Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Our Amerindian ancestors
 The coming of the Spaniards
 The bankruptcy of Spanish...
 Africa to the rescue
 Spain reigns but France govern...
 Tobago in a state of betweenit...
 Trinidad as a model British slave...
 Trinidad's labour problem after...
 The contribution of the Indian...
 Colonialism in Tobago in the 19th...
 The union of Trinidad and...
 The bankruptcy of sugar
 Crown colony government
 The education of the young...
 The movement for self-government,...
 The road to independence

Title: History of the people of Trinidad and Tobago
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00017354/00001
 Material Information
Title: History of the people of Trinidad and Tobago
Physical Description: viii, 294 p. : maps (on p. 2-3 of cover) ; 21 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Williams, Eric Eustace, 1911-
Publisher: PNM Pub. Co.
Place of Publication: Port-of-Spain Trinidad
Publication Date: 1962
Subject: History -- Trinidad and Tobago   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: p.285-288.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00017354
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001066099
ltqf - AAA2810
notis - AFF0224
oclc - 02276441
oclc - 27409074

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
    Our Amerindian ancestors
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
    The coming of the Spaniards
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
    The bankruptcy of Spanish colonialism
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
    Africa to the rescue
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
    Spain reigns but France governs
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
    Tobago in a state of betweenity
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
    Trinidad as a model British slave colony
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
    Trinidad's labour problem after emancipation
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
    The contribution of the Indians
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
    Colonialism in Tobago in the 19th century
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
    The union of Trinidad and Tobago
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
    The bankruptcy of sugar
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
    Crown colony government
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
    The education of the young colonials
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
    The movement for self-government, 1921 to 1956
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
        Page 242
    The road to independence
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
        Page 247
        Page 248
        Page 249
        Page 250
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
        Page 256
        Page 257
        Page 258
        Page 259
        Page 260
        Page 261
        Page 262
        Page 263
        Page 264
        Page 265
        Page 266
        Page 267
        Page 268
        Page 269
        Page 270
        Page 271
        Page 272
        Page 273
        Page 274
        Page 275
        Page 276
        Page 277
        Page 278
        Page 279
        Page 280
        Page 281
        Page 282
        Page 283
        Page 284
        Page 285
        Page 286
        Page 287
        Page 288
        Page 289
        Page 290
        Page 291
        Page 292
        Page 293
        Page 294
Full Text







Pointed by
o Fum Stm













Foreword vli

1 Our Amerindian Ancestors 1

2 The Coming of the Spaniards 5
3 The Bankruptcy of Spanish Colonialism 10

4 Africa to the Rescue 29

5 Spain reigns but France governs 41
6 Tobago in a state of Betweenity 52

7 Trinidad as a Model British Slave Colony 66
8 Trinidad's Labour Problem after Emancipation 87

9 The Contribution of the Indians 103

10 Colonialism in Tobago in the 19th Century .12

11 The Union of Trinidad and Tobago 140

12 The Bankruptcy of Sugar 12

13 Crown Colony Government 168

14 The Education of the Young Colonials 197

15 The Movement for Self Government, 1921-1956 216

16 The Road to Independence 243
Conclusion 2809

Brief Bibliography 28
Index 289






Prnted by
90 FpasMCK STasr
Por-ow-SPA u


This book originated in a personal conviction that it would be
an unfortunate handicap in the field of international relations and
a great mistake in respect of affairs and domestic relations,
if Trinidad and Tobago were to enter on its career of Independence
without a history of its own, without some adequate and informed
knowledge of its past, and dependent solely upon amateur outpour-
ings in the daily press
The writing of this book began on July 25 and was completed
on August 25, except for the index. With such haste in composition
and in writing; and the attendant haste in printing, it would be sur-
prising if there were no typographical, errors or failure in some
Instances to make the necessary comparisons and indicate the neces-
sary sequences. In addition, the book is twice as long as originally
planned but it has been thought better, partly for the education of
the people of Trinidad and Tobago, partly to forestall uninformed
challenges, to let the documents speak for themselves and to quote
them rather than to summarise or condense.
The aim in writing the book, however, was not literary per-
lection or conformity with, scholastic eanons. The aim was to
provide the people of Trinidad and Tobago on their Independence
Day with a National History, as they have already beenprovided with
a National Anthem, a- National Coat of Arms, National Birds, a
National Flower and a National Flag.
This history of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, in seeking
to inform them of their past as an essential guide to their future
action, places them, and their problems at all times in international
perspective. There has been no hesitation in drawing extensively
upon, where necessary, the author's knowledge of Caribbean his-
tory as a whole, in respect of which he had the advantage of an
Incomplete and unfnished history of the West- adies begun some
eleven years ago and put ints cold storage until more leisured
Two principal objects have been kept in view in the prepara-
tion of this National History on the occasion of the Independence
of the people of Trinidad and Tobhap The rtst is the author's
passionate conviction that it is Fly in unity oa-essential national
issues that future progress car be made. Division of the races
was the policy of colonialism. Integration of the races must
be the policy of Independence. Only in this way can the colony
of Tinidad and Tobago be trarsformed into the Nation of Trinidad
and Tobago.
The second principal object that has been kept in view is th'
InttegMai of te-: separated Caribbean Territoriet Separation
and fragmentation were the policy of colonialism and rival colenial-

Isms. Association and integration must be the policy of Indepen-
dence. Here the other countries of the Caribbean suffer from the
same handicap that faced Trinidad and Tobago before the prepara-
tion of this National History; they do not know their past history.
As the completion of a history of the entire Caribbean area is a
task of too vast magnitude to be contemplated in these days of
intense political activity, it is the author's intention to follow up
this history of the people of Trinidad and Tobago with similar
historical monographs for several Caribbean countries. It will be
no easy task to determine the priorities on which this new assign-
ment should be based. But the author is satisfied that similar his
torical monographs must be prepared as a matter of urgency for at
least five Caribbean countries British Guiana, Jamaica, Cuba,
Barbados, and either Martinique or Guadeloupe. To this assign-
ment he proposes to dedicate himself in the next few months; if
only as a hobby, if only to get out of his system some of the poison
which is perhaps unnecessarily imbibed in political activity in coun
iries which have learned only too well the lessons of colonialism.
It is with this philosophy that the history of the people of
Trinidad and Tobago is presented, first to the people of Trinidad
and Tobago, then to their Caribbean colleagues who loom so
largely in these pages, and then to the colleagues of Trinidad and
Tobago on the international stage. No apology is made either for
its form, or its content, or its timing. It is the work of a private
citizen, whatever his political affiliation or his governmental re-
sponsibility, and neither Party, nor Government, nor individual has
any responsibility for its contents for which the autthor alone is
responsible. Many will praise the book, and some will censure it.
The author wishes to make it clear that he seeks neither praise
nor blame, that his particular concern is with the people of Trini
dad and Tobago with whom he is identified in aspirations and
achievements, and that he has always regarded it as his special re-
sponsibility to pass on to them th- knowledge which would have
hepn unobtainable without them and for which they ir fact paid
Tf some do not like the book, that is their businesss. The
author is not responsible for the calamitous mistakes of the past;
when he was in a position-to advise in a small field, his advice was
reipcted: now that he is in a position to help to make the history
hf Trinidad and Tobsto. efforts are made to frustrate him from
abroad Those who make thei;'bed must lie on it. The author
has made his. and is lying on it. This book is not conceived as a
work of scholarship. It is a manifesto of a subjugated people.
Pesiened to appear on Independence Day. August 31. iofl2. it i'
the Declaration of Independence of the united people of Tripidar
and Tobago.

August 31, 1962,


Our Amerindian Ancestors

At the time of their discovery, the archipelago of islands which
have become known as the West Indies was inhabited principally by
two Amerindian tribes which had close links with the Amerindians of
Guiana on the South American mainland. The first of these was the
Arawaks, one branch of which, the Tainos, was concentrated in the
Greater Antilles and the Bahamas, while the second, the Igneris,
dominated the Lesser Antilles. Apart from the Arawaks, there was a
second principal group, the Caribs. A third variant of the Amerindian
pattern was located on a small scale in Western Cuba, the Siboneys,
possibly representing a pre-Arawak strain originating in Florida.
The outstanding general work on the Amerindian culture is a
Swedish publication, Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies, by
Sven Loven, the 1935 English translation and expansion of his Swedish
treatise of 1924. In respect of Trinidad itself, our knowledge comes
from a little masterpiece, The Aborigines of Trinidad, by J. A. Bull-
brook, Associate Curator of the Royal Victoria Institute and Museum,
in 1960, representing the results of his excavations in the middens -
which were both refuse dumps and burial grounds of the Amerin-
dians in Cedros, Palo Seco and Erin. Useful information is also avail-
able from Surinam, not only from archaeological investigations a
brief account of which is available in English, the work of D. C.
Geijskes but also from a direct study of living Arawak tribes which
have retreated with the onset of Western civilisation further and
further into the interior of the country. Examples of the arts and
crafts, of the life and work of the Amerindians can be seen in the
Royal Victoria Museum in Trinidad and the Surinam Museum in
Paramaribo. f
Except for the Siboneys with their primitive shell culture, ignor-
ant of stone, pottery and axe blades, and using vessels of shell, the'
Amerindian civilisation of Arawaks and Caribs was essentially agri-
cultural, representing an important advance in the scale of civilisation
over the paleolithic period of human history. They cultivated the
soil by constructing round heaps or mounds of earth, firstly to loosen
the soil, secondly to protect the roots against the dry season, and
thirdly for composting with shovelled ashes.
The national food was cassava. The Arawaks developed the
technique of changing the poisonous prussic acid of cassava juice into
a kind of non-poisonous vinegar by cooking it. They called this
cassareep, and the cassareep, together with one of the known spices,
the chili pepper, made possible the pepperpot, the Carib tomalt, which


stabilised the alimentation in a high degree and made easier the con-
sumption of cassava cakes. The Arawaks further developed the grater
for making cassava cakes. In their development of graters, juice
squeezers, large flat ovens of coarse clay on which the cassava cakes
were baked, as well as in the development of cassareep and the pep-
perpot, the Arawak culture represented essentially an annex to the
Amerindian civilisation of Eastern Venezuela and Guiana.
Our Amerindian ancestors in the West Indies were also familiar
with a variety of other crops. One of the most important was maize,
from which in certain places a species of beer was brewed. They also
knew the sweet potato and a variety of tropical fruits such as the
guava, custard apple, mamey apple, papaw, alligator pear, star apple
and pineapple. Columbus has stated that he saw beans cultivated in
Hispaniola, and the Amerindians knew also, among the spices, cinna-
mon and wild pimento. They introduced peanuts to the Spaniards.
and it would appear that they were eaten regularly witn cassava in
The Amerindians also knew and cultivated two additional crops
which facilitated a further development of what we would today call
civilised existence. They cultivated cotton, which they used on the
one hand for petticoats, and on the other for the manufacture of ham-
mocks for sleeping purposes. Dr. Bullbrook found a bone needle and
buttons in his Trinidad researches. The Amerindians knew also
tobacco which was exceedingly popular among them; possibly in its
origin it was connected in some way with religious rites. The Arawaks
used it both for snuff and for smoking, generally in the form of cigars,
though the pipe was not unknown, while in the form of chewing
tobacco in rolls it was used as currency by the Caribs.
Fishing played some part in the economy of Amerindian society,
and the Amerindians developed the canoe and the pirogue which
enabled them to move from island to island. In the sheltered waters
of the Gulf of Paria. the canoes appeared even to have cabins for the
women. Molluscs or shell fish figured prominently in the Amerindian
diet, and particularly the chip-chip, as Dr. Bullbrook's investigations
of the middens indicate. But bones representing fish and tortoise
have also been found. As compared with the shellfish and the fish,
bird bones, however, are extremely scarce.
These Amerindians had no knowledge of metals. Their tools
were of polished stone, bone, shell, coral, or wood some of their
wooden artifacts have been fortunately preserved through accidental
burial in the Pitch Lake of Trinidad. They made pottery and wore
ornaments. Dr. Bullbrook's exhumations of over twenty tuiials indi-
cate evidence of arthritis and a high incidence of dent.a cari-s. bur
not of rickets. Their age would appear not to have exceeded forty
years, and their height not more than five feet seven 1-ches. They
seem to have been. however, a people of great physical strength.
The Amerindians had a simple but well-established family life. in
which, as in most underdeveloped societies, there appeared to be some


sexual differentiation of labour. Possibly for religious motives,
Arawak men alone could collect gold. The women prepared the cas-
sava, cared for the poultry, brought water from the river, wove cloth
and mats, and shared in the agricultural work using the primitive
implement of the Amerindians, the digging stick.
It is not too clear whether the Amerindian women of Trinidad and
Tobago displayed as much readiness as has been noticed of the Amer-
indian women in Hispaniola to promiscuity in their sexual relations
as some form of welcome to strangers. Nor is it clear whether in
Trinidad, as in Hispaniola, there was the same accentuation of the
feminine tendency among male Amerindians which has been noted of
them in comparison with the Negroes of Africa. And th records do
not permit us positively to involve Trinidad in the 470-year old argu-
ment as to whether syphilis was an export from the Old World to the
West Indies or an importation from the West Indies into Spain and
thence into Europe. Dr. Bullbrook found evidence of syphilis in his
exhumations. What is certain is that syphilis would appear to have
been as prevalent in Guiana and Venezuela as in the Greater Antilles
and Mexico and that the Arawaks developed a peculiar remedy for
the disease.
The Amerindian tribe was governed by a cacique, very much as a
father governed his family. If Columbus is to be believed, fighting
between two Amerindians was rare, and so was adultery. The only
crime punished by the community was theft, for which the punishment
on Hispaniola, even where petty thefts were concerned, was death
the culprit being pierced to death with a pole or pointed stick.
The Arawaks were a relatively peaceful people, the Caribs essen-
tially warlike. While both painted their body with roucou, partly no
doubt to present a terrifying appearance in time of war. the Caribs
were distinguished from the Arawaks in their use of poisoned arrows.
The Caribs also have conventionally been described as cannibals.
As far as Trinidad is concerned, there would appear io have been
several distinct tribes of Amerindians present in the island towards
the end of the 15th century. The Caribs tended to settle for the most
part in the North and West, around what is today Port-of-Spain; two
of their principal settlements were located in Arima and Mucurapo.
The Arawaks seem to have concentrated above all in the south-east,
and it is recorded that on one occasion the Arawaks took Tobago from
the Caribs.
Dr. Bullbrook, however, challenges the view that there were any
Caribs in Trinidad. He bases this on the absence of two facts cus-
tomarily associated with the Caribs. First, he found no evidence of
the use of bow and arrow, which, in his view, is confirmed by the
relative scarcity of bird bones in the middens. But he admits the
possibility that the spines of the sting ray and eagle ray, found in
large numbers in the middens, in some cases obviously improved by
man, might have been used as arrow or lance heads. In the second
place he emphatically denies any evidence of cannibalism in the rem-


nants of the animal foods found in the middens. Not a single human
bone was found.
Trinidad's strategic situation, tending to make it a meeting point
of different cultures, was apparent even in Amerindian days. Sven
Loven, the outstanding authority on the prehistory of the West Indies,
has written as follows:
"By the scanty information that we have concerning Trinidad
at least one thing is brought out clearly, namely that Trinidad,
through the arrival of Carib elements and cultural influences from
different directions that never reached the Greater Antilles, had
attained a development richer in many respects and visible above
all in their warlike culture, than that which must have charac-
terized the forefathers of the Tainos, before, their emigration to
the Antilles."
It is possibly for this reason that Columbus was able to write on
his discovery of the island, and at first sight of a group of twenty-four
Amerindians in a large canoe, that they were well-proportioned, very
graceful in form, tall and lithe in their movements, whiter than any
other Indians that he had seen, wearing their hair long and straight
and cut in the Spanish style. Their heads were bound with cotton
scarves elaborately worked in colours and resembling the Moorish
headdress. Some of these scarves were worn round the body and
used as a covering instead of trousers.
This was the people who, six years after their discovery in the
Greater Antilles, were to be brought by Columbus' third voyage into
the whirlpool of modern colonialism.


The Coming of the Spaniards

The discovery of the West Indian islands by Christopher Columbus,
acting as agent of the Spanish monarchy, in 1492 and subsequent years
was the culmination of a series of dramatic events and changes in
the European society in the 15th century.
Behind the voyages of Columbus lay the urge to the East with its
fabled stories of gold and spices popularised by the famous travel-
ogues of Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta and the persistent legend of
Prester John. The disruption of the conventional Mediterranean-cum-
overland route by the Turks, followed by the domination of the Medi-
terranean by the Italian cities of Venice and Genoa, stimulated the
desire to ind a westerly route to the East.
The development of nautical technology brought this desire within
reach of realisation. New maps of the world and new theories of the
nature of the universe exploded ancient beliefs, fallacies and super-
stitions. The compass and the quadrant had been devised, making
possible longer voyages out of the sight of land and outside of shelt-
ered seas. Larger ships had appeared, notably the Venetian galleys;
as early as 1417 Chinese junks, of a colossal size for those days, had
sailed all the way from China to East African ports.
I, the economic sense Europe in 1492 was ready for overseas
expansion; it had the experience, the organisation, or to use the con-
temporary vulgarism, the know-how.
Europe in 1492 knew all about colonialism. The Italian republic
of Genoa had long before established colonies in the Crimea, the
Black Sea and on the coasts of Asia Minor. A Catalan protectorate
was established over Tunisia in 1280. The Portuguese had conquered
Ceuta in 1415, an inversion of the Moslem conquest of the Iberian
Peninsula. Thereafter they had penetrated all along the coast of West
Africa until, in 1487, Diaz made his memorable voyage -ounding the
Cape of Good Hope. The Portuguese were thus set for their long
colonial reign in Asia which ended only with their expulsion from
Goa by India in 1961.
Europe in 1492 knew, too, about slavery, which was the normal
method of production in the medieval colonies of the Levant. Slavery
existed also on European soil, in Portugal, Spain, and in southern
France, and the African slave trade in its origins was a transport of
slaves from Africa to Europe. The slaves were used in agriculture,
industry and mining. To such an extent did slavery dominate Portu-
guese economy before the voyages of Columbus that the Portuguese
verb "to work" became modified to mean "to work like a Moor".


When the Spaniards enslaved the Amerindians in the West Indies and
later introduced Negro slaves from Africa, they were merely contini-
ing in the New World the slavery with which Europe was sufficiently
The European society of 1492 was also conversant wi:d sugar eui-
tivation and manufacture. Sugar manufacture originated in india.
whence it spread to Asia Minor and, through the Arabs, to the leuil-
terranean. The early literature of India is full of reference to sugar
for example, the Ramayana; and a sugar factory and its machines
are used to illustrate maxims of Buddhist philosophy. The Law 1ooi
of Manu, some two centuries before the Christian era, prescribed cor-
poral punishment for \stealing molasses with fasting for three days
and nights as penance; a Brahmin was not to be forced to sell sugar;
a man caught stealing sugar would be reborn as a flying fox.
With Arab expansion, the art of growing cane and manufacturing
sugar spread to Syria, Egypt, Sicily, Cyprus, Spain, Crete, Malta and
Rhodes. But the Arab sugar industry was differentiated in one im-
portant particular from that of Christian Europe it was not based
on organised slavery.
The European sugar industry in the Mediterranean, develop-d
after Europe's contact with sugar during the Crusades, contained from
the outset the germ of the colonial system familiar to all West Indians.
It was an industry established in a distant country and financed by
local bankers. One of its principal centres was Sicily, where we find
the University of Palermo in 1419 studying and advising on irrigation
of the cane, and it was dominated by Italian financiers. Another
important centre was Cyprus; a 1449 account of the sugar industry of
Cyprus anticipates the wealth and prosperity of the early West Indian
sugar planters. Large merchant houses in Italy distributed the sugar
throughout Europe.
Europe, too, was politically ready for overseas expansion. The
European State, with its theories of protection and its grants of char-
ters and monopolies, developed the economic doctrine of the balance
of trade and the need for conserving bullion and the precious metals
by encouraging exports and either reducing imports of luxury goods
or developing its own local production of such luxury goods. The
Monarchy, with the aid of the great commercial cities end foot sol-
diers, had established control of the feudal aristocracy with their
mounted armies, and the Nation State had begun to emerge. Genera-
tions of war between Christians and non-Christians in the Crusades
had developed a militant crusading Church not yet split by schism
and not yet reformed into dissenting sects.
Of all the countries of Europe in 1492, apart from Portugal which
preceded it, Spain was best fitted, physically and psychologically, for
the initiation of overseas colonialism. The heirs of the rival Crowns
of Castile and Aragon had brought peace to the country and developed
the centralised monarchy, backed by the cities and the lawyers. The


expulsion of Jews and Moors demonstrated the Church militant and
triumphant. Undoubtedly secure, the Spanish monarchy was ready to
receive Columbus when he arrived with his new theories and his
discovery proposals.
There was nothing strange in the approach by Columbus, an
Italian from Ganoa, to the Spanish Monarchy. The Genoese were no
strangers in Spam. From the 12th century they were established in a
quarter in Seville, whence they would be well placed to participate in
Spain's subsequent trade to the West Indies. Convoys of ienoa, as
well as of Venice, Florence and the Kingdom of Naples, called regu-
larly at Spain on their way to England and Fianders.
The Genoese, and the Italians generally, were equally well known
in Portugal They served as Admirals in the Portuguese navy, and
they served also, like Columbus' father-in-law, in the Portuguese trade
with the Canary Islands. Columbus himself approached, without suc-
cess, the Portuguese Court, and the great Italian geographer, Paolo
Toscanelli, was consulted by the king of Portugal on Columbus' pro-
posals. These proposals were ultimately rejected by Portugal, either
because it had no faith in Columbus, or because it had evidence -
which Diaz was soon to confirm that the true route to India was
by way of Africa.
Thus did Columbus turn to Spain and to the service cf Spain. In
those days adventure and geographical scholarship knew no national
boundaries. The Cabots, Venetians, served England. Verezzano,
Florentine, served France. Magellan, Portuguese, served Spain.
Hudson, English, served Holland. Columbus was ready to serve either
Lngland or France or Portugal or Spain. Spain accepted his pro-
posals; the others temporised or studied them or rejected them.
The sovereigns of Spain signed the discovery contract with Colum-
bus in 1492 by which they agreed to finance the voyage in return for
royal control of the lands discovered and a high proportion of the
profits of the voyage. This contract opened the door to the introduc-
tion of the medieval society into the West Indies, with its grants of
titles and large tracts of land. Columbus was the mouthpiece of the
medieval tradition, which was to be followed in the seventeenth cen-
tury by French concessions inspired by the feudal system in France
and by the wholesale grants of islands to favourites of the British
The Spanish monarchy, after the success of Columbus had been
established, secured a religious title to the entire Western Hemisphere
by the Papal Donation of 1493, ratified by the Treaty of Tordesillas
between Spain arid Portugal in 1494. This Treaty was a diplomatic
triumph for Portugal. Spain, led astray by Columbus' delusions.
agreed to rectify the Papal boundary in a way that confirmed to Por-
tugal not only the true route to India but the whole of the South
Atlantic with Brazil.
It was against this background that Columbus set out on his third


voyage on May 30, 1498 and sighted the island, which he christened
Trinidad, at noon on Tuesday, July 31. He touched at a harbour
which he called Point Galera and then sailed westward until he
entered the Gulf-of Paria through the entrance which he named the
Serpent's Mouth. Searching for an exit from the Gulf of Paria m
which he sailed north, south and west, he identified the narrowness of
the strait separating Venezuela from Trinidad. After running the
danger of the furious currents both north and south, he eventually
managed to find an exit into the Caribbean Sea which he called the
Dragon's Mouth. One can well understand today the difficulties en-
countered by the sailing ships of Columbus' day in these tricky pas-
sages when one reads, in a Dutch report on Trinidad as late as 1637,
139 years after Columbus, that the Spaniards, before going through
the Dragon's Mouth, promised a Mass to St. Anthony so that he might
guard them as they passed.
On this same voyage Columbus is alleged to have sighted Tobago.
What is certain is that he did not land in Tobago but proceeded from
Trinidad to Hispaniola. Tobago remained therefore virtually isolated
and undiscovered, an Amerindian island untouched for many decades
by any Europeans, retaining its name, "Tobaco" (whence the corruption
Tobago), signifying the importance of tobacco in the Amerindian
The arrival of the Spaniards in Trinidad entailed the same clash
of cultures that had been induced by their arrival in Hispaniola and
the other islands of the Greater Antilles. The Spanish conquest
of Trinidad represented the victory of armour over roucou paint, of
the sword and lance over the bow and poisoned arrow, of horsemen
over foot soldiers who had never seen a horse, of a society whose
diet was wheat over a society whose diet was cassava.
The inevitable conflict developed, in Trinidad as in Hispaniola
before it, between the European desire for surplus production and
the subsistence economy of the Amerindians, between the Spanish
settlements copied from Spain and the Amerindian village, between
the Spanish Viceroy or Governor representative of the royal auto-
cracy and the paternal rule of the cacique, between imported Euro-
pean diseases like small pox and the tropical diseases like malaria
and yellow fever, and between the mining economy based on the
Spanish obsession for gold and the agricultural economy of the
In this setting, in this clash of cultures, in this conflict between
two different ways of life and two different philosophies of existence,
the Spanish conquest of Trinidad, like the Spanish conquest six years
before of Hispaniola, and like the Spanish conquest of Mexico and
Peru in the 16th century, developed a tremendous irreconcilable con-
tradiction between the greed for wealth and the conversion of the
Amerindians, between the lust for gold and the salvation of souls.
Trinidad was a part of that internal conflict in Spain itself which


could not make up its mind whether the Spaniards should compel
the Amerindians to work or should leave them free to be idle if
they so chose; and the further conflict, if they were to compel the
Amerindians to work without which there could be no gold or no
production, how were they to organise this exploitation of Amerind-
ian labour so that the Amerindians should not be decimated by a
way of life and by physical exertions to which they were
unaccustomed ?
These two practical economic questions gave rise to two philo-
sophical conflicts which ran right through the period of Spanish
colonialism: the first, what was the nature of the Amerindians?
Were they men like other men, capable of living, as the Spaniards
were very fond of saying, like rational human beings, or were they
an inferior species? And the second, what was the nature of the
Spanish title to the West Indies and to America ?
Spain's conquest of Trinidad formed a part of this economic and
intellectual conflict in the Spanish Empire, and Spanish colonialism
in Trinidad developed amidst the reverberations of that conflict as
fought out in Spain and America by the four great protagonists.
On the one side was the Roman Catholic theologian, Bartolome
de las Casas, who openly and flatly stated that the Amerindians
should be allowed to live in peace and that the purpose of the con-
quest was to convert them to Roman Catholicism. Las Casas was ably
supported by the international jurist, Francisco de Vitoria, who
attacked the question of Spain's title to the Indies.
On the other side were the conquistadors, Francisco Pizarro,
who openly and flatly stated that he had not gone to the Indies to
preach the faith to the Amerindians, he had gone to take away from
their gold, and Hernan Cortes, who openly and flatly stated that he
had gone to the Indies to get gold and not to till the soil like a
peasant. The conquistadors were ably supported by the inter-
national jurist, Gines de Sepulveda, who attacked the capacity of
the Amerindians, denied that they were men like other men, and
alleged that they were closer to the monkey than they were to man.
This was the background, political, economic and intellectual,
to Spanish colonialism in Trinidad.


The Bankruptcy of Spanish


Trinidad remained in Spanish hands from July 31, 1498, until
it was surrendered by the Spanish Governor to a British naval
expedition on February 18, 1797. During these three centuries Spain
was able to develop what,, more modern examples notwithstanding,
has become a byword in the history of colonialism for its inefficiency
and incompetence.
Spanish colonialism, in Trinidad and elsewhere, rested on certain
well-established principles and well-defined practices.
The first was that the colony existed for the benefit of the Spanish
monarchy and for no other reason. The Spanish monarchy, engrossed
in its battle for European hegemony, was interested in gold and
silver and in very little else.
The second foundation of Spanish colonialism was that the
native population, the Amerindians, were to be compelled to work
for their Spanish masters, preferably in mines. When the Amerindians
were decimated by colonial exploitation, their place was taken by
imported African slaves who had the same obligation to work as their
Amerindian predecessors.
The third principle of Spanish colonialism was, to borrow the
explicit phrase developed subsequently by the French, the Exclusive.
This meant that the colony could trade only with the metropolitan
country. It could buy only from the metropolitan country and sell
only to the metropolitan country, and all commercial relations with
foreigners were rigorously prohibited. As refined by the Spaniards,
this essential principle of European colonialism throughout the West
Indies further required that this import and export trade with the
colonies should be concentrated in a single port in Spain Seville
was the port selected -, that it should be controlled by a special
organisation known as the Casa de Contratacion or House of Trade
in Seville, that only such ships as were authorised by the House of
Trade should participate in colonial trade, and that the ships engaged
in colonial trade should, whether on their outward or inward voyages,
proceed in convoys, protected by Spanish galleons against pirates,
buccaneers, and rival European countries.
The fourth principle of Spanish colonialism was that the Governor
ruled supreme, though he was assisted by a Council of local notables
who, like the cities in Spain, had certain well-defined rights and
And the fifth principle of Spanish colonialism was that it was


closely associated with the Church, and that the Church, whether
by direct spiritual methods or by its economic activity, shared in the
responsibility for civilising the Amerindian or slave population.
Spanish colonialism, with these principles, proved inadeqaute all
over America for the work of developing the colonial areas. But
few Spanish colonies suffered as much as Trinidad did from Spanish
After the discovery by Columbus in 1498, Trinidad remained
almost completely neglected by Spain until in 1530 a Governor was
appointed from Puerto Rico by the name of Antonio Sedeno. Little
was accomplished in the way of effective possession of Trinidad by
Sedeno and thereafter the island lapsed into virtual oblivion until in
1595 a new beneficiary of the Spanish crown arrived as Governor,
Antonio de Berrio. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries Trinidad
languished, a Spanish colony in name, a forgotten and under-
developed island in fact. Governors came and went, but Trinidad
continued to languish.
A former British Colonial Governor once complained to an
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in England of the rubbish
sent out by Britain for departmental service in the Crown colonies.
The Under-Secretary of State replied: "It is true that we send out
a great deal of rubbish, but it is mostly in the form of Governors."
Trinidad suffered in this way not only from England but also
from Spain. No real progress was made until the last fourteen years
of Spanish rule and the regime of the last Spanish Governor, Don
Jose Maria Chacon.
Spain experienced two fundamental weaknesses in the imple-
mentation of its plans for colonial expansion and of the basic
principles underlying Spanish colonialism. The first was its inability
to maintain the Exclusive.
Spain lacked the production organisation in Spain either to
satisfy colonial import needs or to handle colonial exports. It lacked
the ships which had been prescribed as the sole carriers of colonial
trade. It lacked the war ships to give the prescribed protection to
the merchant vessels engaged in colonial trade. Spanish shipping
engaged in trade with the New World amounted to between 3,000
and 4,000 tons around 1500. By 1565 this had increased to 15,000
tons. Just before the Spanish Armada of 1588 was defeated by
England, the tonnage amounted to between 25,000 and 30,000. At
its peak in 1608, the Spanish shipping engaged in trade with the New
World amounted to 45,000 tons.
From 1564 two armed fleets were despatched from Spain
annually, one to Mexico, the other to Panama. They reassembled
at Havana in the following spring for the return voyage. Each fleet
consisted of from 20 to 60 sail, with an escort of from two to six
warships. The system was supported by cruiser squadrons based at
Santo Domingo and Cartagena and protected by such defences as
those at Havana. The protection thus afforded was reasonably effec-
tive, but the colonials paid a high price for it, in the delay in obtain-


ing metropolitan supplies and in the consequent enhancement of
Spain's second weakness was its inability to provide the man-
power needed for its vast colonial dominions which existed not only
in the Caribbean but also in all of South America with the excep-
tion of Brazil. It had no real surplus population for export, this
small country of some eight million people at the end of the 16th
century. In this respect Spain was no worse off than its neighbours.
If France's population at the end of the 16th century was 16 mil-
lion, England had only five million, the Netherlands less than three,
Portugal one million only. Large scale emigration would have been
rigorously opposed. In the European State of that time, soldiers
(seamen in the case of islands) ranked next in importance only to
Neither in fact nor in theory could the New World have been
peopled from the Old. Actually, the influx of American treasure into
Spain created a tremendous labour shortage and Spain could neither
prevent immigration nor her neighbours prevent emigration. In Valen-
cia in 1548 there were 10,000 Frenchmen; hostile Spaniards called
them "fleas living on Spain". But Spain's population problem where
her colonies was concerned was aggravated by her religious exclu-
sivism. Spain rigorously prevented all non-Catholics and all heretics
from participation in colonial development.
Those Spaniards who did proceed to the Indies went, like Cortes
and Pizarro, lured by gold and silver. Spain's overseas revenue
increased from 35,000 ducats a year in 1516 to between two and
three millions by 1588. The imports of treasure into Spain from
the New World, in pesos equal to 42.29 grams of pure silver, were
371,055 in 1503 and 34,428,500 nearly one hundred times as
much in 1596.
A whole society in miniature accompanied Columbus on his
second voyage in 1493. The total of 1,200 persons included soldiers,
artisans, farmers, priests. They took with them seeds, tools, animals.
The object was not trade but conquest. The goal was a farming
and mining colony in Hispaniola producing its own food, paying for
the costs of transport by remitting gold, and serving as a base for
further explorations.
The dazzling grandeur of the conquests of Mexico and Peru, and
the discovery of the silver mines of Potosi in what is today Bolivia,
wrecked all this. What impressed was the rebuilding by Cortes of
the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, which he renamed Mexico
City; its population in 1520 was around 100,000, larger than that of
Toledo or Seville or any Spanish city in Europe. Pizarro, in his
turn, destroyed the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco and built an entirely
new capital, Lima, the City of Kings. The land grants in Mexico and
Peru corresponded to this viceregal splendour. Cortes arrogated to
himself, in Oaxaca Valley in Mexico, a land area comprising officially
23,000 heads of households require to work his lands.
This was what attracted the Spaniards who emigrated the


magnificence of the conquistadors, the wealth of Potosi, the chimera
of El Dorado with its cities whose streets were paved with gold. A
benighted, poverty-stricken island like Trinidad could never hope
to compete with this.
These two fundamental weaknesses made the Spanish Empire,
on paper a formidable proposition and a grandiose achievement, in
fact a vast conglomeration of poor, undeveloped and defenceless
territories open to any invader with adequate resources in ships and
manpower. One early British imperialist, writing from Port-of-Spain
in 1611 to the Lord High Treasurer of England as he was engaged
in the trade with Trinidad prohibited by Spanish laws, asserted that
Spain's force was reputation and its safety opinion. Spain's empire
was protected, in other words, by a reputation which was not justified
and an opinion of Spanish strength in the colonies which was with-
out foundation.
Thus it was that, a mere century or so after Columbus'
memorable voyage, a Spanish ambassador in London could say
piteously to the British Government that "God has committed the
Indies to the trust of the Spaniards that all nations might partake
of the riches of that new world; it is even necessary that all Europe
should contribute towards supplying that vast empire with their
manufactures and their merchandises.
Spain came to depend on a trade system in which she bought
her requirements, domestic and overseas, from the rest of Europe
and paid for them in treasure from the New World. French vessels
dominated the Seville New World Market. Antwerp became the
great beneficiary of Spanish trade. The Spaniards in Seville, with
their monopoly of colonial trade, became nothing more than com-
mission agents for Genoese, Jewish, Flemish and German business
The whole history of Trinidad under Spanish colonialism demon-
strated Spain's inability to organise and develop the colony.
Consider, for example, the operation of the Exclusive in
On January 1, 1593, Antonio de Berrio, in a letter to the Coun-
cil of the Indies,, requested that two ships of 200 tons each should
be provided for Trinidad for a period of five years. The ships were
not provided.
The people of Trinidad had to live-if not with Spain, then with-
out Spain. If Spanish ships did not arrive with Spanish goods, then,
law or no law, they would trade with foreign ships and send their
exports elsewhere. Thus it was that the English adventurer referred
to above was able to see in the harbour of Port-of-Spain in 1611
fifteen ships; English, French, and Dutch, "freighting smoke" as he
put it, that is to say engaged in the tobacco trade. It is probable
that these included the three English ships which, according to the
Spanish Ambassador in London, arrived in London later in the year
1611 with Trinidad' tobacco, the smallest of them bringing a cargo
valued at half million ducats.

If Spanish colonialism was based on the exclusion of foreigners
from colonial trade and the restriction of colonial trade to Spaniards
and Spanish vessels, the obvious way to stop illegal foreign trade
was to provide the essentials for the legal Spanish trade. The only
remedy that the Spanish Ambassador in London could suggest, how-
ever, was that the Governor of Trinidad should be punished, in
much the same way as a royal official in Trinidad had two years
earlier advised the King of Spain that the fountainhead and author
of all the colonial transgressions against the Exclusive was the Gov-
ernor of Trinidad himself.
It was not the poor Governor's fault. Everybody in Trinidad
was a lawbreaker. It was not a question of smuggling. It was an
open trade, conducted in broad daylight, in which all participated,
men and women, young and old, adults and children.
The Spanish Government had a system whereby an investigation
was instituted into the conduct of a colonial Governor at the end
of his term. This was called a residencia. One Sancho de Alquiza
was designated to conduct a residencia in Trinidad in 1611. This
is the report that he sent to one of the highest colonial courts in
the West Indies, the Audiencia of Santo Domingo, on January 13,
1612 from Trinidad:
"I have begun to conduct this residencia and find generally
that everyone here is guilty without exception.
"I have not taken action against anyone because they all
freely confess their fault and ask for mercy in such a way that
I could only pity them and considering what I have learnt in
the past three days, I have pardoned these people . .The peti-
tion was in the names of all the vecinos asking mercy for all
who, from the highest to the lowest, admitted that they were
guilty of trading with the enemy. As the petition was being read,
all the women and vecinos fell on their knees in front of my
house confessing their fault and asking forgiveness.
'This was very painful and I told them to rise from the
ground and consoled them as best I could. I was alone in the
Town and the people had done all that they could; to arrest all
those guilty was not possible, I had neither the soldiers nor a
prison large enough.
"I am reporting all this to His Majesty and asking that a gen-
eral pardon be given to al in this place, otherwise all would have
to be punished down to the children of ten years old."
The bankruptcy of the Exclusive was revealed in all its naked-
ness. It was universal guilt, guilt without exception. The very basis
of Trinidad colonial society was illegality, a complete violation of
metropolitan law. The investigator was absolutely powerless. He
had no troops, he had no jail. He would have had to arrest the whole
population. Thus powerless, he could only recommend a general
But the very recommendation of a general pardon meant that
the illegal trade would continue, since no one in his senses believed
that Spain could either produce goods in adequate quantity to render


the illegal trade unnecessary or could provide the soldiers who
would enforce the metropolitan legislation. It was a typical illustra-
tion of the wellknown Spanish attitude in the colonies to metropoli-
tan legislation, expressed in the colonial proverb, "Let it be obeyed
but not enforced".
As for actual remedies to the metropolitan problem, those sug-
gested were absurd in the extreme. As far as the King himself was
concerned, all he could propose was that the Armada proceeding to
Central America to collect the royal silver should alter its course
and proceed to Trinidad to capture, burn or sink the foreign vessels.
He thought that a mere two days would be sufficient for this assign-
ment, but warned in the strongest language that the safety of the
galleons was not to be endangered and that the return of the royal
silver was not to be delayed.
This was the fountainhead of Spanish colonialism, which passed
a law and organised a system, but could not enforce the former or
maintain the latter. Its incompetence and inefficiency led to univer-
sal disregard of the law and the system. So the solution? Take a
little time out and destroy the illegal ships. But what then would
happen? Two foreign ships would replace every one that was burnt
or sunk. And the needs of the population, which had given rise
to the illegal trade, would continue to patronise the illegal trade
once the galleons had departed.
The Governor of Margarita off the coast of Venezuela, which
was part of the entire Province that included Trinidad and Guiana,
therefore proposed another solution which was, if possible, even
more absurd than the solution proposed by the King. Noting that
after the visit of the galleons ten or eleven English and Dutch ships
had visited Trinidad, he recommended that the King should prohibit
the cultivation of tobacco in Trinidad so that the enemy traders
would obtain nothing there, give up the trade, and cease visiting
Trinidad. Tobacco was at the time the basis of Trinidad's economy.
If ships could not be authorised to go to Trinidad to take its tobacco
exports, and if foreign vessels insisted on going to Trinidad to buy
the tobacco and take it to foreign countries, then the Governor's
solution was to destroy the economy of the island in order to main-
tain an ineffective metropolitan system which the metropolitan coun-
try could not implement.
Yet a third absurdity was propounded. A royal official1 in 1613. in
pleading once more with the House of Trade in Seville to send
annually to Trinidad two ships of about 200 tons, to bring to Trini-
dad food and other necessaries and to take in return Trinidad produce.
perhaps realising that he was beating his head against a wall of
metropolitan indifference and incompetence, had this more to offer:
"The only remedy is to make the Spaniards afraid to trade
with the enemy and of dealing with them in the produce of these
lands. Any who would thus trade should not be allowed into this
island which has cost our people so much blood and which is so
much wanted by the enemies of our faith".


And so the dismal story goes on, the story of the colonial
struggle for survival in the face of metropolitan ineptitude. Take,
for example, the year 1653. The people of Trinidad made represen-
tations to the monarchy that it was twenty years since an authorised
Spanish vessel had been sent to Trinidad. They claimed that they
were in great want of clothing and other necessities and that their
crops were worthless as they had no market for them. They peti-
tioned the King therefore to grant them in perpetuity one authorised
ship a year. If eternity was too long, they were ready to compro-
mise on one authorised ship a year for ten years. The Council of the
Indies advised the King that he should send to Trinidad one
authorised ship a year for four years. What was to happen after
the four years ? Absolute silence.
But even one authorised ship a year for four years was beyond
the capacity of the Spanish Government. Nine years later, in 1662,
when the Governor of the Province attempted to enforce the Exclu-
sive in Trinidad to forbid trade with a Dutch ship in the harbour
of Port-of-Spain, the Spanish settlers decided that they would wel-
come the ship and sent an emissary as their spokesman before the
Spanish authorities in Trinidad. The spokesman urged that the order
enforcing the restriction of trade with the Dutch ship should be
set aside on account of the great poverty of the people of the island.
He asserted that it was more than thirty years since a ship from
Spain had arrived in Trinidad, so that the Spaniards lacked not only
clothes but knives, hatchets, cutlasses and other tools for cultiva-
tion. The spokesman threatened that if the wishes of the inhabitants
were not acceded to, they requested permission to leave Trinidad
and serve His Majesty in some other part of his dominions.
Thus the bankruptcy of the Exclusive was made complete and
the wheel came full circle. Trade only with Spain and not with
foreign countries. But Spain cannot really serve us. Then sink the
foreign vessels, destroy the tobacco, banish the lawbreakers. Then
permit us to emigrate. It was the Exclusive with a vengeance. There
were only two alternatives: on the metropolitan side, the Exclusive
or banishment; on the colonial side, no Exclusive or emigration.
It was not only that Spain was incapable of developing Trinidad
economically. What aggravated the situation was that Spain was
incapable of defending the colony. Defence involved both a local
militia, a national guard in the territory composed of settlers, and
the military, Spanish troops from Spain. Spain was unable to provide
military reinforcements, whether soldiers or ships, or to supply the
necessary white population on which the national guard would have
been based. Thus the history of Trinidad under Spanish colonialism
is a dismal record of reports on its defenceless state, piteous pleas
for help, and inability to defend itself either from local enemies,
or from Carib invaders, or from rival foreign powers.
The most hysterical of all the pleas for help and the most
exasperated of all the analyses of Trinidad's defenceless state came
from the Governor, Antonio de Berrio, in a letter to the King of


Spain on November 24, 1593. The Carib menace was uppermost in
his mind. de Berrio had, he said, only 70 men against 6,000 hostile
Amerindians. Order Puerto Rico to send 100 of the 400 idle paid
soldiers of the King in Puerto Rico to patrol the coast. Order Puerto
Rico also to supply 20 quintals of powder, an equal weight of lead,
6 culverins and 50 muskets.
The metropolitan country failed the colony militarily as it failed
it economically. A piteous plea to the King of Spain was made by
the Cabildo of Trinidad, the assembly representative of the Spaniards
presided over by the Governor with little real power, on September
30, 1625. The Cabildo emphasised the general poverty of the place,
illustrating it by the thatched building which served as Church
because there were no funds to erect a proper structure, and
emphasising it by the Cabildo's need to beg for a supply of oil in
order to light the building for Church services. According to the
Cabildo, there were only 24 Spanish settlers in the whole island,
without arms or ammunition, "completely defenceless against their
many enemies".
If on the economic problem the King's solution was to reduce
it to absurdity by ordering the destruction of the foreign vessels,
on the defence problem he literally exploded with rage. In 1638
the House of Trade emphasised the defenceless state of Trinidad and
the impossibility of putting up any resistance to enemy attack. The
House of Trade stressed that Trinidad's inability to resist was the
result of the metropolitan failure to assist over the years with arms,
supplies, clothing, and authorised ships. This was too much for the
King who, as the ruler of vast European dominions and a huge trans-
atlantic empire, saw Trinidad in its international context. The royal
indignation was expressed in a memorandum to the House of Trade
on their representations:
"You make reproaches about the money I have used as
though I had taken yours or some private person's without com-
pensation, or as if I had ordered it to be taken for the purpose
of making presents to certain people, or as though, if I had not
taken it, a great portion of the State of Milan and of Flanders
with the whole of Burgundy would not now have been lost; so
you may see with what slight reason you advise repeatedly on
this matter.
"If the trade would voluntarily pay one per cent, or two,
or had been made to pay for the public cause on any of the
many occasions on which I have so ordered, there would have
been a totally different result, and what has happened and is
feared would never have occurred, nor would so tardy a remedy
as a visit by the ships of the Brazil route be proposed, for they
can only be a very small fleet and cannot arrive for four months,
nor can they alone effect anything of importance against those
who may have taken possession over there.
"What might be done is to send direct at once to the Island
of Trinidad, in tenders and caravels or light vessels, 200 men


with munitions and clothing and some provisions for the people
there and a couple of good soldiers as leaders to ensure success,
and when this assistance has been despatched, as I have resolved,
this matter can be discussed to some purpose and on a firm
The King proposed but the Spanish economy disposed. Spain
simply could not provide the men. Thus it was that the Governor
of Trinidad, writing to the Secretary of the Council of the Indies
in 1671, could state that he had only 80 settlers and 80 "domesti-
cated" Amerindians insufficient for the defence of the island. He
therefore urged that a garrison of 50 men should be sent to Trini-
dad. Nothing was done. Therefore the Cabildo in 1700, warning the
King oi mortality among the settlers in the national guard, as a
result of which families were left without support, urged that 25
soldiers should be transferred to Trinidad from the garrison in
Nothing eame of this. Nothing. On January 18, 1776, the Gov-
ernor of Trinidad reported simply of Trinidad and Margarita: "There
is nothing of importance about these islands to record."
Spain's Exclusive policy was bankrupt. Spain's defence policy
was bankrupt. Spanish colonialism on its death bed had ended in
It was therefore totally impossible for Spanish Trinidad to
defend itself from either Caribs, pirates or buccaneers. Sir Walter
Raleigh was able to land with impunity in Trinidad in 1595, to travel
up and down the island, to arrest the Spanish Governor, to burn
the capital St. Joseph, and openly to challenge Spanish authority in
a speech which, through an interpreter, he made to the Amerindians,
as follows:
"I made them understand that I was a servant of a Queen,
who was the Great Cacique of the North, and a virgin, and had
more Caciques under her than there were trees in their Island,
and that she was an enemy to the Castilians in respect of their
tyranny and oppression, and that she delivered all such nations
about her, as were by them oppressed, and having freed all the
coast of the northern world from their servitude had sent me
to free them also, and withal to defend the country of Guiana
from their invasion and conquest."
Two years later a fleet of pirogues sailing from Trinidad to
Guiana with stores and men was attacked by a Carib fleet from
Dominica and Grenada and totally destroyed. In 1637 the Dutch
attacked St. Joseph so suddenly and unexpectedly that the women
in the town hardly had time to leave their houses and escape into
the forest. The Dutch burnt the town including the Church and
nothing escaped. They then left the island with plans to return.
Eighty years later the Dutch had yielded to the French, and the
Governor of Barbados, writing to the Commissioners of Trade and
Plantations, stated that the French behaved in the West Indies like
Lords Paramount and treated the Spaniards as they pleased.


The English contempt for Spain and Spain's title to Trinidad
was illustrated by the grant which Charles I made on February
25, 1628, to the Earl of Montgomery of Trinidad, Tobago, Barbados
and other islands.
Spain's European rivals simply refused to recognize or admit
Spain's claims to a monopoly of the New World and the West Indies.
King Francis I of France gave voice to the general view when he
said he would like to see the clause in Adam's will which excluded
him from a share of the world, and he sent Verezzano, the Floren-
tine in his service, to make discoveries with the instruction: "God
had not created these lands for Spaniards only." The British Gov-
ernment refused to abide by the Papal Donation. Sir William Cecil
asserted to the Spanish Ambassador in London in 1562: "The Pope
had no right to partition the world and to give and take kingdoms
to whomsoever he pleased."
The French and British countered the Spanish monopoly with
the doctrine of effective occupation. France, challenging Spain's
interpretation of international law, stated boldly:
"In lands which the King of Spain did not possess they ought
not to be disturbed, nor in their navigation of the seas, nor would
they consent to be deprived of the sea or the sky."
The British view on effective occupation and on freedom of the
seas was even more specific. Queen Elizabeth I expounded it to the
Spanish Ambassador in London as follows :
"Her Majesty does not understand why her subjects and those
of other Princes are prohibited from the Indies, which she
could not persuade herself are the rightful property of Spain
by donation of the Pope of Rome, in which she acknowledged
no prerogative in matters of this kind, much less authority to
bind Princes who owe him no obedience, or to make that new
world as it were a fief for the Spaniard and clothe him with pos-
session: and that only on the ground that Spaniards have touched
here and there, have erected shelters, have given names to a
river or promontory; acts which cannot confer property. So that
this donation of alien property (which by essence of law is void),
and this imaginary proprietorship, ought not to hinder other
princes from carrying on commerce in these regions, and from
establishing Colonies where Spaniards are not residing, without
the least violation of the law of nations, since prescription with-
out possession is of no avail; nor yet from freely navigating that
vast ocean, since the use of the sea and the air is common to
all men; further that no right to the ocean can inure to any
people or individual since neither nature or any principle of
public user admits occupancy of the ocean."
While the Governments did not feel free to take positive action
against Spain, they did nothing to restrain their subjects from doing
so. The sixteenth century in particular was the great age of the
buccaneers, the foreign captains who waylaid the Spanish treasure
fleets, who sacked and plundered the Spanish cities in the New


World, who violated the Spanish Exclusive by force of arms. Fleury
intercepted the first treasure sent by Cortes from Mexico. Sir Francis
Drake plundered Nombre de Dios, the treasure house of the New
World. Sir John Hawkins forced the Spaniards in Hispaniola to trade
with him. So persistent were the Dutch free traders that the Spanish
Governor of Venezuela recommended that they should be kept out
of the Spanish colonies by poisoning the salt pans to which they
were in the habit of resorting.
There was, as the saying went in Europe at the time, no peace
below the line. This doctrine was written into the Treaty of Cateau-
Combresis in 1559.
"West of the prime meridian and south of the Tropic of
Cancer .... violence done by either party to the other side shall
not be regarded as in contravention of the treaties."
Thus did Trinidad and the West Indies live under Spanish
colonialism-disregard and violation of metropolitan law in Trini-
dad itself, disregard and violation of international law in West Indian
waters. Spanish colonialism was cradled in illegality, violence and
No Spanish ships for trade, no Spanish soldiers for defence. And
there were no Spanish settlers for economic development. Spain was
simply unable to provide the manpower. The early attempts of
Columbus in Hispaniola to attract small white settlers, either by
liberal grants of land or other concessions or by metropolitan remis-
sion of penalties for various crimes, had been a failure.
Two decades later Las Casas failed in his attempt to set up a
colony of white Spanish farmers in Venezuela. Privileges and
liberties were granted to Spanish farmers to go to the Indies to
develop the land, thus providing the opportunity for improvement
to those who lived in poverty in Spain, and for occupation of the
discovered territories in order to prevent foreign invasion. The
inducements offered by the King were free passage to the New
World, free medical care and medicines, free land and animals,
exemption from taxes for twenty years except the tithe for the
Church, assistance in the building of their new homes, and prizes
to farmers who produced the first dozen pounds of silk, cloves,
ginger, cinnamon or other spices, and the first hundredweight of
rice or of olive oil. Las Casas went up and down Spain making
speeches, seeking to recruit workers for America. He failed dismally,
running into the hostility of the feudal lords who wanted to pre-
serve their own labour supply, and he dropped the project quietly
in April 1519.
It was therefore never likely that there would be any large-
scale migration of Spaniards to Trinidad. But Spain's basic inability
to provide manpower, or ships, or soldiers was unnecessarily aggra-
vated by its exclusive policy in respect of population. In 1630, for
example, the King protested to the Governor of Trinidad against the
concessions granted to certain Portuguese who had arrived in Trinidad
without his permission, who had been allowed to settle there, and who


had been granted land and Amerindian workers to cultivate the land.
The King ordered that these Portuguese should be required to leave or
be ejected by force, and instructed the Governor to grant in future
no lands to Portuguese without his expressed permission. If ever a
colonial system was mad, the Spanish colonial system was mad.
Spain was interested not in Trinidad but in gold. If Trinidad
had gold, then Spain would show an interest in Trinidad. Gold was
a positive obsession with King Ferdinand who had signed the con-
tract with Columbus, and on February 23, 1512, he wrote to the
authorities in Puerto Rico, under which jurisdiction Trinidad then
fell, as follows:
"It is of importance to me to know definitely whether or
not there is gold in Trinidad as you were told by the five Indians
who came to your ship when you anchored there; you should
proceed to find out all you can about this and determine the
truth of this statement."
There was really no gold in Trinidad, notwithstanding early
reports that gold had been found in some of the rivers. There being
no gold, Spain was not impressed, and Spaniards were not interested.
Trinidad's importance, and lack of importance, therefore revolved
around El Dorado, the rumour of gold in Guiana. It proved as impos-
sible to keep Spaniards in Trinidad with the lure of El Dorado as
it had proved to keep them in Hispaniola because of the gold and
silver of Mexico and Peru. As early as 1530, the Governor of Puerto
Rico had reported that the prayer on the lips of every Spaniard
on that island was "May God take me to Peru".
Similarly, de Berrio's principal interest in his settlement in Tri-
nidad in 1592 was that it would be a base from which to enter and
settle El Dorado. Writing to the Council of the Indies on January
1, 1593, he stated that "if God aids me to settle Guiana, Trinidad
will be the richest trade centre of the Indies", for if Guiana was
one-twentieth of what it was supposed to be, it would be richer than
This is the explanation of the metropolitan failure to send ships,
the metropolitan failure to send soldiers, the unwillingness of
Spaniards to settle in Trinidad. The Spanish conquest of Trinidad
was a conquest in name only, and the prospects of the island under
Spanish colonialism, never bright as we have indicated, were ruined
by the lust for gold in El Dorado. This is what the Governor of
Santa Fe wrote to the King of Spain about Trinidad on January 20,
"We have heard how weak is the foundation of that con-
quest which is only sustained by vanity and with vanity.
"Let His Majesty be pleased to consider that though it is
not carried on (and even because it is not carried on) at the
expense of the Royal Treasury, it touches your most Christian
conscience nearer, for the price of pursuing the chimera of this
discovery is the free and licentious lives led by the soldiers


who without spiritual and temporal leading run headlong into
every kind of vice.
"From that place which is the chosen resort of secular
criminals, irregular priests and apostate friars and in general a
seminary of rascals, nothing is to be expected except some
seditious scandal when they despair of finding what they seek
or tire of the delay in its discovery."
Trinidad, such at it was, underpopulated, defenceless, victim of
metropolitan indifference, turned to tobacco and the tobacco trade
with foreigners. By 1718, however, the first real indication of Trini-
dad's future place in the world economy emerged. Cocoa trees were
found in Trinidad, and thereafter the cocoa economy developed
slowly until collapse came in 1733. One of the clergymen in Trinidad
blamed the collapse on the refusal of the Spanish planters to pay
the tithes to the Church. The Abbe Raynal, the wellknown French
authority on the West Indies, writing many years after the event,
attributed the failure of the cocoa crop to the north winds. More
plausible reasons have been advanced for the collapse. One, the
severe drought in that year; two, that the cocoa variety then planted,
whilst of the highest quality, was far more tender and less hardy
than the forastero variety from Brazil generally cultivated after 1756.
Whatever the cause, the effects of the failure of the cocoa crop
were ruinous to Trinidad. Many of its inhabitants emigrated, and
the King was forced to remit for several years the annual tribute
exacted from the Amerindian workers.
The Amerindians constituted the labour supply of the Spaniards.
This was in accordance with the Spanish policy in conquered terri-
tories in assigning a stipulated number of Amerindians to each
Spaniard for the double purpose of providing labour for the
Spaniards and of being instructed in the principles and the teach-
ings of the Roman Catholic faith. In other parts of the West Indies
and South America the secular purpose had superseded the religious,
and it was this that formed the foundation of the unrelenting strug-
gle of Las Casas for some sixty years for justice for the Amerind-
ians and for taking them out of the care of secular landlords and
putting them under the jurisdiction of the Church. Las Casas had
been able, by the promulgation of the New Laws in 1542, to secure
recognition of the principle that the Amerindians were a free people,
were not to be enslaved, were to be paid prescribed wages, and
were not to be compelled to work beyond prescribed hours. One
result of this was a growing conflict between landlords and Church
which spread to Trinidad, where it was claimed that the Church had
too much economic influence and that, by the labour of Amerindians
on Church estates, the Church was in competition with the secular
In Trinidad, however, Spanish colonialism began with the
enslavement, direct or indirect, openly avowed or casuistically con-
cealed, of the Amerindians and even of a slave trade in Amerindians.
From both ends of the archipelago, from the Bahamas in the north-


west and Trinidad in the southeast, the policy developed of trans-
porting what the Spaniards called useless Amerindians to the mines
of Hispaniola. Las Casas has recorded that this slave trade reached
such alarming proportions that it was possible for a ship to sail
from the Bahamas to Hispaniola being guided solely by the trail
of dead Amerindians thrown overboard.
It was against this background that the King of Spain, on June
15, 1510, in a letter to Columbus' son and successor Don Diego
Columbus, placed a ban on the Amerindian slave trade from Trinidad.
The ban was neither humanitarian in its motives nor permanent in
its intention. The King was of the opinion that Spanish interests
would be better served at that time by the ban as there were other
islands much nearer Hispaniola from which Amerindian slaves could
be carried, whilst he was also interested, in preserving the Amerind-
ian population in the islands and along the coast of the mainland
where the pearl fishery seemed to be promising. He was also con-
cerned, in a letter about a year later, with the possibility that there
was gold in Trinidad, because, if so, it would be better to utilise
the Amerindians in their native locality than to transport them to
another place.
Thus there was no real prohibition of the enslavement of the
Amerindians in Trinidad. Sedeno in 1535 planned, as part of his
development of the fishing industry in Trinidad, to capture some
Amerindians in Trinidad and send them to Cubagua to be sold as
slaves, fishing nets being bought with the proceeds. The royal offi-
cials at Cubagua, however, refused to authorise such transactions.
And the King himself, in 1511, specifically permitted both the slave
trade and slavery in respect of Caribs, on the ground that the
Caribs refused to allow Christians to enter the islands they inhabited
and in the process of resistance had killed several Christians. H4
therefore specifically authorised war against the Caribs of Trinidad
Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Tobago, Barbados and
other islands, and their enslavement and transport to any other
place on the one condition that they were not sold outside of the
West Indies. This was an open invitation to any and everybody to
capture Amerindians, all and sundry, and merely plead afterwards
that they were Caribs.
In the course of his long career as protector of the Amerind-
ians, Las Casas fought many legal battles, engaged in many polemics
and much disputation, wrote innumerable books and travelled up
and down the West Indies and the north coast of South America
and Central America. One of his greatest polemical achievements,
which laid the basis of either his fame (to some) or his infamy (to
others) in the outside world depending on the point of view, was
his Very Brief Narrative of the Destruction of the Indies, pub-
lished in 1559. It was at one and the same time an impassioned
defence of the Amerindians and a tremendous indictment of his
Spanish contemporaries. This world-famous document includes a
section dealing with the Spanish attitude to the treatment of the


Amerindians in Trinidad, which is reproduced here as indicating
one redeemable feature in the history of the inefficiency and inepti-
tude of Spanish colonialism:
"In the island of Trinidad which is much larger than that
of Sicily and more beautiful and which is linked to the main-
land by the Province of Paria, the Indians are as good and kind
as any to be found in all the Indies.
"A marauder went there in the year 1516 with some 60 or
70 other villains who represented to the Indians that they had
come to settle there and live in the Island with them. The Indians
received them as if they were their friends and relatives showing
every mark of respect and affection, supplying them every day
with food, the best that could be got. It is the generous custom
of all the Indians in the New World to give liberally to meet the
needs of the Spaniards from whatever they may have.
"These men began to make a large house of wood in which
they could all live as this was what they had alleged they had
come to do. When the time came to apply palm leaves to the
supports and some way up the walls had been covered so that
those without could not see within, the Spaniards said that they
wanted to finish the house quickly and so put many Indians
inside to help while the Spaniards went outside and drew their
swords to prevent any Indians leaving. Then they began to
threaten the defenceless Indians with death should they attempt
to escape. They bound the Indians as prisoners while some, forc-
ing their way out, were cut to pieces by the Spaniards.
"Some who had managed to escape though wounded, and
others from the pueblo who had not entered the house, seized
their bows and arrows and retired to another building in the
pueblo to defend themselves. When one or two hundred of the
Indians were inside holding the gate, the Spaniards set fire to
the house and burnt them all alive. With the prisoners who
amounted to about 180-200 men whom they had been able to
catch, they returned to their ship and set sail for the Island of
San Juan (Puerto Rico) where they sold half of them for slaves;
thence they went to Hispaniola where they sold the remaining
half of the Indians.
"Having reprimanded the Captain for this dastardly
treachery and evil attack when I met him at this time in the
said Island of San Juan, he replied: 'I did, Sir, what I was
ordered; those who sent me instructed me to take them how I
could either by war or in peace'. He also told me that in all
his life he had never found Indians so kind and ready with
assistance as those in the Island of Trinidad. I repeat this to
emphasise the importance of his confession and to show how
great was his sin.
"Such things have often been done on the mainland
repeatedly, the Indians being taken and enslaved without restrie-


tion. Should such things be allowed to continue and should
Indians taken in this way be sold as slaves?"
The best commentary on the strictures of Las Casas is provided
by the story of the Amerindian uprising in Trinidad nearly a cen-
tury and a half later. Trinidad, it is true, had no such outstanding
Amerindian rebel chieftain as Hatuey in Cuba, who went philoso-
phically to the stake refusing to become a Christian because, if he
went to Heaven, he might find Spaniards there. Trinidad had no such
nationalist leader as Enrique who kept Spanish Hispaniola in a state
of permanent revolution, and whose exploits have been transmitted
to posterity by the Dominican historical novel, Enriquillo, by Manuel
de J. Galvan. There was no ancient established dynasty in Trinidad
to serve as the focus of a nationalist revolt against the conquerors
which would have caused the Spaniards to decapitate it as the
Viceroy Toledo deliberately decided in respect of the execution of
the last recognized Inca prince of Peru, Tupac Amaru.
On December 1, 1699, the Amerindians concentrated in one of
several Missions that Spanish priests had set up over the island,
the Mission of San Francisco de los Arenales, rose in revolt against
Church and State. This is what is known as the Arena Massacre
in Trinidad. They killed Capuchin Frairs in charge of the Mission
where they were building a new Church, one of them at the altar
itself, desecrated the statues and the ornaments of the Church, and
burnt the entire Mission to the ground. They then proceeded to set an
ambush for the Governor and his retinue who were at the time
expected on an official visit to the Mission. All but one of the Gov-
ernor's party died in the ambush, and he himself died from arrow
wounds three days later. The Amerindian rebels buried the bodies
of the priests hurriedly, threw the Governor's body into the river,
and immediately headed for the sea coast in anticipation of retalia-
tion. The Spaniards caught up with them in the Cocal, whence
they drove them to Point Galera. Surrounded by water and by their
enemies on land, caught as it were between the devil and the deep
blue sea, many of them preferred to die rather than to submit to
capture. Women pulled their children from their breasts, threw
them and their older children into the sea, and then themselves
followed with many of the menfolk.
Several were taken prisoner and brought to St. Joseph where
they were tortured. Many ringleaders were hanged and 61 others
shot. Here is the sentence imposed by one of the tribunals:
"That these twenty-two above indicated criminals and all the
others of the said mission who might be caught be dragged
along the public streets of this town, with a crier before them,
publishing their crimes, and after that be hung, until they neces-
sarily die, and after their death their hands and heads shall be
cut off and exposed and nailed in the places where they com-
mitted and executed their crime, and their bodies shall be cut
in pieces and put along the roads for their punishment, and good


example for the public vengeance, because so orders the King
our Lord by his royal laws."
It was not until April 15, 1701, with the appointment of a new
Governor, that the Spaniards set out to recover the bodies of the
murdered priest. On that day the Governor, the clergy, and many
of the principal inhabitants met at San Francisco de los Arenales
carrying coffins with them. The story of this episode is quoted from
the account written by the official historian of the Capuchins, Fr.
Mateo de Anguiano, in 1704:
"They arrived at the place and found it all deserted and
waste. They went all over the ground finding signs of all that
had happened and with the assistance of witnesses established
the sites where each had been killed. They found with surprise
and astonishment that the blood shed had remained fresh and
red after so long a time just as if it had recently been shed.
"This was a wonderful occurrence but they found an even
greater when they arrived at the foundations of the Church.
They had expected to find only the bones but they found the
whole bodies without a single sign of corruption or any ordour,
as though they had just been killed. More miraculous still when
they began to move the bodies, fresh blood began to ooze from
all the wounds. Astonished at these marvels, they all gave thanks
to God, placed the bodies in the coffins and with joy and satis-
faction returned to the town.
"The bodies were taken to the principal Church and for
nine days remained lying there in state where they provided to
the Christian Piety of the faithful of this Island an exceptional
opportunity of praising God. During this Novena various
addresses on their virtues and martyrdom were delivered in
which the fervour of the orators moved their hearers to tears
now of joy and now of compassion. During all this time there
was no change of any kind in the bodies which retained all
their freshness as before."
There is an interesting sequel to the Massacre. In 1885 a Domini-
can Missionary, Fr. Cothonay, claimed to have discovered, some-
where in the neighbourhood of Tamana, the site on which had stood
the Mission of San Francisco de los Arenales. After a long journey
through the forest leading out of Tumpuna with their giant hard-
wood trees and what he described as their "incomparable fields of
green with festoons of blossoming vines (which) linked them one
to another", he was brought to a site where, he claimed, "bits of
bottles and broken glass afforded living witnesses of civilisation in
the heart of so great a forest .... sufficient proof that I was indeed
on the spot hallowed by the blood of martyrs". Fr. Cothonay took
away a few pieces of the perfumed resin from the aromatic trees
which surrounded the place to keep them as relics and as substi-
tutes for the bones of the martyrs, while on the site of the old
Church pointed out by the Amerindian guide, he gathered three


species of orchids which he planted near his cell in Port-of-Spain
in memory of the massacre of San Francisco de los Arenales. Fr.
Cothonay claimed that the final proof that he had indeed found the
site of the massacre was the various reports of traditions among the
Amerindians that each year on Holy Thursday and %,ood friday
remarkable things happened in the deserted spot and that more
than one person claimed to have heard voices talking and singing
including the accents of a priest saying Mass and the murmur of
people praying aloud.
One result of the Arena Massacre was the Royal Decree sent
to the Governor of Trinidad in 1716 regarding the treatment of the
Amerindians. Emphasising an earlier decision to take away all
Amerindian workers from the settlers and concentrate them in his
Royal estate in the interests of their spiritual welfare, the King
commanded that any settler who ill-treated his Amerindian workers,
who had in any way tolerated or committed excessive wrongs against
these workers, should be deprived of them. Any Amerindian who
was converted to Roman Catholicism should be exempted from pay-
ing tribute of any kind for twenty years from the day he was bap-
tised, and under no circumstances was he to be required to labour
on' estates if he did not wish to do so.
What then? No ships, no soldiers, no tobacco, no white settlers
-no labour as well? Faced with a similar situation the Royal offi-
cials and planters and clergy in Hispaniola and other West Indian
islands called for the substitution of African slaves for Amerindian
labour. Even Las Casas himself !ell for the trap, though, unlike the
others, he later repented openly and acknowledged his error.
The first signs of a similar policy in Trinidad came with the
report irom de Berrio to the Council of the Indies on January 15,
1593. Reminding the Council that he had a licence to introduce 500
African slaves into Trinidad free from all duties, he indicated his
desire to associate with a trader who was not a buccaneer to bring
in for barter hatchets, billhooks, knives, amber and glass beads,
needles, cloaks, mirrors large and small-precisely the type of cargo
which dominated the African slave trade in later years and which
came to be lumped together under the general French term pacotille,
a word still used in Trinidad to denote baubles and objects of no
value surrendered in exchange for something very valuable.
In 1618, with the first report of the discovery of cocoa, the warn-
ing note was sounded that Trinidad would go the way of other West
Indian islands. It was suggested that in order to develop the cocoa
industry, 300 "pieces of slaves" should be sent to Trinidad, of whom
two-thirds should be men and one-third women.
This, until 1777, was Trinidad under Spanish colonialism-poor.
undeveloped, a showpiece of metropolitan incompetence and in-
difference. The Spanish capital, St. Joseph, was the symbol of this
neglect and apathy. It boasted in 1772 of a population of 326
Spaniards and 417 Amerindians. Its houses were mud huts with
(thatched roofs. Its Governor, part of the metropolitan rubbish ex-


ported to the colonies, was thus described in 1609, possibly by an
"He acts without any idea of Christianity or consideration that
he is a servant of our Majesty but as an absolute King and Lord
of that country. Neither the law of God nor the law of man is
regarded in that country, but only that of his own will and
pleasure, which he does not exercise in anything which tends to
Christian virtue, just like an infidel and a savage."
The Governor was associated in the government of the island with
a Cabildo which had no real powers. The Spanish Government in
Trinidad, including Governor and Cabildo, and with the metropolitan
country in the background, is immortalised in the following extract
from the Archives of the Cabildo for April 28, 1757:
"Read a letter from His Excellency the Governor, directing
the Board to proceed immediately to arrange and put in proper
order the papers of the Cabildo which are in a very confused
state; to take an inventory of the same and to order a press to be
made with tvo keys to keep the papers in safety; to buy a decent
book, properly bound, to enter the Minutes of the Board; to proceed
without delay to build a Town Hall which had been begun and
abandoned; to cause the vacant lots and streets of St. Joseph to be
cleared of the bush which covers them and to have the holes and
ditches in the streets filled up; to give proper orders to have the
roads and principally the avenues of the town cleared of woods and
thickets; to regulate the pieces of articles of provisions which are
produced in the Island by making a proper tariff........ etc.
"The Cabildo in their reply to the Governor represented the
impossibility of carrying these orders into execution considering
the very small number of inhabitants and their extreme poverty;
the total want of money; the want of cattle and of all sorts of
provisions; that the inhabitants feed themselves and their families
with what little they can get personally in the woods and the sea
and that many days they return to their homes without anything
to eat which has induced many to leave the Island; that their
occupation of weeding their little plantations takes up all their
time; that they are constantly employed in mounting guard at the
mouth of the Caroni (there being ten soldiers in the Island) and
doing other public services to the detriment and often to the total
loss of their gardens; that if forced to perform other works they
would leave the Island and that if all the inhabitants together
were put to work at repairing the holes and ditches of the towa
they could not finish the work in one year; and lastly that they
have no tools nor are there any to be had in the Island, and that
even if there were, they have not the means to purchase them.
"Notwithstanding all these obstacles, orders will be given to
oblige Pedro Bontur, the only carpenter in the island, to make the
press for the Archives and to receive payment in provisions as
they can be collected from the inhabitants on whom a contribution


will be laid to that effect; but His Excellency the Governor must
provide the boards (the Cabildo knowing no one in the Island who
has them or can make them) and procure from the Main when an
opportunity offers, the locks and hinges for the same, nothing of
the kind being to be found here; that orders will be given to
arrange the papers of the Cabildo in proper order and that the
book will be made when they can get the paper, there not being
a single sheet amongst all the members of the Cabildo, &c."
This was the unrelieved dismalness of the Trinidad scene from
1498. By itself Spain was impotent. Africa and France came to the
rescue and changed the whole course of the history of Trinidad.


Africa to the Rescue

Who were these Africans ? They were dragged by the millions
from their native land in Africa to the Western Hemisphere. What
began as a mere trickle in 1441, with twelve African slaves captured
by the Portuguese and taken to Portugal, became a roaring torrent in
the 18th and 19th centuries, and one estimate, almost certainly on
the conservative side, is that the slave trade cost Africa at least
50,000,000 souls. Africans became important elements in the popula-
tion in all the Caribbean countries, in Brazil, and in the United
States of America. They constituted also an important element in the
population of Trinidad and Tobago, and were automatically resorted
to, as in other parts of the Spanish dominions, as soon as the deci-
mation of the Amerindians by the Spanish conquest was recognized.
It would therefore be in any case important to identify this new
addition to the population of Trinidad and Tobago. It is all the
more important today because of the historical lie of African
The first and one of the most important of the strictures on
the inferiority of African Negroes was expressed by the celebrated
British philosopher, David Hume, in his essay "Of National Charac-
ters" written in 1753. This reads as follows:
"I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to
the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that
complexion, nor ever any individual, eminent either in action or
speculation. No ingenious manufactures among them no arts.
no sciences. On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of
the Whites, such as the ancient Germans, the present Tartars.
have still something eminent about them in their valour, form of
government, or some other particular. Such a uniform and con-
stant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages,
if nature had not made an original distribution between these
breeds of men. Not to mention our colonies, there are Negro slaves
dispersed all over Europe, of whom none ever discovered any
symptoms of ingenuity; though low people. without education,
will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every
profession. In Jamaica, indeed, they talk of one Negro (Francis
"Williams) as a man of parts and learning; but it is likely he is
admired for slender accomplishments, like a parrot who speaks a
few words plainly."
Hume was writing from England, and he knew nothing of the


plantation system in the West Indies. But if this could have been
said by a British philosopher, the father of scepticism, one cc..d
imagine what would be said by British planters on the slave planta-
tions, surrounded by hundreds of Negro slaves of whom they lived
in mortal dread. A Jamaican planter, Edward Long, who wrote a
history of Jamaica in 1774, concluded that Negroes are "a different
species of the same genus", equal in intellectual faculties to the
orang-outang, which, he claimed, has in form a much nearer resem-
blance to the Negro than the Negro bears to the white mar.
Thomas Jefferson, the second President of the United S.ates of
America, was in a little difficulty to reconcile his views of a states-
man on the natural rights of man with his interest as a Virginian
planter. The contradiction reflected itself in the followhi.g views on
the inferiority of Negroes:
"The opinion that they are inferior in the faculties of reason
and imagination must be hazarded with great diffidence. To
justify a general conclusion requires many observations, even
where the subject may be submitted to the anatomical knife, to
optical glasses, to analysis by fire or by solvents. How much more
then where it is a faculty, not a substance, we are examining;
where it eludes the research of all the senses; where the con-
ditions of its existence are various and variously combined;
where the effects of those which are present or absent bid
defiance to calculation; let me add too, as a circumstance of great
tenderness, where our conclusion would degrade a whole race
of men from the rank in the scale of beings which their Creator
may perhaps have given them. To our reproach it must be said,
that though for a century and a half we have had under our eyes
the races of black and of red men, they have never yet been
viewed by us as subjects of natural history. I advance it, there-
fore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a
distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are
inferior to the whites in the endowments both of bodr and mind.'
The depreciation and disparagement passed on int, Ahe period
after emancipation. A quarter of a century after emancipation by
Britain, Anthony Trollope, the distinguished English novelist, of
whom we shall have more to say later, paid a visit to the West
Indies, as a result of which he wrote of the emancipated Negro of
"But yet he has made no approach to the civilisation of his
white fellow creatures, whom he Imitates as a monkey does a
man........ he is idle, unambitious as to worldly position, sensual,
and content with little. Intellectually. he is apparently capable
of but little sustained effort; but, singularly enough, here he
is ambitious. He burns to be regarded as a scholar, puzzles him-
self with fine words, addicts himself to religion for the sake of
appearance, and delights in sing the little graces of cvilisation.
He despises himself thorouhly, and would probably be content


to starve for a month if he could appear as a white man for a
day; but yet he delights in signs of respect paid to him, black
man as he is, and is always thinking of his own dignity. If you
want to win his heart for an hour, call him a gentleman; but if
you want to reduce him to a despairing obedience, tell him that
he is a filthy nigger, assure him that his father and mother had
tails like monkeys, and forbid him to think that he can have a
soul like a white man......I do not think that education has as
yet done much for the black man in the Western world. He can
always observe, and often read; but he can seldom reason. I do
not mean to assert that he is absolutely without mental power, as
the calf is. He does draw conclusions, but he carries them only
a short way.'
A little more than a quarter of a century later another distin-
guished English intellectual, this time the Professor of Modern
History at Oxford, James Anthony Froude, of whom we shall have
very much to say later, visited the West Indies. By this time, half a
century after emancipation, one would have imagined that the metro-
politan government would have had ample time to remedy the
"defects of character" of the emancipated African. Addressing him-
self also to this question which for over three centuries had been
bothering the minds of Europeans, the question of Negro inferiority,
Froude offered this contribution to the discussion:
"The West Indian Negro is conscious of his own defects, and
responds more willingly than most to a guiding hand. He is
faithful and affectionate to those who are just and kind to him,
and with a century or two of wise administration he might prove
that his inferiority is not inherent, and that with the same chances
as the white he may rise to the same level.... The poor black
was a faithful servant as long as he was a slave. As a free man
he is conscious of his inferiority at the bottom of his heart, and
would attach himself to a rational white employer with at least
as much fidelity as a spaniel. Tfke the spaniel, too, if he is
denied the chance of developing under guidance the better
qualities which are in him, he will drift back into a mangy cur."
So there we were. In Trinidad, and in the other parts of the
Spanish West Indies, the conquest had decimated the Amerindian
population, whom the jurist Sepulveda had contemptuously dismissed
as being closer to the monkey than to man. So the Spaniards and
other Europeans after them, promptly proceeded to introduce, as a
substitute for Amerindian labour. the labour of slaves from Africa
whom they regarded as closer to the monkey than to man, so much
closer in fact that fifty years after the abolition of slavery they
were still closer to the monkey than to man.
This was obviously an extravaganza. But the more fundamental
question arises, why the absurdity?
The explanation is, not that the Africans had no civilisation and
knew nothing of manufactures, arts and sciences, even if this could


properly constitute the justification of their enslavement. It was
precisely the opposite, that the Africans were civilised, as the stand-
ard of medieval civilisation went, but that, since they, like the less
developed Amerindians in the West Indies, could not withstand the
onslaught of superior weapons and superior technology, one could
only justify the enslavement of civilised men by the alibi that they
were not men at all but were at the level of brutes in the order of
Within the last two or three years a most remarkable condensa-
tion and collation, in an easy popular style, of the vast mass of
archaeological and historical research on the Continent of Africa
has been made available through the pen of Mr. Basil Davidson.
His two books, Old Africa Rediscovered and Black Mother, arc suffi-
cient refutation of the indictment drawn up against the whole people
of Africa for some four centuries.
Archaeological research in Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Rhodesia, the
Sudan and West Africa has brought to light a most astonishing
civilisation in Africa going right down from the ancient world to the
16th century. We know today, what possibly David Hume and
Thomas Jefferson and Anthony Trollope and James Anthony Froude
did not know, safely ensconced as they were in the superiority of
imperialism, that metallurgy was highly developed and spread all
over Africa to the point where the blacksmiths were often treated
as a social priviliged caste; Davidson describes the ruins of the
ancient city of Meroe in Egypt, the Birmingham of Ancient Africa,
as among the great monuments of the ancient world, their history
being an important part of the history of man. We know today,
from the great number of specimens of the Nok Figurine Cult, that
more than 2,000 years ago people on the Nigerian plateau were
making fine heads in terra cotta in great abundance. We know
today from the ruins at Engaruka in Kenya discovered in 1935 that
the people of Kenya had been able to develop, some three hundred
years ago, a city of some 7,000 well-built houses, with a population
estimated at between 30,000 to 40,000 with well-made stone walls,
terraces, and other works associated with cultivation and irrigation.
And we know today, from the archaeological researches of Dr.
Gertrude Caton-Thompson among the enormous ruins of Zimbabwe
in what is now Rhodesia, whose competence for self-government is
being questioned that African architects were able to build huge
military and religious structures that compare with the best in
ancient Athens. So explosive was the political and racialist implica-
tions of this discovery that it was for long concealed: when it was
eventually reported. it was attributed to the influence of the Orient
or Europe or Phoenicia.
The best indication of the unwillingness of Europeans to accept
as African the work of Africa because this would have contradleted
-the conventional rationalisation exofessed in Hume's dictum that
Africans had no arts and no scenes, was the enormous discovery


of the masterpieces of Benin brought back from an expedition in
1897. These famous Benin Bronzes, from what is today Southern
Nigeria, are now accepted as entirely African, indicative of the
maturity of the iron age in Africa. They were at first regarded,
however, as of Greek origin or even as products of the European
Renaissance, and one well known British imperialist attributed them
to the inspiration of the Portuguese. They stand in the British
Museum in London, together with the famous Golden Death Mask of
an Ashanti King in the Wallace collection, as living proof of the
capacity of these Africans defamed by Hume and Jefferson and
Trollope and Froude and degraded by centuries of plantation slavery.
In addition to the archaeological evidence, there is the historical
data which has become available in increasing quantities in recent
years and which modern progressive thinking has been more and
more willing to bring into the open. We have available today a
number of Arabic manuscripts and records of Africa. There is an
account of East Africa in 947 by El Mas'Udi and Edrisi's geography
in 1154. We have El Bekri's account of Ghana contemporary with
the Norman Conquest of England. We have the accounts of that
inveterate traveller in Asia and in Africa, Ibn Battuta. We have
the Tarikh es Sudan of Abderrahman es Sadi, a chronicle and
description of Timbuktu around 1655. We have another work,
written also in Arabic, largely an account of the ancient kingdom
of Songhay, the Tarikh el Fettach of Mahmoud Kati, a learned Negro
citizen of Timbuktu. We have also the well-known description of
Africa in 1526 by a converted Moor, Leo Africanus, the protege of
Pope Leo X, There are also the works of the more modern
writers, like the traveller Mungo Park, Heinrich Barth in the middle
of the 19th century who drew on the Muslim records, and in the
early 20th century the greatest of all students of African civilis-
ation, Leo Frobenius.
The archaeological evidence and the historical data combine
to give us an astonishing picture of these ancient African cultures,
which is only confirmed by observations and accounts of the early
Portuguese conquerors in West Africa, especially in the Congo.
We know today of the great West African Empires, first the
PKingdom of Ghana, secondly, the Empire of Mali, the Mandingo
State that followed Ghana, thirdly the Songhay Empire which
succeeded Mali. The King of Ghana in 1067, Tenkamenin, was
described as master of a great Empire and of a power just as
formidable, who could put 200,000 warriors in the field, more than
40,000 of them armed with bows and arrows. Ibn Battata was able
to write of the Mandingo State of Mali: "One has the impression that
Mandingo was a real state whose organisation and civilisation could
be compared with those of the Musselman kingdoms or indeed the
Christian kingdoms of the same epoch." Timbuktu, for so long a
name of reproach, was one of the great cities of learning in the
world in the 14th century, famous for its scholars and its books


and its Sankure mosque. "Let them go and do business with the
King of Timbuktu and Mall", was the advice of Ramusio, Secretary
to the Doge of Venice, to the merchants of Italy in 1563. Askia
the Great ascended the Songhay throne in 1493, shortly after
Columbus discovered the West Indies. He reigned for 19 years,
ruler of a vast central state in which the city of Gao was. for learn-
ing, for trade and government, what Timbuktu was to Mali. As Leo
Africanus wrote of the city, "It is a wonder to see what plenty of
merchandise is daily brought hither, and how costly and sumptuous
all things be."
These accounts, contemporary with the great age of African
civilisation, were confirmed by early Portuguese invaders. An
Italian priest in 1687, Father Cavazzi, had this complaint to make of
the states of the Congo:
"With nauseating presumption, these nations think them-
selves the foremost men in the world, and nothing will persuade
them to the contrary. Never having been outside of Africa they
imagine that Africa is not only the greatest part of the world,
but also the happiest and most agreeable. Similar opinions are
held by the king himself but in a manner still more remarkable.
For he is persuaded that there is no other monarch in the world
who is his equal, or exceeds him in power or the abundance of
What destroyed this civilisation was the Euronean slave trade.
The Europeans came for gold and ivory and found that it was more
profitable to take Noeroes. On arrival in the Coneo. the Pnrtunese
were welcomed and treated as equals. and a remarkable corresnond-
ence devploned between the King of Portugal and the King of the
Congo, each add-essine the other as my "Roval Broth-r." One of
the sons of the King of the Conro was elevated by the Pone to the
rank of Bishop on May 5, 1518, on the formal proposal of four
Cardinals. as the first African Bishop. and a Congolese Embassy
appeared in Rome in 1513. But the Congo had the first colonial
experience of rpauests for technical assistance from a metropolitan
country. Th KWing of Portugal reneatedlv refused to aeree to the
reoRest of the King of the Congo to give him a shin or the means of
building' one. and the nitiful letter of the King of the Conan in 1.596
recounting the King of Portugal to send him drums, two phvsefans,
two d(nggists, and one surgeon would readily evoke the sympathy of
Eanality was superseded by slavery. One million slaves were
taken from Ancola in the first century of European contact, as we
r-ad in a Decerinfion of the Kinodom of Conoo published in 1i80
by Oliviora Cadornrga: other reports indicate the extraction of a
further half a million slaves from the neighboring land of the
Coneo. : -
No society could hone to withstand such a pressure. As the
demand for slaves grew in voracity, the supply had to be sought


further and further inland. Africans enslaved other Africans; the
best means of defence was attack, and one enslaved in order not to
be enslaved oneself. European guns intensified the tribal warfare
fomented by the slave trade. African cupidity was nourished on
European greed. A pitiful letter from the King of the Congo in
1526 to King John II of Portugal reads as follows:
'"We cannot reckon how great the damage is, since the
above- mentioned merchants daily seize our subjects, sons of
the land and sons of our noblemen and vassals and our
relatives...... Thieves and men of evil conscience take them
because they wish to possess the things and wares of this Kingdom
They grab them and cause them to be sold: and so great,
Sir, is their corruption and licentiousness that our country is
being utterly depopulated. And to avoid [them], we need from
[your] Kingdoms no other than priests and people to teach in
schools, and no other goods but wine and flour for the holy
sacrament; that is why we beg of Your Highness to help and
assist us in this matter, commanding your factors that they
should send here neither merchants nor wares, because it is our
will that in these kingdoms [of Congo] there should not be any
trade in slaves nor market for slaves."
The King of the Congo might as well have appealed to the
wolves. More than two and a half centuries later, an African King
of Senegal enacted a law that no slaves whatever should be marched
through his territories. The law remained a dead letter. African
was set against African in order to provide slaves for European
traders to be transported to the European sugar plantations in
Trinidad and the West Indies.
The greatest of all students and scholars of African Civilisation.
Leo Frobenius. has passed judgment on this medieval African civilisa-
tion and on this great lie of the European slave traders, their govern-
mental promoters and their intellectual defenders, that Africa had no
history before the arrival of th- Europeans. Frobenius has written
in his history of African Civilisation, originally published in German,
and, perhaps not surprisingly, never translated into English:
"When they [the first European navigators of the end of the
Middle Agesi arrived in the Gulf of Guinea and landed at Vaida,
the captains were astonished to find streets well cared for. bor-
dered for several leagues in length by two rows of trees; for many
days they passed through a country of maenifieent fields, a coun-
try inhabited by men clad in brilliant costumes, the stuff of which
they had woven themselves! More to the South in the kingdom
of the Congo. a swarming crowd dressed in silk and velvet: great
states well ordered. and even to the smallest details, powerful
sovereigns, rich industries civilized to the marrow of their
bones. And the condition of the countries on the eastern coast-
Mozambique, for example was quite the same.
"What was revealed by the navigators of the fifteenth to the


seventeenth centuries furnishes an absolute proof that Negro
Africa, which extended south of the desert zone of the Sahara,
was in full efflorescence, in all the splendour of harmonious and
well-informed civilisations, an efflorescence which the European
conquistadors annihilated as far as they progressed. For the new
country of America needed slaves, and Africa had them to offer,
hundreds, thousands, whole cargoes of slaves. However, the slave
trade was never an affair which meant a perfectly easy conscience,
and it exacted a justification; hence one made of the Negro a half-
animal, an article of merchandise. And in the same way the
notion of fetish was invented as a symbol of African religion. As
for me, I have seen in no part of Africa the Negroes worship a
fetish. The idea of 'barbarous Negro' is a European invention
which has consequently prevailed in Europe until the beginning
of this century."
These were the people who were brought to Trinidad and the
West Indies to take the place of the Amerindian inhabitants, and to
become, as the Brazilian sociologist, Gilberto Freyre, has written,
"the white man's greatest and most plastic collaborator in the task of
agrarian colonisation" in the Western Hemisphere. Slavery on the
West Indian sugar plantation allowed them neither time nor scope nor
encouragement to develop their native capacity and to reproduce their
native arts and crafts. Deliberately divided to break up not only
families but also tribes in order that they might more easily be ruled,
the absence of a common language and the mixing up of different
customs and cultural traits were further obstacles in their way. Once
freed, however, of the incubus of slavery and the restraints on their
native talent, they were able to develop in a surprising manner, as
the Bush Negroes of Surinam have demonstrated.
The Bush Negroes of Surinam were runaway slaves who fled the
plantations, like the Maroons in Jamaica, and lived in the impene-
trable jungle, isolated from the slave society, in communities organ
ised on the African pattern. The Bush Negroes, like the Maroons,
fought for decades against superior European soldiers, so success-
fully that they anticipated the later slave revolution in Saint Domin-
gue and established independent African states thirty or forty years
before the Independence of Haiti was achieved. The Dutch signed a
treaty with the Bush Negroes, as the British did with the Maroons,
guaranteeing them their independence. Safe from the Dutch above
the waterfalls, expert oarsmen and builders of boats, the Bush Negroes
have been able to maintain their independence, and it is only today
that they are being brought into the stream of the national community
in Surinam with the emergence of the nationalist movement and its
penetration of the hitherto impenetrable jungle with a huge road to
the Brokopondo region where American investors mining bauxite are
collaborating with the Surinam Government in the construction of a
vast hydro-electric project.
The African arts and capacity for civilisation which Hume depre-


ciated and denied are very much in evidence in Surinam today and
are the theme of a remarkable little volume published in 1954 by
P. J. C. Dark, entitled Bush Negro Art: An African Art in the
Americas. Evidence of their art, using wood, principally in the form
of panellings, trays, vessels and paddles as well as canoes, is being
brought more and more to public notice by the deliberate decision of
the Government of Surinam to decorate and embellish public buildings
with representations of Bush Negro art. One can find in any curio
shop in Surinam folding chairs made by the Bush Negro-s, all in one
piece, of intricate workmanship and elegant design. One finds mas-
sive and neatly decorated combs used by the women for dressing their
hair. One finds beautiful trays, all round, always carved from one
piece of wood, of varying sizes ranging in diameter from 15 to 30
inches, decorated in some cases with most elaborate designs. Most of
the carvings have symbolic associations with sex; many, although of
utilitarian value, are also carved as love tokens.
Whilst it is not unlikely that the Bush Negroes, through their
slavery on the Surinam sugar plantations, had become faminar with
European art, particularly that of cabinet and furniture making, the
emphasis in Bush Negro art is emphatically African. Mr. Dark writes:
"Apart from the facets of African culture which nave contri-
butea wo tne xurmauon of nuan iNegro society, many of which have
reianed t eir Arican forms touay, tnere are many speciuc items
ot uusn lAegro art when can De idenmned as African m origin.
Most sLri.ng of tnese are drums, not only m form Dut in cons ruc-
tion, ana im ne form or pegging tor tuning the skin streLcnea over
the arum head. Some seats are similar to those found in West
Africa. Carved wouden locks like those of the Bush Negro are
found in West Arica and in the Suaan. The use of brass tacks
and cartridge marks is widespread in Africa. Many other items
could be listed and many suggestions of atinities are to be found
in the works of such as Linmoom, van Panhuys, Kahn and Hers-
kovits. The main problem, however, is the difficulty of assigning
a specific trait to a specific provenance in West Africa. Some Bush
Negro intertwined eight designs are very similar to those found
on Benin bronze work. Other designs are similar to those found
on Nupe brass trays. A photograph of some contemporary Yoru-
ban ivory combs in the possession of the writer, at first glance
looks like a photograph of Bush Negro combs. Perhaps it might
be tentatively suggested that the Ashanti, Dahomeans and Yoru-
bans contributed most to Bush Negro art. All in all the contribu-
tions made by the various provenances of Africa are not separable.
It is clear that many traits were contributed from that continent
and much of the subjective feeling engendered by Bush Negro art
recalls African work. Further. Bush Negro art owes most to its
African origins."
As far as Trinidad is concerned, we have a study by the well-


Known American anthropologist, Melville J. Herskovits, of African
survivals in his book, Trinidad Village. The book is a study of the
village of Toco in 1946. Herskovits analysed the cultural integra-
tion, the amalgam of Europe and Africa, which was Toco, with the
emphasis on the retention and reinterpretation of African customs
and beliefs.
For example, he found the diet of the people of Toco marked by
certain dishes that came directly from Africa. The most important
of these dishes were sweet and salt pami and sansam, pounded parched
corn mixed with salt or sugar and eaten dry; cachop, a special Yoruba
dish, made of cornmeal baked in a pot rather than boiled. Callaloo,
for which Trinidad is famous, is well known as an African dish over
all the New World. Accra boiled salted fish dipped into flour, flavoured
liberally with pepper sauce, and fried in deep fat, is another well-
known African inheritance.
Herskovits found also that the eating habits in Toco were African,
and so was the sexual differentiation of labour. The Gayap, the
Trinidad version of the Haitian coumbite, is essentially African. So
is the "papa-bois" and the susu, the savings device of the people
taken over without change of name from their Yoruba ancestors.
The high economic status of the women in Toco corresponded
with the position of women in West African society. The wellknown
Trinidad custom of the legal marriage subsisting side by side with
the informal union termed "keepers", or, as the Trinidad wits would
put it, the combination of de jure wife and de fact wife, which
has provided the basis for extensive moralising both at home and
abroad on the illegitimacy statistics, is seen by Herskovits as the
"translation, in terms of the monogamic pattern of European mating,
of basic West African forms that operate within a polygynous frame."
The shouters and the shango, the latter the God of Thunder of
the Yoruba people, have come to Trinidad straight from Africa. So
have the traditions of burials, especially in respect of wakes, with
which the Bongo is traditionally associated as it is in the well-
known calypso, "Tonight is the bongo night". The prevalence of and
the concern with obeah, magic and divination also have an African
inspiration: the use of the frizzle fowl to detect any charm set against
its owner, placing a broom upside down near the door, putting in
front of a doorway grains of cereal to be counted, leaving a needle
with a broken eye to be threaded all techniques for protection
against the evil eye, a combination of the French loupgarou and the
West African vampire.
Finally, most important of all, the calypso for which Trinidad has
become famous, the use of song to comment on current happenings,
to phrase social criticism, to convey innuendo, is in the African tradi-
tion. As Herskovits writes:
"Even though some of the music is cast in the mould of Euro-
pean folk tunes, and the words are in English, nothing of African


purport or intent has been erased. For despite its non-African
form, this musical complex can be regarded as nothing less than
a retention of the purest type."
These were the people who came in their thousands to the West
Indies, though in relatively limited numbers to Trinidad during the
slave period, to develop for the colonies of all the European metro-
politan countries what a British writer in the middle of the 18th
century described as "a magnificent superstructure of American com-
merce on an African foundation."


Spain Reigns but France Governs

Africa had been brought in by Spain into Trinidad and the West
Indies as the solution of the labour problem. France was now brought
into Trinidad as the solution of the problem of white management. A
French planter from Grenada, Roume de St. Laurent, visited Trinidad
and submitted a memorandum to the King of France on March 20,
1777. The result of this memorandum was to transform a backward
Amerindian colony governed by Spain into a Spanish colony run by
Frenchmen and worked by African slaves.
The proposals of Roume de St. Laurent were designed to facili-
tate the immigration of French planters into Trinidad. In effect they
amounted to the setting up of a French State within a Spanish State.
There was nothing singular in such a condominium in a single island,
either in fact or in law. In 1685 Brandenburg, one of the States in the
German confederation, had agreed with the Danes in St. Thomas in
the Virgin Islands for the lease of an area in St. Thomas for the
employment of 200 slaves. For some 70 years before the Treaty of
Utrecht in 1713, English and French jointly occupied the island of
St. Kitts. Even today the tiny island of St. Martin is shared between
France and Holland.
The essence of the plan of Roume de St. Laurent was the transfer
of as many planters as possible and their African slaves from the
French islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia, St.
Vincent and Grenada. He emphasised that all of them suffered more
or less from a variety of hardships: hurricanes, ants which destroyed
the sugar crop, bankruptcy, debts, the low price of coffee, and soil
exhaustion. He was afraid that the British mainland colonies of North
America would offer such incentives to these planters that they would
migrate to populate the States of Georgia, Carolina and Florida. In
his opinion they should be, as far as possible, encouraged to remain
in the West Indies, preferably in Trinidad, where he argued that the
interest of both France and Spain would be strengthened as against
Great Britain.
St. Laurent estimated that some 383 white families would be
interested in these proposals. Of these 286 were from Martinique, 40
from Dominica and 57 from Grenada. Allowing four persons to a
family, this meant a possible addition to the white population of
Trinidad of 1,532 persons. These would bring with them a total of
33322 African slaves of whom 24,710 were in Martinique, 3,647 in
Dominica and 4.965 in Grenada.
The very first glimpse of the possible development of Trinidad
involved, in other words, migration from the neighboring small


The Spanish Government accepted the proposals of Roume de
St. Laurent. On November 20, 1783, the King of Spain issued the
famous cedula of population opening Trinidad's doors under cer-
tain conditions to foreign immigrants. The terms of the cedula,
summarised, were as follows:
1. The foreigners must be Roman Catholics and subjects of nations
in alliance with Spain.
2. They must take an oath of allegiance to Spain and agree to
abide by the Spanish laws.
3. Every white immigrant, male or -female, would receive 4
fanegas and 2/7ths of land and in addition half of that quan-
tity for each slave introduced by him.
4. Free Negroes and people of colour would receive half the
quantity of land assigned to whites, with an additional half for
each slave introduced by them.
5. After five years residence in Trinidad the settlers and their
children would have all the rights and privileges of naturali-
sation, including eligibility for public office and posts in the
6. No head tax or personal tribute would be imposed upon the
settlers at any time, except that after ten years they would
each pay an annual sum of $1.00 for each Negro or coloured
slave with the guarantee that this sum would never be
7. During the first five years the settlers would be free to return
to their countries or former place of abode and to take with
them all goods and property introduced by them into Trinidad
without any export duty.
8. The settlers would be free from the payment of tithes on the
produce of their lands for ten years beginning January 1, 1785,
after which they would pay only one-half tithe, that is to say,
5 per cent.
9. For the first ten years the settlers would be free from the
payment of the royal duty on the sales of their produce and
merchantable effects, after which they would pay only 5 per
cent; but all their exports shipped to Spain in Spanish vessels
would be forever exempt from any duty on exportation.
10. All vessels belonging to the settlers, whatever their tonnage
or make, would be registered in Trinidad and accounted Span-
ish vessels, as well as vessels acquired from foreigners by
purchase or legal title before the end of the year 1786.
11. The Negro slave trade would be totally free of duties for a
period of ten years reckoned from the beginning of the year
1785, after which the settlers would pay only 5 per cent on
the current value of slaves at the time of their importation.
12. The settlers would be permitted, under Government licence,
to go to the West Indian islands in alliance with Spain, or to
neutral islands, to procure slaves, on the understanding that
only Spanish ships would be used.


13. For ten years computed from the beginning of the year 1785,
Spanish subjects would be free to make voyages to Trinidad
with their cargoes direct from ports of France in which Spanish
Consuls were resident and to return direct to those ports with
the products of Trinidad, except money, the exportation of
which was absolutely prohibited by that route.
14. The royal officials in Caracas were instructed to purchase on
the King's account and transport to Trimdad black cattle, mules
and horses, and to sell them to the settlers at prime cost
until such time as they had sufficient stock to supply them-
15. Similar instructions were issued with respect to the supply
of flour and meal to Trinidad for a period of ten years.
16. All Spanish manufactures needed by the settlers for their
agriculture were to be imported into Trinidad and sold to the
settlers at prime cost during a period of ten years.
17. Two priests of known erudition and exemplary virtue and
expert in foreign languages were to be appointed to Trinidad
to act as parish priests to the new settlers.
18. The settlers were permitted to propose to the King, through
the Governor, such Ordinances as were necessary for regulat-
ing the treatment of their slaves and preventing their flight.
19. The Governor was to take the utmost care to prevent the intro-
duction of ants into Trinidad.
20. When the cultivation of sugar had become fully expanded in
Trinidad, the settlers were to be allowed to establish refineries
in Spain with all the privileges and freedom from duties pre-
viously extended to Spaniards or foreigners.
21. The settlers would enjoy the privilege of directing represen-
tations to the King through the medium of the Governor and
the General Secretary of State for the Indies.
This, in modern parlance, was the first set of incentives offered
in Trinidad to attract foreign capital. It constituted a confession of
the total failure of Spanish colonialism. The Spanish Exclusive could
be maintained only inclusive of France.
Not content, the Spanish government went further a little
more than two years later. On January 30, 1786, another decree
amended the cedula of colonisation and liberalised the incentives.
The 5 per cent in lieu of tithes and the 5 per cent royal duty on
the sales of their products, which the settlers were to pay after ten
years, were reduced to 2% per cent. The time for naturalising
foreign built merchant vessels was extended from 1786 to 1788. The
exemption from duty on the importation of Negro slaves was
extended from ten years and made perpetual, and the duty of 5
per cent which the settlers were to pay after ten years was forever
abolished. Instead of paying 5 per cent on all produce exported to
foreign countries for the purpose of purchasing slaves, they were
to pay only 3 per cent. The duty on the export of produce to France
was similarly reduced from 5 per cent to 3 per cent, and a similar


reduction was made on all produce exported for the purpose of pur-
chasing flour whenever there was a scarcity in the islands.
This liberal policy was followed by permission of the King of
Spain to the Governor of Trinidad, on April 20, 1790, to raise from
any European nation whatsoever a loan in the sum of $1 million on
condition that it would be repaid from the value of the crops in
their plantations. This, Trinidad's first loan on the world market, was
proof that colonial development could not be achieved under the
umbrella of any one country and was in fact a condemnation of the
very foundation on which European colonialism had rested up to
that date. It compares favourably with the uproar raised in the
House of Commons in 1772 when a proposal was first mooted to
permit foreign investment in the West Indian territories acquired
by Britain from France at the Peace of Paris in 1763.
The cedula of colonisation, virtually coinciding with the arrival
in Trinidad of its most distinguished Governor, Don Jose Maria
Chacon, was the signal for an unprecedented development of the
Trinidadian economy, as well as an unprecedented initiative on the
part of the Goovernor of Trinidad. Chacon himself, a man of no
mean intellectual gifts and administrative ability, proceeded to
reorganise the ineffective government which he had inherited. One
of his first and most important measures was his reorganisation in
1787 of the administrative divisions of the colony which he divided
into three parts with a Commissioner of Population in charge of
each. The three divisions were as follows: the first, Las Cuevas,
Salybia, Guanapo, Tacarigua, Laventille, St. Ann's, Tragarete, Mara-
val, Diego Martin, Carenage (virtually the limits of the present
County of St. George); the second, Naparima, Galeota, Cocal and
Guatero; the third, Guapo, Los Gallos and Guayaguayare.
These comprehensive regulations, as expanded in 1788, are a
good example of Spanish paternalism.
The first responsibility of the Commissioners of Population was
a census of population, distinguishing free men from slaves, identi-
fying class and national origin. Anyone changing his estate or plan-
tation was required to notify the Commissioners, who had to submit
a statement of the population to the Governor in December of each
year, noting the births and deaths in that year.
The second responsibility of the Commissioners related to agri-
culture. They were to ascertain the area of land cleared, the area
cultivated, the crops grown, the yield of those crops, the labour and
machinery employed on plantations. They were to measure and
survey each plantation and to verify all litigation, past and pend-
ing; no land was to be alienated or sold without notice to the Com-
The third responsibility of the Commissioners related to the
roads. The Commissioners were to prepare plans for the course of
Royal roads, to estimate their cost, and to recommend the means
to be employed. They were to ensure that planters planted lime
trees, trees of campeachy wood or other useful trees, interspersed
with orange and other fruit trees,. on the part of their estate bor-

during a public road, "so as to delight the eye and temper the heat
of the sun for the relief of travellers". Twice a year the Com-
missioners were to arrange for the clearing and repairs of roads,
distributing the work among the planters according to the number
of slaves belonging to each, the quantity of land owned, and the
frontage on each public road.
The policing of the island was the Commissioners' fourth respon-
sibility. They were to take cognisance of all robberies, quarrels
and disorders.
The Commissioners, in the fifth place, were to pay special atten-
tion to the government of the slaves. They were to prevent inhuman-
ity to and ill-treatment of the slaves, to ensure that each plantation
grew an adequate quantity of provisions for the maintenance of
the slaves, and to note particularly all offences involving slave and
master or slave and freeman.
One can well understand what Chacon meant when he decreed
that the Commissioners were to know "with the greatest exactitude"
the lands in their respective divisions.
Chacon's second major reform was, in a proclamation of July
27, 1785, the removal of some of the confusion relating to land
grants and land titles. All lands which had not been alienated by
a formal concession were declared Crown lands. Immemorial pos-
session ceased to be admitted as a sufficient title. Inhabitants who
from a distant period of time held ungranted land, on condition
that such land was cultivated, were given priority over other
claimants in respect of free grants, provided that they presented
themselves within three months to the Government to obtain their
title of concession. All the ancient Spanish inhabitants who, without
title of property and concession, claimed lands in different parts
covered with wood, because they had not the means to clear them,
were within three months to select the situation in which they
wished to establish themselves and present themselves in order
to obtain a grant thereof. A stop was put to the excessive ambition
of many Spaniards who wished to be proprietors of considerable
areas of lands in different localities though they were unable to put
a single acre into cultivation, and who, quitting these, passed over
to Crown lands on which they employed the little labour of which
they were capable. The Proclamation required these persons to
select within three months the site most suitable for their establish-
ment, whether on their pretended property or on Crown lands. All
the surplus land would revert to the King, to be distributed to others
who would acquire and cultivate them.
The spirit of the Proclamation was clearly stated as being to
remove every impediment whatever to the cultivation of land. It
was made clear that, should the legitimate possessor not have the
means to work his lands, they would be granted to others who had
the means of cultivating them on condition that these others paid
to the possessor the sum or value for which they were obtained,
leaving the original owners such portion of land as they might be
capable of cultivating.


This Proclamation of Chacon in 1785 represented one of the most
decisive and constructive efforts ever made in the West Indies to
deal with the problem of latifundia or plantations which had,
throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, impeded the full develop-
ment of other colonies, particularly Jamaica. It was intended also
to take care of the situation which had arisen in such colonies like
Barbados and the Leeward Islands where the large plantation had
made it difficult for the small white settler even to obtain a
couple of acres of land for a small farm.
The third major achievement of Chacon was the cedula of 1789
for the protection of slaves. This is in the tradition of the more
liberal Spanish legislation which prevailed in such colonies like
Cuba and which compared favouraby with the much harsher legisla-
tion of the British colonies. In this, perhaps, there was no necessary
superiority of the Latin temperament over the Anglo-Saxon in
respect of its dealings with subjugated races. Nowhere in the West
Indies in 1789 was there a greater hell on earth than the French
colony of Saint Domingue (later known as Haiti) from which some
of the very planters who later found refuge in Trinidad with their
slaves were to migrate If the Cuban law in 1789 was superior to
or less harsh than the slave code in Saint Domingue or in Jamaica
or in Barbados, it was because Saint Domingue, Jamaica and Barbados
were plantation colonies producing enormous quantities of sugar for
the world market.
Cuba in 1789, like Trinidad in 1789, was relatively less developed
economically, the large plantation was the exception rather than
the rule, and it was possible for the slaves to live in that closer
contact with their masters on which legislation like the Code Noir
was predicated. When Cuba in 1860 became a typical plantation
colony, like the Saint Domingue or Jamaica of 1789, there was
very little evidence in practice of the Spanish temperament, and
Cuba became as much a hell on earth as Saint Domingue had ever
been, in which the Cuban planter could reply contemptuously to
remonstrations about inhuman treatment of the slaves: "the
Negroes come here ready made, the bags of sugar have yet to be
Chacon's Code Noir, summarised, is as follows:
1. All owners of slaves were obliged to instruct them in the prin-
ciples of the Roman Catholic religion, were not to allow them
to work on holy days, and were to provide at their expense
a priest to say Mass for them and to administer the Holy Sac-
raments to them. At the end of every day's work the slaves
were to say the Rosary in the presence of their master and
his steward.
2. The Justices of the districts in which the estates were situated
were to determine the quality and quantity of the food and
clothes to be given daily to the slaves.
3. The first and principal occupation of slaves was to be agri-
cultural and not labour that required a sedentary life. To this


end the Justices of the towns and villages were to regulate
the work to be done by the slaves in the course of the day,
two hours daily being allowed to the slaves for labour on their
own account. No slave was to work over the age of 60 or
below the age of 17, and the women slaves were to be employed
in work appropriate to their sex.
4. After Mass on holy days, slaves were to be free to divert them-
selves innocently in the presence of masters and stewards, care
being taken to prevent the mixing of slaves on different estates
or male slaves with the female or very excessive drinking.
These diversions were to be ended before the time for prayers.
5. The slave owners were to provide commodious habitations for
the slaves sufficient to protect them from the inclemencies of
the weather with beds, blankets and other necessaries. Each
slave was to have his own bed and there were to be no more
than two slaves to a room. A separate habitation, warm and
commodious, was to be provided as an infirmary for sick
slaves. The slave owner was to pay the charges of a slave
6. Slaves who, on account of old age or illness, were unable to
work, as well as children, were to be maintained by their
masters who were not to give them their liberty in order
to get rid of them.
7. Masters of slaves were to encourage matrimony among slaves.
8. Slaves were not to be punished by more than 25 lashes,
inflicted only by their masters or their stewards, in such a
manner as not to cause contusion or effusion of blood.
9. For more serious offences, the slaves were to be reported by
their masters or stewards to the Justice.
10. Masters or stewards who failed in the obligations imposed
on them by the cedula were to be fined $50 for the first
offence, $100 for the second, and $200 for the third.
11. Masters of slaves were to deliver annually to the Justice of
the town or village in the district in which their estates were
situated, a list signed and sworn to by them of all the slaves
in their possession distinguishing sex and age.
Two other points of general interest during Chacon's adminis-
tration may be noted. The first concerned the Cabildo. Chacon
limited its powers to Port-of-Spain only and forced it to remove
from St. Joseph. The Cabildo received title to all municipal lands,
and Chacon turned over to it also the islands of Monos, Huevos
and Patos.
And Chacon himself concentrated on the development and
improvement of Port-of-Spain, which was then limited to an area
embracing from Charlotte Street to Frederick Street as far north as
Prince Street All the surrounding areas, Laventille, Woodbrook,
St. Clair, St Ann's, Behmont, Maraval, Diego Martin, Chaguaramas,
were under sugar cultivation. A major achievement of Chacon was
the diversion of the St. Ann's River (the Dry River) in 1787, the


Spanish Government providing the necessary funds for the employ-
ment on the job of 638 slaves and 405 free people of colour.
The effects of metropolitan liberalism and governmental effi-
ciency in Trinidad were soon apparent. The population of Trinidad
in 1797 was 17,643. Of these whites numbered 2,086; free people of
colour 4,466; Amerindians 1,,082; Negro slaves 10,009. Of the total
population there were 6,594 men of whom 929 were white, 1,196 free
people of colour, 305 Amerindians and 4,164 slaves. Trinidad's pro-
duction in 1797 amounted to 7,800 hogsheads of sugar from 159
sugar estates; 330,000 lbs. of coffee from 130 coffee estates; 96,000
pounds of cocoa from 60 cocoa estates; and 224,000 pounds of cotton
from 103 cotton estates.
But the foundations of the colony, Spanish in name, French in
fact, African at its base, were hopelessly insecure. None knew this
better than Chacon himself. He knew that he could not defend
Trinidad against any serious invasion. On May 6, 1796, in a letter
to the Prince de la Paz, he warned the Spanish Government of
impending disaster. He wrote as follows:
"Our garrison is weak, we have no fortification and the lack
of buildings of lime and stone leaves me without a prison, bar-
racks, magazine or store house; in a word I am dependent on
the goodwill of a public composed of people of other nations
with but a few of our own. In consequence they are disunited
by race, they are in discord because of their habits, rivals by
custom and enemies amongst themselves by the traditions of their
nations and by the development of actual circumstances.
"It was my duty to convince you and to warn you that fre-
quent disputes between the English and the French on land here
would involve the greater part of the population and the conse-
quences could only be ruinous to all."
The danger foreseen by Chacon almost came to a head on one
occasion in 1796 when a British warship followed a French ship
into the harbour and landed in Port-of-Spain. French and English
were drawn up in battle array, the English on what is now
Frederick Street, and the French in Chacon Street. The Spanish
Governor, with relatively few troops, placed himself between both
lines of troops, and expostulated with them for violation of Spanish
neutrality. A serious incident was averted, but the entire population
of Port-of-Spain and many of the country slaves who found them-
selves in town were a witness to it. The French Revolution was at
its height throughout all the West Indies and Chacon warned the
Prince de la Paz of the possible consequences:
"The tricolour cockade which they worship as a symbol of
liberty was displayed by many of these slaves and they persuaded
their comrades to follow their example.
"This caused me to despatch several parties to the country
to suppress right at the beginning such disorder, which is one
of the most terrible in these Colonies where slavery is the basis
of agriculture . .


"The contact which our people of colour and our Negro
slaves have had with the French and Republicans have made
them think of liberty and equality and the first spark will light
the whole Colony into a blaze.
The English are attacking the French islands and as many
of the Republicans as can escape fly to the shores of Trinidad
where there is no force to prevent them settling. The greater
part are Mulattoes and Negroes which increases in consequence
our numbers, and infuses them with the same ideas and desires
and make the danger of a rising more imminent each day."
Chacon was on the horns of a dilemma. He too had understood,
as other West Indian Governors and officials had understood before
him, that no Negroes, no sugar. The tremendous spurt which Trini-
dad's economy had made was the result of slave labour. The con-
tinuation and acceleration of economic development dep-nded on the
availability of more slaves, which only increased the internal danger
and therefore aggravated the external danger. In his letter to the
Prince de la Paz Chacon called therefore for military assistance,
penning in the process one of the most subtle indictments of metro-
politan apathy to be found in all the records of the history of West
Indian colonies !
"The rapidity with which this Colony has been peopled and
extended is such that 4,000-5,000 Negroes are required each year
and in two or three years many more will be required. The pro-
duce is abundant and of good quality.
"All this brings in riches not only to pay the actual cost
of the Government of the Island but also to provide other facili-
ties which are necessary and result in an active commercial com-
munity which is the pride of our metropolis, in industrial
progress, in increased merchant shipping . .
"The previous establishments of the King in this Island were
developed slowly, their requirements came little by little to the
notice of the Ministry which had time to consider carefully all
the difficulties, to discuss, compare and finally to select the best
"In this development it is just the reverse. Special efforts
were made to populate and to cultivate the land and in a few
years much more produce was being raised than in other colonies
of two centuries duration.
"This prosperity is such as to require much prompter
decisions, and the difficulties must be met by executive action.
It is not possible to proceed with that leisurely manner and
considered thought that is convenient in other places.
"I have to insist on this difference, this necessity, this urgency
and desire to fulfil my obligations and beseech in the name of
this community their Sovereign's protection. May His Majesty
be pleased to send with the quickest possible dispatch a division
of two ships, two frigates and two small vessels such as brigan-
tines .... with 800 to 1,000 men to remian here at least during


the war between the neighboring nations, and to preserve the
peace in this Colony."
It was in these circumstances that the British captured Trinidad
from the Spaniards in 1797 when Britain and Spain were at war. The
military forces at the disposal of Chacon, both on land and at sea in
the Spanish naval base of Chaguaramas under Admiral Apodaca, were
unequal to the forces at the disposal of the British Commander, Sir
Ralph Abercromby. Chacon had four ships one of 84 guns, two of
74 guns, and one of 36 guns. Abercromby had 18 ships one of
98 guns, four of 74 guns, two of 64 guns, one of 44 guns, one of 33
guns, one of 32 guns, five of 16 guns, one of fourteen and one of
twelve. The force at Chacon's disposal included 700 rank and file in
the warships, chiefly recruits intended for the garrison at Cartagena,
whose number was reduced to 500 by death and sickness. The local
militia, strong on paper, was indisciplined and untrustworthy. Aber-
cromby's land forces consisted of 7,650 men.
Chacon had the slaves to contend with, and he was very doubtful
of the loyalty of the free people of colour most of whom were French
in origin and republican in politics. So Apodaca set fire to his ships
in Chaguaramas Bay without a fight and Abercromby, landing at
Mucurapo which was then a sugar estate, marched unmolested to the
hills of Belmont to receive the capitulation of Chacon, whose forces
were stationed on the Laventille hills. After 300 years of Spanish
rule, Trinidad passed without a shot being fired into British hands.
Chacon and Apodaca were subsequently tried before a Council of
War in Cadiz appointed by the King. After hearing the evidence of
the accused and the submissions of their lawyers, and having carefully
examined the evidence, after full discussion, the Council of War una-
nimously agreed that both Chacon and Apodaca had f'lly justified
their actions and that they should forthwith be liberated. The Council
recommended to the King to direct that their innocence should be
proclaimed in all the Spanish dominions in both Europe and America
and especially in the Province of Caracas and in the West Indies.
The King of Spain was furious. His house of cards had come
tumbling down on his head, so he had to find a scapegoat. He con-
sidered that Chacon and Apodaca had failed to comply with their
obligations in a position which was highly important to the King's
service and criticised the decision of the Council of War as contrary
to justice and to the public interest. The King's instructions as con-
veyed to the Director General of the Royal Navy of Spain on March
20, 1801, read as follows:
"Having consulted his Council of Ministers His Majesty has been
able to find sufficient extenuating circumstances, such as influenced
the proceedings of the Council of War, to mitigate the necessity of
providing a punishment which, notwithstanding all this, would
have corresponded to their offences and would have served as an
encouragement to those who find themselves in a similar position,


to comply with all that their honour and their obligations to the
Service require.
"In consequence His Majesty has been pleased to decide that
Don Jose Maria Chacon had not defended the Island of Trinidad
as far as his circumstances allowed and that Don Sebastian Ruiz
de Apodaca had decided prematurely to burn the ships under his
command and without strict observance of the orders provided for
such circumstances.
"And therefore His Majesty has condemned the one and the
other to deprivation of their respective posts from which they shall
be forthwith recalled and also the first to perpetual banishment
from all Royal Dominions...
"Tt i5 further ordered that in no case, neither to Chacon nor to
Apodaca.....is any appeal allowed and to this end His Majesty en-
joins perpetual silence on these offenders."*
Thus ended three centuries of Spanish colonialism in the in-
justice meted out to, and in the unnecessary humiliation inflicted on,
the only Governor who could not be regarded as part of the metro-
politan rubbish exported by Spain to the colonies.

On July 7, 1809, Apodaca was rehabilitated and restored to a.ls "Rimer rank
and place, onaeUve srve. .


Tobago in a State of Betweenity

If there was one West Indian colony with a sadder history than
that of Trinidad in the first 300 years after its discovery by the Span-
iards, that colony was Tobago.
Trinidad suffered from the ineptitude and inefficiency of Spanish
colonialism. Tobago suffered rather from the competition of rival
colonialisms. In Trinidad the Spanish metropolitan government saw
to it that nothing was done. In Tobago the conflict of the rival metro-
politan governments made it impossible for anything to be done. If
Trinidad remained a Spanish colony subject to occasional attacks by
Spain's enemies, Tobago was no man's land. Whilst the Spanish flag,
however tattered, continued to fly over Trinidad, Tobago changed flags
almost as regularly as it changed seasons, and the people of Tobago
lived, in a phrase made popular by wags in British Guiana who, simi-
larly circumstanced, did not know where they were going from day to
day, in a state of betweenity.
It was a never-ending free for all in Tobago. Britain claimed
the Island on the ground that it formed part of the acquisition of Sir
Thomas Warner in 1626. France claimed it as part of the grant made
by Cardinal Richelieu to the French West Indian Company some
twenty years later. Holland, grant or no grant, asserted its own
claim to the Island. Spain lived in constant apprehension of an attack
from Tobago on Trinidad. The Duke of Courland, ruler of a princi-
pality in the area which is now Latvia. claimed it on the basis of a
grant from the King of England in 1664. And even the buccaneers.
operating on a commission issued by the Governor of Jamaica, mani-
fested an interest in the Island which reads curiously today in the
light of Jamaica's notorious indifference to its Eastern Caribbean
This is how Tobago lived up to the end of the 18th century -
between Britain and France, or between France and Holland, or be-
tween Holland and Britain. now invaded by the buccaneers, now at-
tacked by Spain, now settled by Courlanders. Holland changed the
island's name and called it New Walcheren. The French changed the
name of Scarborough and called it Port Louis. Betwixt and between,
betwixt changes of ownership and between national flags that was
colonialism in Tobago.
This metropolitan interest and these national flags more often
than not were mere euphemisms for individual beneficiaries of the
European governments. Tobago was given away to individuals as if it
was no more than an area of Crown land in another island. Take for


example a letter from Lord Willoughby, Governor of Barbados, to the
King of England on January 29, 1666, requesting a lease of Tobago
for thirty-one years and all the profits that might arise from it, with .
the privilege of free trade. Willoughby undertook to surrender the
island on the expiration of his lease well settled and improved.
As another example, take the grant of Tobago made by the King
of England to the Duke of Courland on November 17, 1664. The King
of England granted Tobago to the Duke together with all the land,
houses, creeks, rivers and profits belonging to the same. The condi-
tions of the grant were that only subjects of the King of England or
the Duke of Courland were to be permitted to settle in Tobago or
build houses; English subjects were to enjoy all the privileges, liber-
ties, immunities and benefits extended to the subjects of Courland,
and to pay no taxes, contributions or impositions except those neces-
sarily required for defence, and then equally in the same proportion
paid by the subjects of the Duke. No products were to be exported
out of Tobago or imported into Tobago except to or from English
ports or Courland ports, or the City of Danzig. If England was at war
the Duke of Courland undertook to provide one good ship of war with
40 guns, to send the ship to such place as England decided, to man
the ship with seamen and supply them with food and wages for their
service which was not to exceed one year at any one time.
As a final example of a policy that was not far removed from the
Spanish policy to the conquistadors, one Captain Poyntz signed an
agreemenL with the Duke of Courland in 1680 whereby the Duke
granted the Captain an area of 120,000 acres in Tobago and in return
the Captain undertook to take to Tobago 1,200 persons within a period
of three years, and another 1,200 persons within the next five years
and to settle them on the land in Tobago. It was almost like taking
chickens to Tobago, or rather it was almost like giving away Tobago
as if it was a chicken itself.
The final example of this English conquistador attitude to Tobago
is the petition of one Moses Stringer, a physician, to the Queen of
England in 1704. The petitioner requested a charter and letters
patent for settling and fortifying the lands of Tobago and Trinidad,
and, among other things, for building and endowing a college in
Tobago. Because of the constant threat to Tobago from the Caribs in
Trinidad, whose emperor, Dr. Stringer asserted, went once a year to
Tobago in his pirogues in procession around the island which he
claimed as his own, Dr. Stringer undertook, with Her Majesty's per-
mission, to go at his own expense as Her Majesty's ambassador to the
Emperor of the Carib nation and make a perpetual peace with him.
In this free for al between the European nations, there was one
policy common to all of them: that was that nobody should have
Tobago. None of them could spare either the manpower or the ships
really to develop the island and defend it, but none of them really
wanted any of its rivals to be in a position to do this. So colonialism
in Tobago became a question of wanton destruction. If Tobago could


not be a colony of any one of the particular powers, then Tobago was
to be a waste land. If one country could not have it, nobody else was
to have it. The bankruptcy of colonialism reached its nadir in
First, England. England's policy was stated quite bluntly: Tobago
was to be a waste land, the property of the King of England, for the
use of his subjects. The President and Council of Baroados so re-
commended in a communication to the Secretary of the Council of
Trade and Plantations on August 14, 1673 as follows:
"We presume that Island is so laid waste as will hinder all
settlement there during this time of war, and if any nation shall
presume there to make any small beginnings without His Majesty's
commission we shall use our endeavours to destroy such beginning
and thereby preserve it for His Majesty. In any other manner we
are unable to keep it, for to leave a small garrison there had been
to render them a prey to the Dutch and therewith lose His
Majesty's title, and to place there such a garrison as should be able
to hold it against the Dutch is more than we are able to maintain
to keep it. Therefore as a waste belonging to His Majesty for the
use of his subjects, we deem it the only way to have to preserve
His Majesty's right thereto."
The French Government, quite naturally, refused to accept this
statement of English policy. A great argument ensued at the end of
the 17th century between Britain and France as to the ownership of
Tobago. Britain refused to abandon its claim. But what was Britain
claiming Tobago for? The Commissioners of Trade and Plantations
wrote to the King on January 4, 1700:
"...... the continuance of possession by Your Majesty is much
more easily proved by the constant frequenting of that Island by
Your Majesty's men of war and other ships of Your Majesty's
subjects which resort there daily from Barbados and stay there 2
or 3 months at a time or more to furnish themselves with wood
and water and other necessaries in the said Island which depends
absolutely on Your Majesty's government of Barbados as other
Islands lying to the windward of Guadeloupe.
"And in order to the further asserting of Your Majesty's
right to Tobago exclusive of all others and to hinder the settle-
ment of any colony there, pursuant to Your Majesty's intentions
signified on that behalf, we are most humbly of the opinion that
the Governor of Barbados for the time being should take care by
Your Majesty's frigates or otherwise to hinder any settlement to be
made upon that Island by any foreign nation whatsoever or even
by Your Majesty's subjects otherwise than such Governor with
the advice of Your Majesty's Council shall judge necessary for
maintaining Your Majesty's sole rights to the said Island and in
such manner as may be for the use and benefit to Your Majesty's
subjects inhabiting Your Majesty's Island of Barbados."
The French put up counter arguments, based on their capture in


1676 from Holland. And what did France claim Tobago for ? As a
waste which no other nation was to be permitted to be developed. If
Tobago was to be a waste land, the waste must be French. The French
Ambassador in London wrote to the English' Secretary of State on
November 3, 1699, as follows:
"When His Most Christian Majesty had decided to destroy the
fortifications no one was left there to preserve his rights and his
vessels. had orders to go there twice yearly to prevent any other
nation from taking possession contrary to his rights therein."
Spain, too, wanted to see Tobago as a waste land. Spain was
particularly apprehensive about an Amerindian coalition between the
Amerindians of Trinidad and the Amerindians of Tobago sponsored
by the Dutch with designs on Spanish Trinidad. The Spanish Governor
in Trinid.d considered Trinidad most vulnerable to such attacks,
especially on the northern coast, and particularly at Maracas. Thus,
apart from concentrating on the destruction of the Amerindian settle-
ments on the north coast of Trinidad around Point Gaiera, the
Governor of Trinidad decided to attack Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago
went to war.
The Spanish Governor of Trinidad, showing an energy and a
determination seldom equalled by his predecessors or his successors:
took the field in person. The expedition left Trinidad in November,
1636, and was able successfully to negotiate the difficult crossing from
Trinidad to Tobago. The surprise attack on Tobago was successful.
The Spaniards found in the fort a real international force-English-
men, Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Flemings and African Negroes. The
Dutch surrendered, and the Spaniards took away all ammunition and
arms and set fire to all buildings and forts. Thus laden with their
spoils and prisoners, with vessels designed to carry 25 men carrying
more than 60, they encountered typical weather to the extent that
their ships were nearly swamped. It is not difficult to appreciate
today, when reading-the Governor's account of the expedition, the joy
with which he anchored at Monos on his return to Trinidad.
The policy of the buccaneers from Jamaica was equally a policy
of destruction. The Governor of Barbados, Lord Willoughby, en-
countered them in Tobago in 1666. He described them in a letter to
the British Secretary of State on January 29, 1666, as follows:
"They are all masters and betake themselves to what course
and which way they please, reckoning what they take, as well the
Island as anything upon it, to be all their own and themselves free
princes to dispose of it as they please........ The Island was pretty
well settled, having many good plantations upon it, well stocked
with negroes and cattle and pretty good horses, but because my
purse could not reach to purchase these of them, they did break
up all things that were portable and untitled the houses; whereby
they have left the Island in as bad a condition almost as it was
at first settling, for hands being wanting, all the plantations must


run to ruin, for indeed they have eaten up and destroyed all thaL
they could not carry away, winch hath been their custom in all
places wherever they come."
The story became even more fantastic in 1749 when Britain and
France, unable to agree on the ownership or disposition of Tobago,
solemnly agreed that Tobago, together with St. Lucia, St. Vincent and
Dominica, should be neutral islands and should be evacuated by the
nationals of both countries. Tobago's neutrality, however, was of
short duration as it again got caught up in the European struggles
which only ended with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. So Tobago
continued to change hands and to change flags, and to ihve between
England and Holland and France.
No economic development of Tobago could be expected under such
conditions. Tobago had no gold, and no one took seriously the report
of Captain Poyntz in 1702 that he had secretly discovered rich mines
and lapis lazuli as well as pearls and ambergris. Occasional efforts
were made to recruit settlers, as for example, the prospectus for
settlers in Tobago issued in England in 1686. Prospects were held out
to the small man who had no more than a capital of 100 sterling.
With a family, estimated at eleven all told, he could get a passage
to Tobago for 50. Tools and implements and supplies for the first
year would cost him 47.10s. With the remaining 2.10s. he could
get a lease of 50 acres of land for 1,000 years, a shilling an acre a
year. Within 12 months he could cultivate sufficient ground
provisions and get two crops of tobacco. Assuming even a low yield
of 8,000 pounds, this, allowing merely one-eighth part of the price
at which the Spaniards sold tobacco in Trinidad, would bring him 100
sterling; so that he would recover his outlay in the first year and
proceed to buy slaves with which he could keep on doubling his
income year after year, until at the end of the seventh year's crop he
could expect by a modest computation to clear from the 50 acres of
land at least 5,000 sterling. This was too good to be true, and of
course no one took it seriously.
In so far as the British Government envisaged any economic
policy for Tobago, that policy emphasises one of the principal con-
siderations which faced all the European countries. The West Indian
scene was a scene of rivalry not only among the European metro-
politan countries, but also among the planters of the various islands.
Each one was jealous of the other, and the British policy to Tobago
of leaving it a waste was due very largely to the fact that the planters
of Barbados saw in Tobago a possible rival. When in 1721 the British
Government did work out some sort of a policy to Tobago, that
policy, as stated in royal instructions to the Governor of Barbados,
emphatically stipulated that Tobago was not to rival Barbados.
It was the same old story of one colony seeking to profit at the
expense of others, sometimes within the same national jurisdiction,
and it is to this long tradition more than anything else that is to be


attributed this jealousy of West Indian islands one for the other even
today which has astonished foreign observers and exasperates West
Indian planners.
The principle explicitly laid down for new settlers was that they
should not plant sugar. They were to grow instead cocoa, annato and
indigo. Large scale enterprise was restricted; no grant was to
exceed 300 acres and none was to be less than 15 acres. Every person
who received a grant of land was to be obliged to cultivate one acre
out of every 50, that is to say, 2 per cent of the acreage, every year
from the date of the grant. Such person was further obliged to
maintain for every forty acres one white man or two white women
within a year after the date of his grant, and one white man and two
white women for every twenty acres three years after the date of his
grant. Finally, no grants were to be made to any planter who had
land in Barbados or in any other of the British islands in the West
As in Trinidad, so in Tobago, the first real stimulus to economic
development came from the French. But whereas in Trinidad this
took place through French immigration under the Spanish flag, in
Tobago it was the result of the French capture of the island from the
British in 1781.
The French, it is true, were determined to maintain the Exclusive
just as much as the Spaniards. In 1783 the Council and Assembly of
Tobago petitioned the King of France to declare the island of Tobago
a free port, unlimited and unrestrained in its import and export trade
for such period as the King might approve. The Minister of Colonies
in France. Marshal de Castries, curtly advised the Administrators of
Tobago in 1785 that the policy of the French Government in respect
of commerce must be maintained in Tobago.
It is true also that the French seem to have impressed on the
inhabitants of Tobago for the first time the importance of local taxes
in economic development. A new note was struck in colonial history
when the Minister of the Colonies informed the Governor of Tobago
as follows:
"As regards the finances of Tobago, a balanced budget is
necessary and revenue and expenditure must be made to equate.
The large deficits of the past few years must cease."
As a result the Assembly found itself faced with raising the sum
of 200,000 livres. It imposed a poll tax of 22 livres 10 sols on every
slave between the ages of 14 and 60, and in order to obtain an equit-
able contribution from merchants, artisans and others, and not allow
the planters to bear the entire burden of taxation, an additional tax
of 8 per cent on the capital value was levied on all buildings in
Scarborough, Plymouth and Georgetown. This was in 1786 and was
followed in 1788 by another tax bill to raise 240,000 livres.
This was organised as follows:


12 livres per Quintal of cotton = 177,237 livres
2 livres 10 sols per Quintal of
clayed sugar = 6,585 livres
1 livre 13 sols per Quintal of
muscovado sugar = 40,021 livres
15 livres per Boucaud of rum = 26,055 livres
10 sols per Pound of indigo = 2,500 lives
6% on the profits from jobbing Negroes 4,500 livres
50 livres a head on Town Negroes = 25,000 livres
6% on the rent of houses = 10,800 livres
While the Spanish Government in Trinidad was offering liberal
incentives for the economic development of Trinidad, the French
Government in Tobago was holding out parallel incentives for the
economic development of Tobago. The Tobago Legislature passed an
Act to the effect that, from January 1, 1787, any person who established
in uncultivated lands a plantation of sugar or cotton or indigo or
coffee or cocoa would be exempt from all taxes on lands, slaves or
produce, for six years from the beginning of the cultivation in the
case of sugar or coffee, for three years in the case of cotton and
indigo, and for eight years in the case of cocoa.
The Governor of Tobago went further and recommended to the
Minister of Colonies in France that "money bribes" should be offered
to persuade 4,000 French artisans, free people of colour, to leave
Trinidad and migrate to Tobago. Poor Trinidad. It was able to take
the first halting steps to development by offering encouragement to
French people to migrate to Trinidad, many of them people of colour.
Now the French territory of Tobago was advancing the view that
French settlers should be bribed to migrate to a French territory
and not to a Spanish territory. This was merely another variation
of the old West Indian story of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The Assembly of Tobago crowned the list of incentives during the
French regime by passing in 1788 a bill to give every father of a
family a tax allowance of 5 per cent for each living child under the
age of 14.
The metropolitan country itself offered incentives to develop-
ment. The Governor was advised by the Minister of Colonies in 1786
that "it is the desire of the Government to do all that is possible to
help the people and to assist the agriculture and commerce of
Tobago." In accordance with this pledge the French Government in
1786 reduced the duty on imported slaves from 100 livres a head to
6 livres. The French Government was so impressed with the potential
of Tobago that it endeavoured to encourage migration from other
West Indian territories, principally Grenada, in much the same way
as Roume de Saint Laurent had urged the Spanish Government in
Trinidad to attract French settlers from. Grenada and other West
Indian Islands. And as a further concession to colonial interests, the
French Government in 1788 was pleased to decree that a colonial


assembly, similar to that in other French West Indian islands, should
be established in Tobago. The Assembly was to consist of the
Governor, the Treasurer, the Commandant, two elected deputies from
each parish except the sparsely populated parishes of St. John and St.
Louis which were to have one each, and two elected deputies from
the town of Scarborough which, as indicated above, the French had
renamed Port Louis.
Under these incentives Tobago, in French hands, was able to
make the first tentative steps forward. Whilst in British hands after
1763, no one apparently had wanted to leave Grenada and migrate to
Tobago. The Governor of Barbados reported in 1764 the unversal
determination of both rich and poor in Grenada against settling
Tobago. This reads curiously today, not only because it must be the
first and only time that people did not want to leave Grenada to come
to Trinidad and Tobago, but also because the alleged reason was that
Tobago, today well known as a healthy resort, was then regarded as
being particularly unhealthy. The British hope that the lower orders
of people in Barbados, who were numerous and for the most part un-
employed, would find settlement in Tobago attractive seemed to have
had no greater success, despite the action of the Governor of Barbados
in changing the name of the Bay formerly called Gros Cochon to Bar-
bados Bay. In 1768, under British rule, the majority of landowners
in Tobago were absentees. Out of a total of 77, twenty were residents
of Tobago. The distribution by other countries was as follows:
Grenada, 28; St. Vincent, 5; Dominica, 3; Barbados, 9; Antigua, 2; St.
Kitts, 3; Great Britain, 6; and Surinam, 1.
The effects of France's policy are reflected in various statistics of
population and production available for Tobago in the twenty years
between 1771 and 1790. In 1771 the population was 5,084 In 1791 it
was 15,020. The number of white men in 1771 was 243; no figures are
given for white women, and one is free to draw any conclusion from
that. The number of whites had increased by 1790 to 541, of whom
434 were men, and thereby hangs a tale, the tale of West Indian
social development. The 1771 census gives no indication of free
people of colour. By 1790, 303 were identified, of whom 198 were
women, the other part of the tale of West Indian social development.
The slave population in 1771 numbered 4,716, and in addition 125
were listed as runaways. By 1790 the slave population had increased
to 14,170. For every slave in 1771 there were three in 1790. Between
1773 and 1780 the slave population increased by nearly one-half.
Between 1782 and 1785 the increase was nearly 10 per cent; between
1785 and 1787, about 15 per cent; between 1787 and 1790, about 12
per cent. The slave population in Tobago tended to show a smaller
disproportion between the sexes than many other slave colonies. In
1790 there were 7,548 male slaves and 6,522 female slaves. But the
unwritten law of slavery was very much at work. Slave births
amounted to 318 and slave deaths to 645. The excess of deaths over


births was just over 2 per cent of the slave population in that year.
Thus Tonago in 1790 was essentially an African population and
fundamentally a slave society. Out of every 100 people in the com-
munity, 94 were African slaves. A further two had a large admixture
of Atrican blood, though they were free. In Tobago, the former
Amerndian island, the Amerindian had become a rarity. The 1786
census identified 24 people who were hsted as Caribs at Man of War
Bay. The 1790 census identified five Caribs m Little Tobago, from
which apparently they were soon to be excluded by the Birds of
Paradise imported from New Guinea.
In this development of Tobago under the French, sugar was king.
The very island whose sugar development Britain had sought to re-
strain m 1720 as a potential sugar rival of Barbados, became in 1770,
when the first shipment of sugar was made from the island, a country
which, it was predicted, would in a few years make at least as much
sugar as any of the Leeward Islands. The nutmeg was discovered in
abundance in 1768 and 40 plantations were immediately started. Cotton
and indigo and ginger also received attention. But sugar became, as
it had become or was to become in one West Indian island after an-
other, the principal object of attention. The British Governor wrote
to the Secretary of State in 1796 when Tobago had again changed
"With respect to the cultivation of the arrowroot which Your
Grace desires may be recommended to the Legislature, I have the
honour to inform you that the curing of a piece of land, not par-
ticularly fertile but planted in Bourbon canes, sold here a short
while ago for 70 sterling an acre (near double the worth of the
"This circumstance will enable Your Grace to judge how impos-
sible it will be to turn the attention of the planters from so profit-
able a production as that of the Bourbon or Otaheite cane."
In 1790 Tobago produced 2,401,639 pounds of sugar, just under
1,100 tons, a little less than double the production of 1786, but appa-
rently just over 60 per cent of the 1780 production of 3,934,830 pounds.
Cotton production in 1790 amounted to 1,374,336 pounds, approximately
the average of the years 1780 to 1788. Indigo and ginger disappeared
from the statistics after attaining a production of 20,580 pounds in
1780 and 10,300 pounds in 1782, respectively. In 1790 of the land in
cultivation 4,878 acres were in sugar, 14,436 in cotton, 134 in coffee,
2 in cocoa, 4,842 in ground provisions, and 5,356 in pastures. Tobago
had 37 sugar factories in operation (the 1787 census indicated an
additional 38 in ruins), 99 cotton factories (as against 114 in 1787)
and 4 coffee factories (as against one in 1787). Indigo, of which there
were 55 acres in cultivation in 1787 with 8 factories, had disappeared.
Tobago's reputation for the rearing of pigs and sheep and goats seems
already to have been well established. In 1790 there were 3,030 sheep
and goats and 441 pigs, as well as 291 horses and 524 mules.


The basis of this economic development was slave labour. A
slave society lived on a volcano; or to use Chacon's words in Trinidad
disorder was one of the most terrible features in colonies where
slavery was the basis of agriculture. So it was in Tobago, as the
slave uprising in 1770 and the disturbances in 1798 demonstrated. As
a result of the latter, the Council of Tobago called on the Governor to
have all the houses not inhabited by whites, and particularly houses
in Scarborough inhabited by French people of colour, searched for
firearms and offensive weapons, and also to prevent all drumming or
illegal meetings of Negroes in Scarborough.
This, however, must not detract from the importance of one fea-
ture of slavery in Tobago which deserves special mention. The his-
tory of West Indian slavery in general demonstrates that reforms
such as they were, came from outside of the islands, from the metro-
politan countries, or from metropolitan clergymen stationed in the
island. This was true of almost every West Indian territory, except
the Spanish colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico where a really large
Spanish population had settled and become acclimatized. For the
most part small farmers, growing food crops in Puerto Rico or tobacco
in Cuba, they were opposed to slavery. Puerto Rico and Cuba were
unique in this demand for emancipation from the colonies themselves,
by Puerto Rican spokesmen in Spain and revolutionaries in Cuba, in
both cases in the face of the pronounced hostility of the metropolitan
A report in 1798 of a Committee of both Houses of thte Legislature
in Tobago appointed to consider the state of the slaves in Tobago and
possible measures of ameliorating their condition, stands out as a
landmark in the history of all the slave colonies that ultimately formed
part of the British West Indies.
The first question to which the Committee of the Tobago Legisla-
ture addressed itself was the causes which had retarded the natural
increase of the slaves. In their proposals the Committee recom-
mended the fixing by law of the commodities and quantities which
should be provided for the slaves: 3 lbs. of salted pork or 4 lbs of
salted beef or 4 lbs. of salted fish or 14 tood herrines per week for
each working slave and pro rate for children of different ages: 7
quarts weekly of wheat flour or oatmeal or ground provisions such as
Indian corn, peas, plantains, yams, potatoes, eddoes for each working
slave and pro rata for children of different ages; for men a cloth
jacket, hat, frock and a pair of trousers in June and another frock
and pair of trousers in December; for women a cloth jacket, hat and
coarse handkerchief, a petticoat and a wrapper in June and another
petticoat and wrapper in December.
The Committee further proposed a revolutionary proposal for
Islands which crudely and contemptuously took the view that it was
cheaper to buy slaves than to breed them a duty on aln mnorted
slaves above 25 vears of ace together with a premium on all female
Negroes imported between the ages of 8 and 20, in order to encourage


the development of a creole population. The Committee was fully
aware of the revolutionary nature of this proposal, for it reported:
"This measure appears to Your Committee of the highest im-
portance at this moment when Legislatures in the West Indies
seem determined to attempt the instruction and civilisation of the
Negroes. Young Africans may be civilised, but old men and
women cannot be expected to forget their country or language,
and with them are likely to retain their barbarous habits and
The Committee further proposed, in its consideration of this
question of slave mortality, the erection of a comfortable house on
each estate with a boarded platform for the accommodation of slaves.
and the appointment of a proper person to inspect their clothing daily
and to prevent them from disposing of it for rum or tobacco.
The Committee attributed the principal reason for the failure of
the slave population to increase by natural means to the incidence of
absenteeism among proprietors in the island. They recognized that
this was a familiar phenomenon all over the West Indies. But they
could do no better than to propose for Tobago a pale imitation of the
so-called deficiency laws which had been tried in other islands in the
West Indies and particularly in Jamaica for a hundred years before
the Tobago proposal. That was the imposition of a tax on all absentee
landowners the proceeds of which were to be utilised for the encour-
agement of humanity and the care of the Negro slaves.
Turning its attention to the question of Negro children when
born, the Committee of the Tobago Legislature recommended that
slave mothers should be prevented by law from carrying their young
children into the fields, and to implement this, the law should oblige
every estate to establish a nursery for the care of young children.
Concentrating on its main objective, that of establishing a-settled
and contented creole slave population, the Committee recommended,
as a measure designed to instil in the slaves habits of industry and to
inspire them with a desire for property, the distribution of a sufficient
quantity of good land to the slaves and the provision by law of a
sufficient period of time to them for the cultivation of this land.
A second important question to which the Committee turned its
attention after its consideration of the causes retarding the natural
increase of the slave population, was that of family planning, the
emphasis now being on increase and not decrease of the size of fami-
lies. The Committee recommended, as an incentive to matrimony
among the slaves, the erection of a comfortable house at the expense
of the slave owner for a young woman upon her marriage, a gift of
livestock the value of some $16 or $20. and clothing of superior quality.
Over and above the Tobago custom of slave owners giving presents to
young children and to midwives at Christmas time, the Committee,
recommended that a law should be passed entitline a midwife to a fee
of one dollar from the proprietor for every ehild that'she should bring


into the world. And to protect the health of mothers the Committee
recommended that it should be prescribed by law that no woman
should be required to work for at least five weeks after the birth of
her child, and even then work was to be permitted only on the basis
of a certificate from the surgeon that mother and child were
To encourage and promote further the breeding and rearing of
children, the Committee expressed the view that it might be advisable
to grant total exemption from labour to all mothers of six children
and upwards, of whom six were alive, and that to the six persons in
charge of the plantations which registered the greatest natural in-
crease in their population for the preceding year, premiunr should be
paid from the Public Treasury, varying from 100 for the highest
numbers to 50 for the overseer on the plantation which was sixth
in order of merit.
Turning its attention to another question, the Committee of the
Tobago Legislature recommended immediate measures to provide for
such number of missionaries as the Legislature might judge necessary
for instilling into the minds of the slaves the principles of religion
and morality.
The Committee finally recommended the appointment of two or
three Guardians of the Rights of Negroes in every parish of the island
to take cognisance of all complaints and ill-treatment made to them
by the slaves, and with authority to summon such slaves before them
for the elucidation of the complaint as well as such white men as they
might consider necessary, in order either to redress the- real griev-
ances of the Negroes or to order that they be punished for making
Yroundless complaints. Not many West Indian territories could have
boasted at this time of their readiness to recognise the right of the
slave against his owner or to receive complaints from him. or to
admit that in certain eases the testimony of slaves might be received
against white people.
Few of the slave codes of the West Indian territories at the end
of the 18th century could claim to be superior to the ideas recom-
mended by the Committee of the Tobago Legislature. It in ot at all
unlikely that we must see in this attitude of the Tobago plantocracy,
as in the regulations of Chacon in Trinidad already referred to (not
forgetting the limited number of slaves in both islands), one of the
principal reasons for the comparative harmony or lack of serious
revolts in the history of Negro slavery in Trinidad and in Tobago as
compared with the history of other West Indian territories for
example, the great slave revolt in Haiti in 1793, the slave revolt in
1823 in British Guiana, the state of 'permanent slave revolution in
which Barbados found itself in the two decades before emancipation
and so on.
This, then, was' Tobago under Prench rule before its final acquisi-
tion by Great Britain in 1802, conitrmed and ratify d in 1814: out an
and to the changing of flags a Tobago. ThI changes of flag did not


bother the planters to any great extent; they became a part of the
routine of existence. When Great Britain captured the island in 1793,
the Assembly of Tobago passed a resolution typical of West Indian
society of the day, thanking Major General Cuyler for the service ren-
dered to his country and to Tobago, and voted him a sword to the
value of 100 guineas. This was on February 19, 1794 and was in-
spired no doubt by the British element in the island. But before this,
on April 16, 1791, the members of the Assembly of Tobago, some of
them emphatically British, and no doubt inspired by the French Revo-
lution, sent an address to the Governor-General of Martinique praising
him in the highest terms for his energy and persistence against the
enemy and expressing the hope that in preserving Martinique as a
French possession, he would receive from the representatives of the
Nation and from the King of France those evidences of satisfaction
which his conduct and qualities merited.
Thus it was that Tobago's history in this period of changing flags
and varying allegiance could be brought to an end with the strangest
episode of all, Tobago's tribute to the dictator of France, Napoleon
Bonaparte, and its endorsement of his action ;n making himself First
Consul for life. The whole history of the West Indies reveals the
curious ability of the West Indian planter to accommodate himself to
another flag and to switch loyalities as well. The French planters in
Saint Domingue in 1791 negotiated treacherously with Britain against
France on condition that slavery was maintained. The Jamaican
planters in 1832 negotiated treacherously with slave owners in the
United States of America with a view to becoming an American satel-
lite on condition that slavery was maintained. The Barbadian plant-
ers in 1885 long after the abolition of slavery, negotiated with Canada
for entry into the Canadian Confederation as a counter attack against
British designs to establish some sort of federation in the West Indies.
"he address by the Legislative Council of Tobago to Boraparte on
November 25. 1802 is the most curious illustration of this fatlitv.
This important document in the history of the people of Tobago
reads as follows:
"First Consul.
"The members of the Council and Assembly of the Island of
'obago b'g leave to express these sentiments of loyalty and fidelity
to the French Republic and of gratitude to you for the many
marks of paternal solicitude you have condescended to show for
the welfare of this Colony, and that at a time when your thoughts
must have been employed in deciding the fate of Europe and
arranging the weighty concerns of nations.
"On this occasion, words fail us to convey an adequate idea of
our sentiments. To no man recorded in ancient or modern history
is the character of being an accomplished Hero and consummate
Statesman so anpronriate and so justly applicable as to you; we
therefore see with joy and satisfaction that you have justified the
wish of the French Nation in consenting to be First Consul for life.


"The inhabitants of this Colony had it not in their power to
give their suffrages on this occasion, but they unanimously concur
therein as being a measure necessary to give the Gove-nment that
stability, which must discourage its enemies, establish credit within
and confidence without, and which cannot fail to raise the nation
to the highest pitch of happiness and glory . . in which they,
being now firmly united to France, expect to participate.
"First Consul, we entreat you to believe that the minds of the
inhabitants of this Colony are, in a particular manner, impressed
with sentiments of gratitude for the intentions you have shown to
their known interests and means of promoting the prosperity of
the Colony by granting to them the enjoyment of their laws and
internal legislation, for which the inhabitants of Tobago may, from
education and habit, be pardoned for having a partiality and which
may, on that account, be better suited to their character and
"And we do humbly hope that our loyalty and fidelity to the
Republic and our obedient and respectful attachment to you may
induce you to continue to these people whom you have reunited to
the Empire..... an institution which they feel essential to their
"Could anything add to the sentiments which we have faintly
expressed, it would be the proof you have lately afforded of the
interest you have in our gratification by extending the benetfis of
your protection and patronage to our posterity, in the way in which
you have honoured our children in the National Printannee where
they will be taught to realise the virtues of the regeneration of
France, to comprehend the value of such a Benefactor, and to per-
petuate the sentiments of their Fathers by their gratitude and by
their emulation to render themselves worthy of such a Protector.
"We salute you with respect."
Thus in 1802, as Bonaparte stood poised, ready to launch his attack
for world domination which was to plunge the whole world into a
further twelve years of war that ended only with the Battle of Water-
too, Bonaparte could proceed with absolute confidence. Tobago had
advised him, if we may parody a famous West Indian joke at the
expense of Barbados, "go ahead, Bonaparte, Tobago is behind you."


Trinidad as a Model British Slave


Having annexed Trinidad from Spain, Britain had now to decide
what to do with the island.
Trinidad, as we have seen, had a total population in 1797 of
17,643 of which 10,009 were Negro slaves. Had Britain annexed Tri-
nidad fifty years or twenty-five years or even ten years before 1797,
there would have been no decision to make. Britain and France had
been competing for a hundred years for supremacy in the world sugar
market. The struggle had steadily shifted in favour of France until
by 1789, when the Privy Council of England appointed a special com-
mittee to study the whole question of the British colonies in relation
to their rivals, the French colony of Saint Domingue was generally
regarded as superior in value to all the British West Indian colonies
combined. Fiench costs of production were lower than British costs
of production, and the French were steadily driving the British out of
the world sugar market. The acquisition of so valuable a territory as
Trinidad, with its sugar potential, would have been followed, even in
1787, by an enormous influx of African slaves for the increase of
sugar production.
In 1797 it was a different story. The British Parliament and
people had been aroused by Clarkson outside of Parliament and Wil-
berforce inside to the unprofitability of slavery, to the injustice and
inhumanity of the slave system, and to the impolicy of the slave trade.
Parliament had committed itself in principle to gradual abolition of
the slave trade; British capitalism, getting ready for the enormous
leap forward it would make early in the 19th century, had begun to
realise that apart from certain special vested interests the main
centre of which was Liverpool, the slave trade and slavery had served
their purpose, were no longer essential to the accumulation of capi-
tal, and no longer provided a most important and lucrative market
to British industry which at that time had no equal anywhere in the
These general considerations the acceptance in principle of
gradual abolition of the slave trade, the mass crusade against slavery,
and the capitalist independence of the slave market were rein-
forced by two other considerations of great importance. The first was
the lesson of the slave revolution in Haiti and the growing recognition
of the danger of servile revolt. The second was the recognition by
the British West Indian planters themselves, in the older islands of


Jamaica, Barbados Antigua, St. Kitts and others, that they could not
possibly compete in the British market against the virgin soils of
Trinidad. In their own self-interest, therefore, they were prepared to
demand that, whilst the slave trade should be allowed to continue to
the older islands, it should be decisively prohibited in Trinidad and in
their other rival, British Guiana.
The West Indian planters of the older islands concentrated upon
this argument. It was only a part of their general philosophy that
was almost a hundred years old. It will be recalled how Barbadian
planters had effectively stepped in to restrain the development of
sugar cultivation in Tobago. The established British West Indian
planters in Barbados and Jamaica had constantly opposed throughout
the 18th century British annexations in the West Indies. It was pres-
kure from them that led the British Government in 1763 to return
Cuba to the Spaniards and take Florida instead. It was pressure
from them that led the British Government in the same year 1763 to
restore Guadeloupe to France and annex Canada instead. It was this
same West Indian pressure which explained the restoration in tim of
peace of sugar islands like Tobago or Grenada or St. Lucia captured
by the British in time of war.
Whether the self-intorest of the older West Indian planters would
have prevailed even in 1797 if it had not been for the general recogni-
tion by capitalists and humanitarians in Britain that slavery was on
'its last legs is a point on which one can only speculate. It is certain
that, West Indian vested interests apart, there was a general refusal
in Britain, in the light of the decision in principle to work towards
the gradual abolition of the slave trade, to accept any plan for the
economic development of Trinidad which, if its basis was to be Neero
slavery, would necessarily involve, as the British spokesman said in
the House of Lords in 1807 in sponsoring the Bill for the abolition of
the slave trade, the continuation of the slave trade for two or three
centuries longer in order to bring the whole of Trinidad under culti-
vation. This argument was the principal submission of Georoa Can-
ning, the future Prime Minister. in the House of Commons debate on
his motion respecting Trinidad in 1802. Canning said:
"If the whole Island was to be, at once, brought int, cultivation
by newly imported Neeroes. it would produce an extension of the
Slave Trade. to a decree which must appal the feelings of every
Member of that House.
"Only one twenty-fifth of the Island was now in cultivation and
10.000 Neeroes were there already: to cultivate the whole would
require 250 000 at a moderate calculation. Jamaica contained as
many in 1791 and yet the number of acres fit for suear were less
than in Trinidad. Jamaica had been nearly a century and a half
arriving at its present state of cultivation, and was in 1763 in
nearly the same state as Trinidad at present. Above 800,000 Ne-


groes had been imported into Jamaica during that time; and if
there was a question of suddenly cultivating such an Island as
Trinidad, we must make up our minds to the destruction of about
a million of the human species."
Britain therefore had given its first answer to the question of
what to do with Trinidad. Trinidad's population was not to be sup-
plemented by Negro slaves from Africa.
The general question raised a further consideration: What sort of
government was Trinidad under British rule to enjoy?
Fifty years before 1797 there would have been no difficulty either
in answering this question. Britain could quite easily have decided
to follow th- traditional pattern in the West Indies and establish, as
in Jamaica and Barbados, the system which, in a sort of a way imitat-
ing the British Constitution, would have produced a Legislature of
two Houses, the lower one elected, with a Governor, representing the
Sovereign, working more or less in harmony with the elected repre-
sentatives of the people.
In 1797, however, the British rejected this solution for two
The first related to the general question of slavery and the posi-
tion of the slave population in a territory governed by an Assembly
controlled by white planters and white slave owners. As was to be
stated in later years by the Principal Under Secretary in the Colonial
Office, James Stephen, himseTf an abolitionist and a man of pronounced
liberal views, "popular franchises in the hands of the Masters of a
great body of Slaves were the worst instruments of tyranny which
were ever y-t forged for the oppression of mankind." The point of
view of the British Government was that later expressed on January
30, 1832, in a despatch from Lord Goderich to the Governor of
"Theirs is a society in which the great mass of the people to
be governed are slaves, and their proposal is that the laws should
be made by a body composed of and elected by slave proprietors.
Bringing this plan to the test of those general principles...... it is
to be inquired how such a scheme would provide for that identity
of interest which they rightly think ought to subsist between the
legislator and the subject . Society in Trinidad is divided into
castes as strongly marked as those of Hindustan, nor can any man
who has hut an ordinary knowledge of the history and general
character of mankind doubt what must be the effect of such dis-
tinctions when, in addition to their other privileges, the superior
race are entrusted with a legislative authority over the inferior."
There was a further consideration which was uppermost in the
minds of the British authorities. That was the nature of the Trinidad
population inherited with annexation of the island. Chacon, with
Spanish colonialism on its death bed, had emphasised in 1796 the
disunity in the country which he attributed to the mixture of


nationalities and races and colours. The census of 1808 illustrates the
mixture. In a total of 31,478 persons, there were 2,476 whites, of whom
less than half were British, nearly one-third French, and nearly
one-fifth Spaniards. The figures were: British, 1147; French, 781;
Spanish, 4b9; Corsican, 36; German, 29; and others, 24. The free
people of colour, in Chacon's day overwhelmingly French in byhnpathy
and in politics, numbered 5,450, more than double the whites. These
were divided almost equally between British, French and Spanish.
The population included 22 Chinese, 1,635 Amerindians, and 21,895
Thus the representative principle or self-government in Trinidad
would have meant not only entrusting a local legislature with juris-
diction over the slaves, but the domination of the local legislature
itself by non-British elements, and would have raised what was in
the West Indies at the time the grave question of the position of the
free people of colour, some of whom were themselves proprietors.
This, then, is how the British Government saw the political
problem of Trinidad, and how it reacted to the first attempt for con-
stitution reform in Trinidad. On the one hand, slave owners would
seek, in Trinidad as elsewhere, to nullify and oppose any British
measures relating to slavery. On the other hand, a self-governing
legislature would be dominated by Frenchmen and Spaniards, and
the British element would be in the minority.
The planters naturally thought otherwise. A petition was sent
by the Cabildo of Trinidad to the King of England on December 14,
1801. It carried the following signatures: Begorrat, Farfan, de Gour-
ville, Langton, Portel, de Castro, Indave, Bontur, Alcala.
Claiming as its precedents the continuation of existing laws when
Tobago was ceded to France in 1783 and Canada to Britain in 1763,
the Cabildo requested the provisional continuation of Spanish laws
and the Spanish religion in Trinidad until an Assembly could be
selected by representatives chosen by the free suffrage of the 23
parishes in the island and the eight districts of the town of Port-of-
Thi Cabildo's petition was followed in the next year by an address
to the King of England by the principal inhabitants of the island, in
which they petitioned for a free representation in the House of
AssembJy and trial by jury. Eight years later, on August 10, 1810,
the planters who had been living in the island at the time of its
annexation in 1797 again requested some form of elective system,
proposing, as a qualification for electors, habitual residence in their
district for at least two years and ownership of a property cultivated
by at least ten slaves, and for representatives, ownership for over
two years of an estate cultivated by at least thirty slaves on which
they had habitually resided.
The British abolitionists viewed these demands from the planters
in Trinidad with considerable apprehension. A debate took place
in the House of Commons in 1811 on the administration of justice in


Trinidad. Lord Brougham condemned the planters' demand for trial
by jury as calculated to involve a mockery of justice, by placing its
British principle "into the hands of men who had left every humane
principle of Englishmen behind them". Supporting his arguments by
precedents taken from Barbados, Brougham concluded:
"The Trial by Jury was only good where there was such a
population that a fair jury could be selected from it; but to give
the 500 whites of Trnidad the complete dominion over all the
lives and properties in the Island, would be highly detrimental to
the course of Justice."
The first British Governor of Trinidad, Colonel Thomas Picton,
opposed all these demands from the planters. In a letter to the Secre-
tary of State on June 28, 1802, he advised against any concessions in
aspectt of elections and recommended a solution to the British Gov-
ernment. Picton wrote:
"Popular Elective Asemblies have been productive of much
ruinous consequences in some of the neighboring Islands where
the elements of society are too different to admit a similar com-
position to those of the Mother Country.
"An Elective Assembly will unavoidably introduce a question
which cannot fail to generate the seeds of lasting fermentation, in
a country composed of such combustible material.
"One of the objects, first and most important to determine,
will be the right of voting, and it may be thought expedient, as
in the old Islands, to exclude the Free People of Colour; here by
far the most numerous class in the Colony and of whom many
possess considerable property.
"This distinction will render them at all times dissatisfied with
the situation and liable to be affected in their loyalty by every
prospect of change or amelioration. Of two things one will
necessarily happen, they must be either formally rejected, or
openly acknowledged. Disaffection is the natural consequence of
the former; the latter may have an ill effect in its consequences
on the same class in the neighboring islands.
"Leaving a Popular Elective Assembly out of the question,
the difficulty disappears. There will be no necessity of any legal
humiliating distinction. Equal laws and severe police will secure
good order and a permanent foundation."
The British Government decided that Trinidad was not to have a
self-governing constitution like Jamaica or Barbados. Instead it was
to be a Crown Colony, with all essential powers reserved to the
British Government through the Governor. As the policy decided on
by the British Government was to remain, with some modification in
1831 in respect of the establishment of a Legislature, substantially
unchanged until 1925, the British Government's decision, in the form
of a despatch from the Secretary of State, Lord Liverpool, to the
Governor of Trinidad on November 27, 1810, is reproduced almost in
its entirety:


"The application of the proprietors, white inhabitants of
Trinidad, may be divided into two; the British Constitution as
it is understood and supposed to be enjoyed by the other West
India islands-the British laws under whatever frame of Govern-
ment His Majesty may be pleased to establish in that Colony.
"With respect to the first of these points, it has undergone the
most deliberate consideration in all its different bearings. The
question proposed for discussion has no necessary reference to that
state of things which has existed for so many years in the old West
India Islands but may be stated to amount to this:- whether
in a new colony in which the rights of the Crown and Parliament
must be admitted on all hands to be entire, it would be advisable
to surrender these rights in whole or in part and to establish a
system of government analogous to that of the other West India
"Even if the circumstances of Trinidad were in all respects
much more nearly the same as those of the other West India
Colonies than they unquestionably are, the determination of
Government would probably be to negative such a proposition. But
it so happens that the circumstances of the Island of Trinidad are
in many respects so materially different form those of all the West
India Colonies that supposing the system of Government estab-
lished in those Islands to be the best could be afforded them in
their situation, it would not follow that the same system could be
rendered applicable either in justice or in policy to the Island
of Trinidad.
"In all the other West India Islands (with the exception of
Dominica, an exception which arises out of recent circumstances)
the white inhabitants form the great majority of the free people
of the Colony and the political rights and privileges of all descrip-
tions have been enjoyed exclusively by them.
"The class of free people of colour in these Colonies, as far as
even their numbers extend, has grown up gradually. They have
thereby in some degree been reconciled to the middle situation
which they occupy between the whites and the slaves. But in the
Island of Trinidad the free people of colour at this time form a
very great majority of the free inhabitants of the Island and the
question would arise according to the proposed system whether
in establishing, for the first time, a popular government in that
Colony, we shall exclude that class of people from all political
rights and privileges. Such an exclusion we know would be
regarded by them as a grievance and it may be doubted how far
it would be consistent with the spirit of the capitulation by which
their privileges were to be secured and their situation certainly
not deteriorated from that which they enjoyed under the Spanish
"In the second place in most of the West India Islands, the
great body of the proprietors and white inhabitants are British


or descendants of British families to whom the British Constitu-
tion and the Laws have become familiar; they have been educated
or supposed themselves to be educated in the knowledge of them
and though the resemblance is certainly not great between the
Constitution as it is supposed to exist in our West India Islands
and as it is enjoyed in Great Britain, the circumstances above
referred to would in some degree account for the attachment of
the inhabitants of the old West India Islands to a system of
government in which a popular assembly forms a material part.
"But in the Island of Trinidad, the white population consist
of a mixture of people of all nations. The greater part of them
must be wholly ignorant of the British Constitution and un-
accustomed to any frame of government which bears any analogy
to it. In the case of Trinidad therefore, amongst the most numer-
ous class of white inhabitants, there can be no material prejudice
either of habit or education in favour of such a system and the
partial and exclusive principle on which it is proposed by the
white inhabitants to be founded, whereby the largest proportion of
the free inhabitants of the Island would be excluded from all par-
ticipation in its privileges, appears to defeat the object of it and
to constitute in point of justice and upon the very principles of
the system itself, a decided and insuperable objection against it.
"The question has hitherto been considered as far as it may
affect the internal state of the Colony itself. But in addition to
these considerations it is material to add that the abolition of the
Slave Trade by Parliament imposes upon Government the necessity
of keeping within themselves any power which may be material
for rendering this measure effectual.
"It is essential for this purpose that in a new Colony the
Crown should not divest itself of its power of legislation and that
neither the Crown nor the Parliament should be subject to the
embarrassments which on such an occasion might perhaps arise
from the conflicting views of the Imperial Parliament and of a
subordinate Legislature.
"Under these considerations you may consider it a point
determined that it is not advisable to establish within the Island
of Trinidad any independent Legislature.
"In reserving to himself the power of legislation, His Majesty
will delegate in some degree that power as far as local considera-
tions may render necessary or expedient to the Governor as His
Representative whose acts will be always subject to be reviewed,
altered or revoked by His Majesty himself.
"In exercising this power for local purposes His Majesty feels
the advantage which may arise in a Council selected by the
Governor from the most respectable of the inhabitants of the
Island, but such a Council must be considered as a Council of
advice and not of control. The determination of the Governor,
even if it should be contrary to the opinion of such a Council,


must be considered as obligatory till such time as His Majesty's
pleasure shall be known; the members of the Council may how-
ever in such cases be allowed to transmit their opinion together
with their reasons for His Majesty's consideration.
"The advantages of a government of this description in
Colonies and remote settlements have been experienced in other
instances and furnish the strongest possible inducements for act-
ing upon this principle upon the present occasion.
"Upon the second point-the introduction of British laws into
the Island of Trinidad-I am not as yet enabled to give you a
decided opinion. The subject is necessarily extensive and compli-
cated. It is at the time under the serious consideration of His
Majesty's Government and 1 hope to be able soon to communicate
to you at large their sentiments upon it. But I thought it of
importance that no time should be lost in conveying to you the
determination of His Majesty's Government for the information of
the inhabitants of the Colony upon the important subject of an
internal legislature."
Trinidad therefore began its association with the British Empire
as a type of colony unknown at that time, a Crown Colony in which
the British Government retained complete control, and which the
British Government hoped to establish as a model for the self-
governing colonies in the West Indies, in respect of legislation gov-
erning the treatment of the slaves. Let it be understood, however, that
the principal reason for this decision was to deny the vote to people
of colour who were otherwise qualified. This decision must be seen
also in the context of the colour discrimination practised in Trinidad
at the time. The free people of colour had to pay a special tax for
dances and public entertainments. They had to be off the streets at
the ringing of the jail bell at 9.30 p.m. They were charged half price
for passports and charged less than the whites for medical attendance.
A broken leg was set for a white person for $86.40, for a free person
of colour for $68.12. But the price for a thigh bone was the same,
whatever its colour. In 1822 Governor Woodford sought a ruling
from the Secretary of State as to whether he ought to permit a young
coloured doctor trained in England to practise in Trinidad.
How seriously Britain took its decision to introduce the Crown
Colony system is seen in a despatch of the Secretary of State on
February 4, 1808, in which he rapped the Governor of Trinidad on
the knuckles for falling into some misapprehension with respect to
his prerogatives and to the power of the Cabildo over colonial
revenues and officers in Trinidad. Lord Castlereagh wrote as follows
to Governor Hislop:
"There is at present at Trinidad no regular Colonial form of
Government, analogous to the old Governments of the other West
India Islands, but the Island is governed by His Majesty's
Prerogative in consequence of the Capitulation; as you have
repeatedly been informed.


"The Colonial Revenue, therefore, and the appointment to all
Ofices in the Colony, are entirely subject to His Majesty's
Pleasure and there is no authority in the Colony that is known
or recognized here which can order the expenditure of any sums
of money except the Governor under His Majesty's authority.
"Neither is there any authority in the island which can
create a new office or appoint a new officer or remove an officer
appointed, except the Governor under the authority of His
Majesty; and you are restricted merely to the power of suspend-
ing officers who misconduct themselves, until His Majesty's
Pleasure be known.
"It is therefore wished you would not, upon any account,
permit His Majesty's Authority and Prerogatives which are entirely
entrusted to your care to be entrenched upon by any other Body,
and that you would guard them from every intrusion whatever."
The Trinidad planters continued to agitate for self-government.
A Royal Commission of Legal Enquiry, which in 1823 enquired into
the administration of civil and criminal justice in Trinidad, noted
that it was the unanimous feeling of the planters "that no change
which did not at the same time confer on them the benefit of a
reasonable control over the taxation and expenditure of the colony"
would satisfy them. The result was the British decision in 1831 to
replace the Governor's Council of advice by the Colony's first Legis-
lature, the Council of Government.
The Council consisted of the Governor as President, six official
members-the Chief Justice, the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney
General, the Colonial Treasurer, the Protector of Slaves and the
Collector of Customs-, and six unofficial members selected by the
Governor from among the principal proprietors of the Colony. The
Governor was given both an original and a casting vote. At the
same time an Executive Council with advisory powers was established,
comprising the Governor as President, the Colonial Secretary, the
Attorney General, and the Colonial Treasurer. In a despatch on May
25, 1831, to the Governor of Trinidad, Lord Goderich, the Secretary
of State for the Colonies, explained one of the reasons for the refusal
to grant Trinidad a self-governing Assembly instead of the Crown
Colony Legislature, the final vestiges of which were not removed until
the Constitution of December 1961, by which Trinidad achieved its
aspirations to full internal self-government. Lord Goderich wrote as
"The benefits resulting from the election by the proprietary
body, in every country, of the popular branch of the legislature
are too familiar to require notice, and are so universally admitted
as to preclude all controversy on the abstract principle. That
principle is however wholly inapplicable to a state of society in
which a very large majority of the people are in a state of domestic
slavery, and in which those persons who are of free condition
are separated from each other by the indelible distinction of


European and African birth or parentage .... As society is at
present constituted in the island His Majesty's Minasters will
abstain from advising the introduction of a representative
assembly and popular elections."
The crucial issue involved in this British decision not to introduce
into Trinidad an elected assembly was the labour question. Sugar in
particular required a great deal of labour, and no one thought of
anything but sugar. For example Picton wrote to the Secretary of
State on July 30, 1799:
,"Trinidad should be regarded as a sugar Colony, the lands
being generally more favourable to the production of Cane, than
of Coffee or Cotton. The quantity of land to be granted should
certainly depend upon the means of cultivation, but everything
considered the smallest class of sugar plantation cannot consist
of less than 200 Acres of good land, of which 100 acres for cane,
50 for pasture, and 50 for Negro grounds, establishments and
Casualties. A plantation of this class carried on with the greatest
economy will require a capital of about 8,000 sterling."
Everybody agreed that Trinidad needed labour. The difficulty
was, if Negro slaves were not to be imported from Africa, where
then was the labour to come from ? This raised two separate issues:
(1) the recruitment of labour from outside of Trinidad; (2) the
treatment of the slaves in Trinidad.
First, the efforts to recruit labour from other countries. In this
matter Trinidad was international in outlook and catholic in taste.
Everybody was welcome.
Attention was concentrated on the possibility of attracting
additional white settlers. The British Government in Trinidad be-
haved as if the West Indian slate in this matter was entirely clean,
and ignored all the precedents for 300 years which indicated that
labour could not be provided from those sources. In December, 1802,
the Secretary of State for the Colonies urged the Governor of Trinidad
to give attention to attracting industrious Protestant dissenters from
Ireland and Scotland, on a three-year indenture at 60 cents a day
for labourers and $1.20 a day for artisans, and with the grant of
three acres of land for an adult and two for a child. All the Secretary
of State had to do was to read up British records on similar 17th cen-
tury efforts in Jamaica and Barbados or to ask the French Govern-
ment for advice based on their 17th century experience. The Secre-
tary of State also proposed efforts to attract men from the Army and
Navy who were no longer on active service, on the basis of land grants
varying from 150 acres to Field Officers and 10 acres to Corporals.
As the Secretary of State put it: "The advantages which might be
expected to accrue from the introduction of a European yeomanry in
Trinidad are so great that I cannot too strongly recommend that
subject to your most serious consideration."
The great problem where the European settlers were concerned
was climate. Picton issued a stern warning about this and suggested


that Europeans should be located on the higher parts of the river
Caroni. The first Germans who arrived appeared to have been placed
on the borders of the Arouca Savannah, and were regarded as a very
valuable acquisition. The Trinidad Government was of the opinion
that success in respect of European immigration depended very
largely on the provision of houses for them in or near Port-of-Spain
which they might rent until accommodation was available in the
area to which they might be assigned.
Particular emphasis was placed on the other West Indian
Islands as a source of labour for Trinidad. Governor Picton antici-
pated a large influx from the Bahamas, Barbados and all the Wind-
ward and Leeward Islands. One William Tucker of Bermuda peti-
tioned in 1804 for permission to settle Guayaguayare with mechanics
and seamen from Bermuda; at the time the population of Guaya-
guayare was 66 planters, mostly French, with 400 slaves, whilst at
Mayaro, which was virtually covered with sugar plantations, there
were 120 French settlers with 380 slaves.
This was the basis of the considerable intercolonial slave trade
which developed after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, under
the guise of domestic servants attending on their master. What
was really involved was the transfer of slaves from the less pro-
ductive and less profitable older islands to the newer and virgin
soils of Trinidad and British Guiana. Between 1813 and 1821 Trini-
dad received over 3,800 such slaves, of whom nearly 1,100 came
from Dominica and nearly 1,200 from Grenada.
The *'ade was a fraud and was not really an immigration of
domestic servants. For example, an indigent planter in Barbados
came to Trinidad with his family attended by 14 slaves, one of
whom was a carpenter. Of 266 domestics imported into Trinidad
from Barbados during the year 1827, 204 had changed owners
by the end of the year and 81 had ceased to be domestics. People
who used to travel before with no servant at all suddenly began
to travel to Trinidad or Guiana accompanied by two domestic slaves
for each member of the family, however numerous.
It was the superior value of slaves and the greater fertility of
the soil of Trinidad and Guiana which formed the background to this
intercolonial slave trade. The cost of a slave in Barbados or Antigua
was only 35 or 40, in Guiana and Trinidad it was from 80
to 90. The relative fertility of Demerara and Barbados, as judged
by exports, was in the proportion of four to one. In Demerara it
took 200 days' labour to produce 5,000 lbs. of sugar, in Barbados 400. In
the former the sugar was produced without any outlay of capital for
manure, in the latter it required twenty-five per cent of the labour
of the plantation. The canes in Trinidad produced saccharine matter
in the proportion of 5 to 2 as compared with the older islands; the
average output of sugar was three hogsheads per slave as compared
with one in the older islands.
This trade continued and developed with the connivance and


the full protection of the authorities in Trinidad. The Governor of
Trinidad, for example, Sir Ralph Woodford, wrote touchingly con-
trasting conditions in Tortola and in Trinidad; in Tortola, he said,
the poor slaves had only six pints of cornmeal per week, whilst in
Trinidad no one starved and the Negro had not only his pig but
half a dozen goats as well and the fertility and extent of the soil
permitted the planters to give the slaves more land for the cultiva-
tion of their provisions. And as Trinidad was maintained by the
British as a model slave colony, where, unlike the self-governing
islands, British legislation by order in council was in effect and in
force, the Trinidad planters, with the Attorney General as their
mouthpiece, speciously urged that "if the order in council cannot go
to the slaves, the slaves might be permitted to come to the order
in council in Trinidad."
The third possible source of labour for Trinidad was China,
and the early documents of Trinidad under British rule are full of
the Chinese prospects. It was proposed to the British Government
by Governor Picton as early as 1802. High hopes were placed on
the Chinese, one lobbyist going so far, in advancing the superiority
of free labour over slave, as to estimate that two Chinese labourers
with a light plough and a buffalo would do as much work as 40 stout
Negroes. In 1806, 147 Chinese workers arrived in Trinidad, followed
by a further 192 in the same year. But the following year thirty
or forty applied for permission to return to China and the first
criticism was voiced by the Council of Trindad of this emigration,
on the ground that it would prove "an external expense to the Gov-
One of the difficulties was that Chinese women did not accom-
pany the workers, and the free women of colour in Trinidad, it
was alleged, considered themselves superior to the Chinese who,
though free in name, were performing the work of slaves. So the
Governor reported in 1807. Anyone familiar with the complex nature
of the Trinidad population of today will readily recognize that, if
this were true in 1807, the women of Trinidad soon changed their
minds. By 1814 the hopes placed on China had failed. Those who
remained, about thirty in number, were regarded as useful fisher-
men and butchers. Had they, in the Governor's opinion, brought
with them wives and families and priests, they would have been a
very valuable addition to the Trinidad population. But those who
were brought to Trinidad seemed incapable of and disinclined to
the fatigues of agricultural labour in the tropical sun.
The planters, in their desperate search for labour, thought of
Africans, Amerindians, and even convicts. In 1825 the Governor
recommended that African women should be brought in from Sierra
Leone. Almost incredibly, the British Government, in 1802, sug-
gested the use of Amerindians from the South American continent.
And as if the whole previous history of European colonialism in
the West Indies did not cry out aloud against the use of convict
labour the Secretary of State suggested that consideration should


be given to a selection from the least undeserving of convicts who
should be assigned to various employers to be clothed and fed
by them until they had served their sentence.
There was only one country, India, that really remained to
which consideration might be given, and the Governor, Sir Ralph
Woodford, recommended it in a despatch to Earl Bathurst, Secre-
tary of State for the Colonies, on October 3, 1814. His recommen-
dation reads as follows:-
"The cultivators of Hindostan are known to be peaceful and
industrious. An extensive introduction of that class of people
accustomed to live on the produce of their own labour only, and
totally withdrawn from African connections or feelings, would
probably be the best experiment for the population of this Island
where the King has the power of enacting the laws and regula-
tions he may think fit for their protection and support and where
the soil is grateful and probably corresponds much with that
of their own country. But without their priests, their chiefs (one
of whom it would be desirable should be acquainted with some
one of the European languages), their families, their artisans,
their plants and seeds, the success of such a plan could not be
"They might easily select a favourable spot for their resi-
dences, and if after some time they should find an inclination to
work on the sugar estates, the Planter would have the best
means of satisfying himself of the advantages of free labourers
over slaves. If sugar can be raised in the East Indies at so
much less an expense than in the West, the best means would
soon be in the power of the speculative planter to commence
an establishment by which from the reduced capital that only
would be necessary and the avoiding the purchase of foreign
provisions, he would be able to undersell every competitor whose
produce might be raised by slaves."
The first suggestion that India might replace Africa as the
source of labour in Trinidad involved the use of Indians not in a
state of semi-servitude, working on the plantation for wages, but
as small farmers cultivating their own land.
Whilst all these efforts were being made to recruit labour from
all parts of the globe, slave labour was becoming increasingly diffi-
cult, at least on the old terms. As Trinidad was a model British
slave colony, the British Government experimented with it for the
introduction of ameliorating measures designed to satisfy the criti-
cisms of the abolitionists in England. The most important of these
was the Order in Council of 1823 which the British Government
hoped, after its introduction in Trinidad, would be adopted in the
self-governing colonies. The principal features of the Order in Coun-
cil were as follows:
(1) A Protector of Slaves whose duties were regulated was to be
(2) Sunday markets were abolished.


(3) The performance of any labour by slaves between sunset on
Saturday and sunrise on Monday was prohibited.
(4) The carrying of any whip for the purpose of coercing slaves
to perform labour was declared illegal.
(5) No slave was to be punished until 24 hours after the offence,
and then only in the presence of at least one free person in
addition to the person ordering the punishment.
(6) The use of the whip on female slaves for any offence was
(7) Books and records, including one for punishments, were to be
(8) The onus was placed on the slave owner to prove that no
punishment was inflicted, should a slave prosecute the owner
for improper punishment.
(9) Marriages among slaves were to be encouraged.
(10) The division of families when slaves were sold was prohibited.
(11) The slave was permitted to possess and bequeath property.
(12) The slave was permitted to manumit himself without the
owner's consent.
(13) The fee for manumission was fixed at not more than 20 shil-
(14) Appraisement of his value when a slave was affected in a
mortgage or a law settlement was regulated.
(15) When a slave under six years or over fifty was manumitted,
the owner was required to provide gratuitously a bond of 200
so as to provide for his sustenance.
(16) Clergymen were authorized to certify that slaves had sufficient
religious instruction to understand the nature of an oath and
to be competent witnesses in a Court of Law.
The second British measure for the control and amelioration
of slavery was the Slave Registration Bill of 1816. This Bill, as
applied to Trinidad by an Order in Council of March 26, 1812, was
designed specifically, by establishment of a Public Registry for the
registration of the names, description, births and death of all slaves,
to prevent illegal and clandestine importation of slaves into Trini-
dad in violation of the Bill for the Abolition of the Slave Trade
in 1807. The registration, as of January 1814, produced a total of
24,717 slaves, of whom 8,633 were domestic slaves and 17,084 plan-
tation slaves.
It was against this background of an acute shortage of labour
that Trinidad's economic development proceeded in the period
between its annexation by Britain and the emancipation of the slaves
in 1833. The island's sugar exports to Britain increased from 5,920
tons in 1812 to 10,334 tons in 1833. Trinidad's rum exports to Britain
declined in the same period from 39,126 gallons to 223 gallons. Its
cotton exports to Britain stood at 745,049 lbs. in 1812 and 11,951
lbs. in 1838. Coffee exports increased from 75,500 lbs. to 154,901 lbs.
during the same period. Exports of cocoa increased from 204,400
Ib. to 1,741W44 lt


Cocoa was king, and in 1818 the Governor emphasised that it
was only by encouraging the growth of cocoa that Trinidad could
be settled. The island's total exports of cocoa increased from 96,000
lbs. in 1797 to 3,090,526 Ibs. in 1833. One enthusiast, in a com-
munication to the Governor, recommended that Trinidad should be
made a cocoa island and all the slaves who were employed in dis-
tilling poisonous rum and making bad sugar should be made to
plant cocoa.
The only other important feature of Trinidad's economy in
the period under British rule before emancipation was its trade rela-
tions with Venezuela. From the very outset Trinidad's importance
to Britain was seen in the context of the advantage which its strate-
gic position afforded of shipping British manufactures into South
America in contravention of the Spanish Exclusive. Trinidad, which
was of no use to Spain at all., found its principal advantage to
Britain in its geographical location in respect of Spanish South
America. Thus one of the principal objectives of the Trinidad Gov-
ernment was to maintain good relations with Venezuela. It protested
sharply when in 1816 Simon Bolivar decreed the emancipation
of slaves, partly because this would inspire the slaves in Trinidad,
and partly because the resulting disturbances would disrupt com-
mercial relations with Trinidad. It went almost frantic when
Trinidad conspirators congregated on Chacachacare in 1813 to plot
an attack on Venezuela; the Governor immediately ordered a detach-
ment of the first West India Regiment to proceed to Chacachacare
to disperse them, and followed this up by a Proclamation of neutral-
ity in 1815 threatening with deportation and banishment all
inhabitants of Trinidad detected in conveying to the Spanish pro-
vince of the Continent of South America either arms, ammunition
or warlike stores. The value of Trinidad's trade with the Spanish
Main, which brought mules, cattle, hogs, and cotton to Trinidad
and took out British manufactures for Venezuela, was estimated in
1805 at $859,000 in imports and $1,112,000 in exports.
This was Trinidad in the first 36 years of British colonialism,
in its economic and political aspects.
In its social aspect this community, whose population increased
from 30,742 in 1811 to 42,874 in 1828, presented a powerful con-
trast with the Trinidad which becomes Independent in 1962.
The Capital of the island had been shifted from St. Joseph
to Port-of-Spain. But Port-of-Spain in this period included little
more than what are today Duncan, Nelson and George Streets, going
as far north as Duke Street and as far west as Frederick Street.
The city of wooden structures was reduced on the night of March
24, 1808, for the most part to ashes, as a result of a fire which
broke out sometime after 10 o'clock in the house of a druggist. 412
houses and 337 stores were completely burnt out, and the number
of people rendered homeless was 3,647, of whom 615 were whites,
1,004 free people of colour and 2,028 slaves. The estimated loss in
houses amounted to between three and four million dollars, and that


in merchandise and produce equalled half a million sterling. Public
buildings destroyed included a Protestant Church, Government House,
the jail, the hospital and the Town Hall.
A Committee of the Council appointed to report upon the fire
advised that it would be necessary on an average to lend about
$500 each to a number of persons to enable them to rebuild their
houses and emphasised that the calamity made it impossible to con-
tinue public works then in progress for the completion of the wharf,
for bringing water from St. Ann's to Port-of-Spain, and for improv-
ing the main road leading from Port-of-Spain to St. Joseph. The
Committee therefore recommended an immediate application to the
British Government for assistance in the sum of 110,000 sterling,
such portion as was required for the benefit of individual sufferers
being regarded as a free gift, and the remainder to be advanced
as an interest-free loan to be repaid in due course from the funds
of the Colony.
This disaster was followed ten years later by a similar fire in San
Fernando which broke out at one o'clock in the day and which in
a short time destroyed 60 houses, 200 hogsheads of sugar, a con-
siderable quantity of rum and several stores of merchandise. The
Governor, Sir Ralph Woodford, turned to the British Government.
In a despatch of May 5, 1818, he wrote:
"Might I hope that this calamity will induce His Majesty's
Government to grant us some assistance? The total stagnation
of trade from the affairs of the Main renders that assistance more
necessary as our wants are daily becoming more urgent. It will
be likewise necessary to give shelter to the poor, free people
who have lost their houses. Is it hopeless to expect a sum by
way of a loan for which the Colony might pay the interest which
might be secured by an order to the Colonial Treasurer to make
the half yearly payment to the Collector of Customs? "
Trinidad, in the first three decades of the 19th century, suffered
partly from five major problems: bad bread, medical quacks, small
pox, illegal immigrants, and bad roads. A Proclamation of July 16,
1814, imposed severe penalties for bad bread and adulteration of
flour and established a rigorous system of inspection, under which
the Chief of Police was required to visit on one day of the first week
in every month all bakeries to inspect the flour and bread in their
The Medical Board was constituted in 1815 in order to protect
the population against imposition by so-called doctors of foreign
nationality; one such, when asked to show his alleged diploma from
the College of Surgeons in London for registration, replied that he
was forbidden to do so by the Act of Parliament incorporating the
College of Surgeons, and that it was derogatory to him to show the
degree which the College had conferred upon him. The Governor
issued a Proclamation prohibiting all persons from the practice of
medicine or surgery without publication of their names in the
Gazette, and prohibiting the sale of medicines or drugs of any kind


to any slave without an order in writing from the owner or manager
of the estate to which the slave belonged.
In 1819, a Proclamation was issued requiring all the inhabitants
to be vaccinated against small pox.
A Proclamation of 1804 enjoined specific precautions against
illegal immigrants and required the frequent search of all houses
both by day and by night for the apprehension of suspected illegal
immigrants. All houses in Port of Spain were to be numbered and
each housekeeper, white or coloured, was required to affix to the
street door on a card or sheet of paper the names of the persons
living in the house, all inmates and lodgers, and all servants and
slaves employed therein. A Board of Superintendence and Control
was set up to investigate all visitors to the colony.
The notorious condition of the roads in Trinidad, especially
in Mayaro, was demonstrated by a petition from the inhabitants and
planters of Mayaro and Guayaguayare to be allowed to send their
produce to Tobago instead of Port-of-Spain.
Woodford Square, then known as Brunswick Square, was the
subject of a powerful protest from the adjoining proprietors against
a proposal to erect a new Protestant Church in the centre of the
Square. The proprietors emphasized that the Square was necessary
for air, pleasure and amusement and was also the parade ground
of the Town Militia. The proprietors appealed to His Majesty Council
to prevent this breach of their privileges and their rights.
In 1825 there were only six schools in the island one English
female boarding school and three French day schools in Port of Spain
with 175 students; a school kept by the Cabildo for teaching the
English language with 60 boys; and a small day school at an Indian
village where only Spanish was taught.
In 1810 a number of planters, in a petition to the King begged
for the establishment of a Chamber of Agriculture and also a Botanic
garden with a view to improving the standard of agriculture and
introducing better varieties of plants and new crops.
This was the colony which Britain had developed as a model
colony for the self-governing West Indian islands. There was nothing
particularly model about its Government in the first few years after
its annexation, which saw a fantastic innovation by the British Gov-
ernment to substitute three Commissioners for the former military
governor, Picton. This immediately led a struggle between Picton
and the first of the three Commissioners, Fullarton. Even against the
background of the well known jealousy and individualism of Trini-
dadians, the documents of this unseemly squabble between two of
the Governors of the island make unpleasant reading. The squabble
ended in Fullarton charging Picton with a variety of crimes including
torture. The case went to the British courts where Picton was first
found guilty, and then, after a retrial, was found not guilty. Rehabili-
tated, he died fighting for his country at the Battle of Waterloo.
Sir Ralph Woodford, a very young man who was the Governor
of the territory for some 14 or 15 years, was superior to much with


which the island was afflicted in the next hundred years. The llus-
trious Cabildo inherited from Spain became anything but illustrious.
Its annual revenue in 1809 was $21f656 and its expenditure $6,517.
The Cabildo derived its revenue from liquor licences in 1804 there
were 50 such establishments in Port of Spain; licences for billiard
tables; dues in the meat and fish markets; rents from the Five Islands
rented out to cotton planters; rents of land on Marine Square, at the
western extremity of the town, and from the Coconut Walk; the grant
of one-quarter of one percent of the island's revenue which had been
made by the Spanish Government; payments for the use of the public
well, pump and aqueduct for the convenience of shipping; fines im-
posed on delinquents in the administration of justice; a tax on carts
of $2 a month each; and a duty on foreign liquor, rum, brandy and
The Cabildo spent its money on repairs of the public wharf; slave
labour on works of public utility, maintenance of prisoners without
means of subsistence; rent of a Town Hall; repairs to streets; print-
ing; rent of a public jail; expenses of a Police Force and the over-
seers of public works; and the expenses of such religious festivals as
the Feast of St. Joseph and Corpus Christi.
As far as the defence of the island was concerned, it was the
general opinion that Chaguaramas was the best spot for a military
base, though some argued in favour of Chacachacare.
In those days when sugar was cultivated at Laventille and what
it is today the Laneyrouse Cemetery was a sugar plantation, (hagua-
ramas was an important part of Trinidad's sugar economy. This was
reflected in the revolt of the slaves in Chaguaramas in 1805. It was
alleged that the intention was a general massacre on Christmas Day
of all whites and people of colour. The plot seemed to have been
limited to slaves who had migrated from the French colonies. Two
of them who styled themselves King and one who called himself
General-in-Chief were condemned to hang on December 19; their
beads were to be exposed after death on poles erected for the pur-
pose and their bodies were to be hung in chains on the estate near
the district where they resided. Subsequently, judgment was passed
on six more of the ringleaders. The most tulnable were sentenced to
lose their ears, to be flogged on the gallows and to be banished from
the colony forever. Those less culpable were sentenced to corporal
punishment and to work in chains for a specific period. The general
alarm in the colony was aggravated by reports of slave disturbances
in Tobago. Aunrehensive of a growing insubordination among the
slaves, the Cabildo passed orders in 1810 forbidding Negroes to carry
cudgels or canes.
Slavery was brought to an end with the Emancipation Bill of
1833. By this Bill the slave planters, and not the slaves, were paid
by the British Government the sum of 20 million compensation. A
comparison of Trinidad with the other West Indian territories in
this matter is of considerable importance not only for a study of the


economic development of Trinidad up to 1833 but also for the future
of race relations in Trinidad.
The slaves were divided into three broad categories: predial
attached, the field slaves; predial unattached; and non-predial slaves.
employed in service, such as on the wharves, and domestic servants.
There were also the children under six years of age on August 1,
1834, and the aged, diseased, or otherwise non-effective slaves.
In the first three categories the total number of slaves emanci-
pated in the West Indies amounted to 512,823, and the compensation
paid for them amounted to 15,524,360. Of these totals the number
of slaves in the third class in Trinidad amounted to 17,439 and the
compensation to 973,443. The number of slaves in Tobago amounted
to 9,078 and the compensation to 226,746. This compares with
254,310 slaves in Jamaica, the compensation for whom totalled
5,853,978; with 66,638 slaves in Barbados, the compensation for
whom amounted to 1,659,316; and with 69,579 in British Guiana,
whose compensation totalled 4,068,809.
Trinidad had fewer slaves than Grenada (19,009), than St.
Vincent (18,114)., or Antigua (23,350). Trinidad and Tobago combined
had fewer slaves (26,517) than Dominica and St. Kitts combined
(27,331), or than St. Lucia and St. Vincent combined (28,442).
Not only therefore was Trinidad less significant as a slave colony
than the vast majority of West Indian colonies, but Trinidad's
economic potential in comparison with that of the exhausted soil of
the older islands made the slave in Trinidad an infinitely more valu-
able piece of property than the slave in any other West Indian colony
except British Guiana. The average of the compensation paid per
slave was 58% in British Guiana and just under 56 in Trinidad.
This compares with an average of 25 in Barbados and 23 in
Jamaica. Tobago's average was as high as Barbados. The slave in
Grenada or St. Lucia or St. Vincent averaged 30 in respect of
compensation money. The figure for St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat
was 20. The figure for Antigua was a mere 17.
In addition to the adult and working slaves, a further 117,000 slaves
were emancipated for whom compensation amounting to 892,000
was paid. These were 88,306 children under six, on whom some
647,000 was paid a little over 7 each -, and 28,701 aged and
infirm slaves, for whom 144,,00 was paid a little over 5 each.
Trinidad had 2,246 children and 872 aged and infirm slaves. The
compensation for the former averaged over 22 per head, for the
latter over 12 per head. A child under six in Trinidad fetched a
higher compensation than an adult slave in St. Kitts, Nevis, Mont-
serrat and Antigua, and as high a compensation as an adult slave in
Jamaica. The average compensation paid per child in British Guiana
was less than 20, as compared with 11 in St. Vincent, 8 in
Grenada, a little over 5 in Jamaica, and 4 in Barbados. The aver-
age compensation paid per aged slave in British Guiana was a little
under 12, as compared with over 8 in Grenada, 8 in St. Lucia,
4 in Jamaica, and 2 in Barbados.


There were few slaves in Trinidad in relation to the available
land. A slave, therefore, young or old, field or domestic, effective or
ineffective, fetched a high price. But Trinidad in 1833 was not a
plantation society. Rather it was a society of small estates operated
by a few slaves. Comparing the number of slaves for whom compen-
sation was paid with the number of claims for compensation, the
figure in Trinidad was seven slaves per claim, as compared with 23
in British Guiana. The average slave owner in Trinidad, in other
words, had seven slaves. It is curious to see the classic islands of
small farmers today as they emerged in 1833. In Tobago, an island of
larger planters and larger plantations, the average was twenty-four
slaves per claim. Grenada, Montserrat, Nevis, strongholds of the
peasantry today, were plantation economies compared with Trinidad
in 1833. The average number of slaves per claim was twenty-
one in Antigua, twenty in St. Vincent, eighteen in Grenada and
Nevis, seventeen in Montserrat, fifteen in Jamaica, thirteen in St.
Kitts, eleven in St. Lucia and Dominica and nine in Barbados.
Even this average of seven slaves per claim in Trinidad may
create a false picture. An analysis of 1962 claims, 83% of the total
claims, reveals that 30% were claims for ownership of one slave only,
16% were claims for two slaves, 22% claims for three to five slaves,
and 12% claims for six to ten slaves. Eighty percent of the slave
owners in Trinidad in 1833 owned less than ten slaves each. One per
cent owned more than 100 slaves. By comparison, owners of less than
ten slaves constituted 60% of the slave owners in Tobago, St. Vincent
and Dominica, 50% in Nevis and Montserrat. Persons owning more
than 100 slaves constituted 12% of the slave owners in Tobago, 10%
in Grenada and Nevis, 8% in Montserrat and St. Vincent.
A further point of great significance is indicated in this analysis
of the slave compensation claims. The slave society wasted a great
deal of labour in purely domestic servants, and the history of slavery
in the Western Hemisphere is full of stories of Jamaican big houses
with 40 servants, of the Surinam slave planter going to Church on
Sunday accompanied by a slave girl carrying the cushion for him
to kneel on, and the Brazilian slave planter being shaved by a barber
with a slave girl standing by whose duty was at appropriate times to
put the lighted cigar into his mouth and to take it out.
The other side of this picture of a gross waste of labour in
unproductive occupations was that the domestic slaves were relative-
ly better and more leniently treated than the field slaves. The under-
development of Trinidad's economy and the relatively peaceful
relations between slaves and masters was illustrated by the fact that
there were three domestic slaves for every ten field slaves as com-
pared with a ratio of under two to ten in Jamaica and one to ten in
British Guiana.
A further illustration of this point, which had important conse-
quences for the relative ease of race relations after emancipation,
as compared with the 1865 rebellion in Jamaica and the Barbados
disturbances over federation in 1876, is the fact that the compensa-


tion paid for the third category of slaves, in service occupations and
as domestic slaves, was higher in Trinidad than elsewhere and indeed
was high even in Tobago. The compensation value of a domestic
slave in Trinidad was over 55% as compared with 53% in British
Guiana, 24 in Jamaica, and 23 in Barbados. The value attached
to a domestic slave in Tobago was over 35.
The presence of a mere 17,439 slaves in Trinidad and a mere
69,579 in British Guiana changed the whole course of history of these
two colonies after emancipation. The labour problem led to the
introduction of an entirely new population in Trinidad, which con-
verted the island from a society of small farmers into a typical
plantation economy. The Crown Colony system made Trinidad safe
for the sugar plantation.


Trinidad's Labour Problem after


The fundamental question facing Trinidad, and indeed all the
West Indian colonies after emancipation, was the question of labour.
This meant simply this: would sugar continue to be the principal
product? If so, would it continue on the basis of the plantation
system? And if the plantation was to be perpetuated, how was a
regular and continuous supply of disciplined labour to be guar-
Put in its simplest form, the fundamental question boiled down
to this: would the former slaves be prepared to continue,, or could
they be compelled to continue, to work on the same plantation for
their former masters, for wages instead of for lashes?
This problem dominated the discussions on the future of the
sugar colonies both in England and in the colonies themselves. There
was a division of opinion in both England and in Trinidad, but the
opinion that favoured the perpetuation of the plantation system and
the necessary measures to ensure a continued supply of labour for
the plantations preponderated.
Let us first consider the problem as posed in the metropolitan
discussions. Trinidad being a Crown Colony, the metropolitan voice
was decisive. In December 1832, on the very eve/of emancipation,
Lord Howick, Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, outlined the
official policy of the British Government in a memorandum which
stated the theory as follows:
"The great problem to be solved in drawing up any plan for
the emancipation of the Slaves in our Colonies, is to devise some
mode of inducing them when relieved from the fear of the Driver
and his whip, to undergo the regular and continuous labour which
is indispensable in carrying on the production of Sugar . Their
(the planters') inability. . to pay liberal wages seems beyond all
question; but even if this were otherwise, the experience of other
countries warrants the belief, that while land is so easily obtain-
able as it is at this moment, even liberal wages would fail to
purchase the sort of labour which is required for the cultivation
and manufacture of Sugar. . The examples of the western
States of America, of Canada, of the Cape of Good Hope, and of
the Australian Colonies, may all be cited in order to shew that
even amongst a population in a much higher state of civilisation
than that to which the slaves in the West Indies have attained, the
facility of obtaining land effectually prevents the prosecution by
voluntary labour of any enterprise requiring the cooperation of
many hands. It is impossible therefore to suppose that the slaves


(who, though as I believe not more given to idleness than other
men are certainly not less so) would if freed from control be
induced even by high wages to continue to submit to a drudgery
which they detest, while without doing so they could obtain land
sufficient for their support. ... .I think that it would be greatly
for the real happiness of the Negroes themselves, if the facility
of acquiring land could be so far restrained as to prevent them,
on the abolition of slavery, from abandoning their habits of regular
industry........ Accordingly, it is to the imposition of a consider-
able tax upon land that I chiefly look for the means of enabling
the planter to continue his business when emancipation shall have
taken place. .. ."
The essence of the Crown Colony system is that it disregards
the opinions of the governed. We do not know therefore what the
emancipated Negroes thought of the principles and proposals quite
unambiguously stated by Lord Howick. If Trinidad was to be settled
and developed, it was to be done on the basis of the plantation and
not of the small farmer. The Crown Colony system so ruled. To put
the matter as crudely as possible, land ownership was to be retained
in white hands and it was to be made as difficult as possible for
black people to own land.
It has to be borne in mind in all this glib talk that has been
prevalent in Trinidad for over a century that the former slaves did not
desert agriculture. They deserted plantation agriculture on the terms
and conditions prescribed by the Trinidad plantersinalliance with the
British Government. Everything was done to discourage them from
remaining in agriculture after emancipation. Thus it was that in 1841
the Trinidad planters objected to a proposal from the Secretary of
State that 40 acres should be the smallest area of Crown land granted
to any person, and stated emphatically that it would be most injurious
to the interest of the colony to dispose of any area smaller than 320
acres. The Trinidad Council of Government went on to point out that
the optimum size of a sugar plantation was 640 eias. The Trinidad
planters therefore made it quite clear that in their opinion the
development of Trinidad's economy was to be based on sugar and on
the large sugar plantations.
Acting in accordance with the philosophy outlined by Lord
Howick, the British Government did not decree full and unqualified
emancipation as from August 1, 1833. This was deferred until 1840 -
the period was subsequently shortened to August 1, 1838. In the
intervening period the slaves were to be apprentices, required to
work under specified conditions and for stipulated wages for their
former masters.
The Negroes in Trinidad, and indeed in the West Indies, objected
violently. Even today, the long diatribe of the Port of Spain Gazette,
the organ of the planters, on August 5, 1834, against the behaviour
of the freed slaves makes amusing reading. The slaves, accustomed
for two decades to the hostility of their masters to all the measures
proposed by Britain in their behalf, refused to believe that they had


not been freed outright. They regarded the apprenticeship system as
a put up job between their masters and the Governor. They called
their masters "dam tief" and the Governor an "old rogue," and were
convinced that the King was not such a fool as to buy them half free
when he was rich enough to pay for them altogether.
Thus August 1, 1834, faced the colony of Trinidad with its great-
est social crisis until June 19, 1937. The half-emancipated slaves
marched into Port of Spain from all parts of the island, wending their
way to Government House to inform the Governor that they had
resolved to strike. The Governor sought to remonstrate with them.
They abused him, laughed at him, hooted him, and behaved in what
the Gazette recorded as a most outrageous manner. Many of them
were arrested, and seventeen of the most prominent ringleaders were
condemned to stripes and hard labour.
The expectation that this would intimidate the others was hope-
lessly misplaced. The apprentices in a large number followed the
sentenced men to jail encouraging them not to mind their punish-
ment, and vowing their determination to submit not only to punish-
ment but to death itself rather than to return to work. The Riot Act
was read without making the slightest impression on the multitude.
The troops were thereupon ordered to clear the streets, which they did
without accident, but the apprentices promptly congregated in small
groups, particularly the women, resolutely expressing their determina-
tion not to submit. Their demeanour, whilst determined, was abso-
lutely peaceful. Even the Port of Spain Gazette had to admit that not
one cutlass or stick was to be seen amongst them, not a single
individual was intoxicated, nor was one single act of personal violence
or robbery reported. Not a single person convicted expressed contri-
tion or even asked for pardon. It was quite clear that the former
slaves in Trinidad were not prepared to accept conditions in which
they were half slave, half free.
A similar policy of apprenticeship was adopted in the Danish
Virgin Islands after emancipation but there the anger of the Negroes
was so pronounced that the system of apprenticeship was brought to
an end after violent disturbances in 1878. The French Commission
of Enquiry which preceded emancipation in the French islands,
headed by the great radical democrat, Victor Schoelcher, totally
repudiated the intervening stage of apprenticeship which it described
as forced labour and a form of slavery. Schoelcher's Commission
reported as follows:
"The Negroes would find it difficult to understand how they
could be free and constrained at one and the same time. The
Republic would not wish to take away from them with one hand
what it has given with the other; in the colonies as in the metro-
polis, the day of fictions is over."
It was the attempt to maintain the fictions in the British West
Indies to prevent Negro land ownership, and to perpetuate the planta-
tion economy by governmental action, the attempt in other words to
interfere with the normal laws of supply and demand in the labour


market and to prescribe the status of men who were in the same
breath being called free, that gave rise to all the social troubles of
the 19th century in the West Indies.
The metropolitan climate was positively hostile to small owner-
ship. In 1849, Thomas Carlyle, the great essayist and historian,
wrote one of the bitterest denunciations of the West Indian workers
in his offensive essay entitled Occasional Discourse on the Nigger
Question. .He condemned emancipation as ruining the West Indies
and as encouraging the former slaves to idleness, to lie in the sun
and to eat pumpkins and yams. Carlyle advocated that the Negroes
should be whipped back into slavery and kept there. Less offensive
in language but equally hostile in outlook was Anthony Trollope
whom we have encountered before in his discussion of Negro
inferiority. Basing his arguments principally on Jamaica, Trollope
too was of the opinion that emancipation had ruined the West Indies,
and he was convinced, as so much of British policy in the 19th
century was designed to achieve, that the big house of the European
plantocracy was the centre of culture and refinement in the West
Indies and the only avenue to civilisation.
Thus it was that when the freed workers of Jamaica petitioned
Queen Victoria in 1865 for land which they could cultivate themselves,
Queen Victoria, through the Secretary of State for the Colonies, made
(tne famous reply which threw Jamaica right into the sanguinary
revolution of 1865 which British troops suppressed with a brutality
that is unparalleled in the sordid annals of West Indian history.
Queen Victoria's reply was as follows:
"That the prosperity of the labouring classes, as well as of all
other classes, depends, in Jamaica, and in other countries, upon
their working for wages, not uncertainly, or capriciously, but
steadily and continuously, at the times when their labour is wanted,
and for so long as it is wanted: and that if they would thus use
their industry, and thereby render the plantations productive, they
would enable the planters to pay them higher wages for the same
hours of work than are received by the best field labourers in this
country; and, as the cost of the necessaries of life is much less in
Jamaica than it is here, they would be enabled, by adding prudence
to industry, to lay by an ample provision for seasons of drought
and dearth; and they may be assured, that it is from their own
industry and prudence, in availing themselves of the means of
prospering that are before them, and not from any such schemes
as have been suggested to them, that they must look for an
improvement in their conditions."
The British defence of the plantation system as a centre of
culture is something that students of West Indian history and society
have never been able to understand. It lacked absolutely any basis
in fact. Long ago, as far back as 1787, the well-known traveller,
Baron de Wimpffen, had condemned planter society in Saint Domingue,
the principal slave colony of the time, in memorable words. Describ-


ing the conversations among the planters, he wrote as follows: "Each
speaks of what interests him, so that one has hardly stopped speaking
of one's slaves, one's cotton, one's sugar, one's coffee, before the
discussion begins again on cotton, sugar, coffee, slaves. All conver-
sations begin, continue, end and begin again with those subjects."
Thus it was also that the prominent British abolitionist, James
Stephen, of the Colonial Office, could write of the planters in a famous
memorandum in October 1831, these very same planters whom
Urollope sought to eulogise thirty years later as the defenders and
symbols of West Indian culture and civilisation: "Their lives are
passed in a contracted circle amidst petty feuds and pecuniary
embarrassments. There is no civilised society on earth so entirely
destitute of learned leisure, of literary and scientific intercourse, and
even of liberal recreations."
Thus it was, finally, that an independent American observer,
William Sewell, of the New York Herald Tribune, who visited the
West Indies in 1859 in order to appraise the success of the emancipa-
tion legislation, was able to write one of the most devastating indict-
ments of British and colonial policy in the history of the West Indies.
Everywhere that Sewell went, in Barbados, in St. Vincent, in
Jamaica, in Trinidad, he found that production had increased, the
Negroes were industrious, the standard of living had risen, the
standard of housing had improved, and that emancipation was a
success not only socially but also economically. His conclusions
represented, in the light of Carlyle's defamation and Trollope's
denunciation, one of the most passionate defences of the emancipated
slaves ever written for any slave colony. In his well-known book,
The Ordeal of Free Labour in the British West Indies, one of the most
powerful documents in British West Indian history, Sewell summed
up the conclusions of his observations as follows:
"I have endeavoured to point out the two paths that lay open
to the West Indian Creole after the abolition of slavery. The one
was to remain an estate serf and make sugar for the planter; the
other was to rent or purchase land, and work for estates, if he
pleased, but be socially independent of a master's control I
endeavoured to follow these two classes of people in the paths
they pursued the majority, who have become independent, and
the minority, who have remained estate labourers and I have
shown that the condition of the former is infinitely above the
condition of the latter. Is this any where denied? Can any one
say that it was not the lawful right of these people thus to seek,
and, having found, to cherish their independence? Can any one
say that, by doing so, they wronged themselves, the planters, or
the government under which they lived Can any one say that
they are to blame if, by their successful attempts to elevate them-
selves above the necessitous and precarious career of labour for
daily hire, the agricultural field force was weakened, and the
production of sugar diminished?
'Is it any argument against the industry of the labouring classes


of America that a large proportion annually become proprietors,
and withdraw from service for daily hire? Yet this is precisely
what tne West India Creole has done; this is the charge on which
he has been arraigned this is the crime for which he has been
"Divested of such foreign incumbrances as defects of African
character, and other similar stuff and nonsense, it is simply a land
question, with which race and colour have nothing whatever to
do. The same process goes on in the United States, in Canada,
in Australia, and in all new countries where land is cheap and
plentiful and the population sparse. The labourer soon becomes a
proprietor; the ranks of the labouring force are rapidly thinned;
and the capitalist is compelled to pay high, it may be extravagant
wages. In the West Indies the capitalist refuses to pay high wages;
he thinks that the control of the labour market is one of his
rights. He imagines, and upon what ground I cannot comprehend,
that farming in these colonies should yield much larger profits
than farming any where else. He calls it planting, and fancies
that there ought to be a wide social distinction between the man
who grows cane or cotton and the man who grows potatoes and
parsnips. God save the mark! Does any one dream that if West
India planters stuck to their business like English farmers, and
possessed one half of their practical ability and industry, the
agricultural and commercial interests of the islands would have
ever suffered from emancipation? The profits of sugar-cultivation,
according to the planter's creed, must b2 large enough to yield
the proprietor, though an absentee, a comfortable income, and
pay large salaries besides to overseers and attorneys; otherwise
estates are abandoned, and the sugar interest is ruined. These
expectations might have been realized in the days of the old
monopoly; they certainly are not realized now, and never can be
realized again, unless the British people recede from their princi-
ples of free trade and free labour. If labour in the West Indies is
high so high that sometimes the planter cannot afford to pay
the price demanded he is not worse off than the capitalist in
all new countries."
It was not easy, however, to stem the tide of the metropolitan
current fed by its colonial tributaries. Secretaries of State and
Colonial Governors combined to condemn the small land owner and
to advocate the large plantation. A group of Mandingos in Trinidad
petitioned the Secretary of State to be allowed to go back to Africa.
War veterans of the West Indies Regiment settled in Manzanilla and
Turure, without roads, without bridges, they pleaded either for the
amenities which they had been promised on disbandment or for
permission to leave the settlement and go elsewhere. Their petition
went unheeded. Occasionally a Secretary of State for the Colonies
came to the defence of the small man, as was the case with Lord
John Russell in a despatch to the Governor of British Guiana, another
Crown colony, in 1840. Russell wrote as follows:

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