Caribbean Visionary

Caribbean Visionary: A. R. F. Webber and the Making of the Guyanese Nation

Selwyn R. Cudjoe
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvh0s
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  • Book Info
    Caribbean Visionary
    Book Description:

    Caribbean Visionary: A. R. F. Webber and the Making of the Guyanese Nationtraces the life of Albert Raymond Forbes Webber (1880-1932), a distinguished Caribbean scholar, statesman, legislator, and novelist. Using Webber as a lens, the book outlines the Guyanese struggle for justice and equality in an age of colonialism, imperialism, and indentureship. In this fascinating work, Selwyn R. Cudjoe examines Webber's emergence from the interior of Guyana to become a major presence in Caribbean politics.

    Caribbean Visionaryexamines Webber's insightful novel,Those That Be in Bondage, his travel writings, and his poetry. The book chronicles his formation of the West Indian Press Association, his work on British Guiana's constitution, and his championing of its people's causes. Cudjoe studies Webber's work with the British Guiana Labour Union to improve the conditions of the Guyanese working people and Webber's authorship of the Centenary History and Handbook of British Guiana.

    An important addition to Caribbean intellectual history, Caribbean Visionary is an indispensable work for scholars interested in the region's literature, political science, and economic thought. It is also an invaluable resource for those who wish to understand the genesis of contemporary Guyana and the English-speaking Caribbean.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-332-7
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
  3. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. XI-XII)
  4. NOTE ON NOMENCLATURE
    (pp. XIII-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-14)

    On thursday, june 30, 1932, theNew Daily Chronicleshocked the consciousness of Guyanese people when it reported the sudden death of Albert Raymond Forbes Webber, one the country’s most brilliant statesmen. For a person who seemed to be in the best of health and relatively young (he was fifty-two years old at the time), and who enjoyed tremendous popularity among the people, his death came as a great shock to the community and represented the passing of an important symbol of his people’s resistance to colonial domination. A day later, in an apparent reference to the bravery and loyalty...

  6. CHAPTER ONE THOSE THAT BE IN BONDAGE
    (pp. 15-23)

    Webber began his literary career by writing poetry. When his work appeared in 1916, he enjoyed two advantages. He had a good understanding of the problems of the laboring classes, and he knew the geography of his adopted country well. He described himself as “an old bushman” and boasted that he had walked from one end of the country to another.¹ Many Guyanese believed that he was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society “solely on his knowledge of the hinterland of British Guiana.”² Louis Ross believes that his elder brother, Everil Ross (1893-?), and Webber started a literary...

  7. CHAPTER TWO THE PRIVATE THOUGHTS OF A POLITICAL MAN: The Making of A. R. F. Webber, 1917–19
    (pp. 24-37)

    The end of the great war (1914–18) ushered in new social and political relations in the Caribbean and the colonial world and made questions of self-determination and racial awareness even more urgent. Not that there were no indigenous liberation movements prior to the war, but the contradictions in the colonial-capitalist world simply gave colonial peoples a better opening and a greater determination to continue their struggle for liberation. In a way, it allowed more people to speak about their liberation in their countries with greater confidence and assurance. A. J. P. Taylor, a British historian, noted: “In 1917 European...

  8. CHAPTER THREE WEBBER’S ENTRANCE TO THE POLITICAL ARENA, 1919–21
    (pp. 38-46)

    Those that be in bondageandglints from an anvilestablished Webber as a literary light in his society and made him more respectable to the business community. Up until then, Webber saw himself as a litterateur, as he defined himself in “How I Won My Election” in 1921.¹ Additionally, there is every indication that Webber had risen in the estimation of the dominant commercial group since he became the secretary of the Colonization Committee, a group that concerned itself with the colony’s irrigation and drainage problems. At the very least, his association with the planters and the commercial class...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR WEBBER’S POLITICAL ASCENDANCY, 1921–25
    (pp. 47-63)

    Webber’s election to the combined court in 1921 coincided with strong calls throughout the West Indies for more representative government and the visit of the Hon. E. F. L. Wood, parliamentary undersecretary of state for the colonies.¹ During the early months of 1921, even before Webber was elected, theDaily Chronicleraised several issues about the constitution. On August 21 the newspaper criticized a policy in which the “colony’s financial and economic policies are in the hands of one man, and at that, a bird of passage, with the inevitable result that there is no continuity of policy.”² On October...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE THE CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS: The Bullet or the Ballot
    (pp. 64-76)

    The drought that gripped british guiana from August 25, 1925, to May 1926 led to economic depression, unemployment, and financial loss to the colony. When the rains returned in May, they brought with them fever epidemics and intestinal diseases that resulted in a loss of children’s lives. For example, in the village mission of Murko, over 100 children under the age of seven died as a result of these epidemics. Unfortunately, during this period there was as much havoc politically as there was physically, as Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese clamored for greater political representation. Moreover, the gradual loss of political power...

  11. CHAPTER SIX WEBBER’S LEADERSHIP, THE POPULAR PARTY, AND THE CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS, 1926–27
    (pp. 77-88)

    Nineteen twenty-six ushered in a new era in guyana politics. It was the year in which locally based, rambunctious politicians took over the political leadership from wealthy, elite, “respectable” politicians whose representation primarily served the interests of owners who lived abroad. It was the year in which the Popular Party, the first political party in the West Indies, was formed and became victorious in the election.¹ In that new dispensation, with the exception of Webber, all of the victorious candidates were born in Guyana. It also proved to be “the most lively [time politically] in the history of British Guiana....

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN WEBBER: A TRAVELING MAN
    (pp. 89-102)

    When webber traveled to london in 1928 to protest the proposed changes in British Guiana’s constitution, he wrote nine sketches about his visits, which he called “From an Editorial View-Point.” These sketches appeared in theNew Daily Chroniclefrom February 19 through June 20, 1928, and discussed his impressions of Trinidad, Barbados, London, and Jamaica. Although Webber hoped to publish these sketches in book form, he never got around to doing so. In his personal notebook, which Edith, his daughter, kept and which is now in the possession of Jennifer Welshman, Webber made several corrections to the copy that appeared...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT THE QUEST FOR SELF-GOVERNMENT
    (pp. 103-117)

    Although webber, the daily newspapers, and the Afro-Guyanese were angry that Fletcher and Kipling depicted Africans in such a negative light, they could not have missed the equally dangerous paragraph that preceded the one I quoted in the previous chapter. The offending paragraph reads as follows: “There are other countries, like Ceylon, the West Indies, several stations on the Northwest African coast, Singapore on the Straights of Malacca, Guiana on the north coast of South America, and islands too numerous to mention, both in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, which belong to Great Britain. But most of these are called...

  14. CHAPTER NINE THE SUGAR CRISIS, CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM, AND THE WHITE MAN’S BURDEN
    (pp. 118-136)

    The great sugar depression of 1929 took a heavy toll on the Guyanese and West Indian peoples. As the price of sugar fell, so, too, did their wages. As their wages fell, their social conditions deteriorated.¹ In Guyana, the depression brought untold suffering to the working people of the colony, particularly in terms of their health. Malaria had a devastating effect on the population’s vitality and took an enormous toll among the East Indians who, as Denis Williams reported, “possessed next to no immunity [to malaria], and suffered throughout life.”² In his testimony to Lord Olivier’s commission, Webber noted that...

  15. CHAPTER TEN EXPLORING NEW WORLDS
    (pp. 137-151)

    At the end of 1929, everywhere they looked, any way they turned, the people of Guyana saw the effects of a sugar economy gone sour, leaving ruination; devastated plantations; starving, desperate people; and a helpless, inept government. Diseases had increased, unemployment had jumped, schools began to close down, head teachers were being laid off, and families began to break up. Viewing the predicament the people faced, one could not help but think of a Guyana variant of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’sRime of the Ancient Mariner, “Rime from an Ancient County.”

    The sugar industry, the largest employer of skilled and unskilled...

  16. CHAPTER ELEVEN PATRIOT AND BUSINESSMAN
    (pp. 152-166)

    After webber returned from the idyllic araby and rupununi, he still had to face the rough and tumble of elections. At that point of his career, he was well liked and respected by the electorate, although he remained a thorn in the government’s side. Penning an election biography on Webber, Reno Rohini observed that “having done much traveling in British Guiana, especially in the interior and being an observant and well-read man, he made good use of his opportunity to study the country’s problems. He acquired a first-hand knowledge of things and was well-informant [sic] on the various topics and...

  17. CHAPTER TWELVE WEBBER: A KEYNESIAN
    (pp. 167-185)

    When the new legislative term resumed, several issues about the social responsibility of the state were placed on the agenda for discussion. Webber, an acknowledged “student of constitutional practices” and the magnetic glue that held the Electives together, was reelected whip of the House.¹ The Electives were determined to examine the Customs Tariff, to see “what steps could best be taken with regard to the British Preferential Tariff,”² and to introduce measures such as old-age pension and workmen’s compensation. On October 23 Webber gave notice to the Legislative Council that he would introduce a workmen’s compensation act.³ The BGLU also...

  18. CHAPTER THIRTEEN COLONIES IN SEARCH OF A NATION
    (pp. 186-201)

    Having parted company with theNew Daily Chroniclerather unceremoniously, Webber returned to theDaily Chronicle, his old home as it were, to continue his literary pursuits. On October 19 theDaily Chronicleannounced that its editorial staff would be strengthened “since the Hon. A. R. F. Webber, publicist and journalist, will be associated with the editorial department and contribute to the literary columns of the paper.” In that issue Webber “announced that pending the maturity of the agreement, my literary and journalistic activities will be, in the meantime, freely devoted to the interests of this paper.”¹ He would spend...

  19. CHAPTER FOURTEEN GOING DOWN WITH HIS COLORS FLYING
    (pp. 202-214)

    Although webber took most of 1931 to completeCentenary History, he still found time to continue his legislative duties and to make a living since the elective members of the Legislative Council were not paid a salary, nor were they given “out-of-pocket expenses” for their services.¹ Legislatively, Webber and his colleagues were still pressing on with their opposition to the 1928 constitution. On May 29, as the chief whip of the Electives, Webber requested that the legislature accept his resolution that called on the governor “to invite His Majesty’s Government to dispatch a mission to this Colony to review the...

  20. CHAPTER FIFTEEN IDEOLOGY, RACE, CELEBRITY
    (pp. 215-224)

    When webber entered the public arena in 1916, he brought a complex legacy to his social and political persona. It should be remembered that after Webber left his uncle’s firm, he became the secretary of the British Guiana Sugar Planters’ Association and publicity secretary for the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, the mouthpiece of the planters. In 1921, when he fought his first election, he was offended by the canard (his word) that he was “bound to obey the lawful and unlawful requests of the Planters” and that he could be dismissed as editor of theDaily Chronicleif he did...

  21. CHAPTER SIXTEEN A DEVOTED WEST INDIAN SON
    (pp. 225-232)

    Wednesday, june 29, 1932, dawned as any other day in Guyana. A bright and sunny day, it was untroubled by any clouds. On the morning of that fateful day, before the sun began to display its luminance, Webber left his home and boarded the S.S.Basrato go on a business trip to Bartica, the first place where he had settled after he arrived in Guyana in 1899. At about 12.35 p.m., shortly after he and C. S. Ridley, government land surveyor, sat down for a late breakfast, Webber collapsed and died ten minutes later. He was only fifty-two years...

  22. NOTES
    (pp. 233-264)
  23. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 265-270)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 271-278)