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History of the Caribbean

The history of the Caribbean reveals the significant role the region played in the colonial struggles of the European powers since the fifteenth century. In the twentieth century the Caribbean was again important during World War II, in the decolonization wave in the post-war period, and in the tension between Communist Cuba and the United States (US). Genocide, slavery, immigration and rivalry between world powers have given Caribbean history an impact disproportionate to the size of this small region.

The Caribbean before European contact

The oldest evidence of humans in the Caribbean is in northern Trinidad at Banwari Trace where 7,000-year-old remains have been found. These pre-ceramic sites, which belong to the Archaic (pre-ceramic) age, have been termed Ortoiroid. The earliest archaeological evidence of human settlement in Hispaniola dates to about 3600 BCE, but the reliability of these finds is questioned. Consistent dates of 3100 BCE appear in Cuba. The earliest dates in the Lesser Antilles are from 2000 BCE in Antigua. A lack of pre-ceramic sites in the Windward Islands and differences in technology suggest that these Archaic settlers may have Central American origins. Whether an Ortoiroid colonisation of the islands took place is uncertain, but there is little evidence of one.

Between 400 BCE and 200 BCE the first ceramic-using agriculturalists, the Saladoid culture, entered Trinidad from South America. They expanded down the Orinoco River to Trinidad, and then spread rapidly up the islands of the Caribbean. Some time after 250 CE another group, the Barrancoid entered Trinidad. The Barancoid society collapsed along the Orinoco around 650 and another group, the Arauquinoid, expanded into these areas and up the Caribbean chain. Around 1300 a new group, the Mayoid entered Trinidad and remained the dominant culture until Spanish settlement.

At the time of the European discovery of most of the islands of the Caribbean, three major Amerindian indigenous peoples lived on the islands: the Taíno in the Greater Antilles, The Bahamas and the Leeward Islands; the Island Caribs and Galibi in the Windward Islands; and the Ciboney in western Cuba. The Taínos are subdivided into Classic Taínos, who occupied Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, Western Taínos, who occupied Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamian archipelago, and the Eastern Taínos, who occupied the Leeward Islands. Trinidad was inhabited by both Carib speaking and Arawak-speaking groups.

The colonial era

Soon after the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, both Portuguese and Spanish ships began claiming territories in Central and South America. These colonies brought in gold, and other European powers, most specifically England, the Netherlands, and France, hoped to establish profitable colonies of their own. Colonial rivalries made the Caribbean a cockpit for European wars for centuries.

Spanish conquest

During the first voyage of the explorer Christopher Columbus (mandated by the Spanish crown to conquer) contact was made with the Lucayans in the Bahamas and the Taíno in Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola, and a few of the native people were taken back to Spain. Small amounts of gold were found in their personal ornaments and other objects such as masks and belts. The Spanish, who came seeking wealth, enslaved the native population and rapidly drove them to near-extinction. To supplement the Amerindian labour, the Spanish imported African slaves. (see also Slavery in the Spanish New World colonies) Although Spain claimed the entire Caribbean, they settled only the larger islands of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica and Trinidad.

Other European powers

The other European powers established a presence in the Caribbean after the Spanish Empire declined, partly due to the reduced native population of the area from European diseases.

Impact of Colonialism on the Caribbean

The exploitation of the Caribbean landscape dates back to the Spanish conquistadors around 1600 who mined the islands for gold which they brought back to Spain. The more significant development came when Christopher Columbus wrote back to Spain that the islands were made for sugar development. The history of Caribbean agricultural dependency is closely linked with European colonialism which altered the financial potential of the region by introducing a plantation system. Much like the Spanish enslaved indigenous Indians to work in gold mines, the seventeenth brought a new series of oppressors in the form of the Dutch, the English, and the French. By the middle of the eighteenth century sugar was Britain's largest import which made the Caribbean that much more important as a colony. The “New World” plantations were established in order to fulfill the growing needs of the “Old World”. The sugar plantations were built with the intention of exporting the sugar back to Britain which is why the British did not need to stimulate local demand for the sugar with wages. A system of slavery was adapted since it allowed the colonizer to have an abundant work force with little worry about declining demands for sugar. In the nineteenth century wages were finally introduced with the abolition of slavery. The new system in place however was similar to the previous as it was based on white capital and colored labor. Large numbers of unskilled workers were hired to perform repeated tasks, which made if very difficult for these workers to ever leave and pursue any non farming employment. Unlike other countries, where there was an urban option for finding work, the Caribbean countries had money invested in agriculture and lacked any core industrial base. The cities that did exist offered limited opportunities to citizens and almost none for the unskilled masses who had worked in agriculture their entire lives. The products produced brought in no profits for the countries since they were sold to the colonial occupant buyer who controlled the price the products were sold at. This resulted in extremely low wages with no potential for growth since the occupant nations had no intention of selling the products at a higher price to themselves. The result of this economic exploitation was a plantation dependence which saw the Caribbean nations possessing a large quantity of unskilled workers capable of performing agricultural tasks and not much else. After many years of colonial rule the nations also saw no profits brought into their country since the sugar production was controlled by the colonial rulers. This left the Caribbean nations with little capital to invest towards enhancing any future industries unlike European nations which were developing rapidly and separating themselves technologically and economically from most impoverished nations of the world.

Wars

The Caribbean region was war-torn throughout much of colonial history, but the wars were often based in Europe, with only minor battles fought in the Caribbean. Some wars, however, were borne of political turmoil in the Caribbean itself.

  • Thirty Years' War between the Netherlands and Spain.
  • The First, Second, and Third Anglo-Dutch Wars were battles for supremacy.
  • Nine Years' War between the European powers.
  • The War of Spanish Succession (European name) or Queen Anne's War (American name) spawned a generation of some of the most infamous pirates.
  • The War of Jenkins' Ear (American name) or The War of Austrian Succession (European name) Spain and Britain fought over trade rights; Britain invaded Spanish Florida and attacked the citadel of Cartagena de las Indias in present-day Colombia.
  • The Seven Years' War (European name) or French & Indian War (American name) was the first "world war" between France, her ally Spain, and Britain; France was defeated and was willing to give up all of Canada to keep a few highly profitable sugar-growing islands in the Caribbean. Britain seized Havana toward the end, and traded that single city for all of Florida at the Treaty of Paris in 1763.
  • The American Revolution saw large British and French fleets battling in the Caribbean again. American independence was assured by French naval victories in the Caribbean.
  • The French Revolution allowed for the creation of the Republic of Haiti.
  • The Spanish-American War ended Spanish control of Cuba and Puerto Rico and heralded the period of American dominance of the islands.

Independence

Haiti, the former French colony of Saint-Domingue on Hispaniola was the first Caribbean nation to gain independence from European powers when in 1791, a slave rebellion that became the Haitian Revolution under the leadership of Toussaint l'Ouverture established Haiti as a free, black republic by 1804. Haiti became the world's oldest black republic, and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States. The remaining two-thirds of Hispaniola were conquered by Haitian forces in 1821. In 1844, the newly-formed Dominican Republic declared its independence from Haiti.

Some Caribbean nations gained independence from European powers in the nineteenth century. Some smaller states are still dependencies of European powers today. Cuba remained a Spanish colony until the Spanish American War.

Between 1958 and 1962 most of the British-controlled Caribbean became the West Indies Federation before it separated into many separate nations.

Relations with the US

Since the Monroe Doctrine, the United States gained a major influence on most Caribbean nations. In the early part of the twentieth century this influence was extended by participation in The Banana Wars. Areas outside British or French control became known in Europe as "America's tropical empire".

Victory in the Spanish-American war and the signing of the Platt amendment in 1901 ensured that the United States would have the right to interfere in Cuban political and economic affairs, militarily if necessary. After the Cuban revolution of 1959 relations deteriorated rapidly leading to the Bay of Pigs venture, the Cuban Missile Crisis and successive US attempts to destabilise the island. The US invaded and occupied Hispaniola (present day Dominican Republic and Haiti) for 19 years (1915-34), subsequently dominating the Haitian economy through aid and loan repayments. The US invaded Haiti again in 1994 and in 2004 were accused by CARICOM of arranging a coup d'état to remove elected Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

In 1965, 23,000 US troops were sent to the Dominican Republic to quash a local uprising against military rule. President Lyndon Johnson had ordered the invasion to stem what he claimed to be a "Communist threat", however the mission appeared ambiguous and was roundly condemned throughout the hemisphere as a return to gunboat diplomacy. In 1983 the US invaded Grenada to remove populist left-wing leader Maurice Bishop. The US maintains a naval military base in Cuba at Guantanamo Bay. The base is one of five unified commands whose "area of responsibility" is Latin America and the Caribbean. The command is headquartered in a Miami, Florida office building.

As an arm of the economic and political network of the Americas, the influence of the United States stretches beyond a military context. In economic terms, the United States represents a primary market for the export of Caribbean goods. Notably, this is a recent historical trend. The post-war era reflects a time of transition for the Caribbean basin when, as colonial powers sought to disentangle from the region (as part of a larger trend of decolonization), the US began to expand its hegemony throughout the region. This pattern is confirmed by economic initiatives such as the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), which sought to congeal alliances with the region in light of a perceived Soviet threat. The CBI marks the emergence of the Caribbean basin as a geopolitical area of strategic interest to the US. This relationship has carried through to the 21st century, as reflected by the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act. The Caribbean Basin is also of strategic interest in regards to trade routes; it has been estimated that nearly half of US foreign cargo and crude oil imports are brought via Caribbean seaways. During wartime, these figures only stand to increase. It is important to note that the US is also of strategic interest to the Caribbean. Caribbean foreign policy seeks to strengthen its participation in a global free market economy. As an extension of this, Caribbean states do not wish to be excluded from their primary market in the US, or be bypassed in the creation of “wider hemispheric trading blocs” that stand to drastically alter trade and production in the Caribbean Basin. As such, the US has plays an influential role in shaping the Caribbean’s role in this hemispheric market. Likewise, building trade relationships with the US has always figured in strongly with the political goal of economic security in post-independence Caribbean states.

Caribbean Questions and Answers

What race of people was found living in the Lesser Antilles at the time of their discovery? What do you know of these people?

Many hundreds of years before the West Indies was visited by Europeans, there were living of these islands two races of people known as the Arawaks and the Caribs. The Caribs were a fierce and warlike people who ate their enemies when they captured them. The name Carib was given to them because they were cannibals. They were inhabiting the Lesser Antilles, and may be regarded as the first people of these islands. The Caribs were an uncivilized race of people who lived by hunting, fishing and feeding on wild fruit and berries and the cassava root which they planted. The moved about from island to island in small boats called canoes which they made from the trunks of large trees, mainly the silk cotton tree. These canoes were propelled by wooden paddles. Some of these canoes were quite big, measuring up to fifty feet in length. Since the Caribs were hunters, they were always on the move, and are known to have made voyages as far as the Greater Antilles; in fact, at the time of the discovery of the West Indies, they had already reached eastern Puerto Rico in pursuit of the gentler Arawaks who were peace-loving and quiet, and whom the Caribs had driven over a period of years from the north coast of South America up the islands of the Caribbean. The Caribs were warlike and took great pride in their ability to hold out long against their enemies. Their resistance against the Europeans who later landed in these islands was fierce. In spite of their superior weapons, the Europeans were afraid of the Caribs who were not hesitant to attack. They therefore resisted the Europeans for a much longer time than the Arawaks. The Caribs are believed to have descended from a race of Asians who came across the Siberian Bridge many centuries ago. After wandering through the American continent they came to the Caribbean which they made their hunting ground. Their physical characteristics seem to support this theory. They were a fair-skinned people with prominent cheek bones, slanting eyes, long straight coarse black hair and they were very well built. They usually lived in thatched-roof huts built in clearings on the sea coast, as fish was their main food. The also fed on conches, cockles and mussels. Wherever they lived there could be found nearby large heaps of shells of these crustaceans. The Caribs were able to make cloth and rugs from cotton. Some of the rugs were very beautifully dyed from the juices of trees. They also made baskets and mats of straw, bark of trees and bamboo strippings. This craft is still carried on today by the only colony of Caribs alive, in Dominica, where the government has assigned a government to them. The Caribs did not know the use of iron for making tools and weapons. Their tools were made of stone, hardwood and bones. Their weapons were bows and arrows and spears which were made more deadly by attaching a pointed fish bone at the ends of their arrows and by hardening the ends of their spears with fire. They also dipped their weapons in a poisonous substance made from trees, in order to kill their enemies more quickly. The Caribs made periodic raids on Arawak islands to replenish their supplies of food and women. As they gloried in their martial prowess, they chose their own ouboutou (chief) not by heredity, but by strength and fighting skill. Moreover, all warriors lived together in a commune called a Carbet. In religion they were nature-worshippers.

Describe the Arawak society and show the impact of the European civilization had upon it after the Spanish discovery of the West Indies.

When Columbus first landed on San Salvador, Bahamas in 1492, he was confronted with natives whom he found living on the island. As he went on to discover Hispaniola, Cuba and later Puerto Rico and Jamaica, he found the same race of people lived on all these islands which are today known as the Greater Antilles. This race of people came to be called the Arawaks. The Arawaks were a simple and almost defenceless people, who were friendly and peace-loving. Columbus in his diary spoke very favourably of the beauty, friendliness and docility of the Arawaks who, up to the time of their discovery, had developed a civilization of their own. They were mainly primitive in their habits, but they were agriculturist and craftsmen, and fishing and hunting were also done. They cultivated corn, yams, cassava, pumpkins and sweet potatoes, all of which are still grown in the West Indies today. Cotton was used for weaving with which they girded their loins. They also made hammocks in which the slept, and did other craftwork with straw and bamboo. Vessels of pottery were also made and these were usually adorned with grotesque heads. The Arawaks like the Caribs, did not know the use of iron, so their tools such as knives and axes were made of stone. They wore ornaments made of gold and shells. They lived in small villages built near to the coast, and village life was organised under a chief or cacique. Not much is known of the Arawak religion, but they seemed to believe in a hereafter as shown in the offerings found in their graves by archeologist. When the Spaniards arrived the Arawaks thought that they were sent from heaven, in which they believed. The Arawaks did no writing and so it is difficult to get a complete picture of their way of life. It is only in wood and stone carvings that their records are found and also on natural rock faces were graffiti forms have been discovered. Much of what is known of them comes from the writings of Spanish writers in the sixteenth century. Such was the state of civilization existing among the Arawaks in the Greater Antilles at the time when Europeans first found out about their existence in 1492. The welcome which the Arawaks gave to the Spaniards was quite pleasing to Columbus, who wrote very hopefully of their ability to accept the European civilization and to be Christianized. This hope, however, was not to be fully realized for the Arawaks never took kindly to the European way of life, and in a relatively short time they were exterminated by cruelty and ill-treatment at the hands of the Spaniards, and by European diseases . The European civilization had a harsh impact upon these simple, peaceful people who for generations had been leading a way of life pleasing to themselves. The Europeans had come to the New World to exploit its resources, and this included the human resources- the Arawaks in the Greater Antilles. Labour was needed to cultivate the lands and to work such mines as there were. The Arawaks were not accustomed to organised labour and long hours of work such as the Europeans imposed upon them. Many of them refused to work for the Europeans and were virtually enslaved and ill-treated. Their lands and their women were taken away from them to fulfill desires of their masters. They brooded and pined away even to death, and those who did not die of ill-treatment and broken spirits died of European diseases such as smallpox and syphilis. Today the Arawaks are scarcely a memory, as the entire race was obliterated from the earth. The Spanish settlement of the New World was not only a colonizing feat but also a Christianized exercise. They tried to impose the catholic religion on the Arawaks who had their own form of pagan religion and could not easily understand the Christian doctrine nor follow their ways of religion. In an attempt to make things easier for the Arawaks, and at the same time ensure a proper labour supply for the Spaniards and spread the Christian doctrine, Ovando was commissioned by the Spanish crown to re-introduce the Ecomienda system. By this system a Spanish colonist was given a certain number of Arawaks to work for him and he, in return, had to provide for their general welfare and see to it that they were taught the principles of the Christian religion. The Ecomienda system was however, a failure even though the laws of Burgos of 1512 sought to improve it. There was no effective means of enforcing the regulations and the Spanish colonist were very brutal in their treatment of the Arawaks. The priest Montesinos was so moved against the Spaniards for their cruelty to the Arawaks that at Christmas in 1511 he spoke out against the ill-treatment of the Arawaks in a sermon at Santo Domingo. Te Spaniards were displeased and Montesinos went to report the situation to the Spanish crown. The result was the issuing of the Laws of Burgos in 1512. The Arawak society was simple and unsophisticated, and these people could not easily adopt the European civilization which was more exacting and organised. The impact which the Europeans made upon the Arawaks was damaging, not only to their way of life, but to their life itself. Hence this race could not long exist under the pressures of the European culture, and soon faded away from the face of the earth. Thus perished the indigenous people of the Greater Antilles – a people who might have aided much to the development of these islands had they been treated differently by their European masters.

What attitude did the Spanish crown adopt towards the native Indians in the Caribbean?

When Columbus discovered the New World he met two races of people living there – the Arawaks and the Caribs. The Arawaks were found in the Bahamas and the larger islands while the Caribs lived in the smaller West Indian Islands. The Arawaks were a peaceful people who lived a life of hunting and planted maize and cassava which were their principal diet. The Caribs on the other hand, were a fierce and warlike people who traversed the Caribbean in their canoes waging war on whomsoever they met. They could not be subdued easily and, since Spain was not interested in the smaller islands which they occupied, they were left alone. The general name given to the natives of the larger islands and the main was the “Indians”. Spain’s discovery and conquest of the New World was not only a colonizing feat, but a Christianizing mission as well. Spain felt that she had a duty to perform in converting the natives to Christianity and in teaching them the European way of life. Therefore, one of the first things that the Spanish crown had to consider was how to deal with the Indian problem. Columbus had spoken in glowing terms of the beauty of the Indians and their ability to learn and understand quickly, and he had suggested to his Sovereigns that they could easily be trained in the ways of Christianity. He had even suggested how this should be done. Spain had regarded her New World possessions as an extension of the Spanish Empire, and as such, all persons living in it were regarded as Spanish citizen, and this included the Indians. When therefore, the Spanish colonist came to the New World and were in need of labour to work the mines and their agricultural lands, and wanted to enslave the Indians for the purpose, the Spanish crown ruled that the Indians were not to be enslaved. As a counter to this they introduced the Ecomienda system in 1503 when Ovando was governor of Hispaniola. The Ecomienda System made provision for each colonist to have a number of Indians to work for him with the understanding that he would arrange for them to be taught Christianity. He was to pay them wages and see after their general welfare. Thus the Spanish Crown took a paternalistic attitude towards the Indians. Of course the Ecomienda System was abused by the colonist as there was no effective system of enforcing it, and many of the Indians existed in Virtual slavery. The Spanish crown however, was always ready to defend the cause of the Indians. Thus we see, when in 1511 the priest Montesinos ridiculed the colonist of Santo Domingo for their harsh treatment of the natives, afterwards went to Spain to plead for their cause, he was willingly received by the Spanish Monarchs. The result was the passing of the Laws of Burgos in 1512, setting down in detail how the Indians were to be treated. Inspectors were even sent out from Spain to enforce the provisions of the laws. Las Casas was another priest who took up the cause of the Indians and received the backing of the Spanish crown. He was appointed protector of the Indians in 1516 and made journey’s to Spain to plead the cause of the Indians before the Spanish Crown who was always willing to cooperate. Protecting the Indians was an almost impossible task as the settlers were more concerned over the profits of exploitation than with the virtues of Christianity. However the Church, through some of its sincere and devoted priest, did much to fight the Indian cause. The church missionaries were regarded as outposts of Spanish rule, and the Indians were left entirely in their charge in islands like Trinidad and Jamaica. In the other Spanish colonies however, churchmen and royal officials were unable to prevent or stop the enslavement and forced migration of the Arawaks, particularly in the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles. Even the New Laws of 1542, decreed by Emperor Charles V on the advice of Las Casas which called a halt to enslavement in general and the Encomienda system in particular, never came into effect because of the vigorous opposition of the Spanish settlers. Although in practice the Indians were practically enslaved by the Spanish settlers, it can be said that the Spanish crown did not intend it to be so, and did all that lay in its power through the Church to treat the Indians kindly and to convert them to Christianity. The fact that the Ecomienda System broke down was due mainly to the greed of the settlers, and to the vast expanse of territory Spain had acquired, which made it difficult for her, limited as she was in human resources, to enforce any system that was introduced

How did Spain seek to keep control of her American territories?

Very early in the settlement and conquest of the New World, Spain realised that some sort of organisation was necessary if she were to reap the full benefit of trade with the colonies and keep the colonist loyal to the mother country. We find therefore, that two major departments were set up in Spain for this purpose. In 1503 the House of Trade was set up in Seville for the organisation of the Spanish trade in the colonies. The idea behind this was that no other nation was allowed to trade with the colonies, and even all Spaniards trading with them had to be authorized traders. All ships leaving Spain for the colonies had to leave from Seville where licenses were issued, the cargoes checked and the correct customs duties paid. All ships returning from the Indies had to put in at Seville for similar exercises. Penalties were imposed on ships which violated these regulations. In addition to this, custom officials were established in the colonies for the collection of duties on the spot. To ensure that ships arrived safely the convoy system was introduced later in the century. The only foreigners authorized to trade with the colonies were the Portuguese, who were given a special licence – the Asiento – to trade in a limited number of slaves each year. All other foreigners were excluded from the trade, and if captured severely punished. The Council of the Indies was set up in Spain as a purely legal body to ensure the loyalty of the colonist to the crown. The Council was presided over by the king himself and was made up of a number of highly trained lawyers. It was highest court of appeal for legal matters arising in the colonies. This council organised the American Empire into Viceroyalties, Audiencias, Provinces and towns for ease of administration. The appointees to head these administrative divisions except the Cabildos were always people of Spanish birth, sent out from Spain by the council. The creoles were not entrusted with these posts for fear that disloyalty would creep in. In addition, although there was a fixed hierarchy among colonial officials from viceroys, captain-generals, governors and members of the Audiencia to the local magistrates, each official had the privilege and duty to report direct to the Council of the Indies, in effect to the king. Moreover, frequent inspections (visitas) by special royal commissaries and a judicial review at the end of each term of office (residencia) kept colonial officials honest and loyal to the Spanish king. In addition to these organizations, Spain relied on the church to assist her in keeping control of her colonies. The church was regarded as the right arm of the government. Owing to its unique position it touched the lives of the colonist from the cradle to the grave and was in a strong position to influence her. Because of this the church was given grants of land by the crown, and in some instances the clergy was very wealthy. They were allowed to operate their ecclesiastical court – the inquisition – which had wide powers. They controlled even the books that were to be read by the colonist and had powers to confiscate the properties of those who were found guilty of disloyalty or who were branded as heretics. By these means therefore, Spain was able for the better part of three centuries to hold her far-flung American Empire in her hands, though in matters of trade other European countries like France, England, and Holland, threatened her monopoly and became serious rivals of hers by the middle of the 17th century.

In what ways did other European nations seek to break through the Spanish monopoly of the Indies?

By the middle of the sixteenth century Spain had become very wealthy and powerful as a result of the riches from the New World. She was using this wealth to wage long wars in Europe and became a great threat to other European nations. England, France. Holland decided that it would be useless fighting Spain in Europe as she was so much more powerful than them, so they determined to ignore her monopoly of the Indies and attack her at the source of her wealth. At the time, none of the three nations had navies large and powerful enough to match the naval might of Spain, but by encouraging privateers to menace Spanish shipping and towns in the Caribbean, by the end of the sixteenth century they had made a substantial breakthrough in the Spanish monopoly. The French government issued letters of marquee to their privateers authorizing them to operate, and by 1523 they had registered a significant success when a French privateer took two Spanish galleons which were part of the fleet taking the treasures of Montezuma’s palace to Spain. In 1533 Francois le Clerc, a successful French pirate, with ten ships pillaged nearly every island settlement and took a quantity of money and other booty, and almost devastated the key town of Havana in Cuba. By 1562 the Englishman John Hawkins, who had failed to get legal trading concessions from Spain, found himself in the Caribbean where he sold slaves to Spanish colonist and loaded his ships with hides and tropical goods before he sailed to Europe. He made a second voyage which was also quite successful, but his last voyage in 1567 ended in disaster, and he was badly treated at the hands of the Spaniards. Drake who was with him on this voyage devoted his task thenceforth to avenge himself of Spain. He returned to the Caribbean where, in three successive years, he engaged in trading expeditions. In 1572 he captured the mule trains loaded with silver from Peru before they reached Nombre de Dois and obtained enough booty to make himself and his men rich for life…… From this time Drake’s expeditions were raiding expeditions when he ruthlessly sacked import towns on the Main in 1585 and 1586. He was greatly feared by the Spaniards. His last voyage from 1595 to 1596 however, ended in disaster. The Dutch had entered the field in 1569 and from the end of the century to the middle of the 17th century because the principal enemy of Spain. By 1605 they had established a flourishing trade ion salt and hides with the Spanish colonies, selling to them manufactured goods much cheaper than the Spanish traders could. The Dutch West Indies Company, founded in 1621, organised and financed anti-Spanish activity in the Atlantic as well as the Caribbean. In 1628 a Dutch privateer captured the whole Spanish plate Fleet carrying the annual supply of precious metals to Spain. By 1618, in addition to privateering and smuggling, the English, French and Dutch had turned their attention to settlement of those areas least settle by Spain. One settlement was established on the Guiana coast. Between 1623 and 1632 Thomas Warner, an Englishman, had settled the Leeward Islands and Powell had settled Barbados in 1627. By 1635 the French had settled parts of St.Kitts and Martinique and Guadeloupe. During this period the Dutch concentrated on trade. Thus it can be seen by privateering, smuggling and pioneering other European nations had defied the Spanish monopoly of trade in the New World. By the middle of the 17th century these newcomers to the Caribbean were substantial forces with which Spain had to be contended. They had not only broken her trading monopoly, but they had established settlements, showing Spain that they had come to stay.

What did Las Casas do in an attempt to prove that Indian serfdom was not necessary for the Spanish settlements in the Indies?

Barthlome de Las Casas became a priest at an early age, and while he was serving the church in Cuba, became the owner of much land, and had a number on Indians in virtual slavery to work for him. At first he saw no wrong in forcing the Indians to work, but later on when he was preparing a Whitsuntide sermon, he struck upon a text which convinced him of his wrong, and immediately he freed his Indians. From then he became the great champion of the Indian cause, and made several voyages to Spain to petition the crown for better conditions for the indigenous population of the Indies. He was later called the Apostle of the Indians. Las Casas argued that if given a chance, the Indians could be made to work side by side with the Spanish colonist as equals, and strongly objected to their enslavement. In 1512 he worked out a scheme for Indian training and got the permission of the then Spanish monarch, Charles V to put into effect. The scheme was in the nature of a tree-labour colony on the wild north coast of South America near Cumana. The Spanish Crown had admitted formally by an enactment that the Indians had rights. Las Casas was determined that these rights should be respected. In 1516 he got himself appointed as protector of the Indians, and spent the next ten years in sponsoring a series of experiments, social in nature and designed to show that if the Indians remained free they could be taught, by preaching and example, to form and live in civilized Christian communities without enslavement. The first of these experiments was near Cumana in northern South America. The experiments were failures, and demonstrated merely that the Spanish settlers could not live without Indian labour, unless some other form of labour was substituted in its place. The Indians had to be had to be coerced to work, and this made the settlers feel that their enslavement was necessary. Las Casas’ experiments later proved useful on the Mainland, but were too late to save the Arawaks in the West Indies from extinction. Las Casas’ scheme was also severely criticized by settlers and even fellow-priest. The one near Cumana lasted only a few months, as it was largely nullified by the antagonism of slave-traders. Later in his career, between 1537 and 1550, he tried other experiments in communal colonies, most successfully in Guatemala. These practical attempts to prove that enslavement was cruel and unnecessary, along with Las Casas’ history of the Indies and his twelve Atlantic crossings in search of royal support, had their result in the New Laws of 1542, which abolished the Ecomienda System . After Las Casas was convinced that the natives were unequal to forced manual labour, and that a labour force was necessary for the proper development of the Indies, he suggested that Negro slaves be introduced from Africa as he felt that they were more able to cope with the situation. Thus the first Asiento from African slaves was granted in 1517. Later however, Las Casas regretted having suggested that introduction of the African slave trade, but it was too late for him to do anything to stop it. Las Casas therefore, in his enthusiasm to protect the rights of the natives of the Indies, devoted his life to finding ways and means of avoiding their being to put into serfdom. His experiments had good intentions but were introduced too late to save the Arawak people of the Greater Antilles from extinction, through they later proved useful and successful on the Mainland. Out of the exuberance of this enthusiasm to avoid enslavement of the native Indians, he was responsible initiating the enslavement of the African Negroes, which was to become one of the blackest pages in the history of the West Indies.

Write brief notes on Las Casas, Francis Drake and Thomas Warner.

LAS CASAS: Las Casas was a young man fresh from university when he took part in the conquest of Cuba. He was ordained a priest and was awarded lands of the Indians. At first he did not regard the enslavement of the Indians as being wrong. It was not until he had stumbled upon a passage of Scripture while preparing his Whitsuntide sermon in 1514 that he experienced a change of heart. Immediately he freed his Indians and returned to Spain to argue against the enslavement of the Indians. He carried the cause of the Indians before the King of Spain and the church authorities and got himself appointed protector of the Indians in 1516. He was sent back to Hispaniola where he supervised a commission of friars who were investigating the question of freedom of the Indians. Las Casas protested against the decision of the commission who were influenced by the colonist. After he was threatened with arrest, he returned to Spain to put the matter before Emperor Charles V. He was successful in persuading the ruler to agree to his working out certain experiments designed to prove that the Indians could work as free men and be Indians. Las Casas’ experiments failed. The colonist did everything possible to undermine any confidence that he had manage to build up the Indians. He made a third voyage to Spain on behalf of the Indians, but returned to Hispaniola to spend ten years in a monastery where he began his famous book History of the Indies. His hopes were undaunted. His last attempt for the successful conversion of the Indians was based on his treaties: The only method of attracting people to the True Faith. He was a firm believer in the idea that it was by peaceful means alone that the Indians could not be converted to Christianity. This idea was put into action, somewhat successfully between 1537 and 1550 in Guatemala. In 1544 Las Casas was made Bishop of Chiapas. He retired from his position in 1550 at the age of seventy six. He had spent most of his life fighting the Indian cause, and had succeeded in getting the Crown to pass New Laws in 1542 making it illegal to enslave and more Indians.

FRANCIS DRAKE: Francis Drake is said to fill a place in West Indian history which is hard to assess in precise terms. In the later part of the 16th century he became the main English corsair in the attack upon the Spanish Indies. He was regarded as a maritime genius who created a name for himself and instilled great fear in the hearts of the Spaniards. He arose from the ranks of a number of small landlords in England who had been driven by social change to take up privateering as a way of life. He became a menace to Spain in the Caribbean, doing much damage and acquiring much booty thus weakening the fight power of Spain. Drake’s first acquaintance with the West Indies was when he joined his cousin, John Hawkins, in 1567 on one of his illicit trading voyages to the West Indies. On this voyage they were badly treated by the Spaniards and Drake vowed that he would spend the rest of his life in revenge against the Spaniards. Drake returned to the area in 1570 and 1571 on trading expeditions and used the opportunity to become more acquainted with the shores and to establish contact with local Indians and runaway slaves. His illicit trading soon was turned into privateering, and his first venture as a privateer was in 1572. On this trip he took Nombre de Dois by surprise capturing three mule trains on the Isthmus of Panama loaded with treasure from Peru. He and his men got enough booty to make them rich for the rest of their lives. Between 1577 and 1580 Drake circumnavigated the world, but appeared again in the West Indies in 1585. On this occasion England and Spain were on a verge of war and Drake carried out a full scale naval operation with a fleet more than twenty ships. He attacked Santo Domingo, Tierra Firme, Cartagena and Nombre de Dois. He finally captured Havana. Drake’s last voyage was from 1595 to 1596. It included twenty seven ships, but ended in disaster. His attack on San Juan, Puerto Rico was defeated by the Spaniards and Drake dies from dysentery.

THOMAS WARNER: Thomas Warner, who later became Sir Thomas Warner, was the first Englishman to make a settlement in the West Indies. After prospecting unsuccessfully for a settlement on the Guiana Coast he sailed up the Caribbean in 1623 and settled on the island of St.Kitts in the Leeward Islands. He returned to England in 1625 to seek financial assistance for his new colony and was successful in getting the support of Ralph Merrifield, a rich London merchant. Warner returned to St.Kitts where he settled down to the cultivation to tobacco, which was then fetching a high price in Europe. He was tactful enough to secure the friendship of the fierce Caribs, and when the French under D’Esnambuc landed in 1625 he peacefully agreed for them to settle on a demarcated section of the island. He extended his colonizing activities to Nevis, Antigua and Montserrat, which was settled in 1628 and 1632 respectively. He was made the first governor of the Leewards. By his early settlements in the West Indies, he paved the way for England to become a Caribbean power which was to bear much fruit for England in the years that lay ahead. What changes were brought about by the introduction of the sugar cane planting in the West Indies around the middle of the seventeenth century?

By the sixteen forties there were clear indications to the settlers of the English and French West Indian islands that the cultivation of tobacco was becoming unprofitable. Tobacco was produced in Virginia in America on a much larger scale in the West Indies and the quality was superior. While the British West Indies islands were producing 1,000,000 pounds of tobacco annually, Virginia was sending how to Britain about 3,500,000 pounds. The result of this was a glut on the market and a fall in price. The West Indian colonist therefore, had to look around for a profitable crop to replace tobacco, and on the advice of the Dutch, who had been growing it in Brazil, sugar cane planting was introduced around 1645. The changeover from tobacco production to sugar production amounted to what may be regarded as “the sugar revolution”. Tobacco cultivation needs relatively little land as it is cultivated more intensively, with the planter giving attention to each plant. The labour force required for this is negligible. Hence the expenditure on the whole outlay is small. Consequently, tobacco was grown on small holdings in the early settlements with the farmer’s own family and a few indentured servants providing the labour. The very nature of the cultivation of the sugar can and the processing of it into sugar was just the opposite of this. Thus the introduction of sugar production in the West Indies necessitated a complete turn over from small land holdings to vast plantations, from a small labour force to a larger on, from little or no capital to no capital expenditure, from unskilled labour to skilled labour in some cases and top erection of factories for manufacture. This was indeed a revolution. The small land owners sold out to “subtle and greedy” planters who expanded their plantations. Barbados, for instance, which had a large number of small proprietors, became a matter of ten years an island of large estates. As a result of this, many of the small land owners drifted into the towns and became small business men and inn-keepers; others migrated to America, and some took buccaneering. One other means of increasing the size of plantations was by clearing virgin lands to be turned to sugar can fields. This agriculture revolution gave rise to a social revolution, particularly insofar as the composition of the population and the life of the estates were concerned. All efforts to procure enough indentured labourers for the sugar estates from Europe failed. Although the white plantation was considerably increase by this means, thus giving rise to the population of poor whites in the West Indies, it was not until Africa was tapped as a source of labour supply that the required labour source was obtained. Thousands of Negroes were traded into the West Indies from Africa as slaves for the specific purpose of working on the sugar estates. This in turn gave rise to a slave society and a mixed population in the West Indies. The white pattern of the West Indian life was changed gradually as the profits of sugar soared and the way of life was adjusted to a sugar economy. Sugar production in its complexity needed a number of skilled and technicians and so there was a considerable increase in these types of workmen. The whole face of the land was changed, with the vast stretches of sugar cane fields rolling one into the other and windmills and water mills dotted here and there. The quantity of livestock also increased plentifully, for the successful production of sugar could not take place without them. In the shipping carried on in the West Indian ports after the change over to sugar was many times what it was before. Ships were needed to transport the sugar to Europe, and to bring food and estate supplies for their slaves and their masters. Many ships also engaged in the slave trade. Thus the tonnage of Dutch, British and French shipping increased considerably during the period. There arose out of it all a wealthy landowning class who comprised the plantocracy in the British lands, as they obtained and held the power of the Legislative Assemblies in their hands. Though the changeover of necessity was slow, it was sure, and by the end of the 17th century it was evident that sugar had come to stay and the changes had been woven into a pattern of life which was to affect the West Indies, economically, socially and politically even to this day.

What do you understand by the “Mercantile System”?

As early as 1502 the king of Spain set up the House of Trade in Seville to control all colonial shipping of trade. After the passing on the Navigation Acts in 1651, Britain concentrated all the trade with her overseas possessions in her own hands. From 1664 France made a move in the same direction insofar as her colonies were concerned, and 1678 all trade with them was carried in French ships. The pattern of the trade which developed from these actions by European actions came to be known as the Mercantile System. The Mercantile System was not one in which tropical and semi-tropical colonies were to supply the mother country with products that could not be grown in Europe. Many of these products were raw materials which were processed and refined at home, thus providing opportunities for the development of industry. All goods were to be carried in the ships of the mother country which would guarantee a market for them. In return the mother country would provide defence and protection for the colonies. The system was designed to benefit both mother country and colonies alike, with the bigger share of the benefits going to the mother country. In the process of time, as the system developed, the colonies were prevented from trading directly with any foreign country. All foreign goods had to pass through the home country and were then transshipped to the colonies. Sometimes this arrangement worked hardship on the colonies and, at any rate, raised the prices of foreign goods, some which were essential to the colonial industries. The Mercantile System was a monopoly system which, as has not been mentioned, was not always to benefit of the colonies. When it was first imposed in the 1650s the Barbadians protested, as they had long become accustomed to trading with the Dutch who, through their commercial experience, had access to wide markets, and cold supply manufactured good much cheaper than England. For some years after the imposition of the English Navigation Laws the price of sugar, the staple crop of the colonies, fell. However, towards the end of the century as the system became more established, the price started to rise gradually, and by the 18th century the West Indian colonies became the most prosperous overseas territories of England and France. The Mercantile System had beneficial side-effects on the economy and political power of the mother countries. The shipping of these countries increased manifold, more employment was created for their inhabitants, and there arose a rich merchant class who became agents and middle men in the trade which developed. Large navies developed and England and France became very powerful at sea. In time they became the undoubted rivals of each other struggling for the mastery in the Caribbean. During the 18th century many wars were fought in the West Indies, for the West Indies, and many of the islands changed hands several times. The Mercantile system lasted for almost two hundred years, until the principle of the free trade replaced it in England around the middle of the 19th century. It was largely responsible for the financing of the industrial revolution in England and later on in France. Vast fortunes were amassed by planters and merchants alike, and the revenues which accrued to the mother countries swelled their economy and power.

In what ways were the habits of seventeenth century Europeans modified and shaped by the growth of plantation slavery?

In the early parts of the 17th century Europeans had effected settlements in the West Indies. By 1632 Englishmen had settled St.Kitts, Barbados, Nevis, Montserrat and Antigua, and by 1635 the French had settlements in St.Kitts, Guadeloupe and Martinique. Until the introduction of sugar cane planting in the sixteen forties the settlements consisted of small land holdings for the purpose of growing tobacco for export and food crops for local consumption. These were mainly seen on a family basis with a few indentured servants supplying additional labour. The composition of the population at this time was predominantly white, and the indentured servants, upon completing their indentured service, either acquired land and became small proprietors themselves or became inn-keepers, merchants or pirates. In the British islands the inhabitants continued to perpetuate the English way of life as far as it was possible, and soon set up Legislative Assemblies modeled after the Parliament at home. The decline of the tobacco industry gave way to sugar production, which was revolutionary in all aspects to West Indian way of life and economy. By 1655 Britain had acquired Jamaica by conquest, and France had added her to West Indian possessions St. Domingue by settlement. These were much larger possessions than any previously held by both nations. The cultivation of sugar cane and the processing of it into sugar caused the whole pattern of the life in the West Indies to be changed. It gave way to the establishment of plantation slavery which modified the habits of Europeans in the West Indies and shaped the entire society. To provide the necessary labour force for the sugar plantations it became necessary to obtain Negroes from Africa. These Negroes were brought in as slaves in large numbers and quartered on the estates in a subjugating position. Thus the composition of the population changed, and in a short time the whites were far out numbered by the Negroes. Plantation slavery created fears on both sides. The whites became afraid of the slaves because of their superior numbers and adjusted their way of life to suite the situation. They were always in fear that the slaves would rise up in rebellion and therefore made laws to subjugate them and to protect themselves. The slaves on the other hand feared their masters. The laws passed by the Assemblies in the British islands imposed heavy penalties on slaves for offences committed. The slaves could loose an ear of have a hand amputated if they committed certain offences, and slave evidence in court was forbidden. The whip was extensively used and all congregating of slaves, especially after sunset, was strictly prohibited. The white population maintained their superiority and refused to acknowledge the slaves as persons. In the French Islands the Code Noir, which was issued from France in 1685, laid down the regulations governing the slave society. Although the laws gave the slaves certain rights, in practice these were not obeyed and plantation slavery in the French islands was very much on the same pattern as it was in the British islands. In the process of time therefore, the Europeans had been shaped into hard domineering class, influencing many cruelties on the human race without pity or self-condemnation. They grew to feel that the system as practiced was necessary for their self-preservation and for the accumulation of wealth, which was the main objective. They tried to give a sop to their consciences by telling themselves that many of the slaves would be worse off in Africa. Plantation slavery had made many Europeans affluent and they lived in grand extravagant style in their great houses, as monarchs of all the surveyed. Even the poor whites, who had inter-bred with slaves and worked side by side with them in the early days of plantation slavery, after a time were elevated to superior jobs and encouraged to assume that white superiority. Many Europeans became very immoral and engaged in drunkenness and used the slave women at their will to satisfy their sexual desires. Consequently, in the process of time a colored population emerged. By the end of the seventeenth century West Indian history became the story of settled communities organising themselves, and being organised in varying degrees, to grow a profitable to planters, merchants, and governments of imperial countries. To do this slave society seemed the only existing answer.

Describe how slaves were obtained in Africa, their transportation across the Atlantic and their sale in the West Indies.

The slave trade may be described as a triangular trade. Ships loaded with merchandise in the European ports, like Liverpool, Middleburg or Nantes, and sailed for the coast of Africa where the merchandise was exchanged for slaves at slave ports like Whydah or Coromantyn. After purchasing the slaves and loading them on their ships, the traders sailed across the Atlantic to the Caribbean where the slaves were sold. The ships were then loaded with tropical products with which they sailed back to Europe where they were discovered. To obtain the slaves in Africa entailed a certain amount of organisation. The Europeans erected forts in large numbers on the West Coast of Africa in which they stayed. They also stayed in hulks moored in river mouths or in factories close to the African towns. They bought their slaves from African kings or merchants and gave in exchange hardware, cloth, metals, spirits and fire-arms. European merchants organised themselves into national joint stock companies like the English Royal Africa Company, the Dutch West India Company, or the French Senegal Company to share the expenses of maintaining West African forts and factories and to benefit from monopoly privileges in their nations’ empire. The forts were usually armed for protection and a governor was put in charge. It was necessary to have these depots so that there would always be a supply of slaves whenever ships arrived. The slaves were placed in barracoons while waiting to be shipped. The earliest slaves to be exported were already slaves in their own territory – criminals, debtors or prisoners of war. As the trade developed, however, many innocent people were captured and sold into slavery, and the dealers had to go further into the interior to obtain them. Their journey to the coast was often a hazardous one. They were usually tied around the neck and driven like animals. After the slaves were bought they had to be loaded on the ships which were usually anchored far out from the coast. They were transported to these ships in canoes, usually chained together, and it was here that some of them made a last effort to escape. Sometimes a ship would spend several months on the African coast sailing from port to port until it got its full cargo. Then it would have to spend more time in provision for the Atlantic crossing. During this time, those slaves already loaded had a difficult time in the confinement of the ship contending with the hot unhealthy climate of the African coast. A number of them usually died from disease before they could sail for their destination. The ships, with every available space packed with slaves and provisions, would sail on their voyage across the Atlantic for America. This was long and hazardous and the lives of many slaves were lost before they could reach the West Indies. A typical slave ship carried form 500-600 slaves packed in the hold of the ship like sardines in a tin. They had no elbow room. They could not move about and more often that not, they were chained. Men, women and children were all packed together with no toilet facilities, and filth was all about. They were fed a very scant diet on which they barely existed. The journey lasted from six to eight weeks, but by this time the number would be reduced by deaths brought on by suffocation, diseases such as dysentery and small pox, and suicide whenever this became possible. Some of the slaves went to hunger strikes as they preferred to die rather than be transported in this manner to a land which they knew not. Sometimes slaves would be thrown overboard chained, to lighten the ships if they were pursued by pirates or if a storm was met at sea. Some pirates brought their slaves on deck occasionally for fresh air. This occasion was used by some desperate slaves to jump overboard. No correct estimate has ever been made of the number of slaves who died on the Atlantic passage, but from reports of various ships’ captains and other evidence, it might be conservatively estimated that about six percent of all slaves shipped during the period of the trade died on the passage. Some ships’ captains were kind and tried to preserve the lives of their slaves by treating them well on the voyages, but diseases still claimed the lives of many. A few days before the ships arrived in the West Indies where the slaves were to be sold, the slaves were usually brought on deck to be washed down and to freshen up in preparation for the sale. The profit was uppermost in the mind of the traders and slaves that looked bedraggled would not fetch a high price. Their arrival in the West Indies was announced by newspaper placards and posters and sometimes by bell-ringers. Their ages, sex and country of origin were usually given. The planters would then appear fro the purchase. The sale was done by auction, and purchasers were anxious to buy strong healthy looking slaves that came from a country which had a good reputation for producing slaves who were hard-working and easily managed. Many of the slaves were anxious to be brought so as to have the ordeal brought to an end, and showed disappointment when they were not chosen. After they were brought they were transported to the estate of their purchaser after being given a suite of coarse clothes, a knife, a hat and handkerchiefs. For the first few months they were allowed to adjust themselves to the climate and their new surroundings. They were often attached to slaves already on the plantation who would look after them and help them in constructing their huts, made of sticks and covered in grass or palm leaves. They also helped them to start their provision grounds. It is estimated that about 15,000,000 Negro slaves were brought from Africa in this manner over the period that the slave trade lasted.

Describe the life of a typical slave plantation in the West Indies

A description of life on a slave plantation in the time of slavery in the West Indies is really a description of West Indian life during the whole period. Every facet of life centered around the plantation and was lived out in its interest. Each estate was an almost self-centered unit and was organised in such a way as to make it so. According to Bryan Edwards, the Jamaican historian and planter in his book published in 1793, the estate acreage was divided into canfield, provision grounds, pasture-land and woodlands. Each division had its own purpose, and each was in the interest of the profitable production of sugar. Of course, where possible, the largest area was put under sugar cane cultivation, and the most fertile land was devoted to this. This was the money crop, and the larger the crop, the greater the profits. The whole of this area was usually sub-divided into fields of varying areas for convenience of cultivation and reaping. Provision grounds were necessary to cut down the expense of feeding the slaves and to enhance the diets of the masters. Woodlands were very essential to provide firewood for the factory and for cooking, and for the burning of charcoal. They were also necessary to supply timber for making carts and cart wheels which formed part of the estate transportation system. Pasture lands had to be preserved for the grazing of cattle, mules and horses which provided the haulage for carts and wagons carrying canes to the mills. On each estate there were the factory buildings complete with mill house, sheds and workshops. Not far from the factory were the houses for the managers and supervisors. Then, removed from these on an exclusive site, was the great house where the owner or attorney lived. This was usually a palatial building with spacious rooms extravagantly furnished. A good distance apart from the estate buildings were the slave quarters. Their houses were usually slave huts, roofed with straw, or long barrack-like wooden buildings in which several of them lived. Then there were the stock houses and cattle pens. The plantation population then, consisted of slaves who were in the majority and who performed field work, domestic work, factory work and in some cases skilled work. Others were herdsmen and grooms. Then there was the white section of the population who, in descending order, were the owner or his attorney, the manager, the overseas, the book-keepers, the factory technicians and the skilled tradesman. Life on an estate began very early in the morning especially in crop time, usually at dawn. At this time, the field workers went out in gangs under the leadership of a driver, who was himself a slave. From morning until late in the evening the whole estate was buzzing with activity, as no one was allowed to idle. Idlers received the full weight of the whip and those who gave trouble were punished in various forms. Crop time was the busiest time on the estate and work went on day and night until the last cane was ground and the last drop of juice was processed into sugar. Filed workers, cart men, factory hands, managers and overseers – everyone was busy at his task to produce the sugar which was put into hogshead to be shipped to Europe or America. This was the product to bring in the wealth. This was the “king” who directed their lives and from whom they all worked. At the end of the crop there was usually a time merriment and rejoicing, when the masters would exhibit some generosity to their salves and feast them and allow them to dance and make merry. But this was not done for long, for idleness might lead to rebellion the masters feared. So all were soon back to work cleaning the factory and the yard, weeding grass in the fields, manuring the young canes, ploughing and planting, cutting grass for the animals, repairing carts and wagons and buildings etc. Whatever the form of work, something was found for each to do in preparation for the next crop. Slave children never went to school. Most of them from a very early age had to work on the estates in “small gangs.” It was a common sight to see them ruining around the estate naked until they were about twelve years old. The older slaves were given about two suits of clothes annually, and weekly rations of flour, salt fish and salt beef which they were expected to supplement with provisions from their grounds. The white masters had to be respected and obeyed implicitly, for failure to do this could lead to severe punishments, ranging anywhere from so many lashes to the loss of an ear or hand according to the nature of the offence. Life on the slave plantation was one of fear; fear on the part of white masters who were constantly afraid that the slaves would rebel, and fear on the part of the slaves of their masters’ tempers and the absolute power they had over them. At whatever angle looked from, life on a slave plantation was one of daily had grinding labour for the slaves with restrictions placed on them from all sides. Many of them accepted their lot and lived the best they could. Others were rebellious and adopted different means of registering their dissatisfaction no matter how subtle it was. Some of the masters were kind, others were cruel; but weather kind or cruel, all lived in a way to preserve the slave society in which the whites were undoubtedly the masters and superior, and the slaves subservient and degenerate. Sugar was king and it directed the organisation and the way of life on the slave plantation.

Give a description of the life of the seventeenth century buccaneers. Why were they tolerated by the British and French governments until 1670 and 1684 respectively?

The buccaneers were originally a group of cow-killers who had settled on the north coast of Hispaniola. They got their name from the Indian word boucan, which was the wooden framework of which they roasted their meat. They hunted the wild cattle which had accumulated on this land after the Spanish settlement was broken up there by the authorities in 1605, who wished to put a stop to Dutch trading. The buccaneers were more interested in the hides than the meat, as they traded these with passing ships for brandy, fire arms and pots. This life on the north coast of Hispaniola soon attracted men from all over the Caribbean and Europe, and in times these were men who found agricultural work too hard and preferred a car-free life. There were also among them run-away convicts, ship-wrecked sailors, and men who wanted to escape the responsibility of family life. They comprised several nationalities, but they were principally French and Englishmen. In the process of time they made, a small island off the north coast of Hispaniola, their base. This island was ideal as a hideout because of its rugged coast line and its only harbour which could be easily defended. By the middle of the 17th century they had taken to the sea and were becoming some of the most notorious pirates the world had ever seen. They soon spread their tentacles all over the Caribbean, lurking around the smaller islands of the Bahamas and the Leeward islands, waiting to attack Spanish shipping and to rob them of their cargo. They were reckless, lawless characters who, in the process of time, came to have a through knowledge of every shoal, reef and current in the Caribbean and could maneuver their ships with great skill and efficiency. They had a rough sense of justice among themselves and the booty captured was shared according to the casualties suffered in the attacks. They were most active where the booty was enticing, and they had a slogan “no prey, no prey.” The buccaneers were very skillful at using knives and cutlasses which were the principal weapons they used in their attacks. Upon land they would gamble and drink and fight and commit almost every crime under the sun. In 1655 England and France had acquired two new bases in the Caribbean; England had captured Jamaica and France had settled in St. Domingue by this time the Dutch power in the Caribbean had been weakened, and England and France were left alone to contend with their formidable enemy Spain. Although Spain had suffered many serious blows from her rivals and from the buccaneers, she was still a force with which to contend, and there were rich towns on the main which were well worth attacking. The English buccaneers had made Port Royal in Jamaica their headquarters and the French remained in Tortuga. The English and French governors of these two islands, which were near to the bulk of Spanish operations, saw the need of protection from Spanish attacks. Spain had not given recognition to British and French claims to the islands which the occupied. England and France, at the time, had not yet developed the sea power which was necessary for protection against Spain, so they turned to the buccaneers who were willing to be employed in the service of their country. Letters of marquee were issued to the commissions of reprisals entitling them to attack all Spanish shipping and towns and to pay themselves with the booty they obtained. Thus, war by buccaneering was established in the Caribbean. Many of them were atrocities which these reckless, ruthless characters committed, sacking and plundering and killing and torturing. Port Royal became the most wicked town in the Caribbean as the buccaneers spent their ill-gotten gains in wine women and song. Henry Morgan was the outstanding leader of the English buccaneers. He was feared by his men for his rigid discipline, and by Spaniards for his skilful and brutal attacks. Under him, the buccaneers sacked and pillaged towns on the main; among them were Porto Bello, Cartagena and Panama. The French were also concentrating their attacks in a similar manner. So great was the onslaught on Spanish shipping and ports that by 1670, in the Treaty of Madrid, Spain was forced to recognise the legal rights of England to have, hold and possess forever “all lands, regions, islands, colonies and dominions situated in the West Indies, or in any part of America, that the said king of Britain and his subjects at present hold and possess.” After this, English buccaneering officially came to an end, but it was difficult to disband them and in 1685 the Royal Navy had to send out squadrons in an attempt to run the buccaneers off the sea. The destruction of Port Royal by earthquake in 1692 was the finial blow to them. French buccaneering lasted longer, as Spain did not recognise France’s claim to her West Indian possessions until 1684 by the Treaty of Ratisbon. At this time the French government officially disbanded their buccaneers. Thus the British and French Governments tolerated the buccaneers as a means of protection against Spain and to assist them in forcing Spain to acknowledge their rights to their West Indian possessions. When these were achieved in 1670 and 1684 respectively, the buccaneers were officially disbanded and war by buccaneering came to an end.

Write an essay on “The Revolts in the French West Indian Islands towards the end of the Eighteenth century”

In 1789 the French Revolution had broken out. The people of France had risen up against the ruling classes who were oppressing them heavily. They had overthrown their king and set up a government known as the Revolutionary Government which had as its watch words, “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality.” In course of time the revolution became a very bloody one, and not only were the king and Queen beheaded, but all those who were thought to be against the revolution. The revolution in France was to have repercussion in the French West Indies, where the ideas of the revolution had spread and had begun to seethe in the minds on the inhabitants. The mulattoes, who were a class of free colored people, and most of whom were educated and wealthy, were well aware of the revolutionary ideas. Many of the slaves also, who worked near to their masters had picked up ideas from their masters’ conversations. It was not long therefore, before there were uprisings in smaller French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, and a widespread bloody revolution in St. Domingue. The revolution in St. Domingue first started among the mulattoes who were denied the right to vote in 1791 – a right which was given to them by the French National Assembly in May 1791. In addition to this, the French planters on the island had been restricting their freedom for some time. They were afraid of their rising numbers and power and the local Assembly was working to reduce their freedom. In 1791, under the leadership of their leader Oge, a well educated man, the mulattoes rose up in revolution against the whites. The revolution was short-lived as their leader was captured and brutally killed. Within the space of eight months however, what the planters feared most happened. Over 100,000 Negro slaves on the northern plains rose up in bitter rebellion against their white masters. In the space of two weeks thousands of acres of sugar cane fields were burnt. Estate houses were destroyed by fire, 2,000 white were slain and over 10,000 Negroes lost their lives either by starvation or in fighting. The revolution was now on, and there emerged great Negro leaders like Christophe and Toussaint L’Ouverture who were to play a great part in it. The revolt continued in the north for two years. The slaves were well organised. Revolutionary forces were sent out. Both Britain Spain, who had declared was on revolutionary France in 1792, sent expeditions and forces to St. Domingue, but under the able leadership of Toussaint they were defeated. By 1800, Toussaint “had restored an uneasy peace” to St. Domingue and became the ruler. He sent about to reconstruct the island after the devastation of the revolution. He restored agriculture, built and rebuilt cities and established a system of education. By 1803 the islands was free of French authority and by 1804 it declared its independence under the name of American island to throw off the yoke of European colonization, though not without much loss of life and property. The uprisings in the other French and West Indian islands did not spark into such large proportions as the revolution in St. Domingue. In 1792 the Jacobins in France sent out commissioners worked amongst those who were most favourably disposed to the new Government. The planters in these islands were not favourably disposed to the new Government. The Commissioners worked amongst those who were most discontented with their lot – the poor white and the free colored people. The Governors were forced to surrender. The planters were more willing to give their support to the British who, because of this, were easily able to take Guadeloupe, Martinique and St.Lucia in 1794. They were able to provide a market for the planters’ sugar which had been piled up in the islands for some time. In Grenada the French planters and their slaves resisted the British strongly, and this uprising was not put down until about a year after. Such were the revolts in the French West Indian islands towards the end of the eighteenth century. In St. Domingue it was bloody and fierce leading eventually to the independence of the colony and the freedom of slaves. In the other islands the uprising were easily put down and none of them erupted into a full-scale revolution. Undoubtedly the revolutionary spirit of the mother country had spread to the colonies and ideas of freedom, equality and brotherhood became principals for which they were willing to die.

What led to the spending of missionaries to the British West Indies towards the end of the eighteenth century, and what difficulties did they encounter?

During the later 18th century there was a religious rival in England, and it was during the period that money became available to send missionaries to the West Indies to work among the slaves for their conversion to Christianity. Before this, England had made small and ineffectual attempts at sending missionaries to the West Indies, but most of them ended up in establishing an official religion which served the needs of the European population. By the late 18th century the masses in England had become apathetic towards the Established church. It was within the Anglican Church that new religious bodies were formed to break “the apathy of the clergy,” who had failed to touch the consciences of their congregations. In Germany, the Moravian church had been formed on simple lines of worship, and in England John Wesley, who was forced out of the Church of England, formed the Methodist religion, preaching a various gospel to those people who were untouched by the Established church. Several missionary societies were founded in England and these were responsible for sending missionaries to the West Indies to preach among the slaves. It was the Moravians however, who first arrived in the West Indies as Protestant missionaries. Between 1756 and 1774 they had established churches in St. Thomas, St. Kitts and Antigua and later spread to Jamaica, Barbados and Tobago. The Baptist church was first started in Jamaica in 1783by George Lisle and Moses Barker – two Negroes who were brought from America by white loyalist who had fled the revolution in America. By 1813 they had already established a small and vigorous Baptist community in Jamaica. The Methodists arrived in 1789 and soon spread to all the British islands, while the Presbyterians first came in 1800, and were more active between 1815 and 1830. The missionaries encountered many difficulties in the islands and these may be classified into four groups:-

1. Difficulties arising from the slaves themselves.

The slaves had brought with them tribal customs and rituals from Africa which they would not really give up for the practices of Christianity which they hardly understood. They lived in closed societies and had very little chance of learning any new way of life. They were pinned down daily to the laborious work on the estates, and this was about only the way of life they knew. This made it difficult for them to accept the way of life that Christianity was revealing to them.

2. Opposition from most planters.

Most of the planters gave the missionaries stiff opposition. This was expected by the societies which sent out the missionaries. Most of them were warned not to offend the planters, the Governors or any other white person in the islands. The planters did not want the slaves to be taught Christianity for Christianity teaches brotherhood and equality, and they feared that if the slaves learnt these principles they would probably rise up in rebellion for their freedom. Some of the Assemblies passed laws to restrict the activities of the missionaries. In some cases they had to get a license to preach, and they could be sent to prison if they had services after sunset. The slaves had to work for their masters from Monday to Saturday. This left the missionaries very little time to reach the slaves with the Christian Gospel. Missionaries like Smith Shrewsbury were severely treated by the planters in an attempt to prevent slaves form being taught.

3. Differences of language.

The slaves came form different parts of Africa where the languages spoken were not the same. There was seldom any common language among them except that which the developed themselves. They heard very little English except the curses and commands of their white masters and what they picked up was imperfectly. In most cases they knew just enough to answer questions. It was difficult therefore, for the missionaries to understand them and to make themselves understood in the fluent English which they spoke.

4. Difficulties of living in the Tropics.

The missionaries all came form cold countries and found that working and traveling of horse back in the tropical heat of the West Indies broke down their health. In those days sanitation was practically unknown in the West Indies and many of them became victims of yellow fever, malaria and dysentery. There was also a shortage of missionaries, and heavy programme which they carried also helped to militate against their health in the unwelcome climate. In spite of all these difficulties, however, some work was done among the slaves. A number were converted to Christianity and several of them learnt to read the Bible. Most of the missionaries were devoted and dedicated men and they strove hard to overcome the difficulties which beset them.

Describe the activities of the society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. What gains did they make in 1808?

The society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade was founded in 1787. The Quakers, whose activities in the field date back several years earlier, where the principal people in the movement which comprised of members from every denomination and every walk of life. The Society’s main strategy was to awaken in the minds of the general publican awareness of the evils of Slave Trade, and thus get public opinion on their side. Top accomplish this they used every medium at their disposal – the press, the pulpit and pamphleteering campaigns. Where they had gained public sympathy and planned to carry the attack into parliament. They formed branches of the Society all over the country, particularly in the big towns, to carry the message to the populace. They drafted petitions to parliament and had them signed by several thousand people. By 1792 no fewer than seven hundred petitions against the Slave Trade had reached the parliament. These petitions came form every quarter. Well written pamphlets with sound arguments against the trade were widely circulated, and Clarkson’s writing on the subject reached 15,000 hands. The pamphleteers cited cases of atrocities which they had been brought to their notice. Passages of sculpture were quoted to convince people that slavery was against the will of God. The poet Cowper wrote the poem the Negro’s Complaint, and this was widely circulated, particularly among women. This campaign by the Society was challenged vigorously by the West Indian interest in England. They began their own opposition and tried to turn public opinion on their side. They used all their influence in parliament to deny the activities of the anti-slavery movement, and tried to justify the cause of slavery. The struggle was bitter, with the odds against the West Indian lobby. By 1797 the society had established its cause sufficiently to carry the matter to parliament, and this they did through their representative, William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a man of good connections, young and vibrant and fully convinced that slavery was pernicious. He was also a good friend of the Prime Minister Pitt, who was also sympathetic to the cause. When therefore, Wilberforce presented a bill for the abolition of the Slave Trade into the House of Commons in 1792, the House voted in favor of the Bill, but it was defeated in the House of Lords. From this time on Pitt withdrew his support and Wilberforce’s presentation of Bills in 1804 and 1805 was unsuccessful. The society however, kept up it vigorous campaign getting more and more supporters all the time. When, upon his death in 1806, he succeeded by Charles James Fox, the society had in Fox and able supporter who was willing to give government’s backing of the Bill. A resolution in favor of abolition passed the House of Commons in 1806, and the Bill passed in both Houses in 1807. The new act was to come in operation in 1808, and on 1st May 1808 the last English Slave trader left Liverpool; the slave trade, which had been in operation for nearly 300 years, came to an end. The anti-slavery movement had won its first major battle. The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, by its activities among the people of England, succeeded in getting the Government to become sufficiently concerned to pass an Act of Parliament by 1807 to bring an end to the British Slave Trade.

In 1830 British West Indian planters complained that the expenses of running their estates exceeded the sale of the crop and that they were on the verge of ruin. What factors were responsible for this?

Since the latter part of the 18th century the prosperity of the British West Indian islands had started to decline. The growing prosperity of the French West Indian islands, especially St. Domingue where sugar was produced more cheaply, had made a tremendous inroad into the market prospects of the British islands. In time Britain was no longer able to sell surplus sugar from her colonies on the European market ad this was monopolized by the cheaper product from the French islands. The loss of American colonies was also a blow to the British islands; the coast of estate supplies almost doubled and the market in sugar and its by-products were lost to the French. By 1790 therefore, there was much distress in the British West Indian islands, as their prosperity was greatly decreased. The general distress in these islands in 1830 was a result of a series a set backs dating from the period outlined above. The general tendency of decline since 1763 was somewhat checked during the Napoleonic wars when British West Indies enjoyed a period of prosperity, especially in the years 1813-14. But this was not to last too long. Britain had acquired the new territories of Trinidad, Berbice, St. Lucia and Grenada during these wars, and these were soon turned into sugar producing colonies, thus increasing the amount of sugar on the British market and sending the price down. The soils of the older colonies by this time had been over-worked and had long term showing signs of decreasing fertility thus lessening their yield per acre. Added to all this was the competition from new sugar producing country. The ascendancy which the British producers had temporarily gained, owing to the decline of St. Domingue was thrown over by Cuba and other foreign sugar which appeared on the European market. “After 1814, as the long was against France was ending, the collapse was sudden. The American marine became once more fully occupied in peacetime traffic; the French and the continental shippers resumed operations; foreign sugar again flowed freely into European ports; the glut of British sugar returned and was further increased by new supplies of East Indian sugar which had developed in the war years; and, as a final blow, the post Napoleonic war period was one of the great economic depression in Britain, so that all prices, including those offered for sugar, tended to decline.” The above quotation summaries nicely the factors which led finally to the poor economic position in which British West Indian planters found themselves in 1830. They were most of them in debt, their liabilities exceeded the assets. They were extremely worried and made petitions to the Home Government.

What do you understand by the “Plan for Amelioration”?

The passing of the Act in 1807 to abolish Slave Trade only meant that no more slaves would be brought fro, Africa to the British West Indies. The institution of slavery itself was still in existence. It was felt that the planters would treat their slaves more kindly since their supply could no longer be augmented with additions from Africa. To ensure a slave supply they would now have to depend upon the natural increase of slaves. But the planters had already established a slave society in which various forms of punishment of the slaves were in existence. They felt that to relax the laws of this society would lead to rebellion. They therefore treated them in much the same way as they were accustomed to treating them. The Abolitionist in England were aware of this, and after their victory in 1807, they turned attention to the institution of slavery itself. They began to work against the gradual abolition of slavery, and therefore formulated a plan of amelioration. It was believed that the rigours of the slave system could be relaxed and the conditions of the slave improved. Between 1807 and 1823 England was pre-occupied with the war effort of Napoleonic was and the post-war problems which it brought. The Abolitionists were however, still active in their cause, but it was not until 1823 that they once again revived their movement of full strength. In 1823 therefore, a new society was formed fro the gradual abolition of slavery. Their plan was to agitate for an immediate amelioration of the conditions of the slaves in colonies and to have this enforced by law. Again they set about to awaken the public consciousness to their cause, and this was more easily achieved this time. In less than a year public opinion was in sympathy with their cause and over 200 branch societies went several hundred petitions to parliament for the abolition of slavery. The Abolitionists were more fortunate this time in having several important politicians and senior civil servants on their side. In addition to Wilberforce and Clarkson there were men like Buxton. James Stephen canning and Macaulay who did much in their official capacity to improve the conditions of the slaves in their colonies. The West Indian interest in England had come to realize that their opposition to the anti-slave movement was not popular and, rather than resist openly, they formed a committee which included ten of their members of Parliament and drafted their own amelioration policy. This they submitted to the Colonial Secretary, Lord Bathurst. These proposals were considered by caning, who was head of the caning proposals which were later to be dispatched to the crown colonies for adoption. When therefore, Buxton, at the close of a bold and eloquent speech in parliament on the state of slavery, moved that slavery ought to be gradually abolished, Canning replied that the Government intended to abolish slavery and the motion was withdrawn. The plan for amelioration was embodied in the dispatch which was sent to the crown colonies for adoption, and copies sent to the older colonies urging them to incorporate them in their laws. This dispatch suggested the following:-

(i) The abolition of flogging for women

(ii) Delay of at least one day before a male was flogged for an offence and a record of all punishments of more than three lashes to be presented to magistrates at the quarterly.

(iii) No division of slave families

(iv) The provision of adequate religious instructions for slaves at the expense of Imperial Government if necessary in the Crown Colonies.

(v) The prohibition of the selling of slaves as a payment of debts.

(vi) Slaves should be allowed to give evidence in court if a religious instructor would testify to their suitability.

The planters in the colonies with Legislative Assemblies did not take kindly to these proposals, and tried to resist any such interference into their internal affairs. They could only be coerced by the Home Government, but could not be forced to adopt the amelioration plan. The struggle was long, and the resistance put up by such colonies like Jamaica almost reached a breaking point with the British Government. With repeated despatches and encouragement from the Colonial Office, some of the older colonies like Tobago, St. Vincent and St. Kitts had, by 1826, taken action to improve the conditions of the slaves. On the whole however, there was great opposition from the planters, and by 1830 it was clear to the Abolitionists that the amelioration plan was a failure. At the meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society in London in 1830, a resolution was passed for the full abolition of slavery. The Society therefore, geared its campaign from this time on to realize their aim, and by 1833 an Act of parliament was passes abolishing slavery in all British Colonies. What Factors influenced the passing of the Emancipation Act of 1833? What were the provisions of the Act?

In 1830 the Anti-Slavery Society made a pledge for full emancipation of the slaves. In 1831 a new campaign, with that purpose in mind was started, and the society used every effort to stir up public opinion. The stiff opposition put up by west Indian planters against amelioration policy and their treatment of missionaries in the colonies were brought home to the English public, and it was clear that nothing short of an Act of Parliament could bring slavery to an end. All though the movement started by the Abolitionist was largely instrumental in influencing the passing of the Emancipation Act in 1833, there were other factors which contributed in his direction. First, there were economic factors at work which made a valuable contribution to the passing of the Act. The West Indian plantations at this time were almost at the point of ruin. The sold and could not compete with new sugar producing areas like Mauritius, Cuba, Brazil, and India. They offered very little marketing prospects for the bulk of manufactured goods which was being turned out by British factories, and as a further source of British capital investment the were insignificant compared with the prospects arising in the newly independent states of Latin America. The West Indies therefore, were of little economic concern to the newly represented commercial and business interests in the House of Commons, practically after the Reform Act of 1832. These men had nothing to gain from the continuance of slavery, and willingly gave their support to the abolitionist cause. By 18133 the planters were at a standstill politically. The had fail to accept the advice of the absentee planters and merchants in England, and at last brought themselves to the position were they could do nothing, but accept the proposal of the Home Government to abolish slavery. In the face of reforms at home, members of the British Parliament were in the spirit of the reform. They saw the end of slavery as much as a necessity as they saw the stoppage of child labour in factories at home. In this need of reform therefore, it was difficult not to support the move for the abolition of slavery. When therefore, Buxton introduced the Bill in the new session of the House, It was passed by August 1833 and slavery was to be abolished from 1st August 1834. The backing of the Anti-slavery movement by public opinion, the loss of faith between the planters and their London representatives, the economic decline of the sugar plantations, the unprofitably of further investments in the West Indies, the competition on the sugar market from larger and cheaper sugar-producing countries, the need for bigger markets for British manufactured goods , the reforming zeal in England, the possibility of better capital investment in other countries, all were factors which culminated in the Abolitionist’ move to have slavery in the colonies abolished. The Act of Parliament was therefore passed to this effect and the colonies had to abide by it. The main provisions of the Act were that children under six years of age were to be free from 1st August 1834; the older slaves were to serve a period of apprenticeship before they were to be completely free; during the period of apprenticeship, the apprentices were to work for the estates two thirds of the working week without wages, and the remaining one third for wages; paid magistrates were to be sent out form England to arrange for the price to be paid for freedom and to assist the slaves in the transition from estate discipline to the new laws which were to be enacted; and the British Government agreed to pay £20,000,000 to the planters in the compensation for their slaves.

What measures were taken by the British Government to assist the ex-slaves after the passing of the Emancipation Act?

The Emancipation Act which was passed in 1833 came into effect from 1st August 1834. Among other things, it made provision for a period of apprenticeship which was to last for six years for field slaves and four years for non-field slaves. The idea behind this was to carry the slaves gradually to full freedom and not to unduly disturb the economy of the sugar plantations. Under this clause of the Act, the ex-slaves were still to live on the estates and work for three quarters of the working week for their old masters without wages. The remaining quarter of the working week was theirs, and they were to be paid wages if they worked on the estates. Another provision of the Act was that paid magistrates were to be sent out from England to arrange for the price to be paid for freedom, and to look into the rights of the Negroes on the estates. The abolition of slavery carried with it the abolition of existing slave laws and relaxed the hold which the planters had on their slaves insofar as internal estate discipline was concerned. Because of this it was generally felt that there would be great disorders, crime and idleness on the estates. As a measure against this, and in the interest of establishing and maintaining public order, the stipendiary Magistrates were appointed. The Magistrates were also to see to it that the legal rights of the ex-slaves were respected. It was felt that this measure would go a great way in teaching the slaves the ways of freedom. The paid Magistrates therefore, were to be carefully selected and sent out from England. They were to be Men who were unbiased in their judgments and men who would be trusted both by the planters and their ex-slaves. Very few of the Magistrates were selected from the West Indies for fear that they would be influenced by the ruling classes. They were therefore chosen to England mainly from among retired Army and Navy officers. They were to be on call to any estate for the purpose of settling disputes arising between apprentices and planters. According to the evidence available the special Magistrates performed their duties creditably in spite of the hardships which many of them experienced arising form the rigours of a tropical climate to which they were not accustomed, and the small pay they received. Most of their time was spent in dealing with estate discipline and very little was left for them to foster schemes of social improvement. Their presence curbed the indiscriminate punishment which was meted out to the Negroes as a right of the planters, as it was under slavery. The Magistrates had to submit regular reports of their activities and could be dismissed if they did not. It is expected therefore, that they would be careful in the performance of their duty and try to carry out their instructions as given to them by the colonial office. Generally the system worked and helped to prevent any serious disturbances on the estates. Another measure taken by the British Government to assist the ex-slaves was the Negro Education Grant which was made in 1835. This grand was the value of £30,000 and was to be used for the education of Negroes. The British Government believed that education was necessary as a means of teaching the ex-slaves the ways of civilization and to prepare them to enjoy their full freedom and enable them to take their rightful place in the new society that would evolve as a result of emancipation. The education of the Negroes was entrusted to the churches who had already been doing something along those lines. The grant was therefore allocated to them, immediately a programme of school building started. There was a difficulty however, of finding sufficient qualified teachers to teach. The instructions were based on religion, and many ex-slaves were Christianized while at the same time learning to read, write and chipper. The problem of teacher-shortage was partly solved by the establishing of a training college in some colonies, like Jamaica and British Guiana, between 1835 and 1836 from the Lady Mico fund which was made from the purpose. A great start was made therefore, in the direction of educating masses, but the schools soon felt the burden on the recurrent expenses in running them. The local Governments did not give much financial support to education. Nevertheless, a start was made and some work was accomplished. The Negroes responded well to the education scheme, and most of them showed willingness to have their children educated. In fact, all concerned showed much interest and looked forward the time when the former slave children would be filling the roles of professionals and learned people ion the community. These then, where the two main measures taken by the British Government to assist the slaves after emancipation. The Stipendiary Magistrates helped to maintain public order and to protect the rights of the ex-slaves; and this helped in its own way although much was left to be desired as regards social improvement. The Negro Education Grand, on the other hand, kicked of a pattern of education for the masses which was to be followed in succeeding years, thus spreading education as far as it was possible, and laying the foundation on which others were to build.

What labour problems confronted the West Indian planters in the years immediately following Emancipation?

One of the fears which the West Indian planters had about the complete emancipation of the slaves was t that it would lead to a shortage of labour on the plantations. The apprenticeship system was designed, among other things, to show the ex-slaves how they would enjoy their freedom, and still be attached to the estates which would provide work for them. Their labour was essential to the planters if the West Indian sugar economy was not to be ruined. Nevertheless, in spite of all the precautions taken, the planters were faced with several labour problems in the years immediately following emancipation. It would be expected that a number of free slave would resent returning to the grinding labour of the plantations, even though they would be working for wages. Many of them had been so hurt by the institution of slavery that they looked forward to the time when they could turn their backs on it and work for themselves, instead of remaining on the estates which would constantly remind them of their state of servitude. Consequently, when the slaves received their full freedom in 1838 in the British West Indian colonies, many of them left the estates. This was particularly so in the larger territories like Trinidad , Jamaica and British Guiana, where there were available land for purchase, and much crown land on which they could squat. In the smaller islands of Barbados and the Leewards Islands where land was limited, most of the freed slaves were forced by circumstances to return to the estate to labour. In these islands there was no serious problem of shortage of labour. The sugar economy did not suffer because of this; in fact, in Antigua production was increased. In the lager territories there was an acute shortage of labour, and this problem gave rise to other problems. The scarcity of labour increased the demand for it, and because the demand was greater than the supply, the cost of labour went up. This threatened a lowering of profits which, if continued, could lead to the ruin of the sugar economy. These were the major problems with which the planters were faced, and what was worse, there was no direct source to which they could immediately turn to argument their labour supply, for Africa had been closed to them since 1808. The ex-slaves in the larger territories showed an attitude of independence and preferred to work for themselves. Many of them had saved money from the wages they earned during the apprenticeship period, and from the sale of their produce at the markets. Upon receiving the freedom, they bought lands up to 10, 30, or even 100 acres. They set about to establish themselves as small proprietors growing a variety of crops. For instance, in British Guiana by 1842, twelve hundred and twenty three families were small proprietors owing some 7,000 acres of land. In Trinidad a similar situation existed and in Jamaica much land were also owned. Those who could not afford to purchase, farmed out large portions of the mountain slopes and worked and worked for their cultivation. This led to a crying need for labour on the plantations, for although some of newly freed slaves returned to give a few days labour on the estates, it was done to suit their own economic needs. Labour given at the whims of workers cannot be relied upon, and any plantation economy must suffer if it cannot rely on a sufficient labour force. Many of the estate owners tried to adopt labour saving devices, and to apply scientific methods to increase the yield per acre so that they could cut down on the acreage under cultivation. These however, did not provide an answer to the basic problem, for canes had to be cut by hand and only labourers could do this. In the Windward Islands, and particularly Grenada and St. Lucia where there was also the problem of labour shortage, the metayage or profit-sharing system was introduced in an attempt to solve the problem. This was only temporarily successful. In time, the higher wages, which of necessity were paid in Trinidad and British Guiana, began to attract labourers from Barbados and even the Leeward Islands. But these did not come in sufficient numbers to solve the problem; and what was more, some of them turned to the towns instead to seek employment, and others even squatted on crown lands. By the eighteen forties therefore, the problems centering around labor had become so acute in Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guiana that the planters began to look beyond the West Indies fro a labour supply. In the process of time other races were to be introduced into the West Indies because of the existing labour problem, leaving behind the legacy of a mixed community as exists in the West Indies today.

What steps were taken by the West Indian planters to solve the labour problem created by the emancipation of the slaves?

The shortage of labour in the West Indies after 1838 presented a most acute problem in Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guiana particularly. In these lager territories with vest expanses of land that the freed slaves could purchase or settle on as squatters, many of the Negroes turned away from the plantations and sought to be self employed. By 1840 the full weight of the situation was realised by the planters, and it became evident to them that labour had to found outside the West Indies. Experiments had been made earlier in importing labour from China and Europe, but these schemes had not proven successful. The Chinese and Portuguese, although they worked hard at plantation labour, soon drifted into the retail trade. Attempts were made to solve the problem by recruiting paid African labour, but this could not be got in sufficient quantity. For a time, the planters looked nearer home to the other West Indian islands like Barbados and the Leeward Islands. Though a number came from these islands, this source was inadequate to solve the problem. Many of the sugar plantations faced utter ruin. The shortage of labour contributed in no small measure to this sate of affairs. By the 1840’s the planters began to search around for a new labour supply which they could get in sufficient numbers – they looked to India to save the situation, and immigration started in earnest from 1843. East Indian immigrants had been used before, but they had not proven satisfactory. When, however, there was a resumption of Indian immigration in 1851, after a stoppage in 1848, there was an improvement in the type of immigrant brought to the West Indies. From this time onwards the scheme became continuous until 1917. Thus, between these years thousands of East Indians were brought into these territories, for although scientific methods such as the plough and the harrow were introduced as labour-serving, devices, labourers were still needed in abundance. The planters in the French islands were also facing labour problems similar to those in the British islands. Their slave trade had ended in 1830, and from this time until 1860 they had been bringing Negroes from the Congo who were freed upon reaching the West Indies. From 1848, when their slaves were freed, they started to recruit labourers French India. By 1860 they were brining labourers form from British India also, and the Dutch were doing the same by 1870. In the years 1852 and 1874 the Cubans imported 125,000 Chinese labourers. On the whole therefore, the later half of the 19th century was a period when most West Indian planters, suffering from a shortage of labour, look towards Asia for their supply. The countries of India and China with vast populations became the chief source. Many of the immigrants were attracted by the better wages offered in the West Indies, and others were driven by drought, famine and despair to leave home. The immigration of the East Indians to the British territories was quite well organised. Departments of Immigration were set up in every receiving colony to ensure that both sides – the worker and the employer – kept the contracts. The immigrants came in as indentured labourers and signed a contract that they would give five years’ of service, but the time spent in jail was not counted. The workers were to work everyday except on Sundays and holidays. They were quartered on the sugar plantations to work in the sugar can fields or in the factories, and movement form one estate to the other was prohibited. The department of immigration had an Agent-General as its chief, and there were sub-agents whose duty it was to supervise the various estates. By 1917, 538,000 Indians had come to the West Indies for the purpose of providing labour for the sugar plantations. At last the planters had found a solution to their labour problems which had arisen as a result of the emancipation of the slaves. Of course this solution to the labour problem created other problems. A new race of people had been introduced to the West Indies and had to be adjusted to the circumstances of life. A number of laws was introduced to control and protect the immigrants and the scheme was partly paid for by the various Governments and the administration of it often proved burdensome. Nevertheless, sugar was kept in the production in spite of all the social and economic problems which accompanied the scheme. By 1917 Indian problems which accompanied the scheme. By 1917 Indian immigration ceased. By then the thousands of Indians had chose to remain in Trinidad, British Guiana, Surinam, Jamaica and the French West Indies and their descendants form a substantial part of the population today.

What effects did the sugar duties Act of 1846 have upon the British West Indies?

Prior to the passing of the Sugar Duties Act of 1846, The British was Indian planters were already experiencing difficult times. In some islands there was an acute shortage of labour of labour, while in others there were droughts and epidemics, and all suffered declining trade and rising prices. When therefore the British parliament passed the Sugar Duties Act in 1846, the news was received in the West Indies with great alarm. The planters viewed it with grave concern and saw nothing else but utter ruin for them. The Act opened up the British Market to sugar coming for other sources than the British Empire. This led to competition which the planters could not afford, especially with such giants as Cuba and Brazil. The consequence exceeded their assets and a crisis was brought upon them. The British West Indies had long since been enjoying protection for their sugar on the British Markey by means of heavy duties imposed on foreign sugar. After emancipation the shortage of labour had set up sugar prices and at the same time there was no movement in parliament for “Free Trade.” The 1846 Duties Act was passed as a consequence of this. In a short time the British market was flooded with sugar from foreign countries which were producing cheaper sugar then the British colonies consequently the price of sugar fell from £ 18 to £ 10 per ton. By 1848 sugar was selling in London at 22 shillings and 6 pence per cwt., whereas in some of the British West Indian Islands the cost of producing one hundredweight of sugar exceeded this amount. In Trinidad and British Guiana it coast 25 shillings per cwt., and this was exclusive of the cost of shipping. It is evident therefore, that sugar was being produced in the British islands at a loss, except in the smaller islands like Barbados and the Leeward islands which were making a very small profit. Cuba and Brazil, at the same time, were able to sell their sugar at twenty shillings per cwt., and still make a substantial profit. At this time also Louisiana in the Southern United States was producing much more cheaply that the West Indies. All her sugar was absorbed by the United States thus making more Cuban sugar available for the open market, which had the effect of sending the prices down. However, when there were poor crops in Louisiana the United States would buy Cuban sugar thus causing less to be put on the European market. The British West Indian planters would then be able to fetch better prices for their sugar, and prayed for poor crops in Louisiana. This then was the state of the economic affairs in the British West Indies after 1846. The planters sought to remedy the position by trying to modernize their factories, but this took time and money, and they had little money. The planters were extremely worried and made petitions to the British Government. A select committee of 1848, which studied the situation, realised the planters’ difficulties. The British Government, however, could not be encouraged to postpone the equalization of duties on all imported sugar beyond 1854. To assist the West Indian producers in solving their problems, a loan of £ 500,000 was made to them, but Mauritius was also to get a share of it. There was great disappointment in the West Indies over the action of the British Government, and the various assemblies tried to retaliate in different ways. In British Guiana attempts were made to reduce the salaries of colonial officials of colonial officials; Jamaica threatened to refuse paying taxes and to seek annexation to the United States. There was a general decline in the sugar industry and the loan was used in different ways on the various islands, all in an attempt to arrest the situation which could hardly be saved. One great effect of this decline was the “throwing out” of more estates; that is, more estates ceased to function, as sugar production became more and more unprofitable. In those islands like Antigua, St. Kitts and Barbados,

Describe the processes involved in the growing and production of sugar on a plantation in the eighteenth century.

In the field On the plantation there were two main areas of activity: the fields and the mill — the growing and the processing. The cultivation of sugar was a slow and laborious business. The land was cleared of large trees and bush by 'great gangs', made up of the strongest men and women under a driver. The driver was taken from among the slaves but was an officer of importance and had to be respected. His duty was to preserve order among the slaves, to direct them at work and to discover and expose any plots or secret plans among them. There were many drivers on large plantations. Above the drivers were white overseers, also known as 'bookkeepers'. After being cleared, the fields were then staked out and gangs dug trenches for 'holing'. Using hoes, the slaves worked in a line digging a series of holes and planting cuttings of old cane stalks about half a metre in length. These cuttings, lightly covered with soil soon sprouted at each joint into new plants. Planting was usually done between the months October and December, when there was enough rain to make cuttings sprout easily. If all went well these cane fields became full grown sixteen months later between January and May. The planters arranged their fields to be planted at different times so that not all the canes would ripen at once. In this way the harvest could be spread over a number of months during the first half of each year. The 'plant canes' were those which grew from cuttings. There was a second method called the 'ratoon'. After the canes had been harvested the field was left to grow back again from the shoots or ratoons which sprang from the previous crop. Some planters let this happen for three or four seasons. This used less labour, but if it was continued for too long without replanting, less and less sugar was produced. While the young canes grew, they were weeded several times and manured with a mixture of cattle dung and cane trash. This work was done by the 'second gang', made up of old slaves and children. Field work lasted from sun-up to sun-down. The slave gangs were roused by bell or conch-shell at early dawn. No labour-saving tools such as the plough were used. Agriculture was primitive. The only tools used by slaves were the axe, hoe and cane bill. These bills were large, curved knives which were used by field gangs to cut the ripe canes. The slaves removed the outer leaves, put the stalks in bundles and carted them to the mill for grinding.

How sugar was made

   The whole routine of plantation life revolved around the making of sugar. The sugar-cane plant, which had been introduced into the New World from Madeira by the Portuguese, had been brought to Barbados by the Dutch and Portuguese Jews moving out of Brazil. These later showed the colonists how best to convert the cane to sugar. Newly planted canes took about 15 months to mature, while the older 'ratoon' canes took about 12 months.
When the cane carts came from the fields into the factory yard, they were unloaded and the canes were passed by hand into the mill. The mill, which was turned by two pairs of mules, a water-wheel or a windmill, consisted of three heavy iron rollers which crushed the cane and squeezed the juice out of them. A wooden gutter carried the juice to the boiling house where it ran into a large copper tank called a clarifier. Here it was heated with a small quantity of milk of lime (white lime) which made all the im¬purities rise to the surface as a scum. These impurities were scooped out with wooden ladles and used in the making of rum. The clear, hot cane-juice left in the clarifiers was run into a copper boiler. After it had been boiled there for a time it was ladled into a second boiler. Later it was ladled into a third boiler and finally into a fourth. Each boiler was smaller and hotter than the one before. In the last boiler called the teache (tache), the juice was boiled down to a thick brown mass of sugar crystals and molasses. When the mixture was so sticky that it could be stretched between finger and thumb, the boiling came to an end. The result was raw sugar. The raw sugar was run into two large, shallow wooden troughs, to cool. When it had cooled it was shovelled into the big wooden hogsheads, each of which held nearly a ton of sugar. The hogsheads, which had small holes drilled in them, were taken to the curing-house. There they were left to stand for about three weeks on raised wooden beams above masonry tanks. In that time most of the molasses mixed with the sugar dripped into the tanks below. It was ladled out and either boiled again to make more sugar or sent to the still house to make rum, though a great deal of the molasses itself was also exported. When all the molasses had dripped out, the holes in the hogsheads were sealed and the dry sugar was ready to be taken down to the harbour for export.

Additional notes

    As the canes were crushed through the mill the juice from them was conveyed by gutters into the
first receptacles, the syphons; the trash was removed and stored for use as fuel for the boilers. In the syphons the juice was clarified by heating it with a small quantity of lime. The clarified juice was then skimmed or ladled into successive copper boilers, each smaller than the previous one, and hung over a hotter fire. There were usually three such coppers, the last, smallest and hot¬test of which was the teache. By the time the juice was boiled down in the teache it was reduced by evaporation to thick syrup which would stretch between thumb and forefinger. At this stage the boiling was over.
    The sticky mass was then run off into shallow wooden troughs to cool before it was potted into hogsheads in the curing-house. In cur¬ing, the sugar was simply left for about three weeks in the hogsheads, which were perforated at the bottom, allowing the molasses to drip out. In the curing-house the floor was made of crossed beams so that the dripping molasses could fall into cisterns beneath to be recovered and re-boiled. On the upper section the hogsheads of crystallised sugar were sealed and rolled out on to carts for the first stage of their journey to Europe. But not all the sugar reached the markets in Europe. Crude methods of manufacture and curing meant that the sugar still contained a proportion of molasses, some of which leaked from the hogsheads during the long transatlantic voyage. The eighteenth-century hogshead of sugar commonly weighed 14 cwt. when it left the estate, but anything from 10 to 25 per cent less by the time it arrived in England.

cwt - a United States unit of weight equivalent to 100 pounds cwt - a British unit of weight equivalent to 112 pounds

Describe the activities of the Dutch in the Caribbean in the seventeenth century. Why were they known as 'the foster-fathers' of the English and French colonists?

Dutch activity and settlement

The Protestant Dutch, seeking to free themselves from Catholic Spanish rule in Europe, sent pirates and colonists to harass their overlords in their Spanish American Empire. After 1580 Dutch privateers raided Spanish colonies, attacked Spanish convoys, dug Spanish salt at Punta Araya, stole Spanish pearls at Margarita and traded illegally throughout the Empire. To facilitate this commerce the Dutch West India Company was set up in 1621 and its members benefited greatly in 1628 when Piet Heyn captured almost the whole Spanish treasure fleet off Havana. Moreover the Dutch established settlements in Guiana and along the coast of the Portuguese colony of Brazil (Portugal was united with Spain from 1580 to 1640) where they experimented with large-scale sugar production using African slaves. Indeed it was the Dutch who became the 'foster fathers' of English and French colonisation in the Caribbean as they transported the early tobacco crops, assisted with the capital, expertise and technology necessary for the 'sugar revolution' in the 1640s and initially provided the slave labour demanded by the new crop. When the Dutch were driven out of Brazil by the Portuguese in the 1640s they settled not only in the Dutch Guiana colony of Kyk-over-al but also in the French Antilles, while the small Antillean colonies they had acquired in the period 1632-48 (St Martin, St Eustatius, Saba, Bonaire and Curaçao) continued to serve as trade depots for commerce with the Spanish Main (the north coast of South America from Cartagena to Brazil) and with the infant British and French colonies.

As well as supplying Brazil, the Dutch also brought slaves and goods to the Caribbean. They showed hardly any interest in planting here, apart from small settlements on the Berbice and Essequibo rivers. Instead they seized two groups of tiny islands suitable as bases for trading with the Spanish colonies. The islands in the southern group of Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, were taken because they lay close to

the ports of the Spanish mainland. The northern islands of Saba, St Eustatius and St Martin were near to the Spanish colonies in the Greater Antilles. In 1648 Spain recognised these islands as Dutch colonies in the Treaty of Munster, which ended the war which had been restarted in 1621. The Treaty of Munster was the first in which the Spanish agreed that another nation could own colonies here. How¬ever, they still refused to allow her colonists to trade with the Dutch or any other Europeans. But Spain had not the sea-power to prevent the Dutch being the main suppliers of Spanish colonists. At the same time Dutch merchants and ships kept open the link be-tween Europe and the abandoned French and the rebellious English settlements in the Caribbean.

The foster-fathers The Dutch have been called the foster-fathers of the French and English settlements in the Caribbean for the way they kept them supplied in the years when they were abandoned by France or rebelling against England. During these years it was Dutch merchants who carried tobacco and other produce back to Europe and, as one colonist said, brought to the Caribbean 'all things that were in any way necessary for their comfortable subsistence'. Dutch warehouses lined the harbours of the Lesser Antilles colonies. When fire broke out at Basseterre on the French part of St Kitts it destroyed sixty Dutch warehouses and their contents. It was from the Dutch that English and French sett¬lers learned of the profits which could be made from large-scale sugar planting. A small amount was already grown on Barbados and turned into a strong wine, but no sugar was exported until two Barbadian planters, James Holdip and John Drax, visited the Dutch plantations in Brazil. There, they saw canefields and factories worked by African slaves. Back in Barbados they planted canes and cropped their first harvest, probably in 1643. Very soon sugar was the main export crop on the island. The Dutch had many reasons for encouraging sugar planting. It brought more work for their ships and seamen; (Their merchants could lend money to planters to set up mills and buy the copper kettles needed for boiling.)Refineries in Holland needed ever increasing supplies of raw sugar. But, the greatest profits were to be made from carrying slaves across the Atlan¬tic to work on the plantations. Despite the profits, other English islands were slow to turn from tobacco to the new crop, and Barbados was the only prosperous English island for twenty years, (However, the Dutch also encouraged sugar planting by the French in Guadeloupe and Martini¬que in the 1640s. In some cases Dutchmen fled to these islands when they were driven out of Brazil in the years between 1640 and 1650.) A thousand came to Martinique and 300 to Guadeloupe, bringing their knowledge of sugar and slavery with them. For a few years in the 1640s and early 1650s, the Dutch profited from being the only European people carrying regular trade to and from the Caribbean. But they were too successful not to attract the attention of rivals and, soon, the merchants of England and France were pressing their governments to take a new interest in the Caribbean. The first to move was the English government, (the Navigation Acts of 1650).

What were the difficulties facing the first English settlers in the Caribbean?

The needs of the early settlers (a) Food When the colonists left Europe they had to abandon their European diet as most foodstuffs could not be imported from Europe; it was vitally important to produce as many food crops as possible.

(b) Export crops The colonists had to find an export crop that would earn the fortunes they desired. By a process of elimination tobacco was selected at first, but by the 1650s this was replaced by sugar.

(c) Manufactured goods Weapons, tools, clothing and utensils had to be imported from Europe and were always scarce.

(d) A supply of labour: needed to exploit the resources of the Indies. The English and French used far more indentured servants than Indian slaves, but with the change to sugar production these proved inadequate. African slaves became the dominant labour force.

The difficulties of the early settlers

(a) Spanish attacks In 1629 Don Fadrique de Toledo invaded Nevis and St Kitts but the Spaniards could not press this offensive. (b) Carib attacks The Caribs were being pushed out of their homeland; they fiercely resisted the Europeans.

(c) Lack of supplies and food Supply ships came to the Caribbean very irregularly and the settlers planted too little food crops.

(d) Lack of discipline The settlers constantly bickered among themselves, and there was always friction between French and English settlements.

(e) Natural disasters Hurricanes, insect pests, tropical diseases and drought increased the settlers' hardships.

Describe how the English captured Jamaica in 1655. How did the buccaneers help to make Spain recognise this conquest by 1670?

   While the English island colonies were developing, the government supporters in England were making plans to extend their power in the Caribbean by capturing colonies from Spain. Oliver Cromwell called his bold plan 'The Western Design'. In 1654 a large military and naval fleet sailed from England under the command of General Robert Venables and Admiral William Penn with orders to capture Hispaniola.
On its way the fleet called at Barbados where 3500 men were collected, and in the Leeward Islands a further 1,200 joined the expedition. These were freemen volunteers as well as indentured Servants. In all, there were 9500 men including soldiers and sailors, but many were unfit and according to General Venables they were 'scorners of Religion, indeed men kept so loose as not to be kept under discipline and so cowardly as not to be made to fight'. The attack on Hispaniola in April 1655 was a complete failure. A small force of Spanish soldiers and cattlemen routed the English as they marched towards Santo Domingo. Fever and hunger also took their toll and the invaders were forced to withdraw with a loss of 1000 men. Penn and Venables could not return to England without some sort of victory so they turned to the nearby island of Jamaica. At the time it was sparsely populated, with only 1500 Spanish cattlemen and farmers along with, their slaves. The English force landed at Hunts Bay and marched inland to Villa de la Vega, now known as Spanish Town, virtually without resistance. The small community surrendered but the Spanish governor, Cristobal Ysassi, retreated to the mountains where, aided by fellow Spaniards and slaves, he continued to snipe at the English and raid their settlements whenever he could. Penn and Venables quickly returned to England after the conquest, leaving Edward D'Oyley in command of the rough band of soldiers who were expected to plant crops and develop Jamaica. Cromwell was angry about their loss of Hispaniola and promptly imprisoned Penn and Venables in the Tower of London for deserting their posts. For five years, Ysassi and his men in Jamaica kept up their guerilla tactics in an effort to win back the island, but they were finally driven from Ocho Rios in 1660, thereby making the English capture of Jamaica complete. The slaves of the Spanish ranchers escaped to the hills during those years and formed Maroon camps in the forests. These were the first of Jamaica's fighting Maroons. The first years of English settlement in Jamaica are a dismal story of disease, death and insufficient food. Gradually, however, more settlers were attracted to the island as grants of land were given out and special trading rights were allowed for Jamaican products. At first the island was an important base for shipping, lying as it did between the Spanish mainland and the large Spanish islands of the Greater Antilles. Later it became a major sugar producer and one of the richest, most favoured and fought over of the British colonies in the Americas.
   In 1655 England had captured Jamaica and France had settled in St. Domingue. The English buccaneers had made Port Royal in Jamaica their headquarters and the French remained in Tortuga.
    The English and French governors of these two islands, which were near to the bulk of Spanish operations, saw the need of protection from Spanish attacks. Spain had not given recognition to British and French claims to the islands which they occupied. England and France, at the time, had not yet developed the sea power which was necessary for protection against Spain, so they turned to the buccaneers who were willing to be employed in the service of their country. Letters of marque were issued to the French buccaneers and the English buccaneers received commissions of reprisals entitling them to attack all Spanish shipping and towns and to pay themselves with the booty they obtained. Thus, war by buccaneering was established in the Caribbean.
Give an account of the settlement of either St. Kitts or Barbados in the first half of the seventeenth century.

The English in Barbados

   Like St Kitts, it was the settlement of the Guianas which indirectly led to the first
settlement of Barbados by the English . Barbados had not been visited by Columbus, but early in the sixteenth century a Spanish ship called at the island and it appears in maps of that period. The Portuguese also visited and left pigs to roam over the island so that whenever sailors returned they would have a good supply of meat.
   In 1625, Captain John Powell and his English crew visited Barbados while returning
from a trading voyage to the South American coast. They were much attracted by this lovely island of gently rolling hills and fertile plains, constantly cooled by the Trade Winds. Powell took possession of it for England by nailing upon a tree the notice that Barbados was claimed in the name of 'James K. of E. and of this island'. When the sailors reached England they gave such a favour¬able report of the island that their employer, Sir William Courteen, decided to send out a number of settlers. It was on February 20th, 1627, that the Courteen ship, William and John, arrived off the west coast of Barbados at a place which they named Jamestown, in honour of King James I, who had died in 1625. There were eighty settlers under the leadership of Henry Powell, the brother of John. They had brought with them ten Negroes (whom they had captured from a Portuguese ship on their way out) as well as all the equipment necessary to begin a colony. No Caribs or Arawaks inhabited Barbados when the Europeans arrived. The Indians had once lived on the island but for some unknown reason they had deserted it many years before. This meant that the first English settlers in Barbados had no hostile Caribs to contend with. Also the position of the island, far to the east of the Antilles chain, made it reasonably difficult for sailing ships of other nations to attack against the Trade Winds. The settlers first task was to establish crops for food. This was their most pressing need and a few years later, in 1630 and 1631, these crops failed so badly that settlers called the period "The Starving Time'. When the English first arrived they hunted the hogs left by the Portuguese, but these could not last very long, fortunately, the Dutch Governor of Essequibo assisted Captain Powell by sending to Barbados thirty-two Arawaks with plants, roots and seeds which the Indians could cultivate. These included yams, cassava, corn and plantain, together with seeds of tobacco, cotton and annatto dye. Later the Barbadians were also taught how to grow and manufacture sugar cane by the Dutch from Guiana. More and more settlers were arriving from England. A fort was built to protect Jamestown and streets were soon laid out. The site of this first settlement is now called Holetown in the Parish of St James. In 1628, sixty-four settlers under the leadership of Charles Wolverston, landed at 'Indian Bridge', now the site of the city of Bridgetown. This group had been financed by the Earl of Carlisle, who claimed that he was the owner of Barbados because the island had been granted to him by the King in 1627. This caused bitter disputes and rivalries between the two groups, with the Courteen-Powell men on one side and the Carlisle-Wolverston men on the other. One governor, Sir William Tufton, was even shot and killed and it was only after much disturbance and argument that Carlisle was finally recognised as the owner of Barbados as well as certain other 'islands in the Carib-bees'. Sir William Courteen lost all his properties in Barbados, but with this final decision, the growing community returned to peace and eventual prosperity.

What changes were brought about by the introduction of sugar cane planting in the West Indies around the middle of the seventeenth century?

By the sixteen forties there were clear indications to the settlers of the English and French West Indian islands that the cultivation of tobacco was becoming unprofitable. Tobacco was produced in Virginia in America on a much larger scale than in the West Indies and the quality was superior. While the British West Indies islands were producing 1,000,000 pounds of tobacco annually, Virginia was sending home to Britain about 3,500,000 pounds. The result of this was a glut on the market and a fall in price. The West Indian colonist therefore, had to look around for a profitable crop to replace tobacco, and on the advice of the Dutch, who had been growing it in Brazil, sugar cane planting was introduced around 1645. The changeover from tobacco production to sugar production amounted to what may be regarded as "the sugar revolution," Tobacco cultivation needs relatively little land as it is cultivated more intensively, with the planter giving attention to each plant. The labour force required for this is negligible. Hence the expenditure on the whole outlay is small. Consequently, tobacco was grown on small holdings in the early settlements with the farmer's own family and a few indentured servants providing the labour. The very nature of the cultivation of the sugar cane and the processing of it into sugar was just the opposite of this. Thus the introduction of sugar production in the West Indies necessitated a complete turn over from small land holdings to vast plantations, from a small labour force to a larger one, from little or no capital to great capital expenditure, from unskilled labour to skilled labour to some cases and to erection of factories for manufacture. This was indeed a revolution. The small land owners sold out to "subtle and greedy’ planters who expanded their plantations. Barbados, for instance, which had a large number of small proprietors, became to a matter of ten years an island of large estates. As a result of this, many of the small land owners drifted into the towns and became small businessmen and inn-keepers; others migrated to America, and some took to buccaneering. One other means of increasing the size of plantations was by clearing virgin lands to be turned into sugar cane fields. This agriculture revolution gave rise to a social revolution, particularly insofar as the composition of the population and the life on the estates were concerned. All efforts to procure enough indentured labourers for the sugar estates from Europe failed. Although the white population was considerably increased by this means, thus giving rise to the population of poor whites in the West Indies, it was not until Africa was tapped as a source of labour supply that the required labour force was obtained. Thousands of Negroes were traded into the West Indies from Africa as slaves for the specific purpose of working on the sugar estates. This in turn gave rise to a slave society and a mixed population in the West Indies. The white pattern of West Indian life was changed gradually as the profits of sugar soared and the way of life was adjusted to a sugar economy. Sugar production in its complexity needed a number of skilled workers and technicians and so there was a considerable increase in these types of workmen. The whole face of the land was changed, with vast stretches of sugar cane fields rolling one into the other and windmills and water mills dotted here and there. The quantity of livestock also increased plentifully, for the successful production of sugar could not take place without them. The shipping carried on in the West Indian ports after the change over to sugar was many times what it was before. Ships were needed to transport the sugar to Europe, and to bring food and estate supplies for the slaves and their masters. Many ships also engaged in the slave trade. Thus the tonnage of Dutch, British and French shipping increased considerably during the period. There arose out of it all a wealthy landowning class who comprised the Plutocracy in the British islands, as they obtained and held the power of the Legislative Assemblies in their hands. Though the changeover of necessity was slow, it was sure, and by the end of the 17th century it was evident that sugar had come to stay and the changes had been woven into a pattern of life which was to affect the West Indies, economically, socially, and politically even to this day.

The non-conformist in the B.W.I

The church of England (Anglican) was not interested in the religious instruction of slaves and was considered the religion of planters. After 1750 there was a religious revival in Europe with new denominations being formed and preaching a doctrine more closely linked with the bible. They wanted to work among people untouched by religion; example the black slaves in the BWI. The Moravians were the first comers to the Caribbean, in 1756 in St Kitts and in 1744 in Antigua. Methodist and West Indians went particularly to the Leeward islands. The Baptist of Jamaica was started in 1783 by two George Lisle and Moses Baker.

Difficulties which the missionaries faced

1. Opposition from the planlocracy, assemblies and other colonial officials. Christianity taught brotherhood and equality before God which the planters considered subversive. Slaves might question their position and revolt. 2. Laws were passed to restrict the missionaries activates: (a) they needed a license to preach(b) they could not preach between sunset and sunrise(c) in some colonies the could not take up collection from the slaves. 3. Their was a language barrier. Slaves knew limited English. 4. The slaves had their own rituals and beliefs eg obeah. 5. Missionaries was not allowed to teach slaves to read. 6. Slaves did not want to give up Sunday markets for Sunday Sabbaths. 7. Difficulty in gaining the confidence of the slaves as the preachers were also white men. 8. They were too few in number. They had too large an area to cover. They were overworked. 9. They were not accustomed to the harsh climate conditions of the Caribbean. They suffered from tropical diseases, high death rates and difficulty in finding replacements. 10. Many were underfinanced, particularly the Mau Moravians. It was difficult for them to maintain themselves and preach effectively. 11. The main period of missionaries activity (1815-1830) Britain. The missionaries were suspected of being spies and agents for the abolitionist movement and was blamed for every slave disturbance; example John Smith in Damerara.

John Smith was a missionary on Le Resouvenir estate in Damerara. In 1823 the British government sent down the amelioration proposals which were to ease the condition of slavery. The slaves thought a ’free paper’ had come and was being withheld by the planters. The questioned John Smith about it and he told them that the rumor was false. they did not believe him, saying he would not betray his own for them, so they revolted. John Smith was blamed by the authorities, arrested and condemned to death. He died in prison before the pardon from England arrived. In spite of all these difficulties, however some work was done among the slaves. A number were converted to Christianity and several of them learnt to read the bible. Most of the missionaries were devoted and dedicated men and strove hard to overcome the difficulties which beset them The governor and his colony

The old representative system of government

The colonial political system was a replica of the system existing in the mother country. Colonial legislatures did not willingly accept a subordinate position to the imperial parliament Interference in colonial affairs aroused resistance. The old representative system was implemented around 1660. The system of government which emerged in the colonies bore close resemblance to the British system. There was a governor who represented the King, a council corresponding to the house of Lords and an assembly corresponding to the house of commons. The governor had to uphold to the Kings rights and privileges and was given appropriate powers. He had the powers to:

i select a council to assist him. ii He could Convoke (call together ) adjourn (postpone ) or dissolve legislature. iii He could approve or vet (examine ) legislation iv He could establish courts and appoint judges magistrates and justices of peace. v The governor was also a ‘captain general’ and this was his most important function he had to see to defense and make sure that the forts were well kept. In peace time he had to train the milita so that they were prepared for attack and in war he became the commander of the milita.

Problems encountered by a governor

The governor had to uphold the Kings rights and privileges and the assembly represented the local interest so conflicts were very common right from the beginning of English Settlement. (eg. Navigation Acts and laws against buccaneers ) The Assemblies had legislative powers and they thought that their laws took precedence in their islands over the laws that came from England. When the assemblies gained the ‘power of purse’ they were in a much stronger position in a conflict with the governor because they could hold back money thus making administration impossible. The assembly could force the governor to pass measures it wanted by threatening to withhold funds for other measures. The governors saw the danger to themselves of the power of the purse and they tried to persuade the colonial assemblies to pass perpetual revenue acts so that they would have a fixed income beyond the control of the assemblies, but in vain. The assemblies were reluctant to vote money as this would involve heavier taxation which would fall on the classes they represented - the planters.

The navigation acts

   These were a series of acts passed by Cromwell and later English governments to deal with each foreign threat to English trade as it arose.

The first navigation act was passed by Cromwell in 1650. It stated that foreign vessels were prohibited from trading with English colonies. All goods from the colonies had to be carried in English ships.

   The second act of 1651 was more clear in its intention to make exclusive England trade with her colonies. It stated that goods from Africa, America, Asia and Europe had to be carried in ships or ships of the country or origin of the goods. This act was specifically aimed to the Dutch carrying trade. The Dutch revolted and war broke out (1652-1654)
   The act of 1660 repeated what had started in the 1650 and 1651 acts but with more definition. It stated that all goods to and from the colonies had to be carried in English or colonial ships. The act also stated that all tropical produce grown in the West Indies (enumerated goods) could only be carried to England or other English colonies.
  The staple act of 1663 stated that goods going to the colonies from foreign countries had to pass through England first. There were a few exceptions to this; wines from the Azores and Madeira could go straight to the West Indies.
   The plantation duties act of 1673 levied an export duty of 4.5 percent on enumerated goods before shipment from a colonial port (avoid smuggling)
   The consolidated or consolidation act of 1696 put all the previous acts together. It also made provisions for better enforcement of the navigation acts. After the plantation duties act customs officials had been installed in the colonies to help governors collect the 4.5 percent tax. They were working for the commissioners of customs in England.

Advantages and disadvantages of the navigation acts

Most of the advantages were on the side of England and the disadvantages on the side of the colonies

Advantages for England

1. A guaranteed supply of tropical goods 2. This source of cheap raw materials stimulated English industry 3. It also stimulated the development of a merchant fleet and a navy protect it 4. It generated employment for Englishmen 5. They monopolized the slave trade and made many profits from it 6. They made profits from the re-export trade both ways; selling surplus sugar to

    Europe and re-selling European goods to the colonist
7. They gained revenue from heavy custom duties and the 4.5 percent export taxes 8. Merchants, bankers, factors (middle men) etc made good profits handling the
   business of the B.W.I sugar planters

Advantages for the colonist

1. The colonist had to guaranteed market for their produce 2. The mother country provided difference for her colonies. In times of war foreign

   ships were not able to cross the Atlantic because of the strength of the English
   navy

Disadvantages to England

1. The only disadvantage was that England was obligated to provide a market and

   defence for her colonies.

Disadvantages to the colonies

1. This system of trade (mercantile system) was imposed on the colonies; they could

   either alter or reject it
2. The price the colonies received for their sugar was lower than what they received
   from the Dutch
3. The English charged higher shipping than the Dutch. 4. The deference provided by the English was very little during the 17th century 5. The colonist found the slaves sold by the English to be expensive yet of inferior
   quality as they sold the best slaves to the Spanish
6. The colonist especially, Barbados resented having to give up their trade relations
   With the Dutch.

Mercantile system

The trade relation ship which existed between England and her colonies in the 17th century. The Mercantile system was governed by the Navigation Acts.

The Liberation of Haiti

In 1789 the French revolution had broken out. The people of France had risen up against the ruling class who were oppressing them heavily. They had overthrown the king and set up a government known as the Revolution Government which had as its watch words “Liberty fraternity and Equality”. In course of time the revolution became a very bloody one and not only was the king and queen beheaded but all those who were thought to be against the revolution. The revolution in France was to have repercussions in French West Indies where the ideas of revolution had spread and began to seethe in the mind of the inhabitants. The mulattoes who were a class of free colored people and most of whom were educated and wealthy, were well aware of the revolutionary ideas. Many of the slaves who also worked near their masters had pick up ideas from their masters’ conservations. It was not long therefore before there were uprisings in the smaller French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe and a wide spread bloody revolution in St Dominique. The revolution in St Dominique first started among the mulattoes who were denied the right to vote in 1791 a right which was given to them by the French National Assembly in May 1791. In addition to this French planters had been restricting their freedom for some time. They were afraid of their rising numbers and power and the local assembly was working to reduce their freedom. In 1791 under the leadership of their Vincent Oge` a well educated man, the mulattoes rose up in revolution against the whites. The revolution was short lived as their leader was captured and brutally killed. Within the space of eight months, however, what the planters feared most happened, over 100,000 slaves on the Northern plains rose up in bitter rebellion against the white masters. In the space of two weeks thousands of acres of sugar cane fields were burnt. Estate houses and factories were destroyed by fire, 2000 white were slain and over 10,000 Negroes died either by starvation or fighting. The revolution was now on and there emerged great Negro leaders like Christophe and Toussaint L’Ouverture who were to play a great part in it.

Effects of the American war of independence on the British West Indies

France and England did not wish each other to have a share in their respective colonies, and neither of them wanted Dutch sailors to get some benefits by transporting French and English goods. Therefore they made laws to ensure that English products were carried in English ships and French products in French ships.

     Such laws were meant to encourage commerce. In England, for instance the laws protected the merchants who were then assured that all English plantations in the colonies would have to buy only those supplies which were manufactured in England. In turn produce from English plantations could only be shipped in English vessels and sold in English ports. The laws even regulated trade between the North American colonies and the British West Indies. Everything had to pass through ships or ports controlled by English merchants. Such control by a single group of businessmen and officials is called a monopoly.

Reasons why American colonies revolted

1. They resented the trade restrictions of the mercantile system (Navigation Acts) 2. They resented the taxes imposed on them eg: the Sugar Act of 1764and stamp act

    of 1765
3. “No taxation without representation” became their battle cry. They resented that the
   English parliament should impose taxes on them and they had no representation there.

4. They resented having to pay for their own deference.

      They revolted in 1773 (Boston Tea party). The BWI had similar grievances and they sympathized with the North American colonies. They did not join the revolt because they needed Britain’s defence as their white population was too small to withstand an attack from a European nation.

Effects during the war

France (1778) Spain (1779) and the Dutch (1780) entered the war against Britain and attacked the B.W. I colonies British defence was split between North America and the Caribbean. The French captured every B.W.I colony except Jamaica, Antigua and Barbados. These islands were not recaptured until after Admiral Rodney’s victory over Degrasse in the Battle of the Saints (1782). Only then did Brittan regain supremacy in the Caribbean.

With Britain no longer controlling Caribbean waters trade was disrupted;

1. Estate supplies from North America such as salt fish, flour, rice and maize were

   stopped. This led to starvation among slaves particularly in the smaller colonies.
2. Shipping was dangerous so sugar exports went down resulting in higher sugar prices
     in Europe
3. Consumer goods were in short supply and therefore expensive 4. Freight and insurance rates increased. 5. Sugar duties and local taxes increased to pay the coast of defence

Effects after the war

1. With the U.S colonies now independent they could no longer directly trade with the

     B.W.I. The B.W.I had to get their supplies from British North America (Calvary,
     Nova Scotia and New found land). The quantities were reduced and more expensive.

2. The B.W.I lost their U.S market for sugar, rum and molasses to the F.W.I (French West Indies) who could sell cheaper.

3. They had to import substitute food crops such as ackee, breadfruit and mango.

4. The U.S started to import thousands of slaves. This increased demand raised the price

   of slaves for B.W.I planters

5. Estate supplies were on an average 40-60% more expensive. This resulted in a rise in

   the coast of sugar production. This marked the end of the B.W.I sugar prosperity.

   What were the main terms of the code noir? Describe the structure of the society in the French colonies in the West Indies in the eighteenth century.

The code noir

The control and treatment of the slaves in the French West Indies was dictated from France. In 1685 all the previous slave laws were collected into a single code called the Code Noir (Black Code).

Terms of the Code Noir

1. All slaves to be baptized 2. Slaves not to be worked on Sundays and holy days. 3. Slave marriage to be encouraged. The owners consent must be given. 4. Sexual intercourse between the master and his slave to be punished by the confiscation of his slave. If between another man and the slave, a fine to be imposed. Children of such unions would take the status of the mother 5. Rations and clothes to be provided. Old and sick slaves to be fed and maintained. 6. Slaves to be forbidden to own property and anything they acquired to belong to their owner. 7. Promises, contracts and gifts made by slaves to be null and void. 8. Slaves to be forbidden to sell sugar, or any other produce without their owners permission 9. Death penalty to be inflicted for striking master or mistress and in some cases any free person. 10. Absenteeism for one month to be punished by cutting off ears and branding on the shoulder. Absent two times in one month to be punished by cutting off the buttock and branding the other shoulder. Absent three times in one month to be punished by death. 11. Owner to be compensated if slave is executed on owner’s own denunciation. 12. Torture and mutilation to be prohibited under penalty of confiscation of slave 13. Slave to be regarded as movable property, and liable to be sold apart from the rest of their family. 14. The plantation and slaves to be regarded as one. 15. Owners and drivers to treat slaves humanely. 16. Owners to have the right to free slaves after twenty years service. 17. Manumitted slaves to have the same rights as free persons.

Structure of the society in the French colonies

In 1789 the population of St. Domingue consisted off about 35,000 whites, 25,000 mulattoes and 450,000 slaves. There were rigid legal distinctions between these groups based on colour, and there was a mutual distrust and hatred which was far deeper than in the other French islands.

The whites were not a united group. At the top were the very rich planters, the “seigneurs.” Grouped with them socially were the civil and military officers. All together they were known as the Grand Blancs. The third class of whites was the Petit Blancs. They were the poor whites; the overseers, artisans, and small shopkeepers. They often had affinities through marriage with the mulattoes. On top of all these divisions, all Creole whites
(those born in the West Indies) were despised by those born in France. The mulattoes or free coloureds were known as affranchis in St. Domingue They were unique among the mulatto populations in the West Indies in that not only were they were numerous, but some were also very rich and had been educated in France and some even chose to live there. The slaves came at the bottom of the class structure, though more numerous. The slaves were owned and abused by whites and coloureds alike.

See also

References

Further reading

  • de Kadt, Emanuel, (editor). Patterns of foreign influence in the Caribbean, London, New York, published for the Royal Institute of International Affairs by Oxford University Press, 1972.
  • Kurlansky, Mark. 1992. A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny. Addison-Wesley Publishing.
  • Klooster, Wim, Illicit riches. Dutch trade in the Caribbean, 1648-1795, 1998 KITLV

External links


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