The Black Carib Wars

The Black Carib Wars: Freedom, Survival, and the Making of the Garifuna

Christopher Taylor
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 224
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    The Black Carib Wars
    Book Description:

    InThe Black Carib Wars, Christopher Taylor offers the most thoroughly researched history of the struggle of the Garifuna people to preserve their freedom on the island of St. Vincent.

    Today, thousands of Garifuna people live in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the United States, preserving their unique culture and speaking a language that directly descends from that spoken in the Caribbean at the time of Columbus. All trace their origins back to St. Vincent where their ancestors were native Carib Indians and shipwrecked or runaway West African slaves--hence the name by which they were known to French and British colonialists: Black Caribs.

    In the 1600s they encountered Europeans as adversaries and allies. But from the early 1700s, white people, particularly the French, began to settle on St. Vincent. The treaty of Paris in 1763 handed the island to the British who wanted the Black Caribs' land to grow sugar. Conflict was inevitable, and in a series of bloody wars punctuated by uneasy peace the Black Caribs took on the might of the British Empire. Over decades leaders such as Tourouya, Bigot, and Chatoyer organized the resistance of a society which had no central authority but united against the external threat. Finally, abandoned by their French allies, they were defeated, and the survivors deported to Central America in 1797.

    The Black Carib Warsdraws on extensive research in Britain, France, and St. Vincent to offer a compelling narrative of the formative years of the Garifuna people.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-311-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments and Note on Text
    (pp. ix-1)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    The sun peeked timidly through the clouds above Dorsetshire Hill as the last flourish of the Vincentian national anthem lingered on the steel pan. The schoolchildren fidgeted through the brief speeches which the eye of the television camera dutifully recorded. Then came a sound, a tune vaguely familiar, but sung in a language few present could understand. It had been heard in St. Vincent the previous day in Kingstown’s Catholic cathedral and now the sixteen-strong delegation, returning from exile, were once again singing the Lord’s Prayer in Garifuna, a language known on this island long before people speaking English, French,...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Youroumaÿn
    (pp. 9-24)

    Youroumaÿn. That was the name the Caribs gave to the island Europeans knew as St. Vincent—or at least that was how it was recorded by Adrien Le Breton, a Jesuit missionary who spent ten years living there at the end of the seventeenth century.¹ No more than twenty-two miles from north to south and fourteen to sixteen miles wide, with fertile land to grow crops, woods to hunt game, and a surrounding sea abundant with fish, Youroumaÿn had everything that the Caribs needed. The mountain at its center is a volcano, responsible in the geological past for the island’s...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Good Friends, Cruel Enemies
    (pp. 25-50)

    In January 1723 two British ships called at St. Vincent on a special mission. The commander of the expedition, John Braithwaite, was under orders to inform the island’s inhabitants that they should consider themselves “natural born subjects of Great-Britain” and to sound them out about admitting British settlers.

    Braithwaite’s expedition began inauspiciously. The “Indian chief” he lavished with presents turned out to be nothing of the sort but an impostor sent to test the extent of British largesse. When he was surrounded by an armed group and taken inland to meet the natives’ “General”—who, alarmingly, appeared to be advised...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Quel Roi?
    (pp. 51-78)

    On 10 February 1763 Paris was witness to a display of diplomatic pomp and circumstance as the representatives of the crowns of France, Great Britain, and Spain assembled to put a formal end to seven years of warfare. The negotiations had taken months. John Russell, the fourth Duke of Bedford, had been dispatched to the French capital the previous September and had spent an uncomfortable time troubled by gout and chafing at the restrictions imposed by his masters in London. Representing Spain (and Portugal) was Pablo Jerónimo Grimaldi y Pallavicini, the Italian-born Marquis and Duke of Grimaldi, minister plenipotentiary and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Allies of the French
    (pp. 79-98)

    St. Vincent’s planters stewed in resentment at the Black Caribs’ continued occupation of the island’s prime sugar country, but they had another pressing concern. The slaves upon whose work the colonial economy depended were not content to stay on the plantation. Too many were simply taking the chance to run away to freedom.

    A country-born male slave cost £75–£80 in St. Vincent compared with £45–50 for a man imported direct from Africa,¹ so the loss of each slave had a significant impact both in terms of the cost of replacement and the labor lost. The government believed that...

  9. CHAPTER 5 A Pity It Belongs to the Caribs
    (pp. 99-114)

    St. Vincent formally passed back to British rule on 1 January 1784. The Caribs would now have to deal directly with their sworn enemies. Undefeated but traduced by the French, the Caribs greeted the arrival of the British troops who arrived to take possession of the island with “visible surprize and consternation.”¹ Under the terms of the 1773 treaty the Caribs had promised allegiance to King George III. Clearly, siding with the French over the previous five years had put them in breach of that treaty. The British, however, did not take punitive measures against them. The planters would later...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Cry of Liberty
    (pp. 115-135)

    Victor Hugues had arrived in the Caribbean in 1794 at the age of about thirty-two. His mission was to spread the fire of revolution through the West Indies and seize whatever British islands he could. The Marseille-born Jacobin² was armed with the decision of the French National Convention to abolish slavery although he himself had prospered in the slave-based economy of St.-Domingue (Haiti).³ Within five months he had taken Guadeloupe from a superior British force and exacted bloody revenge on those he deemed traitors to the new French republic by means of the guillotine he had brought with him from...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Calvary of the Caribs
    (pp. 136-145)

    After his decisive victory at the Vigie, Abercromby turned his attention to “the Object which presses most upon my Mind at this Moment”¹—the question of the Caribs. The general was under orders to remove the Caribs from the island but the detail of the operation was anything but clear. First, the planters had greatly underestimated the number of Caribs. Abercromby suggested, with impressive accuracy for someone who had been in the country a matter of days, that there were in fact some five thousand men, women, and children. The second problem was where to send them. After years of...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Aftermath
    (pp. 146-160)

    The ten-strong convoy of ships¹ headed first for Grenada where they took on water. From there the flotilla, which also carried three hundred British military invalids, sailed to Port Royal in Jamaica where it spent two weeks taking on supplies and troops and conducting repairs. One ship, theJohn and Mary, was so disabled that the Caribs aboard were transferred to other vessels. The voyage was not without incident. Two ships, one Danish and one Spanish, were captured and one of the transport ships, thePrince William Henrywith some three hundred Caribs aboard, was lost to the Spanish near...

  13. APPENDIX 1. The Anglo-Carib Peace Treaty of 1773
    (pp. 161-164)
  14. APPENDIX 2. Return of the Charaibs landed at Baliseau from July 26th 96 to Feb 2nd 1797
    (pp. 165-166)
  15. APPENDIX 3. Numbers, Names, and Ages of Charibs Surrendered, taken the 28th May, 1805
    (pp. 167-168)
  16. APPENDIX 4. The Indigenous Population
    (pp. 169-171)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 172-193)
  18. Further Reading and Bibliography
    (pp. 194-199)
  19. Index
    (pp. 200-204)