Special Features
March 13, 2020


– Part 2

THERE HAS been encouraging responses from readers to the first in this series, covering excerpts from a book by the late Vincentian historian Dr. Bernard Marshall (“Slavery, Law and Society in the British Windward Islands 1763-1823”). So much so that we are encouraging brief comments as the series goes along.

One reader suggested that there is need for “more analysis of the excerpts”, giving as an example, the change by the British government from its territorial concept of “Grenada and the Grenadines” to remove jurisdiction over the Grenadines. We encourage readers to feel free to comment on such issues and thereby enrich the discourse.

Sugar Expansion

We left off with the breakup of the colonial British Windward Islands Federation and the subsequent efforts by the British to encourage a rapid expansion of sugar production in the other islands besides Grenada, then one of the main producers in the region. The sale of lands for the establishment of sugar plantations was one such mechanism. Dr Marshall writes as follows: “The establishment and growth of plantations in St Vincent were not as rapid or as successful as in other islands. This was so because the amount of land available for sale was limited for two reasons. First, 20,000 acres had been gratuitously granted to one Mr Swinburne and another 4000 acres to General Monckton, thus withdrawing a quarter of the total acreage from the market. Secondly and more importantly was the presence of the descendants of a group of shipwrecked Africans called the Black Caribs or Kalinago…. These people formed a strong tribal enclave in the island, and regarding the areas they inhabited as their exclusive property, opposed European settlement.

“It is of paramount importance that this Black Carib opposition to the series of events leading up to the outbreak of what has been popularly termed the ‘First Carib War of 1773’, and the circumstances surrounding the termination of that war be placed in proper perspective”.

He argues that this is so because of attempts by the colonisers to justify their war against the Kalinago, leading to native genocide, exile and the forcible occupation of their lands. Reference is made of the writings of Sir William Young (of Young Island fame) who published “His’ tory in 1795. Dr Marshall wrote: “To date, this work which has completely distorted the picture has remained virtually unchallenged… Indeed, throughout the work, Young views the Black Caribs as a group of ‘savages’ whose sinister designs against the lives and properties of ‘innocent’ British subjects created a situation in which there was no alternative but to use force against them and remove them from the island at all costs”.

That, fundamentally, was the colonial justification for its genocidal actions against the Kalinago. Dr Marshall also points to the important fact that Young’s justification (‘His’tory) was published in 1795.

“That date, 1795, marked the termination of the Second Carib War of 1795 when the Black Caribs were finally subjugated by the forces of General Abercrombie and it was also a time when there was a campaign afoot to expel them from the island so that the areas they occupied might be converted into sugar plantations, an objective which the British settlers had at the outset and which the Caribs had persistently and consistently prevented from materialising. Young’s work therefore ought to be viewed as part of that campaign”.

Who says there is no case for Reparations?

Part 3 next week.