Saturday, 21 October 2017

The First People of Trinidad & Tobago

Photo: Kurt Jessurun/
The place of the silk cotton trees. The  city of Port-of-Spain and its environs was once distinguished by the large quantity of Ceiba pentandra, Silk cotton trees, that grew there, giving rise to the Amerindian name for it, Conquerabia, Camocorabo, Cumcurape and Cumacarapo now called Mucurapo. There several villages were founded, mostly on the banks of the rivers that flowed seaward through the forest: The Ariapita and Tragarete, now the Saint Anne / The Dry River in the east and the Maraval river in the west.
Legend has it that a great battle took place in ancient times in or near where Port-of-Spain now stands. The fight was between two rival tribes of Arawaks.

James Stark in a guide book to Trinidad, 1899, records that present Woodford Square was once called “Place des Ames” or place of souls by some, or “Place des Armes” place of arms by others, in commemoration of the battle.

The memory of Trinidad & Tobago’s First People lies as lightly on our consciousness as this morning’s mist in the folds of Mon Repos. Their history, long forgotten, as a book, is closed, but it is not altogether lost.
Their words, now become place names, are as huge petroglyphs that read Tarcarigua, Tunapuna, Caroni, Guanapo, Tamana, and so many others. These are scattered across our landscape and stand as markers, like mileposts from another time, marking places where they lived and died.
Then there are the remnant First People themselves, embedded in families, some still close to the land, who have managed, through many generations to maintain a sense of identity, a belief in belonging to a community of the spirit, the spirit of the ancestor.

Folklorist Mito Sampson captured a fascinating memory of the First People, perhaps the last recorded – that reached back into the 1830s or 40s, in his study of the Jamette culture of East Port-of-Spain during the 1930s and 40s, which was published in the Caribbean Quarterly’s special Carnival edition of 1957. Mito Sampson was able to tap into a rich vein of oral history that had been maintained and passed on as tribal history embroidered into the fabulousness of myth.
And what is myth? One source simple states that myth is a traditional story consisting of events that are ostensibly historical, though often supernatural, exploring the origins of a cultural practice or natural phenomenon.

In writing this article, which is in commemoration of Trinidad & Tobago’s First People being recognised, officially, as a component element, in fact the foundation member of the national community, I have chosen, in the first instance,  Mito Sampson’s paper as a start in the capturing
of their oral tradition.

Conquerabia which became Marine Square, now Independence Square Port-of-Spain in the 1920s. 
It was during this period that characters such as Jo-Jo, Ofuba the Slave and Thunderstone as well as personalities like Cariso Jane and Surisima the Carib would have made up the town’s Jamette society.
It is from this source, which is the crucible, so to speak, of the Creole culture that gave us Calypso, Carnival and the Steelband from which Mito Sampson drew his information. The Jamette society of the town were those who lived beyond the diameter of the inner circle of polite society, they were notorious for being absurdly scandalous, vulgar and in a way amusingly obscene.

The Raconteur from Ruby Finlayson’s 1900s collection of Port-of-Spain personalities.

Words spoken, a story is told, as a gift given. It is a legacy to pass on, a precious thing that had been handed down through what? two hundred years, since the time of the Spanish rule, in this remnant community. It was like a fossil to  the eager young researcher with the notebook.  Mito Sampson’s informant called himself Jo-Jo. He may be placed in history as being born, perhaps in Port-of-Spain in the 1830s or 40s.
Sampson records that “Jo-Jo was a son or nephew of Thunderstone, Chantwell to the Congo Jackos band, who lost his wife Cariso Jane to Surisima the Carib. Jo Jo became a jamette in his early twenties, and later a wayside preacher. At times he was reluctant to give the salacious details, but would yield under pressure, though he thought it was a waste of time to probe into what was best forgotten. He was strong on African slave legend, and gave me calypsoes from Ofuba the Slave and his son Possum.
“If it were not for Jo Jo, the information concerning Surisima the Carib and the legends and folk traditions of the Caribs would have been lost; Jo-Jo’s father knew Surisima personally, and had taken part in the ceremony known as “the burning of Caziria”. Jo Jo was over 92 when he died.

Illustration from "Sk)etches of Amerindian Tribes 1841–1843"
 by Edward Goodall (British Library Board. Goodall
was the official artist accompanying
Sir Robert Schomburgk on a expedition into the Guyanas
and has left for us a valuable record of the Tribal People of the area.
“According to the legends passed on by Surisima the Carib, a well known Calypso singer of the mid nineteenth century, the word Cariso, by which the term Calypso was known, prior to the 1890s, is descended from the Carib term “Carieto”, meaning a joyous song. Surisima was famous also as a folklorist and raconteur. People would pay him to come to their homes and enlighten them on long forgotten events. He was a wayside historian, and wherever he spoke, people gathered. Surisima recreated much of the old Carib tradition, which is still remembered today.
Carietos, the joyous songs of the First People, were used to heal the sick, to embolden the warrior and to seduce the fair. It is said that under the great Cacique Guamatumare, singers of Carieto were rewarded with special gifts of land, and that next to the tribal leaders they also owned the love of the fairest ladies.
In the time of the Cacique Guancangari, the two great singers were Dioarima, tall, powerful and extremely handsome, and, an undersized weakling.  Their voices were capable of arousing cowards, invigorating the jaded and placating the delirious. Dioarima had two beautiful daughters who were guarded night and day. One night a singer hid in the bushes, and sang a series of haunting songs which had the two girls uneasy. The following night they escaped from their guards, and met the singer in the woods. He took them to Conquerabia (now Port-of-Spain) and lived with them in regal splendour until he was killed in battle. Guandori, a great stick-man of the 1860s, was the last of their descendants.
When the Spaniards heard of these miracle singers, whose voices spurred men on to battle even in the face of fearful odds, they used bribery and clever manipulation, and finally ambushed the two through the treachery of the Carib slave-woman Caziria. The singers were subjected to unspeakable tortures and molten lead was poured down their throats.
With the death of Casaripo and Dioarima, the Carib forces rapidly disintegrated, and were eventually conquered by the Spaniards.  Surisima himself used to organise a procession of Carib descendants from the city of Port-of-Spain to the heights of El Chiquerro where a huge effigy of Caziria, the betrayer, was belabored and burnt after drinking, feasting and singing obscene songs. The only song remembered is:
‘Cazi, Cazi, Cazi, Caziria
Dende, dende. dende dariba’.

“Shifter Brathwaite reported to me his father’s assertion that when these people sang they actually felt the pain and sorrow experienced by the Caribs when Casaripo and Dioarima were betrayed, and sang with real hate and rancour towards Caziria and just as they finished singing that song they began to belabour the effigy, then burn it. On one occasion Surisima the Carib tried to carry on that ceremony in the city but police “ran” them, and they were all brought to court.
In 1859, Mr. William Moore, an American ornithologist, came to Trinidad. He gave a lecture on birds and he had cause to make allusion  to the Cariso, saying that many of the Carisos are localised versions of  American and English ballads. When Surisima the Carib heard that he was annoyed. Two days later he went to Mr. Moore’s hotel with a crowd of followers and he lampooned him viciously. The lampoon is preserved to this day. This is what he sung: ‘Surisima: Moore the monkey from America! Crowd: Tell me wha you know about we cariso!” They kept on singing like that creating a furor until the police intervened.”
Thanks to Mito Sampson the authentic voice of folk tradition was passed on, carrying with it the traces of a mythology that speaks of the inner memories of a people, of beauty, love and betrayal; of revenge, and of the celebration, in a forgotten ritual, of the memory of a time when our country was young.

The Land of the Hummingbird

Perhaps the oldest recorded anecdotes of the First People are to be found in Edward Lanza Joseph’s History of Trinidad, 1838. In an ethnographic study it mentions an enduring Creation Myth, how the wrath of the great spirit of Trinidad, who in defense of the beauty of the hummingbird, caused the destruction of an invader and the creation of the Pitch Lake at La Brea.
Joseph writes in his description of the flora and fauna of the island, “I now come to the smallest, but to me the most interesting of the feathered tribe, called hummingbirds, because we have here such a number of species, such endless varieties of these graceful and resplendent creatures as to justify the aboriginal Indian name of Trinidad, viz. Iere, that is to say, Land of the Hummingbird.

“The aborigines treated these darlings of nature with religious veneration, calling them beams of the sun, and supposing them animated by the souls of the happy...
“Formerly (say the Indians) the spot on which stands the Pitch Lagoon was occupied by a tribe of Chaimas, who build their ajoupas (huts) here, because the land abounded in pineapples, and the coast in oysters and other shell fish; the finest turtle and fish were here taken, and its limpid springs were frequented by countless flocks of flamingos, horned screamers, pauies (wild turkeys), blue ramiers and humming-birds.
The inhabitants of this Chaima encampment, by wantonly destroying the humming-birds, which were animated by the souls of their deceased relations, offended ‘the Good Spirit’ who, to avenge their impiety, made one night the whole encampment sink beneath the earth with all its sacrilegious inhabitants; the next morning nothing was perceived of the Chaima’s village, but instead the Lagoon of Asphaltum appeared.”

It was out of this myth, traditionally narrated by a person called Mr. Trinidado, that emerged the notion that Trinidad is the Land of the Hummingbird.

Sketches of Amerindian Tribes
1841–1843 by Edward Goodall.
“The ground heaved up, the Earth moved and the golden sands vanished. The golden pineapples, the sweetest, juiciest in the world, were gone, taking with them the new comers who had arrived on the wind from the Orinoco, a new tribal people who had come over the sea and who, with an astonishing rapaciousness, had decimated the singularly most beautiful object on the island.
The hummingbird became their object of game. The tiny creature was used by the newcomers for decoration—their iridescent feathers in startling blue, magenta, aquamarine, turquoise, yellow, green, and other shades no longer in existence, were turned in to hats and capes, wallets and walking sticks.
It is reported on the best authority that the Great Spirit of Trinidad, the “Land of the Hummingbird”, Iere, arose from his millennium slumber and moved. This move swallowed up the newcomers, plunging them into his very bowels, only to be regurgitated as a lake of steaming pitch. The First People have a story that after dying, the souls of the children of Iere return as hummingbirds, perhaps giving rise to the fable that this island is the Land of the Hummingbird.”

Two hummingbirds appear in chief on the coat of arms of Trinidad & Tobago and are prominent on the insignia of the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service and the defense forces of Trinidad & Tobago. They, as institutions of the state, protect us, the hummingbirds, as the great spirit of the island once did.
Moriche palms at Waller Field, Trinidad.
The remarkable Moriche Palm was first documented by English navigator and poet Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618). In 1595, when he explored the coast of Trinidad and took its old capital, St. Joseph, Raleigh observed that it appeared that the tribal people had built fires in the palm tops. In fact, the Amerindians had strung their hammocks high between the tops of the Moriche Palms and had lit fires beneath for warmth and to drive away mosquitoes.
German naturalist and traveler Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), from a more scientific point of view, observed that the palm, called the “tree of life” by the tribal people, did in fact possess many life-sustaining qualities. The bark, for instance, contains a sago-like flour that may be used in various forms of cooking. The fruit is not only edible, but could be made, when fermented, into various sorts of drinks, some alcoholic, a sort of wine. From the large fan-shaped leaves a thin, ribbon-like pellicle is taken and rolled on the thigh or chest into a string.
From these strings, in some instances dyed into brilliant colours, hammocks were woven.

An  Amerindian  photographed in the 1890s
quite likely in Guyana for the travel book,
“Stark’s Guide and History of Trinidad.”
Humboldt collected yet another interesting creation myth when he asked the Tamanac Indians for an account of how the human race survived the great deluge that was known by them as the “age of water”. They said that “a man and a woman had saved themselves on a mountaintop called Tamanacu and, casting behind them over their heads the fruits of the Moriche Palm, they saw that the seeds contained in their roots produced men and women who re-peopled the earth”.

A creation myth (or cosmogonic myth) is a symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it.  While in popular usage the term myth often refers to false or fanciful stories, formally, it does not imply falsehood. Cultures generally regard their creation myths as true (the Bible, for instance). In the society in which it is told, a creation myth is usually regarded as conveying profound truths, metaphorically, symbolically and sometimes in a historical or literal sense. They are commonly, although not always, considered cosmogonical myths – that is, they describe the ordering of the cosmos from a state of chaos or amorphousness. (Source: Wikipedia.)

The Tribal People of Trinidad & Tobago

Moriche Palms are unique to this part of the world,
and found only in Trinidad and on banks of the
Amazon, the Rio Negro, and the Orinoco in South America.
The Moriche Palm was named “Mauritia flexuosa”
by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus.

Fruit of the Moriche Palm. Herbarium , UWI
E.L. Joseph writing in the 1830s tells us . . . “that according to tradition and letters, preserved amongst old families in Trinidad there were two races inhabiting the island; they were called Aruacques, or, as the English write the word, Arawaaks, and Chimas. In another account to which he refers a warlike race of Indians, which he calls Caribes, but who called themselves Carina, Calina and Callingo, came from Florida, invaded the Windward Islands, exterminated the male inhabitants, and possessed themselves of their lands and women–hence the custom amongst the Caribe islands of the women and men speaking different languages. The Caribes were a bold  warlike race of Indians, and according to the concurrent testimony of many Historians, they were cannibals; in fact, the word cannibal is said to be a corruption of Caribe.
“The larger islands, that is to say, Haiti (St. Domingo), Cuba, Jamaica, Bariguen (Porto Rico), and Iere (Trinidad) – Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica retained their Indian names – were inhabited by less ferocious tribes. Perhaps, as it has been conjectured, the Caribes easily made themselves masters of the smaller islands by exterminating the male inhabitants, but could not obtain the mastery over the larger ones. This cannot be ascertained at present; but that the Caribes had no footing in Trinidad, may be learned from Las Casas. I am aware that the learned Humboldt is of the opinion that the tribe called Jaoi of Trinidad were a section of the Caribe family; yet I am rather inclined to follow older authorities and traditions, because it appears that such enmity existed between the Caribes and other races, that they never could have resided in the same island.”

A lithograph of Mount Tamana by M.J. Cazabon
where according to the First People the world was began anew after the great flood.
A romantic view of life in the high woods. Hahn 1983
Sketches of Amerindian Tribes
1841–1843 by Edward Goodall.

“Of the Arawaaks, and inhabitants of the larger islands generally,” E.L. Joseph continues, “ the friends and companions of Columbus give us a rather favourable report (vide P. Martye, Oviedo, Herrera, Las Casas, and Ferdinand Columbus). They were as fully advanced towards civilization as were the in habitants of the South Sea Islands during the time of Cook. They built commodious dwellings, manufactured vessels of clay, equal, according to Las Casas, to the best made in Spain; they had the art of spinning cotton into cloth, and were by no means destitute of agriculture ; they made canoes of surprising capacity; they made cordage and hammocks from fibers of the coco palm and other trees. Most of those who describe them during the first thirty years of the discovery  of these islands, speak highly of their mode of life, domestic economy, and general benevolence; but we should not allow the  exaggerations of the early travelers to deceive us; for after a long and to them dangerous voyage, they were apt to colour too lightly the joys of the savage state they beheld. That possessed  the art of weaving cotton into cloth, of dying the same beautifully, cannot be denied; but in general they went in a state of very near to nudity– the chiefs wearing only a short tunic, the rest merely a guayacco ; and according to Bartholomy Columbus, his father found the women of this island in ‘statu naturali’.
“Their diversions consisted of public and private dances ; the first was a kind of warlike amusement. Herrera says that 50,000 men and women used through the night to dance together, keeping time with wonderful precision; they accompanied them with historical songs; these entertainments were called ‘Arietoes’. “
(Note that in Mito Sampson’s account the word used by the Tribal People for joyous songs was “Carieto”).
An Amerindian burial photographed in the 1890s
quite likely in Guyana for the travel book,
“Stark’s Guide and History of Trinidad.”
E.L. Joseph writing in the 1830 when seminal records were still extant tells us that. . . “Their private dances were licentious – the dances of all peoples in a low state of civilization are licentious or warlike. Their musical instruments consisted of a rude drum and different sized conch shells.
“The rest of their diversions consisted of a game of ball played between two parties, called ‘Bato’. According to Oviedo, they displayed surprising agility in this game, frequently repelling the ball with the head, elbow, or foot.
“Their agricultural instruments consisted of a long picket of hard wood and a kind of rude spade of the same material, with these they cultivate manioc and maize.
“Their warlike implements consisted of a bow and arrow, the latter often dipped in poison of remarkable acuteness, Sometimes they used pieces of cotton at the end of their arrows; these were saturated with inflammable resinous matter, and when fired, served to burn their enemies’ village. By way of defensive armour, they had wooden shields–the shields, I believe, were peculiar to the Indians of Trinidad.
“Their governance was absolute. Their chief was called a Cacique: his dignity was hereditary, but did not descend from father to son, but the eldest child of the Cacique’s sister succeeded to his uncle state.”
This petroglyph is embedded in the upper flank of El Cerro del Aripo, at 940 metres (3,084 ft). It is the highest point in Trinidad. It speaks to us in a language long forgotten. Some petroglyphs might be as old as 40,000 years. Many hypotheses explain the purpose of petroglyphs, depending on their location, age, and subject matter. Some many be astronomical markers, maps, and other forms of symbolic communication, including a form of proto-writing. Petroglyph maps may show trails, symbols communicating time and distances traveled, as well as the local terrain in the form of rivers, landforms, and other geographic features. (Above. Photograph of a tribal person taken in Guyana in the 1900s. Below: From a photograph of the Aripo petroglyph taken by Tom Cambridge in the 1940s.)

“After his famous 1492 voyage of discovery, Christopher Columbus was commissioned to return a second time, which he did with a large-scale colonization effort which departed from Spain in 1493. Although the second journey had many problems, it was considered successful because a settlement was founded: it would eventually become Santo Domingo, capital of the present-day Dominican Republic. Columbus served as governor during his stay in the islands.
The settlement needed supplies, however, so Columbus returned to Spain in 1496.”

Historian and professor of literature Christopher W. Minster goes to tell us; “Columbus reported to the Spanish crown upon his return from the New World. He was dismayed to learn that his patrons, Ferdinand and Isabella, would not allow the taking of slaves in the newly discovered lands. As he had found little gold or precious commodities for which to trade, he had been counting on selling native slaves to make his voyages lucrative. The King and Queen of Spain allowed Columbus to organize a third trip to the New World with the goal of resupplying the colonists and continuing the search for a new trade route to the Orient.
Sketches of Amerindian Tribes 1841–1843 by Edward Goodall.

“Upon departure from Spain in May of 1498, Columbus split his fleet of six ships: three would make for Hispaniola immediately to bring desperately needed supplies, while the other three would aim for points south of the already explored Caribbean to search for more land and perhaps even the route to the orient that Columbus still believed to be there. Columbus himself captained the latter ships, being at heart an explorer and not a governor. Columbus’ bad luck on the third voyage began almost immediately. After making slow progress from Spain, his fleet hit the doldrums, which is a calm, hot stretch of ocean with little or no wind.
“Columbus and his men spent several days battling heat and thirst with no wind to propel their ships. After a while, the wind returned and they were able to continue. Columbus veered to the north, because the ships were low on water and he wanted to resupply in the familiar Caribbean. On July 31, they sighted an island, which Columbus named Trinidad. They were able to resupply there and continue exploring.
“For the first two weeks of August 1498, Columbus and his small fleet explored the Gulf of Paria, which separates Trinidad from mainland South America. In the process of this exploration, they discovered the Island of Margarita as well as several smaller islands. They also discovered the mouth of the Orinoco River. Such a mighty freshwater river could only be found on a continent, not an island, and the increasingly religious Columbus concluded that he had found the site of the Garden of Eden. Columbus fell ill around this time, and ordered the fleet to head to Hispaniola, which they reached on August 19.”

Christopher Columbus writes into his Ship’s Log:

(Discovery of Trinidad by Christopher Columbus 1498. Selected letters of Christopher Columbus by R.H. Major 1870, Hakluyt Society.)

Contrary to popular belief, the three ships
of Columbus’ squadron were not the Santa Maria,
Niña and Pinta (the flagship of the first voyage,
the Santa Maria having been wrecked
off Hispaniola in 1492). According to
historical sources, the ships of his third voyage
 of 1498 were the Guia (also referred to as El Nao),
the La Castilla (nicknamed Los Vaquenos) and the
Santa Maria de La Gorda (also known as El Correo),
these were the three ships of Columbus’
squadron when he visited these waters.
“I resolved therefore to keep on the direct westward course, in a line from Sierra Leone, and not to change it until I reached a point where I had thought I should find land where I could repair the vessels and renew, if possible our stock of provisions and take in what water we wanted.
At the end of seventeen days, during which Our Lord gave a propitious wind, we saw land at noon of Tuesday the 31st of July. This I had expected on Monday before and held that route up to this point ; but as the sun’s strength increased and our supply of water was falling, I resolved to make for the Caribee Islands and set sail in that direction ; when by the mercy of God which he has always extended to me, one of our sailors went up to the main-top and saw to the  westward a range of mountains. Upon this we repeated the “Salce Regina” and other prays and all of us gave thanks to Our Lord.
“I then gave up our northward course and put in for land; at the hour of complines we reached a cape which called Cape Galera, having already given to the island the name of Trinidad, and here we found a harbour which would have been excellent but there was no good anchorage. We saw houses and people on the spot and the country round was very beautiful and as fresh and green as the gardens of Valencia in the month of march.”
The three ships of Christopher Columbus
appear per chevron on the coat of arms
of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Douglas Archibald in his historical account of Tobago, “Melancholy Isle”, tells us, “Christopher Columbus, during his third voyage of discovery, sighted the island of Kairi on the31st of July 1498, and he named it Trinidad. Several days later, on the 13th August,Columbus sailed away from the gulf of Paria and Trinidad, through the Grand Boca on a course that was east and north. Some time on that day, before changing that course for a westerly one, he sighted an island to the east and another one to the north : and he gave to the former the name of Assumption, while he called the latter Conception. Those are the islands that now know as Tobago and Grenada.
“In the early part of the 16th century, the explorers and adventurers who followed in the wake of Columbus, such as Ojeda,Vespucci and Juan de las Cosa, would refer to Tobago, on their charts, as Madalena, while they gave to Grenada the name Mayo.”
Over the following decades Dutch cartographers would increasingly use the word Tovaco or Tobago, said to be the name used for the implement in which a herb called cohiba was smoked for this island.
"Two of the chiefs who they took to be father and son, came forward in advance of the mass of people and conducted them to a very large house with facades and not round and tent like shaped as other houses were; in this house were many seats on which they were made our men sit down.”
In “History of Trinidad under the Spanish Government” by P.G.L. Borde we learn, “It occurred to Columbus to try the power of music on them, he had some popular Spanish dances performed on the deck of his ship to the accompaniment of voices and instruments. This met less success than previously for the islanders taking these demonstrations for signs of hostilities, fired off a flight of arrows at them. Columbus replied with a double discharge of crossbows.”
(Sketches of Amerindian Tribes 1841–1843 by Edward Goodall.)

The imagination of the age of Christopher Columbus was characterised by biblical geography, alchemical science and kabbalistic thought. These located the navel of the world in Jerusalem. This island, which Columbus called Trinidad, was in the minds of some a fictional place, a legendary place in the imagination of the Old World, a place of magical monsters: home Leviathan, the great denizen of the deep, where in its Gulf of Paria they did disport themselves.
The Admiral of the Ocean Sea came upon this island in 1498, he tasted the waters in its Gulf of Paria and found them sweet and possessed of the mammalian redolence of the Leviathan. “I have found Mar Dulce,” he wrote into the log of his flag ship, the Santa Maria de la Gorda, “the sweet sea, where the fresh water battles with the salt.”
The Republic (ca. 370-360 BC) by Plato - One of the earliest conceptions of a utopia. Ptolemy had written of the “Fortunate Isles”,  Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, described a fictional island society in the south Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South America.
Christopher Colmbus named the ingress to, and egress from, the Gulf of Paria, with kabbalistic terminology Boca del Serpiente and Bocas del Dragon. The great expanse itself; Golfo de Ballina. He had seen them, Leviathan. The great whales, they formed his escort as he entered the gulf through the channel to the south as he sailed the furthest perimeter of the circumference of the world.

Sketches of Amerindian Tribes
 1841–1843 by Edward Goodall.
Dr. Arie Boomert, archaeologist, tells us that the imagination and the religion of the Tribal People could be characterized as deeply animistic. There was and is a common belief in a verity of nature spirits, sky, river and mountain deities. There is as well a belief in the spirit of nature, of the forest and the sky, as well as ghost spirits and shades of the dead. The people of the forest perceived a three-tiered universe. The earth, itself was this world and consisted of a vast flat circular disc surrounded by water at the center of which was the village. A huge boa constrictor or macajuel that bites its tail encircles this disc and is known as the ‘Snake of Being’.  The breath of this deity regulates the rising and the lowering of the tides. Below and above the earth, different, but similarly organized worlds are believed to exist: The Sky World and the Underworld. These are thought to represent the good world and the evil world. These worlds meet and interface as rainbows overarching towards the earth.  The central element, the axis mundi so to speak, the central structure that connects the various levels of this world view is formed by the ‘World Tree’, which is often seen as symbolized by the Silk Cotton tree, the tallest of trees in the forest.

A  zemi, from Daniel’s “West Indian History”.
Anthropologist Nicoletta Maestri relates that “. . . a zemí (also zemi, zeme or cemi) is a collective term in the Caribbean Taíno (Arawak) culture for “sacred thing”, a spirit symbol or personal effigy. The Taíno were the people met by Christopher Columbus when he first set foot on the island of Hispaniola in the West Indies.
To the Taíno, zemí was/is an abstract symbol, a concept imbued with the power to alter circumstances and social relations. Zemis are rooted in ancestor worship, and although they are not always physical objects, those that have a concrete existence have a multitude of forms.
The simplest and earliest recognized zemis were roughly carved objects in the form of an isoceles triangle (“three-pointed zemis”); but zemis can also be quite elaborate, highly detailed human or animal effigies embroidered from cotton or carved from sacred wood.”  E.L. Joseph writes that the tribal people believed in a plurality of gods– “the chief of them they called Jocahuna.”

He goes on to source Laet who said that the island of Trinidad was possessed by two parties of Indians: one called Cunucaras, under a chief called Buchumar ; the other called Chacumries, who obeyed a cacique named Maruane. In Daniel’s West Indian Histories we learn that when Antonio de Sedeno, the Treasurer of Porto Rico, was granted Trinidad and attempted to establish a settlement in 1530, some thirty two years after Columbus, the island was described as being divided into two provinces– that of the Chacomares, under a cacique called Maruana, in the south, and that of  Camucuraos, under Baucunar, in the north. The southern people were mild and friendly; and as Chacomer in  an Amerindian language means “sweet potato people”, it has been suggested that they were thus called in derision by the fierce Camucuraos, who repeatedly attacked the Spaniards and endevoured to drive them out. Later writers refer to the constant feuds between the two waring tribes in Trinidad, and frequent reference is made to the warlike Nepoyo  chieftain Hyarima, whose village was where Arima now stands. He it was who assisted the Dutch in their attack on St. Joseph in 1637.


Pierre-Gustave Louis Borde, in his “History of Trinidad under the Spanish Government” and citing Humboldt and Raleigh, tells us that “there were at least seven Amerindian tribes in Trinidad at the time of Columbus’ discovery, namely: the Aruacas, Chaimas, Tamanaques, Chaguanes, Salives, Quaquas and Carabibes; this latter tribe was further divided into four sub-tribes, the Nepoios, Yaios, Carinepagotos and Cumanagotos, the whole thus forming eleven separate bodies.
Nearly a century after the discovery, and in spite of the ravages caused by the Spanish privateers and the wars of the Conquistadores, Sir Walter Raleigh, during his short stay, found the Napoios, Aruacs, Salives, Yaios, Chaimas and Carinepagotos.
“The Tamanaques occupied the centre of the island. There is a small mesa or tepuy there of that name, the English term for which is tableland or table-top mountain. The word tepui means “house of the gods” in the native tongue of the Tribal People. These tend to be found as isolated entities rather than in connected ranges, which makes them the host of a unique array of endemic plant and animal species.  They are found in the Guiana Highlands of South America, especially in Venezuela and western Guyana, and in Trinidad. In Trinidad these may also be also seen at Naparima and at Montserrat in a smaller form. They mirror the most outstanding tepuis on the mainland. These great table-top mountains are the Neblina, Autana, Auyantepui and Mount Roraima. Auyantepui is the source of Angel Falls, the world’s tallest waterfall.”

Borde wrote in the 1850s-60s that “the Quaquas, according to Humboldt, crossed over to the continent with their neighbours the Salives.” He mentions “the Chaguanes, whose name a quarter of the western coast bears; the Pariagotos, a few of whom still exist; and the Cumanagotos, who lived on the eastern coast, since we find there a bay of that name. We arrived at a total of eleven tribes as above mentioned.
“When we remember that Sir Walter Raleigh only explored the south and west coasts of the island, it is reasonable to suppose that this number falls short of fact, and could be increased. The island must have been then well populated at the time of the discovery. Its population must have been at least 10,000 souls; it was divided into a great number of villages, situated  chiefly along the coasts and rivers. Although these different tribes have their own dialects, it seems that Carib was the dominant language in the country; it was spoken in the greater part of Guiana, along the northern coast of the South American continent, in the lower Orinoco and in the Lesser Antilles. It stood in the same relation as Italian does to the Latin languages, being distinguished from the other American dialects by the sparkle and great variety of its sounds; it is easily recognised by the frequent occurrence of vowels and of the syllable ‘car’. A great number of the Indian names which have been handed down to us like: Guaracara, Chacachacare, Tacarigua, Caroni, etc., bear this Carib characteristic.

“All the American dialects being closely allied, it is said that the Aruaca, Chaima, Salive, Quaqua experienced no difficulty in adding to the knowledge of the language of his childhood, that of the common language of the country. It was thus in old Europe, where for a long time a great centralisation and combination of nations took place, it often happened that the language spoken in infancy was not that spoken at a more advanced age.”

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The 18th century Brigand War in the Caribbean

Perhaps if you have the kind of romantic imagination that is now going out of style you may feel yourself drawn towards a Caribbean experience that goes beyond being baked to a crisp while becoming charmingly incoherent after of your seventh rum-punch.  If this is at all the case you may want to learn something about a topic that just a mere two hundred or so years ago made hearts race and brave men think hard about finding a place to hide. No, I am not talking about hurricanes. I am talking about an episode in our past that was called the Brigand War and especially some of the personalities that shaped that period.
Historians have said that these Antialien islands are a product of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. What they mean is that as the 18th century came to a close disputes that had their origins in Paris, London or Madrid were settled right here on these sandy shores or upon that crystal clear horizon, that with a bit of luck, you might not only see the fabled green flash illuminate the day’s end, but actually catch it on your iphone so as to put it on face-book.
One of the more outstanding events to take place in that period was the advent of a man called Victor Hugues.  The European wars for territories in the Caribbean reached boiling point in the 1790s. The French Revolution of 1789 served to add civil war to the equation. Turbulence and violence, political upheaval and revolt reigned throughout the string of islands. From Grenada, to St. Vincent, though to St. Lucia, Dominica, Guadeloupe and among the maroons - former slaves who had taken to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica’s central range. And most violent and catastrophic of all, in Saint-Domingue now known as Haiti.
This ‘ring of fire,’ which was in fact the effect of the Age of Enlightenment upon the western world, sought to bring an end to the dominance of both altar and throne. It had commenced in North America, under George Washington, as the descendants of immigrants there battled against British control, and would continue with Simon Bolivar until the Wars of Liberation brought an end to Spanish domination in south America.
There had been fierce fighting  in the Eastern Caribbean for some years. This was characterized by battles at sea whose very names – the Battle of the Saints, the Battle of Cape St Vincent or the Battle of Grenada– conjure the choking odors of grapeshot, black powder and battle ablaze, as seventy eight gun frigates fought it out against magnificent sunsets of legendary splendor. 
In 1794, British troops took Martinique. A month or two later, they landed in Guadeloupe. There, for the first time, they came up against Victor Hugues, a former shop owner and minor merchant of Port-au-Prince on the island of Saint-Domingue, now called Haiti. It was said that he had been born at Marseilles, France, perhaps in 1760. He had a grasp on learning it was said and like so many young men he yearned to travel. He shipped aboard a merchantman as a cabin boy, sailing the trade routes on the Atlantic run. He often wintered in the Antilles, enjoying the wealthy mulatto lifestyle of the parvenus and the debaucheries of the harbour towns.
He is remembered as a raucous fellow of a huge sexual appetite, who tended to attract the young, naive and impoverished whites.  A thirst for knowledge and the pursuit of belonging made him seek the membership in an esoteric, pseudo-masonic order, called ‘Societé d’Harmonie’. He became the leader, some say even the Robespierre of the French Revolution in the Caribbean. He sailed from Marseilles armed with republican fever, gold, a handful of loyal henchmen and a guillotine.  Hugues was a daring man; people said that he was coloured and hated the ‘békés’, for being placed by them beyond the diameter of society despite his grasp of culture and his intelligence.
The squadron under his command attacked the British in 1795 in Basseterre and forced them out of Guadeloupe by the end of that year. His reign of terror took the lives of over one thousand royalists.
Victor Hugues then set to work to exterminate the monarchists and drive the British out of the Windward and Leeward islands as well as convert people of these islands  to the cause of the French republican revolution. He dispatched agents to St. Vincent to stir up the population there, then sent in Jacobin irregulars on the heels of the agents, and before long the English were hardpressed to keep the capital Kingstown, while the French, made up of black and coloured troops, and the Carib Indians overran and held the rest of the island. In Tobago, there was serious cause for alarm. Now once again in British hands, the African slaves, most of them French speaking with connections in other islands, had already been indoctrinated by the revolutionary fervour that had swept the islands, causing Scarborough to be burnt. Tobago’s planters were asking for a ‘stout frigate to be stationed in Great Courland Bay.
Hugues dispatched his agents to Jamaica, where for the third time a full-fledged war was being waged between the maroons, these were slaves who had freed themselves, and the occupying British troops. They were so heavily engaged that no reinforcements could be sent from Jamaica to relieve General Maitland’s fever-stricken English soldiers in Saint-Domingue who were attempting to take that island from the African slaves who were in revolt under a charismatic leader known to history as Toussaint Louverture. By 1798, the English were compelled to leave that island, while in Jamaica, the black maroons had to be accommodated after a truce was arranged high up in the cockpit country of the blue mountains.
Victor Hugues, undaunted, turned to Grenada, where there was tension between the English and the French speaking free colourds. He was a genius at sowing division and a brilliant manipulator! His agents promoted revolt in Grenada. They were followed by picket men, who built up cells or small cadres. Then, soldiers were brought in. A coloured Grenadian planter, Julien Fedon, was chosen as leader. An army of French and free blacks was formed, and then revolutionary troops were sent in from Guadeloupe.
The rising under Fedon broke out at midnight of 2nd March, 1795. They surrounded the town of Grenville and commenced a massacre that to this day is still remembered. After fighting off the British for more than a year Fedon withdrew to his estate Belvedere, 2000 ft above sea level on the sumit of Mt. St. Catherine. He established three camps, named them the ‘Field of Liberty’,  the ‘Field of Equality’ and the ‘Field of Death’. Soon the governor and his staff had been taken, and Fedon warned that any attempt to attack the island would mean their death.
Meanwhile, Victor Hugues was attempting to destabilise Trinidad, and to demoralise Don José Maria Chacon, the Spanish  governor. He offered to send his men to ‘help’ the governor to ‘control’ the island. Chacon in Trinidad responded by sending a few Spanish soldiers to join the British in Grenada in their planned attack on Fedon’s mountain fortress.
Terrible rainstorms lashed Grenada on the day that Fedon’s encampment was attacked. The English troops were pinned down by relentless fire from above. Fedon’s troops felled huge trees. The English commander inexplicably killed himself. Yet the attack was maintained.
At the ‘Field of Death’ a terrible massacre had taken place. The hostages were executed. The governor’s wife and daughters, his aid and accompanying officers were all killed in a hail of bullets. Some 55 persons died. There were a few survivors, among them Dr. John Hay, Fr. McMahon and a Mr. Kerr.
The British armed a contingent of loyal slaves, the ‘Corps of Loyal Black Rangers’, and pursued Fédon’s men while garrisoning St. Georges. In April, Sir Ralph Abercromby arrived in Grenada with troops and attacked the mountain stronghold. He defeated Fedon there, but not before another 20 hostages had met their deaths.
None saw Fédon die. He was last seen trying to sail away in a small boat and is said to have drowned. Thus ended the Battle Mt. Qua Qua.

Over 150 years later, in the latter part of the 20th century, Grenada again experienced revolution, overthrow and massacre of more than 100 citizens at the fort in St. Georges. Is this a case of history repeating itself? Or is this a matter of unresolved issues playing themselves out? It is said that people who do not know their past are doomed to repeat it.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Review of Cult of the Will. Dr. Selwyn Ryan.

Professor Selwyn Ryan's comments on the publication of Cult of theWill by Gerard Besson

It is perhaps a coincidence that the publication of Gerard Besson's controversial book, The Cult of the Will, should occur at the same time as the defeat of the People's National Movement (PNM) in the recently concluded general elections. The book is also being outdoored at a time—Friday 9—when the Eric Williams Memorial Lecture is scheduled to be delivered at the Central Bank. One of the basic arguments of the book is that Eric Williams and the PNM are "dead" or, if not, deserve to be. 
The book consists of two basic parts. The first deals with rise and fall of the family of Francois Besson to which the author belongs. That family portrait is however not a vain exercise. Drawing on a wealth of documentary data, including wills, Besson fashions a tapestry of the black and white French creole community in Grenada and later in Trinidad from which one learns a great deal.  
The second part of the book deals, inter alia, with wills and Williams, and argues that wills had a lot to do with who got what in Trinidad's racially stratified society. It argues further that two wills in particular, involving Eric Williams and his white forbears, had a significant impact on the post independence politics of Trinidad and Tobago. 
Our analysis is confined to three of the books main arguments. The first is that Eric Williams and his intellectual patron, CLR James, wilfully and deliberately conspired to produce a contrived account of the British anti-slavery movement which Williams misused for political purposes. According to Besson, a significant aspect of the narrative, much of which is found in Capitalism and Slavery and The History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, tends to stereotype the European planters and their descendents as "villains", and characterises the African slaves, and latterly their descendants, as "victims". 
Besson's argument is that Williams consciously revised the British narrative about the abolition of the slave trade and emancipation to counter the conventional version which anchors the anti-slavery movements in British humanitarian concerns.  
Williams claimed that he had unmasked a "gross historical lie" and had unmasked "a great academic conspiracy" which had lent credibility to the British claim that they were humanitarians who had a moral right to govern and civilise the colonies. 
These arguments have, of course, long been the subject of academic argument and counterargument. For Besson, however, they are not matters that concern only academics. They have had great political consequences for Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. As he complains, Dr Williams would carry his conspiracy theory about the abolition of the slave trade and emancipation forward into his political life. 
He would develop a political programme that would exploit these ideas. His revisionist narrative pilloried the European population in Trinidad and Tobago not only as descended from slave owners, but also of inheriting their guilt, while ignoring the complicity of the Africans who had sold their fellow Africans in exchange for trade goods. 
Besson makes two other basic points which are germane to his argument. One is that Williams' neurotic behaviour was informed by hostility to the white creole group to which his family belonged. In sum, his personality was misshaped by his belief that his family were "victims of the Will". The complaint was that the family was robbed or deprived of the various bequests that were made by their white relatives. 
This obsessive reaction was projected unto the "true inheritors" of history's bequest, viz the Afro-creole masses. His politics was thus about "revenge" and racial entitlements. "He conveniently forgot that his own forbears, his father's people, had been slave owners." 
Besson further argues that his "massa day" diatribe in 1960-61 was an attempt to exorcise his demons. It also excited the gullible and those inclined towards anti-white and anti-Indian racism. 
As Besson writes, "the Afro-creole masses would inherit what he and his family could not. He may possibly have seen his personal history as the country's destiny. He utilised political control to compensate the Afro-Creole population for the inheritance that they had long been denied. This was the basis of Williams' interpretation of the ideal welfare state, and would later form an integral part of the political culture of the PNM and of the entire country over the next 50 years." 
Besson's third thematic argument is that the paradigm that emerged from his version of history and which shaped the post independence politics of Trinidad and Tobago has now run its course. It is now time, he argued, to articulate an integrated New World narrative which treats all constituent groups as part of a whole. 
All should be beneficiaries of the will, figuratively speaking. As he argues, and we quote him at some length, "the PNM's version of who was legitimate politicised victimhood and guilt and the scapegoating of certain of its members…and served to erode ethnic harmony, respect for law and order and notions of moral and civic responsibility in the collective mind of contemporary society. The Williams narrative has contributed to the feeling that everything is outside the law and is up for grabs or reinterpretation. Many civil institutions (the police force, the administration of justice, the education system) have lost credibility and are hardly capable of conveying meaning or confidence in civil society." 
In sum, Williams and the PNM are seen to be largely responsible for most of our past and present discontents. Salvation lies in exposing the fallacies and the policies that emerge therefrom. Besson claims support in the experiences of Obama who, in his Audacity of Hope, also called for a new moral dispensation. As Obama had argued, "the role of victim was too readily embraced as a means of shedding responsibility, or asserting entitlement or claiming moral superiority over those not so victimised". 
There are some who would dismiss the book a as an anti-PNM rant, which would be a mistake. 
The book does debunk as myth a lot of what Williams and his supporters have said and did. There is however much in the book that is of great interest and which one would find intellectually provocative. It should spark public debate. The mood of the country in fact parallels some of the arguments of the book . 
It is also clear that while Williams was responsible for much that was positive about our national development, we are also paying the price for some of the behaviours which he authorised and legitimised.  
It is however too easy to blame almost everything that has gone wrong on the Williams narrative. Williams was part of a worldwide anti-colonial movement. His Massa Day Done rhetoric and his personal and cultural hubris fed on this worldwide Bandung spirit which would have flourished, stolen bequest or no stolen bequest. The discourse about the cult of the will make interesting reading, but is made to carry too much of the burden of what could be explained in other ways as I have attempted to do in my Eric Williams: The Myth and The Man.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Our Independence Legacy—Fifty-Five Years On

By Gérard A. Besson 

When asked to write on independence I remembered a line in the foreword of a book of Angelo Bissessarsingh’s that read, “. . . Angelo is concerned with legacy. Legacy in this case meaning both what is received and what is passed on.” Then, someone rang up to ask what I thought about the renaming of Queen Street in Port-of-Spain. I felt that the one had to do with the other: 

The roots of our indifference. 

Our history is unlike that of other islands in the Caribbean. Trinidad, not Tobago, did not have as long a gestation in the womb of colonialism as say Barbados or Jamaica, which commenced their social and economic development before the 1600s. Caribbean slave societies, sugar economies with mostly ethnically homogenous populations, they matured through a long history of societal gestation. 
In the case of Trinidad, our disparate and even then segmented population arrived suddenly from 1783 with the Cedula for Population. Before that, Trinidad was an almost deserted island. Not Tobago. From 1783, Europeans and Black people who were not enslaved and those who were arrived, mostly from the French islands.  Many were refugees, political enemies and strangers to each other.  Some had actually been involved in the slaughter of the relatives of the people next to whom they lived in Port-of-Spain. After the British conquest of 1797 to this milieu were added Chinese, Portuguese and African freedmen. Then, after much miscegenation, some decades later, Indian indentureship commenced, and latterly the Lebanese and Syrians arrived. It was, in the majority, an Afro-French–Creole society from which the Indian segment was kept separate and who themselves maintained separateness. It served the interest of the British colonial administration to maintain these divisions.
In spite of this segmentation, which still exists, Trinidad and Tobago had a really good start. Although there was great inequality and institutionalised racial prejudice that kept everybody in their respective places, the colonial period did actually put into place the mechanisms that formed the bedrock for the democratic institutions of today. Compared to many other newly independent nations of the 1950s and 60s, Trinidad and Tobago has done, in that regard, remarkably well. 
The divisions that shaped our colonial experience have continued to blight our post-independence existence. This is so because of the politics of independence, which did not take sufficient consideration of the assimilation of the Indian-descended population that had been in Trinidad for over 100 years and then represented over one third of the population. It was not taken to heart by the shapers of the independence movement, who were Creole people of a generation born in the 1910s. They behaved as though the Indians were transients who had outstayed their welcome and would somehow return to India. The Colonial Office, knowing that the Indo-Trinidadian politicians had a very shallow professional and intellectual base and were not familiar with the Civil Service, tended to favour the independence movement. 
Dr. Eric Williams’ personality was in many ways formed by 19th century notions, and his academic study of African slavery had shaped his worldview. He appears to have had, personally, a heightened sense of victimhood. All this he turned into the politics of entitlement, which were readily accepted. That, coupled with his belief that guilt could be inherited, served to alienate the European segment in general and the French Creole and off-white community, to which he was connected, in particular. Thus one form of racism was replaced with another. 
We are still living out, in our social life and in our politics, Williams’ divisiveness. Independence did not create a unity of identity; it merely gave us the right to elect politicians from the tribal elements. There lies the challenge for future leaders.

When people change, things loose their relevance.

Here are two examples of what has further contributed to our inability to arrive at a commonly held sense of identity, which should have given us a commonly shared belief in the idea of legacy.

First. Over the last 55 years, we have had an experience that no other Caribbean island has had. Of the more or less 50 percent of the population who are not of Indian descent, more than a third have gone abroad. These emigrants were mostly urban, secondary school educated, more or less middle class. Not to say that Indians haven’t emigrated as well, but not in any significant quantity.  
At the same time, about the same amount of people or more than that of those who left, have come from the islands of the Caribbean.  Those immigrants’ backgrounds were mostly rural and primary school educated. 
This unique demographic transformation has impacted on Trinidad and Tobago politically, socially and culturally, and has significantly diminished the identity of the Afro-Creole sector. More than a ‘brain drain’, it was a deep cultural alteration within the context of the local Afro-Creole culture. The fruit of that culture, produced throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th century, have emigrated, taking their legacy with them. And this is why there are fewer and fewer people to whom the state of the Red House, President’s House or if Queen Street changes its name, has any relevance. When people change, things lose their relevance.
In the Indian-descended segment, now in their fifth or sixth generation of being born Trinidadians, a burgeoning business and professional class has developed, producing a growing middle class, possessed of a large tertiary-educated cohort. 
On the other hand, the decline in intellectual capital amongst the Afro-Creole segment through emigration and immigration has led to the shrinking of their middle class, and to what Professor Selwyn Ryan understands as “the loss of hegemony” of that segment, resulting in what economist Dr. Terrence Farrell describes as an “underachieving society” also in that particular segment. 
It is ironic that the independence movement, which was crafted mainly for the advancement of the Afro-Creole sector, has seen such decline while the marginalised Indo-Trinidadian sector has advanced.

The second factor that has negatively impacted on our collective identity as a people, certainly on discipline and on productivity, was the end of the agricultural economy. Agriculture in Trinidad and Tobago prior to independence was large, racially inclusive and very diverse. It had existed for 200 years, and gave us shared notions of identity, built through the 19th century and into the first half of the 20th. 
For example; there were 13,000 acres planted in citrus that produced 432,000 crates of citrus in 1954. Bananas saw 45,546 stems exported in 1953. Rice production from 288 mills drawn from 18,000 acres produced 12,000 tons of rice. Forest production reserves in 1953, 49,000 acres; protected reserves, 194,900 acres; sugar estates’ cane acreages, 36,000. Farmers’ cane acreages, 44,000; number of farmers, 111,000.
Coconuts, 40,000 acres under cultivation produced 21,400 tons of copra valued at  $1,840,509 in 1953. Our famous cocoa had 120,000 acres under cultivation, this produced 200,000 cwt of cocoa in 1954. Can you imagine the work, the productivity, the discipline, and the compassion that all this engendered? 
One of the effects of the loss of the agricultural sector is that we have become a compassionless society. When you have hundreds of thousands of people, whether they are Indian, white, mixed-race or African people, who are all devoted to the bringing up of livestock, market gardening, vegetable planting, cocoa and coffee cultivation and so on, you have people who have a lot of love for their animals and for their plants. You have to love your donkey! Which brings us to livestock: in 1954, there were 37,900 cattle in Trinidad and Tobago, 3,000 water buffaloes, 39,000 goats, 5,000 sheep, 35,000 pigs, 2,400 horses, 2,800 mules and 6,000 donkeys.

When things lose their relevance, their meanings change. 

The social transformation caused by emigration and immigration within the Afro-Creole segment, in combination with the destruction of the agricultural economy as well as other factors, created a profound dissonance in the body politic and in commonly held ideas of identity and a shared understanding of legacy. 

This dissonance causes us to honour Angelo Bissessarsingh with national awards for his preservation of legacy on the one hand, but to erase, with impunity, the historical street names of our capital city on the other.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Circumstances surrounding the Fedon Revolution of 1795, Grenada

Grenada 28th February 1795

My Lord Duke,

                           I have the honor to receive Your Grace’s Circular Letter of the 3rd December enclosing copies of the Regulations adopted by the Board of Ordinance in passing the accounts of their accountants, and of The King’s Regulations in respect to the carrying on of Fortifications or other Military Services, to which I shall strictly conform.
                           I am also honored with Your Grace’s letter No 5, of the 10th December. I have fully explained to Sir John Vaughan the circumstances which render a strong Military Force of peculiar importance in this Island, and he has promised to remember it as soon as the reinforcement shall arrive. In the mean.

His grace
The Duke of Portland KG
&c                  &c                  &c
Page 2 missing?

Grenada, 28th Feb 1795 
Lt. Gov. Home

R 21st, April
ITEM:                                    Letter (Pages 1 to 5)
DATED:                        15TH March, 1795
FROM:                                    General Sir John Vaughan, Martinique
TO:                                    The Hon Henry Dundas
RECEIVED:                        1st June, 1795 (Duplicate – original not received)
SUBJECT:            Advising
 (a) Receipt of letters dated 3rd, 5th and 9th March from the Council of Grenada informing him that the Enemy (French) had landed at Grenville, had murdered many unresisting people, and had captured Lieut. Gov. Home plus about 30 other planters.
(b) That HMS Quebec (Captain Rogers) followed by HMS Resource had gone to the Island and that HMS Roebuck, outfitted as a hospital ship, was in Grenada at the time the French had landed.
(c) That he had sent Brig. Gen. Lindsay with a small party to take the Command, and that Lieut. Col. Shaw[1] of the 68th Regt. with a detachment of 140 men from the 9th and 68th had been sent from St. Lucia.
(d) That Gen. Seton of St. Vincent informed him that on 10th March the Caribs, abetted by the French, had attacked on that Island and that he had sent a Company of the 46th and 9th Regiments plus, at Gov. Seton’s request, enough arms and ammunition to arm 500 Negroes to assist in defending the Island.
(e)  That Major Malcolm’s force was holding the French in check in St. Lucia and that he had every confidence in Brig. General Stewart’s command in that Island. However, the Enemy was also threatening Antigua and other Colonies. His Squadron was blockading the made Harbour at Guadeloupe, but the French have been using small vessels to escape at night, each with 40 or 50 men bound for St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada.
(f) That he was extremely mortified at the situation and most disappointed at the long delay in sending reinforcements and provisions for the Fleet etc.
ENCLOSURE:            A letter captured from the French was enclosed with General Vaughan’s letter, but a copy of that enclosure is not held.

[1] Also seen spelt as Schaw in letters from Gov. Mackenzie of Grenada
ITEM:                                    Letter (Pages 1 to 7)
DATED:                        28TH March, 1795
FROM:                                    K. F. Mackenzie – Acting Governor, Grenada
TO:                                    The Duke of Portland, K.G. – Whitehall, England
SUBJECT:            Advising
 (a) General insurrection of French Free Coloured people on 2nd March, massacre of White English inhabitants at Grenville, capture of White English inhabitants at Charlotte Town, including Lieutenant Governor (Ninian) Home who was on his way back to St. George’s by sea,  and  others from several estates in the Country.
(b) That he, Mackenzie, as the then senior member of the Council, had assumed command of the Island and had immediately placed the Island under Martial Law and sent Express Boats to inform the Governors of St. Vincent and Trinidad, the Captains of any British ships which the Express Boats might encounter, and the commanders of the British Land and Sea Forces (based, at the time, in Martinique)
(c) That, for a number of reasons,  attacks ordered against the Insurrectionists had all failed and that, with the assistance of a party of marines under the command of Captain Rogers from HMS Quebec, and of 40 soldiers and three armed ships sent by Governor Chacon of Trinidad, he had decided to focus on defending St. George’s until reinforcements arrived.
 (d) That Brigadier General Genera Lindsay had arrived from Martinique on the 12th March to take command but that, after initial success in capturing the lower of the enemy’s three Posts, (at what is now called Fedon’s Camp)had contracted fever and, in a fit of delusion, had committed suicide.
(e)  That Lieutenant Colonel Schaw of the 60th Regiment, who took over command of the Troops, and other officers had all concluded that their Force was to small to mount an effective attack against the remaining two Posts. As a result, he, Mackenzie, was forced to act on the defensive until reinforcements could arrive.
(f) He ends by praising the assistance provided by Captain Rogers and by Gov. Chacon and Don Churruca, the commanding officer of the Spanish force from Trinidad, but severely criticizing works at the Richmond Hill Prison..
No 22 Secret                                                                                          4--
                                                                    Martinico the 16th April 1795
                  My last letter to you of the 27th March inclosed(sic) the latest account I had then received of affairs in Grenada.                                                                     The Convoy under the orders of R. Adm. Parker arrived at Barbados on and about the 30th March. The situations of the Islands of St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada were equally critical and pressing for support – In the first the Enemy comprised bodies of revolted Negroes, headed by people from Guadaloupe, had increased in Numbers and arms so that we were reduced to the possession of M. Fr…. And the Town; the Enemy had taken Post upon two different points at a short distance from the ------ which they threatened to attack.-                                            
At St. Vincent the Charibs(sic) notwithstanding their defeat on Dorsetshire Hill, were in full possession of all the windward country, and we could not – more than guard Kingstown and the Fort.The interior of Grenada was wholly exposed to the Enemy in that Island, who were gaining daily in seducing the Negroes to their cause, and the untimely death of Brig. General Lindsay had again let the Command devolve upon a Gentleman respectable as a civilian but totally unqualified for the conduct of Military operations. As Grenada is a very valuable Colony, I (thought) deserved the first attention. I therefore sent Major Picton D.2. Maj. Gen. to meet the Convoy at Barbados with order to detach from thence without delay three of the Battalions most fit for service, and a strong Party of artillery; which I had reason to think was a force adequate to restore tranquility upon their appearance.
Unfortunately in this instance, as in many others, the evil effect of the Reinforcement being not half the strength which from your letters I had expected, has been much experienced – Major Picton finding the weakened state of the number of Troops in the Convoy, consulted with Colonel Nicolls, and with his advice ordered but two Battalions to Grenada, the 25th and 29th under the Command of Lieut. Col. Campbell.
I had left some discretion in the Orders which I sent by Major Picton, and he considered that as the whole Force arrived was smaller than was looked for, that the several parts must be proportional- I approved of this Reason; being of opinion that even two Battalions, if fit for Service, would accomplish the Business without much Difficulty.-
This Force landed at Grenada on the first Instant, and such a Disposition was made, as the president had upon Reflection and Knowledge of the Country thought and decided to be the best –
On the 12th Instant the Account reached me that the Troops had failed in an attack made upon the Enemy’s principal Post, with some loss.
I cannot enter into a detail of these transactions, it would require a great deal of Time, and that I can refer you for particulars to the several inclosures(sic)—the subject which I transmit from Mr. President MacKenzie and Lieut. Col. Campbell –
I must acknowledge that this turn of affairs was unlooked for by me-
As it was evident that a Commanding Officer was wanting, I instantly sent off Colonel Nicolls whom I had promoted to the Rank of Brigadier to take the Command. He left this on the 12th Inst. with every direction for his conduct which I could think of, but it is yet too soon to hear from him.
The remaining three Regiments which arrived at Barbados were ordered immediately here; as I have no doubt that they would be greatly inferior to the 46th and 61st Regts I had these Regiments in perfect readiness to embark, which they did the following day: the 46th I sent to St. Vincent, and the 34th and 61st to St. Lucia – The Battalion of the Queens and 45th were landed at Martinico.
It is very mortifying to me that the imminent danger to which each of the three abovementioned Islands were reduced, indeed this disposition unavoidable, by which the acting Force was in three Divisions_
A few days previous to receiving the Reinforcement and indeed, previous to the arrival of the Troops at Barbados Brig. Gen. Stewart at St. Lucia had fail’d in our attempt to dislodge the Enemy from one of their strongholds- I had given him Notice that he should soon be able to act offensively again, and desired him to be prepared with a plan of Operations-
When the 34th and 61st Reg. with a Detachment of Royal Arty. arrived, the Brigadier endeavoured to cut off the Enemy from the interior of the Country but in this he did not succeed; they retreated and he could only burn their Camp. He is now engaged in an attack upon Vieux Fort and Neighbourhood which is their principal Rendezvous, and where they receive their supplies.-
St. Vincent has been more fortunate in attacks upon the Enemy. The 46th Regt enabled Governor Seton to attempt three Posts of the Enemy in the night of the 10th inst. which were all successful and this barbarous Enemy driven to the Mountains with the loss of their Guns, but they have destroyed by Fire almost every Plantation on the Windward side of the Island.
In this Situation we now remain.
The other Islands have also been in a state of Danger, which required the utmost exertion on their own parts to ward off.
In Antigua and St. Kitts the inhabitants have been under arms for several weeks and  must remain so.
Necessity has convinced the Legislature of these Islands, however averse they were to the Principles, that they must have recourse to such Negroes, as they think they can rely on, for the defense of their Properties; and accordingly in each, they have arm’d and embodied a large Number._ I had no Troops at my command to send them although the important Garrison of Brimstone Hill consists only of about seventy Invalids which were sent from Guadeloupe unfit for duty in the month of October last, for the recovery of their health_ It has there given me the greatest concern that I have not rec’d His Majesty’s approbation for forming strong bodies of Blacks.. Nothing in my opinion can be more certain than the indispensable necessity there is for this measure _ It is to the Black forces under Lieut. Colonel Soter that we owe the possession of Martinico at this Moment.
It is to the lately raised Corps of Blacks under Capt. Malcolm that we have been able to retain our footing in St. Lucia. I do aver that had it not been for the Services of these two provincial – that both these Islands would before now have been lost._ It is in these Islands that my recommendation to establish Corps of Blacks is meant, the English Islands having Governors and Legislatures of their own, may judge for themselves.
I believe all of them have more or less adopted the plan and in compliance with their earnest solicitations I have supplied them with considerable quantities of Arms and Ammunition for their Militia and Negroes.
St. Vincent has only saved the small part of the Island which remains undevasted(sic) by the arming of Negroes. With all these proofs in support of an opinion I had formed since I cannot but with infinite Regret reflect that a set of self-interested Merchants who will not give a small part to save the remainder, should be attended to in the conducting of Operations in this Country, in preference to an officer commanding in Chief, who can have no motive but his own Credit, and the success of His Majesty’s Arms. I hope that Ministry will yet weigh this important Point with the attention it deserves.
Confident of His Majesty’s approbation, I had ordered Soter’s and Malcolm’s Corps to be augmented to four Companies each, of One hundred men per Company. The men for this service are obtained from the Colony, and the proprietors are to be paid their value by a Tax upon the whole Island.
It is an unpleasant part of my Duty to state to you the condition of the 45th Reg. I hesitate not to say that it is totally unfit for Service in any climate and more particularly here. It is chiefly composed of Boys, who have not strength to carry arms, and the Regiment has no article of Clothing suitable to this Country. It is injustice to expect successful service from such a Battalion. I speak not as a fault to be imputed to their officers, as the Regiment was completed, I understand, by a large number of raw Recruits previous to Embarkation.
The Battalion of the Queens appears better but have only three or four of their own officers, the others being from independent Companies.
Your letters No: and 11, with the dispatches directed to the Dutch Governors of their several Colonies in the West Indies, I had the Honor to receive last Night; and the Chesterfield packet arrived with the duplicates at the same time.
It is my first desire to execute all His Majesty’s Commands; and I should with the utmost sense of Gratification, proceed upon the Directions contained in our letters relative to the Dutch Colonies, with the Forces under my Command adequate to the service; But Sir, as they are unequal at present, and are struggling to maintain our own Colonies; they are consequently still more unequal for the further service in question.
For this obvious Reason it is not to be expected any of the Dutch Colonies can be guarded by us if they are disposed to receive our Troops as Friends --we are able to secure the quiet possession of our own.
The Situation of the several Islands, and indeed the importance of great attention to the interior of Martinico has made it absolutely necessary for me to remain in this Colony as the center of all, and the most advantageous to receive or transmit Orders and Supplies from and to all the others; But for this I should certainly have been at St. Lucia and Grenada.
The Admiral has appointed a Convoy to sail from St. Kitts on the first of May, by which will be sent the Officers and Non Com. Officers of the drafted Regts. including the 58th and 64th. Also the French prisoners to the amount of above Seven hundred; as many of them are people of a very dangerous class here, I shall transmit with them an account of all who are of this description. The Enemy still retains their Prisoners at P.a Pitre, contrary to the Treaty of Capitulation.

I have the honor to be Sir, your Very Obedt. Humble

Servant                                        John Vaughan
Right Honorable,                                                  Henry Dundas

The Admiral will dispatch a Frigate immediately to the Governor of Demerary to deliver the dispatches of His Serene Highness the Prince Stadtholder; and a joint Letter from us to your Letter No. 11-
Quarter Mas. Genl. has received 5000 shoes, Flannel Waistcoats and drawers: and I request another supply of these articles as soon as they can be sent –
NB. 5 Inclosures
No. 23

Martinico – sixteenth April 1795

The Enemy having gain’d to their cause many of the French Inhabitants and Negroes in Grenada, and concerted measures for raising an Insurrection in that Colony, which from the perfidy of the inhabitants alluded to, they were invited to attempt.
They convey’d to that Island early in last March a quantity of arms and ammunition, with a small Number of Troops, which secretly joining themselves to the Conspirators appear’d suddenly in arms.
Lieut. Governor Home, and many other Gentlemen in the Country, were surprised and made Prisoners. His Majesty’s Troops being employ’d on many points, this dangerous Revolt could not be immediately suppressed; though from the Exertions of Capt. Rogers, H.M.S. the Quebec, and of the small Garrison there join’d to the Militia they were kept in cheque. (sic).   
The unfortunate death of Br.General Lindsay, ----- I sent to command there/ a few days after his arrival, retarded the Operations against them upon the arrival of the Reinforcement under the Command of Rear Adm. Parker at Barbados, two Battalions with a detachment of Royal Artillery was order’d to Grenada,
Several Skirmishes have happen’d since their landing in one of which, on the tenth Instant, it is with concern I have learnt that Captain Stopford[1] of the 9th Regt, Capt, Hewan[2] 25th and Baillie of the 29th were kill’d; and about twenty men killed and sixty wounded; owing entirely to their attempting the side of a steep Mountain defended wit abbatis(sic)[3].
Brig. General Nicolls whom I have sent to command there, will I am satisfied make every exertion to subdue this Enemy; and I trust soon to receive good Accounts from him.
I am sorry to add that the Enemy has committed many acts of Barbarity.
In St. Vincent, the Charibs(sic) instigated by the French and joined by most of the French Inhabitants, seized a favorable time most treacherously to attack the English Inhabitants of that Colony: the Acts of cruelty which they have committed upon defenseless Men, Women and Children are beyond Description; and burning every Plantation in their power.
Fortunately by Governor Seton’s Exertion, and of the Navy under Capt. Skinner of the Zebra, with the spirited behaviour of the Garrison and Inhabitants, they were                                                                                                                   (cont’d on page 3)
Beaten from a Post they occupied over Kingston, with the loss of their Chief; and the arrival of the 46th Reg. has enabled the Governor again to attack them, which he did on the tenth instant; and succeeded in driving them from three positions, with considerable loss on their side, and but small upon ours.    
I am in hope they will experience a just Punishment for their inhuman and unprovoked conduct.
The Colony from their Devastations is reduced to a very distressed Situation.
Frequent skirmishes pass at St. Lucia but as Brig. Gen. Stewart has received a considerable Reinforcement I flatter myself he will be able to make such an Impression upon the Enemy as will restore the Island to order.-
I have the Honor to be,
                                    With Great Respect
                              Your Most Obed.Hum. Servant
                                    John Vaughan

Right Hon’ble
      Henry Dundas

[1] Henry Stopford
[2] Tho. Barftow Hewan
[3] Abatis. A defense made of trees with boughs pointed outwards.
Most private
Martinique –18 April 1795

     I am very sorry to find by your letter of the 19 February that in consequence of the opinions of some West India Planters and Merchants in London, you disapprove of the arming of the Blacks to be commanded by British Officers for the defense of the Colonies and that His Majesty desires I will refrain from the measure at least for the present.
I must confess that I am not surprised at this opinion of the x x Merchants and Planters in England, because six or eight months ago, I am well informed that the Planters resident in these Islands thought exactly in the same manner. But the late transaction at Guadaloupe first opened the eyes of the most enlightened and least prejudiced amongst them: and what has lately at St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada has left no difference of Sentiment on this subject in their breasts. It is fair to argue that those who are on the spot, and see themselves and families exposed to dangers of the most trying kind, are more fitted to form an opinion on this subject than those who are at the distance of three thousand miles, and who have nothing but loss of property to contemplate.
For my own part, when I see that the war in this part of the Globe is carried on in the unexampled manner it now is; that the enemy avail themselves of the aid, not only of the native white men, but of the negroes who are incured(sic) to the Climate, can brave the dangers of it, and can be easily procured in such great numbers, whilst we are confined to the use of European troops, few in numbers, and in discipline, and exposed to the ravages of an unhealthy climate with which they are unable to contend, and to which they fall such numerous victims, I cannot hesitate to declare it as my opinion that unless His Majesty will be graciously pleased to sanction and promote this measure of xx forming negroe(sic) men into Regiments xx commanded by British Officers; or will send out a greater number of veteran British troops than has usually been done, I am afraid all these colonies will be wrested out of our hands and at no great distance of time.
Had it not been for the French negroes, which I suddenly and on the pressure of the moment armed in this Island and sent over to St. Lucia under the command of Major Malcolm, I am persuaded that Colony would have been long since lost to us. Nor are you a stranger to the great utility which Lieut. Col. Seton’s Company of blacks have been of in preserving tranquility in the interior of this Island. Besides it will be prudent at this ^time to keep alive the animosity which it is well known has hitherto subsisted between the English and French Blacks by arming the former against the latter. As otherwise it is to be feared that in case of invasion of any of our old Islands by the French, our slaves may be induced by the alluring offer of freedom to join their brethren in arms.
Some of the Islands, particularly those of Antigua and St. Kitts, have since the disasters of Grenada and St. Vincent, already armed large bodies of their negroes, and occasionally muster and discipline them for their internal defense in case of invasion, and I have little doubt but that ere long some if not all of these Colonies will spontaneously offer a certain proportion of their slaves to His Majesty to constitute a part of his army here. Should this offer be made to me as His Majesty’s confidential servant here, I cannot but confess that I shall feel myself very awkwardly situated. The struggle within my breast on this occasion is very great. My Inclination, no less than my Duty points out to me the strictest obedience to His Majesty’s will.
I must beg leave to state to you that the war in these Colonies is now carried on in a manner totally different to what it was before, even in Sir Charles Grey’s time, for the enemy now make it a war of posts, instead of making the xx Sovereignty of the Island their only object as before. They endeavour by every means to harass and weaken our regular forces hoping thereby, and by myriads of negroes they have at their command, ultimately to wrest from us these valuable Colonies.
 I undertook this Command with the sole view of promoting the good of my Country, and securing the Dignity and Honour of my Gracious Sovereign, and my most unremitted endeavours shall never be wanting to attain such desirable ends.

I have the honour to be with the greatest respect
your most obedient and most humble servant
John Vaughan
Grenada, 24th April, 1795
My Lord Duke,
                           In my letter of the 28th of March I had the honour to acquaint Your Grace with the particulars of a General Insurrection which had broken out in this Island and of the situation of our affairs to that period.
In pursuance of the Plan which I then stated to your Grace, one hundred Regulars and Militia under Captain Gurdon of the 58th Regiment embarked on two armed vessels with orders to effect a landing at Grenville Bay, and a party of fifty Militia were stationed at the Observatory, a commanding situation at five miles distance, to watch their debarkation and march to support them.—Captain Gurdon not thinking it advisable to enter Grenville Bay landed his party at Levera at the windward end of the Island, and joined the Militia at the observatory from whence he marched on the 2nd of April towards Grenville Bay but finding the Enemy in possession of the Pilots Hill, which it was intended he should occupy, and protected apparently by two pieces of Cannon, he thought his Force insufficient for the Enterprise & returned to the observatory. An extract of his Letter to me of the 3rd of April is enclosed for your Grace’s further information. (No.1)
         Under the idea that the landing place at Grenville Bay would be secured by Capt. Gurdon’s Detachment, I dispatched an express to meet the Commanding Officer of our expected Reinforcements, stating our situation, and desiring him to .land his Force in three divisions at Grenville Bay, Charlotte Town and St. George’s; as the only effectual Way of subduing the Insurgents would be by making a General movement towards the different avenues of their Camp at the same moment. My messenger found the 25th & 29th Regiments on their way from Barbados under the command of Lieut. Col. Campbell of the 29th to whom he delivered my Letter No. 2.
Lieut. Col. Campbell proceeded with the Fleet to Charlotte Town & there disembarked the two Regiments on the 1st instant.  On hearing of his arrival I had an interview with him to concert the best measures for employing his force, and I communicated the letter from Capt. Gurdon the moment I received it.  A detachment of three hundred men was re embarked for St. George’s under Major Mallory[1] of the 29th and a detachment of 250 men under the command of Major Wright of the 25th Regiment marched through the woods to support Capt. Gurdon[2].   Major Mallory’s detachment was intended to take post at Michel’s, a hill beyond the Grand Etang which commands the principal communication between Grenville Bay and the Enemy’s Camp, and from whence it was judged that their heavy supplies might be intercepted and their retreat cut off.
This detachment marched from St. George’s on the 4th, dislodged a party of the Enemy posted at Madame Ache’s, about 5 miles from the Town, and halted there for the night.
Ill health and a wound prevented Major Mallory from proceeding next day, and obliged me to order Lieut. Col. Eshe of the 68th Regiment from Charlotte town to take the Command which he assumed on the 6th, and had the Instructions No. 3 for his guidance, but as he thought his Force unequal to the difficulties which were to be encountered, no further progress was made by him.          I refer to his two letters of the 8th, my letter of the 9th and his reply of the same date for your Grace’s further information.
Major Wright’s detachment joined Captain Gurdon’s at Mount Horne, an estate above Grenville Bay, but as Major Wright’s detachment were much fatigued by the march and Capt. Gurdon had left some sick men and a Guard at the observatory, it was agreed to return to that Post and apply for some Artillery provisions and necessaries, to enable them to make their attack. These were immediately sent; and landed at Levera on the morning of the 7th, but Major Wright made no further movement; and unfortunately on the 8th a schooner from Guadeloupe escaped our Cruisers and brought the Enemy a supply of ammunition and officers. Major Wright’s letter to Lieut. Colonel Campbell written on the 9th (No. 7) will show the state of his detachment and the letter No. 8 from the officers of the Enemy’s Post at Grenville Bay to Fedon their Chief, which has fallen into my hands, will show their situation previous to the arrival of the schooner.
The failure of these two enterprises put an end to the plan of a general cooperation of the different detachments against the Enemy’s Camp, on which alone I had built my hopes of restoring our tranquility, but as delay was of every ill consequence to us and of every advantage to the Enemy, it was judged best to make an assault upon their Camp from the post before Belvidere which was still in our possession. Captain Watkins of His Majesty’s Ship Resource, gallantly offered his services, and collected one hundred and fifty volunteer seamen to assist Lieut. Col. Campbell and the Troops in the enterprise.
The Party moved on the morning of the 8th and the Enemy abandoned their lower camp on its approach, and retreated to their upper Post, which was found to be strongly defended by the inaccessible nature of the Ground, and by fallen trees interlaced in the nature of an Abbatis (sic). The ardor and resolution of the seamen and Troops led them to press forward notwithstanding these difficulties, and endeavour to gain possession of a Gun which was advanced from the summit of the Enemy’s position, but the heavy rains which had fallen made it scarce possible for the men to keep their feet- in climbing the hill and making their way through the fallen trees and underwood, their arms were of no service to them, and they were exposed to a very heavy and galling Fire from the Enemy, and after a painful and gallant effort, they were forced to retreat. I have the honour to enclose Your Grace, a Return of the killed and wounded. (No. 9)
Such, My Lord, were the Plans which I formed for the re-establishment of our affairs. They were the best which I could devise; but untoward accidents, in every instance, prevented their being carried into execution. I therefore considered it essential for His Majesty’s Service that the command of the Island should be put into the hands of a General Officer; under whom it was probable the army would act with more vigour and confidence than could well be expected from them under a Person whose profession was not Arms; and who could enforce that degree of discipline which is necessary on active service. I accordingly sent a letter by Express to Sir John Vaughan containing the particulars of our situation, stating the necessity of a vigorous and united effort against the Enemy, and making an earnest request that he would without delay send us a General Officer vested with the full command- who by making the whole Force of the Country act in concert, might rid it of an evil which threatened its ruin. Brigadier General Nicolls arrived here, and took the Command on the 16th in consequence of this application. The embodying and arming of trusty Negroes for internal defence having been found an advantageous measure in some of the other Islands, he has adopted a similar plan in this, and near three hundred Negroes in the Town and its Neighbourhood have enlisted. The post at Mde Ache’s is withdrawn, and the General is making preparations for an attack on Pilot’s Hill, where the Enemy are said to be now strongly in trenched.
From the long continuance of this Insurrection, the defection among the Plantation Negroes has become general and the Enemy are daily training them to Arms. The uninterrupted licence which they have had to wander at large thro’ the Country, and to plunder and burn the Estates, has ruined them for every valuable purpose, and it must be a length of time before the Colony returns to its former tranquility, even should success attend the future operations against the Enemy. On this subject, I fear to be sanguine. The 25th and 29th Regiments are composed of men unaccustomed to Service and unseasoned to the climate, and the delays which have taken place, have given to the Insurgents strength, numbers and confidence.-
[The Colony has already been put to a very heavy expense in supporting the Militia, and maintaining a number of vessels which it has been necessary to employ in the public service, and it is to be feared these expenses must be continued a considerable time. Hitherto, I have been able to make a sum which remained in the hands of the Colony Treasurer answer for such advances as were immediately necessary. But as this sum is daily lessening and as there is no possibility of levying any tax in the present confusion, I much fear it will not be in my power to avoid making some drafts on His Majesty’s Treasury for the support of our Public Credit. Your Grace may be assured that I shall not adopt this measure but upon the next pressing necessity and that I shall use the best precautions in my power to make the Legislature responsible for the repayment of the sum as soon as the situation of the Colony will any way permit it.]
It is with sincere concern I must add, that from different accounts we have received by Negroes who have escaped from the Camp, there can remain little if any doubt that the Lieutenant Governor and his unfortunate fellow Prisoners were massacred on the day of the attack by an order of Julien Fédon, except the Revd. Mr. McMahon, Dr John Hay and a Mr. Kerr, who it is reported have been sent prisoners to Guadeloupe. Two negroes are here who say they were present, one at the commencement and the other during the whole of the Butchery.
I have also the great mortification to acquaint Your Grace with the death of Capt. Rogers of His Majesty’s Ship Quebec, an excellent Officer and a Good Man, whom this Colony will long remember with gratitude for his zealous and unremitted exertions in its favour.         He was seized with a violent attack of fever on the 21 and died this afternoon –
   I have the honor to be
                                                      My Lord Duke,
                                                               Your Grace’s
                                                               most obedient and
                                                               most humble Servant
                                                                        K. F. MacKenzie

[1] Major John Mallory
[2] Throughout his “Short Account of The Insurrection”, D.G. Garraway spelt the name as Guerdon. However, the published list of the officers of the “Fifty-eighth (or the Rutlandshire) Regt. Of Foot” gives his name as Ph. Brampton Gurdon; the spelling found in this and other letters.
Lieut. Governor Home[1]         

No. 8                  I have received and laid before the King your letter of the 20th of February last.
I highly approve of the steps which you have taken for the preservation of the Island under your Government and I have no doubt but the same exertions will be continued until such an effectual Reinforcement shall arrive as cannot fail of completely re:establishing our Authority in that Quarter.
I have been, for some time, under great uneasiness, on account of a report which has been current here that the French have landed in Grenada, and committed some depredations in that Island, but as no official accounts have been yet received in confirmation thereof, I am, on many accounts, in anxious expectation of further information on this subject.
     I am  ..

[1] At the time this letter was written Governor Ninian Home and some 47 other English inhabitants had already been massacred by Fedon at his Camp at Belvidere Estate, in response to an attack on the Camp by the British Forces  on the  8th April, 1795
Grenada 16th May 1795

My Lord Duke,
I had the honor in my letter of the 24th April to state at large to your Grace the situation of the Public affairs of this Colony to that Point. Two days after our Posts in the heights above Charlotte Town were evacuated, and the expedition against Grenville bay was undertaken, but the Enemy abandoned Pilot Hill, and retreated to the heights on the second night after landing of the Troops in the neighborhood.
Brigadier General Nicolls has since occupied Pilot Hill, established Posts at Sauteurs and at Negrin, and reinforced Charlotte Town.
The remainder of the Troops and Militia are in garrisons in the Town & Fortifications.
By this arrangement, the principal landing places are in some measure protected but the interior of the Island is left open to the Enemy and but few of the might explain the Plans which I had adopted for the restoration of public order, and the circumstances which had rendered them ineffectual. The principal part of these Papers have been already communicated to your Grace in my letter of the 24th April.- Such as were omitted I now add. (No. 13) – No. 14 contains a Resolution of the House of Assembly after having considered these Papers.
 I have the honour to inclose a State of His Majesty’s Council on the 8th instant (No. 15) and regret the vacancy which has happened by the resignation of Mr. Thomas Campbell, one of the oldest and most respectable Inhabitants of this Colony, but his health was so reduced, that an immediate removal from the Island became indispensible – As it was necessary to have a sufficient number of Councillors to form a Board, I appointed John Garraway and John Tate Esquires, to act as Councillors until His Majesty’s pleasure should be known – These Gentlemen are respectable Merchants resident in St. George’s, and the former commands the St. George’s Militia. I beg leave to recommend them to His Majesty, for confirmation.
The French Schooner which I mentioned in my last letter as having arrived from Guadeloupe with succours to the Enemy early in April, brought over a number of Copies the inclosed printed Paper (No. 16) which have been industriously distributed in the Island.- Altho’ the gross misrepresentations which fill this Paper are apparent to any Person in the least acquainted with what has happened.  I thought it might be attended with good effects upon the ignorant, the wavering, and the inconsiderate, to make a short and plain comment on the Proclamation of the 4th of March, and on
  (No. 17) this Decree, and to publish them together. The arrival of Brigadier General Nicolls, who thought differently, prevented this publication from taking place.- I cannot, however, but be of opinion that strictures of this nature, published occasionally by Government in the West Indies, would be attended with good effects, as they would, in some instances, counterwork the French Publications, which evidently 
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