the salutation of a
passerby. Losing her balance, she had been thrown from the trap and had injured her
head. Although she seemed to be making a good if slow recovery from this accident,
meningitis set in on New Year's Eve, and shortly afterwards pneumonia complicated her
condition. She died at 7.30 on the morning of 14 January. The next day, after the
funeral service in St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church, the cortege progressed to the north
of Queen's Park where in the grounds of Government House she was buried in a private
cemetery. As Hugh Clifford prepared to leave Trinidad the poignant irony of his promo-
tion must have been past bearing for he had lost "the sweetest, purest, truest and most
loving spirit that I have ever known."
A. J. STOCKWELL
I wish to thank the Central Research Fund, University of London, for a grant which helped me to
visit the National Archives, Port of Spain, in April 1975. I also wish to thank Mr. H.C. Holmes for
permission to consult the Papers of Sir Hugh Clifford
1. Hugh Clifford, b. 1866 d. 1941; CMG (1900), KCMG (1909), GCMG (1921), GBE (1925);
served in the Malay States 1883-88; Governor, North Borneo, 1899-1901; Colonial Secretary,
Trinidad, 1903-07; Colonial Secretary, Ceylon, 1907-12; Governor, Gold Coast, 1912-19;
Governor, Nigeria, 1919-25; Governor, Ceylon, 1925-27; Governor and High Commissioner,
2. Ceylon Observer, 23 May 1927, Clifford reviewing his career in a speech at a dinner given in his
honour by the Public Services of Ceylon.
4. Clementi Smith was Governor, Straits Settlements, 1887-1893. Clifford dedicated a collection
of short stories, Malayan Monochromes (London, 1913), to Clementi Smith, "a chief under
whom it was at once an education and a delight to serve."
5. CO (Public Record Office, London) 295/425 no 32998, Clifford to Under-Secretary of State,
Colonial Office, 3 Sept. 1903.
6. Clifford Papers, Clifford (confidential) to Steel-Maitland (Under-Secretary of State for the
Colonies), 12 June 1917.
7. Clifford Papers, Clifford (draft) to Amery, 11 Dec 1924.
8. CO 273/547 no 52071.
9. CO 295/425 no 32998, Clifford to Mead, 3 Sept 1903.
10. Clifford Papers, Clifford to Blackwood, 1 Sept 1903.
11. Ceylon Observer, 23 May 1927. As it turned out, however, "in Trinidad he had three most
interesting years he ever spent" ibidd).
12. Cf B. Samaroo, "Constitutional and Political Developments of Trinidad, 1898-1925,"
unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1969; H.A. Will, Constitutional Change in the
British West Indies 1880-1903, Oxford, 1970; K.O. Lawrence (ed), "The Trinidad Water Riot
of 1903: Reflections of an Eyewitness,"Caribbean Quarterly, 15, iv, Dec 1969.
13. CO 295/416 no 11134.
15. Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Recent Disturbances at Port of Spain, Trinidad,
Cd. 1662, 1903. See also: CO 295/424 no 25142; Papers Relating to the Recent Disturbances
at Port of Spain, Trinidad, Cd. 1661, 1903; and Further Papers relating to the Disturbances at
Port of Spain, Trinidad, in March 1903, Cd. 1988, 1904.
16. CO 295/417 no 20556, Ommanney to Chamberlain, 5 June 1903.
17. CO 295/419 no 32107, minute of Lucas, 9 Sept 1903.
18. Clifford Papers, Clifford (private and personal) to Amery, 11 Nov 1924.
19. CO 295/428 no 40693. Report on the Blue Book for 1903-4.
20. Colonial Secretary's Office Files (National Archives, Port of Spain), 6332/1903, verbatim
report of deputation of Ratepayers' Association to Clifford, 14 Oct 1903.
21. Col. Sec. Office Files, 1725/1904.
22. CO 295/426 no 5052, Governor (confidential) to Secretary of State, 22 Jan 1904.
23. CO 295/428 no 29970, Ag. Governor (confidential) to Secretary of State.
24. CO 295/421 no 45319, Governor (secret) to Secretary of State, 2 Dec 1903.
25. Ibid. minute of Lucas, 17 Dec 1903.
26. CO' 295/424 no 25142, Secretary of State to Governor, 21 July 1903; later printed in Cd.
27. Col. Sec. Office Files, 8263/1903, Clifford to Moloney, 24 Jan 1904 (copy at CO 295/426 no
28. E. Maressa-Smith, a Negro and a solicitor who played a leading role in the water riot.
29. Clifford Papers, Arthur Chamberlain to Clifford, 25 Mar 1907.
31. In an unsigned autobiographical fragment found in his papers, Clifford recalled his first visit to
the family estate in Devon and the ties of tradition, sentiment and obligation between landlord
and tenant. "My friend, Mr. H. G. Wells," he commented, "can no more appreciate the family
relations which he and those like him have done so much to destroy, that of old subsisted
between the peasantry of England the farmers, cottagers and hangers-on of the old estates -
and the landlords to whom they paid rent. To me, it is as though men like 'HG' in their des-
perate efforts to reform something which they were altogether incapable of understanding,
have wrought a most vital injury to the very people whom it was their desire most to aid."
32. Clifford's denunciation of the National Congress of British West Africa, Address by the
Governor, Nigerian Council, 29 Dec 1920.
33. CO 295/426 no 6803, Governor (confidential) to Secretary of State, 10 Feb 1904.
34. CO 295/427 no 19694.
35. Ed. The Mirror, 21 Oct 1904.
36. CO 295/428 no 28814, Ag. Governor to Secretary of State, 11 July 1904.
37. CO 295/426 no 12258, Governor to Secretary of State. 25 Mar 1904.
38. CO 295/436 no 17150, Jackson, "Memorandum on the Municipal Government of Port of
Spain," 29 May 1906.
39. Samaroo op cit., p.104 ff.
40. Cd. 1662, p 25; cited by Clifford as acting governor in his despatch of 24 Apr 1906 to the
Secretary of State, CO 295/436 no 17110.
41. CO 295/424 no 25142, Secretary of State to Governor, 21 July 1903; later printed in Cd. 1988,
1904, and cited by Clifford as acting governor in his despatch of 24 Apr 1906.
42. Col. Sec. Office Files, 3529/1903, Clifford to Moloney, 15 Oct. 1903.
43. Clifford Papers, Clifford to Blackwood, 16 July 1905.
44. Ibid. Clifford to Blackwood, 11 Mar 1904.
45. Ibid. Clifford to Blackwood, 16 July 1905.
46. Published in July 1906.
47. CO 295/435 no 17402.
48. J.H. Parry and P.M. Sherlock, A Short History of the West Indies, London, 1963 ed. p. 204.
49. Col. Sec.Office Files 6837/1904, Clifford to Jackson, 1 Dec 1904.
50. Clifford Papers, Clifford to Blackwood, 16 July 1905.
52. Col. Sec. Office Files 6656/1905, Jackson to Clifford, 25 Oct 1905.
53. Ibid. The report is cited and quoted in CO 295/436 no 17150, Ag. Governor (confidential) to
Secretary of State, 24 Apr 1906.
54. Col.Sec.Office Files 6656/1905, Jackson to Clifford, 14 Dec 1905.
55. CO 295/438 no 799, Governor to Secretary of State, 20 Dec 1906.
56. CO 295/436 no 17150, Jackson, "Memorandum. .," 29 May 1906.
57. CO 295/436 no 17150, Ag Governor (confidential) to Secretary of State, 24 Apr 1906.
59. CO 295/436 no 17150, Jackson, "Memorandum ...," 29 May 1906.
60. Ibid. minute of T.C. Macnaughten, 5 June 1906.
61. Ibid. Jackson, "Memorandum ...," 29 May 1906.
62. Ibid. Ag.Governor (confidential) to Secretary of State, 24 April 1906.
63. Ibid. Jackson's comment pencilled in the margin of Clifford's confidential despatch of 24 Apr
64. Ibid. Jackson, "Memorandum... ," 29 May 1906.
66. Ibid. Ag Governor (confidential ) to Secretary of State, 24 Apr 1906.
67. Ibid. Jackson, "Memorandum .," 29 May 1906.
68. Ibid. Ag Governor (confidential) to Secretary of State, 24 Apr 1906.
69. Ibid. minute of Lucas, 9 June 1906.
70. Ibid. Secretary if State (confidential) toAg. Governor, 21 June 1906.
71. Clifford Papers, Clifford to Blackwood, 27 Jan 1907.
72. Ibid. Clifford to Blackwood, 31 Aug 1906.
73. CO 295/437 no 41669.
74. CO 295/438 no 912; CO 295/440 no 6714.
75. The Mirror, 29 Jan 1907.
76. Clifford Papers, Clifford to Blackwood, 15 Aug 1906.
77. Ibid. Clifford to Blackwood, 3 Nov 1906.
78. Ibid. Swettenham to Clifford, 13 Jan. 1907. Sir Francis Hopwood was Permanent Secretary
and Sir Montague Ommanney was Permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office.
79. CO 295/437 no 37448,Olivier to Antrobus, 31 Oct 1906.
80. Sir Percy Girouard, High Commissioner and Governor, Northern Nigeria 1907-09, whose son,
incidentally, became the second husband of Clifford's younger -daughter, Monica, in 1952.
81. CO 295/437 no 37448, Olivier to Antrobus, 31 Oct 1906.
82. Clifford Papers, Clifford to Blackwood, 27 Jan 1907.
THE EARLY LAWS OF MONTSERRAT (1668-1680):
THE LEGAL SCHEMA OF A SLAVE SOCIETY
In her classic study of West Indian slave laws of the eighteenth century, Professor
Elsa Goveia proposes that the laws reflect the society which created them.1 An examina-
tion of her early laws is therefore considered a valuable method of studying the society of
colonial Montserrat; and since the island was unique in being settled by men in search of
religious freedom, it should be useful to determine whether the laws underpinned a society
that was more liberal and humane than the norm in contemporary Caribbean. All laws
may not have been implemented to the letter, but they do describe in firm detail the
social philosophy of the planter oligarchy who framed them.
The best source for the early laws of Montserrat is the Public Record Office in London
where they exist in manuscript form. These include the Acts of Assembly of Montserrat
1668-1740, Acts of 1660, 1679, 1680 and 1693.2 The Acts of Montserrat beginning at
1668 are also available at the Commonwealth Office in London. The most complete
collated set of laws in printed form (43 in all) date from 1668-1680 and photo copies
are available at the Public Library and the National Museum in Montserrat. The original
source is not clear, but a copy exists in the United States Library of Congress. The style of
the lettering is evidence of pre-nineteenth century printing; scattered laws may be found
in the local archives (disorganized) at the Government House; and an unpublished type-
script Records of Montserrat by T.S. English (1930) available in Plymouth is also an
invaluable source of miscellaneous laws dating from 1668 to 1696 with a few additional
laws of the eighteenth century. Researchers have been unable to find laws on Montserrat
prior to 1660 though such laws must have existed.3
After the island was sighted by Columbus in 1493 and named Santa Maria de
Monserrate, it had no physical contact with Europe until it was settled around 1632
under the direction of Thomas Warner. It was colonized as an asylum for Irish Catholics
from St. Christopher and Roman Catholic refugees from Virginia in North America.
Throughout the seventeenth century, it continued to attract Irish indentured servants
from the region who did not wish to return to Britain at the completion of their inden-
ture. Thus Montserrat began its colonial existence at a religious impulse.
The first laws by which Montserrat was governed were made in Barbados, the head-
quarters of the Caribbee Islands to which the Earl of Carlisle had been granted proprietary
rights by Charles I. At the Restoration (1660) Carlisle was superseded by Francis
Willoughby who had bought the patent, but by 1664 what came to be called the Old
Representative System was introduced and the Crown took direct control over Montserrat
including the appointment of Governors.
The precise date of the setting up of a Legislative Assembly in Montserrat is not
known (Stuart Philpott gives 1663 as the date4), but by 1650 there was an Assembly
powerful enough to reject the authority of Francis Willoughby, the new proprietor, dur-
ing the Stuart interregnum.5
Montserrat's loose connections with Barbados were severed after 1667 following a
Leeward Island secession movement which resulted in the 1671 Federation. The Lee-
wards blamed their losses of the second Dutch War (1665-1667) on Barbadian neglect.
The weak federal parliament dealt with defence, trade, immigration and ecclesiastical
affairs. It collapsed in 1798, but was reimposed by the British Government in 1871.
Between 1664 and 1782 Montserrat was captured several times by the French, but
never held for a long time. The longest period of French occupation was 6 months in
1667, during which a French administration used the existing Council to pass laws until
the treaty of Breda restored the island to Britain.
African slavery began in Montserrat in the middle of the seventeenth century. T.
Savage English gives 1660 as the approximate date of the first arrivals;6 and slaves were
captured here by the French during the second Dutch War (1665-1667); but as early as
1654 Montserrat had started growing sugar canes7 which is closely interlinked with
slavery though at this stage, it was for making rum rather than sugar, it would seem.8
However, by 1672 there were 523 slaves on the island9 and six years later the number
had risen to 992, of whom 292 were children. The rest of the population in 1678 accord-
ing to a Census commissioned by William Stapleton, consisted of 761 English, 1869 Irish
and 52 Scotsmen.10
Thus by 1668 Montserrat already had all the features, institutions and social estates
normally associated with slave society in the British Caribbean slaves, some white
servants, European planters, a Legislative Assembly, the legitimising instrument of the
plantocracy, and the metropolitan jurisdictional presence and overlordship in the persons
of a Governor and his cadre of officials.
The Legal Anatomy of the Society
The main study will be based on the 43 laws passed between 1668 and 1680 since
these are the most complete set available, but reference will be made to certain other
laws passed between 1691 and 1696 because of the illuminating comparative insights
that they provide. For purposes of analysis, the laws are categorized as follows according
to the subject which they treat, though some overlapping is inevitable:
(a) regulation of the economy 15
(b) improvement of social life and the general welfare 11
(c) defence 8
(d) control of slaves 6
(e) relations with the home Government 2
(f) benefits of slaves 0
(g) miscellaneous 6
(The discrepancy between 43 and the total 48 in my listing is due to the fact that some
laws treat of two or more different subjects.)
(a) The Economy
The concentration of legislation on the economy and trade regulation shows
that Montserrat developed into a typical colony of exploitation11 which existed to bring
profit to a handful of Anglo-Irish agrarian capitalists. The subsidiary religious motive for
colonization was understandably muted, as by 1650 control of Montserrat had passed
from the Irish to the English even though an Irishman Roger Osborne, father-in-law of
Anthony Briskett was still Governor of the Island. There was considerable controversy
over a 4%% export duty collectable first by Carlisle and later on by the Crown as the new
proprietor. The Assembly used the French capture as an excuse to discontinue paying it
to the Crown, but was forced to reenact it, for the royal treasury was intent on receiving
its share of the colonial spoils. Thus, 41% duty was the subject of no fewer than 3 pieces
of legislation in 1668.
By 1668, Montserrat's potential for a sugar colony was evident and the Crown
pressurized the Assembly, then reeling from a French invasion, to confiscate all estates
to the Crown. Characteristically, the Government was using a sugar island to reward
friends and punish enemies. However, when it was clear that the economic loss would be
mutual, the planters with the exception of absentees were allowed to reappropriate their
lands "to avert total desertion of the island". Among the estates taken over by the Crown
was that of Anthony Briskett, the son of Montserrat's first Governor of the same name.
He was in fact the Governor of Montserrat for its short sojourn under French sway in
1666. In his petition for the restoration of at least part of his estate, he argued that he
had accepted the French Governorship under duress.12 The English suspicions of
Anthony Briskett (Jr.) may have been well founded because Montserrat Irish Catholics
did at times collude with their French Catholic brethren against the English. An act of
1668 established free trade with all-merchants, but it is not clear whether this was in
direct contravention of the English Navigation Acts passed between 1650 and 1663.
However, in 1664 the Leeward Islands Assemblies saw these laws as commercial humbugs
which they exaggeratedly claimed were leading to the desertion of the island; and in
1701, the Governor of the Leewards, Codrington, spoke of his fruitless efforts at persuad-
ing the colonies that their interest should be subservient to England.13 One outcome of
the stringent Navigation Laws was smuggling and laws had to be passed to attempt to
curb the practice and ensure that due revenue went to the Government coffers. It seems
clear that the tension caused by the desire of British Caribbean planters and the Crown
to profit at the expense of each other was present in Montserrat.
Several laws demonstrated the concern of the responsible men of the island for
proper control of the quality of local export products. This grew more out of sound busi-
ness sense than out of consideration for the interests of merchant/consumers. It was
decreed that tobacco used in barter be given in leaf rather than balls or rolls as these often
masked poor quality product; bad indigo and sugar were also legislated against and in all
cases 'viewers' or trained supervisors were appointed to evaluate the quality of the pro-
ducts used in lieu of currency. Penalties for paying bad sugar and tobacco were severe,
involving both fine and imprisonment "in the common gaol of this island" (1691).
Shrewd trading and 'fiscal' measures were introduced to bring scarce articles
into the island. An act of 1680 imposed a duty of powder on all export goods, as powder
was crucial to defence. At the same time, this took the burden from ships and vessels as
opposed to sloops or lesser bottoms since the former needed encouragement. By this law,
smaller boats including those engaged in inter-colonial trade had to bring powder also;
and numbers of barrels of powder were stipulated as penalties for some offences. (1673)
The scarcity of coins led to the promulgation of a law in 1670 authorizing the use of
Spanish coins and laying down penalty for those refusing such monies.
(b) General Welfare
Next to the concern with maximising profits, the laws indicate considerable
attention to what one may refer to as the general welfare. Out of 43 laws, 9 fall into this
Normal standards of morality were irrelevant in Caribbean slave societies and no
inconsistency should be implied in the notion of very religious slave owners or their
attempt to create a moral and spiritual tone in a slave society. An act of 1668 legislated
for the holy observance of Sunday. This Act seems to have been intended for the general
population as was a similar Act of 1669. Later, economic protection for whites was veiled
under laws which ostensibly dealt with pilfering and unseemly conduct on the Lord's
Day. (An Act of 1736 forbad slaves to plant certain minor cash crops and to hold Sunday
markets14 although Sunday was the traditional market day.) Interestingly, this 1668 Act
makes reference to a similar "Order formerly made by Governor and Council, Anno
1638". This Order made by Anthony Briskett and his non-elected Council reflect perhaps
the religious temper of the first settlers.
Many of the laws in this group possess a paternalistic and magisterial character
and smack of rules made to control pueriles and primitives. The inhabitants were to keep
the 'sabbath' holy; an Act of 1668 against opprobrious language and odious distinctions,
legislated for neighbourliness and racial harmony among English, Scots and Irish and
outlawed name-calling; land bounds were to be determined to minimize strife; and going
on board ships was out of bounds. The last was also of commercial importance because
some islanders were able to buy certain commodities on board ships, and hoard them
until the market demands pushed up prices.
Useful laws were passed dealing with social relationships. Justices of the Peace
were commissioned to act as industrial relations agents; an act of 1673 empowered them
to order labourers' wages. In 1675 control was placed on the fees of physicians; this was
to prevent them from charging prohibitive fees for yaws 'the country disease', which was
leading to the death of many poor whites. (Yaws seems therefore, to have been a much
more choosy disease than one was made to believe.) An Act was passed in 1678 to retro-
actively legitimize marriages conducted by Justices of the Peace. The scarcity of Ministers
of Religion had necessitated the use of J.P.'s in loco pastoris "to prevent the manifold
sins of incontinency which must inevitably ensue." Under English as opposed to Irish
administration, the paucity of clergymen did not lead to a liberal attitude toward Roman
Catholic priests it appeared; for an Act of 1668 passed to raise 'money' to maintain a
Minister stipulated that his pastoral duties had to be conducted "according to the Canons
of the Church of England." This Act expressed dismay at the neglect of public worship
and the breach of the Sunday as a holy day, which were apparently prevalent.
Laws concerned with the judiciary and justice may conveniently be examined in
this section. The creation of a stable society in which strangers and inhabitants could trade
and accumulate wealth peacefully was a vigorously pursued goal. The building of a court
house was decreed in 1668. The building made with sides of timber and roof of thatch
was located at Briskett Bay. In the small compact and familiar society, the selected
carpenters were named in the Act and it was to be a community effort, with the thatching,
wattling and daubing done by poor Irishmen and male slaves. The construction of the
court house was so urgent that even free men were liable to corporal punishment for neg-
lect of service. A 1672 Act authorised a levy for the building of a Court house and prison.
This was perhaps an improvement on the original which was fire-prone.
Caribbean slave societies were ridden with fear both of external invasion and
internal rebellion. Dunn asserts that the Governors of the Leeward Islands nagged and
bullied the people in their haste to make the islands into garrisons.15 This is understand-
able for in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they were beleaguered colonies. The
Irish element in the Montserrat population added further potential for treachery and
revolt. The laws passed on defence testify to an overriding military concern. Plantation
wealth had to be protected.
A law of 1672 ordered the "speedy" construction of platforms for the mounting
of guns on a new fort; another in 1675 arranged for the "speedy" fixing of firearms. In
1668, beacons or look-outs 8 to 10 feet high were to be built, and at the approach of
French ships or Carib canoes, canons were fired from these forts as a signal to the
inhabitants to adopt "a martial and warlike posture;" men mustered were enjoined to
comply readily and to remain in their posted Divisions. This comprehensive 1668 law
was re-enacted in 1693; and an Act of 1696 ordered that no 'persons' between the ages
of 15 and 60 were to remain unlisted.16-
Two forts, a courthouse and prison are identifiable on the leeward coast on an
extremely interesting map of Montserrat drawn in 1673.17 It would appear that military
preparedness intensified after the 1667 French invasion which had brought economic
ruin to the island.
In 1669, three trading towns on the western coast of the island, that is, Briskett
Town, Kinsale and Plymouth were accorded the monopoly as trading depots. This arose
out of defence considerations rather than commercial expedience. The concentration of
trade and the conglomeration of men in three localities, would, it was thought, facilitate
the warding off of any invasion. The military sensitivity and alertness discernible, betray
a society under continual siege.
(d) Control of Slaves
In Montserrat, vigilance against invasion from without was more than matched
by vigilance against insurrection from within. The laws reveal the planters' perception of
the slave as a potential criminal with socio-economic aspirations. He had to be repressed
and kept subordinate, sometimes crudely brutal, sometimes through subtle controls.
Laws to control the slaves of Montserrat are well documented.18 It has been noted above
that slave movement was restricted on Sundays. This was more in the interest of keeping
slaves under strict discipline than for promoting holiness; it was an offence for managers
to aid and abbet such runaways in an island where slave stealing was common (1668);
for alluring slaves, a free man could be fined or imprisoned. A man's slave was valuable
property and the law afforded him adequate protection. A slave caught wandering with-
out an exeat could be arbitrarily punished by a Justice of the Peace or given 40 lashes on
the bare back, and the concealer or neglectful owner fined up to 500 pounds of
muscovado sugar (1679).
In early colonial Montserrat, whipping was preferred to killing,19 but this was
due more to scarcity than to humanitarian sentiment. Some of the mutilation and
arbitrary punishment were, however, worse than death for the victims, and toward the
end of the seventeenth century as Montserrat grew into a full-fledged sugar-and-slave
colony, punishment became more barbarous. For cattle stealing, public whipping was
decreed as a deterrent (1680). After 1696, it was lawful for "any person to shoot at and
if possible kill any negro" who stole from the provision ground of poor whites.20
Stealing stack cattle equipment worth 12 pence carried a death penalty; if valued less
than 12 pence, the culprit was publicly whipped and had both ears cut off.21
Dunn points out that on Montserrat and Antigua slaves were customarily
whipped for stealing rather than killed, but there are several atrocious killings on record.22
Dunn himself cites a case where in the 1690's a black man was hanged for stealing two
turkeys and five yards of fustian and another hanged, drawn and quartered for running
away.23 In 1693, a slave convicted of stealing nine pigs was ordered by the Council to be
cut to pieces24 and the cutting off of ears and burning on the breast with hot iron were
common. The breaking of bodies on a wheel followed by quartering and burning was also
In the eighteenth century, high costs and scarcity of slaves led to less severe, if
more arbitrary sentences. In a gang of slaves apprehended for burglary, arson, murder or
maiming cattle, "only one of them who shall appear to be the greatest criminal" shall be
put to death.26 In 1754, a negro, Tom Boy stole bread from a house, "the fact been
partly proved, was ordered to be whipped and both his ears cut off."27
These laws and the records of their implementation reveal clearly the enormous
power of owners over their chattels; and the tightness of the slave-policing regime institut-
ed by the plantocracy. In fact, the power to jurisdict was often delegated to Justices of
the Peace, as well as ordinary citizens. In Montserrat, white servants were also punished
(though less severely than blacks) as is expected in a territory in which practically
throughout the slave age, the Irishman was denied fill civil liberty. In the 1670 Act for
curbing runaways, a negro concealing a runaway could be given 40 lashes, but a "christian
servant" harbourer, was sentenced to double his term of service; and while a slave runaway
could be killed, the christian servant was asked to serve longer, "for every day's absence
a week, and for every week a month, and for every month a year. ." (1680).
(e) Benefit of Slaves
Of the 43 laws collated and printed for the period 1668 to 1680, none in fact
deals with the protection of slaves or the consulting of their welfare. It was not until
169328 that such an Act was passed and even so the motive is rather dubious. As Goveia
rightly observes, this regulation which stated that for every eight slaves, a plantation
should cultivate an acre of provisions, was but one clause in the act decreeing severe
punishments for slave thefts. And it is her view that this clause was concerned more with
public order than with the slave's 'right' to sufficient food.29 This act was in fact less
generous than a similar Act of 1669 which stipulated that 1 acre of provisions was to be
planted for every two working persons (white or black) and 1 acre of yams for every six
working slaves.30 Significantly, white servants were included in this rather more liberal
ruling. The change in 1693 might well have been due to pressure from planters who
wanted to increase sugar acreages at the expense of food production.
Montserrat had no law code of good intentions comparable to the French Code
Noir of 1685 or the Barbados code of 1661 which gave 'rights' to slaves. The latter aimed
among other things at protecting slaves from the wanton cruelty of masters since the
slaves though property were created men.31 If any such laws existed in Montserrat they
are yet to be unearthed. The English Government left the inhabitants of the island
generally at the mercies of the Assemblies and the Assembly left the 'welfare' of the
slave to the goodwill or illwill of planters and attorneys. No minimum ration or clothing
was decreed in Montserrat as far as the present records show.32
The Montserrat Council did not always leave punishment up to masters, and
usually Justices of the Peace were to act on "proof." The Governor-in-Council actually
conducted certain serious cases,33 but it is not easy to conclude whether this was in the
interest of justice for the slave or whether it was to ensure that just punishment was meted
out publicly and dramatically. Many of the sentences involving mutilation and revolting
forms of capital punishment are recorded in Council Minutes and were presumably
decreed by Council.34
(f) Miscellaneous Legislation
A number of measures some of which were enacted as subsidiary to laws on a
different subject appear in the 1668-1680 set of laws. While they do not fit neatly into
the above categories, they are aimed at the general efficiency and orderly government of
the society a society which existed for the benefit of traders, capitalists and administra-
tors and to a lesser extent white indentured servants. They could therefore with justifica-
tion be grouped with those styled "improvement of social life the most part, and general
welfare." One such measure fixed the duty of the Marshall which included attendance on
the Governor once in every 24 hours to know his pleasure or to summon persons to court
(1668); another had to do with the salary of the Minister and Clerk (1677); and a third
(the full text is missing) dealt with the encouragement of workmen on some public
works very likely a fort. The most interesting in this group is an Act of 1688 "against
going through fields of canes with lighted pipes. This might have been grouped with (a)
'the economy' but it brings in an element of consideration for the slaves. If canes were
not burnt, the offender whether master or slave received the same punishment censure
from the Governor-in-Council. If canes were burnt, restitution was demanded without
class differentiation. However, if a slave took a pipe into the field on his own account and
burning resulted, the form of his punishment was left to the Governor-in-Council. It was
however, stipulated that the punishment could not be prejudicial to life or limb. The law
is silent on the penalty for a servant, but in this instance at least, the slave's life and bodily
wholeness were put above the loss of a minor portion of the wealth which he laboured
Insights from an analysis of the laws together with concepts and generalizations
derived from pertinent studies on British Caribbean societies3 5 permit us to make certain
summative statements on Montserrat's society in seventeenth century:
(a) The ethos of the society was obsessively materialistic and exploitative. The
mother country saw it as a source of wealth; the plantocrats resisted the Home Govern-
ment as much as they dared and in turn exploited Irish servants and African slave in the
grim pursuit of gain. This is consistent with Dunn's verdict that "slavery in the English
islands was ruthlessly exploitive at the outset."36
(b) The acquisitive thrust was untempered by the religious veneer and it is meaning-
less in this regard to speak of a Catholic Montserrat in contradistinction to a Protestant.
St. Kitts, for example, for it was English Protestants who ruled Montserrat in the sugar-
and-slave age. The English tended to be sugar planters while the Irish were small tobacco
(c) A racist regime necessarily buttressed the economic order though as Beckford
observes there was integration and interaction in producing wealth the goal of the
society.38 In Montserrat, there was less white solidarity as the Irish presence complicated
the racial issue. "The dark Irish triton, looks glum at discovering that even in the remotest
corner of the Caribbees he cannot escape English mastery."39
(d) Preoccupation of legislation with defence matters betrays a society under contin-
ual siege. Accordingly, the inhabitants lived under a permanent 'state of emergency.'
Potential threat of slave rebellion and Irish betrayal to the Gallic enemy, heightened fear
(e) Property and self-preservation led to repressive policing of slaves. Subordination
and coercion were the hallmark of slave management,40 and slaves were virtually impri-
soned on their estates under the near absolute and arbitrary authority of their masters.
(f) The Montserrat plantocracy showed scrupulousness in trade and merchandising,
but this was due more to the need for attracting traders and shippers than to honesty
(g) Montserrat did not become monocultural in the seventeenth century. Penalties
continued to be stated in tobacco for a long time, and other crops such as indigo and
(h) The springs of humanitarianism rarely surfaced, if at all, judging by the silence of
legislation on the subject. The paternalism of individual managers is not, however ruled
(i) Legislation for planter welfare was restricted to health and security, and these
were ancillaries to wealth. No mention is made of things cultural and aesthetic. Some
masters did apparently show some appreciation for the music produced by siaves,41 but
what might have been innocent pastimes of both slaver and slave had to be condemned in
the interest of security. Slavery was mutually dehumanizing.42 Small wonder that excess-
ive drinking and tippling were rife in the society, and that a liquor licence cost as much as
3,000 pounds of sugar (1693).
It is arguable that these conclusions are based on somewhat tenuous evidence, namely,
an incomplete set of laws passed over a relatively short period; and further that there can
be important aspects of social relationships left untouched by laws. What is being claimed
is that the nature of the legislation is a reflection of the society; and the legal mirror into
which we have gazed give back certain images, pictures and symbols, some obscure, but
some unmistakably clear. And it is further contended that the conclusions derive some
validity from comparison with the findings of other related studies.
HOWARD A. FERGUS
1. E.V. Goveia The West Indian Slave Laws of the 18th Century: Chapters in Caribbean History,
Caribbean University Press, Barbados 1970 p. 9.
2. R.S. Dunn gives comprehensive source details on the slave legislation of Montserrat in Sugar
and Slaves, Norton, North Carolina, 1972 p. 245.
3. Ibid, p. 238.
4. S.B. Philpott, West Indian Migration: The Montserrat Case, Athlone Press, London 1973, p. 14.
5. From a Lecture, Irishmen in the West Indies by Niall Brunicardi, County Cork, Ireland
6. T.S. English, Records of Montserrat, Plymouth 1930 (Typescript) p. 63.
7. In. C.O. 109.
8. R.S. Dunn op. cit. p. 125.
9. F.H. Watkins, Handbook of the Leeward Islands, West India Committee, London 1924, p. 22.
10. C.O. 1/41, 193-243.
11. Concept from G.L. Beckford Persistent Poverty, Oxford University Press, London, N.Y. 1972,
12. N. Brunicardi, op. cit.
13. A. Burns, History of the British West Indies, Barnes and Nobles, New York, 1954, p. 271.
14. Acts of Montserrat, No. 112 of 1736.
15. R.S. Dunn, op. cit p.118.
16. C.O. 176/2.
17. See R.S. Dunn, op. cit. p. 35; a photo copy of this map is in the Plymouth Public Library,
18. Alan Burns, op. cit., pp. 765-767, E. Goveia and T.S. English are good secondary sources.
19. R.S. Dunn, op. cit., p. 244.
20. C.O. 176/2.
21. H.A. Fergus, History of Alliouagana: A Short History of Montserrat, University of the West
Indies, Extra-Mural Department, 1975, pp. 18-19.
22. H.A. Fergus op. cit., A. Burns op. cit. and E. Goveiaop. cit., p. 27.
23. R.S. Dunn op. cit.
24. Acts of Montserrat, No. 36 of 1693.
25. Calendar of State Papers, 1696-7, No. 1375 quoted in A. Burns op. cit., p. 765.
26. C.O. 176/2.
27. Miscellaneous Manuscripts, Government House Archives, Montserrat.
28. Acts of Montserrat, No. 36 of 1693.
30. Ibid., No. 15 of 1669.
31. R.S. Dunn, op. cit., p. 239.
33. E.V. Goveia op. cit., p. 34.
34. See A. Burns op. cit., pp. 765-767.
35. These include E.V. Goveia, R.S. Dunn, G.L. Beckford (op. cit.) and R.S. Sheridan An Era of
West Indian Prosperity: Chapters in Caribbean History, Caribbean University Press, Barbados,
36. R.S. Dunn op. cit., p. 224.
37. Ibid. p. 122.
38. G.L. Beckford op. cit., pp. 79-80.
39. R.S. Dunn op. cit., p. 35.
40. E.V. Goveia op. cit., p. 35.
41. Acts of Montserrat, No. 112 of 1736.
42. See quotation from R. Van Lier in E.V. Goveia op. cit., p. 52.
AN ANALYSIS OF THE 1750 CARRIACOU CENSUS
The 1750 Carriacou census can be found in the Archives of Paris.1 It is a most fascina-
ting document. M. de Poincy, then governor of Grenada, ordered the commandant of
Carriacou, Lt. De la Bourgerie du Sablon, to take it, which he did with an unusual wealth
of detail, including names, ages, colour, status (slave or free), sex, and noting the tribe and
the crippled or sick in some cases.
Offsetting this admirable detail, De la Bourgerie made several mistakes in his recapitu-
lation. His total of 202 "souls" turns out to be 199. The mistakes all concern the number
and category of children. And as this remains complicated even today perhaps he should
be forgiven this. But in some cases he is distinctly vague. If this was unintentional it is
surprising in a man of such detail.
If anyone is thinking that life in Carriacou in that year was luxurious plantation living
the figures will give them a completely different picture.
There were 38 white men between 15 and 50 years of age. In the same age group there
were 23 male negroes and mulattoes, of whom 5 were crippled and 3 free. Of 18 negro or
mulatto women in the same age group, 3 were free. So the 38 white males had a work
force of 15 men and 15 women 30 people, not even averaging one slave per person.
Leaving slavery aside, and simply considering "souls" in this age group, 38 white men,
15 white women, 17 negro men, 16 negro women, 1 mulatto man and 2 mulatto women
- 89 people, had to be responsible not only for feeding and clothing themselves but 92
others: 6 white people and 12 black over 50,2 34 white and 35 black or mulatto children
under 15, and 5 crippled or ill negroes. It certainly must not have been easy for most,
white or black, particularly since there was no neat equal division of people in the various
At the time of the census there were nine districts or quartersr" in the island, contain-
ing from one to eleven households, of 1 to 15 persons each. Some districts can be easily
identified today: La Baye des Juifs Limlair-Tibeau; La Baye a L'eau Windward:
La Grande Baye Grand Bay; La Breteche Sabazan. The others are not so simple: La
Grande Ance, L'Ance Noire Joignant Le Carenage, Le Machenilliers Joignant Le Grand
Carenage, Le Grand Carenage, and Raiemut; even the spelling of the last named is uncer-
tain, due to De la Bourgerie's handwriting. It is not possible to identify them by assuming
each quarter adjoins the next named around the island, as the four that can be identified
are not in that order.
One clue we have is the map of 1784 (by Walter Fenner) which has as a place name
SABAZANS on La Point or what is now known as Hermitage. Sabazan had his household
in La Grande Ance in 1750 before buying La Breteche in 1775. If he did not change
property again before 1775, this would have put him, according to the map, with his
property on one side facing the islets to the south and on the other Tyrrel Bay or Harvey
Vale. Another point in favour of this site is that on a map of c. 1793 a Mrs. Philip had an
estate named Grand Ance bounding on Tyrrel Bay.
There were, and still are, on Carriacou, three logical places for the major settlements:
Windward, Harvey Vale, and Hillsborough. Windward has already been identified as
Baye a L'eau, the name still being used in that section. For lack of further information
I incline to believe that Harvey Vale was La Grande Ance, and that Hillsborough or
L'Esterre Bay was Le Grand Carenage. Black sand has in recent times come in to Silver
Beach Hotel, on the north side of Hillsborough, which might account for L'Ance Noire
Joignant Le Carenage. And on each side of L'Esterre are certainly manchineels and
mangroves perhaps Le Machenilliers Joignant Le Grand Carenage. The L'Esterre area
did at one time have the name of the carenage. The other supposition is that Harvey Vale
was Le Grand Carenage and Hillsborough La Grande Ance. Certainly Tyrrel Bay is a
much more protected place than Hillsborough to careen. And the beach on La Point
facing the islets is Manchineel Bay. At this date there is not enough evidence to prove
Raiemut (?), if that is the spelling, might be a corruption relating to Ramiers. The
section to the northwest, the only remaining section not tentatively identified, is still the
most heavily wooded, and thus suitable to doves. But this is purely a matter of
In the recapitulation at the end of the census the categories listed were Hommes,
Femmes, Enfans, Negres, Negresses, Negrites Men, Women, Children, Negroes, Negress-
es, Little Negroes. Although the text of the census gives mulattoes as well, this category
does not appear in the recapitulation. Of the fifteen mulattoes on the island one was a
man, two were women, and twelve, children. Eleven of the fifteen were free and counted
under Men, Women, Children. The four remaining, children, were counted as Little
Negroes. Of the four free negroes, two men and two women, the two men counted as
Men, the women as Negresses, even though one was head of a household.
After the given names of many of the negroes were their tribes. Of the 27 negro men
12 were unspecified, 5 were Creole (native born), 7 were Congo, 3 Bambara. There was
one with "Mondong" after his name and one with "Mogue". From the form of the census
negroes had no surnames, the word after the given name referring to birthplace or health.
There was a Mende tribe in Sierra Leone of which "Mondong" may be a corruption. Per-
haps there is a "Mogue" tribe or clan of a tribe.
Of the 23 negresses 10 were unspecified, 4 were Creole, 1 was Congo, 2 were Ibo, 3
were Arada or Arrada (a town in Chad), 2 were Aura (possibly a corruption of the Oron
clan of the Ibibio of Nigeria), and one was Anan. This last may come from the Anang
Finally, 5 negroes were described as "estropid" (crippled), or "rompu" (worn out), or
On the admittedly small sampling this census gives, both negroes and whites were
counted as men at age 12. Women varied, white females of 12 years of age were children,
negro girls of 12 were counted as women.
The charts on pages 47 50 show the analysis:
Going over the census household by household gives a more personal picture of
Carriacou's inhabitants in 1750 than one would expect, and also raises some intriguing
There were three households in La Baye des Juifs, with a total of 21 people.
1. Lt. De la Bourgerie du Sablon (the census taker), 36, had a wife two years older,
probably a second wife as he had two daughters, 10 and 7.3 He and his wife had a son, 4,
and a 2-year-old, presumably their daughter, who is listed only as "a little girl" or "a little
daughter." One would think that by the time a child was 2 it would have a name, and
almost every person on the island, white or black, has their name given. This also goes for
a 16-year-old boy who is simply listed as "a white staying at his home." There must be
some reason for not giving the names, but we can only speculate, and never solve that
mystery. There were also three negroes, a cripple, a negress, and a negro child.
2. De la Bourgerie du Noyer, from the name, was probably a relative of the com-
mandant. He was nine years older than the commandant, and lived alone with a white
man nineteen years younger, possibly a valet-cook-squire type, as the name De la
Bourgerie Du Noyer suggests a family of some standing.
3. Joseph Le Trein was living with a free negress. And he had recognized his two
children by her. The children are counted as children, instead of little negroes, in the
recapitulation, though she is counted-as a negress. There were three negroes in the house-
There were eleven households in Baye i L'eau, with a total of 58 people, the largest
settlement on the island at the time of the census, with more than a quarter of the total
1. Le Vieux Cavelan, 80, had a wife eighteen years younger. If Adrien Cavelan
(see 2.) was their oldest son he was born when she was 15 and he 33. Three sons lived
with them, of whom only Michel, 31, the youngest, was married. He and his wife of 20
had no children. There was one negress of 30, and four mulatto children ranging in age
from 2 to 10 years. These children are counted twice in the recapitulation, first as little
negroes, and second, as can be seen because it is written over the dotted line, as children.
There must have been a difference of opinion in the Cavelan family as to their status.
There was one male slave of 70, one of 36, one invalid of 30, and one boy of 12.
2. Adrien Cavelan, 47, could have been the oldest son of Le Vieux Cavelan, though
possibly not by his present wife, or he might be a nephew. His household consisted of
himself and his three children, 1 to 8 years of age. It seems doubtful that a man of 47
would live alone with three small children, unless he lived in a house close to Le Vieux
Cavelan. There are two old stone houses in Orange Vale, in the old Baye d L'eau
quarter, just a few steps apart, which would fit this speculation.
3. Richard Cabre, 28, lived alone with his wife who was seven years older.
CARRIACOU CENSUS OF 1750
HOUSEHOLD C-CRIPPLED A-AFRICAN BORN N-NATIVE BORN
ZA WHITE J NEGRO MULATTO MEN 15 TO 50 YEARS
SA WOMEN 15 TO 50 YEARS
aA MEN OVER 50 YEARS
WOMEN OVER 50 YEARS
ST MALE CHILDREN 5-14
A k A FEMALE CHILDREN 5-14
8 A INFANTS
QUARTER DE LA BAYE DES JUIFS (LIMLAIR-TIBEAU)
DE LA BOURGERIE DU SABLON
DE LA BOURGERIE DU NOYER
QUARTER DU MACHIENILLIERS JOIGNANT LE GRAND CARENAGE
QUARTER DE LA GRANDE BAYE (GRAND BAY)
QUARTER DE RAIEMUT (?)
QUARTER DE LA GRANDE ANCE
AaAs A A iA'r
QUARTER DU GRAND CARENAGE
XXI IIx;: I1t#
QUARTER DE LA GRANDE ANCE
QUARTER DE LA BRETECHE
It 18 NEGROS (UNSPECIFIED)
MARQUIS DE L'ISLE
QUARTER DE L'ANCE NOIRE JOIGNANT LE CARENAGE
Il I 1 8
QUARTER DE LA BAYE A L'EAU (WINDWARD)
4. George,4 a free negro of 65, lived with Thomas, a free negro of 30, and a woman
of 25, who is listed as "the daughter of old George Clair." All three of them are under
men and women in the recapitulation, but although there is no word as to her colour it is
likely she was mulatto, as if she were white she wouldn't be living with two negro men,
and if she were a negress her father wouldn't have had a surname. Even being mulatto, it
was unusual at her age, unless she was ugly as an old boot. with the number of white men
alone on the island, to be living where she was.
There were 38 white men in the 15-50 age group and only 15 white women. Of these
10 were married, leaving only 5 as possible mates to 28 men. There was a dearth of
15-50 women in general, there being only 33, married or single, white, black or mulatto,
for the 61 men in the same age group. Among the married couples there was a disparity in
ages, of the 10 wives 3 were older than the husbands and 6 were ten or more years
5. Alinotte, a free mulatto woman of 30, lived with her 10-year and 4-year-old
sons, the likelihood being that the younger, at least, had a father on the island.
6. Bernard, a 25-year-old mulatto, was free, as he had a household and is listed as a
7. Jean Abraham, 21, sounds likely to have been a Jew, if so the only one on the
8. Bourdeau, 36, had one negro.
9. Rabier, 37, had four daughters, a 10-year-old, twins of 6, and an infant of 1. He
must have been a recent widower with so young a child, his wife may have died in child-
birth, as frequently happened two centuries ago. With him lived his 26-year-old sister and
a 26-year-old white woman with the name "Marie Jeanne de la." As this isn't really a
proper name, either whoever was writing it was interrupted before he finished, or the end
of the surname was omitted intentionally. The remainder of the household consisted of a
40-year-old negress, a negro boy of 7, a mulatto boy of 9, and an infant negro. This
household really raises some questions.
1.0. Aime Moreau, 40, lived with Victoire "his negress", a 7-year-old mulatto boy,
and a negro baby. The boy is listed as a little negro in the recapitulation, so is obviously
unrecognized unlike Joseph Le Trein's daughters. (See La Baye des Juifs).
11. Gourde, 33, had a wife five years older and three children. Also living in his
household were 14-year-old Charles Bidot, 12-year-old Jean Bidot, and 10-year-old
Victoire Bidot, who were related to him on their mother's side. He had a 50-year-old
negro, a 15-year-old negress, and two negro children of 8 and 3. It seems probable that
these children's mother had died.
The people of Baye d L'eau had a greater variety of colour and status than the other
districts of Carriacou.
La Grande Baye had only one household of 8 people, that of Paris, 43, and his 12-year-
old son. There are two Creole negresses, 49 and 18, and four small negroes on the recapi-
tulation. Ranging in age from 3 to 11, only the 3-year-old, Claude, is specified in the text
"negrillon". The names of the other three: Petite Zabeth, Petite Zabethine, Petite Clarion,
and the lack of mention of colour, suggest that there was an affection felt for them.
Raiemut (?) had three households with a total of 20 people.
1. Balcon, 48, and his wife twelve years younger, and five children from 0 to 12.
They had one crippled negro of 40.
2. Mathieu Poulin, 40, his wife thirteen years younger, and five children, 1 to 10.
The 10-year-old is listed as "his eldest son", but no name, the child of an earlier marriage.
They had three negroes, two men, one, 48, described as "worn out", one, 40, and a
woman of 48.
3. Alexandre Poulin, 50, probably the older brother of 2, and a negress of 75.
The Grand Ance quarter had seven households with a total of 37 people, second in
population to Baye a L'eau.
1. Belmarre, 40, had a son of 10, and he and his wife, 30, had a daughter of 7.
They had two negroes of 41 and 40, and a negress of 38. In the recapitulation he is mis-
takenly listed as having five children instead of two.
2. Sellier, 37, and his wife, 27, had a little girl of no age and a boy of 2, both
unnamed. There were two negro men of 58 and 55, one negress of 40, and one of 69. This
last one is out of place for the form of the census, coming at the end of the list, when in
all the others the youngest come there, as if she had almost been forgotten. There were
four negro children, from 1 to 12, and a mulatto girl of 6. This last child's origin is a
mystery. Perhaps she is Sellier's daughter before he married.
3. Porcheron, 60, had a 19-year-old daughter, and was remarried to a woman of 38.
There were six negroes, one man, 40, three women, 69, 63, 38, and two children, 5 and
10. In the recapitulation he is mistakenly given one child instead of none. Perhaps his
19-year-old daughter is counted both as a woman and as a child.
4. Jourdain, 39, was alone.
5. Sabazan, 49, had two negroes, 35 and 40 years of age.
6. Desbalisiers, 28, had one crippled negro of 40.
7. Perine Dubucq, 72, was a free negress, who lived with a 79-year-old negress,
presumably a slave, since not specified free. They are both counted as negresses in the
After a careful study of this census there appear to be three perquisites for a negro or
mulatto to be listed as Man, Woman, or Child, instead of Negro, Negress or Little Negro:
A free man, negro or mulatto, a free mulatto woman, mulatto children of the foregoing
or mulatto children recognized by their father. Free negresses, head of a household or
not, were listed under negresses. It appears as if the-e was more sexual prejudice than
colour prejudice in 1750.
For the district of La Breteche there is only "the Marquis de l'Isle eighteen slaves
small or large." In the recapitulation there is no man counted here so the Marquis must
not have been on the island at the time of the census. Since there was no one in charge to
send in the information this explains why the slaves weren't specified like all the others
on the island. In the recapitulation they are lumped under negro men, which makes the
totals proportionately inaccurate.
L'Ance Noire Joignant le Carenage had two households, 3 people. A single man, Claude
Melot, 40, and two men, Jean L'escaute, 39, and Jean Versos, 30.
The quarter of Le Machenilliers Joignant le Grand Carenage had one household of 8
people. Gourron, 63, had a 19-year-old son and a 23-year-old daughter, unnamed. By his
second wife, 49, there was Zabeth, 4, and an unnamed son of 2. There were two white
men residing with him, Etienne Bodot, 49, and Baptiste (probably Bodot's son), 19.
The Grand Carenage had what appears to be three households and 26 people.
1. Bernard Clavery, 43, and his negro, 16. Jacques Calvaire, 30, and one negro, 24,
one negress, 27, and one little mulatto girl of no name or age.
2. Andre Sepoulin, 25, and an 18-year-old negress.
3. The third "household" presents complications. In the text there are no divisions
but in the recapitulation there are four.
a. Antoine Planne, 22.
b. Antoine Blancherie, 26.
c. Josephe Planne, 23, Nicolas Lambert, 70, Antoine Aubert, 34.
d. Dubreuil, 50, M. de Vers, 56, two negroes, 30 and 16, three negresses, 27,
29, and 70, and six little negroes, 3 to 9.
The explanation for this might be that this was some sort of compound for recent
arrivals. Antoine Blancherie is at the very end of the list in the text, unlike the form of
every other household, where the whites come first and the negroes second. This might
indicate that he had arrived so recently that unless he was just added on, the last page of
the text would have to be recopied.
The division into four in the recapitulation may be the groupings in which they
intended to take up land. They were perhaps transient in Le Grand Carenage until they
had built some sort of habitation on that land.
After a lengthy analysis of the text a more accurate recapitulation of the census would
44 white men 29 negro men 1 mulatto man
15 white women 25 negro women 2 mulatto women
33 white children 20 negro children 12 mulatto children
92 whites 74 negroes 15 mulattoes
18 "small or large" of the
Making a total of 199 "souls" in Carriacou in 1750.
Copie du recensement de Cariacou pris par lient La
Bourgerie du Sablon par ordre de M. De Poincy
Gouverneur de la Grenade et envoye a Mon. De
Poincy avec une Lettre du 27 Janvier 1750.
Recensement de l'Isle de Cariacou fait par Moi de la Bourgerie du Sablon commandant
19 et 20 Janvier 1750.
Quarter de La Baye des Juifs
Lient De la Bourgerie Commandant age de 36 ans
Madame son Epouse 38
Marie Madelaine sa fille 10
Marie Louise id 7
Arnauld Nicolas 4
une petite fille 2
un Blanc restant chez lui 16
Charles son Negre Crdol estropie 48
L'Eveille i Congo 38
Nicolas id Creol 18
Angelique Negresse Ibo 36
un Negrillon Creol 6
De la Bourgerie du Noyer 45
Louis Houenard 26
Joseph Le Trein 30
Catin Jolin Negresse libre 30
Leurs enfans Naturels Elizabeth Mulatresse 5
Francoise id 3
Lapaille Negre Creol 26
Antoine Congo 55
Jeannot Creol 40
Quarter de La Baye a I'Eau
Le Vieux Cavelan 80 ans
Sa Femme 62
Sennamon leur fils 43
Sa Femme 20
Dominique Esclave 70
Charles Infirme 30
Francoise Negresse 30
Simon Mulatre 4
Lambert i 2
Marie Anne Mulatresse 10
Etienne Mulatre 8
Adrien Cavelan 47
Marie sa Fille 8
Richard Cabre 28
Sa Femme 35
George Negre libre 65
Thomas id 30
La Fille du Vieux George Clair 25
Alinotte Mulatresse Libre 30
Un Fils 10
Un autre 4
Bernard Mulatre 25
Jean Abraham 21
Son Negre Congo 41
Rabier 37 ans
Sa Soeur Madelon 26
Marie sa Fille 10
Marguerite id 6
Marie Jeanne de la 26
Marie Anne Negresse 40
Pierre Mulatre 9
un enfant Negrillon
Aimr Moreau 40
Victoire sa Negresse 36
Louis Mulatre 7
Son epouse 38
Enfans consanguins et uterins Charles Bidot 14
lean Bidot 12
Victoire Bidot 10
Arnauld Simon Gourde 9
Un Nouveau N6
Cupidon Negre 50
Marie Anne 15
Quarter de la Grande Baye
Pierre son Fils 12
Therese Negresse Crdole 49
Marguerite Creole 18
Petite Zabeth 11
Petite Zabethine 9
Petite Clairon 7
Claude Negrillon 3
Quarter du Raiemut (?)
Sa Femme 36
Un enfant 2
Joseph Negre estropie 40
Mathieu Poulin 40
Sa Femme 27
Son Fils aine 10
Jean Pierre 8
Bazile Negre Rompu 48
Marion Negresse 75
Quarter de la grande ance
Son Epouse 30
Jean Baptiste son fils 10
Marie Francoise leur fille 7
Louis Negre 41
Son Epouse 27
Une petite Fille
Un garcon 2
Michel Negre Bambara 58
Jerome Mondong 55
Louise Creole 40 ans
Rozalie Mulatresse 6
Olive Negrite Creole 4
Hortance Creole 2
Rachelle Creole 1
Bety Creole 69
Sa Femme 38
Sa Fille Marie 19
Louis Negre Congo 40
Marie Anne Arrada 69
Therese Congo 63
Luce Congo 38
Anne Creole 10
Jean Pierre Crdole 5
Philippes Congo 35
Mathieu Congo 40
Etienne Creol estropie 40
Perine Dubucq Negresse libre 72
Marie Negresse arada 79
Quarter de la Bretche
M. le Marquis de 1'Isle dix huit esclaves petits ou grands
Quarter de 1'ance Noire Joignant le Carenage
Claude Melot 40
Jean L'escaute 39
Jean Vorsos 30
Quarter du Machenilliers joignant le Grand Carenage
Sa Femme 49
Son fils aine 19
Sa Fille ainde 23
Un de ses fils 2
Blanc restant chez lui Etienne Bodot 49
Quarter du grand Carenage
Bernard Clavery 43
Jeannot Mogue son Negre 16
Jacques Calvaire 30
Francois Bambara 24
Madelaine Aura 27
Une petite Mule
Andre Sepoulin 25
Mariette Negresse 18
Antoine Planne 22
Josephe Planne 23
Nicolas Lambert 70
M. De Vers
Marie Anne i
Pour Copie a l'original
Moi etd envoy par lient De la Bourgerie et figure par
le recensenceur qu'il m'a envoy figure Poincy
De la Bourgerie du Sablon
De la Bourgerie du Noyer
Joseph Le Trein
Le Vieux Cavelan
George Negre libre
Alinotte Mulatresse libre
1 6 1
M. le Marquis de 1'Isle
Hommes Femmes Engans Negres Negresses Negrites
47 17 40 49 24 29
Total des ames
FRANCIS KAY BRINKLEY
1. I am indebted to Mr. Francis Grant of Philadelphia, who has a winter home in Carriacou, and
takes a great interest in its past and present, for my copy of this census.
2. As life expectancy was much shorter then, when 32 was considered middle-aged, I have put those
over age 50 in the category of old people.
3. In many cases the census specifies "son fils" "sa fille" "leur fils" "his son" "his daughter"
4. Why "George"? The French form is "Georges."
ANTONIO SOBERANIS AND THE DISTURBANCES
IN BELIZE 1934-1937
Belizel has a long history of being peripheral in its membership of supranational
organizations and the study of its history and culture have suffered accordingly. The
names of the Trinidadian and Barbadian heroes of the Disturbances of the 1930's in the
West Indies are well known but that Belize too had its own disturbance and its own hero
is virtually unknown outside of that country.
General studies of the English speaking Caribbean in the twentieth century rarely
mention Belize prior to 1949 while even an excellent study of that country recently
published2 manages only one paragraph on these disturbances and their instigator and
concludes that they were "not prolonged and never spread beyond Belize city."3 Older
studies of Belize too are quiet on these troubled years and even a governor of the Colony
in the 'thirties, in a letter to the author, claimed that he could "not remember any
disturbance in Belize in this period".4 These statements are not borne out by the Colonial
Office records or the Colony's newspapers of the time.
That the Belizean riots and strikes were not of the same magnitude as those in Barba-
dos, Jamaica and Trinidad is not in contention but the causes of Belize's 'troubles' were
analogous to those in the Islands and a study of them is long overdue. Their academic
neglect is not only the result of the paucity of scholarship from which Belize has suffered
but also because the disturbances and the political and labour movements associated with
them were still-born and academics have tended to concentrate on the more efficacious
and politically fulfilling nationalist movement of the 1950's.
While these disturbances partially achieved their economic ends their failure to achieve
any lasting permanent political movement, although disappointing to the leaders of the
labour groups, was a reflection, not on their lack of character and determination and
working class support for them, but rather on the nature of Belizean society in the 1930's
and on the hereditary political and economic structures which militated against any
successful working class representation.5
The manual group in Belizean society had never been represented for since 1892,
when the Imperial government, against its better judgement but through its own fault,
had been forced to grant an unofficial majority on the Legislative Council, the Colony's
political life had been dominated by the forestry and mercantile interests whose represen-
tatives sat in the unofficial seats in the Council. It was these groups who had used their
political and economic power to control the Colony's land and labour and who, because
these things were inimical to their interests, had suppressed agriculture, held back the
development of communications and social services and generally sought to keep the
Colony in a state of underdevelopment.6
The unhealthy, narrowly based economy this forestocracy had created collapsed in the
late 1920's with the rapid decline of mahogany, the Great Depression and the disastrous
hurricane which struck the Colony on the 10th September 1931 killing 1,000 people.
Apart from the terrible destruction of lives and property, the hurricane shattered Belize's
trade; imports and exports dropped to half the 1929 levels and most of the lumber camps
closed putting the labouring classes of Belize Town temporarily out of work. The Imperial
government stepped in with a hurricane reconstruction loan in 19327 but this money,
while enabling the middle classes to reconstruct (albeit with money they could not repay),
did little to alleviate distress among the work force.8
Between 1932 and 1934 the situation worsened and insult was added to injury by the
publication of the report of Sir Alan Pim,9 the Colonial Office's financial 'wizard' which
only advocated partial retrenchment in the government service and did not provide for
the massive public works programmes which had been widely expected after the hurricane
and the return to direct rule.10
The troubles began on February 15th 1934 when an unparalleled demonstration of
the unemployed organised by some of the leaders of the old Progressive Party calling
themselves the Unemployed Brigade (UB) took place in Belize Town. The demonstrators
armed with placards saying 'Look in our ranks and see our wants' marched, in order and
silence, through the capital, to the offices of the Governor where the incumbent, Sir
Harold Kittermaster, interviewed a deputation of them. The Clarion later reported that
Kittermaster was visibly jolted by the size of the support for the Unemployed Brigade
and he promised to instigate immediate outdoor relief; reaffirmed that the Hurricane
Loan Board would not foreclose on debtors and he told all the unemployed to register
at the offices of the Belize Town Board.11 On February 16th, 1,500 men and 300 women
were registered2 and while these numbers may appear small it must be remembered that
Belize Town had a population of only 16,000 and a labour force of 4,000-5,000 and on
this basis it can be seen that 25% or more of the work force had no employment and this
percentage would not include forestry workers who had farms or who could fish. This
percentage increased to 40% towards the end of 1934 when nearly 2,000 men were on the
unemployed register and this figure and not the absolute number must be borne in mind
when judging the extent of the distress and the size of the support for the working class
cause in the Colony.
On February 21st the Governor's relief measures manifested themselves. He ordered
that rice and sugar be distributed at the prison to those registered but the 'rice lab' ration
was badly cooked and inadequate and it was a humiliating gesture to the Unemployed
Brigade. They were further demoralised on March Ith when the Governor, having his
largesse rejected, instituted a scheme whereby a man might break, in a day, 5 cents worth
of rocks, but no more, at the Public Works Department yard, thereby limiting his wages
to 25 cents a week. The leader writer in the normally pro-Government Clarion called this
"degrading and humiliating" and that "there must be a mistake'".13 There was no mis-
take however and the Unemployed Brigade leaders, disillusioned by the breach of faith
by the Government and unsure of what to do next, resigned en masse in an open letter to
From the ranks of the Brigade followers emerged a man who did know what to do
next. He was Antonio Soberanis Gomez, a barber, who became the first popular leader of
the first popular movement in the Colony's history and who came to be known by
friend and foe alike as 'Tony'. He held his first public meeting on March 16th, 1934 on
the Battlefield15 where he denounced the Unemployed Brigade leaders as "cowards"
and explained that although he knew he was unfitted by origin, education and class to
act as the spokesman of the unemployed he had been moved to pity by the plight of the
people and he was prepared to die for them; it was better to be a "dead hero than a living
Soberanis from that day forward held bi-weekly and tri-weekly meetings on the
Battlefield and alongside Brodie's store where he had the benefit of electric light and in
his somewhat incoherent but messianic and vociferous speeches he called for the institu-
tion of a fair wage and work for the unemployed and he attacked Crown Colony govern-
ment, imperial neglect of Belize and colonial officialdom. He soon gathered a group of
lieutenants around him, who came to be known as the 'Colleagues' among the most
important were Igal S. Lahoodie ('Silver-Tongued'), Benjamin Reneau and Gabriel
At first the new leaders of the unemployed were dismissed by the press and the
Government alike as "men of no importance"1 8 but as Tony was airing genuine grievanc-
es and as he did not worry too much about the slander and sedition laws and exposed the
idiosyncrasies and private lives of the higher colonial officials, his meetings soon began to
attract large crowds. He spoke often about the rights of labour and in June or July the
Battlefield Movement became the Labour and Unemployed Association (LUA) with
Soberanis as its chief executive. The LUA could not register as a labour union as the
Masters and Servants Ordinance of 1883 made union registration illegal but the LUA was
much more than another of the numerous Friendly Societies which already existed to
serve the middle classes in times of distress.
The Colony's two newspapers the Clarion and the Belize Independent saw the LUA in
different lights. The Independent had long attacked the policies of the Colonial Govern-
ment and its principal columnist L.D. Kemp ('Prince Dee') came out with strong support
for the Battlefield orators. Kemp was a powerful, if somewhat longwinded polemicist who
had, he considered, been badly wronged by the Colonial Government19 and in his long,
rambling articles he denounced specific administrational errors and questioned the politi-
cal relevance of Crown Colony government. When the Soberanis movement faded away
Kemp took to the rostrum himself.
The Clarion, which was the paper of the Establishment and generally applauded the
actions of the Colonial Government, while recognizing the justice of many of the
Battlefield criticisms was dismayed by Soberanis's vehemence and his personal attacks on
colonial officials. As the movement went from strength to strength the Clarion declared
it to be subversive and detrimental to public order.20 In this it was at one with the
Colonial Government which found itself more and more the target of Battlefield attack.
The Acting Governor, F.W. Brunton, described Tony as a "half crazy creature"21 while
Alan Burns (Governor 1934-40) regarded Soberanis as a "professional agitator"22
because collections were taken at Battlefield meetings to defray expenses. In May 1934
the Colonial Office had opened a file on the labour leaders and after a speech of Soberan-
is' on April 13th it was decided to arrest and prosecute him on the grounds that he had
threatened Major Matthews, the Superintendent of Police, with unlawful violence.
In early May, Tony was arraigned before the Belize District magistrate F.C.P. Bowen
who, while having no choice but to find Soberanis guilty,23 let him off with a caution
for Bowen, one of the few native officials, was the only administrator in this troubled
period who tempered justice with mercy in his dealings with the unemployed. Bowen's
action however was not appreciated by the Executive which considered that a show of
strength was necessary and Brunton, shortly afterwards, had Bowen removed from the
bench and replaced him with the "case-hard"24 Denbigh Phillips who deservedly became
very unpopular because of his severe sentences.
On July 8th there was a foretaste of things to come when Benjamin Reneau, one of
Tony's chief lieutenants, resisted arrest for debt and a large crowd gathered outside the
law offices of Franco and Ellis and intimidated the debt collector and his lawyers to such
an extent that the issue was settled much in Reneau's favour. The Clarion called it "Mob
Intimidation";25 Major Matthews considered that "the slightest spark could have set the
town alight"26 and the significance of the day's events were not lost on the LUA leader-
ship who told the Battlefield crowd that night that the day was "history made in the
History too was the cause of Tony's next venture for he wished his association to
celebrate, in a grand manner, the public holiday of September 10th, the anniversary of
the Battle of St. George's Caye.28 To this end the LUA sought to obtain funds by collect-
ions and donations from the stores and merchant houses and when the biggest stores,
owned by the old elite, refused to contribute to what Soberanis saw as a non-political and
public celebration, he had them picketed and boycotted. Money however came in for his
cause from "sympathisers who were not necessarily followers"29 and on the day of the
10th the celebrations were extraordinary. Tony, on a horse, led the hundreds of the LUA
members dressed in their colours of red and green through the town and when the pro-
cession of the Friendly Societies had finished, the massed bands joined the Battlefield
group and all marched off to the Yarborough district where a wreath was laid on Colonel
Paslow's30 tomb and where nearly 3,000 people were fed in a vast picnic.
This great event, in sharp contrast to the prevailing economic gloom raised morale
among the working class and in the Independent 'Man about Town' came out with the
headline "Well done Tony".31 It was, in retrospect, Soberanis' finest hour for not only
had he demonstrated that he had the solid support of the working class but he had shown
that this support was not just based on his own charisma but also on the fact that his
association could successfully organise a public event. The Independent now suggested
that Tony was the man of the hour and that "he had set people to think. They are think-
ing that he will now put over his great objective having gone so far."32
Spurred on by this success Tony grew more vocal in his demands and these were not
only that the unemployed should be provided with relief and a job with a fair wage but
that the now notorious Denbigh Phillips should be removed from the bench and that
C.S. 'Hillbank' Brown, the manager of the Belize Estate and Produce Company33 (BEC)
should not be allowed to live in Government House. On Friday 29th September, at a
Battlefield meeting, Soberanis forcefully reiterated these demands and declared that on
the next Monday morning the LUA were going to picket the big stores and the BEC's
sawmill to make the employees of this concern demand higher wages.
The picketing of Monday 1st October turned into a riot.34 The initial picket of the
sawmill failed but an incident outside Harley's Branch store sparked off a fight between
a picket and a certain Police Corporal Building which was to have repercussions later. A
second attempt to intimidate workers at the Belize Estate Company's mill was more
successful and the strike leaders closed down the works and then went off to do likewise
to various other merchant houses. They marched to the premises of the coconut exporter,
Manuel Esquivel, assaulting the owner and stealing some cash while others went to the
Public Works Department yard where they smashed in the main gate. Having closed the
town's main employers the crowd, armed with sticks, marched off to Queen Street to the
Town Board offices where the people's leaders met the police and a fight ensued in which
several constables were assaulted and in the fracas, one Absolem Pollard was shot. It was
never discovered who shot Pollard35 but it was widely believed that Corporal Building
was carrying a pistol obtained after his fight earlier in the morning. Several witnesses
claimed to have seen him with it.
The riot was quelled at about 11 a.m. by the arrival on the scene of the Acting-Gover-
nor and a massed offensive by the police. The Clarion later claimed that if the force had
shown the "white feather" there was no telling what would have happened. It described
the crowd, rather luridly, as a "maddened throng" and it was happy that "the constables
beat sense into the heads of the lawless." The paper agreed with the Acting-Governor
that the rioters demands for $1.50 a day wages was "ridiculous"36 and it later applauded
the harsh sentences given to the riot leaders by Denbigh Phillips.
Soberanis himself had led the abortive picket at the sawmill in the early hours of the
morning but after its failure he had returned home and then gone to Government House
and so had missed the main rioting. He did not arrive at the police station until 5 p.m.
after the rioters had been either dispelled or incarcerated. After standing bail for 16 of
the 17 arrested he was promptly arrested himself on the charge that in his speech on the
29th night he had threatened violence to deter Denbigh Phillips from carrying out his
duties.37 There was a danger of another riot on Soberanis' arrest as several hundred
people had gathered outside the police station and one, 'Pettie' (Christopher Velasquez),
the local snake man, turned up with two large constrictors but it came on to rain hard
and the crowd dispersed; the scheduled Battlefield meeting for the night, which would
have kept the embers of revolt smouldering, being abandoned.3 8
The outburst on the first, had caught the Government unawares and Brunton's first
reaction was to ascertain, from the Governor of the Bahamas, the whereabouts in the
Caribbean of the nearest British cruiser. He admitted that the disturbances were "some-
what serious" and that the circumstances had compelled him to promise $3,000 to the
Belize Town Board for immediate outdoor relief.39 Burns, the Governor designate, had
prophesied, not very perspicaciously, that "a shortage of money and unemployment will
lead to civil disturbances unless something is speedily done"40 and Brunton, in his own
justification, blamed the riot on the failure of the Treasury to provide adequate funds for
public works and relief measures.41
Brunton however was a lot happier once Soberanis was in jail as it was clear that
while the leader of the LUA did not partake in the riot he was the moving spirit. Tony's
appeal for bail was refused until November 6th and, although his freedom on that day
was celebrated by a big welcome rally at Liberty Hall and he was feted as Moses attempt-
ing to bring his people out of Egypt,42 during his imprisonment his lieutenants had been
conspiring against him. On November 20th the Clarion reported that a "comprehensive
split" had developed in the LUA.43 On the 8th December at a Battlefield meeting Tony
revealed what was "inside the cup." He alleged that in his absence the executive of his
association had formulated their own rules and more corruptly had misappropriated
association funds. It was not to be the last time that peculation was to be the cause of
dissension in a Belizean popular movement44 and the Clarion delighted at this develop-
ment, declared that, as it claimed it had always believed, the Battlefield movement was
but a "vast racket" whose collections were used to line the pockets of its leaders:45
The split was the beginning of the end of the united Battlefield movement. Tony
continued to lead the LUA and in January 1935 he was acquitted of the charge of
threatening violence to Phillips as it developed that the magistrate had, prior to Tony's
threat, stated publicly that he would horsewhip Soberanis and had, in fact, something of
a reputation for horsewhipping his social inferiors.46
The rump of the Battlefield movement under the leadership of Lahoodie and Reneau
formed themselves into the British Honduras Unemployed Association (BHUA), which
claimed it was the link between the employers and labour. It soon became as apolitical as
the old Friendly Societies and it never exercised any labour influence as it could not be
registered as a trade union. In the 1935 Silver Jubilee celebrations it paraded in the
grounds of Government House as loyally as the Black Cross Nurses or the Patriotic Order
of the Baymen.
Soberanis and the LUA continued to espouse the workers cause and to berate the
Colonial Government throughout the early months of 1935 and in May of that year he
and his new lieutenants 'Bangula' and a female fire-brand 'Ginger' instigated a strike and
riot in Stann Creek Town where the railway workers on May 21st, demanding an increase
in wages, blocked the Havana bridge and a fight broke out when the police arrived. The
Governor had to send reinforcements and despatched a stern telegram to the Stann Creek
District Commissioner to be read to the strikers. Although Soberanis had already left for
the capital before the trouble started, Alan Burns was quick to pin the entire responsibili-
ty on the labour leader.47
In October of 1935 the Government got the chance it had been waiting for when Tony
went to Corozal Town and abused the Crown and various colonial officials including the
Governor. The Government had tightened up the sedition laws and public safety regula-
tions after the October 1934 riot and now charged Soberanis with insulting words. He
was summarily tried and convicted in the District Court and fined $85 or 4 months
hard labour. On the charge of 'insulting words against His Majesty' he was remanded for
trial by the Supreme Court and the Governor hoped that he would be put away for a
long time.48 In fact Soberanis was acquitted in early 1936 but the Corozal convictions, an
accident in Belize Town in October 1935 which continued to trouble him and the split in
the ranks of the unemployed occasioned by the formation of the British Honduras Unem-
ployed Association sapped his resolve and by 1936 his association was a spent force.
Throughout that year the LUA had continued to organise meetings and demonstrations
and in November the Clarion could still say that Tony was "not a man without some
influence"49 for the LUA was opposing certain candidates for election to the Belize
Board but in reality it and its leader were no longer news.
In the early months of 1937 Soberanis was pleading with the Belize Town Board for a
job for he explained that he had a family of twelve to feed and that the fines levied
against him had all but ruined him as his trade of barbering was not very lucrative.50 On
September 29th in the Independent in a letter entitled 'Shall History Repeat Itself he
recounted the story of the 1934 disorders and, in the light of the disturbances in the
Islands he threatened that the situation of the Colony was again disturbing (which it was)
and quoted an old Creole proverb "Every day bucket go da well one day e bottom fall
It was, unintentionally, a comment on his own failure. His day was done for although
he was again active in the 'Open Forum' of the 1940's he never again obtained the total
working class support he had drawn on in those halcyon months between March and
Innovation and Failure
Working class discontent was not unknown in Belizean history. There had been a
labour riot in December 1894 caused by the change of currency of October of that year
and anger at the low wages being offered by the forest merchants and this upsurge was
widely supported and only put down with the aid of Imperial troops. In 1919 also, on
July 22nd, there was a more serious outburst of popular discontent concocted by the
returned Belizean soldiery of the British West Indian regiment who had served in Palestine.
Its causes were partly racial and partly economic but it too occasioned much popular
support and again was only suppressed with the use of outside help. Both were largely
'bread' and 'discrimination' riots,but both had political overtones and the 1919 riot, in
particular, threw up men who were intent on openly criticising the system of government
under which they lived.
The Soberanis movement and the disorders associated with it, although less violent
than the 1919 riot, were of greater historical importance than the earlier disturbances.
Soberanis had a definite political purpose; he attempted to take his message beyond the
confines of Belize Town and the troubles his movement brought forth were part of a
larger Caribbean outburst.
Soberanis did not confine his attack on the Colonial Establishment to economic and
social questions. Wages, prices and employment were the main concern of his followers
and they were questions which had thrown up the LUA leader in the first place but they
were not his sole concern. He was aware that many of the troubles which beset the
Colony's work force were the result of a top-heavy and bureaucratic administration
which used the meagre colonial revenues to pay the inflated salaries of incompetent
officials.52 He also knew that in the power structure the working class had no voice
because they lacked representation in the Legislative Council and that it was in the
interests of the mercantile elite to keep them so unrepresented. As this elite controlled
the Council, it was up to the officials of the Colonial Government to protect the interests
of labour and this they had conspicuously failed to do. In consequence, Soberanis, unlike
his predecessors in 1894 and 1919, directed much of his invective against the colonial
officials and questioned the very relevance of Crown Colony government.
Not only did Soberanis attempt political criticism but he took that criticism out of
Belize Town into the districts. That the capital was the Colony was still as true in the
1930's as it had been fifty years earlier and the districts were still very much regarded as
the 'bush' which was only to be viewed safely from the confines of the capital. Most
activities in the Colony were carried out in the capital as if the districts did not exist. The
'spontaneous' outbursts of 1894 and 1919 were solely confined to Belize Town. The
LUA however saw fertile ground for recruitment to its ideas, if not its organisation, in the
district capitals. Soberanis himself went several times to Stann Creek and Punta Gorda
and as we have noted he managed to inflame the working classes in both the north and
the south. In fact in Stann Creek Town he even attempted to get the Garifuna (Black
Carib) population of that town to elect a candidate of their own race for the 1936
election campaign to stand against the traditional 'white' spokesman of the Stann Creek
Valley. Such an idea was premature and only recently has it been accepted in that quarter
that a member of the majority must speak for that majority, but it indicates that Soberan-
is was attempting to create a 'national working class consciousness', however crude and
disorganised his approach. His mantle was not to be taken up again until the coming of the
People's Committee and the revitalisation of the General Worker's Union in 1950.
Finally the 1934-36 troubles were of greater historical consequence than the earlier
outbursts because they were both the precursor and, at the same time, the most insignifi-
cant of the West Indian disturbances of the 1930's. It is doubtful if news of the trouble
in Belize had any influence on, or even reached the rest of the British West Indies for the
Colony had long been a Caribbean backwater. It must be admitted however that the
causes of the Belizean troubles, "the wretched conditions under which the people lived
hitherto [which] had been gradually worsening over decades,"53 and the political restrict-
ions of Crown Colony government were the same as those which led to bloodshed in
Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados. The Belize Independent in1936 and 1937 reported the
disorders in St. Vincent and Trinidad extensively and, if by that time the Battlefield
movement had shot its bolt there was no doubt that the Colonial office saw Belize as
part of the pattern of reaction to Imperial neglect which resulted in the West Indian riots
and the commission to investigate them. Hoyos54 dated the outbreak of trouble in the
British West Indies from the riots of January 1935 in St. Kitts he should have dated it
from the riot of October 1934 in Belize.
That blood was not shed in Belize and that the Soberanis movement faded away
without any tangible result in the form of an effective labour or political organisation was
largely due to the peculiar circumstances of the Belizean situation and experience. The
old political, economic and class structures in the Colony were still strong enough to both
create division in and to withstand a disunified and disorganised attack from the labour
force they exploited while the Colonial Government, after October 1934, met the labour
leader and his followers with conciliation not confrontation; work not humiliation.
Soberanis was no Cipriani or Bustamante. He lacked an elitist background, monied and
influential friends and a formal education. His speeches were often incoherent and escha-
tological and couched in bombastic English and thus dismissed by the Establishment as
the ramblings of a lunatic. His only political asset was his charisma among the unemploy-
ed and his almost transparent sincerity. He knew he was unfitted by birth, background
and learning for his self-appointed role as leader of the working class and admitted, in a
pamphlet produced many years afterwards, that he had seen himself as a reluctant and
'stop-gap' leader, filling the breach until a middle class intellectual came forward to lead
the dispossessed masses. The working class were, according to Soberanis, betrayed for
although a few native intellectuals had rallied the working classes to protest at the insensi-
tivity of the Colonial Government: "The intellectuals [the Unemployed Brigade] with-
drew at the height of their [the working class] loyalty and devotion to them because they
said they could not accomplish what the masses desired."55 Those intellectuals were
astute enough to perceive the next step open defiance and denunciation of the Colonial
Government but they shrunk from such a revolutionary step. They stopped and drew
back not only because traditional loyalties died hard but because they realized well
enough that the anger of the working class was not just directed towards the Colonial
Government but also towards the mercantile elite and privileged classes to which they
Economic neglect by the monied classes for the Battlefield movement was as damaging
as their political neglect. Soberanis' supporters were unemployed or intermittently
employed persons like himself who could barely earn enough to support their own fami-
lies. They had little to spare to fund organizations like the LUA and the Soberanis
movement depended for its revenue on collections at the Battlefield meetings and on
occasional donations. The LUA was lucky if it could drum up $456 in an evening to de-
fray expenses and the trips of Soberanis and his organisation's executive to Stann Creek
and Corozal were largely paid out of their own pockets. Such a lack of cash, transport and
patronage was in sharp contrast to that afforded the critics of the Colonial Government
in the 1940's and 1950's by R.S. Turton the Belize City chicle millionaire. To what
extent Turton, who was bitterly anti-British, funded the People's United Party in the
early 1950's is not precisely known58 but it seems likely that his aid was not inconsider-
able. He certainly made life easier, in the late 1930's and 1940's (after the reintroduction
of the elective principle into the constitution in 1936) for his political proteges by pro-
viding them with free accommodation and probably cash. Those men and the PUP later
never seemed to be hampered in their political activities by a need for money while lack
of funds by the LUA not only restricted its ability to fight the Establishment but also
reflected on the weaknesses of its composition.
Lack of middle class leadership and middle class finance was partnered by, or perhaps
produced, disunity in the Battlefield movement itself. Soberanis was the figurehead but
he lacked the necessary confidence in himself and a certain authoritarianism and intoler-
ance which seems to reside in successful leaders. His imprisonment in October 1934
allowed his colleagues to conspire against him and to challenge his supremacy thus creat-
a split in the organisation of the movement. If the movement was weak, uncertain and
poorly structured prior to that time the chances of its success afterwards were completely
destroyed. History, environment and economic status had made the labouring class of
the capital independent and querulous of spirit. Such traits are virtues in politically
experienced, homogeneous societies but are positive drawbacks for the successful estab-
lishment of labour and political organizations in adverse circumstances in heterogeneous
societies kept in political immaturity and political and economic dependence. Factional-
ism destroyed the efficacy of the LUA as it nearly wrecked the PUP in 1951 when John
Smith defected to the loyalists, but in the later instance George Price managed to turn
the party leader's defection to his own good. Soberanis never tried to effectively concil-
iate or to effectively defame the Lahoodie faction for in truth, unlike Price, he never
really perceived the working class power he had unleasned and the opportunity with
which he had been presented.
That opportunity was circumscribed by the controls exerted by tradition, law, and
economic necessity on the Colony's labour force. That body, for which forest work was
the main occupation, had long been manipulated by the forestocracy. The forest worker,
every Christmas, contracted to supply the timber merchants with labour for the next ten
months for a fixed monthly wage and a three month 'advance'. The advance and the
contract tied the labourer to the employer for the cash was quickly spent on holiday
festivities and provisions for the new year. Breach of contract was punishable by impri-
sonment under the stringent and archaic labour laws. The Masters and Servants Ordinance
of 1883, as well as making illegal trade union formation, made failure to work or
absenteeism a criminal offence and the sanction of the law was widely used. At the turn
of the century, of the summary convictions in the Colony, nearly one-third were for
breaches of this Ordinance. As the labourer could not pay a fine he generally went to
prison and still had to work off his contracted time with his employer on his release.59
The nature of the work too tended to encourage working class fissiparity and selfish-
ness. There was little chance of any organised resistance to Government or capital for the
workers were scattered for most of the year throughout the Belizean bush. Only at
Christmas was the Government afraid of trouble as the forest workers descended on the
capital. Even at this time however argument and friction were more in evidence than
class solidarity for the individual worker sought to obtain the best new contract for
himself and was not to be disposed into alienating an employer with a 'good' contract.
In January or February the workers returned to the lumber camps and only the old, sick,
children and women were left in Belize Town. It was noted that Soberanis' followers
were mainly women for even in those bad years of 1934 and 1935 a worker had to go out
of the capital even if he could only get work for a few weeks. In consequence Soberanis
could never count on having the same male faces in his following and his supporters were
constantly in a state of flux only the chronically unemployed and the women provid-
ing a regular captive audience.
Internal divisiveness, lack of leadership and the stifling restrictions of law, tradition
and economic necessity was however only half the story. Soberanis and his movement
were mainly defeated by a Colonial Government which chose to compromise rather than
confront. The movement foundered because its immediate demands were easily satisfied
once the Government had been stung into action. The peak of the labour troubles coin-
cided with the arrival of a new governor, Alan Burns, in November 1934 and Burn's
sincere desire to ameliorate the sufferings of the working class resulted in the creation of
a number of public works schemes between 1935 and 1939. Burns, whom the Colonial
Office admitted "was not a man to let the grass grow under his feet"60 pressed the Office
for free grants for the Colonial Development fund to finance road work schemes his
executive had drawn up. When he arrived in 1934 Belize had only a few miles of 'all
weather road' but on his departure in 1940 all the districts, except Toledo, had been, or
were about to be linked to the capital by motor roads.61 These road works were but
disguised relief schemes for the unemployed and the quincena system62 used to build
them was much criticised for each mile of road was expensive manual labour was
preferred to that of machines so that the maximum labour force could be employed.
Although uneconomically produced these roads absorbed large numbers of the pre-
viously unemployed and partially remedied defects in a communications system long
criticised. Burns, like Kittermaster before him, believed that the only salvation of Belize
lay in its agricultural potential and he justified his road programme by claiming for every
highway that it would open up vast tracts of the Colony for agricultural development.
The Battlefield movement therefore had the ground cut from beneath it by the
energetic and able Burns who in six years obtained more Imperial aid for the Colony than
his predecessors had done in the previous fifty but this is not to say that the Governor
was a humanitarian above all else, or an antagonist of the system of government he repre-
sented. His concern was for the maintenance of law and order which he considered the
first essential of 'good government' and he believed that the way to stop trouble was to
remove its causes. The raison d'etre of his road programme, which was not a vast develop-
ment plan but a series of piecemeal exercises in pragmatism, was the employment of idle
hands lest the devil find work for them.
For those 'malcontents' like Soberanis in which the devil was too deeply rooted to
expunge, Burns had no liberality. Authoritarian and intolerant by nature the Governor
had an almost fanatical dislike of those who opposed him especially the LUA leader whose
opposition was not even backed by breeding, education, money or social status. His
remarks on Soberanis have already been noted and when the Royal Commission came to
Belize in 1938 the secret report on the Colony's 'agitators' prepared by the Governor
concentrated on R.S. Turton and Soberanis.
There is, lastly, one other factor which probably contributed greatly to the emascula-
tion of the Battlefield movement. The Colonial Government provided not only bread but
circuses the latter more by accident than design. 1936 saw the re-establishment of the
elective principle into the Colony's constitution. This was not a deliberate ploy to deflect
the increasing political pressure on it for it had been promised since 1930. Anyway the
election build-up should have left the Colony's working class relatively unaffected for it
was a strictly middle class affair, the voting and candidacy qualifications being income
levels not possessed by Belize's labourers. In fact the reverse was true. The capital's
labour force had long been conditioned to look to the local elite for representation and
although that elite had never represented anyone except itself, old traditions died hard.
The people believed that certain of the candidates in the 1936 elections, if elected to the
Legislative Council, would air and seek redress for the grievances of the working class. In
the weeks before that election in February 1936, Arthur Balderamos Snr., R.S. Turton
and L.P. Ayuso all, in their pre-election speeches and hustings, stated that they would
seriously take up the question of employment and, in consequence, overnight became
the 'people's men.' Only one of these men continued to wear the same colours after he
was elected but the record shows that the pre-election fervour undoubtably stole much of
the thunder from an already fissiparous Battlefield movement. It is perhaps ironic that
the practise of 'democracy' in action removed the last vestiges of support from the only
true democrat in Belize in the 1930's.
Antonio Soberanis died in 1975 an 'Insung hero. Histories of Belize in the past have
ignored him. Histories of the future will resurrect his name along with that of Fred
Gahne, Samuel Hayes and H.H. Cain other Belizean heroes whose exploits have not
yet been fully appreciated. May his bones rest in peace and the memory of this sincere
and much abused man live long in the annals of Belizean history.
PETER D. ASHDOWN
1. British Honduras was renamed Belize in 1973. I have used the modern name when referring to
the country as a whole but I have used the old names for Stann Creek Town (now Dangriga)
and for Belize Town (now Belize City).
2. C.H. Grant, The making of modern Belize, London, C.U.P., 1976.
3. Ibid. p. 67.
4. Sir Alan Burns to P.D. Ashdown, 10th February 1977. In his defence it should be said that
Sir Alan is now an old man with a failing memory.
5. Grant op. cit. pp. 33-60.
6. Norman Ashcraft, Colonialism and Underdevelopment, New York, Teacher's College Press,
7. In exchange for the Hurricane Reconstruction Loan the Legislative Council had to accept
Treasury control and reserve powers for the Governor.
8. The main allocations in the loan were for property reconstruction and a loan to the Belize
Estate Company to build a sawmill.
9. Sir Alan Pim et al., British Honduras: Financial and Economic Position Report of the Commis-
sioner appointed by the Secretary of State for The Colonies, March 1934 (Cmd. 4586, 1934).
10. Belize was therefore a 'pure' Crown Colony for two periods, 1870 to 1892 and 1932 to 1936.
Any chance of progress in the first period was wrecked by the maladministration of Sir Roger
Goldsworthy while the second period was dominated by the need for reconstruction after the
11. Clarion, 22nd February 1934, p. 165.
12. Governor to the Secretary of State, 7th March 1934, CO 123/346.
13. Clarion, 15th March 1934 p. 232.
14. Ibid. p., 236.
15. The Battlefield was a piece of grass outside the Belize Court House and in the centre of the
town. It was the traditional open air meeting place.
16. Belize Independent,21st March 1934 p. 9.
17. Report of the Superintendent of Police to the Governor, 27th November 1934. To be found
in CO 123/346.
18. Governor to the Secretary of State. 19th March 1934. CO 123/346.
19. L.D. Kemp had had his boat the 'C.L.' impounded and himself imprisoned by the Guatemalan
authorities for smuggling in 1933. The Colonial Government refused to take up his case for
compensation with Guatemala as they believed him guilty.
20. Clarion 30th August 1934 p. 221.
21. Acting-Governor to the Secretary of State. 6th August 1934. CO 123/349.
22. Governor to the Secretary of State. 13th June 1935. CO 123/353.
23. Tony had told Major Matthews to 'remember the licking he had got in 1919 for more of the
same was coming soon.' Matthews had been assaulted in his own yard in the ex-servicemen's riot
of July 22nd 1919.
24. Acting-Governor to the Secretary of State. 6th August 1934 CO 123/349.
25. Clarion 19th July 1934 p. 64-A.
26. Report of the Superintendent op. cit. p. 6.
27. Clarion 19th July 1934 p. 64-A.
28. At this battle in 1798 the Baymen and their slaves had defeated the Spanish force led by the
Governor of Yucatan which was supposed to expell them from their Belize River settlement.
The holiday is now called National Day.
29. Belize Independent 22nd August 1934 p. 14.
30. Colonel Paslow was one of the heroes of the Battle of St. George's Caye.
31. Belize Independent 12th September 1934 p. 5.
32. Ibid. p. 14.
33. The Belize Estate Company was the largest employer of labour in the Colony at its sawmill and
lumber camp. It had a special relationship with the Colonial Government and its local manager
had an almost hereditary seat on the Legislative Council.
34. The most systematic and exhaustive coverage of the events of 1st October is to be found in the
Report of the Superintendent of Police op. cit.
35. Pollard was not killed but wounded in the neck. He did not know who had shot him.
36. Clarion 4th October 1934 and llth October 1934.
37. The LUA had petitioned Brunton for Phillips' removal and after this was rejected Tony had
threatened to 'pull' the magistrate from the bench.
38. Report of the Superintendent of Police op. cit. pp. 9-16.
39. Acting-Governor to the Secretary of State 24th October 1934. CO 123/346.
40. Alan Burns to the Secretary of State 1st October 1934. CO 123/346.
41. Acting-Governor to the Secretary of State 24th October 1934. CO 123/346.
42. Belize Independent 7th November 1934.
43. Clarion 22nd November 1934 p. 653.
44. In 1956 a split was created in the People's United Party when Nicholas Pollard, Secretary of the
General Workers Union, was expelled from the Union for alleged peculation.
45. Clarion 13th December 1934.
46. Belize Independent 6th February 1935.
47. Governor to the Secretary of State 22nd May 1935. CO 123/353.
48. Ibid. 15th November 1935. CO 123/354.
49. Daily Clarion 9th November 1936.
50. Belize Independent 20th April and 27th April 1937.
51. Ibid. 29th September 1937 p. 16.
52. I would argue, without proof, that Belize, being a Colonial 'backwater' received a greater
proportion of the incompetents in Colonial service than any other West Indian colony.
53. A. Shoman, below cited p. 10.
54. F.A. Hoyos, The Rise of West Indian Democracy (Advocate Press, 1963) p. 59.
55. Antonio Soberanis and L.D. Kemp, The Third Side of the Anglo-Guatemalan Dispute, (Belize
City, 1945) p. 10.
56. Report of P.C. Ellis on a Battlefield meeting held on July 1st, 1934. To be found in CO 123/
57. Belize Town was upgraded to city status in 1943.
58. Assad Shoman, in his excellent pioneering article, 'The Birth of the Nationalist Movement ii
Belize 1950-54' in the Journal of Belizean Affairs, No. 2, December 1973, stated that Turton
"gave modest financial support to the Party and facilitated Price's trips abroad." (pp. 28-29).
He is however not dogmatic about this and the extent of Turton's financial support will
probably never be known.
In 1934, H.P.C. Bowen, on being up-braided by the Acting-Governor for the leniency of his
sentences defended himself in a remarkable letter. In that letter he quoted a case, the Belize
Estate Company versus Dionicio Lambey, in which the prosecuting lawyer had stated in court
that the Company did not want a refund of the defendant's 'advance' but wanted him imprison-
ed as a warning to others. H.P.C. Bowen to F. Brunton, October 22nd, 1934 CO 123/349.
60. Minute of Sir Hilton Poynton, June 30th 1938. CO 123/368.
61. Burn's energy and pressure led to the construction of the Northern Highway. The San Antonio-
Punta Gorda Road, the Belize-Cayo Road and the Stann Creek Valley Road.
62. Gangs of labourers were hired by the Government for a two week period and then laid off for
several weeks so other gangs could be taken on. All the unemployed were therefore, in theory,
given the chance of intermittent work.
GRANDIOSE SCHEMES FOR FOREIGN COLONIZATION IN GUYANA:
A SURVEY OF THEIR ORIGIN, PROVISIONS AND ABANDONMENT
The present severe problem of unemployment and underemployment in Guyana
(British Guiana until 1966) might be attributed to overpopulation. This Commonwealth
Caribbean republic on the north coast of South America does suffer from overpopulation,
but, at the same time, it suffers from underpopulation. Virtually all of the people live on
a fertile coastal strip not much more than 10 miles wide. Here population densities exceed
500 persons per square mile in some areas and it is here on the coastal plain that over-
population is a problem. The average population density of the country, however, is less
than 10 persons per square mile.1 In this sense Guyana is underpopulated. With a land
area nearly as large as that of the United Kingdom, Guyana has fewer than a million
people., the smallest population of any sovereign state in South America. The country has
not had the manpower, not to mention the economic resource base, to carry out a
century-old dream the "opening of the Interior". All the nation's problems, it has been
felt, would ultimately be solved if only the Interior was developed.
The prospect for the development of the Interior was one of two factors that resulted
in several grandiose schemes for foreign colonization in Guyana. The other was the sugar
industry's difficulty in maintaining a large supply of cheap labour, despite the location
of the sugar estates on the densely settled coastal plain. Developed on the basis of slave
labour, the lucrative industry was threatened by the emancipation of the slaves in 1834.
The ex-slaves were forced to serve as "apprentices" on the estates until 1838, so it was
not until then that the labour problem became acute. The problem was met by the
importation of large numbers of indentured labourers, the great majority of them from
India.2 Most of these immigrants were obligated only to serve for a five-year period, and
relatively few accepted the offer of a second period of indenture. The sugar industry was,
therefore, dependent upon continued immigration for its pool of low-cost labour. In
1917 the Indian government terminated the supply of indentured labourers to British
Guiana. The need for a solution to the labour crisis was made doubly urgent by the death,
through an epidemic of influenza in 1918, of some 12,000 East Indians.3
The only solution to the problems of undeveloped land resources and inadequate
labour for the sugar industry appeared to be the revival of immigration combined with
land settlement, i.e., foreign colonization. Five schemes designed to provide this solution
were developed between 1919 and 1948. This paper surveys these schemes, all of which
failed but all of which influenced in some way the course of government-sponsored land
settlement in Guyana.
Colonization Scheme of 1919
In 1919 the "Colonization Scheme of 1919", also known as the "Nunan-Luckhoo
Scheme", was adopted by the British Guiana government. The plan called for the intro-
duction of large numbers of foreign colonists. As the labour shortage was critical, the
governmentcould not afford to be particular about the source of colonists. It was decided
to solicit colonists from India, China, Africa, and the West Indies, and committees were
appointed to begin immediate investigations. Coastal areas identified by the government
as available and conducive to settlement numbered seven and totalled nearly 100,000
Attempts at obtaining colonists from the West Indies met with immediate opposition
from West Indian governments. Permission to recruit agricultural settlers was requested
of the governments of Barbados, Trinidad, the Windward Islands, the Leeward Islands,
Jamaica, and the Bahamas, because "owing to the discontinuance of indentured East
Indian immigration to this Colony, the shortage of agricultural labour for the sugar estates
is now acute".5 The other governments regretted that they could not consent to British
Guiana's request because of similar labour shortages.
The possibility of importing African immigrants was discussed but apparently did not
reach the stage of meaningful negotiations. The West Indian and African Sub-committee
discussed the possible importation of colonists from the Mendi and Timini tribes of
Sierra Leone, from the Kroomen of Liberia, and from various tribes of Nigeria. In a
report to the general Colonization Committee, it recommended:
If a scheme of land settlement from West Africa is acquiesced in by the Secretary
of State, the terms of land, etc., offered would have to be liberal to induce
families to emigrate, and steamship communication would have to be regularly
maintained. Any scheme of land settlement should provide for the immigrants
from each Colony being settled in location by themselves as far as possible, and
every care should be taken to prevent the children forgetting or neglecting their
native language and dress. It is difficult to say what success would attend a recruit-
ing effort for immigrants in West Africa, but if permission is granted us it is well
worth a trial, as if the first lot of immigrants take to the country, more will
Available records present no evidence that the Sub-committee was ever authorized to
initiate negotiations with the African colonies.
The Chinese Sub-committee also delivered a favourable report, noting that "Chinese
would make eminently suitable colonists",7 It further stated that: *
. .it is desirable that the agricultural class should be recruited, and those from
South China. Free return passages should be provided after seven years to any who
wish to return to China.8
Once again, however, it appears that no action was taken on the recommendations.
The government's failure to act on recommendations regarding colonization by
Africans and Chinese was possibly due to its intense interest in, and concentration of
effort on, reopening immigration from India. The initial report of the East Indian
Sub-committee stated that "every effort should be made to introduce colonists and
Fig. 1 Areas Proposed for Possible Settlement in the Colonization Scheme of 1919. Boundaries derived from
data in Report of Proposals and Finance Sub-Committee, Colonisation Scheme (Georgetown: "The
Argosy" Co., Ltd. 1919), p. 7.
especially colonists from the agricultural class from India .. "9 As it was clear that the
estate owners preferred colonists of Indian origin, the government adopted a plan which
called for the introduction over a four-year period of 7,500 families from India. Under
the scheme, one-fifth of the families introduced would be provided upon arrival by the
government with five acres each of land prepared for immediate cultivation; the others
would be provided with employment on the sugar estates.10 This was the intent of the
scheme, but the wording was subject to interpretation and the Indian government
interpreted it to mean that all of the immigrants arriving each year would be given, if they
so chose, prepared land rather than employment on the sugar plantations. A deputation
headed by J.J. Nunan11 and J.A. Luckhoo12 was sent to India in mid-1919 to explain
the scheme. Eight months of negotiations produced no mutually acceptable terms for
reopening the flow of immigrants, so the deputation returned to British Guiana. In 1921
the world price of sugar collapsed. While in 1920 the planters were willing to offer almost
any terms for a supply of labourers, by 1922 there was not enough work for the resident
population owing to the shrinkage in the area under cane cultivation. Therefore, when a
delegation from India arrived to examine the suitability of the conditions for renewed
emigration, the British Guiana government withdrew the offer proposed in the Nunan-
Government interest in reopening negotiations with the Indian government began to
build in 1923 when the labour situation in the Colony was further complicated.
Workers were leaving the estates, refusing to work for wages much lower than those
which they had received during the period when sugar enjoyed a high price. Despite a
high level of unemployment, an adequate supply of labourers could not be found. At the
request of the Sugar Planters' Association, a second Nunan-Luckhoo deputation was sent
by the government to India in 1924. The second mission of Nunan and Luckhoo brought
back to the Colony an Indian representative, K.M. Singh, to investigate conditions and
advise on the possibility of introducing additional immigrants. Though admitting that the
average East Indian peasant in British Guiana was more prosperous than his counterpart
in India, Singh was opposed to a labour scheme, insisting that each and every new immi-
grant be given a choice of five acres of prepared land or wage employment on a sugar
estate. He recommended also that instead of introducing a large number of immigrants
as proposed in the Nunan-Luckhoo Scheme, only 500 families should be settled on the
land as an experiment. So desperate were the planters that the government agreed to
Singh's proposal and terms. Early in 1926 the Indian government legalized the reopening
of emigration to British Guiana. What happened thereafter is subject to debate. Accord-
ing to Daly, 500 East Indian families were introduced in 1926; the expense was so great,
however, that the government decided to terminate immigration into the Colony.13
Nath, on the other hand, stated that "the Colony was in a position to secure 500 families
from India, but the terms exacted by the Indian government were so onerous that it was
not considered wise to proceed with the project".14 Nath's statement is supported by a
Governor's memorandum of 1928 which noted that "so far as colonisation on a purely
Land Settlement basis is concerned, there is none, because British Guiana is not financial-
ly in a position to fulfill the conditions imposed by the Government of India".15 Thus
ended the Colonization Scheme of 1919, the first of five schemes proposing a massive
programme of immigration and land settlement.
Colonization Scheme of 1928
The hope that a solution to the labour problem would be found had not vanished by
1928. More than ever, in fact, the Sugar Planters' Association was pressuring the govern-
ment to find a solution. The Governor, Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg (1928-1930),16
responded by calling for a new "Colonization Scheme". In his first memorandum on the
subject, he identified twelve principles17 to which the government would adhere:
(1) Immigration schemes for colonisation by land settlement and for labour
supply must be entirely independent of each other.
(2) The Colonisation Scheme must have for its sole objective the increase of
agricultural production by the settlement of immigrant families on land which will
become their own property on easy terms.
(3) Any labour supply scheme must have for its sole objective the provision
of labour for estates or other employers.
(4) With regard to a Colonisation Scheme, the Government of British Guiana
will be entirely responsible for carrying it out within the Colony.
(5) In all Colonisation or Labour Schemes all immigrants from other countries
will be free to come and free to go. The Government of British Guiana will take no
responsibility of repatriation however.
(6) Immigrants are not to be pauperised and everything possible must be done
to enable them to retain their self respect.
(7) The Colonisation Scheme must observe the principle of giving the immi-
grant a fair opportunity of becoming a landowner on generous terms at the earliest
(8) The Colonisation Scheme should not be devised or executed in such a
way as would interfere with the present labour available for the sugar and other
(9) The family and community must be the basis of Colonisation.
(10) No scheme must involve an increase in the present rate of taxation per
head of population.
(11) The Colonisation Scheme is primarily an Immigration Scheme for the
increase of the population, but it is not intended that it should be permanently
closed to the present inhabitants of British Guiana.
(12) The keynote of the Colonisation Scheme must be "Thoroughness",
thoroughness in investigation, cost estimate, preparation, experiment, and execu-
Also, the Governor decreed that the scheme would begin with the settlement of 100 fam-
ilies selected from the existing population. One hundred farms of 10 acres each would be
provided and a village for 100 families constructed. This and a second project for 100
families would be limited to East Indians; the third project to be established would be
for people of African descent. Heads of all government agencies were advised that work
on the Colonization Scheme must take precedence in order of urgency over any other
In subsequent memoranda additional directions for the execution of the scheme were
given. The first area to be considered for settlement would be in the North West
District.19 If reconnaissance proved the area to be suitable, a 1,920-acre settlement
would be established 1,000 acres in farm units (100 farms at 10-acres each), 280 acres
in village area, roads, and open spaces, and 640 acres in timber and reserves.20 No doubt
the reconnaissance was carried out early in 1929 as directed, but no resulting report has
been found. It appears likely that the extreme difficulties that would have to be confront-
ed in opening the North West District caused the government to look elsewhere for a site
for the first settlement to be established under the scheme. It is interesting, however,
that a land settlement scheme (Wauna-Yarakita) was to be established exactly in the
center of the reconnaissance area more than three decades later.
The decision not to proceed with a settlement scheme in the North West was followed
by a directive that the Colonisation Committee "investigate forthwith the work required
for the preparation of Bush Lot, Essequibo, for a Land Settlement of about 100 families
of East Indian descent".21 Bush Lot22 was one of several adjoining sugar estates pur-
chased by the government in 1923 when the proprietors ceased operations. In an attempt
to preserve sugar-cane growing on cane-farming lines, a company Essequibo Land
Settlement, Ltd. had been formed and given control of Bush Lot. Owing principally to
lack of control of monetary advances to the cane farmers and general bad management,
aggravated by poor sugar factory results, the venture had not been a success and the
government had re-acquired the land. As 60 acres on the seaward end of Bush Lot had
already been developed and sold by the Essequibo Land Settlement, Ltd., the 1929
directive was for the development of the remaining 376 acres. Again, the Governor was
quite specific in his instructions. One hundred rice farms of three acres each would be laid
out, a new village area would encompass 30 acres, and 46 acres would be fenced for
pasture.23 Each settler would be granted a farm and a house on lease; any time after the
first year he could apply for and receive the right to purchase the farm and house on easy
terms over a ten-year period provided he had proven his ability to make full economic
use of his land.
The Bush Lot Land Settlement Scheme was launched immediately, the constructional
phase ending in mid-1930. Recruitment of settlers was by no means an easy task, for
the recruiters were advised to "rigidly avoid actively enticing from the estates labour
which [the estates] may have brought into this country at their own expense".24
Though one hundred families could not be found, by the end of 1930, 77 families25
numbering 278 persons had been settled at Bush Lot.26
The scheme was not a haphazard undertaking but was carefully planned and executed.
Unfortunately, it was faulty in conception, as the most important factor, site, was
insufficiently investigated. There was simply too little land suitable for accommodating
the village area. The laying out of a village in the center of hundreds of acres of rice lands,
under water nine months of the year, was a critical mistake. House lots were flooded with
each heavy rain, and living conditions were dreadfully unhealthy and most unpleasant.
Many holdings were abandoned because of this. Another major problem was the absence
of a pure water supply: there was no well in 1930, and the trench water was unfit to
drink. Sir Gordon Guggisberg, the major supporter of the scheme, was never aware of
these problems, as he had returned to London because of an illness before the scheme had
begun to take shape; he died in 1930 before the first rice crop was harvested. The new
Fig. 2 Areas Involved in the Colonization Scheme of 1928. Boundaries derived from data in Governor's
Memorandum No. 2: Investigation into Suitability of North West District for Colonisation (George-
town, 1928), p. 2.
Governor, Sir Edward Brandis Denham (1930-1934),27 became immediately skeptical
about the possible success of the project, writing "I think it might have been a better one
had more care been exercised in the selection of the settlers".28 While it is true that the
settlers who came to Bush Lot had no money and no steers or oxen for ploughing, it
should be restated that there was no flood of applications for land at Bush Lot; applica-
tions were fewer in number than the holdings available. Furthermore, the government
had made a far greater effort to assure the success of the project than with several other
schemes. For example, the farmers were advanced money for the purchase of steers for
ploughing, provided with a subsistence allowance, and given funds for the employment
of outside labour to help with the rice harvest. Nevertheless, the scheme failed, primarily
because of the drainage problem, and the depressed condition of the Essequibo Coast
The Colonization Scheme of 1928, unlike that of 1919, did produce tangible results -
a settlement scheme in the landscape but the results were far from the ambitious pro-
jects envisaged in 1928 by Governor Guggisberg. His death in 1930 can, for all practical
purposes, be considered the death of the scheme.
The Iraq-Assyrian Study
In 1934 the government began investigations and negotiations that were part of a
third foreign colonization scheme. The colonists, if negotiations were successful, would
be Turkish Assyrians then resident in Iraq.29 The League of Nations had been seeking a
new home for 10,000 to 15,000 Assyrians without success when, in 1934, the British
government recommended that a League commission be dispatched to British Guiana to
investigate the possibility of settling the refugees in that territory. A few weeks later a
commission from the League was welcomed in Georgetown by a colonial government that
had sought renewed immigration since the termination of the flow of indentured labourers
from India in 1917. A region three times the size of Jamaica in the Rupununi district
(southwestern Guyana) was made available for examination by the commission.30 The
commission was advised by the government that the region was suitable for supporting
cattle and sheep and should be conducive to the growing of wheat, tobacco, and food
crops. Investigations of the Rupununi by the commission commenced immediately and
were kept secret, so far as possible; it was hoped that the Rupununi Development Com-
pany, which held vast areas of the savannas under lease, would not learn of the Assyrian
study, for if the area should be found suitable by the commission, the government
hoped to buy the lease and assets of the company at a low price.31
By early 1935 the reconnaissance had been completed and the report prepared. The
commission expressed the view that the Assyrian colonists should be able to maintain
themselves by subsistence farming in small holdings coupled with stock grazing, but
pointed out the lack of accurate knowledge of the agricultural possibilities of the savannas
and recommended further investigations. In addition to inadequate data on agricultural
potential, the commission noted the serious transportation problem: the eight-day trip
to the coast was tortuous whether by the Cattle Trail through the forest or the rapid-
plagued streams. The costs of improving transportation and communication would be
The problem became essentially a financial one. Who would pay the costs of develop-
AREAS PROPOSED FOR
SETTLEMENT IN THE
ASSYRIAN SCHEME OF
0 20 40 60 80 100
Scale in Miles
Fig. 3 Areas Proposed for Settlement in Assyrian Scheme of 1934. Boundaries
derived from data in (1) Letter from C. Douglas-Jones to Sir P. Cunliffe-
Lister, August 20, 1934, and (2) Telegram from C. Douglas-Jones to Sir
P. Cunliffe-Lister, November 13, 1934; sources located in National
Archives of Guyana.
ing a massive colonization project? The British Guiana government insisted that it could
not be called on to pay any part of the costs. The British government, which had already
gone to considerable expense in maintaining the Assyrians for two decades, was likewise
unwilling to finance the venture. There the matter ended; no action was ever taken on the
commission's recommendation for a more detailed investigation of agricultural possi-
bilities in the Rupununi. In the event that Assyrian settlement in the savannas was found
to be impracticable, the British Guiana government was prepared to offer for the League's
consideration a large region of the North West District;3 2 in view of the impasse that had
developed, however, the contingency plan was never proposed.33
The Jewish Colonization Proposal
The fourth colossal scheme for foreign colonization called for the settlement of
Jewish Europeans in Guyana. In the latter part of 1938 the British government made a
tentative offer of lands in the Colony as a possible site for the settlement of "involuntary
refugees created by recent events in Europe".34 The President's (United States) Advisory
Committee on Political Refugees agreed to appoint an impartial investigatory commission
to study these lands which encompassed more than half the land area of the country and
occurred in three regions.35 The nine-member commission arrived in Georgetown on
February 14, 1939, and a few days later split up to begin reconnaissance flights and field
surveys. Commission members discovered widespread public enthusiasm for the settlement
proposal; one member, Dr. Joseph A. Rosen, wrote:
There are expressions from every side that people in British Guiana would wel-
come large-scale refugee settlement. What is particularly gratifying is that there is
no necessity ... to "soft pedal" the fact that the project refers mainly to settlement
of Jewish refugees. Jews would not have to come to British Guiana in disguise. In
fact, the Commission was referred to by the local people and the local press as the
"Jewish Commission", though only one of the nine members is a Jew.36
There were, however, more important factors than local public support to consider.
Previous investigation of a cursory nature had found little soil suitable for a permanent
system of agriculture. It was the task of the commission to discover whether large areas
of suitable soil existed, whether health and climatic factors were favourable, whether
transportation routes could be developed at reasonable cost, and whether sources of
power and materials for industrial development existed.
After many weeks of field work, the commission reassembled for deliberations and
preparations of a report. Completed in May of 1939, the report included the following
findings and recommendations:37
(1) The climate does not preclude the possibility of white settlement.
(2) Severe tropical diseases, at present, do not occur with dangerous frequency
or degree of malignancy.
(3) There are considerable areas of soils suitable for immediate permanent
(4) Bases for certain industrial development appear to exist.
(5) Construction of a transport route presents no insurmountable difficulties.
(6) The present inhabitants of the Colony would welcome immigration by people
FOR JEWISH COLONIZATION
0 20 40 60 80 100
Scale in Miles
ig. 4 Areas Offered for Jewish Colonization in 1938. Boundaries derived from
data in Report of the British Guiana Refugee Commission to the Advisory
Committee on Political Refugees Appointed by the President of the United
States of America (Command Paper No. 6014, H.M.S.O., London, 1939),
of European origin.
(7) British Guiana south of the 5th parallel North latitude is potentially suit-
able for large-scale settlement by immigrants of European origin.3 8
(8) The general term "suitable for large-scale settlement" should not be con-
fused with the more particular term "open to immediate large-scale settlement".
(9) Every consideration of health, sanitation, working efficiency'and social
well-being, indicates that the unit of settlement should not be the family but the
(10) A trial period of experimental colonization would be entirely justified, for
many points can be clarified only by actual settlement.
(11) An experimental village would be developed as a prototype. It should be
located in the [Rupununi] savanna.
(12) It is considered that approximately 3,000 to 5,000 people will be required
in the first year of trial settlement.
(13) Colonists should be chosen from young married, but childless, couples
and single young men and women.
(14) To provide an ample supply of meat to the settlers until they have achieved
some degree of self-sufficiency, it would be advisable to consider the possibility of
purchasing the assets of the Rupununi Development Company.
The cost of establishing a trial settlement of 3,000 to 5,000 persons in the Rupununi area
was estimated at $3,000,000.39
On May 12, 1939, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in a statement before
the House of Commons declared that the government stood ready to offer the fullest
facilities for any settlement decided upon by refugee organizations and pledged a large
measure of local autonomy and adequate representation in the Colony's government
should a large new community be established.40 In April, 1940, the British government
announced that a first contingent of 500 refugees would be settled in British Guiana in
June. The growing scale and intensity of the war, however, resulted in the postponement
and eventually the cancellation of this plan. Years later, when the war was over, the
Jewish colonization scheme was virtually a forgotten issue, and there were no further
serious discussions about it. The defeat of Germany relieved somewhat the pressure of
the refugee problem.
The Evans Commission
In 1944 and 1946 resolutions were passed by the West Indian Conference organized
by the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission recommending studies of British Guiana
and British Honduras in relation to the problem of overpopulation in the West Indies. As
a result of those resolutions and the problem of re-settling European refugees who could
not be repatriated after the war, the British government appointed, in 1947, a commission
under the chairmanship of Sir Geoffrey Evans41 to consider the possibilities of land
settlement in the two colonies. The Evans Commission report, based largely on earlier
studies and published in 1948 stated the opinion that through vigorous development of
British Guiana's latent resources, large-scale colonization of the Interior by immigrants
would be possible and should be based upon the production of export crops. While
recognizing that further investigations were necessary, the commission found that "a
stage has been reached at which definite proposals can be put forward and the specific
investigations needed to prove them can be drafted".42 The commission concluded that
the settlement of "at least 5,000 families or 20,000 people" would probably be possible
on the fringes of the Kanuku Mountains43 and that "a trial settlement of about 200
families would be an essential first step".44 No action was ever taken on the findings of
the commission, and thus ended the fifth and last of the studies of the possibilities of
The interest of Guyanese leaders in "opening up" the Interior and the need of the sugar
industry for cheap labour have long been the primary factors in the call for foreign
colonization. Though none of the five major schemes for colonization proposed between
1919 and 1948 were effectively implemented, they did have some effect upon the
country's programme of population resettlement, a programme which began in 1880 and
continues to this day. Resettlement, undertaken for various reasons, among them the
opening of the Interior and the stabilization of a dependable labour force for the sugar
plantations, both benefited and suffered from the foreign colonization schemes. It
benefited in that the colonization schemes resulted in some detailed land studies that
were subsequently utilized by the planners of resettlement projects. It suffered because
greater progress in resettlement and agricultural development might have been possible
had energies and aspirations not been focused on the ill-fated colonization schemes.
How these benefits and losses might balance in a scale cannot be ascertained.
JAMES W. VINING
1. 8.8 persons per square mile in 1969.
2. Between 1838 and 1917, 238,960 Indians arrived in British Guiana.
3. Vere T. Daly, A Short History of the Guyanese People (Georgetown, Guyana: "The Daily
Chronicle", Ltd., 1966), p. 304.
4. Report of Proposals and Finance Sub-Committee, Colonization Scheme (Georgetown: "The
Argosy" Co., Ltd., 1919), p. 7. The seven areas are delimited in Figure 1.
5. Correspondence Relative to Recruiting Labour in the West Indies for Agricultural Work in
British Guiana (Georgetown: "The Argosy" Co., Ltd., 1919), p. 3.
6. Proceedings of a Meeting of the West Indian and African Sub-Committee of the General
Colonization Scheme (Georgetown, February 22, 1919), p. 2.
7. Proceedings of a Meeting of the Chinese Sub-Committee of the General Colonization Scheme,
February 18, 1919 (Georgetown, 1919), p. 4.
9. Report of the East Indian Sub-Committee of the General Colonization Committee (George-
town: "The Argosy" Co., Ltd., 1919), p. 2.
10. This proposal was known as the Nunan-Luckhoo Scheme, a term which has been generally
though incorrectly, applied to the entire package of proposals encompassed within the
Colonization Scheme of 1919.
11. Attorney-General of British Guiana.
12. Barrister-at-Law and President of the British Guiana East Indian Association.
13. Daly, p. 306. No evidence to substantiate Daly's contention was discovered during research in
Guyana's National Archives.
14. Dwarka Nath, A History of Indians in British Guiana (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons,
1970), p. 180.
15. Governor's Memorandum of 20th October, 1928, on the Colonization of British Guiana
(Georgetown, 1928), p. 5.
16. Guggisberg had formerly been a colonial administrator in West Africa. He had served as
Surveyor-General of Nigeria (1913-14) and Governor of the Gold Coast (1919-1928).
17. Governor's Memorandum, p. 6-8.
18. Ibid., p. 12.
19. For location of reconnaissance area, see Figure 2.
20. Governor's Memorandum No. 2: Investigation into Suitability of North West District for
Colonization (Georgetown, 1928), p. 2.
21. Governor's Memorandum No. 4 on Land Settlement at Bush Lot (Georgetown, 1929), p. 5.
22. For location see Figure 2. This is not the Bush Lot where a settlement scheme had been
attempted in 1897. There were, in fact, three plantations named Bush Lot in three districts of
the country; two of them became the sites of settlement schemes.
23. Governor's Memorandum No. 4, p. 6. How the size of various units was determined was never
identified in any of the Governor's memoranda, but it appears to have been arbitrary. Note
that at Bush Lot holdings were to be three acres in size, whereas the original memorandum had
called for 10-acre farms.
24. Annual Report of the Director of Agriculture, 1930 (Georgetown, 1931), p. 137.
25. Fifty-two families were from Demerara and 25 from Essequibo.
26. Annual Report, p. 139.
27. Prior to his assignment as Governor of British Guiana, Denham had served as Colonial Secretary
of Mauritius (1920-1923), Colonial Secretary of Kenya (1923-1928), and Governor of Gambia
(1928-1930). Although he was an experienced administrator, he apparently lacked training in
engineering or surveying.
28. Nath, p. 102.
29. Some 20,000 Christian Assyrians had taken up arms against Turkey in 1915 at the instigation
of the Russians. With the collapse of the Russian forces, they were forced to emigrate and found
refuge, with the assistance of British forces, in Iraq. For years they were kept in refugee camps
at the expense of the British government, for all attempts at repatriation failed. Because there
was a growing friction between the Assyrians and Iraqis, Great Britain took the matter to the
League of Nations which set up a committee in 1933 to study the possibility of settling the
Assyrians elsewhere. The committee negotiated with Brazil for the settlement of the refugees in
the State of Parana but discussions were terminated when Brazil passed a general restrictive
measure on immigration.
30. See Figure 3.
31. Telegram from Sir Edward Denham to Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister, August 14, 1934. Located in
National Archives of Guyana.
32. The area is delimited in Figure 3.
33. General histories of Iraq contain no information on the eventual fate of the Assyrians. No
evidence available to the writer indicates that a mass exodus of Assyrians from Iraq ever occurr-
ed, so presumably most of the Assyrians remained in that country.
34. Report of the British Guiana Commission to the President's Advisory Committee on Political
Refugees (Command Paper No. 6014, H.M.S.O., London, 1939), p. 5.
35. Figure 4 shows the three regions. Presumably, the commission was free to choose only one of
the three for the implementation of the scheme.
36. Joseph A. Rosen, Problem of Large Scale Settlement of Refugees from Middle European Coun-
tries in British Guiana (Georgetown: "The Argosy" Co., Ltd., 1939), p. 3.
37. Report of the British Guiana Commission, p. 10-13.
38. As there is no mention of the North West District, apparently this region was considered less
suitable than southern British Guiana.
39. "Notes on Settlement in British Guiana", Studies of Migration and Settlement (No. M-85,
May, 1944), p. 3.
41. Evans had been a member of the "Jewish Commission".
42. Report of the British Guiana and British Honduras Settlement Commission (Command Paper
No. 7533, H.M.S.O., London, 1948), p. 140.
43. The Kanuku Mountains of southwestern Guyana divide the Rupununi Savanna into its northern
and southern parts.
44. Report of the British Guiana and British Honduras Settlement Commission, p. 189.
Explain your delinquency
And you are warned:
Give good reason for your
Ir res pon si bi li ty
i am only de driver
i aint no man fo' letters
but this paper on my file
to han die this?
An' is not fair
i only drive de car
last night the exhaust pop
today the ole wheel flat
just now the gas pump dead
When i late is not my fault
that car to drive
But so They getting pressure
at the top
so They squeezing down
i in no cent
but i can't write
my job is big
i am this country's
face and heart