C 'R I L EAN
Q R -RLY
VOLUME 4 : NUMBERSOCIALSCTENC
Drawing by Alfred Codallo
Reprinted from a copy in the collections of the
University of Florida Librairies
Reprinted by permission of
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES, Kingston, Jamaica
A Division of
KRAUS-THOMSON ORGANIZATION LIMITED
Printed in Germany
VOL. 4. No. 1 JANUARY, 1955
EDITORIAL NOTE 3
"AFRICA" IN WEST INDIAN POETRY 5
THE "NEW MOVEMENT" IN HAITI
Edith Efron 14
ISLAND CARIB FOLK TALES
E. P. Banks 32
THE LANGUAGE PROBLEM IN THE BRITISH CARIBBEAN
R. B. Le Page 40
LABOR RELATIONS IN AN UNDEVELOPED ECONOMY
Simon Rottenberg 50
JAMAICA PREPARES FOR INVASION, 1779
Robert Neil McLarty 62
THE FIRST CHAPTER IN CARIBBEAN HISTORY
Eric Murray 68
FREDERICK DOUGLASS: LETTERS FROM THE HAITIAN LEGATION
Benjamin Quarles 75
ANDREW PEARSE, La Fantaisie Road, St. Ann's, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, B.W.I.
Single copies can be obtained in the British West Indies from booksellers or from
Resident Tutors of the Extra Mural Department, in the various territories whose
Jamaica ...Hector Wynter, Extra Mural Department, University
College of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
British Honduras ...Rawle Farley, Regent Street, Belize, British Honduras.
Leeward Islands ...Douglas Hall, Extra Mural Department, St. John's,
Windward Islands ...B. H. Easter, Bridge Street, Castries, St. Lucia.
Barbados ... A. Douglas Smith, Boy Scout Headquarters,
Beckles Road, St. Michael, Barbados.
British Guiana ...Adolph Thompson, 78, Carmichael Street, Georgetown,
Trinidad and Tobago ...Norman H. Booth, La Fantaisie Road, St. Ann's, Port-
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THE present issue of Caribbean Quarterly includes the contribution of three
writers whose work is new to the journal: E. P Banks who is now teaching
at West Forest College, North Carolina, spent a year in Dominica studying
the culture of the Dominican Caribs; Robert Neil McLarty, of the Department
of History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who has edited a
document of considerable interest bearing on the problems of British naval
strategy during the eighteenth century; and Benjamin Quarles, of Morgan
State College, Baltimore, who has already published a book on Frederick
Douglass (1948), and more recently The Negro in the Civil War (1953).
The black and white drawing on the cover of this issue-"Papa Bois"-
is one of a series of six illustrations of the characters of Trinidad folklore
done by Mr. Alfred Codallo for the Trinidad Public Library. The following
notes were written by Mr. Codallo explaining how his interest in this subject
"Ever since I was growing up in the City of Port-of-Spain I have been
interested in the characters of Trinidad folklore. I well remember an old
man from Trou Macaque who used to pass our house regularly carrying
provisions to market. He was fond of children and would give us bananas,
mangoes and tamarinds while waiting to spin a yarn with my father. Some-
times he would tell us tales in very soft broken English, but his real language
was Patois, and he spoke Spanish as well. He was a Spanish-Negro mixture
with a big hooked nose and soft curly hair. The tales were quite different from
what I had read in books, and he used to sing little songs with them. I became
interested and used to ask all kinds of people who came home to tell tales,
and so got many different versions of these characters.
Later in life, when I was practising athletics, I would go to Maracas Bay
for a week-end walking over the hills to exercise on the beach and swim in
the sea. I'd get around the fisher folk on the beach for stories. When I
decided to draw Papa Bois, which was the one that came up most often,
I couldn't somehow think of these characters as the country people saw them
in their mind's eye, because I was a city chap, so I paid regular visits to
places like Blanchisseuse and Toco trying to get an idea of what they thought
Papa Bois looked like, the actual physical features, dress and so on. People
were very evasive, and nobody could really say, so I decided to spend 18 days
in Toco. I carried a lot of rum and entertained hunters at night. I made 50
or 60 sketches in black and white, and strewed them on the table and asked
the hunters to see if any of the sketches resembled Papa Bois, hoping to
get their idea of him, not mine. It was then I discovered that most of these
people thought of him as resembling the oldest and funniest looking man in
their district. Papa Bois appears in so many different forms and fashions,
that in the drawing, while I gave him negroid features and a Spanish nose,
I had to remember that he sometimes appeared as a deer, that he wore
ragged clothes, was hairy, and though very old, was extremely strong and
muscular. So I thought it best to make a composite of all these things in
producing the character. So much for the drawing.
He was often described as having been a hunter who strangely in old
age acquired an affection for the animals and so took on the job of protecting
them in the forest from indiscriminate hunters, those who kill for the joy of
it, and bad marksmen. To punish these he would appear as a deer and put
himself in easy range for a shot, though being a spirit he was safe. Then he
would move off further and further into the dense forest, always just within
range of the pursuing hunter. When he finally disappeared the hunter was
lost and couldn't find his track out. After a few days a search party would
go out for him. Strangely enough they would usually discover that he had
been making circles in a particular area usually very near to the beaten track.
Then again Papa Bois would appear in a village as an old man asking for
medicines, or buying them at the drug store. It is said that he lives in a cave
and comes out and picks up the animals when they are wounded, tending
and doctoring them until they are well again. In other instances he appears
to the hunter in the forest as a ragged old man covered in hair and warns
the offending hunter of his behaviour or imposes a fine to be paid in fish.
In an extremely old tale he is supposed to marry off Mama Glo (Mama
de l'Eau), who accompanies him in the forest, to a hunter. It is not clear
whether this is a punishment.
There seems to be some purpose in these tales. They may be a means
of scaring young fellows from going gun-crazy in the forest and killing off
fresh meat, and exhausting the supply in the area. It happens sometimes that
hunters go back from the forest saying that they have seen Papa Bois and
these have sold or given away their guns and never entered the forest again
in life, refusing to discuss what they saw. Sometimes villagers will point out
a demented old man, and say that he was once a hunter but left the forest
because he had seen Papa Bois. Then there are the village liars who talk
so much that they come to believe their own tales, and imagine that they
have actually seen Papa Bois."
"Africa" in West Indian Poetry
IT is well-known that most literary movements in whatever part of the world
they may appear, have their attendant set of themes, or subjects. In Modern
literature, the renaissance, the neo-classical period, romanticism, parnassi-
anism and symbolism, all show a predilection for a number of subjects or
situations. This is equally true, of course, of the literatures of the New World.
In Spanish and Portuguese America, in the early XIXth century, it was
customary for writers to describe the scenery, preferably of a grandiose nature
of the part of the Continent. The plains, jungles, the mountains, were described,
depicted and interpreted over and over again. Along with the descriptions of
particular places, went the description of the human elements which occupied
them: the gauchos, the plainsmen of the Argentine, the Indians of Brazil;
in Peru the Indian of the Andes. This situation is what has been given the
name of "literary Americanism" and is well defined in the following quota-
tion from Pedro Henriquez Uiefia's Literary Currents in Hispanic America
"Our poets and writers practically achieved a literary conquest of
nature in every aspect-our interminable mountain ranges, the high
tablelands with their sharp outlines, thin air and quiet light, the tropi-
cal forests, the deserts, the sea-like plains, the sea-like rivers, and the
loud sounding sea itself"
During most of the XIXth century the Spanish-speaking territories of
the Caribbean-Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico followed the
pattern of continental Spanish America in literature, that is, description of
their scenery, with oddly enough the Indian as the human native element. In
Haiti, not of course directly connected with Latin American literary currents,
we find description of nature, but the human element is the Negro, although
even in Haiti the Indian theme appears in some writers. In Jamaica, writers
tended to dwell exclusively on the descriptive side. There is scarcely a mention
of Indians or Negros.
So in Caribbean literature, with the exception of Haiti, during the XIXth
century the human theme is rather the Indian than the Negro. This was a
purely literary theme as there were no Amerindians surviving at that period
in the greater Antilles. It is of course, quite natural that the self-conscious
Black Republic should have brought the Negro onto the fore-front of the
literary scene. It was not until the 1920's that the Negro really began to
appear in the literature of Cuba and Puerto Rico. But once in focus, the Negro
rapidly become a literary subject of prime importance. This emergence of
the Negro in Caribbean literature coincides with the European fashion for the
primitive, particularly for the African primitive. Picasso between 1900 and
the outbreak of the first World War, was imitating African sculpture.
American "rag-time" jazz was invading Europe in the years immediately
following the war. Stravinsky in 1919 published his Piano Rag Music.
O'Neill's Emperor Jones (1920), and All God's Chilluns got Wings.
Blaise Cendrar's Anthologie Nigre (1927), Andr6 Gide's Voyage au Congo
(1927). All these works point to a current fashion for Negro art, or at least
an interest in the Negro and his ways. Perhaps most important of all, is the
work of Leo Frobenius on African cultures.
The Cuban review Revista de Avance (1927-30) kept the Cuban intellec-
tual well informed about events in European and North American art and
literature. Poets like Ram6n Guirao (The Rumba Dancer, 1928), Tallet
(La Rumba, 1928), and Nicolas Guill&n with his Motivos de Son (1930)
definitely launched Afro-Cuban poetry. The next ten years saw the publi-
cation of a large number of works both prose and verse in which the Cuban
Negro with his dances, music, superstitions, habits of life, is the main object.
This movement spread to Puerto Rico where it found an excellent exponent
in Luis Pal6s Matos.
The development of interest in the Negro and Negro art can be clearly
traced in fact in the Revista de Avance. In 1927 and 1929 are to be found a
translation of Paul Morand's Le Zar Ndgre (January, 1929), an article by
A. Jeanneret (translation), El negro y el jazz (September, 1927). Ram6n
Guirao's now famous poem Bailadora de Rumba (September, 1928).
De la sique africana by T. Castafieda Led6n (April, 1929). In the issue of
June, 1929, appears an article entitled Moda y modo negros, by Pedro Marco,
in which the writer states quite unequivocally, "The Negro, the individual,
is fashionable" North America and Europe are asking incessantly for Negro
things. And in January of the following year we find Juan Marinello, in an
essay on the situation of Cuba culture which is obviously intended as a serious
statement of fundamental things (Sobre la inquietud cubana), writing the
"The Negro, who is a universal theme and subject, has a specific
significance in Cuba. His participation in Cuban life, for example, he
was decisive in the revolution against Spain. His social tragedy-a
new slavery, make him the object of thought and hope. His physical
characteristics-enriched and multiplied by crossing with white and
yellow races, his dances of a subtle and enchanting primitivism, make
him the object of the best in plastic arts" And the inclusion of the
Cuban Negro in Cuban art is seen as part of "the search for the
autochthonous and its expression"
Ram6n Guirao, summing up the movement in his Orbita de la poesia negra
in 1936, while admitting the European origin of the Negro fashion, writes
"The Negro manner, then, was not born in Cuba, as in Europe,
without tradition and away from the human document. The bilingual
lyrics and African dialects have a historical perspective and can, linked
with Cuban (criolla) sensitivity make up the great vernacular poetry
of which we are speaking"
In Haiti, literature with accent on the Negro continued to appear and
was certainly stimulated by the European fashion and probably by what was
happening in Cuba.
The main themes of this Afro-Antillean movement (Afro-Cubano is now
so popular a term in Cuba, that it is applied to popular songs with an African
1. The atmosphere of the Negro dance, particularly among the lower
orders, with its frenzied, drummed rhythms and the ecstatic sensual
writhings of the dancers. (Guilldn, Ram6n Guirao, &c.)
2. Superstitions of African origin, Voodoo worship of African deities
(Oggun, Chango, Obalata, &c.) (Guillen, Roumain).
3. Protest against social and racial discrimation based on colour
(Guill6n, Regino Pedroso, Pal6s Matos, Claude McKay, many of
the Haitians). This is a team which becomes more pronounced as
many of the picturesque elements (dance, voodoo, sensualism)
4. Works of international Negro solidarity, including in their scope the
plight of the Negro in the United States and Africa.
5. Finally, the theme of "Africa", which it is the object of this essay
to study. By the theme of "Africa", is not meant certain African
elements (superstitions, African words, names of deities), although
this type of work certainly exists, but poems definitely about
It must be quite obvious that such workers are not about, as a rule, a
real Africa, indeed, it is a terribly vague term, as geographically Africa includes
places as dissimilar as Egypt and Morocco, Tanganyika and the Congo. How-
ever, it is fairly clear that what the writers think of, when they use the word
Africa, is Negro Africa. Africa is clearly suggested by the presence of people
of African origin, as a sort of emotional ancestral "home" Once it is realized
that "Africa" is no geographical reality, it is possible to investigate in what
way Africa is used by West Indian writers.
First of all, I shall examine briefly two poems, one by a Haitian
Regnor C. Bernard, the other by a Jamaican, Claude McKay. Both are to
some extent laments over the loss of Africa's past greatness. In Africa Dusk,
Bernard states that Africa's spiritual and cultural life is dead
"Gone are the forests where sang and danced
the inspired priestess,
Profaned are the altars of the eternal lamps;
and the Sphinx mourns on the desert's edge.
The Pharaohs are troubled at the heart of the Pyramids;
and Africa no longer is
Neither its temples,
nor its mysteries,
for the priests are dead
for the traders in Negros have come."
All that is left is the "timid throb of the drum in the St. Domingue
mountains" expressing the nostalgia of the transplanted ones" (deracinhs)
At the same time as it states that Africa's cultural development and
original pattern of life was destroyed by the slavers, the poem suggests that
there was something in Africa which is still yearned for. The two points are,
briefly, the vanished greatness and a longing, on the part of the Haitian negro,
for a way of life that was essentially his own.
Claude McKay's poem entitled Africa has one thing in common with the
poem of Regnor C. Bernard it suggests, and even more strongly, the past
greatness of Africa, mentioning again as in Bernard the pyramids, which are
clearly taken as symbols of past African power and greatness.
Thou art the harlot, now thy time is done,
New peoples marvel at thy pyramids."
His conclusion is the same, Africa has failed. He does not blame the
slavers as does Bernard, but hints at some mysterious cause for this ruin
"Yet all things were in vain.
Honour, glory, Arrogance and Fame.
They went. The darkness swallowed thee again.
Thou art the harlot, now thy time is done,
Of all the mighty nations of the sun."
The theme of the prostitution of the Negro and his being used is a common
one. It is very clearly expressed by another Haitian, Roussan Camille, in
Nedje, a well known poem which appears in a number of anthologies
(American Anthology, Port-au-Prince, 1944. The Poetry of the Negro,
Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps, New York, 1949). It tells of a young
Negro cabaret-dancer-cum-prostitute in Casablanca. It contains two terms;
first the atmosphere of the smoke-filled caf6 of Casablanca, with the sailors,
and soldiers and tourists. She is dancing and he thinks of all the other black
prostitutes in other countries
"Your eyes were full of countries
so many countries
that when I look at you
I saw anew
in their wild light
the dark suburbs of London,
the brothels of Tripoli,
every pseudo paradise
where Negros dance and sing
The second term evokes nostalgically the atmosphere of her home, her
native village in "Black Africa" "the mutilated call of your mutilated
Danakil" Again this note of nostalgia comes into the poem of the Haitian,
nostalgia for an "Africa" with the dignity of its own style of life, not borrowed
or imitated, but essentially its own:
"The call of black hands
infused into your dance of love
a virginal purity
and echoed in your heart
great familiar songs."
"Your frail arms through the smoke
yearned to embrace centuries of pride,
kilometers of landscape,
while your steps on the waxed mosaic
sought the highlands and the lowlands
of your childhood."
The theme of nostalgia for Africa is present in Nedg6 as is the theme of
the prostitution of the Negro and of Africa. The protest against the exploita-
tion or prostitution of the Negro, particularly of Negro music, dancing and
singing, is very common in West Indian literature. The most notable examples
are Regino Pedroso's Hermano Negro (Brother Nigger) (1933), and Nicolas
Guillen's Pequefia oda a un boxeador negro cubano (1933) (Little Ode to a
Black Cuban Boxer), Black Soul by J. Brierre.
Another poem worthy of mention is Guinea by the Haitian novelist and
poet Jacques Roumain. This poem also has appeared in English in a number
of anthologies (An Anthology of Contemporary Latin American Poetry by
Dudly Fitts, New York, 1947, and in the Paetry of the Negro quoted above).
Roumain uses the old Haitian superstition according to which the souls of
Negros return to Africa, as a basis of his poem. The poem has a strong
atmosphere of mystery, an eerie quality. It speaks of death as the "long road
to Guinea", and the atmosphere of this African netherworld is the atmosphere
of a quiet African village
"It's the long road to Guinea
No bright welcome will be made for you
in that dark land of dark men
under a smoky sky pierced by the cry of birds
around the eye of the river
the eyelashes of the trees open on a decaying light
There, there awaits you beside the water a quiet village,
and the hut of your fathers, and the hard ancestral stone
where your head will rest at last."
The home-sickness, the feeling of not belonging, will be cured after death
in a return to the country of origin.
One of the most outstanding examples of the vision of Africa as a haven
of peace, rest and relaxation is Luis Pales Matos's Pueblo Negro (Negro Town),
(in Tun Tun de passa y griferia, Puerto Rico, 1950). The poet is obsessed by
the vision of a Negro town, "Mussumba, Tombuctu, Farafar anga" The
atmosphere is one of intense heat, damp, and lethargy, "pereza y laxitud"
It is an "unreal village of peace and dreams" A Negro girl is singing and
her song is intensely sensual (huele a tierra, a salvajina, a sexo), and
"A clear atmosphere of happiness
under the shadow of the coco-nut palms."
Pal6s Matos's "Africa" in this poem, his "unreal village of peace and
dreams" is a clear projection of a sort of earthly paradise where the Negro
can be happy.
In his poem Numbln another, and somewhat similar version of Africa is
presented. In this poem the beating of drums in Puerto Rico awakes the
"ancestral totem" He imagines animals, panther, elephant, hippopotamos,
crocodile and snake, and the sacred drum throbbing in the silence of the
jungle, and in the dancing Negro is aroused the "great original beast" He
then enumerates again the various animals which each give to the Negro his
powers; he has strength from the hippopotamos, cunning from the snake,
agility from the antelope. The refrain of the poem, repeated three times,
suggests that there is an identity between the African jungle and the West
Two other poems by Pal6s Matos: Bombo and Ram Ram also have Africa
as their subject.
Bombo is a poem about dancing, magic, animality. It has an artificial
picturesqueness about it, with the "terrible Negro totem"
Half alligator and half toad,
Half gorilla and half hog.
The "warriors" are dancing round this totem and through their dancing
and singing a spell is being woven which will defeat all their enemies.
"Come brother to the dance.
The whole jungle is roaring.
This is the night of witchcraft (mandinga)
when a new world is made.
The alligator is sleeping, the moon is sleeping,
every enemy is sleeping-
We are the kings of the earth."
iiam-nam is, it must be assumed, a comic poem. iiam-fiam, of course, is
eating. Africa is described as eating persistently its "supper of explorers" The
blood of a human sacrifice is mentioned, and,
"Nigricia is all teeth
in the darkness-fiam-fiam
The poem ends with the verse:
"Asia dreams its nirvana.
America dances its jazz.
Europe plays and theorizes.
Africa grunts: fiam-fiam.
All the poems of Pal6s Matos dealt with here on the subject of Africa
suggest some primitive, animal quality in Africa and in the Negro. In Pueblo
Negro with its vision of peace and sensuality, there is a heavy accent on
sexuality. The animality of Numen is very apparent with the suggestion of
various animals infusing their powers into the Negro, and the suggestion in the
last verse of iam-ham, quoted above, is of pure animality as opposed to
mysticism and intellectuality. This implication of the primitiveness, clearly
regarded as a quality, a force, in Pal6s Matos is the opposite of the suggestion
of the past greatness of Africa in the poems of Bernard and McKay. It is how-
ever quite in line with a lot of the Afro-Cuban poetry of such writers as
Guill6n, Tallet, Guirao, in which the emphasis is on the sensual, not to say
sexual dancing and drumming, of the Negro. It should also be noted that
there is no note of protest in Pales Matos's poems. His Africa is a happy,
primitive, exciting, albeit animal realm.
It should be pointed out again that in the first place the impulse for
"Negrismo" as the Cubans conveniently call it, in Caribbean literature came
from the European fashion for the primitive, the physical, which was part of
post World War I; reaction against intellectualism and sentimentality.
Ram6n Guirao stated this quite unequivocally in his Orbita de la poesia
afro-cubana, 1928-1937, Havana, 1937. "Our Afro-Cuban poetry is an echo
of the Negro fashion in Europe, a consequence rather than an initiative'of our
own" It is perhaps this influence that is reflected in the poems of Pal6s Matos.
The theme of Africa appears in other forms as well as in a direct evocation
of Africa and African atmosphere, past or present, realistic or imaginary.
The Negro writers of the Caribbean often seem to feel the need to affirm
themselves as something different from Europeans, and for this purpose they
turn to their African ancestry. They feel that European thought-moulds are a
hindrance to their free expression, that they have to express themselves in
languages (Spanish, French or English) which are alien to the habits of their
souls, foreign to the deep spiritual urge they feel as self-conscious Negros. This
attitude is found particularly in the writing of the French Caribbean, Haiti
and Martinique. In the work of L6on Laleau we find such poems as Trahison
expressing a sort of despair at having to use French words to express his
emotional experience, a revolt against all the borrowed culture: or again in
Canniabale and Politesse by the same writer, suggesting that under the
Europeanized surface of words and culture, there is the African, primitive
"This obessive heart, which does not respond
to my language or my customs,
bitten into by sentiments which are borrowed
and customs of Europe. Can you understand
this suffering and despair to no others equal,
of taming, with words of France,
this heart which has come from Senegal."
A similar attitude is found in the poem by McKay, Outcast.
The whole poem is worthy of quotation, as it puts this particular point
very clearly and strongly. The tone in Laleau is somewhat flippant (what one
critic calls ce badinage crdole), but in McKay the expression is clear and
For the dim regions whence my fathers came
My spirit, bondaged by the body, longs.
Words felt, but never heard, my lips would frame;
My soul would sing forgotten jungle songs.
I would go back to darkness and to peace,
But the great western world holds me in fee,
And I may never hope for full release
While to its alien gods I bend my knee.
Something in me is lost, forever lost,
Some vital thing has gone out of my heart,
And I must walk the way of life a ghost
Among the sons of earth, a thing apart.
For I was born, far from my native clime,
Under the white man's menace, out of time.
As we have already pointed out, the Caribbean Negro writer does not
reject with shame any suggestion of the primitiveness of the African, but
rather glories in it. This can be seen in the poems of Pal6s Matos already
analysed. It reaches its most acute and challenging expression in the poem of
Aim6 C6saire: Cahier d'un retour au Pays natal which sings of the
uninventiveness of the Negro:
"Ceux qui n'ont invent ni la poudre ni la boussole" &c.
They have invented nothing, carried out no explorations, voyages of
discovery, conquered nothing, contributed nothing to the mechanized culture
of the modern world. But on the other hand, the Negro has kept his contact
with the earth, with the true feeling of the life of the earth:
"Eia for those who have invented nothing
For those who have never explored anything
For those who have never tamed anything.
But they give themselves entirely to the essence of everything,
ignorant of the surfaces, but gripped by the movement of everything,
not caring to tame the world, but playing the world's game."
The presence of Africa is frequently evoked in another connection; that
of emotional solidarity as coloured people suffering from racial discrimination
or colonialism. This particular kind of Africanism often takes the form of
going back to the times when the slavers were tearing the Africans away from
their homes to carry them to slavery in America. A good example is J. Brierre's
Me revoici, Harlem. In this poem he finds himself in Harlem, greets his fellow
Negros in the name of their African past, their sufferings as slaves, their
present condition of a people which is discriminated against. He evokes the
struggles of Negros in Africa, and says:
"Together we knew the horror of the slave-ships
And often like you I feel pains in my bones
after those murderous centuries
and old wounds bleed in my flesh.
But we had to say good-bye to each other around 1600."
Or again in Roussan Camille's Soutiers Negres (Black Stokers), from Assaut
a la Nuit (1940). In this poem, Camille describes how the white people are
enjoying themselves, dancing and drinking while in the bowels of the ship,
are the black stokers. This, of course, makes him think of the other voyage,
the voyage to America in the slave-ships:
"Your tortured songs
the same songs we sang
on that other voyage
from distant Africa
to the Atlantic isles.
In the depths of the hold
where with arms bound lay
fatigue and suffering."
Another example of this poem of solidarity with Africans is the Marti-
niquais Paul Niger's Je n'aime pas l'Afrique, which is a rebellious, defiant,
bitter poem reciting the ills of Africa:
"Africa of a single justice and a single crime
The crime against God, and the crime against man
The crime of l6se-Afrique."
It is quite clear from the foregoing that the subject of Africa envisaged in
some of the varying manners we have analysed, is a rich and prolific vein of
poetic material in Caribbean literature, and while admitting European
influence (particularly in the Cubans), it is possible to see in the complex of
literary Africanism, something essentially Caribbean. Whereas the initial
impulse and encouragement may have been given by the European fashion
for African and Negro art in general, there is undoubtedly a deep emotional
drive behind these Africanizing poems.
The "New Movement" in Haiti
"The New Generation demands that its poetry reflect the rhythm
of the Haitian soul, that its Novels, its Theater, reflect the psychology
of our conditions of life; the New Generation is exploring the
problems of Ethnography, Ethnology, Psychiatry, Economics. And
the opinions, attitudes, acts and gestures by which our collectivity
expresses its support of the new movement reveals to us that the
curtain is slowly being drawn over the other epoch-that epoch which
can be defined as the evasion of reality which has characterized our
"Now the curtain is rising on true horizons. The lessons of
experience have swept from our skies the mirages that past errors of
orientation held forth to us and to which we have for so long a time
consecrated vain cults. Respect for the Real guides us henceforth."
For almost a century and a half, Haitian cultural realities have been
blanketed with Myth; the internal struggle between reality and myth has
been externalized in the form of social institutions. But from few of these
institutions have emerged tranquillity, co-operative effort or creativity. Fear,
suspicion, mediocrity, anti-intellectualism, and hostility among citizens have
been the primary social products of the struggle. Because of the exaggerated
gap between her official myths and her social realities, Haiti was born pre-
maturely decadent-a dying civilization at her very inception. In all eras of
Haitian life an affirmative impulse flickered and glowed beneath the mythical
surface. In flashes, the living flame of reality shot forth-sometimes reflected
in the actions of whole groups; sometimes characterizing the thought and acts
of individuals-but almost always it sputtered and died, in the choking
atmosphere of the unreal, as though the Myth had gathered up all of its forces
to grind it out.
In 1915, the entire collectivity was brutally forced to endure the tangible
results of its sterile evolutionary processes when Haiti was occupied by the
troops of the United States. Mythological explanations, relying on the
prestige of the French-Master culture were of no avail in confronting this
inpouring of terrifying and shameful realities. The invading White men did not
think in terms of the Myth, did not respect its illusory delicacies, did not
evaluate Haitians in terms of the Myth. In loud voices, in loud proclamations
with loudly detonating guns, they directed their pragmatic attentions to the
realities-cultural, social, economic, religious-which lay beneath the French-
Master labels, realities which had hitherto been denied by official Haiti.
While it was certainly not the conscious intent of the United States to liberate
Haiti from cultural enslavement, this may have been, nevertheless, the
ultimate result of her occupation of this society.
Ren6 Victor, in his Vues Sociologiques, has described the effects of the
occupation on the cultural orientation of Haiti in these most meaningful
"The Haitian social movement reveals to us two distinct phases
-one clearly completed, and the second only just begun The first
period-pathological in terms of its disastrous record, pathological
because it rejected the psychological factors characteristic of
90 per cent. of the people-has certainly retarded the progress
of our nation towards the realization of its nature. The second,
on the contrary, will favor its psychological unification.
"The morrow of 1915 created a generation which, seeking an ideal
to oppose to Anglo-Saxon imperialism, descended into the depths of its
unconscious to emerge, reassured, brandishing this necessity of knowing
itself to rediscover in the ethnic heart, in what we have been, in what
we are, the path to follow. This generation saw in the American
Occupation the logical conclusion of our errors of orientation. It saw
in the bloody experience of our social and political institutions, since
1806, the evidence of their non-conformity to our veritable psycholo-
gical needs. Arid from this searching within ourselves, from this
return to our past, a new state of soul has been born.
It is possible, today, to say, and such a technical analogy is not too
unsound, that the "shock" of the American Occupation (and quite
instinctively the writer Leon Laleau chose, as a title for his novel written
during the Occupation, Le Choc), constituted a veritable "treatment" for a
"pathological" culture, a "pathological" collective mentality. Shock has long
been found a useful therapy for the individual whose neurosis or psychosis
constitutes a refuge from reality. And shock clearly proved, in Haiti, to have
equivalent therapeutic effects upon a collectivity whose cultural orientation
was similarly pathological in that it constituted a systematized evasion of
reality. Those most sensitive and intelligent members of the community were,
so to speak, jolted loose from the myth of violence, as a result of this brutal
blow to their national pride and found themselves gazing, clear-eyed, if
profoundly disturbed, at the realities about them. They were free, for the
first time, from the strange cultural paralysis which had prevented them from
acting in accord with their perceptions of realities.
Often, in such collective awakenings, one man in particular is destined
to sound that summons to arms which formally arouses a new generation
from its restless cultural sleep. In Haiti, the new intellectual movement was
inspired by and marked by the personality and vision of Jean Price Mars,
whose clarion call to Haitian thinkers rang out in his first major work,
Ainsi Parla L'Oncle, published in 1928, thirteen years after the American
Occupation had begun. A compilation of three lectures which had been given
in 1920, 1921 and 1923, this book constituted in itself a veritable manifesto
for the cultural revolution to follow-a revolution which is yet in its infancy-
and which to this day continues to stimulate young thinkers and writers to
pursue the ultimately rewarding path of cultural integrity.
Ainsi Parla L'Oncle burst upon the Haitian milieu like a bomb-its light
searing the eyes of most, but providing brilliant illumination for those few
who were to follow along hitherto untrodden cultural paths. Just one or two
passages from the preface of this book, whose author dared, for the first
time to examine Haiti's African origins openly, will indicate how violent,
how profound the resistance to his ideas must have been:
"The reader will see how reckless an enterprise ours is to study
the value of Haitian folklore before the Haitian public."2
"Ah, I know the wall of repugnance against which I am striking
by daring to speak to you of Africa and African things l The subject
seems to you inelegant and quite lacking in interest, is this not so?
But beware, my friends, that such sentiments are not based upon
scandalous ignorance. We are living with ideas turned rancid by the
prodigious idiocy of a malintegrated culture, and our puerile vanity
is only satisfied when we intone the phrases written for others in which
are glorified, 'the Gauls, our ancestors' "3
First to cry out that the Haitians were not "colored Frenchmen", and that
by believing this they were retarding, if not destroying, any possibility of a
healthy evolution of the Haitian culture; first to cry out publicly in horror at
the insane pretensions of a leading "elite" whose pride was based upon its
"origins in bastardy"; certainly the first to offer to the Haitian public a
serious study on the African contributions to the native culture-Mars became,
overnight, the hero of those young intellectuals who were psychologically
prepared to face the realities of Haitian life. His work provided a base from
which the young generation of Haitian thinkers, revolting against the
paralysing myths, could work.
Within the two decades that followed the publication of Ainsi Parla
L'Oncle, Haitian thought-a small avant-garde sector of it-ripened and
flourished. Immediately after its publication, in 1927 and 1928, there was for
the first time a veritable outcropping of thoughtful studies of Haitian life:
J. B. Cineas published The Peasant at Work; The Coumbite; The Countryside:
B. Mathieu published The Education of the Peasant Woman, The Desertion
of the Rural Areas; Joseph D. Charles wrote Our Peasants; Emile Auguste
The Proletarian and in the tiny provincial city of St. Marc, Lynch Kenol
lectured, in 1930, on an unusual subject, The Songs of the People. Rapidly,
this preoccupation with national problems left the descriptive level to become
a small but ardent flowering of the social sciences, which sought in Haiti's
past, and particularly in Africa, the roots of its present-day institutions. In
1931, J. C. Dorsainvil published his Vodou and Neurosis; in 1933,
Milo Rigaud published an analysis of Vaudou called Jesus or Legba; The
Gods in Battle; in 1937, Dorsainvil, again, published Haitian Psychology;
Vaudou and Magic; in 1938, Suzanne Comhaire Sylvain's study on The
Vocabulary of Peasant Beliefs appeared. Price Mars had, effectively, "inspired
Haitians with the scientific vocation"
One of the most important books published in this era was Essai de
Sociologie et de Psychologie Haitienne by Ren6 Victor, in 1937. Concentrating
on the problem which Price Mars had opened to Haitian thought, that of the
intermingling of the African and French heritages in Haiti, Victor attempted
to evaluate the relative importance of both contributions to the Haitian
mentality. His insistence that the psychological and cultural characteristics
stemming from the African and Slave heritage be considered in any
reorganization of Haitian society was vigorous and original. Others, notably
Lorimer Denis and Francois Duvalier also felt that the analysis of the relative
roles of the African-Slave and French-Master heritage was essential to a
proper resolution of the problems of Haitian society, and explored this question
further in such works as The Haitian Mentality: Is It African or Gallo-Roman?
Indeed, that the dominant orientation of this new school of Haitian
studies was to be African was hardly surprising, in view of the comparative
bankruptcy of the French-Master Myth in Haitian life. Most of the new
students of Haiti's "realities" became increasingly obsessed with the necessity
of bringing to light the hitherto repressed African heritage. In the early 30's,
the magazine Les Griots was created-to become the rallying point of Haiti's
first Ethnological Movement. Founded by one Louis Diaquoi, it was in origin
a publication devoted to literature, with an African orientation. It rapidly
attracted such men as Lorimer Denis, Francois Duvalier, Kl6ber Georges-
Jacob, Carl Brouard and Arthur Bonhomme, who saw in the Africanized
folklore and religion of Haiti the roots of all Haitain art, literature and social
science. When Diaquoi died, suddenly, in June 1933, his followers directed
the movement and developed it, working through Les Griots. Accused by
most educated Haitians of preaching a "Return to Africa" these first ethnolo-
gists resisted the hostility with which they were surrounded, and under their
banner, "Africanism and Haitianism" they continued to study and publish.
Slowly, the young enthusiasts of this movement, striving after a reorgani-
zation of their country, began their scientific compilation of facts related to
the diverse aspects of Haitian life, in minute detail. In 1938, the second
volume of Les Griots published a study by Lorimer Denis and Francois
Duvalier called A Ceremony of the Petro Cult; the third volume offered a
similar study of A Ceremony in Honor of Damballah. The publication of these
essays on aspects df Vaudou "constituted an act of courage", it was later
commented, "at a moment when, in our milieu, this type of study was hardly
approved, where everything that concerned the people provoked disdain and
could not be the object of scientific consideration" .5 In 1941, still struggling
with the antagonism of the vast majority of the educated milieu, the young
students of society founded Haiti's Bureau d'Ethnologie. Under its auspices-
although a certain number of Haitians do independent work outside its ranks-
studies of Haitian life, problems, and popular culture have been slowly
Considered by many of their compatriots to be anti-patriotic, attacked
virulently and often in the Haitian press, lacking money and adequate
ethnological training, the studies which have been published by members and
associates of this group represent triumphs of their sincere devotion to the
new cultural cause.
The most productive era for the students of Haitian institutions occurred
after the Revolution of 1946, when the Authentiques reigned politically, when
aggressive Black racism was at its height, and when most of Haiti's middle
class Black intellectuals, if not all of them, were working for the Government,
and could thus afford to publish their studies in a sympathetic climate. It was
similarly during the Authentique period, that one part of this hitherto intellec-
tual movement was suddenly dramatized for the Haitian public, both literate
and illiterate. The scientific interest in popular customs and folklore moved
suddenly from the library to the public stage when the Black Government of
1946, sharing the new sympathy for native expressions, and interested in
stimulating the tourist trade, encouraged for the first time in Haiti's history
the formation of native song, dance and drum troupes, and brought out of
hiding these native art forms, which had so long been educated Haiti's shame.
In 1949-50, a National Folklore Troupe was formed under the direction of
Haiti's talented dancer, Jean Leon Destin6, who has studied with Katherine
Dunham. It presented almost nightly shows of Haitian religious and folk
music, drum rhythms, and dances to native and foreign visitors to Haiti's
International Exposition. The variety and charm of these folk arts were such
that Haitian folklore was the unquestioned triumph of the Exposition, winning
international plaudits, publicity-even a colour spread in Life Magazine-and
producing foreign engagements for Destin&, the native dancers and drummers.
Today, for the first time in Haitian history, -certain members of the
upper classes are reconciled to the notion that there may be, after all, some
sort of popular culture, and that it may even-although this seems unlikely -
have some dim aesthetic value. But the fact that almost all folk art, in Haiti,
is rooted in Vaudou, indeed forms part of its ritual practice, continues to
frighten most of the educated, and maintains their contempt for this art. The
new school of thought which devotes itself to a scientific study of Haitian
mores and folkways continues to be the target of continual abuse by the
Bourgeois, who do not see the need for it, and are certain that it constitutes
"bad propaganda" for Haiti. Haiti's Ethnologists, the only members of the
society who devoted themselves seriously to an examination of Haitian
phenomena, are, on the whole, considered to be racist or Vaudouist maniacs,
treasonable pests, and their scientific work is dismissed, so far, by most who
do not read it, as trash.
The shock of the Occupation, transmuted into a ringing cultural manifesto
by Price Mars, also left its profound mark upon the major literary minds of
the Republic. A group of Haitian men of letters discovered, similarly, that
Haiti, her people and her popular and often Africanized institutions, as well
as the complicated cultural dilemmas of Haitian life, were fitting and exciting
subjects for the poet and the novelist. This discovery, made 28 years ago, by
the avant-garde of Haitian litterateurs, has precipitated one of the most
striking reorientations of Haiti's intellectual life; for Haitian writers had
systematically avoided any contact with Haitian realities for more than a
Indeed, Stenio Vincent once wrote sourly, "When France sneezes, Haiti
has the whooping cough".6 And Haitian literature of the pre-Occupation era
was usually little but soulful copying of the French literary modes of each
period. Composing romances, madrigals, odes, classical and romantic lyrics,
the vast majority of pre-Occupation writers were content, even proud, to
imitate French artists, and sedulously followed the literary styles and themes
in vogue in Paris.
Shortly before the Occupation, among a minority of talented writers:
Fernand Hibbert, Fred6ric Marcelin, Justin Lherisson, Massilon Coicou,
Hannibal Price, Charles Moravia, Pauleus Sannon, the yoke of "cultural
vassality" as Julien Lauture called it,7 was thrown off; and this tiny group
produced several novels, historical and social studies, and poetry which
depicted the Haitian scene and its problems. The most striking of these
precursors of a national literary movement were the three novelists, Hibbert,
Lherisson, and Marcelin, whose works dissected mercilessly the myth-ridden
personages of Haitian society-these novels still having great contemporary
value today as harsh social portraits of a society which has remained largely
unchanged since this epoch. The novels painted, unlovingly and with almost
unerring comic accuracy, the weaknesses, pomposities and farcical foibles of
In Ainsi Parla L'Oncle, Price Mars paid tribute to the trio of hardy
novelists, and demanded that the literary generations to follow respect their
"care to seek around them their sources of inspiration, in the mores,
characterr studies, and social attitudes which determine our manner of loving,
Af hating, of believing-our manner of life".8 Listing some of the major per-
sonages from their works, Price Mars wrote:
"It is not true that Sina Chacha, Epaminondas Labasterre,
Fif/ Candidat, Elidzer Petite Caille, Bouteneque, are obviously Haitian
types? It would not be presumptuous to add that a foreign writer
attempting to sketch them could only achieve a partial success, no
matter how great his talent; because to make them live, one must first
penetrate the secret springs which move all these puppets of vice and
of lies which pullulate in our community. More than that, to take any
interest at all in the idiocy of their gestures, to savor the ridiculousness
of their attitudes-one must be Haitian. In fact, it is clear that there is
a literature which is properly Haitian."'
The young writers of the Occupation era, horrified by the collapse of their
country, angered by the Occupation, searching for new meaningful expression,
"agreed passionately with Mars that there was a Haitian literature to be written.
In July, 1927, La Revue Indigene was founded by a brilliant group of
young writers: Emile Roumer, Normil Sylvain, Antonio Vieux, Jacques
Roumain, Philippe-Thoby Marcelin. In their first issue-which contained, of
course, a long extract on folklore from Ainsi Parla L'Oncle-they declared
that flat, servile literary imitations were at an end, and proclaimed the
autonomy of Haitian letters. Their literary movement, declared Normil Sylvain
in his Chronique-Programme or Manifesto, dedicated itself to the systematic
use of the hitherto neglected folkloric, national, and popular themes. Sylvain -
also added, movingly, that the national misfortune had created in Haitians an
incommensurable need for love, and that they "would try to re-discover, by
means of a faith held in common, the reasons for loving each other".a This
pledge was significant. It was to be the common bond of all the groups in the
New Haitian movement, who have sought to replace the hatred and incom-
prehension in the Haitian people of their own popular institutions and origins,
with love and sensitive understanding.
Shortly after the appearance of La Revue Indigine, an Anthologie de la
Podsie Haitienne was published, for the first time offering poems on exclusively
native themes to the Haitian readers. The poems by Normil Sylvain,
Carl Brouard, Jacques Roumain, Emile Roumer presented striking deviations
from the idealized Haitian poetry of the past: they described slums, the
Port-au-Prince waterfront, the Main Street, the straw sleeping mats of the
peasants. Throughout the following years, other poets, Carl Brouard,
J. B. Romain, Arthur Bonhomme, Jean Brierre, Roussan Camille, Maurice
Casseus, and many others, increasingly followed Mars' prescription to seek
"around them their sources of inspiration"
Racially conscious poetry, singing the sorrows and pains, declaiming the
agonies of the Negro, was written; racial battle hymns, vigorous, indicative
of a fighting spirit, appeared. African themes and elements borrowed from
Vaudou were utilized by Haiti's new poets; indeed there was a veritable school
of poetry, for some years, headed by Carl Brouard, which utilized primarily
African and Vaudou sources for its attitudes and powerful imagery. Both
Carl Brouard and Hennock Trouillot wrote plays, in which the principal
personages were African divinities of the Vaudou pantheon. The effete French
posings quietly perished of inanition, among this group of writers at least-
for as Brouard wrote, "It is ridiculous to play the flute in a country where
the national instrument is the powerful bass drum Assotor"."x
The novelists, too, turned towards the national scene for their materials,
and a new novel form appeared overnight-Le Roman Paysan, or the Peasant
Novel. In 1951, Louis D. Hall wrote In the Shadow of the Mapou Tree; in
1933, it was The Drama of the Earth, by J. B. Cineas; in 1935, it was Viejo
by Maurice Casseus; in 1939 Damballah's House by P6tion Saevain; in 1945,
Cineas again with The Sacred Heritage and The Vengeance of the Earth.
During this period, Jacques Roumain wrote a whole series of novels and
novelettes about urban and rural life in Haiti: Les Fantoches, La Montagne
Ensourcelde, Prdface a la vie d'un Bureaucrat, and in 1944, the best-known of
all, the peasant novel Gouverneurs de la Rosde. In the last ten years,
Morisseau le Roy, Magloire Ste. Aude, Anthony Lespes Cineas, Jean Brierre
and others have written novels describing lovingly and poignantly the prob-
lems of their country and its people, often etching out their portraits of social
and economic injustice and misery with vitriol.
The success of three of the Haitian novelists of this new literary school
has been particularly striking abroad. Roumain's beautiful novel of peasant
life, translated by Langston Hughes for American readers as Masters of the
Dew, is being read today, in more than twenty countries all over the world,
and indeed, at this moment of writing, producers in Paris and Hollywood are
negotiating for the rights to translate it into cinematic form. The brothers
Pierre and Philippe Thoby Marcelin-whose Canapi Vert won a Latin
American fiction prize in 1943, and whose following books, The Beast of the
Haitian Hills, 1946, and The Pencil of God, 1951, were also published in the
United States with favourable critical acclaim-are particularly interesting, in
that they have chosen as their principal theme of study the native religion.
Their literary violation of the religious Myth in Haiti-for their novels suc-
cessively show representatives of every class, from peasantry to bourgeoisie,
involved in the meshes of Vaudou practice, belief, and fear-has not won for
them any singular popularity in Haiti, although even those who have not
read the books are proud that Haitians have won a literary prize. Perhaps
the most paradoxical element in the literary development of the Marcelin
brothers has been described by Edmund Wilson in his preface to The Pencil
"The Marcelin family were Catholics, like all educated people in
Haiti, and they had lived a good deal abroad. The young men at this
time knew little of the native religion and folklore and were startled
and fascinated when, in 1929, there came into their hands a new book
from the United States-The Magic Island, by William Seabrook-
which was full of amazing tales of zombies and charms and Voodoo
rites which the author had picked up in Haiti. The young Marcelins-
Philippe, Pierre and a third brother, Milo, who has been compiling a
scholarly work on the mythology of Voodoo-set out to investigate the
popular cults, and they have made themselves authorities on the
Thus we see that a perfect circle has been completed. That foreign writer
whose name is still anathema to the majority of Haitians who cling desperately
to the social myth-William Seabrook-is very precisely the person who,
according to two of Haiti's most talented and realistic novelists, opened their
eyes to the literary path they were to follow, and inspired their brother with
a scientific vocation!
While most writers who have broken through to Haiti's rdel are writing
in the French language, a minority of the literary group is grappling with the
yet more complex problem of using the despised Creole tongue in Haitian
literature, both poetry and prose. The violent polemics which have taken
place on this question have been briefly referred to in a preceding chapter.
From the pre-Occupation experimenters, Coicou, Sylvain, Oswald Durand,
to the modems, Morisseau LeRoy, Emile Roumer, Pierre Mayard, this has
been a burning question for certain avant-garde writers. The "Creole problem"
in Haitian literature is by no means solved today, and in 1949, LeRoy
presented it lucidly in a dialogue among several characters-literary men-
in his novel, Ricolte
"I've never been able to understand why our folk music provokes
a sense of jubilation that nothing else can equal. It is inseparable from
"That's exactly that irresistible element that must be introduced
into our poetry All the suppressed desires of the people are sub-
limated in these songs, these proverbs, these inventive expressions of
"You think we should try to write in Creole?"
"Why not? Jean Rictus wrote in argot. He said everything he
wanted to say."
"But don't you think that Creole would isolate the Haitian poet
even more from the rest of the world?"
"In any event, those who are writing insignificant little sonnets in
the purest classical French are not less isolated, since-admit this to
yourself-no serious foreign reader ever loses his time reading the
imitative monkeyshines, unless it's for a laugh. Furthermore, our
popular folk songs are the work of authentic poets who do not know
how to write. And they're known by a lot more people than the chef
d'oeuvres of the ineffably great Haitian poets!"'3
In reality, the fear of certain Haitian literary men that they will be entirely
"isolated" from the outside intellectual world if they use Creole as well as
French has already proved groundless. Within the past ten years, the only
Haitian poets whose works have been translated for publication abroad, have
been those talented experimentalists, who in their passionate desire for
personal and cultural integrity, have produced works of such interest that
they have aroused the attention of foreign writers and critics. Even the com-
pletely Creolized poetry of Emile Roumer, as well as the Creolized novel of
Jacques Roumain, Masters of the Dew, have been translated, and are known
abroad-while the writers in Haiti who are sticking to conventional forms are
Middle class writers are gradually becoming far less self-conscious about
their use of Creole, and one of the most interesting phenomena in Haiti's
contemporary literary world is perhaps the success of Lanquichatte (Theodore
Beaubrun), Haiti's professional comedian, who presents sketch after sketch,
farce after farce in a free-flowing mixture of French and Creole-the funniest
parts, of course, being in Creole. In the tradition of those new literary realists
who use the mores and customs of the Haitian community as their raw
material, Lanquichatte plunges unabashedly into the most tortuous and
mysterious of Haitian political, sexual, psychological complexities, exposing
their various facets in the broadest of farce-and with the most resounding
success. A good many members of the upper class are horrified by his
"vulgarity" and by his "shameless" exposure of the various social realities
which underlie the Myths-indeed Lanquichatte's comedies hardly indicate
that their author (who is also a principal actor) has ever heard of Haiti's
Myths. Recently, his antics provoked the following reproof in a newspaper:
"Lanquichatte is the most serious humorist we have ever had in
Haiti. He has found what no surgeon has ever detected, up until now-
he has found the funny bone of the public
"Recently, a dramatic actor-who was being a bit more dramatic
than usual on that particular day-came up to me and said 'We must
get rid of Lanquichatte'
"I ask him why. He avows that he can't stand him. I ask him
who is forcing him to stand him, since I, I avow to him, have never
even heard of Lanquichatte.
'He's horrible, shameful,' he cries, 'it cannot be permitted'
'But!' I say, "he has the favour of the public.'
'How can you say such a thing?'
'It's the truth.'
'Well then, what? I suppose you want to rid yourself of the
public, too?' "'4
Evidently, that is precisely what the "dramatic actor" -like a good many
of his upper-class follows-still does desire: to rid himself of the public-and
of the social problems of this public-which can only be expressed in broad
The most dramatic flowering of an indigenous cultural stream to have
taken place in the Post-Occupation era-is that of the plastic arts, and most
particularly painting. It has won for the Haitian cultural awakening its most
important plaudits in the outside world. Art lovers and amateurs of painting
in the capital cities of Eurbpe, and the United States and several Latin
American countries are today aware of the existence of the Haitian art move-
ment; several major European and American. museums-notably the New
York Museum of Modern Art-have purchased Haitian paintings for their
It is not accidental that the artistic paralysis which had bound Haitians
for centuries suddenly came to an end in this era; nor that the first artistic
flowering of Haiti should emerge directly from the lower and middle classes.
The "shock" of the Occupation which cracked the mythological facade had
simultaneously liberated those intermediary classes in which the two cultural
currents of Haiti intermingled most freely. And where the students of this
class have written scholarly works, often heavy and verbose, with the earnest
effort to determine the outlines of the Haitian "real" and to revise it-the
artists, more sensitive and creative, simultaneously liberated from bondage
to the myth, have been enabled to see the "real" and have painted their
Since the late 20's, in every corner of the Republic. talents have been
budding in isolation. Impoverished men and youths, many of whom had
hardly even seen a painting in their lives, have been compulsively sketching,
painting, on cardboard, wallboards, house walls, with brushes made of
horsehair and chicken feathers, with house paint, canned enamel. The
dramatic tale of the development of a formal Haitian art movement, under
the sensitive sponsorship of De Witt Peters, an American painter, has been
often retold. In the past seven years, at the Centre d'Art of Port-au-Prince,
of which Peters has been the devoted director, the isolated talents were united
into an "art movement"; the artists were provided with materials; their
works were hung, sold, exhibited abroad, where some won important prizes
in international shows.
The spectacular emergence, within the first few years of the Centre/s
existence, of some 50 painters of interest, in this tiny nation, has constituted
artistic news of the greatest importance to the world. Writes Selden Rodman,
the historian of the movement, "Nowhere else in the world today is painting
springing to such an extent from the hands of ordinary people, inspired by
no 'influence' other than their lives, their surroundings, their inherited beliefs
and their natural capacity for aesthetic expression".15 And certainly, these
artists are "ordinary" people. Most are workers, some are members of the
middle class; most, perhaps, are illiterates. Their painting, with its blazing
brilliance of colour, its freshness of vision, its ingenuity, sincerity, its
decorative quality, its tender, poignant, or occasionally acid, commentary on
the Haitian milieu, is a veritable explosion of the Haitian folk genius.
Called "primitive art", rather unfortunately, it is not primitive, but
popular. And each of the painters has a persistently individualistic style and
vision; it is not possible to mistake the rich religious fantasies of Hector
Hypolite for the delicately ornate floral tableaux of Rigaud Benoit; there can
be no confusion between the severely stylized Philome Obin, the painter of
Northern Haitian epics and scenes, and the byzantine, baroque Pr6f6te Dufaut,
nor between the brilliant realism of Wilson Bigaud and the morbidly
mysterious quality of Louverture Poisson's paintings. No attempt will be
made here to discuss the esthetic value of the Haitian painters-serious
critical evaluations of their work is available in many other books and
magazines, American and European. It is sufficient here to say that the new
painters, more than any other group of Haitian individuals, have offered to
the world-and the world has willingly accepted this offering-a totally
Haitian vision of man and of life; and, in their beautiful murals in the
Episcopal Cathedral of Port-au-Prince, commissioned by American Bishop C.
Wilfred Voegeli, a uniquely Haitian vision of the Christian drama.
Several "sophisticated" or modern painters of the educated middle and
upper classes have in the last few years immersed themselves in a study of
the Haitian "primitives" with whom they work and study with a genuine
humility; several have also steeped Ithemselves .in studies of African art.
Lucien Price, Maurice Borno, Luce Turnier, Roland Dorcely, Max Pinchinat,
Elzire Malebranche-Haiti's most talented moderns-have, while pursuing
further study in cosmopolitan centers of art, such as New York and Paris,
succeeding in effecting a rapprochement between themselves and the new,
lower class painters of Haiti. Their painting, personal, modern, and eminently
Haitian, has often been, to date, an example of a happy fusion of Haiti's
two cultural streams. If, as Rodman has remarked, particularly of Borno and
Turnier, they "try too deliberately to circumscribe the national scene
in monumental simplifications", they have at least-as have all of Haiti's
most modern upper class painters-completely left behind them that tradition,
still dominant in the artistic tastes of the schooled, of French classicism.
Like Haitian social studies, like Haitian literature, Haitian painting
thrives as though it were some strange plant that had sprung up in the
middle of an inhospitable rock. Although those lower class neighbours who
live near the successful popular painters have a certain curiosity about their
work, and while an increasing number of middle class homes boast a local
painting or two, the most educated and wealthy group in Haiti seems generally
unaware of the artistic upsurge going on about it. The sincere plaudits of
foreign art critics, European and American, have made little or no dent in this
part of the population, which is either unaware of them, or obstinately refuses
to believe that they know what they are talking about. Edmund Wilson, the
American critic, has gone so far as to declare that "the only humanly
prepared treats for the visual sense in Port-au-Prince were the folklore show
at the Bi-Centennial Exposition, and some of the primitive paintings,"16 but
the educated Haitians, so far, refuse to recognize the value of their national
artists. The additional fact that most of the painters come from the lowest
classes entirely prevents their being taken seriously as "artistes by the
"l1ite" And when this group pays any attention to the art movement at
all, it is usually to express anger that Haiti should be making herself known
abroad by "primitives" rather than by members of the "representative
A strange situation thus exists whereby a vital cultural revolution has
taken place-entirely unknown to the majority of the population in whose
name it was conducted, and either unknown or misunderstood by most of
Haiti's educated classes. Its only significant following-some 2,000 souls-
lies in the middle classes-which, according to official doctrine, do not exist
at alll The works of this new movement are produced in what seems to be
a social vacuum. Its new social scientists pursue studies, the results of which
are known to almost no one in Haiti. Its writers print volumes of poetry
and prose which almost nobody in Haiti reads. Its painters paint pictures
which almost no one in Haiti sees. And only the Bureau of Ethnology has
been officially recognized by Haitian society, has been incorporated into the
administrative structure of the Haitian University-but its publications,
pamphlets, exhibits, are scanned by few and usually hostile Haitian eyes.
Haiti continues formally to function as though it were composed of a French
Elite and "invisible" Masse, and as though the twain is never to meet. The
Myth, declared dead one generation ago, still reigns supreme.
This paradoxical situation must continue so long as the economically
powerful fraction of Haiti-the "Elite" insists that it alone really exists,
that it alone is representative, typical, and demands that national institutions
conform to its wishful view of itself as a collectivity of "colored Frenchmen"
The new Haitian Movement can only enter the official scene, instead of
circling warily about its outskirts, when it has a conscious popular following,
with some economic strength. Hence, although its initial character has been
almost entirely cultural, its manifestations scientific, literary and artistic-the
New Haitian Movement is, implicitly, an economic movement as well. Unlike
the "Elite" which, pursuing illusory cultural goals, can only prosper insofar
as the masse remains inert and voiceless, the New Haitian Movement,
pursuing the goal of cultural "reality" can only prosper and become articu-
late as the large majority of the populace prospers and becomes articulate.
This dreamed-of power and prosperity for the Haitian middle classes and
rural population has apparently lain in the far-off future-so far off that
many members of the first generation of the New Haitian Movement have
been immensely discouraged. Some have lost hope altogether, and the earliest
ranks of its leadership-so hopeful, so joyously enthusiastic in the late 1920's-
have been thinned by suicide, by alcoholism, by escape to other countries,
by bitter retreat to isolation in the Haitian mountains, or by retreat to the
In part this disappointment and pessimism over the painfully slow
development of a New Haiti has been based upon a false hope; that the
"Elite" itself would, out of sheer logic, be converted to the new, realistic,
school of thought. Still meeting an almost paralyzing hostility from
the educated-and only the most vital of cultural movements could have
survived this persecution at all-the second generation of the New Haitian
Movement seems to have perceived clearly that it must, for its own survival.
recognize the material, as well as the cultural needs of le people. The terrain
was being prepared Since the Occupation, a new economic movement has
been slowly operating in the "invisible" social strata, which parallels, and
in the 40's merged with, the efforts of the ethnologists and artists.
Although most of the actual accomplishments of the Occupation, in
vocational education for the urban residents and in agricultural education for
the peasants, disappeared rapidly from the Haitian scene, the concept of
the link between education and economic welfare remained-and a tiny group
of scientifically trained technicians and educators remained on the Govern-
ment hiring lists. Their number was to be slowly augmented throughout the
years by other Haitian men and women, who studied abroad in many
countries, won scholarships for advanced technical and professional training.
Statisticians, economists, specialists in social work were formed; public health
technicians and a group of enthusiastic young doctors interested in rural
health problems joined the tiny, but cohesive force. During the last decade
a hard core of several hundred scientifically trained men and women, with a
practical orientation, has played a small but increasingly important role in
Government. They are interested in utilizing their professional techniques to
educate the lower class Haitian for a better, more productive life in his own
The first educational-economic experiment undertaken by this group was
directed by Maurice Dartigue, Minister of Education under Elie Lescot. For
the first time, young technicians of every field, scientific and "folkloric",
converged upon the problem of community education and sought to attack
it co-operatively. The basic rural curriculum was enriched in practical ways.
The peasant children learned how to fight soil erosion, to use fertilizers, drain
swamps, dig irrigation canals, plant nurseries of seedlings, reforest hill slopes.
They were taught to make baskets and furniture for their own schools. Most
unusual of all, they were encouraged to sing their own folksongs, dance their
own folk dances, use their own Creole language in the schools. A children's
orchestra, emphasizing drum music, was even created. Unfortunately, at
the downfall of the Lescot regime, Dartigue's program was abandoned.
Under the Black Estim6 Government, following the Revolution of 1946,
a tiny group of specialists launched an even more ambitious rural educational
program-this one called the "Schools of Orientation". Three such model
schools were created in three rural communities, again in the aim of
"integrating the young Haitian into his milieu", giving the child an
education to improve his standard of living and, more important, to give
him a sense of belonging to a genuine community. Simultaneously, "Social
Missionaries" taught the adult peasants notions of hygiene, care of infants,
sewing, diet, elementary medication, agriculture. The monthly reports of the
"Social Missionaries", who worked on a tiny budget, were immensely
touching. The young educators, working with nurses, doctors, and even more
often with untrained but determined personnel, were washing babies,
bandaging sores, administering laxatives, giving injections, cleaning houses,
cooking meals, cutting out and sewing baby-clothes for the peasant community
surrounding the "School of Orientation" to which they were attached. Never
had educated city folk, in Haiti, thrown themselves with such abandon into
a work of redemption.
The program was inevitably cultural as well; again scientists and "folk-
lorists" found themselves united. Peasant adults and children, in these
communities, were encouraged to compose and produce small plays based on
peasant life. There was also a Friday-afternoon recreational program, in
which adults and children of the school community told folk tales, sang
folk songs, and danced folk dances. In 1949, the United Nations Mission
wrote hopefully, apropos of this program that "The model of the Haitian
community school is in the process of taking form".'7 Unfortunately, in 1950,
the Estim6 Government fell-and this promising project, too, was largely
During this same epoch, however, in one of the remotest parts of the
Republic-in the valley of Marbial-a third community program was
organized-this one by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cul-
tural Organization (UNESCO) as a "pilot project" in Haitian education.
This project was originally conceived by a young United States-trained
educator, Emmanuel Gabriel Jean-Francois, a member of the Dartigue group.
In 1946, he had attended a UNESCO Conference in Paris, at which plans
were afoot for offering technical assistance in education to member govern-
ments of the United Nations. Gabriel succeeded in convincing the Estim6
Government to apply for such assistance, and in 1949, President Estim6 chose
Marbial as the site for the educational experiment. A complete sociological
and anthropological study of the area was made, under the direction of
Anthropologist Alfred M6traux, assisted by a team of young Haitian sociolo-
gists and ethnologists. In terms of its findings, an educational program was
devised for the entire community. Twenty schools were created, and in several
years, many hundreds of young and old Haitians have learned to read and
write Creole by a phonetic method. Medical care has been provided for the
population. Certain crafts have been introduced into the Valley : basket
weaving, pottery, furniture-making, carpet-weaving, the manufacture of combs
from cowhorn. Practical agricultural instruction, anti-erosion work and
reforestation of the region has been undertaken.
Today, the Marbial project stands as a model, however modest, of the
community program of Haiti's future-a program attuned to the cultural and
economic realities of the population, rather than to its myths. The present
government of General Paul E. Magloire, like many other governments of
underprivileged areas of the world, is profiting today from the guidance and
technical aid of a host of International, Inter-American, and United States
agencies, which are working on health, educational, agricultural, and
industrial projects in various parts of Haiti. Under their stimulus, the
Magloire Government has inaugurated a Five-Year Economic Plan for Haiti,
and half the budget is scheduled to be spent on the rural population's needs-
a historical innovation I Finally, the Artibonite Hydro-Electric Dam project,
financed by the United States Import-Export Bank, is expected to raise the
standard of living of the rural populations with the next few years. Today
that nucleus of technicians in the Government, working with international
technicians, is dedicated to the ultimate liberation of Haiti's common man from
hunger, disease, and ignorance. The Government itself, under the pressure of
these enthusiasts within and without its ranks, has become a partner in the
New Haitian Movement. It is not an unimportant partner, for only its efforts
in the economic domain can liberate the popular base of the New Haitian
The economic struggle will be long and arduous. It will take
many generations, yet, for the Haitian public to emerge, fully conscious
and politically articulate, from its historic non-existence. But when it does
emerge, it will meet a rational cultural leadership, based on love and a "faith
held in common", rather than an "Elite" mythology rooted in self-hatred.
In the interim, one can only hope that a conscious alliance will soon be made
by all the differently oriented groups constituting the New Haitian Movement.
Institutionally as "invisible" as the public whose belated arrival they await,
most of these groups are divided, impoverished, and lonely. They do not
always recognize each other as fellow actors in the drama of cultural libera-
The struggle in all fields has been so difficult, that few individuals have
looked up from their tasks long enough to realize that many others were
struggling too, in different but related ways. The day will come, however, when
the young doctor, swabbing desperately at open yaws wounds in a rural clinic,
will rejoice in the successes of an urban chauffeur, whose brilliant oil painting
of a city Haitian Scene is touring European museums; when the agronomist
in some lonely rural post, teaching peasant children to prepare nurseries of
tree seedlings, will feel an instinctive kinship with the young ethnologist, who
at 4.30 a.m., is noting down the songs being sung by the raucous street
vendors in an urban market place. The day will come when the psychiatrist,
studying the emotional problems of the Haitian family, will realize abruptly
that the feminist is his ally, in her fight for protective legislation for women
and children. And the day will come, when the rebellious Africanist poet, his
verse studded with primitive religious images, will be read understandingly
by a native Christian clergyman as a loyal expression of the Haitian present
which must, one day, be the Haitian past.
The final realization of this unity of purpose which will integrate and
strengthen all the branches of the New Haitian Movement, and encourage
these pioneers, may lie in the near future. And perhaps these fine Haitian
minds, young and old, which are today already freed of the debilitating and
corrosive effects of the social myth, will soon be courageously working
together on a national basis, as they have occasionally done so hopefully on
small projects. And when that day does dawn, they will surely sing, together,
that hymn to a New Haiti, which Morisseau LeRoy has already written
my friends what is happening?
the country has changed
shoulder against shoulder
together we bend
together we rise
for the earth is ours
i see such a great garden
i see such a beautiful country
i say when harvest comes
there will be enough for all
so all may eat
so all may dance
i am remaking my road
i am remaking my road
so the grasses will cover it no more
may the earth feel my weight
i am replanting my garden
may the weeds grow no more
may the sun burn it no more
i am remaking my house
o my father or my mother
rebuilding my house
that the fire may no longer destroy it
that the wind may no longer overthrow it
i am reconstructing my temple
o my nights o my moons
i am rebuilding my temple
may men respect it
may the gods respect it
and i cry o drums
and i call o my brothers
my brothers have heard me
i am retracing my paths
we will untie the snares
on the sea and on the earth
i am retracing my paths
may the clouds may the waters
may the enemy no longer bar them
i am rewriting my songs
i am remaking my village
may nothing be left to chance
so it may prosper
i am remaking my country
with the help of my brothers
i am rewriting my songs
1. Victor, Ren--Vues Sociologiques, pp. 9, 28, 30, 33.
2. Price Mars, Jean-Ainsi Parla L'Oncle, p. 3 (Preface)
3. Ibid, p. 220.
4. Le Mouvement Folklorique en Haiti, p. I1.
5. Le Mouvement Folklorique en Haiti, p. 33.
6. Vincent, Senio--op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 294.
7. Lature, Julien-La Majoritd Culturelle, "Projection", p. 6.
8. Price Mars, Jean-Ainsi Parla L'Oncle, p. 192.
9. Price Mars, Jean-Ainsi Parla L'Oncle, p. 192.
10. Mouvement Folklorique (op. cit.), p. 19.
11. Lubin, Maurice & St. Louis, Carlos-Anthologie de Podsie Haitienne, p. 355.
12. Wilson, Edmund, The Nation, Oct. 14, 1950, p. 342.
13. LeRoy, Morrisseau-Rdcolte, pp.101-2.
14. Notre Temps, March 5, 1951, "Les Propos du Zombi".
15. Rodman, Selden, Renaissance in Haiti, p. 94.
16. Wilson, Edmund, The Reporter Magazine, June 6, 1950, p. 32.
17. UN Report, p. 61.
18. LeRoy, Morisseau-Conte en Vers, pp. 49-53.
Island Carib Folk Tales
E. P. BANKS
WHEN Father Raymdnd Breton landed in Dominica in 1625, be found that
before he could proceed with his task of converting the inhabitants of the
island-who were Carib Indians-he must first learn their language. He learned
it very well and prepared an excellent dictionary; he also translated various
prayers and catechisms into Carib. It is easy to see why he devoted his efforts
to preparing Carib texts of European materials. However, we must lament
the fact that he did not take time to record some native tales as well, instead
of contenting himself with making brief summaries.
It is a reasonable assumption that the Caribs did possess tales, myths,
or legends of various kinds. This is certainly true of all the aboriginal inhabi-
tants of the New World including some near neighbors and linguistic relatives
of the Caribs. And even today it is possible to find a few old men and women
among the Caribs who remember fragments of tales that have been handed
down within the tribe. Unfortunately since the Caribs gave up their language
for a French Creole dialect (and to a lesser extent English) within the last
75 years they have forgotten most of their old tales or have replaced them
with stories well known in other parts of the West Indies.
We can only speculate for the most part on what sort of tale was told
around Carib fires in the days before the coming of Europeans. It is probable
that many of these stories had a religious function or at least some reference
to events in the supernatural realm. While the Caribs placed little emphasis
on religion they did have and still retain to some extent an elaborate
conception of a world peopled by spirits both good and evil. Undoubtedly
some of their stories concerned the activities, attributes, and origins of these
spirits. The nature of Carib religion was shamanistic. The chief religious
personage was the shaman or bdie. It was his office to make contact with
the spirit world through a spirit familiar and to bring about certain desired
ends through supernatural intervention; for example, to cure an illness or
make the crops grow with the aid of spirits. The Carib bsie possessed
considerable power as a result of his communication with the supernatural.
He must have been a leader in Carib society. He certainly was at times greatly
feared, since he could turn his power to evil purposes if he wished. It is likely
then that some tales concerned the ability and experiences of the boie in
maintaining contact with the spirit world.
Other Carib tales undoubtedly consisted of accounts of experiences by
ordinary individuals who encountered the supernatural. This is still a common
theme in ordinary conversation among the Caribs. They delight in telling as
a matter of fact how they met a certain "jumby" in the road after dark and
of what transpired thereafter. And since the Caribs were great travellers,
making voyages of hundreds of miles in their fragile dug-out canoes, they
must have told tales of adventure in the natural realm as well: stories of great
voyages, hazardous undertakings, and-since the Caribs were a war-like
people-bloody raids and battles. They must have had stories that were
designed clearly for amusement or recreation; according to Breton the Caribs
were fond of conversing around a fire after supper. Today many stories are
told merely for the amusement of children, though these same stories may
have a moral for the edification of their hearers.
Fortunately Breton, while not recording complete tales, took notes on
some that he heard and published the notes in his dictionary; sometimes to
aid in the definition of a word, sometimes simply as an illustration of the
curious beliefs of the Caribs. The following is a sample:
"The Caribs have a story that once upon a time the moon (which
they believe is a man) visited a girl while she slept and got her with
child; and that her mother set someone to watch over her and surprised
her lover, blackening his face with Genipa in order to be able
to recognize him by day, thus explaining the marks that appear even
today on the moon. The child who was born to this girl was named
Hiali, and they believe that it was he who founded the Carib nation;
he chose the hummingbird known as ier&tt6 or yerett6 to carry him
to his father and repaid it for doing this so faithfully with a pretty
cap for its head and plumage of many colors, making it the marvel
of nature and the object of our admiration." (Raymond Breton,
Dictionnaire Caraibe-Franfois, Auxerre, 1665, ed. facs., Leipzig, 1892,
p. 293; my translation.)
This same story was recorded about 15 years ago by Douglas Taylor,
whose informant was an old Carib woman of Dominica. This modern version
demonstrates both the accuracy of Breton's notes and the stability of the
story over three centuries:
"The moon is a man with a dirty face. In other times, a girl
became pregnant, it is said, by a lover wha used to visit her stealthily
at night, so that she did not know who he was. They say that the
girl's mother set watch, and, taking soot in her hands, daubed the
lover's face with it when he came. From then on the marks of the
soot have remained on his face.
"Well, in the morning, they found that the girl's lover was her
own brother. People mocked him so much that for shame, they say,
he withdrew to the sky; and it is there you will see him now, with
his face still dirty.
"The child was named Hiali ('He-has-become-bright'), and it was
he who founded the Carib nation. While Hiali was little, ior6tto-the
little fdufou-took him to the sky that his father might see him. As a
reward for this service, he was given his beautiful feathers and the
little cap he wears on top of his head to this day." (Douglas Taylor,
"Tales and Legends of the Dominica Caribs," Journal of American
Folklore, Vol. 65, pp. 267-279, 1952.)
The modem version is somewhat fuller, reflecting the fact that it is a
verbatim transcript rather than a summary, but it contradicts the earlier
version in only one respect: the substitution of soot for the juice of the genipa
fruit as the medium with which the moon's face was marked.
Another Carib tale concerned with nature was heard by Jacques Bouton
in Martinique before 1640, and summarized as follows:
"They say that there is in Dominica a snake which makes itself
now big, now small; that it has, in the middle of its forehead,
a carbuncle or very brilliant stone which it removes when it wants to
drink, and then puts back in place; and that nobody can or dare go
to see in its cave unless he has previously fasted for three days and
abstained from his wife; otherwise he would not see it, or would be
in danger of being mattt' by it, that is to say, killed." (Taylor, op. cit.,
p. 273; Taylor's translation.)
This remarkable snake turns up again in another tale told to Taylor by
the Dominica Caribs:
"At that time there lived in Salybia two brothers called Maruka
and Simanari, famous for the charms they made. They would go up
to the House of the Master Boa-the same who, when all the earth was
soft, made the Boa's Stairway at Sin6ku. He is big, big, big; has a
diamond crest on his head; and he crows just like a cock.
"Well, when they had found him, they would take powdered
tobacco and burn it before him on the blade of a paddle. Then that
boa would vomit, and all that he vomited was boa arrowroot. After
that, the boa would vanish, and in his place a naked young man would
appear. He said nothing about his being the boa but just asked Miruka
and Simanari what it was that they wanted; and then, when they had
told him, he explained to them how to employ the arrowroot in order
to make their charms.
"Maruka and Simanari did not die in Salybia. When they felt old
age coming over them, they went away to 'the other country' They
reached the shores of the Orinoco and plunged into its stream. When
they emerged upon the opposite bank, they had turned back into two
young lads; and upon the water where they had been, there floated
two empty turtleshells.
"They never came back to Dominica; and at last one of them
died, but the other, so far as I know, is still living today." (Ibid.
Bouton's snake is clearly recognizable in the Master Boa ("Mait'
Tetechien" in Creole); but in the newer story the Master Boa is taken for
granted as part of the background. The Caribs must have had a story that
explained his origin and his feat in making the volcanic formation-still known
locally as Escalier Tete-chien-at Sin6ku in Dominica. Incidentally many
Dominicans pronounce the word "snake" in two syllables-"sinake"-
suggesting an origin for the place-name Sineku, or perhaps indicating a kind
of Volketymologie as a result of the identification of the place with the legend
of the Master Boa. The latter if true would underline the power of
such traditions to influence thought and behavior even after the plots and
details of myths are forgotten. Incidentally, the Caribs still show considerable
preoccupation with the boa, one of the few species of snake found in Dominica.
Though it is not dangerous to human beings (there are no poisonous snakes
in the island), much excitement is felt when one is found. There is a curious
belief that it is dangerous to utter the word "tIte-chien" the only Creole
term for this reptile, and circumlocutions involving the English word snake
or the Creole coulev' are often used when it is absolutely necessary to refer
to the creature.
The tales quoted above and a handful more represent all of the known
aboriginal repertoire of the Caribs; but they know many other tales that
show African or European rather than American affinities. To the antiquarian
who specializes in the study of the American Indian such material might be
of little interest; but anyone who wishes to understand the Caribs of today
will find these stories fully as valuable as the others. Though they may be
heard elsewhere in the West Indies and the United States or even in Spain,
Portugal, and West Africa, the Caribs always have their own version.
Sometimes the Carib version seems "degenerate" or incoherent. This in itself
is significant, symbolizing the generally marginal position of the Caribs in
West Indian society. Economically, politically and culturally they are isolated,
nurtured on leftovers and hand-me-downs. It is hardly to be expected that
they would make improvements in the stories they learned from other
Another reason for studying Carib tales is that they may be ancestral
to the folklore of other West Indian islands. We are not justified in concluding
from the fact that the themes of a Carib story are known elsewhere in the
islands that it is the Caribs who are the imitators. The ancient culture of
the Caribs. along with the people themselves, was overwhelmed by the
European and African invasion of the West Indies, but not without leaving
an impression on the newcomers. Many food plants, such as the manioc or
cassava, were adopted by the latter from the Caribs. A large part of the
vocabulary of English, French and Spanish speaking West Indians can be
traced td Carib or other Indian sources: words like hurricane, canoe, cannibal
and the names of native animals and plants. It has been suggested that the
grammar and phonetics of the Creole dialect spoken in the Lesser Antilles
owes much to Carib influences. (Douglas Taylor, "Certain Carib Morphological
Influences on Creole," International Journal of American Linguistics.
Vol. 11, pp. 140-155, 1945.) Thus it seems likely that a few Carib stories
might have been taken up by West Indian story-tellers or some Carib themes
added to African plots. This would of course make the study of the Carib
versions of such tales of extreme interest in tracing the historical changes
in stories passed along through the islands.
Perhaps the most important reason for giving attention to all the tales
now current among the Caribs, however, is that they are a part of the living
tradition, or culture, that guides, controls, and furnishes a meaning for Carib
behavior. A culture is an organized, functioning system of ideas, beliefs, and
customs. To understand a culture it is necessary to take into consideration
all aspects of life: technology, social organization, religion, art, folklore. Often
the tales and legends of a people furnish the most explicit clues to the meaning
of their customs, just as the literature of a civilized people gives the most
convenient introduction to the rest of their culture. The Caribs do not
distinguish between the authentically aboriginal tales and those of foreign
origin and more recent acquisition; both play the same part in Carib life,
and both can be equally instructive to the ethnologist or folklorist who wishes
to understand the Caribs.
The following are three tales collected by the author in Dominica in
1951. They are a representative sample of the tales now being told by the
Caribs. The informants were "Tak", a very old woman of North End, who
told the first two stories, and Ma Henri, a middle-aged woman of Bataka
noted also for her skill as a midwife. "Tak" told her stories only after
pleading infirmity and loss of memory, while Ma Henri was an eager informant
with a large stock of stories. The tales were recorded verbatim as they were
told in Creole and translated by the author. The translations are a compromise
between the literal and the literary; they were made sentence by sentence and,
where the sense does not suffer, word by word.
I. Cric! Crac! There was Rabbit and the king. The king had a well
where he drew water. Every time his servant went to draw water he found-
something nasty in the water. Rabbit used to draw water there. When he
would draw water he would defecate in the king's well. Always he would do
like that. One day the king said he must catch the person who dirtied the
well where he drew water. He made a big doll of glue, put it beside the
well. When Rabbit came he saw a pretty girl standing looking at him. He came,
he laughed at the girl. He said "Sister Margaret, good morning." The girl
didn't answer. He stuck out his hand, she caught his hand, his hand stuck.
He said "Sister Margaret, let me go, now. If you love me that much,
Sister Margaret, I will kiss you." When he kissed her his mouth stuck.
"Sister Margaret, let me go. I will kick you." His knee stuck. He said
"Let me go, now, Sister Margaret. Why do you hold me like that. It seems
that you love me. I will give you a tap, Sister Margaret." His other hand
stuck. Rabbit found himself stuck, he couldn't go. The king's servant came,
he found Rabbit well stuck in the king's trap. He went to tell the king that.
The king came said to Rabbit "Are you the one who did all those nasty
things in my water? I am going to kill you." Rabbit said "No, king, it
wasn't me." The king said, "I am gding to kill you." He went and tied
him in a meadow near a big bull. He saw Tiger who was passing. He said
"Brother, brother, do you believe a little man like me can eat a big cow
like that?" Tiger said "No, you can't eat it. You are too little." He said
"I will untie you and you will tie me in your place. I will eat the cow."
Tiger untied Rabbit. He tied up Tiger. Rabbit left, he climbed up in a plum
tree. He stayed up in the air. He watched, he saw the king's groom and the
king himself come with a piece of hot iron. When they came they didn't
see that it was Tiger who was there. They grabbed Tiger, tied him up in a
rope. They stuck the hot iron in Tiger's arse and turned him loose. When
Tiger goes the wind blows and opens his quarters before it. Rabbit up in the
tree was eating plums. He takes a plum seed, he throws it up Tiger's arse.
Tiger said, "Shoo fly, is that you hurting my arse like that?" He stayed
until his arse cools off. He can walk, he leaves. Rabbit climbs down from
the plum tree and goes to the road where he knew Tiger will pass on the
way to his house. He picks up an old skin of a dead animal that was full
of worms. Rabbit took it, wrapped it around him. When Tiger came and saw
the old skin, Tiger came to hit it. "Ay, Brother, don't hit me. I just left
Rabbit's house." Tiger said, "Fine, that's where I'm going myself." He said,
"What are you going to look for?' He said, "Ay, Rabbit is a bad man."
He said, "Do you see me? What happened is that Rabbit came out and
said to me 'Va'! You see how I've got worms on me. If you go to Rabbit's
house he will put worms on you that will eat you, just like me." Right then
and there Tiger went back to his house and Rabbit threw away the old skin
and went up to his house and to his wife. It is finished.
II. A story, understand? There was a mother who had only one son,
a little boy-he was little! His father had just died. He left the child for
his mother to take care of until he grew up. When his father died he left him
a little turkey. Well, when the child became a big boy he said to his mother
that he was going to sell his turkey. His mother said to him, "But you only
have one little turkey. His mother said presently, "Go, sell your turkey."
He took his little turkey, he went. He arrived before the door of an old man.
He said, like this, "Who would like to buy a little turkey?" The old man
said, "Come, enter." He went in. When he went in he saw on the did man's
table a machine. He asked the old man, "Eh, papa, what's that?" The old
man said to him then, "It is a machine." He said, "Well, papa, turn the
machine so I can see the machine working." He then said, "Well, turn it
yourself. It isn't bad, turn it.;' He hesitated. He said, "No, papa, turn it
yourself." The old man said then, "Turn it, put your hand on it, turn it."
The old man came. "No, papa, put your hand in the machine." Well, he
came and took the little boy's hand, turned, turned, turned, turned, turned
the machine. When that happened, he couldn't pull his hand out, the machine
held the old man. Well, the old man was rich, had much money. Well, the
little boy went inside. He took the money. The old man took his hand out
of the machine. Well, the little boy took money, money, money, money and
he went to his mother's house. He didn't leave his turkey. It is finished.
III. There was an old woman who had-Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, Saturday-six sons. One day when the woman went to
her garden when she arrived she found her son, who said, "Mother, shout."
The old woman shouted, "Who defecated in my garden?" It was a big devil
whd told her, "Eat the excrement." The boy said, "No, don't eat it, Mother."
He said again, "Eat the excrement, madam." The boy said again, "No,
Mother, don't eat it. Now Mother, don't eat it." He said presently to her
again, "Oh well, Mother, eat it. She ate all of it. She rested. They went
home that night. They went to sleep in their house.
"I, Tuesday, am going with my mother to the garden." They went to
the garden. When they arrived the boy said, "Mother, shout," She shouted,
"Who defecated in my garden?" The devil said, "Eat the excrement." The
boy said, "No, don't eat it, Mother." The big devil said, "Eat the
excrement." The boy said again, "No, don't eat it." He said, "Eat the
excrement. The boy said again, "No, don't eat it." He said "Eat
the excrement." He said, "The devil says for you to eat the excrement.
Mother, what to do? He says eat it, then eat it!" She ate all of it.
Wednesday said, "I will go up with my mother." They went to the
garden. When they arrived the boy said, "Mother, shout." She shouted,
"Who defecated in my garden?" The devil said, "Eat the excrement." The
boy said, "No, don't eat it, Mother." The big devil said, "Eat the excre-
ment." The boy said, again, "No, don't eat it." He said, "Eat the
excrement." He said, "The devil says for you to eat the excrement. Mother,
what to do? He says eat it, then eat it!" She ate all of it. When they went
home she was constipated.
"I, Thursday, will go with my mother. She will not eat excrement."
They went to the garden. (The same sequence of events occurs; likewise the
next day, when Friday accompanies his mother.)
Saturday, a very little boy, said, "I, Saturday, will go with my mother."
They went to the garden. When they arrived the boy said, "Mother, shout."
She shouted, "Who defecated in my garden?" The devil said, "Eat the
excrement." The boy said, "No, don't eat it, Mother." The devil he said,
"Eat the excrement." He forbade his mother to do it. Saturday fought with
the devil. He struck him with a sword. He jumped on his head. It is finished,
Without attempting a complete analysis of these stories it may be well to
point out a few features that are characteristic of Carib culture. The promi-
nence given to excrement in I and III agrees with an important Carib pattern.
Dung, animal or human, is an object of disgust to the Caribs to the extent
that land may be abandoned if dung is found upon it. One economically
important result of this belief is to prevent the use of manure in cultivation.
The way that excrement appears in both of the stories fits this Carib belief
(the indignity of being forced to eat it, and the manner of Brother Rabbit's
insult to the king). (Both of these stories are reported from other places in the
West Indies; III, the well-known "Tar-baby story, has a very wide distribu-
tion elsewhere. In the versions reported in Trinidad, Guadeloupe, &c.
Rabbit is said to "dirty" the king's well or spring; only in Dominica does he
defecate in it. See E. C. Parsons, Folk-Lore of ,the Antilles, French and
English, Part III, New York, 1943, pp. 48-51, 138-139.)
The motif of the trickster that appears in II and III, though not original
with the Caribs (compare the Anansi and Brer Rabbit tales of African origin
and the numerous trickster tales of the Indians of North America), appeals to
their sense of humor. This may be enough to justify the telling of II, in which
the boy's trickery seems somewhat pointless; however, it is probable that this
is a degenerate version of a story in which the plot supplied some motivation
for the boy's treatment of the old man. The circumstances of Carib life
undoubtedly encourage the kind of fantasy in which the young, the small, the
powerless triumph in the end over the old and the powerful. In addition to
the Carib's low status among their Creole neighbours, their characteristic
family life produces situations tending to foster feelings of latent hostility.
A man is likely to have such feelings toward his wife's family, for example,
with whom he lives and for whom he works; while a young married woman,
who usually lives on in her mother's house, is likely to resent the domination
of the older woman. Stories of this type provide a harmless and perhaps
unconscious release of such feelings. (This has been suggested by Taylor, who
found similar material in other stories. See Taylor, op. cit., p. 268.)
The tales recorded by Taylor and by the writer by no means exhaust
the Carib stock of tales. There is still an excellent opportunity for other
students to collect tales before the Caribs lose their cultural identity. How
long such an opportunity will exist is uncertain, however, and in a few years
it may be gone forever. Anyone who takes advantage of it will be rewarded
with material of intrinsic interest and of potential value to a better under-
standing of the Carib way of life.
The Language Problem of the
R. B. LE PAGE
I HAVE written in this journal previously about the need for a linguistic survey
of the British Caribbean. (Vol. 2, No. 3.) The present article is an attempt
to restate the problems in the light of information that has so far emerged,
and to give a more detailed report of our progress and future plans.
A brief preliminary questionnaire sent round to helpful and interested
people in the various colonies brought in a great deal of information. The
questions asked were these :-
(1) What percentage of children speak an approximation to "Standard
English" as their natural tongue?
(2) What do the others speak?
(3) What sort of problem does this set in the schools-is much time
spent teaching Standard English? Does this retard progress in
other directions? Is there any demand for instruction in any
other language than Standard English?
(4) Has the picture changed much in the last few years, e.g., increasing
Americanisation, immigration of any sort?
(5) A general description of the adult language strata-is there a link
between these and social or colour distinction?
The answer to the first question brought out at once what is obviously
going to be an important factor in our survey, that is, the emotional reaction
of many West Indians to any suggestion that the speech of their colony is
not Standard English. This reaction was mentioned by several of our corres-
pondents, and was implicit in the replies of others. Confusion arose also as
to the definition of Standard English.
The intention of the question was to discover for how many children there
was no serious difference between the English they would be expected to use
and write in secondary education, if they reached that standard, and the
English they would normally use in their homes. Naturally it was not intended
to make any pejorative comparisons between one colony and another. But the
element of local patriotism, or, its obverse side, the element of despair aroused
in some West Indians by what they felt to be the 'bad' English spoken all
around them, was difficult to eliminate from the answer. One Trinidadian
undergraduate who answered the, questions verbally, insisted at first that
ninety per cent. of the school-children in Trinidad spoke Standard English
in their homes. Only after it had been pointed out to him that this was a much
higher percentage than in England, and after the phrases "Standard English"
and "natural tongue" hadi been discussed at length; above all, after the
objective nature of the survey had been stressed and emotional prejudices
smoothed over-only then did he modify his answer, and suggest a figure much
closer to that supplied by the Department of Education in Port-of-Spain-
i.e. 15 per cent.
In each colony there is a very small percentage of children whose native
speech approximates to the Southern British dialect of English, which Daniel
Jones has called "Received Pronunciation", and which is generally referred
to in linguistic text-books as Public School English. I shall call it by the name
by which it is known in several Caribbean colonies--"White Talk" These are
the children of English business or administrative residents, or West Indians
who have been educated for a long period in England, probably attending
both school and university there. Such children will tend to be bilingual--at
any rate, this is the experience of the teaching staff at the University College-
if they are of primary school age, and are probably far more fluent in Creolese
English than their parents.
For the purpose of our survey this class is comparatively unimportant. It
is obvious, however, that if other things are equal they will have a tremendous
advantage while at secondary school; and that upper-class West Indians who
realise this advantage will naturally resent and resist any attempt to weaken
the insistence on "white talk" as the model for educational purposes. They form
at the most something of the order of 1-2% of the school population. Next
there appears to be in each colony a class of children from middle-class homes
where the natural tongue is an educated Creolese English. Their parents will
spekk among themselves with a grammar and syntax closely approximating to
"white talk", although in idiomatic speech, there are more distinctive gram-
matical and syntactical features than might at first be suspected. A certain
amount of their vocabulary will be distinctively West Indian however, and will
differ from "white talk" by including both specifically local words, and English
words used in a specifically local sense. The vowel-scheme and stress and
intonation patterns will be distinctive and these factors combined will give the
speech of this class its West Indian "accent" To give one or two examples:
in one large group of words where the Southern British dialect has the vowel
(e), the Jamaican dialect has the vowel (e); in another group, the Southern
British dialect has (a), the Jamaican has (a)
"White Talk" ['teik it' of] and ['man].
Jamaican ['tek it' af; 'man].
"Take it off" and "man" "Take it off, man."
"White Talk" R6cognise, Trinidad, etc.
Jamaican Recognise, TrinidAd, etc.
Jamaican students in a phonetics class at the University College have
shown themselves to be unaware of some of these distinctive features in their
own speech, hearing their own vowels, for example, as exactly the same as
those of "white talk", until the distinction was demonstrated to them.
Children of this class form a fairly large percentage of the secondary-
school population, and probably the majority of University undergraduates,
at least in Barbados and Jamaica. Such children probably are extremely con-
versant with lower-class creolese while of early school-age, but may
self-consciously suppress it or shed it as being inconsistent with their middle-
class status when they grow up. They form perhaps 10% of the school
population; this figure may be slightly higher in Barbados and Jamaica where
the population is relatively homogeneous, and much lower in some of the other
colonies; but the percentages are extremely difficult to estimate.
At the next broader level of the community, it is best to make a distinction
between these colonies where the choice is between Creolese English and "white
talk" and those where another language or another patois is also spoken.
Barbados and Jamaica, after three hundred years of uninterrupted British
colonisation, have the least complicated problem. The "Bajan" dialect is well-
known and distinctive, and appears to be fairly homogeneous; the Jamaican
dialect is possibly only less homogeneous because the island is larger. Children
of the lower middle classes will use the dialect as their natural tongue; it has all
the features of the educated Creolese already mentioned, in an exaggerated
form-the vowel-sounds even further away from "white talk", stress and
intonation patterns more noticeably different, vocabulary containing a larger
percentage of non-English words and usages; in addition, the grammar and
syntax of Standard English are replaced by a simplified grammar which dis-
penses to a large extent with tense and case-inflections, uses a different word
order ("What the price is?") and relies to a large extent on certain prepositions
and other small parts of speech ("fe" appears to express a whole range of
grammatical relationships).* Children in this group are almost bound to feel
that there is one language for use in the classroom, and another quite different
language for all other purposes. Several correspondents, answering question 3,
deplored the fact that the effect of language teaching in the schools was
undone by the use of "bad English" in the playground and in the home.
The distinction between Creolese English and "white talk" is found in
the other colonies; but in most of them the problem is greatly complicated
by the presence of one or more language-groups whose native tongue is not
a form of English at all. In the Leeward and Windward Islands, periods of
French occupation have left their mark on the language; at one end of the
scale, in St. Lucia, for example, probably 80% of the children speak the
French Creole patois in their homes, although the patois is absorbing English
words. At the other end of the scale, in Grenada, "less than one per cent. of
the child population speak or understand a French patois which is dying out
rapidly." In each case, the Creolese English has been flavoured by French.
English, however, is the only language of instruction in the schools, even in
St. Lucia, where at one time the use of patois in the classroom was (unofficially)
*Those who feel that this simplified analytical grammar is automatically "bad"
grammar, or not grammar at all, should reflect on the fact that the grammar of
modem English is largely the product of the break-down of classical Anglo-Saxon
inflections and case-endings under the impact of Viking colonisation of England.
banned. The effect of this, coupled with the fact that schools are in any case
too few and teachers have had too little training themselves in the teaching
of English, must be to erect a formidable barrier to advancement for a large
section of the child population.
In Trinidad there is a small and diminishing number of homes where
Hindi or Urdu is spoken; although attempts are being made to keep these
languages alive among adult East Indians, the native tongue of the vast
majority of the population is the Trinidadian form of Creolese English, on
which Spanish and French, as well as East Indian languages, have left their
mark. In one or two areas families still speak Spanish or French patois.
In British Guiana also the East Indian language community is rapidly
diminishing, although the Law Courts still employ interpreters in Hindi and
Urdu for use when needed, and in the 1953 General Elections instructions for
voting were posted in these languages as well as in English. In the coastal
belt of British Guiana, according to Mr. S. R. R. Allsopp, all the children,
of whatever race, will understand English to a varying degree, and all children
of school age in the urban areas can speak Standard English when required.
In the rural areas of the coastal belt a number of children, especially those
with little or no schooling, will have difficulty in speaking Standard English.
The native tongue of the majority in both rural and urban areas is Creolese
English. Apart from these, there are the children of Amerindian race who must
be considered separately. According to the 1946 census they form 4.3% of the
total population. Their native tongue will be an Amerindian language-for
example, an Arawak dialect. Where they do learn to speak Standard English-
as for example in the coastal regions, or at mission schools in the interior-
they learn it as a distinct "foreign language" on which the language of their
homes has no impact, and as a result they are said to speak it better than
those children whose home language is Creolese. Where they have no oppor-
tunity for schooling, however, as in many districts of the interior, their
understanding of English is usually very slight. In the far interior they may
speak Brazilian Portugese in addition to their Amerindian tongue. Mission
activity in the interior is increasing, and with it the command of English.
In the coastal region of Essequibo many of the Arawaks speak some Venezuelan
The Creolese English of British Guiana has been influenced by the long
period of Dutch occupation up to 1796. As Mr. Allsopp points out, Dutch was
still prominent enough in 1838 to be the subject of a complaint in a report
on Negro Education. As in other colonies, East Updian words have come
into the general Creolese vocabulary, and it is possible that the Portugese
emigration to British Guiana in the nineteenth century from Madeira and the
Azores has added a further flavour to the mixture. Some Amerindian words,
mostly nouns, are in general circulation. As in Trinidad, the establishment of
a large American base during the war has left its mark on the vocabulary and
idiom of the English spoken.
Finally we come to British Honduras, where the language situation of the
group under discussion is the most complicated of all. According to Mr. Yorke,
the Assistant Education Officer, about 60% of the school-children in the Colony
speak Creolese English as their native tongue, and about 83% of these Creolese-
speakers are in Belize district. Leaving out of account the very small group
of children whose home language is Standard English, the remainder, about
39% speak either Spanish, Maya or Carib-and there are at least three different
dialects of Maya. There is a demand for instruction in Spanish, firstly from
Spanish-speaking groups who would like to read and write it, secondly from
other language-groups which recognize its usefulness in the Colony. As I
understand it, however, this demand is for Spanish as a second language.
English remains the primary language of education. But, if I may quote
.there are six different 'languages' to contend with. This poses
two main problems (a) the problem of supplying the right kind of
teacher, and (b) adequate progress in English through which the other
subjects are taught. (a) is not, as one might be tempted to think, a
problem of finding teachers who speak Maya. Some of our best teachers
in Maya communities cannot speak the language." (Professor D'Aeth,
when in British Honduras last year, met German nuns teaching Maya
children English and using Spanish as the common language of approach
to do so.) "It is rather a question of finding enough teachers with the
initiative to provide the diverse illustrations, and an almost intuitive
grasp of the pattern of thought of the race, which will lead them to
select the right illustrations. This is a great deal to ask for, I know; but
I believe that it is just these qualities that make our best teachers
succeed. If we had a proper study of the folk-lore of the people the
whole question would be easier."
These remarks about the teaching problem, although concerned mainly
with the Mayan communities, apply in various ways throughout the British
Caribbean. The problem is linked with the wider problem of the whole pattern
of education. At the moment, educational effort in the primary schools tends
to be canalised towards the scholarship examinations for the secondary schools;
and there it is canalised even more towards the various forms of School Certi-
ficate and Higher School Certificate set by British Universities, and
subsequently towards University entrance and scholarship examinations. A
command of Standard English is a basic requirement in all these examinations,
and will have a considerable bearing on marks obtained in subjects other than
English. As the Department of Education in Trinidad reports, "much time is
spent in teaching Standard English, and the teaching takes the form of speech
training as well as of reading and writing good English" In St. Lucia,
Mr. Boxill reports "a considerable amount of time has to be devoted to
teaching English. Since English is the medium of instruction and since the
books used are printed in English, it is quite a task for the average pupil to
master his school-work" Another correspondent writes that "every lesson
is an English lesson" From every colony the point is made that the teaching
of English grammar in the schools tends to be unimaginative and formalised,
although there are obviously individual teachers to whom this does not apply.
The reaction on the part of the teacher to instrusive creolese or patois tends
to be of scandalised horror rather than sympathetic understanding. To a cer-
tain extent this reaction springs from linguistic ignorance; to a certain extent
from the vested interest of a white-collar class in the continuance of Standard
English as the avenue to advancement-"white-collar jobs" and "advance-
ment" being, unfortunately, almost synonymous for most West Indians.
Such are the facts of the situation as I see them, though I would add the
qualification that, for information about other colonies than Jamaica, I have
had to rely very greatly on other observers. What are the implications?
From an educational point of view, it seems inevitable that the child
whose native tongue is not Standard English is at a great disadvantage com-
pared with the minority of children for whom it is. But-what is possibly more
important, and not inevitable-the child whose abilities and talents are non-
academic who would make a much better peasant farmer, for example,
and a better parent, if his school syllabus included such subjects as simple
biology and agriculture, and basic hygiene, taught in a way that made liberal
use of his native language for the purpose of illustration and explanation-such
a child will probably leave school at an early age under the present system
feeling that "education is nut for him." In other words, "compulsory white
talk" is as much a barrier and a time-waster for these children-and they
are the majority of the children in the British Caribbean-as compulsory Latin
is for the undergraduate who learnt no Latin at school and wishes to read
economics and mathematics at the U.C.W.I. Meanwhile there is an urgent
demand from agriculturalists and social workers for better farming practice
and better hygiene. Secondly, even for the children who surmount the language
barrier and go on with their academic studies, there remains a dichotomy of
thought and expression, a split between their native culture and the alien
culture they have gone to so much trouble to acquire. Having invested so
much of their time in the alien culture, they often feel obliged to sink every-
thing in it, and turn their backs decisively on their homes. This cannot be a
healthy thing for the West Indies. It means that to a certain extent such
people, who should be the new leaders, will hold themselves aloof from parish-
pump politics, and leave local affairs in the hands of the uneducated and
uninhibited demagogue, with disastrous results; it means the continuation of
the emphasis on gentility and the refusal of the educated man ever again to
to soil his hands. The educational system is failing even if it is producing
graduates from the lower classes, if thereafter they will not talk to their own
people in their own language but wish only to remain aloof in a middle-class
suburb. This aspect of education is not, of course, by any means confined to
the West Indies; but in the West Indies the dichotomy is intensified by the
associations of colour and class.
From the point of view of the West Indian writer, the choice is between
Standard English and an English or American publisher on the one hand,
or dialect and no publisher on the other; between intelligibility outside his
own colony and a small audience within his own colony only. A number of
writers have tried to compromise-Vic Reid in producing a literary form*of
the Jamaican dialect in "New Day"-not, I think, very successfully; George
Lamming, more successfully, using both Standard English and the Barbadian
dialect in "In the Castle of My Skin" Writers in a new medium have, of
course, always to educate their audience; but to do so successfully, the audience
must recognize the medium as authentic. If there were a "Standard Creolese
English" there would perhaps be a much wider reading public in the Caribbean
for Caribbean writing.
I have tried to state the facts of the situation, and some of the implications
The question remains, what are we planning to do at the University College?
From the answers to our preliminary questionnaire it is apparent that there are
in the British Caribbean a number of sympathetic and enlightened men who
share some, at least, of our ideas; and that the change of attitude we think
desirable is in fact already taking place in a tentative fashion. Working through
the Resident Tutors, and also directly through the Linguistic Survey, we hope
to become a co-ordinating centre for new ideas on linguistic problems. It is,
I think, highly desirable that there should be a sub-department in the Univer-
sity College which could concern itself with the investigation of the language
problems of the area, and could train teachers not only to improve their own
Standard English, but to be better teachers of English by having a greater
understanding of those problems. If teachers with a good knowledge
of linguistics find their way eventually into positions of influence, they may
be able to make a substantial improvement in the programme of education for
non-standard speakers; in time, if the University College can replace overseas
Universities as the accepted examining board at the School Certificate and
Higher School Certificate levels, the whole syllabus can be revised and brought
into line with the needs of the Caribbean rather than with the needs of the
Home Counties in England.
A teaching department in the University College needs to be backed by
adequate research facilities. In this case, the need is doubly great, since no
adequate linguistic description of Creolese and patois exists. Work is being
done at other Universities on these subjects; Professor Cassidy, at the Uni-
versity of Wisconsin, is working on the Jamaican dialect; Mrs. Bailey, a
Jamaican studying at Columbia, has completed her M.A. thesis on a comparison
of English, Dutch, French and Spanish Creolese grammar; Mr. Allsopp, of
British Guiana, is at present working on his M.A. thesis on the dialect of
English spoken in Georgetown. The U.C.W.I. linguistic survey aims to fill in
the details for each colony eventually. For the moment we are confining
ourselves to an investigation of Creolese English.
The investigation falls under three main headings
(a) Phonology When a sufficient number of "texts" have been gathered,
that is, a sufficient amount of actual speech written down in phonetic script,
the phonetic structure of the language or dialect must be examined and the
phonemes-the significant features of the speech-sounds of any one speech-
community determined. The phonology of the language then defines each
phoneme and states what combinations occur. From an examination of the
phonology of a speaker's native language, it is possible to predict what difficul-
ties he is likely to have in pronouncing another language correctly. If, for
example, in the native language distinction between t as in tin and th as in thin
is not a phonemic difference-if no two words in the native language are distin-
guished solely by this difference as are tin and thin in English-then
the speaker is liable not to hear this distinction in English, and not to apply
it in his own pronunciation of English.
(b) Grammatical forms The next stage in writing a grammar of
a language is to isolate the morphemes-the smallest meaningful units in the
language-and to study the way in which they combine in more complex units
such as polysyllabic words, phrases and sentences. The grammar consists in
a description of the meaningful arrangement of morphemes and these more
complex units in the language. The arrangement may be one of order-which
in English distinguishes "My aunt bit the parrot" from "the parrot bit my
aunt"; or one of modulation-the use of stress or intonation, which in English
distinguishes the noun convict from the verb convict; or one of phonetic
modification, which takes place, for example, in English when the morphemes
duke and ess (meaning "the female of the species") combine to form duchess.
(c) Lexicon, the study of vocabulary.
In a language which is entirely new to linguistic investigation, and which
has no literature-let us say, for example, the language of a remote and little-
known Red Indian tribe-the method adopted is to record a large sample of
speech and then to analyse it, step by step. This is a thorough but laborious
process; its great merit is that the investigator takes nothing whatever for
granted about the structure of the language, and applies every test to it so
that what is significant is almost bound to emerge from the mass of data. This
method has even been applied* to American English, since it was felt that so
many preconceived ideas about English, inherited from Latin grammar,
bedevilled its description that an entirely new start had to be made. Languages
with an extensive literature, however, have usually been more-or-less compe-
tently described, and the dialect geography is usually content to record
divergences from the standard phonology, grammar and vocabulary. The
Creolese English dialects fall between these two extremes. Standard English
has been described-even though the writing of competent grammars of English
has only been undertaken in very recent years, and the English grammar
taught in schools is usually really Latin grammar rather crudely and inconsis-
tently adapted to a very different language. On the other hand, the ways in
which English was modified by African slaves, who learnt it probably from
their overseers, who learnt it in turn from their masters, have been mostly
unrecorded; and West African languages are so different in structure from
English that facts such as stress and intonation may be of far greater signifi-
cance in Creolese than they are in dialects of English. It is necessary, in order
to get the work done, to take some short cuts in our investigation; to make
*C. C. Fries, The Structure of English. NY 1952.
as much use as possible, for example, of points of difference from Standard
English that have been the subject of common observation for two or three
centuries. It is also necessary to make a number of experimental forays along
hitherto unused paths, in case anything of significance is missed.
The first step-one that is approaching completion in Jamaica, and which
the Resident Tutors in some of the other colonies are now undertaking-is to
compile a basic vocabulary of words that seem to be peculiar to the dialect.
From this basic vocabulary we are working out a questionnaire which we
intend to send round to about one hundred selected people in the various
colonies. The questionnaire will cover many different aspects of everyday
life. It is being worked out along lines that have been tested by Professor
F. G. Cassidy in his Wisconsin English Language Survey and published by
the American Dialect Society.* The importance of the preliminary basic
vocabulary is that it forms an essential guide to the questions that must be
asked so as to cover the dialectally important aspect of life as thoroughly
as possible. In Jamaica we have used for this purpose lists of dialect words
sent in in response to a "Gleaner" competition some years ago. The lists have
been analysed for distribution of the words and frequency of occurrence.
Before we can send out the questionnaire, we need to know the names
of reliable people who will undertake to answer it. It is desirable that they
should be scattered about the colony: they should be in each case represent
an area felt to be significant-for example, because of its settlement history,
or its remoteness, or because it is a typical urban or rural area, a typical
fishing village or mining village or cane-growing area. The informant selected
should be a native of the area in close touch with the ordinary people around
him, and preferably middle-aged. The purpose of the questionnaire should
be explained carefully to each informant, so that he (or she) will supply those
words and phrases which really are in common use in his area, and not the
words and phrases which he feels he ought to use in Standard English. Perhaps
the ideal would be to get an intelligent local schoolmaster to take the question-
naire, to find an old-established local resident as an informant, to put the
questions to him and write down the answers that he gives. Conventionalised
spelling can be used; but it would be helpful if the simplified phonetic alphabet
devised for the questionnaire could be used instead. A series of code letters
will enable the informant to mark each word as "slang" or "old-fashioned"
or "in general use" or "used only by very low-class people" The various
sections of the questionnaire will be sent out at intervals so as not to dismay
informants by the amount of work involved; the answers received to one
section will help us in the preparation of the next.
The information thus assembled will provide us with a great deal of
research material; it will also act as a guide to the field-worker. He, by com-
paring the answers received to any one question throughout the area, will be
able to detect significant features and check them by direct interview. He will
*A Method for collecting Dialect-Amer. Dial. Soc. Pub. No. 20, 1953
frame his questions so as to elicit the use of a word in a phrase; he will be able
to compile "texts" which are accurate records of phonology and grammar. If
our present plans bear fruit, we will have a trained field-worker at our disposal
in 1955. The answers to the questionnaire and the records of the field-worker
together will enable the second major stage of the linguistic survey to begin.
The ultimate object is to compile a descriptive grammar and an etymological
dictionary to each of the Creolese English dialects, and to undertake compara-
tive studies. The distribution of various linguistic features throughout the
Caribbean can be mapped, and it is possible that this linguistic geography
will throw a great deal of light on patterns of immigration and cultural
Such are the long-term aspects of the linguistic survey; once the material
is assembled at Mona, work on it will occupy for many years to come. But
the immediate problem is the questionnaire. It would be extremely helpful if
those who are interested in the subject in the Caribbean would get in touch
with their local Resident Extra-Mural Tutor and offer their services or place
material which they may have collected at his disposal.
*cf: H. Kurath, A Word Geography of the Eastern United States. University of
Labor Relations in an Underdeveloped
(Reproduced from "Economic Development and Cultural Change", December
1952, a journal of the Research Center in Economic Development and
Cultural Change of the University of Chicago)
GRENADA is a mountainous island of about 120 square miles and with a popu-
lation of about 70,000. The island was originally populated by Carib Indians
who were liquidated by French settlers who first colonized the island in the
middle of the 17th century. African slaves were imported shortly thereafter
to cultivate the land, and their numbers increased greatly as cultivation was
pushed back into the interior and up the hillsides. An enumeration in 1700
showed 250 whites, 50 freemen (colored and black), and 500 slaves. In 1827,
shortly before Emancipation, there were 770 whites, 3,600 freemen (colored
and black), and 24,000 slaves. The most recent census, taken in 1946, counted
630 whites (less than 1% of the population), 3,500 East Indians, descendants
of indentured importees brought for estate labor after Emancipation, and
68,000 blacks and colored.
According to the French priest, PNre Labat, who visited Grenada in
1700, the land was then in indigo and tobacco, although most of it must still
have been virgin forest. These crTops shortly gave way to sugar cane, even in
this island of steep highlands, and, for over a century, up to the middle years
of the nineteenth century, sugar was king.
In the time of slavery, cane was grown on the estates of white planters,
the land was concentrated in their hands and a trifling proportion of the
land area was in freely held small holdings. Emancipation initiated a chain of
circumstances which virtually drove out cane and revolutionized the crop
pattern; fragmented the land and created a class of independent peasantry;
and transferred estates from whites to persons of color.
Once freed, the former slaves took to the hills, squatted on the outer
fringes of the estates, subsisted from provision crops they planted and from
breadfruit put in years earlier to provide a low cost subsistence food for
slaves, and refused to make themselves available for work for wages under
a regime of work discipline. For a while, planters attempted to preserve the
*This article grows out of research in the summer of 1952 under the sponsorship
of the Institute of Social and Economic Research of the University College of the
West Indies and with grant-in-aid support of the Social Science Research Council. I am
grateful to both of these institutions for their assistance.
estates in cane by importing indentured Maltese, Portuguese from Madeira,
free Africans, and East Indians. This proved unsuccessful and cane, as an
important export crop, was finally given up when West Indian sugar lost its
preferential treatment in the United Kingdom market.
The planters and the merchant creditors who took possession of estates
for non-payment of debts then accommodated to the fall in the relative price
of sugar, and to the unwillingness of ex-slaves and their offspring to accept
wage work, by converting to a substitute crop and adopting a new employment
Plots of estate land were "contracted out" to be planted in cocoa trees(')
by ex-slaves who subsisted from provision crops they inter-planted with the
cocoa to shade the young trees. At about the fifth year, when the trees were
just beginning to bear, the land in cocoa was posted as collateral for loans
made to the planters, usually by merchant firms which bought cocoa for
export. The proceeds of the loans were then used to make lump sum
payments to the contractors at a previously fixed rate per tree. A large
number of the contractors used these payments to acquire small plots of
land on which they planted cocoa, provisions, and later, nutmeg trees. Since
then, cocoa, nutmegs, and mace(2) have dominated the Grenadian economy
and peasant smallholdings have been very important in the structure of the
community. The aggregate value of all exports is composed in large part of
the value of these three crops. In 1951, total exports of $6,100,000 (British
West Indian currency) included $3,600,000 of cocoa. $1,400,000 of nutmegs
and $750,000 of mace.
The "contract out" system created in Grenada, more than in any other
West Indian island, an independent peasantry. There are said to be about
16,000 small holdings, ranging in size from a fraction of an acre to ten acres.
Of 63,000 acres which appear on the colony's tax roll, 26,000 are in small
holdings. Small holders produce one-third of the cocoa and two-thirds of the
The peasantry, cultivating tree crops that require less attention than
annual crops, often on plots of miniscule size,(3) have time which they can
devote either to leisure or to other employment, when woik can be found to
secure income supplements. Work for wages, in agriculture, is sometimes
done for the more substantial peasants whose plots are large enough to make
it necessary to hire workers, especially at harvest time. More commonly, wage
work is done for the estates which employ about 5,500 persons of both sexes.
The largest of these, in February, 1950,(4) employed 105 workers; the
smallest, three. The labor force of each estate is stable. It is not common
for workers to leave one estate and apply for work to another, although
(1) Cocoa is said to have been first introduced in Grenada in 1714 and was an export
crop of some importance even during the heyday of cane.
(2) Mace and nutmegs are joint products, derived from the fruit of the nutmeg tree.
(3) The smallest producer of nutmegs in 1951 owned one tree, just in bearing.
(4) February falls within the more important of two cocoa harvest seasons in the
transfers between estates sometimes occur. The ordinary pattern is for boys
and girls to take wage employment in their early teens with the estate to
which the parent with whom they live is attached, and to remain with this
estate for their entire lives. On such an estate, the worker will move between
occupations in accordance with his capacities for work defined by physique
and age; lighter tasks are performed by children and the aged. There is no
seasonal variation in numbers employed on estates, but there is variation in
number of days worked per week in different seasons. At other than harvest
time, planters offer only two or three days of work each week, thereby securing
to themselves an adequate supply of labor for the harvest period.
There is a tradition of a single wage rate, differentiated by sex, through-
out the agricultural sector of the economy, and this rate also sometime sets
the pattern for wages outside agriculture. In 1952, the rate was $1.20 (B.W.I.)
per day for men and $1.00 per day for women. When the quantity rather
than the quality of the individual's work counts, work is done by the task;
and the so-called daily rate is paid upon completion of the task, without
regard to the length of time spent in fulfilling the task. Most tasks are
completed in less than a full day. The community believes that the price of
labor is equal in all occupations, because tasks are said to have been so defined
that, taking account of skill and energy, the work required is equal in all
occupations for which the uniform rate is paid.
In addition to wage receipts, estate workers are also given perquisites,
which vary between estates, and usually take the form of rent-free or low
rent use of plots of estate land for growing provisions, or the distribution
free or at low prices, of breadfruit and provisions grown on the estates.
In this context, trade unionism first appeared in the middle 1940s. The
early unions made some headway on the waterfront and among clerical
workers in St. George's, the capital town, but agricultural workers were largely
untouched by their influence.
In late 1949, E. M. Gairy, a young man who had been employed in
a clerical capacity for several years in the oil refineries of the Dutch
island of Aruba, returned to Grenada and inaugurated an organising
campaign for a Grenada Manual and Mental Workers' Union. In early
1950 he led a work stoppage on the sugar estates in the south-
western section of the island. In the summer of the same year he
made a demand upon the employers' society, largely an association of
cocoa and nutmeg planters, for a 20 per cent. increase in the daily and task
wage rate. This demand was rejected and, in October 1950, the society signed
a collective agreement with a rival union. Gairy then initiated a series of
work stoppages on individual cocoa and nutmeg estates, starting in late
January, 1951 and culminating in an island-wide strike which was effective
everywhere except in St. George's town. During the stoppage there were
numerous instances of violence and intimidation, burning and other destruc-
tion of property, and looting of cocoa and nutmegs valued at about
three-quarters of a million dollars. A state of emergency was declared, Gairy
was taken into custody and removed to the island of Carriacou; British naval
troops were landed; police were brought in from other West Indian colonies,
and questions were asked in Parliament. After a month of stoppage, work
was resumed in mid-March 1951, but only after the government had exerted
pressure upon the planters to recognize Gairy's union and to negotiate with it.
An agreement was signed on April 9, 1951 providing for an increase in wages,
backpay, a conditional holiday week with pay, with stipulated machinery
for the settlement of disputes within the terms of the agreement.
With this background, it is possible to formulate some judgments about
the characteristics of labor relations in Grenada:
I. Employers are a social class. Class values and class interests intervene
in labor relations and complicate the relationships of workers and
The stratifications of society into classes in Grenada is more rigid than
in more developed economies and opportunities for mobility between classes
more limited. There are few avenues for escape from lower-class status.
Persons of lower-class status who pursue upward movement along these
avenues quickly encounter checks, and several generations may be necessary
for status changes to be effected. The children of agricultural laborers may,
by dint of hard work and good fortune, become clerks and begin the process
of escape, but in a small community they cannot conceal the status identity
of their parents, and this is the major determinant of their own status. There
is a well ordered system of inter-class relationships which define proper conduct
by and between people in terms of relative class status. Abusive conduct may
be directed downwards from upper- to lower-class persons, but only respectful
conduct may go upwards. Custom is a powerful influence, and change which
redefines inter-class relationships is either not accepted at all or accepted in
In this system, employers are "cultured" and workers are "primitive"(5).
Employers have created a father image of themselves and believe that they
know best what is good for the people; workers are children, irresponsible,
indolent, and prodigal, who prefer leisure and rum to worthy material goals.
Therefore, a paternal relationship between workers and planters, in which
the power of decision is a monopoly of the "better" classes, is the condition
set for a stable society and well-being for the workers.
Class status is, in part, a function of race. When the planters
were invariably white, they stood at the pinnacle of an ordered hierarchy.
At that time very sharp color gradations were observed. A visitor to the island
in the 1820s reported that distinctions were made, in terms of distance from
a pure Negro strain, between samboes, mulattoes, quadroons, mustees, musti-
phinis, and quintroons, and social climbing was commonly accomplished by
forming associations with others of lighter complexion than one's own.
(5) The persistence of African cultist practices in the country areas of Grenada is
looked upon with distaste by the merchant and planter class, to be hidden
from the knowledge of strangers to the island who might otherwise think
Since then, after a long process of estate abandonment by whites and
sexual union of the races, a great many of the landed properties have come
into the hands of colored persons. They now fill the planter class role. Skin
color is not the exclusive determinant of status; such factors as schooling and
income also affect a man's position in society. But it is roughly true that, in
Grenada, the lower classes are black and the upper classes are colored.
In such a social structure, violence is done to planter class values if
workers lay claim to equality in the bargaining process, if workers share in
the making of economic decisions, and if their bargaining representatives are,
like themselves, black and of lower-class origin.
As a result, employer-worker relations, in collective bargaining frame-
work, are charged with emotion. "Getting out production at low cost," which
is the first principle of entrepreneurial conduct in the developed countries,
here becomes submerged by the principle of preserving a customary social
fabric. The violent, personal tones in which planters refer to the union leaders
indicates that they are concerned with something a good deal more fundamental
to them than wage demands. In these circumstances, it is very difficult to
achieve the development of the spirit of compromise essential to collective
bargaining in good faith.
II. Worker grievances are not simple bread-and-butter grievances and the
framework of collective bargaining has limits within which profoundly
felt grievances are not adjustable. The union is really union-cum-
Many grievances do grow out of the standard employer-employee
relationship and can be settled by negotiation between the parties. But a
reference, in open meeting, to a planter who is "playing white", or to
the reserving of office work for children of the better families, or to
claim that land planted in cocoa by the workers' forefathers really should
belong to their descendants, will evoke more emotional response than a
reference to the insufficiency of the daily wage rate.(6) These grievances against
the racial ordering of the community, blocked opportunities, and unrequited
aspirations for land, are not capable of adjustment by the ordinary processes
of collective bargaining. To keep his power, the union leader must be,
therefore, a political leader as well. His members do not distinguish between
the facets of his dual role. Worker representatives and employer representa-
tives meet at the bargaining table to discuss employment conditions and the
Legislative Councils to discuss public policy; failure to agree in one area saps
good faith in the other.
(6) During the February-March 1951 general strike, a number of incidents occurred
in which workers staked out claims to estate land and there were even informal
adjudications of contested claims. While this has been described as play-acting,
it is significant that workers on strike in the developed countries do not play-
act in these terms.
III. The union's function comprehends the settlement of adjustable conflict
outside the limits of the formal relations of employers and workers.
The union, thus, simulates the judicial function of the State.
Members do not understand the role of the union to be specifically
job oriented. They believe that an organisation which protects them anywhere
protects them everywhere. Disputes which are not relevant to the employer-
worker relationship, but which are adjustable, are brought to the union for
settlement. This reflects in part the membership pattern of the union, which
is comprised of workers exclusively employed for wages, others who are part-
time wage workers and part-time "own account" workers, and still others
who are exclusively engaged in "own account" work. The atomisation of
landholdings and the wide distribution of rights in tenancy both create the
conditions for the conflict of petty interests. In addition, a contentiousness
among the people and the sensitiveness at offenses to "rights" has made these
people litigious and has filled the dockets of the magistrates' courts for decades.
Disputes are enormously varied. The union's grievance book is filled with
them. There are complaints about cows doing damage to gardens; unjust
accusations of theft of coconuts; the cutting into land by roadbuilders; the
failure to compensate for damages suffered by collision with vehicles; attacks
by dogs; and the like.
Union leaders accept these cases and urge that they be brought to the
union, in order to hold the allegiance of the members by multiplying the
dimensions of the services which it renders and thus institutionally entrenching
itself in the community in many, rather than in the few ordinary, ways. The
danger to the stability of the union lies in its having become a haven for the
offended and distressed who, having been led to believe that the union has
great power, expect solutions to problems which it is unable to provide.
There is a real question, of course, whether the union can operate on
strictly job-oriented lines and still survive in a community in which disputes
which have no relevance to job relationships are so important, and in which
the difference between the wage worker and the self-employed peasant is a
purely formal one.
IV The union co-exists with its leader and survives only as long as the people
pay allegiance to him. When the leader loses his influence with the
members, the union becomes defunct. Power to formulate union policy
lies in the hands of the leader; other officers play completely secondary
roles. The allegiance of the members takes the form of veneration. The
strategy of leadership is the strategy of repetitive drama.
Union members are loyal to the person of the leader, not the union.
The problem of retaining leadership is one of keeping the devotion of members
alive. Solving this problem also solves the problem of institutional survival.
There is no question here of being voted out of office. There is a book of
rules, and a structure of offices, but this is mainly a facade. Rules
are administered flexibly, or ignored when it is convenient to do so. The leader
loses his office only when he ceases to be venerated; when this happens the
organisation disintegrates. Secondary officers are selected by the union leader:
they are responsible to him alone. When they become disrespectful or exhibit
some independence of judgment, they are summarily dismissed. There is no
internal horse-trading with them, and no reliance upon the weight they carry
with sectional parts of the union, because they carry no weight.
The people, however, are fickle. Theatrical devices, militant talk, large
promises, occasional work stoppages and a show of power will win them over.
But once the drama has worn off, they show signs of turning away. To retain
incumbency, therefore, the leader must always be able to keep emotion at
a high pitch; or he must be able to sense when an atmosphere of drabness
has set in and it is necessary to stoke the fires again.
The implications for labor relations are clear: 1) the survival of the union
(and the leader) requires a strategy which includes occasional stoppages and
the raising of "political", or other issues not relevant to the job that are
charged with emotion; 2) "membership" in the union is defined not so much
by the payment of dues as by the possession of an attitude of veneration
towards the leader so that the democratic process in union affairs is not
possible, except as the leader is willing to exercise heroic self-restraint. There
are no effective internal checks on the authority of the leader, who is compelled
for these reasons, to appear to be uncompromising and often "unreasonable"
Any procedure for adjusting grievances must be unstable in these circum-
stances and, where the strategy of survival requires it, agreed-to procedures
will be ignored. On the other hand, rival unionism has almost no meaning
in this context and this leads in the direction of stability. Sometime- planters
complain that they fear that they will be ground between the upper and
nether stones of rival unions leapfrogging their demands over one another.
Sometimes this is expressed hopefully: ("someone will come along and
promise the people eight shillings and they will desert Gairy.") But this
assumes that the influence of the leader with the people is a function of the
wage demands he makes upon employers and their wage-related aspirations,
and this interpretation, as can be seen, is gross oversimplification.
V The union leader's performance of services for members is mixed with
the pursuit of his own personal advantage. One form of such personal
advantage is enhanced social status.
The forms in which the union leader's personal interest is served by his
professional activity are various. Union leadership provides opportunities for
financial gain. Gairy is paid a salary by the union and he operates a number
of private business ventures which sell services to the union. Leadership also
opens the door to loans from planter-merchants with whom the union has
In addition, Gairy employs his office to enforce a status level for himself
in the community higher than he would otherwise hold. Protocol, and the
desire for respectful regard, are powerful values in Grenada. These values
are operative at all social levels, and everywhere there is the avoidance of
conduct which is fitting only for persons of a lower station. Thus, men will
not do types of work "fit'f only for small boys or women; young men living
alone will not carry their lunch into the fields lest it be thought that they
had prepared their own food; clerical workers will insist upon being addressed
as "mister" These values affect Gairy, too. He frequently insists on forms
of treatment commensurate with his leadership role in the community and
his membership in the colony's legislature.
Planters feel, however, that his status is lower than their odwn and, in
the subtle ways of social intercourse, they make this belief known to him.
His response is to insist upon all the formal respect that custom has defined
for members of the legislature, although the custom arose at a time when
members of the legislature were invariably of upper-class origin. He responds
also by acting in bad faith to the planters, and rubbing salt in their wounds
by calling stoppages which may be essential neither to the strategy of gains
nor to the strategy of his own survival, and by attacking them roundly in
VI. Planters act jointly in labor relations. Variant practices by individual
planters that depart from planter community norms are greatly resented.
The sanctions for conformity are more powerful than in the developed
Planters negotiate with the union through an employer association. The
formal decisions by the association are supplemented by joint decision-taking
in informal meetings. Uniform wage standards among estates, arrived at by
joint decision rather than wage leadership. have prevailed for a long time
and have undoubtedly depressed mobility of workers and led to the tradition
of the stable attachment of the labor force to particular estates. Deviations
from standard practice cannot be concealed because the community is small
and secrets are not easily kept.
Deviants run the risk of social ostracism. A planter who is "cut off" in
Grenada has nowhere else to go; there is no other community where he can
seek social intercourse, consistent with his values of what constitutes proper
associations, and these values are mdre carefully defined and more strictly
enforced than in the developed countries. A planter who suggests that a current
employment standard be modified will ask that other planters be not told
the source of the suggestion. Efforts by the union to break the united front
of the planters by finding weak links in the chain and signing separate
agreements with individual estates, thus possibly establishing a pattern of
wage leadership, have met with failure in the face of the great power of the
institutions which enforce joint action.
Within the planter community a division has developed between an
intransigent bloc ("we cannot deal with people who preach arson and murder")
and a compromising bloc ("we have to recognize that unionism is here to
stay"). The former approaches the problem of planter-worker relations with
great and absolute principles; the latter approaches it pragmatically and is
motivated by the maximizing objectives of the Western entrepreneur. Planter
policy in labor relations is now being forged out of the clash of these positions.
VII. The role of government in dispute settlement is important. Intervention
of government is complicated by the ambivalence of the government
officer whose allegiance is divided between a desire for neutrality,
personal identity with the planter class, and responsibility to the public
policy of the metropolitan government.
The attitudes of the parties to labor disputes are so colored by considera-
tions of social status that third party conciliation operates under extraordinarily
difficult conditions. Arbitration of disputes by government and legal wage-
setting, however, are much more easily accomplished. Many planters express
preference for wage determination by public agencies, partly because they are
convinced that public processes will yield solutions more acceptable to them
than collective bargaining, and also because these processes conceal the
presumptive equal status which collective bargaining shows up sharply. Union
policy admits government action as a supplement to collective bargaining to
enforce standards, determined by bargaining, which the union cannot enforce
in the areas in which it is weak and to reinforce these standards in the areas
in which it is strong.
At one time, positions in the public service were monopolized by the
children of white planters and merchants, and it was very difficult for people
of color to break into them. These positions were highly prized by colored
persons. The government job became an avenue of escape from the lower
classes. When the colored were accepted in the public service, they assimilated
the class attitudes of their predecessors. These attitudes still prevail, although
the complexion of the public servant is becoming progressively darker. The
union is essentially an organisation of country people who are the most under-
privileged in Grenadian society. To most government workers, these people
are "trash", "ignorant" and "illiterate", and their response to a union which
raises the relative power position of the agricultural laborer and, therefore,
depresses their own relative power position, is antipathetic.
The topmost positions in the public service are occupied by Englishmen
who represent the Crown. The social associations in which it is considered
proper for them to be engaged are very limited. "Too free" mixing with the
people by a government administrator is looked down upon, in the rare cases
in which an administrator's inclinations lead him in this direction. The
government officer, therefore, must keep a substantially greater distance from
union leaders than he keeps from planters. If he does not, planters will resort
to concerted social snubbing. In a small tightly knit community, where the
discipline of class is strong, this can be very distressing.
There are other sanctions which the planter can bring to bear upon the
public administrator. Top level posts in the public service are usually occupied
by career officers of the colonial service, whose progress is determined by
their loyalty to the Crown, and their devotion to the policy of the Colonial
Office. "Quiet" administration of their offices is one measure of success. The
planters, however, have friends in Parliament. If they find the conduct of
Governors obnoxious, questions begin to be asked in Parliament, and the
Colonial Office is disturbed from the routine performance of its functions.
Governors, thus, have an incentive to behave in ways which planters do not
Objectionable conduct, in terms of planter attitudes, however, sometimes
is made necessary precisely by the requirements of metropolitan public policy.
A cabinet operates in full view of public opinion. Once the right of workers
to organise and to freely select their representatives for collective bargaining
is accepted by this opinion, cabinets must be prepared to enforce it in the
colonies. Governors who execute this policy faithfully run the risk of questions
in Parliament. The union, of course, also possesses pressure resources which
come out of the career office's desire for a quiet life. It also has friends in
Parliament who may ask questions.
Government policy in labor relations is further complicated by the fact
that government, itself, is one of the largest employers of labor in the island
and that the wage rate in agriculture is traditionally the wage rate for day-
workers (mainly in road building and maintenance) that government employs.
Considerations for the public revenues and the level of public expenditures
thus become components of decisions taken by public agencies intervening in
Government policy is also made difficult because labor relations in the
private sector are affected by decisions taken in the public sector. A strike
on a government cocoa rehabilitation farm, on which young cocoa plants
must be watered to be kept alive, poses a dilemma. If government calls in
strikebreakers to water the plants, it is forestalled from urging planters to
eschew this tactic. If planters refuse to negotiate and do call in strikebreakers,
violence may break out. The policy of economic rehabilitation thus comes into
conflict with the policies of preserving the public peace and representative
It has already been mentioned that, in Grenada, the union leader is also
a political leader. In this capacity, he comes into conflict with government
officers over public policy and the details of administration. The estrangement
of the two over these questions flows over into labor relations, affects the
conduct of government and reduces its effectiveness in intervention in labor
VIII. The desire of the people for freedom from work discipline leads to a
system of payment by results and this, in turn, leads to a continuously
open wage clause in collective agreements. The dependence on export
crops sold in competitive markets, and the degrees of elasticity of
product demand and factor supply define the scope of collective
With some exceptions the daily earnings of workers are identical,
differentiation being made only between men and women, between adults and
children, and between the able-bodied and the non-able-bodied. Able-bodied
males, in all occupations, are paid $1.20 (B.W.I.) per day. The number of
hours of daily work for which this rate is paid do, however, vary
with occupations. If a worker is employed in a daily-rate occupation, such
as fence repairing, rdad-maintenance, or boucan (barn) work, he will be paid
the standard rate for eight or seven hours of work, depending upon
the practice of his estate. If, however, he is employed in a task-rate occupa-
tion, such as picking cocoa, cutlassing pasture, digging pen manure, planting
provisions, or cleaning drains, he will be paid the standard rate, regardless
of the time any particular worker requires to complete the task.
The task system of wage payment came into existence to expand the
supply of labor by bringing men into the fields who would be willing to accept
short-day work to supplement the income they could derive from peasant
plots, but who would not accept full-day work. As the population expanded,
a sufficient supply of labor became available for full-day work, but by then
task work had become fixed by tradition and the practice persisted beyond
the life of the rationale.
The fixing of daily earnings in the collective agreement does not, in this
system, fix the wage rate, since the definition of the task is always subject
to negotiation. While planters seek to achieve task uniformity among estates,
this is very difficult because the task size is related to the conditions under
which work is done and will vary even within a single estate.
Grenada produces only a fraction of one per cent. of the world's cocoa
and one-third of its nutmegs. Cocoa is sold in a competitive market in which
price is given and there is nd opportunity for administered prices. In nutmegs,
there is some possibility for Grenada to act like an oligopolist. In the short
run, it may affect the price by a judicious control of stocks and releases from
stocks, because a large proportion of the supply is produced in the island,
the supply of nutmegs in inelastic (as a tree crop, several years must elapse
after planting before a crop is brought in) and because the demand for nutmegs
is inelastic (the cost of nutmegs is a small part of the total cost of the products
in the production of which it is a joint factor). But a long run policy of
restriction of output in Grenada to force prices up will surely induce the
Banda islanders of Indonesia, who are the other main producers, to extend
their planting and may well cause commercial consumers to turn to synthetic
oils as a substitute for nutmegs. Since there are good substitutes for Grenadian
nutmegs and for Grenadian cocoa, the demand for them is elastic in the long
run and this diminishes the power of labor to bargain up its price. The cost
of labor is a large part of the total cost of producing nutmegs and cocoa. The
techniques of production are almost entirely characterized by hand processes,
in tilling the soil, planting, tending the land, harvesting, curing, sorting and
grading, packing and transport. There are only very small capital inputs.
The cost of labor, therefore, materially affects the cost of the product and
this diminishes also the power of labor to increase its price.
On the other hand, in the conditions of the topography and the land
tenure pattern of Grenada, there is no good substitute for labor. Agricultural
machinery does not yet seem to have been designed for tree crops on small
farms in hilly country. In addition, the supply of land, the main other factor
with which labor is combined in production, is inelastic. Land does not easily
move to other uses when the prices of cocoa and nutmegs fall. The historic
practice of the planters in periods of disaster prices indicates that this is true;
the fields are permitted to "go to bush", unattended, with undergrowth left
uncutlassed and aging trees not replaced; but there is almost no cutting
out of trees and planting of alternative crops. The relative inelasticity of
substitution of labor and the relative inelasticity of supply of factors which
co-operate with labor augment the power of labor to increase its price. Thus
the economics forces which define the strategic positions and capacities of
the parties in labor relations in Grenada move in opposite directions.
University of Chicago,
Jamaica Prepares for Invasion, 1779
ROBERT NEIL McLARTY
By the summer of 1779 Great Britain was at war with her North American
Colonies and with France and Spain. The conflict had already assumed a
pattern much like that of the earlier wars of the eighteenth century, but the
absence of military operations on the mainland of Europe intensified the
contest over the colonial possessions of the antagonists. As the sugar colonies
of the Caribbean gave great wealth and prestige to the nations which possessed
them, their value and vulnerability were not overlooked in time of war. West
Indies operations had an important place in the military strategy of the age.
The government which emerged from a conflict with a surplus of sugar islands
occupied a favourable position at the peace table. If the captor did not choose
to retain these valuable colonies, a heavy compensation could be exacted for
As Jamaica was the brightest gem in the imperial crown of Great Britain,
Lord North's cabinet gave considerable thought to its security after the entrance
of France and Spain into the American War. It was protected by a trained
militia, a force of regulars, and a small squadron of warships. Its real defense,
however, was the British fleet stationed a thousand miles to windward in the
Lesser Antilles. In the day of the sailing vessels the British necessarily formed
their major naval concentration to windward. Ships could sail easily from
that station to Jamaica, but the difficulty of navigation against the trade
wind was so great that vessels at Jamaica could afford little protection to the
British islands in the Lesser Antilles. Instructions issued to the naval and
military commanders to windward enjoined them to assume responsibility for
the defence of Jamaica. The admiral in the Lesser Antilles was to watch
closely any hostile squadron sailing to leeward, and to pursue it if Jamaica
appeared in danger of attack. That island was safe, therefore, so long as the
British Lesser Antilles' fleet maintained a superiority over the enemy.
During the War of American Independence, the first and most decisive
defeat suffered by the British fleet to windward occurred in July of 1779. Late
in May, Vice-Admiral John Bryon ailed fhom St. Lucia with his squadron
to convoy a fleet of merchant ships beyond St. Christopher. His departure
left the French naval commander, Count d'Estaing, unopposed at Martinique
with a fleet only slightly inferior to Byron's. D'Estaing immediately prepared
a small force, which captured the British island of St. Vincent on 18 June.
Nine days later a merchant fleet arrived at Martinique convoyed by five ships
of the line and three frigates under the command of chef d'escadre La Motte-
Picquet. As d'Estaing now had a stronger fleet than the still-absent Byron,
he went at once to Grenada with twenty-five sail of the line and several frigates.
That island capitulated on 4 July. Byron, ignorant of the arrival of French
reinforcements, reached Grenada two days later with twenty-one ships of the
line, one frigate, and more than a score of transports. Although neither admiral
distinguished himself in the battle which followed, the British suffered greater
damage than the French. Byron lost no ships, but he was obliged to lead his
shattered squardon to the protection of the batteries at St. Christopher. The
French were clearly masters of the sea. When, towards the end of July,
d'Estaing sailed with his fleet to leeward, Byron's ships were too badly
damaged to warrant pursuit. It appeared inevitable that Jamaica would come
The prospect that Jamaica would be reinforced was dim. Great Britain
was far away and was herself threatened by the huge allied armada then in
the Channel. No help could be expected from that quarter. The British North
American fleet was puny in comparison with d'Estaing's, but the military
commander, Major General Sir Henry Clinton, recognized the necessity of
sending aid. An army of four thousand men under Lord Cornwallis was
embarked at New York, but it was detained when information arrived that
the true destination of the French squadron was Georgia. There d'Estaing's
troops were repulsed by the British, and his fleet was crippled in a gale.
Jamaica's peril, however, made a profound impression at Whitehall and upon
the West India interests in London. Plans were begun at once to strengthen
the British land and sea forces in the Caribbean.
Had the French chosen to attack Jamaica, the burden of defense would
have fallen upon the militia, regulars, and warships then at the island. As
the assault would have been well under way before Lord Comwallis could
have arrived, naval inferiority would have hampered his efforts to land troops.
It is interesting, therefore, to see what preparations were made by the island
forces to resist the impending invasion. The fact that a newly appointed
post captain, Horatio Nelson, commanded the batteries at the entrance to
the harbour at Kingston lends a dramatic touch to the incident. Others among
the defenders achieved subsequent recognition.
The extract which follows is from a letter in volume 78 of the Shelburne
Papers, preserved in the Clements Library at Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is
dated Kingston, Jamaica, 10 September, 1779. The writer was Samuel Jones.
The recipient is not named, but was unquestionably the Earl of Shelburne.
Jones, a friend and prot6g6 of Shelburne's had gone to Jamaica to represent
an absentee landholder in a minor legal dispute. His real interest was the
pursuit of fortune and adventure. He wrote on this occasion to inform his
patron that Jamaica was safe and to describe its potentialities for defense.
As an aide-de-camp to the Lieutenant General of Jamaica militia, he could
comment on the situation with some authority. In addition to a detailed
description of Jamaica's defenses the letter contains an illustration of the high
value placed upon the sugar islands in the eighteenth century. The writer's
conjecture that d'Estaing might seek to destroy the British North American
squadron in order to have the West Indies completely at his mercy was false
but was not altogether unreasonable. His harsh criticism of the Lieutenant
Governor's conduct may have resulted in part from failure to obtain expected
The introduction and conclusion of the letter have been omitted, as they
deal solely with matters of private interest to Jones and Shelburne. The
spelling, punctuation, and paragraphing have been modernized for clarity,
but the phraseology is unaltered.
"We were all in the most perfect tranquillity, without a dread of an
enemy, when our fears were first alarmed by the arrival of the Lion, man of
war, Captain Cornwallis,' in a shattered condition indeed with the loss of
almost all her yards and masts, who gave us an imperfect account of the
engagement off Grenada.2 But having, by a maneuver of Mr. Byron's, been
cut off from the English fleet and being surrounded by a great part of the
French fleet, he very luckily escaped with the loss of about 70 men; and not
being able, from his disabled situation, to keep his wind and reach Antigua,3
Captain Cornwallis was obliged to bear away and come to Jamaica. We still
were in hopes that, though d'Estaing, from his reinforcement,4 was stronger
than Byron, yet his fleet was strong enough to have prevented him from coming
to leeward. Prepossessed with this idea and thinking the danger a long way
from us, our surprise and consternation is not to be imagined on a tender
belonging to the fleet, who was cruising off Cape Francois,5 bringing an
account that he observed 26 sail of the line, many frigates, and a large fleet
of transports, amounting in the whole to upward of 120 sail, go into the Cape.
This news was confirmed by the arrival of Captain Luttrell6 in the Charon,
who, standing too near the shore, had nearly fell a sacrifice to an eighty gun
ship who chased him for some time.
"On the arrival of this news the Governor,7 on his own authority, laid
on martial law, which was afterwards confirmed by the council of war, and
immediate suspension of every kind of business took place, and every man in
the community became a soldier. The regulars in this island consist of the
79th or Liverpool Blues, commanded by Major the Hon. Thomas Stanley8
(this regiment that landed three months ago more than 1,100 men, could not
now bring more than 750 into the field;9 the first battalion of the
60th regiment might have brought 200, and Dalrymple's corps of Loyal Irish
iThe Hon. William Cornwallis. Later, an admiral, he commanded Great Britain's
main fleet at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
2This engagement between d'Estaing and Byron has been briefly described
Cornwallis left the action before the outcome was clear.
3The Lion bhad only its foremast standing. Cornwallis, therefore, was unable
to return against the wind to English Harbour, Antigua, the British naval base in the
4This refers to the five ships of the line and three frigates under La Motte-
Picquet, which joined d'Estaing on 27 June.
SCape Frangois, Haiti, was the Principal French base to leeward.
john Luttrell, afterwards Luttrell-Olmius, third Earl of Carhampton. He was
the naval commander of the first attack against Omoa on the coast of Honduras in
October of 1779
7John Dalling, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica, 1777-1781.
SMajor Stanley, brother of the Earl of Derby, was also lieutenant general of
9This is of course a reference to the sickness and mortality caused by the lethal
climate of the West Indies.
was about 250 strong. To these 1,200 men the admiralto promised, if the
service could spare them, the marines aboard the ships, which would have
added 400 more to the regulars. The militia that was drawn from the different
parishes, exclusive of those that was [sic] left to keep the slaves in awe,
together with those of the militia of Spanish Town and Kingston might amount
in the whole to 4,000. The fleet consisted of two sixty-fours, the Ruby and
Lion, of two fifties, the Bristol and Salisbury, of two forties, the Charon and
Janus, of four or five frigates, and about the same number of small vessels
brought into the service by the admiral. This was the whole force (without
we had armed the Negroes, which was proposed and rejected) that we could
have opposed to an army that we were told amounted to 21,000 men and
supported by 26 sail of the line, 12 frigates, and of the crews of 60 transports.
"As Kingston is the emporium of this little territory and is of the utmost
consequence to the whole island, particular attention was laid to its defense.
In your casting your eye, my Lord, over the map of Jamaica you will observe
Kingston is situated in a bay about three leagues long. The one side is formed
by the parish of Liguanea; the other side by the Palisadoes, a long island and
a peninsula. On the west point of the peninsula is situated Port Royal and
Fort Charles, which commands the entrance of the harbour, and which, I am
sorry to say, had been much neglected, and, previous to this disturbance, it
would have been dangerous to have fired many guns at the entrance of the
harbour. The channel is very narrow, and the ships were drawn up so
advantageously that it would have been an arduous task for any ships the
enemy might have detached for this service to have effected it, and, had they
passed, a battery on the opposite hills of 12 forty-two pounders, called the
Twelve Apostles, would have immediately opened upon them as they came
round Port Royal Point. Had they passed this fire, when they came to the
narrowest part of the channel, they would have met with Fort Augusta,
situated on Mosquito Point, which is really a formidable battery and such as
I hope and believe would have prevented the whole force of d'Estaing from
getting to Kingston-as we had reason to believe the French commander too
good a general to endeavour to force a passage in which he would find so
many obstacles, but would rather attempt to make good his landing either in
Cow Bay, which is about a league to the eastward where the Palisadoes runs
out from the mainland, or at the Old Harbour, which is about six leagues
to the westward of Port Royal.
"To render these places defensible, everything that was possible for
human industry to do or that the most prudent foresight could suggest, has
been done. Since the arrival of the news of d'Estaing being at Hispaniola,
works have been thrown up upon every strong piece of ground that could
command the road. Batteries have been erected, and, in short, every nerve
has been exerted that could enable us with the handful of men that is in this
island to have made an obstinate defense. The passes into the mountains,
which are about seven miles from the back of the town, are secured by strong
zoVice Admiral Sir Peter Parker, naval commander on the Jamaica Station
He later became admiral of the fleet.
batteries of masons' work, and are so situated that we were well satisfied no
enemy could force to these mountains. [This is where] the governor and
council were to have retired to if the enemy had forced our works and routed
the army, and where for this month past all the valuables of this part of the
country have been removed, and where the major part of the women have
been for some time gone.
"In a disagreeable state of suspense, but in a mood of sullen bravery,
with a determined resolution of disputing every inch of ground, we have for
this month past been in daily expectation, almost hourly, of hearing the alarm
guns fire, which was to give notice of the enemy appearing off the east end
of this island. About a fortnight ago at about eleven o'clock at night the
alarm was given of a fleet appearing off, and much to the praise of everybody
in this island, in less than half an hour a much greater number of men appeared
in arms than there ever was at a general muster and who, with the greatest
alacrity, marched to the works above Rock Fort. But we were agreeably
disappointed in the morning to find it the London fleet under convoy of the
Pallas, in which came the Earl of Bathhurst, the ship who brought a seasonable
supply of many military stores, but the train of artillery intended for this
island was unfortunately in the Adventure, which being, as we are
told unwarrantably detained by the admiral at windward," fell a prey to the
French when Grenada was taken.
"But luckily for us a few days ago a schooner, who was sent to look into
the ports of Cuba and Hispaniola, returned and brought an account of
d'Estaing sailing with all the troops he could get, either at Cape Francois or
Port-au-Prince, and having taken with him several ships loaded with rum,
coffee, &c., and steering to the northward, it was generally supposed he was
gone to America with an intent to surprise and destroy our fleet under
Admiral Arbuthnot at New York.12 Should this event unfortunately happen,
he will indeed have played a deep game, and the tenture of these islands by
the British Crown will be impossible. As I suppose a reinforcement from
home is not to be expected, the fleet to windward is too weak to have any
detachments sent from it, and, if our expected reinforcements from New
York should fail us, our faith is inevitable, and d'Estaing will then have
made good his words to an officer who was taken at St. Vincent and who is
come down here that, so far from leaving the King of England a sugar island,
he did not intend to leave him British sugar enough to sweeten his tea for
breakfast by Christmas.
"Since the arrival of the news of the French having left Hispaniola,
martial law has been in some measure mitigated by the ordering of the country
militia to their respective homes, though the suspension of it is not to take
place till the works at Castle Fort and Old Harbour is [sic] completed. The
,IVice Admiral the Hon. John Byron, naval commander on the Leeward
Island Station until August, 1779.
xzVice Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot, naval commanderr on the North American
I3This refers to the four thousand men under Lord Cornwallis that had been
ordered to the relief of Jamaica by Sir Henry Clinton.
admiral"4 has divided the fleet into four little squadrons, two of which it
is said are going to leeward on the Spanish coast, one to cruise between Porto
Rico and Hispaniola, and one to remain at Port Royal. It was an unfortunate
circumstance that Captain Parker in the Hinchinbrooke, son to the admiral,1'
who is coming up form the Bay of Honduras, spoke and boarded two valuable
galleons homeward bound, but not knowing of [sic] hostilities had commenced
against Spain, they were suffered to proceed to the Havanah.
"Since our fears have been relieved in regard to the French, a dispute
has arisen between the regulars and the militia owing to the latter's refusing
to do duty by detachments from brigades or corps, but insisting on doing
duty by companies, and to be commanded by their commissioned and non-
commissioned officers. This matter, through the interposition of the governor,
was compromised, but much ill blood still remains. The governor and the
assembly are at variance, and I am afraid the breach is likely to widen.
On their being first called together, they impowered him to take the necessary
steps towards the defense of the island, and now the committee object to
many changes made by him, and it was yesterday reported, but with what
truth I know not, that he intends to dissolve the assembly should they not
be more compliant. Should he take so violent a measure, I am afraid he
will not get another so compliant as the present one. I am sorry to say that
General Dalling,16 from being one of the most popular characters a twelve-
month ago that perhaps ever was in this country, should now be the reverse.
He declares openly that he knows the whole country dislikes him and he
equally dislikes them, [and] that he has wrote home for letters of recall,
which he hopes very soon to receive. He is universally charged with too
minute attention to pecuniary matters, with the leaving works destined to
the protection of the country unfinished, although the assembly gave him
12,000 pounds last year to complete them, but particularly to his conniving
at a ruinous trade carried on between this place and Hispaniola by the flags
of truce.'7 It is said, and that with a degree of confidence from the most
respectable characters in Kingston, that this country has been almost
drained of its provisions through this channel and that it was a fact well-
known the flag of truce that carried the Viscount d'Escar to the Cape carried
also upwards of a thousand barrels of flour, and this was at a time when an
attack was hourly dreaded, within five days of martial law being laid on,
and at the time d'Estaing's fleet was at the Cape. The application is
14See note 10.
IsCaptain Sir Hyde Parker, son of Rear Admiral Hyde Parker. The latter
succeeded Byron as naval commander on the Leeward Island Station on 29 August, 1779.
The former was Nelson's superior at Copenhagen in 1801.
I6Lieutenant Governor Dalling's commission gave him the title of captain
general. He was also a soldier by profession and held the rank of major general.
'7Flags of truce were warrants issued in wartime by the governor of a province,
which permitted ships to sail legally to enemy territory. Vessels travelling under such
warrants were also known as flags of truce. During the eighteenth century governors
commonly abused this right to issue flags of truce by selling the warrants to anyone
who had the price.
The First Chapter in Caribbean History
[Acknowledgments are made to Charles Schuchert, whose book,
"Historical Geology of the Antillean-Caribbean Region" (John
Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1935) supplied most of
the material relating to the Caribbean area and to Jacquetta
Hawkes, whose book, "A Land" (Cresset Press, London, 1951)
supplied most of the general background.]
I am concerned with those recollections of the world
and of man that are pursued by geologists and archaeologists"
JACQUETTA HAWKES: A Land
FOR a full vision of the Caribbean area all aspects of the region must come
under the student's review. The nature of its entity, if it can be seen as an-
entity, must be served by the imagination as well as by the intellect: to live
fully in it the mind must be able to stretch into the past as well as over the
present. As Wiseman has reminded us "there is a pre-history as well as a
history of the British West Indies. Infinitesimal as its influence upon later
history and present problems has been, it is interesting, not only because so
little is known of it except to specialists, but also as a New World chapter
in that story of mankind so laboriously pieced together by the archaeologist
and anthropologist(')" It is encouraging to note that some anthropologists are
at present working in the Guianan hinterland among the Amerindians and
we hope that their researches will help to fill the gaps in the early chapters
of the story of our area. But there is also the earlier history of the area which
comes under the survey of the geoldgists-"those historians of silent revolu-
tions". Besides being a basic study for an understanding of the area's mineral
resources it is also an extremely fascinating story. Charles Schuchert writes
that "the historical geology of the Antillean-Caribbean region treats of one of
the most interesting areas, to a geologist, in the world-a 'framed'
mediterranean lying between two continents, and forming, with the lands
around its margins, one of the most mobile parts of the Earth(2)" Schuchert's
comprehensive volume is a first attempt to bring together the geological history
of the lands bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico and although
as he admits "we as yet know the geology of the Antillean-Caribbean region
only in its broadest outlines"- let us have a look at these outlines.
But first some notes about geological time and the geological regions of
The main divisions of geological time are set out below(31. The order of
the different periods is generally recognized (although some American geologists
use different names) but the exact duration of each period is still largely
years ago Eras
-45 (Recent Life)
-200 (Middle Life)
-325 (Ancient Life)
(At the begin-
ning of life)
... (Cascadian) ...Man
...(Laramide) ...Flowering trees
.. .Hercynian ...Reptiles, insects,
...Caledonian ... Land plants
The periods in the Palaozoic were named by British geologists,
who pioneered in the field and disciplined the study of geology, mainly after
Welsh and English names. Cambria was a romantic title for Wales and Silures
and Ordovices were leading Celtic tribes of the Iron Age. Devonian is named
after the English county of that name; Permian got its name from Perm, a
province of Russia; and Jurassic from the Jura mountains where significant
post-Devonian discoveries were made. Triassic means threefold, Carboniferous
and Cretaceous refer to coal and chalk while the nomenclature of the Tertiary
and "Quaternary" eras represent the Greek for "dawn of the recent",
'little', 'less', 'more' 'most' and 'wholly recent' respectively.
Geological Regions of the Caribbean
The area surrounding the Caribbean Mediterranean and the Gulf of
Mexico has been divided by Schuchert into the following geological regions(41:
1. Mexico (down to Isthmus of Tehuantepec and including Lower
2. Gulf of coastal plain of the United States;
3. Nuclear Central America (from Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico,
Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador and most of Nicaragua);
4. Greater Antilles (including Bahamas foreland);
5. Isthmian link of Panama-Costa Rica-Southern Nicaragua;
6. Northern South America (Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad, Tobago and
7. Lesser Antilles (an "outer" and "inner" arc);
8. Caribbean mediterranean;
9. Antillean Sea (bounded by Yucatan, Cuba, Jamaica and Honduras);
10. Gulf of Mexico.
The Ancient Origin of the Continents and the Caribbean
The pre-Cambrian history of the earth is obscure but during the
Archaeozoic and Proterozoic eras as the hot earth cooled its crust congealed
in several places into various stable areas (shields) which have stood unyielding
"like cornerstones of the continents" throughout post-Palmozoic times. The
main shields were Laurentia (northern and eastern Canada); Guiania, Amazonia
and Platia (in South America), Baltica (Scandinavia and Finland) Angara
(north-eastern Siberia), Ethiopia (eastern and southern Africa) and southern
India and western Australia. Some writers also think that South America,
Africa, southern .India and Australia were once broadly connected in a vast
continent called Gondwanaland but the extent of the connection is
By the beginning of the Paleozoic era the "Americas" consisted of two
large groups of land masses separated by a mediterranean. "North America"
was framed on the West by highlands (the basement rocks of the present
Rocky Mountains which stretched from Cascadia, the north-western border-
land, into Mexico, North of Oaxaca) and on the East by the Appalachian and
Laurentian basement masses. Two transverse structures, an ancient Antillean
ridge (Nuclear Central America plus a united and more extensive Greater
Antilles) and Paria (the ancient northern borderland of South America), formed
the northern and southern frames for the ancient Caribbean mediterranean.
While "South America" had a borderland to the West and extended Guianian
and Amazonian shields. The Caribbean mediterranean is thought to have
originated with the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, perhaps in Archao-
zoic time or at least before early Palaeozoic and was joined with them.
It was closed off for the first time from the Pacific by the Isthmus of
Panama after the Middle Cretaceous and partially separated from the Atlantic
by the development of the Lesser Antilles in the Late Cretaceous and Early
Cenozoic (The Anegada Passage, Virgin Is. is part of the original north-
eastern outlet of the Caribbean mediterranean and the Atlantic(s). North of
the Antillean ridge there lay a flat plate-like basin which was crossed
recurrently from Cambrian to Cretaceous times by shallow seas and from the
Middle Cretaceous gradually subsided to become the present Gulf of Mexico.
North and South America have been called the New World by historians
because civilisation came to them from Europe which, with Asia, became the
Old World. These names have no place in geological history. When
South America was joined to Africa and Australia in Gondwanaland most of
Central Asia was probably under water (the Alps and Himalayas are only
about 300 million years o'd) and it is possible that a great oceanic ditch
extended around the whole earth roughly parallel to the equator. This great
ocean has been called Tethys(6) by some geologists but its name is more usually
associated with that part only which included the ancient Atlantic and stretched
over the European Mediterranean into Asia. At different stages during the
Palaozoic and Mesozoic "North America" was also linked with "Europe"
into a single continent which geologists have called "Atlantis" It would seem,
therefore, that "lost Atlantis" is more than an explorer's dream.
During the Palaozoic and the Mesozoic
The Cambrian age, with which most orthodox geology begins, was one
of those periods when the sea was dominant over the land. In the warm sea
the invertebrates-trilobites, brachipods, gratophiles and corraline sponges held
sway. Towards the end of the Cambrian the level of the land rose but during
the Ordovician the seas again advanced, at one time covering most of
North America. The great Caledonian upheaval in Northern Europe which
brought the Silurian to a close and continued during the Devonian with the
Arcadian revolution in North America caused a radical change in the earth's
surface and once again the land dominated the sea. It was one of those periods
when "North America" and "Europe" were joined in a greater Atlantis.
The Devonian was the great Age of Fishes but before its close the land began
to take the place of the sea as the stage on which the great scenes of evolution
were to be played: life ceased to be confined to the sea alone and amphibians,
insects and plants began to appear.
During the Carboniferous there were great earth movements in France
(Hercynian) and later in the East and South-West of North America
(Appalachian). It was also a time of great swamps: the Carboniferous swamps
are the coal mines of today. In Permian times evaporating seas became so
overladen with salts that slowly the life in them was blighted and a hardier
race took up the challenge-the reptiles. This period also saw the birth of the
During the Mesozoic the seas reasserted their powers and in the Triassic
there was a gentle foundering of the landscape. It was during this period that
a tiny insignificant creature-the mammal-crept fearfully on to the scene.
The Jurassic, a well behaved system began with a reassertion and closed with
a retreat of the seas. The Jurassic was the age of reptile imperialism when
p'esiosaurs and ichtyosaurs ruled the oceans and giant dinosaurs like the bron-
tosaurus and the eighty-foot small-brained diplodocus roamed the swamps of
North America and elsewhere. Hopeful reptilian experiments were also being
followed in the air and pterodactyls flew about like giant bats. In the midst
of these perils the small rat-like mammals slowly but steadily developed. The
Mesozoic was a revolutionary age for by the end of the Cretaceous not only
had the great Laramide upheaval in North and South America given rise to
the Rocky Mountains and the Andes, but the mammals had also improved
their general efficiency and reproductive processes, and the seasonal rhythm
was established. With the opening of the Cenozoic the third great geological
era, the play between land and sea had at last given the continents roughly
their present form: Gondwanaland had ceased to exist and South America,
an attenuated Africa and Australia were separate continents. Britain was still
a part of Atlantis and had not as yet achieved its final European destiny.
Meanwhile let us see what was happening in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean during the Mesozoic
The Older Mesozoic history of the Caribbean is still obscure but early in
the Jurassic with the general reassertion of the seas waters from the Atlantic
widened the flat plate of the Gulf of Mexico and submerged some of Florida,
western Cuba and most of eastern Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico also became
joined to the Pacific by a trough across Mexico. In Early Cretaceous there
was a further subsidence and the flood reached its maximum in the Middle
Upper Cretaceous when the whole coast of North America from the Mississippi
to Mexico was under water. Submergence also affected the Greater Antilles
(which during most of the early part of this era was in all probability in much
wider communication with Honduras and Nicaragua) but here and there a
highland or volcano in Hispaniola, Cuba and Jamaica remained as islands.
Most of this vast area was again emergent, however, towards the close of
the Mesozoic following the Laramide revolution but the northern part of what
Schuchert calls the Antillean Sea now remained predominantly water. At the
western and eastern ends of the Caribbean submarine volcanic growths rose
during the Cretaceous to form respectively the land bridge of the Isthmus of
Panama, linking North and South America and closing off the Pacific from
the Atlantic, and the Lesser Antilles "Outer" limestone arc sombreroo,
Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Bartholomew, Barbuda, Antigua, Grande Terre
(Guadeloupe Desirade and Marie Galante). The "inner" arc of the Lesser
Antilles, which stretches from Saba to Grenada, appeared separately and later
during the Cenozoic. To the South Paria apparently began to break up during
the Cretaceous but Barbados, Tobago and Trinidad still formed part of the
South American continent.
During the Cenozoic
The extinction of the giant Cretaceous reptiles and the rise of the
mammals is the great life drama of the Cenozoic era. Flowering trees heralded
in the advent of this new era. The rise and fall of the earth's crust continued
its giant breathing and reached its climax in the Miocene age when the great
Alpine revolution stretching from Europe to China threw up the Alps,
Appennines, Carpathians and Himalayas. Created a mere 30 million years
ago these mountains display their youth by remaining the most lofty on the
earth today. With this giant upheaval Tethys was reduced td the present
(European) Mediterranean and the Black, Caspian and Aral Seas. The con-
vulsions of the Miocene age also brought a change to the earth's climate from
warm to cooler conditions which gradually increased in intensity to the Ice
Ages of the Pleistocene. When the temperate climate of Pliocene times was
giving way before the intense cold of the Pleistocene Ice Age the transfer of
Britain's geographical allegiance from the North American continent to
Europe was complete(.
The Caribbean during the Cenozoic
During the Cenozoic the Caribbean witnessed many local changes. To
the North, Jamaica and Hispaniola were submerged during the Middle Eocene
and followed by Cuba in the Upper Eocene. In the Early Oligocene all these
islands were again emergent and joined to Central America in a single land
mass stretching from Puerto Rico. In the Middle Oligocene most of the
Greater Antilles were again submerged; Hispaniola emerging in Late Oligocene
and submerging again in Lower Miocene, Jamaica emerging in Early Miocene.
In the Late Miocene Hispaniola emerged again with Cuba and thereafter all
the Greater Antilles remained emergent (except Cuba which was temporarily
submerged by a shallow sea during part of Pleistocene time). During the
Pliocene the Antillean-Central America land bridge, linking Jamaica with
Nicaragua, was broken and subsequent faulting in the Pleistocene gave the
Greater Antilles their separate identities and completed the southern part of
the Antillean Sea. To the West, the Panama-Costa Rica land ridge opened in
Upper Eocene and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans remained connected once
more until Upper Miocene when it closed again. On the East, as we have seen
above, the "inner" arc of the Lesser Antilles (Saba to Grenada) came into
existence parasitically on the "outer" and older arc during the Oligocene-
Miocene. The presence of Pleistocene marine remains at elevations up
to 900 feet above sea level in some of the Lesser Antilles today show that
they were extensively submerged during part of that period. As we have seen
above, Barbados, Tobago, and Trinidad used to form part of the borderland
of South America and are geologically separate from the Lesser Antilles.
Details of the break up of Paria are still obscure but there is evidence that
in the Oligocene-Miocene periods Barbados subsided at least 6,000 feet below
the sea and rose to its present level in the Pleistocene. The history of Trinidad
and Tobago is probably similar: submergence during the Oligocene-Miocene
and emergence again during the Pleistocene. The greatest proportion of
Trinidad's oil production up to date has come from the Miocene system
although some oil has also been produced from sands of Oligocene and Eocene
age. Venezuela's prolific oil wells spring from Middle Cretaceous limestone
but so far exploration in Trinidad has not yielded any results from
In the Pleistocene(9) the archaeologist takes over the story from the
geologist. While the waters were held up in the polar ice caps of the Ice Ages
our sub-human ancestors worked out their destiny in Asia, Africa and Europe
as lands rose and sank and forest and grassland gave place to ice and vice versa.
It was during the Fourth Ice Age of the Pleistocene that immigrants first
crossed from Asia to Alaska by an ice bridge and filtered down through North,
Central and South America to produce the "red indians" Aztecs, Mayas,
Incas, Arawaks and Caribs of yesterday and the North, Central and South
American Indians of today. To the geologist, the warm (Holocene) period in
which we are now living is the "Fourth Warm Spell" of the Ice Ages (Pleis-
tocene) which Homo Sapiens presumably in deference to his ancestors, has
presumptuously given a separate identity and allocated with its preceding period
to a separate geological system ("Quaternaiy"). "Civilisation is an interlude
between ice ageslo)"-but that part of the story belongs to another chapter.
(1) H. V. Wiseman: A Short History of the British West Indies (L.U.P., London,
1950) pp. 18-19.
(2) C. Schuchert: Historical Geology of the Antillean Caribbean Region (John Wiley
and Sons, New York, 1935), pp. viii.
(3) Cf. L. D. Stamp: The Earth's Crust (Harrap, London, 1951) p. 18.
Jacquetta Hawkes: A Land (Cresset Press, London, 1951) p. 240.
C. Schuchert and C. 0. Dunbar: A Text-book of Geology Part II-Historical
Geology (John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1941) p. 86.
(4) Shuchert: op. cit. pp. 4 and 6.
(5) The ancient origin of the Caribbean mediterranean and the more recent appearance
of the Isthmus of Panama and the Lesser Antilles contradict the view that the
cordilleras of North and South America belong to one long continuous mountain
(6) In Greek mythology Tethys was "mistress of the Sea" and consort of Oceanus.
(7) J. Hawkes: op. cit. p. 93.
(8) Trinidad's Oil published by the Petroleum Association of Trinidad (London, 1953)
(9) The Pleistocene period consists of four Ice Ages interspersed by three warm spells.
(10) W. Durant: The Story of Civilisation, Vol. I, p. I.
Frederick Douglass: Letters from the
FREDERICK DOUGLASS, who quadrennially besought the Negro electorate to
vote for the party of Abraham Lincoln, was rewarded in 1889 with the
ministership to Haiti. During his nearly two years as "Minister Resident and
Consul-General," Douglass's activities were necessarily varied. Overshadowing
all others, however, was his unsuccessful attempt to secure M61le St. Nicolas
as a naval base., During his incumbency Douglass was powerless to reply to
the volume of criticism that came his way,2 but he found some outlet in the
letters he sent to his daughter, Rosetta Douglass Sprague, residing in
While these letters do not change the picture of the negotiations for the
M61e, they are not without value. Hitherto not professionally available, they
reveal Douglass in a frame of mind that is candid rather than guarded, in
a tone that is personal rather than official, in an approach that is relaxed
rather than formal, and in a mood that is of the moment rather than in retro-
spect. Below are thirteen such letters, chronologically arranged, with deletions
of family matters.3
Douglass's first two letters are devoted largely to personal impressions:
November 19, 1889
My dear Rosetta:
I am slowly mastering the duties of my office and shall find them
less arduous as I move and get the mastery. The heat of the sun is terrible.
It is well for me that I am not compelled to be much in the sun while here.
The little that I am in plays the mischief with my brain and makes my head
ache I am living about two miles from this legation and ride to and from
on horseback. I leave home at eight in the morning and return home about
five in the evening when the sun parts with its most dangerous power. I have
not yet learned to like Haytian cooking. The meat for the most part is tough
and defies mastication. My house-Tivolli Villa-is a house with which I
know of nothing to compare it. It has four rooms and a kitchen some distance
from the house. It has a large veranda facing the south and looking out upon
a high mountain and a wilderness of tropical fruits and flowers. Lizards are
scampering about on the sides of the house and insect life is painfully
abundant-mosquitoes, ants, spiders and cockroaches are among my
torments and yet I am determined to fight it out on this line as long as I
Your affectionate father.
November 19, 1889
My dear Daughter:
Six weeks this day I landed on the soil of Hayti and have been busy
ever since in conducting the affairs of my office. My health though not at the
top is fair. While I am writing the thermometer marks 89, and I have not
seen it more than one degree below that figure since I have been in the
country. This is winter time. I am curious to know what the summer will be.
On the 14th instant, I had the honor of being introduced to His Excellency,
President Hyppolite and to present my letters of credence. The President said
that the Government of the United States could not have bestowed upon Hayti
a greater honor than in sending me to represent it. This shows how little truth
there was in the outcry that Hayti did not want a colored man as minister.4
The Americans are not willing to share their color prejudice alone, but wish to
have Hayti in their company. I have not seen much of society here since my
arrival. Should you ever come to Hayti, you will see many things to shock
you. While the great mass of the children in the city have clothes of some kind
on their bodies, you need not be surprised to meet a ten year old girl or boy
without a shoe or even a shirt, in fact, stark naked. Women and men
almost and sometimes entirely nude may be seen along the streams washing
clothes. What is still more remarkable nobody seems disturbed. This is indeed
about as much the colored man's country as Africa itself. They do as they
please with no white people to keep them down. What they are, and what
they will be depends entirely upon themselves. The country people are
ignorant and superstitious but goodhearted. If the matter depended upon them
Hayti would never have a civil war. I divide the colored people nere as I
divide the colored people in the United States-the ignorant good and the
intelligent bad. Not all the ignorant are good nor all the intelligent bad-but
the rule is as I state it
Your affectionate father,
Throughout his Haitian mission, Douglass felt that he was the victim of
a bad press.
December 13, 1889
My dear, dear Rosetta
I see that the American papers with their characteristic Negro hate are
determined to make it appear that I have been badly received in Hayti and
some of the colored papers whose editors would like to see me humiliated
will probably take up the same role. I have to say therefore in advance
believe nothing of the kind. The talk of my recall in Wa'shington
is all nonsense. Time will show it. In regard to my health about which you
are most concerned I have to say that considering that I am now an old man,
I am remarkably well. I am just now expecting to leave Haiti on a man of
war to pursue my mission to Santo Domingo. I do not wish, and I hope you
will not allow anything I say to you in my letters to get into the papers
The following are two additional letters in a personal vein.
[January 17, 18905]
My dear Rose
Have I ever given you an idea of my daily life in Hayti. If I have
forgotten, time and toil are telling on my memory. I live in a small house of
six rooms including the store room. It is surrounded by a veranda ten feet
in width and about one hundred feet long measuring it all around. This
veranda is completely roofed with galvanized iron and is paved with square
pieces of pottery of about six inches in diameter. The house stands in the midst
of a garden of tropical fruits and flowers such as you have seen in botanical
gardens in Washington. There is a bath of pure mountain water in the house
for privacy. I rise at 6. Take a bath, then a cup of coffee, perhaps an orange,
spend an hour before breakfast studying French or writing, and get to the
Legation a little after nine o'clock and remain there till four. Go home pretty
well tired out, lay down in my hammock for a while, take dinner at 6, retire
between nine and ten. The nights being long, the weather warm, and the sky
wonderfully beautiful I get up usually about one o'clock and feast my eyes
upon the stars. I then go again to bed and sleep moderately well till morning.
There is a very little variety in my life here, but I am not hard to please in
the matter of local conditions. My main trouble here is the tremendous
expense of living. It threatens to eat all my salary .6
Your affectionate father,
Port au Prince,
February 5, 1890
My dear Rosetta
I am just returned from my visit to Santo Domingo-I have been
absent during the last two weeks. Two weeks ago the United States ship
Dolphin was put at my disposal for the voyage with every accommodation
I could desire, and the voyage was in every way pleasant and instructive.7
You speak of a visit to Hayti. On some accounts I should love to have you
with me now. Still I fear you would not much enjoy it; you would find here
but little society to your taste. There is much race prejudice here. The fools are
not all dead. The blacks hate the mulattoes and the mulattoes look down
upon the blacks. Many of the whites have colored wives and black men have
white wives, and in the face of all this mixture, fools indulge in prejudice
and turn up their noses.8 Still I manage to enjoy much of peace amidst it all.
I see that the papers are still lying about me, saying that I am about
to be recalled-called home, that I have been snubbed by the Government
here, that I am violating the law of nations and the like nonsense. In face
of all it is seen that I am silent and that I am still here. Silence is my best
answer . .
Your affectionate father,
Douglass spent nearly five months in the United States in the summer
and fall of 1890.9 Written within three weeks after his return to his post, the
following two letters touch upon the character and temper of the Haitians.
Port au Prince, Hayti,
December 14th, 1890
My dear Rosa
I have only time after my arrival to tell you that I am here safe and
sound I find Port au Prince the same as I left it-warm, fruitful, moist and
dirty. The streets are full of holes and the people taking their ease at their
doors, with here and there a man or woman at work. The little patient donkeys
bearing their burdens and showing evidences in their wounds of cruel and
brutal blows. Not a very pleasant picture you will say but true all the same.
This feature shows that the people themselves have a cruel history from
which lessons of kindness have been excluded. But this is only one side of
life as it appears here. There are industrious, upright and kind people here
as elsewhere. We had not been long here before we were presented with tokens
of regard from our neighbours that told us of welcome. On arrival at the
wharf in Port au Prince we were met by the carriage of President Hyppolite
with outriders and two black prancing steeds ready to convey us to Lucia
Villa. This does not look as if the Government of Hayti did not like to have
a colored man at its court
[January 2, 1891-']
To my dear Daughter
A happy New Year, and love to all your dear household! I am thankful
that you and I are spared to write 1891 This is the holiday season here.
Balls, fetes, concerts and entertainments of every sort prevail at this season.
The streets are full of sights-songs, fifes, drums and fire-crackers-I can
mingle but little in the gay throng. My day for these amiable follies is over.
It will be three weeks tomorrow since I landed in Port au Prince
and I am already somewhat homesick. Yet there is much to make me
contented here. I have many very pleasant friends here of all colors, and
nobody is concerned about it. Character, not color, is the criterion here. In
this respect Hayti is more civilized than the U. States
Your affectionate father,
The next two letters relate to the French language and a translation
Port au Prince, Hayti,
January 23d, 1891
My dear Rose
When not engaged otherwise I am doing a little in French. The
want of a knowledge of this language is a perpetual drawback to the enjoy-
ment of society among cultivated people here. I am making progress, but
I am yet far behind and almost despair of being able to talk with any degree
of facilities, but I keep at it all the same." My motto is toil and trust. This
is needful to success in all cases, for me not less than all others The
man of war Petrel has just arrived in this port and I arranged to receive
Capt. Bronson in a few minutes, so I must stop where I am
Port au Prince,
March 25, 1891
My dear Rose
I have just completed an introduction to the Life of Toussaint
L'Ouverture, which is to 'be translated into English and published in the U.S.
The author of the book is Honorable Victor Schoelcher, a French Senator.12
I hope it will appear at some time during the year. I think a great deal of
the work and am rather glad to be connected with it
Lovingly, your father,
Written during the weeks when it had become evident that the Haitian
government would not lease M61e St. Nicolas, these final four letters have
a valedictory tone.
Port au Prince,
Apr. 4, 1891
My dear Rose
It is now but four months since I left Washington and it seems
much longer We are living in the midst of tropical heat and political
excitement. I am told that there was an article in the New York World about
Hayti, about the 23 or 24th of February, which refers also to me. Nathan
will please send me papers of these dates if they contain anything in respect
of me.'x I see several references to myself in the papers at New York that
are quite unjust and unreasonable, but I do not feel at liberty to reply to
them. This may not always be the case. I should think now that the colored
people see that I am still in Hayti, they would stop fixing the date of my
return. I am quite sure that they will not. All the same I have never known
one of these papers to urge my getting into office, but there are few that do
not urge me to get out .
6 Your affectionate father.
Port au Prince,
April 25, 1891
My dear Rose
Everybody here talks of the necessity of care to keep well. You are
told not to eat this or that, lest you take the fever and die. When you come
in from a walk you are warned not to take off your hat lest you should take
cold. Life and death are confronting each other at every turn of the road,
and yet there are people who live here and have for years lived here who
would not live anywhere else. The Government knowing that Mrs. Douglass
was sick, kindly give me the use of the man of war Chicago to bring her
and myself home, but I did not find it convenient to accept." I did not feel
that I could afford to retire under fire. The New York papers have said so
many mean things of me of late that I felt like staying here because my
coming home would please them more than they will be pleased to have
Your affectionate father.
Port au Prince,
May 7, 1891
My dear Rose
I am thinking of coming home, but do not know yet if I can obtain
a leave of absence before the tenth of July. I am trying to arrange so as
to be home on the 4th but do not know that I shall be able to do this
I see that the American papers continue to make ugly references to me
in connection with the negotiations for the "M61e"-let them lay on the
lash. I can afford to be silent and leave my vindication to time and events.
My position does not allow me to write for the papers, so the papers can
say what they like. Any coward may strike a man when they know his hands
Affectionately your father,
Port au Prince,
May 23, 1891
The truth about the failure of getting the naval station at St. Nicholas
"M61e" is gradually dawning and will by and by overtake and then demolish
the brood of lies that have been circulated to my disparagement. I am not
coming home now just yet. Too many people would be pleased to have me
come home. Still I do not intend to stay away forever and may come home
when least expected . .i6
iDouglass's role in this abortive effort is described and analyzed in Louis Martin
Sears, "Frederick Douglass and the Mission to Haiti, 1889-1891," The Hispanic
American Historical Review, XXI (1941), 222-238, and Rayford W. Logan, The
Diplomatic Relations of the United States with Haiti, 1776-1891 (Chapel Hill, 1941),
pp. 426-457. Briefer accounts may be found in Ludwell Lee Montague, Haiti and the
United States, 1714-1938 (Duke U. Press), pp. 146-152, and Benjamin Quarles,
Frederick Douglass (Washington, 1948) pp. 326-333. For Douglass' own "apologia"
see "Haiti and the United States: Inside History of the Negotiations for the Mole
St. Nicolas," North American Review, CLIII (1891), 337-345, 450-459.
2"Recognizing my duty to be silent while the question of the Mole was pending,
I refrained from making any formal reply to the many mis-statements and misrepre-
sentations which have burdened the public press unchallenged Douglass, North
American Review, CLIII, 337.
3For the use of these letters I am sincerely grateful to Mrs. Anne Teabeau, a third
generation descendant of Douglass's.
4Haiti's three ministers for the preceding twenty years had been Negroes:
Ebenezer D. Bassett, John Mercer Langston and John E. W. Thompson.
5This letter is undated; postmarks on the envelope indicate that it was mailed
from Port-au-Prince on Jan. 18, 1890, was received at New York City on Jan. 30,
1890, and at Washington on Jan. 30, 1890, 11 p.m.
6Douglass's annual salary was $5,000, of which $850 went to his secretary.
7In addition to his ministership to Haiti, Douglass had been appointed "Charg4
d'Affaires to the Dominican Republic." His visit to Santo Domingo is described in
Sears, loc. cit. pp. 228-229.
8Compare with letter of Jan. 2, 1891, below.
9In order to escape the heat of August and September, Douglass had asked for
a sixty days' leave of absence. As he prepared to return in early October, the State
Department advised him to delay his sailing. Douglass did not know why he was
being detained (for the reason see Logan, op. cit., p. 436), but he was not unduly
alarmed. "If Douglass does not return to Haiti," editoralized a Negro weekly, "his
successor will be an Afro-American or 'Rome will howl' in 1892 with Afro-American
voters as principal characters." Cleveland Gazette, Nov. 1, 1890.
loLetter undated; internal evidence suggests Jan. 2, 1891.
,,In a letter written from Paris during a twelve-weeks' stay in France (Oct. 20,
1886 to Jan. 14, 1887), Douglass described a previous besetment with the language:
"You ask how I make known my wants in French. I will tell you. I speak as much
bad French as I can and fill out with English and action." Douglass to
Lewis Douglass, Nov. 29, 1886. Letter in possession of Mrs. Fannie H. Douglass,
12While visiting the French Senate in October 1886, Douglass had been introduced
to the eighty-two-year-old Senator, who had been a key figure in the movement which
in 1848 had freed the slaves in the French colonies. Invited to Schoelcher's home,
Douglass related that the library was ornamented with broken chains, fetters and
iron-pronged collars formerly worn by slaves in the French colonies, relics which had
been sent in gratitude by former slaves. Douglass, Travels Abroad (undated manu-
script, Douglass Memorial Home, Washington, D.C.), p. 27.
r3The World for Feb. 16, 1891, carries an unsigned on-the-spot article, "In
the Haytian Capital," which refers to Douglass.
r4Although younger than her husband by twenty-two years, Helen Pitts Douglass
found Haiti most unsuitable for her health. She spent much of her time in bed,
carrying a fever during her last three months at Port-au-Prince.
'5Nathan Sprague, Douglass's son-in-law.
r6Two weeks earlier, on May 9, 1891, Douglass had requested a leave of absence.
He arrived in Washington on July 3 and sent in his resignation on July 30. It was
accepted on Aug. 11, 1891.
HAITIAN CREOLE GRAMMAR-TEXTS
-VOCABULARY. By Robert A. Hall, Jr.
with the collaboration of Suzanne Com-
haire-Sylvain, H. Ormonde McConnell,
Alfred M6traux; published by The
American Anthropological Association.
Mr. Hall's book on Haitian Creole com-
prises a grammar and a rich collection of
texts with their English translations, to
which there is added a Creole-English
and an English-Creole glossary. Competent
books on the language spoken in Haiti are
difficult to obtain. Monsieur Jules Faine's
books, notably his Philologie Crdole, can
only be bought from the author; Miss
Sylvain's (now Madame Comhaire-Sylvain)
Le Crdole Haitian, 1936, has been out of
print for many years now. Other works
such as G6bet Galdi's essay in Zeitschrift
fuir franzbsische Sprache und Literatur,
1934 (not quoted in Professor Hall's
Bibliography) is not easily accessible.
Under the circumstances, a work such as
Haitian Creole undertaken by a scholar of
unusually wide experience and a team of
Haitian helpers will therefore be warmly
welcomed by all interested in the subject.
As was to be expected, Professor Hall
presents Haitian Creole with the same
technique he has used for the codification
of other Romance Languages. This fact
will prevent the lay-reader from studying
the grammatical part of the book and will
also disappoint all linguists who prefer an
historical approach to language. As a
technique of descriptive presentation
Professor Hall's method is not without
advantages, particularly in the case of
French Creole, where we know too little
about the history of the language as to
be able to judge in detail its development.
All the same, one wonders occasionally
whether certain analytical distinctions
made by the author are sound. He defines
for instance a substantive as a word that
can take a numeral attribute: Kat pitit
"four children", gat rich "four rich men"
We then learn that substantives may be
nouns or adjectives and we come to the
statement: "adjectives are such substan-
tives (sic !) as may occur preceded by the
attributes p(l)i "more", mwd "less", and
tro "too much" (p. 28). But does the word
rich not lose its character as substantive
in youn moun mwi rich and cannot there-
fore be defined as a sort of substantive?
I believe the acceptance of a category
"substantive" to be divided into "nouns"
and "adjectives" is not a happy invention.
Furthermore if a "noun" is a word that
may be prefixed by ti-"little" it is clear
that certain words we regard as nouns can
hardly be classified as such in the author's
system. Are for instance piti-mi "little
miller" or v6t "the vote" ever prefixed by
Another criticism could be made with
regard to the author's method of word
analysis. The word fbjrd "blacksmith" is
supposed to be derived from f6j "forge",
"smithy" with the help of -r6d meaning
"agent", whereas librtd is supposed to be
analysed as lib "free" plus the infix 4-
plus the ending -td. To deny the -r- in
f6jr6 the status of infix comparable to -e-
in lib~td is probably due to the definition
of -6 as augmentativee" (e.g. kat "card",
kal6 "cardboard"), which would not suit
the case of f6jr6. But does it suit all other
instances where it occurs? How are we to
classify bouch6 derived from bouch? It is
obviously not an augmentative; but if -6
has several functions, then why not also
that of denoting an agent? This 'would
allow us to analyse f6jr6 after all as
Professor Hall is obviously greatly
indebted to Mme. Comhaire-Sylvain's book,
from which he quotes frequently. From her
book comes also the contention of African
influence in Haitian morphology and syntax
(p. 12). But the method of establishing
these influences is defective and the results,
to say the least, are hypothetical. This
aspect will have to be re-examined on a
broader basis in future and should not be
presented as a solidly established truth.
However, the list of minor inconsistencies,
omissions and errors is small and should
lot detract attention from the fact that
Professor Hall's book is a scholarly and
The choice of texts given in the book is
fascinating. Most interesting from many
pointss of view is the "autobiography" of
monsieur Joram St.-Ristil in its naive
election of events in his life. It is followed
y a great many folk tales showing both
.frican and French influences. A voodoo
ext, hundreds of proverbs and riddles,
uttings from newspapers and other printed
material complete the collection. As it
sometimes happens, when several authors
with divided responsibilities collaborate in
a book the standard of printing varies in
different parts. It is highest in the
Grammar. In the Creole texts occur an
uncomfortable number of misprints, but
even the English translations and the
glossaries are not completely free of them.
These blemishes will disappear, one hopes,
in a second edition.