Thursday, 29 March 2012

From Pearls to Methanol: Economies in Trinidad and Tobago


 Outside of the trade or barter that may have existed during Amerindian times, one may say that our first economy was created by the Europeans' contact with the natives of these islands. The first "industry" to have been developed was pearl diving, so much so that the Gulf of Paria became the Gulf of Tears, so named for those who died there diving for pearls.
This industry, together with the capture of tribal people and their sale into slavery to the larger islands to the north, drove both the pearl-bearing in the Gulf and the Amerindians to virtual extinction by the end of the 16th century. The economy to follow was largely one of imaginary nature: the quest for El Dorado. It lead to the burning of the port settlement of Puerto d'España and the sack of the island's capital, San José de Oruna, by Sir Walter Raleigh. During this period, the most widely used commercial coin changed hands in these waters.
Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain introduced a new monetary system in 1497. The system included the eight "reales" piece, which was to become famous as the romantic "piece of eight". The coin provided an almost universal currency at the time, and it is from this "piece of eight" that the Latin American "peso" derives, which was also in use in Spanish Trinidad.
These coins were struck with the "Pillars of Hercules", i.e. the Straits of Gibraltar, and the legend "More Beyond". It was from this mark that the "$", the dollar sign, derived: the figure 8 between two pillars. In quill-written form, this sign took the form of an S with two lines. The pillar dollar was originally minted in Mexico and was also in use in Trinidad. It is, in fact, the origin of our Trinidad and Tobago dollar. The word "dollar" is derived from the word "Taler" or "Thaler", which was the currency used in German-speaking Europe throughout the Middle Ages.
The Cedula of Population of 1783 introduced French colonists, Free Black people and African slaves to Trinidad in quantity and inaugurated the plantation economy. In this system, there was little need for money since food, shelter and clothing were provided by the plantation. There was little development for the development of a retail sector. Since there was no paid labour force, nobody had money to spend, and transactions were mostly in kind. Transactions between planters and Europe were handled in the main by bills of exchange and book entries. Services necessary to provide for the shipping and sale of goods and for management of income were provided by the merchant banker who operated at the metropolitan centre. He provided ships to move the produce. The proceeds were used to settle the planters' financial commitments, such as pensions and mortgages, and to procure supplies to be shipped to the plantation. The residual was placed in a bank.
With this pattern of trade, money was needed for transactions only at the metropolitan end. Transactions at the colonial end required no cash, and were in fact no more than book entries. The produce served as the unit of account and the medium of exchange, and could therefore be regarded as a form of money. Goods which were available in Europe, such as lumber, grain, livestock, were also in the main bought bills of exchange.
For the most part, money was used as a measure of value for the payment of outstanding balances only as necessity arose. The volume of currency was small and consisted of a wide variety of coins of fluctuating value. As such, one may say that the slave population was outside of the economy and, being "owned" by the plantation, they themselves were a unit of account and a medium of exchange.
During this period, local currency in Trinidad operated under very complicated circumstances, such as the transition of the government from Spanish to English and the influence of the French on the composition of the population. It was brought about as a direct result of those circumstances: several types of coins were brought to Trinidad and Tobago by the West Indian immigrants, ranging from Spanish, American, French, on to Mexican and Dutch currency.
By 1803, there was an attempt to regularise the value of all the various coins in Trinidad, as well as to consider the problems arising from the necessity of readily available change. In 1804, the "Coinage Proclamation" made a cut silver half-bit valued at 6 d. currency, and a cut silver quarter of a bit at 3 d. currency legal tender.
During  1811, silver coins became a rarity, as England drained Trinidad and Tobago of its silver species. Because of this,  a hole was pierced in the middle of the coin. This "plug", as it was sometimes called, was stamped with the letter "T" and was worth 1 bitt. The dollar ring was valued at 9 s. or 9 bitts.
In 1816, the T bitt were ordered by government to pass by weight only, and by 1823 T bitts were decried. The dollar ring survived up to the 1860s, valued at 3 s. 9 d. sterling, or 90 cents. Out of this confusion of currencies the dollar emerged, valued at 4 s. and 2 pence, and may well be the last remnant of our Spanish past.
The need for the creation of some type of banking system in Trinidad and Tobago became evident following the emancipation of the slaves, which had the effect of requiring the planter to pay for many of the services which were formally rendered by the slaves. The full economic impact of emancipation was, however, cushioned by the fact that it was accompanied by a six-year apprenticeship scheme, which provided that the ex-slaves were only paid wages for work done in excess of 40 hours a week.
In 1838, when the islands' some 20,656 former slaves were fully free, the planters lost control of the labour force. They as well as their merchant bankers in London were fully aware that full emancipation, when it came, would increase the number of transactions in cash. An acute need for working capital arose, and it was felt that it would be best met by the establishment of a bank.
The abolition of slavery also meant that the state would grow at the expense of the plantation. Bureaucracy expanded and a consistent need to pay the civil servants as well as public sector projects arose. Taxes had to be levied in cash, and the economy had to monetised. Throughout the British Caribbean, planters had been compensated for the freeing of their slaves by receipt of £ 20,000. There was money making the rounds. This lead entrepreneurs to believe that it was a good idea to establish a bank so as to absorb this excessive liquidity.
The practice of money-lending at exorbitant interest rates was a vital necessity. Money loaned and mortgages of the estates made many rich. In May of 1837, however, the Colonial Bank, owned and operated by a "Court" comprising the commercial interest of the City of London, shipped seventy boxes of dollars on board the "Harriet" to Port of Spain. Each box contained between 3,000 and 5,000 coins; the total being $ 250,738.50.
The secretary of the bank noted:
"Those contained in boxes no. 60 to 62 are Spanish pillar dollars. These dollars stand in on board about 50.5 pence per dollar, exclusive of interest and charges that may be incurred on arrival."
Banknotes ordered from Perkins, Bacon & Co. Ltd. of London came in the denominations of $ 5, $15 and $ 20. 1,025,000 notes in all, they had, when signed, counter-signed and issued, a redeemable value of no less than $13,125.00.  
Thus was the origin of currency in Trinidad, and by extension in the British Caribbean. With it, the period of plantation economy was over, and the epoch of commerce began. There was, however, no guarantee for the survival of the island's economy, which had all but collapsed after the abolition of slavery. Various experiments were attempted with labour: Chinese, then Portuguese immigrants were brought, without much success. Only with the advent of labour from the Indian sub-continent was the situation saved.
Despite the ups and downs of the sugar market, Trinidad and Tobago's sugar economy was to save the day between the 1840s and the 1880s. It was worked by indentured Indian labourers, who received a pittance.
By the 1870s, another economy began to emerge, which was to have a broad and deep effect on society. This was cocoa. As the result of the industrial revolution, Europe had produced a quickly growing middle class. One of the things that this class enjoyed was chocolate. These islands became the main suppliers. If the cane economy was the property of the wealthy British firms, cocoa was every mean's mean of gaining wealth. From 2 to 5 acre holdings to 1,000 acre under cocoa: the cocoa economy had a tremendous effect on the prosperity of these islands. Minority groups, such as the French Creoles, became commission agents. Others, such as the Chinese and Portuguese, became shopkeepers on the estates. The trickle-down effect of the cocoa economy meant the emergence of an educated middle class society, which in turn produced a generation of the islands' first crop of professionals, mainly in the fields of law and medicine, but also teachers, chemists, civil engineers, and surveyors.
Within a generation, another economy was to make and impact on the lives of Trinidadians and Tobagonians. It was oil. By the 1930s, despite the terrible world recession, Trinidad's economy was underpinned by a very strong foundation. The petroleum economy impacted on the island's infrastructure in terms of roads, water, electricity, which had to be geared to an industrial-based economy. In every island in the Caribbean, including Tobago, all the roads lead to the beaches. Their economies became dedicated to the visitor. In Trinidad, the roads lead into the interior, where the oilfields and the plantations are.
The industrial-based economy impacted on the nature of education, producing engineers and scientists to operated the petrochemical sector. From this economy, institutions such as the trade union movement was born. This, in turn, gave rise to the type of political movements that took the country into independence.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Bishop's Grave


The burial ground at St. Joseph, clustering close to the old church, keeps many secrets. Some of its grave stones are enigmatic and for Trinidad extremely old.
Beneath the church itself, or strictly speaking beneath the church upon which the present one now stands, this being built in 1815, lies  the grave of a Bishop martyred in the upper reaches of the Orinoco 273 years ago by a Carib cacique named Taguaria.
In 1729, the island of Trinidad was quiet and peaceful. Its handful of Spanish colonists, mostly living in or near to its capital San José de Oruna, lived out an indolent life whose tedium was only occasionally punctuated by the odd massacre perpetrated  by the Caribs, who had by now grown disgusted at being coerced into accepting a civilisation that they did not admire and a religion unsuited to their natural state of cannibalism.
The staple crop, cocoa, was suffering from blight. The government was in the hands of a capable and active governor, Don Augustin de Arredonda, who had guided the destinies of this island for the past four years. The town of San José was first marked out in 1592 by Don Domingo de Vera y Bargoen. He marked out first the site of the church which he named Nuestra Santa Fe de la Conception. Highly biodegradable, the "city" had been built of tapia, sirite and mud; an ajoupa community on the banks of the Caroni, in the middle of literally nowhere, in as much as the few maps that did exist in the world did not mention it. It had neither grown nor changed in the 137 years of its beginnings.
When on the 10th February, 1729, its Governor Don Augustine received a letter from the illustrious Bishop Don Nicolas Gervasio, which reported his arrival at San Tomé, on the river Orinoco, and his intentions as Apostolic Commissary, "to establish missions among the Indians of this river, the Paria Coast and Caribbean islands". He claimed the right to do this by virtue of an Apostolic Bull from His Holiness, the Pope.
It would be very difficult to convey to the present reader the nature of this wilderness, the remoteness of the Orinoco region and the obscurity of its inhabitants. Dignitaries of the rank of Bishop were very uncommon visitors to these parts. The province of Guyana was then part of the government of Trinidad, and in view of the visit of  such a distinguished personage, the governor summoned in due and ancient form at San José an assembly of the Illustrious Cabildo conjoined with the highest ecclesiastical representatives in the island.
At this "junta", this strange event was fully discussed, and finally it was agreed unanimously that the Governor himself should go at once to San Tomé to deal with the exceptional complications which might arise. With due pomp and ceremonial, he set out in a flotilla of corials and pirogues with banners flying, his armor of the finest Andalusian steel well oiled against the inevitable sea blast, across the Gulf of Paria and down the coast of present-day Venezuela, they sailed to enter the vast delta of the Orinoco River so as to make their way up to the tiny hamlet of San Tomé.
San Tomé was built as the mirror city to San José in Trinidad in 1592 by Don Antonio de Berrio, during the time of his life when he had quested after the gold of El Dorado. On the morning of March 22nd, 1729, from out of a primeval mist that hovered over the vast river, the governor's party emerged to beach their craft in the mangrove swamp near to the mud and thatch city of San Tomé and there to meet the illustrious Bishop, who presented his papers of authority and identification for inspection. From these it appeared that the Bishop was a Frenchman, being a Canon of Lyons. A Bull from Pope Benedict XIII, dated 27th July, 1726, authorised the Bishop to establish missions. Included also was a letter from the Marquis de Champignon, Governor-General of Martinique, dated January 8th, 1729, showing that the Bishop had arrived in the French Antilles. Unfortunately, nowhere was the document essential for residence in the Spanish dominions, a certificate that the permission of the King of Spain had to grant specifically. In his zeal, the church man had over looked its necessity.
The duty of the governor was plain, and he refused the Bishop any facilities to proceed with his inclinations, and forbade him to found missions anywhere within his government. Anxious, however, to assist the distinguished visitor so far as lay within his power, Don Augustin offered the Bishop the accommodation at San José in Trinidad, where he could wait until the Royal Pleasure should be made known. This the Bishop declined, preferring in his enthusiasm to proceed towards the Dutch settlements in the upper reaches of the Essequibo River, where he hoped for a better reception.
The following morning they parted. The Bishop, tall, distinguished, handsome for his age, stood mitered and robed, his shepherd's staff in hand, as hordes of multi-coloured macaws gawked and stared and shrieked in ridicule in a language comprehensible only to the man-eating Caribs who, having assumed invisibility in the surrounding jungle, were awaiting their turn in the events.
The governor returned to San José in Trinidad, pardonably satisfied that he had dealt tactfully and successfully with what might have been an awkward situation. However, his peace of mind did not survive many months, since November 11, 1729, the Teniente at San Tomé sent to inform him that Aruac Indians had brought the news that the French Bishop Gervasio had been to the Essequibo and even further to the Suriname, but at neither place would the Dutch receive him or allow him to begin his religious obligations. The Bishop had returned along the coast and had settled on the River Aquire at the mouth of the Orinoco and within the Spanish dominions. The Teniente added very significantly that his camp is only one day's journey from the Carib villages. It should be noted that this journey, even by today's means, would be regarded as significant.
Through this vast and ancient jungle, dark even at noon, followed by the flock of shrieking macaws, howled at by hordes of huge red monkeys, impervious to giant anacondas or the yellow icy stares of black jaguars, the Bishop and his party of Negro bearers had passed before the startled eyes of the man eaters, camouflaged in their nakedness, standing as still as the effigies of dead kings in the crypts of St. Denis, the cathedral just outside of Paris, where he had experienced ecstasies during his noviate.
The Caribs were an intractable and warlike people. They were proud and dominating and preferred death to subjugation. Throughout history, the Caribs have always been indomitable and implacable opponents of all invaders. The early conquistadors such as Ordaz, Herrera, Sedeño, Juan de Uppin and many others found in the Caribs valiant and worthy opponents, and only to often the Spaniards suffered disastrous defeats.
The Bishop's incursion had come at a time when the great cacique Taguaria, perhaps one of the last great old ones, had assumed power. He made as his territory a vast landscape, comparable to the size of Belgium, and viewed the tall, pale Bishop, ascetic in his habits, aristocratic in his mannerism, as worthy of his digestion. To assimilate such a one would make him as great a one and in so doing he would subsume the aliens who had invaded his world.
At the beginning of December 1729, a Dutch trader from the Essequibo River, Jan Ravensburg, had been going to the River Aquire to trade with the Caribs, when he found the dead and mutilated body of the Prelate, his two Chaplains and the two Negro bearers. Jan Ravensburg brought back to Essequibo certain books and ornaments which he found in a hut nearby. Missing from the Bishop's body were certain vital organs.
Once again Don Augustin journeyed into the wilds of the South America's second-largest river system. Here the Governor disinterred the body of the Bishop which he brought reverently to San José in Trinidad, where it was buried in the church of that town and where it remains to this day.

(based on a story by K.S. Wise)

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Educator


by Jean de Boissiere

When Ferdinand de Lesseps retreated from the swamps of Panama among his engineers was a young French Creole who was a wizard at Mathematics.
This young Martiniquan, Raoul Boulanger, looked at a splendid future when he had joined de Lesseps who was then planning to repeat his triumph over Suez at Panama. He had emerged from his studies at the Sorbonne covered with honours. His tutors had begged the young Boulanger and his father to abandon the idea of engineering and let the scholar continue his work  in pure science.
But the father had already formed connections with de Lesseps and saw success for his son only in terms of money. The salary offered at Panama would make anyone rich who worked on the canal for the duration of its construction. All Raoul could hope for in the musty corridors of a university was honour. And that kind of honour did not stand very high in the scale of human values with the late 19th century businessmen of the West Indies.
Panama was very different from his native Martinique with its cool towering mountains swept with the Atlantic tradewinds. Here it was dull swamps infested with fever and crocodiles. All enthusiasm and faith he had arrived with soon disappeared in the fight against disease.
For relief from the dreadful monotony he and his fellow engineers turned to the hectic pleasures of the Panamanian cabarets. Here he met a dusky brown girl called Carilla by everyone because her laughter had the clear simple tones of a bell. Night after night he forgot de Lesseps’ canal and the terrifying loneliness in her gay company.
Then he fell a victim to the fever that was strewing corpses from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Carilla left her cabaret to nurse him. For weeks she looked after him with the care that will defeat a disease where the finest doctor has failed.
As he convalesced, he grew very attached to her. Before he left the hospital he married her because of the gratitude he felt for her for having saved his life, fully aware that he could never take her among his own people to Martinique, who possessed all the negrophobia of the white peoples of that time. He planned on staying on in Panama when the canal was finished.
Circumstances however, worked against the project as a whole. Boulanger went to Trinidad. On his arrival here he sought a job in his profession, and found that all the engineering being done in the place was the construction of roads. He was told by the administration here that they had all the qualified English engineers they had use for.
He decided to go back to France. But he had not enough money to do so. To make it he began giving lessons to college boys in the evening. He had such a success with his pupils, that within six months every ambitious father in the island wanted Boulanger to take his son as a pupil. Unable to have them all in the evenings, he opened a full-time school.
There was a rush of boys from the Roman Catholic College to come to his school. To offset this there began a whispering campaign against him. It was said that his pretty wife corrupted the morals of the boys, and that he taught them atheism.
Boulanger paid no attention to the tales and depended on his high standard of teaching mathematics to bring him pupils. Apparently, that was the proper technique for dealing with the ‘mauvais langue’. If you ignored it, the public did likewise; if you engaged it, you set a thousand more in motion instantly.
He gave up all idea of going to France and settled permanently in Trinidad. Pupils came to him all over the Caribbean from Venezuela, Columbia and every West Indian island. Boulanger's school became the West Indian prelude to the European education of any young man who was going there to take a profession.
From the spacious courtyard all the boys streamed into the old Spanish building. On the two sides of the hall were the classrooms. The desks looked as if they had been salvaged from a fire. By comparison, the old bentwood chairs looked new. When they were all seated, the aging Frenchman came into the classroom. Slightly hunched, with a greasy flannel suit hanging on the thin frame of his body, he shuffled in with his two feet pointing at right angles.
As he lifted his head to greet them with a "Bonjour!" the deep blue eyes shot forth shafts of an intense light. When he began the day's works by asking them for their homework ,a light cynical look played over his face.
"Carlos, where is that equation I gave you to do?" he demanded of an indolent Venezuelan pupil whose father was the dictator of an area larger than Great Britain. He had been sent here to study morals rather than mathematics. But was incapable of either.
"I did it but I cannot find it." Carlos lied.
"Did you?" Boulanger hissed as he always did when in a French rage. "Well you are a thief who steals the rotten money your brigand father gives me to pretend that you will learn anything, Blockhead! Canaille!"
With a shrug of contempt he turned to the next boy. Their work collected, he gave them a few minutes of conversation while he prepared the day's lesson.
'The preen-ceeple--" he began in his halting English when suddenly he stopped. Over the tops of his glass he was glaring at a fat boy of 14 in an open-collared sport shirt.
' Lou—ees," he hissed. "What do you mean by coming into my classroom with all your fat lee-tle breasts showing like that, huh? Go home and put on your brassieres before you put all the boys in my class in a grand chaleur." Louis, mortified, went into the hall and buttoned his shirt collar.
Episodes like that made the boys more attentive than ever.
Next to mathematics, Boulanger's favourite subject was philosophy. With the philosophy he handed out pure 19th century atheism to the pupils, and made an agnostic out of many a good son of a devout Roman Catholic.
One day in the midst of talk on Voltaire he began one of his usual tirades about the superstitions of the very religious people of Trinidad.
"The poor fools, they believe that by wearing holes in their stockings, kneeling before plaster images they will cure all their ills. Idiots - if they used their pennies to buy food instead of candles, they would not meet with hell so quickly!"
He shouted.
"The dam foo-"
At this point there was a knock at the door. "Entrez!" called Mr. Boulanger with a snap. The door opened and a humble black-robed priest entered the room.
"Good morning, Father. What can I do for you?" Boulanger asked sheepishly.
“A list, Mr. Boulanger. To help with the building of the new wing of the Cathedral." the priest said supplicantly. "We hope you will put something."
"But certainly, Father," the educator said, delving his hand in his pocket and extracting two dollars.
Before Boulanger had time to return to Voltaire after the priest had departed, one of pupils took a swift opportunity to take advantage of the difficult position he had the old Frenchman in.
"But Mr. Boulanger,” he launched off, "just a few minutes ago, you were telling us what fools people were to give priests money, and the first one that walks into your school, you give him two dollars."
"You imbecile!" screamed the annoyed man. "It is to keep ignorant savages like you from chopping off my head that I pay that blackmailer to keep you in the ignorance you were born."
With this delivered, he turned to Voltaire with added vigour.
When the prescribed school hours were over, Boulanger would sit in his court yard with his brightest pupils grouped around him. While his mulatto grandchildren crawled and bawled at his feet, he would talk, and the most gifted educator in Trinidad never lacked for pupils who sat enthralled while he spoke of  history, mathematics and philosophy in the brilliant clear sentences that would be impressed upon them profoundly.
As the years went on, he taught generation after generation. At 80, his capacity for teaching was as great as it had been when he first arrived in Trinidad nearly 50 years before. But while the soul of the school; his teaching remained at its high level: its body declined.
His school was the most famous in the West Indies, and he always had more pupils than he could house. He placed more importance on a pupil who could learn well than one who could pay well. This kind of economic pressure drove him from bad to worse. At the age of 80, he was teaching in a four-room shack that housed his pupils, his numerous descendants and himself.
And when Raoul Boulanger, who had given the whole Caribbean some of its finest doctors, engineers and teachers, died, 20- odd children and grandchildren of every hue and shade were all that followed the mortal remains of the finest educator of the West Indies to their resting place.”
José Dessources, most likely subject of this essay was one of the great educators of a bygone time. In his wake came Randolf Allan Young, Mr. de Four and E. Blizzard, to name a few who maintained the high tradition of teaching as a calling in Trinidad and Tobago.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Spanish Law


Sailing in the wake of the Conquistadors of Trinidad, their names hardly more than misty memories but still possessed of that peculiar Spanish grandeur, came the would-be settlers. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Trinidad was an island province of New Granada for all intent and purpose a part of Venezuela. But there was hardly any interest directed to this island. It contained no gold or precious stones, its pearl beds had been wiped out and its population of tribal people depleted by disease, deportation and disappear. There was, however, an official establishment, a Governor and a body known as the Illustrious Cabildo which promulgated Spanish law and saw to the needs of the islands several dozen homesteaders or "Colons", as they were called. Spanish law emerges out of the conquest of Iberian peninsular by the romans in the centuries before the birth of Christ. This was known as the Theodosian Code and continued in force even after the Roman Legions had marched away and the empire in the West had fallen to barbarian tribes. This Roman code of law became common law in Spain, when contradicted by subsequent enactment's. These enactment's or ... repealing or modifying the ancient law were influenced by the Gregorian and Hermogenian codes and were eventually collected under the director of the Gothic Kings into a code entitled Fuero Juzgo which still exists to this day in Spain. The law however is a living changing institution and over the centuries Spanish law evolved. Under the Spanish kings, commencing with Alfonso IX in the 10th century on through to Charles IV in the 18th century, the laws of Spain grew and evolved. With the discovery and conquest of the New World, there came into existence The Spanish Colonial Code called Laws of the Indies. These were compiled in 1680 and were the laws inforce in Trinidad. Other laws inforce here were The Laws of Bilboa Commercial Regulations, compiled in 1737. These differed materially from the English Commercial code for this good reason, Spain was an anti commercial kingdom. Historian Edward Joseph who wrote:
"A History of this Island" in 1838, informs us that these various codes were the laws of Trinidad up to the middle of the 18th century when the government of Caracas was empowered by the Court of Madrid to make certain laws for Trinidad. Even the governor of Trinidad, assisted by the Cabildo was permitted to make certain regulations which was allowed to have the force of law for two years and no longer unless confirmed by the General Government.
Joseph points out that
"It should not be forgotten that besides these laws there were a body of regulations for the government of slaves in the Spanish Colonies which for practical benevolence and wisdom surpassed any laws ever made for and enforced in the colonies relative to Negroes and other persons who had the misfortunes to be in slavery."
With the capture of Trinidad in 1797 by the English, the laws and regulations began a painful process of change. Shortly after the British conquest, Sir Ralph Abercrombry, who was effectively Governor of the island, made a determined move against the "Spanish Lawyers" who were well known as corrupt. General Abercrombry appointed Mr. John Mihell, Chief Justice, and instructed him to deal with all the cases brought before him according to his conscience. Col. Thomas Picton, upon the departure of the fleet that had captured the island, was appointed Governor and given instructions to make no radical changes to Spanish Law. Appeals were directed, in Spanish times, to the Supreme Court at Caracas. Now their were to be made to the King in Council. A curious anomaly in that cases tried in Trinidad under Spanish law had decisions appealed in England and English law. In 1800, Governor Picton superseded Judge Mihell and established a tribunal called in Spanish 'Court of Consulado..' Six years later Governor Hislop, Picton's successor, abolished this and re-appointed Judge Mihell who was once again instructed to act according to his conscience. John Mihell was this island's first Chief Justice. In 1808, a Judge by the name of Smith was appointed by the Colonial Office over all the Tribunals on this island. He was given the power to "hear appeals from his own court!" and as such had to deal with the absurdity of a judge deciding a cause in one court, changing his dress, hearing the case, and reversing his own sentence in another court while now condemning the party who lost the suit in the Court of Appeal to all costs. This state of affairs, when mentioned in the House of Commons, caused great shouts of laughter. We were, after all, an experiment colony.
In 1811 Governor Hislop revived the 'Court of Consulado.' In 1812 and 1813 there was no law in Trinidad. This was remedied in 1814 when Judge Bigge was sent out as Chief Justice with his jurisdiction confined to the Court of First instance, but all owed appeals from his decrees to the Governor, Sir Ralph Woodford, Judge of the Court of Appeal. It was during this period that the English language was first used in court.
In 1823, the Court of First Instance of Civil Jurisdiction and the Court for the first trial of Criminal Prosecutions was substantially recognized and improved. A court of appeal in criminal cases was instituted, of which the Governor, aided by ... In 1832 Chief Justice Scotland arrived in the colony and shortly afterward almost all courts of law underwent radical changes.
This account of the history of law in Trinidad was drawn from El Joseph's "History of the island of Trinidad 1838." Spanish law existed here until English laws were firmly instituted in 1847.

"Thus having given a very meager history of the law, and want of law. in Trinidad, I will give an account of the different Courts of the island as they now exist.
The Court of lntendant.—This Court, over which the Governor presides, takes cognizance of all matters relative to the sale of crown lands, quit rent, taxes, Queen's revenue, &c. It bears the the same resemblance to the Court of Exchequer as a lizard bears to a crocodile. this court is not often occupied hence
HIS EXCELLENCY SELDOM ADMINISTERS IN THIS TRIBUNAL.
Court of Vice Admiralty. The Chief Justice presides over this Court. It is governed by the same laws as the High Court of Admiralty.
Court of First Instance of Civil Jurisdiction—The Chief Justice presides over this Court, assisted by two Puisne Judges. The decision goes by majority. It takes cognizance of all cases of action for the recovery of debts, damages, &c. over twenty pounds sterling, and also of all testamentary proceedings. It is a m~ed Court of Law and Equity, uniting the power of the English Court of Common Pleas and Chancery. Appeals are allowed in all encase in which the decision involves property of above five hundred pounds sterling. Appeals are seldom made from it, on account of their delay and great expense. I am informed that an appeal to the Sovereign seldom costs less to the plaintiff and defendant than £1000 sterling.
The Complaint Court.—The Chief Justice, or one of the Puisne Judges, in his absence, presides over this Court. It takes cognizance in all civil cases where the amount sued for does not exceed twenty pounds sterling.
There are in each Barrio, or District of the Town, Alcaldes, chosen annually from the inhabitants. These gentlemen hold Courts on matters of debt not exceeding twenty dollars.
In the country, the Commandants or Magistrates can decide matters of debt to the amount of sixty dollars.
Criminal Courts.-When any one is charged with a breach of the criminal law, the ordinary Magistrate investigates it, and if of a serious nature, be can send it on to the Attorney General and Public Prosecutor. This gentleman unites in his own person the office of committing Magistrate and Grand Jury (inasmuch as he finds the bill of indictment) and prosecuting Counsel.
The Court for the Trial for Criminal Prosecutions has a Chief Justice and two Puisne Judges; besides there are three Assessors, chosen by lot; from the inhabitants of the island. The Public Prosecutor and prisoner are allowed a certain number of challenges. The three Judges and three Assessors are Judges of the fact as well as the law, unless a point of pure law arises during the trial, in which case an arrest of judgment, in case of conviction, may be moved and disposed of by the Judges. The decision of the majority of the Court makes the verdict. It will be seen that the Chief Justice, Puisne Judges, and Assessors, unite the functions of Judge and Jurors.
In all capital cases. the prisoner, if he cannot afford to fee Counsel, is allowed one by the Court, who appoint the different Advocates practicing at the Bar in rotation.
The Governor has the power of remitting the whole or a part of the fines and imprisonment imposed by this Court, and in capital cases he can respite the prisoner until her Majesty's pleasure be known. The Court has four sessions per annum—in March, June, September and December.
For minor offenses, in the country, the Magistrates have the power of committing offenders to prison, with or without hard labour, for any term not exceeding three months, and of imposing a fine to the amount of sixty dollars.


Architecture in Trinidad and Tobago


The city of Port of Spain from an architectural perspective attained, albeit in a modest manner, a high point in the 1920s. During this period, the city contained most, if not all, architectural styles built over the previous 120 years.
There were the wooden, shingled buildings built by the French that had survived the fire of 1808. There still remained some buildings which had been built in the Spanish colonial style. These were built by Venezuelans for refugees from their country 30 or 40 years after the British conquest, e.g. the "Cabildo Building" on Sackville Street.
Most of the buildings on Henry, Charlotte, George, Nelson and Duncan Street as well as the streets that crossed them, erected after the fire of 1808, with their massive blue limestone walls, were constructed in a style very similar to what exists in Fort de France, Martinique, today. They were distinguished by their tall doorways, "quoined" corners, brick filling between dressed stone, dormer windows and  stone balustrades as still seen on the roof of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Independence Square.
Frederick Street was very up to date in the 1920s, some may say even futuristic. After the fire of 1897 that had burnt out lower Frederick Street, George Brown, a Scottish architect, designed and supervised the building of "The Stores." Complete with iron banisters, plate glass windows, mezzanines and lantern roofs they were fashionable, attractive, up-market and more or less survived into the 1980s. Brown's facades were reminiscent of New Orleans because of the intricately cast ironwork.
The French influence was all-pervasive in Port of Spain and was to remain so until the 1950s. There was also the simple, wooden chattel house, standing on pillar trees, usually two-roomed, and neat as a pin. The idea for those houses was more than likely imported  from Barbados, where ordinary people hardly ever owned land but built chattel houses that could easily be moved if the need arose.
The town's suburbs, Belmont, Newtown and Woodbrook, were expanding, driven by a modicum of prosperity as a result of the Cocoa economy, which had peaked in the last decade of the previous century. The little "Gingerbread" houses of those neighbourhoods were equipped with porticoes, jealousied windows, pitched roofs with dormers, and lots of lacy woodwork. Some were quite petite, others large and rambling, some imposing. You will find variations of these in Haiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe. All this had come with the French people; it was part of their cultural baggage, along with Carnival, long dresses over many lace petticoats, fine embroidered "foulards" and a gay madras kerchiefs tied so as to tell whether the lady was a widow or "looking".
Right alongside all of this was real poverty, lived out in the barrack yards. These yards were old stables and slave quarters of a previous epoch that had been hired out for rent when the original owners had moved on to better parts of town. Trinidad's first slum lords would have balked at such a description, and may have sought excuse by saying that the peppercorn rent charged saved many a West Indian immigrant from homelessness.
Most of old Port of Spain's old French buildings that once clustered round the Catholic Cathedral were destroyed by fire in the 1980s or willfully left to degenerate into dilapidation. Most towns in the Caribbean possessing such architecture do what it takes to preserve those buildings. We in Trinidad, however, not dependent on the visitor market for hard currency, let our old town vanish. It all began when some one said, "Massa day done", and when people without a grasp of cultural and aesthetic values got so rich that they were able to buy properties and sacrifice the historical and architectural gems on them for yet another air-conditioned atrocity. - all under the excuse of the three "p": popularity, progress and profit.
The face of the city also contained formal or polite architecture which may be described as architect-designed and builder-built. There are classical buildings, defined as one whose "decorated elements derived from the architectural vocabulary of the ancient world, the classical world" (John Newel Lewis H.B.M., from John Summerson's "The Classical Language of Architecture"). Newel Lewis goes on to say,
"The sense of authority and dignity, which the classical order inspires, makes it a suitable language for official buildings. The Red House uses the Corinthian order both in columns and in half columns... The General Hospital employs the Doric and Ionic. The Tuscan is often used, in the Railway Station for example... It is surprising how many orders are found in Port of Spain."
The Building and Loan Association building, on the corner of Queen and Chacon Street, is an excellent example of classical artwork in the cityscape. Around and about one may still see the Georgian style. It exists in the Police Barracks at St. James and the Salvation Army's Men's Hostel on the corner of Sackville and Edward Street. One excellent example was the old Deanery on Abercrombie and Queen Street; that's gone now.
The overall destruction of the buildings of Port of Spain and of our architectural heritage all over Trinidad and Tobago is a disturbing indication of what is taking place in the ... of the body social and the body politic. We the people, we the town planners, we the architects, we the property owners, ongoingly destroy the buildings that define our history, ourselves. Every old mansion acquired by a developer is torn down replaced by a block of apartments. So-called city planners award the permissions for that, and in so doing destroy future generations' proud heritage.
Also, whenever there is a fire, there is no thought of restoration. The old Town Hall and Princes Building were examples for that. In another country it may have been rebuilt so as to maintain the personality of the town, but we, a society whose children don't re-use even a plastic fork, don't seem to have that in us. In Europe, whole cities were rebuilt in the style and manner of there prewar condition. The preserving and restorations of a nations architectural heritage is about maturity, it is about valuing what we have so as to impart it to another generation. Maybe it takes a couple of wars and total destruction for a society to mature.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Code Noir


Taken from The History of the Island of Trinidad under the Spanish Government
By Pierre-Gustave-Louis Borde

The Royal Cedula for Colonisation

The Code Noir
(1779-1784)

Governors of the Period:
Don Martin de Salaverría
Don Juan Francisco Machado
Don Antonio Barreto

As soon as he had been relieved of his duties as a judge, Roume de Saint Laurent hastened to proceed to Trinidad in order to supervise the work on his properties, and in consultation with the Governor, to try to urge by all possible means, the colonization of the island. On this occasion he was accompanied by a good many of his comptatriots, among whom were three of his intimate friends, Mr. Dominique Dert, Mr. Étienne Noël and Mr. Picot de Lapéyrouse.[i] It was the latter who established the first sugar factory in the island, on lands which today form the cemetery in Port of Spain, and which continues to bear his name.

As was to be expected, Spain had not yet made any decree on the memorandum of the Coloniser, but she had however, taken administrative measures which proved her preoccupation with the interests of the colonists of the island. She had doubled the administration of government, and had appointed two governors, one of whom was concerned entirely with civil and commercial matters, and the other with purely military affairs. The civil governor was entirely independent of the military governor, and consequently he was concerned only with the progress of the colonisation of the island. Spain had appointed to this superior post Don Martin de Salaverrîa, who was the sub-delegate of the Intendant at Caracas and only the sinecure of military government was left (13th April 1779) to Don Manuel Falquez. But on the arrival of the dispatch on the 21st August 1779,[ii] Don Manuel Falquez had already been dead for over a month, and therefore Don Rafael Delgado, who was commanding the troops, took over the military government. The new civil and commercial governor was a gentle and affable man, and at the same time, he was extremely able and had the prosperity of the island very much at heart.[iii] In the negotiations which this Governor had with Roume de Saint Laurent, the latter had no trouble in winning him over to his ideas. The one difficulty however, was to get the metropolitan government of Spain to accept their proposals, and this, in the opinion of the Governor, was a considerable one. To overcome this, he considered that the aid of the Intendant at Caracas was indispensable, and he urged Saint Laurent to go to Caracas to explain the details of his plan, and to get him to approve it. As a preliminary step, and in order to gain the confidence of this high official, it was agreed that Saint Laurent should go in person to the smaller islands with the object of recruiting the inhabitants to come to Trinidad. Complying with this arrangement, Phillipe Rose Roume de Saint Laurent was appointed Alcade of the First Election for the year 1780, and in this capacity he was authorised by a decree from the Governor, dated 29th April 1780, to proceed to the French islands, and furnished with a copy of the Royal Decree granted by His Majesty the King of Spain, which was translated into French and English, he was to invite the French and Irish inhabitants to establish themselves in Trinidad.[iv]
On returning from his voyage, which had not resulted in matters of much importance to the country, he had however, been able to recruit a number of French families over and above the previous ones.[v] When he arrived in Trinidad, he received the sad news that during his absence his friend Dominique Dert had been put into prison. Mr. Dert had set up a coffee plantation near to the sugar factory of Mr. de Lapéyrouse on a site which is today occupied by the road which bears his name (Dert Street). One night his young coffee trees were destroyed by a horse belonging to the military Governor. He impounded the horse and refused to return it without receiving compensation for the damage which the animal had caused. Don Rafael Delgado refused to consider such a claim, and Mr. Dert persisted in retaining possession of the animal. Thereupon, he was arrested by the military Governor, in spite of protests from the civil Governor, Don Martin de Salaverría. Roume de Saint Laurent found great public indignation aroused by this arbitrary act, and in consequence the colonization of the island was seriously compromised. Owing to his friendship with Mr. Dert, and actuated by a desire to settle such a delicate matter, he took the affair in hand, but without success. The bad-tempered and brutal military Governor would not consent to release the prisoner unless he apologized very humbly, and the prisoner, considering that he had done nothing reprehensible, refused to submit to this humiliation. Having reached this point, the difficulty could not be settled except by the superior authority of the Captain General in Caracas, and Roume de Saint Laurent, on the advice of Governor Salaverría, took the opportunity of going to Caracas and submitting to the Intendant, Done José de Abalos, his plan for colonization, and asking for his approval of it.[vi]
The Coloniser left for Caracas accompanied by his friend Mr. Noël and Mr. de Lapéyrouse. He had no difficulty in obtaining full and entire justice from the Captain General. Don Rafael Delgado was thrown out and declared incapable of occupying any other appointment in government.[vii] Don Juan Francisco Machado was appointed to succeed him on 31st March 1781.[viii] With the Intendant, the Coloniser had equal success. The writer whom we follow here says, that Saint Laurent had such a very strong and attractive personality in his role of a prospective planter of a colony in what was then a desert, that it was easy for him to communicate his enthusiasm to such a benevolent man as Don José de Abalos. With an easy eloquence, he showed how Trinidad, which was so important for the military establishments and commerce of Spain, was an island which was gradually stagnating. He also pointed out the dangers and privations which would have to be endured by foreign colonists who were to establish themselves there, and the necessity of offering them advantages to cover the risks and perils which they would be undertaking. He said that it was only under such conditions that one could hope to colonise the island within a reasonable time. The Intendant, who was already impressed by these ideas, studied the memorandum with much care. He was struck by such a splendid project, and promised to give it his support when sending it to the Court in Spain, seeing that it already had the approval of the two Governors, Falquez and Salaverrîa. However, he raised only two objections of detail, and to which Saint Laurent felt that he had to agree in order to obtain the approval in principal of his plan. The objections raised were on the subject of the introduction of French priests, and about the equality of advantages granted to foreign colonists, both white and coloured.[ix]
Roume de Saint Laurent returned to Trinidad with the hope that the support given to him by the Intendant would finally lead to the acceptance of the plan of colonization which he had drawn up and submitted to the Court in Spain, at least four years ago. Nevertheless, nothing happened, and after he had waited anxiously until the end of that year, he decided with the approval of Don José de Abalos, to proceed to Spain for the purpose of stimulating the colonial zeal of the Minister, and for coming to an understanding with him. In order to get together the necessary funds for such a long voyage, he was obliged to dispose of all his possessions and turn them into money, and he left his family in the charge of his mother. No consideration of personal interest was allowed to be an obstacle in his devotion to his new country. He paid a second visit to Caracas in order to get letters of recommendation from the Intendant, and also to obtain favourable reports on his project, and following this, eh ambarked for Europe in the beginning of 1782.[x] After a successful voyage, he arrived in France and proceeded to Paris where he submitted his colonization plan to the Spanish Ambassador, with a view to obtaining from him as well, his approval and recommendations. It will be seen that the Coloniser neglected nothing which might help the success of his enterprise. The Spanish ambassador at that time, was the illustrious Count d’Aranda, the previous minister who had advised the King to adopt a liberal political attitude towards this matter in view of the coming independence of the New England Provinces, and the revolutionary influence which this independence brought about in the Spanish possessions in the New World. He gave a very favourable welcome to the project of the colonization of the Spanish islands through the admission of foreign Catholics, and gave his support to the Coloniser. He advised him about the line of conduct which he should follow in order to conciliate the Minister in Spain, and to get him to agree to his plan without losing too much time. It is said[xi] that he carried his good will to the point of urging him to lose no time in taking these steps, because he knew that in the peace treaty which was about to be negotiated, England was proposing to demand the island of Trinidad in exchange for Gibraltar.
Armed with these recommendations and information, Roume de Saint Laurent arrived in Madrid. There he had no difficulty in getting an interview with the Minister, and it did not take him long to gain his interest with the same facility with which he had been able to get approval from all others to whom he had submitted his plans. All the advantages which had been agreed upon with the Intendant at Caracas were liberally granted in support of the foreign Catholic emigration, and particularly those accorded to the French colonists, which as was right, was his particular aim. In a short time there was not much more to be done than to undertake the legal recording of these advantages, but the Minister would not consent to give them the force of law until after the conclusion of peace. While waiting for the Peace Treaty, which was being negotiated at Versailles, St. Laurent occupied his time in establishing business relations between Europe and Trinidad. To this end he visited the principal towns of commerce, both in France and Spain, where he succeeded in establishing business connections in favour of many of his friends in the island. Everywhere he spoke so favourably about the commercial and agricultural advantages of the country, that he persuaded many wealthy European merchants and others to acquire land there.[xii] At last the Peace Treaty was signed on 3rd September 1783 at Versailles, and immediately after this, the Court at Madrid took up the duty of making the necessary administrative changes for the new colonial organisation in the island. By a ministerial decree dated 18th October 1783, the Governor Don Martin de Salaverría was promoted to another post, and Governor Don Juan Francisco Machado was appointed to administer provisionally, both the civil and military government of the island, whilst awaiting the arrival of the naval Captain Don José María Chacon, who had been appointed Captain General, and whose mission it was to carry out the plan of colonization which had been adopted by the Royal Court of Spain.[xiii]
On the 24th November 1783 the colonization plan was legally formulated and was duly stamped with the Royal Seals at the Palace of San Lorenzo. The foreword of the Cedula states that, in the instructions given on the 3rd September 1776 to Captain Don Manuel Falquez on his nomination as Governor of the Island of Trinidad de Barlovento, and in the commission delivered to Don José de Abalos when he was invested as Intendant of Caracas, regulations were then established and privileges accorded for the advancement of the population and commerce of the island. Now, on the demand of the said Intendant, and on the representations of foreign colonists who were already established on the island, as well as for those who were desirous of establishing themselves there, it had become necessary to make more complete regulations. This declaration of intended policy is followed by a document of twenty-eight articles as follows:
The first prescribes that every new colonist of a foreign friendly nation, already established in the island or desirous of doing so, should prove his quality as a Roman Catholic. Those exempted from this regulation were the Spaniards, either from Europe or the Indies, as in their case no doubt exists about their religion.
The second insists that foreign colonists shall take the oath of allegiance to the King of Spain, and undertake to obey the laws of the Indies. In return for this, they were given a free and perpetual title to lands which they were authorized to possess under the provision of the following article.
The third provides that every white colonist of either sex has a right to four fanegas and two sevenths, or ten squares of land[xiv] (or 32 acres in English measurements), and half of this amount for every slave which he shall bring into the island. It recommended an equal distribution of these lands so that the good, middling and bad should be equally divided among all; and it prescribed the recording of each one of these concessions of land in the Libro Becerro de Poblacion, (the Register of Population), together with the name of the concessionaire colonist, the date of his admission, the number of members of his family, his profession and the place from which he had come. An authenticated copy of each of these records was to be handed to the concessionaire as a title to their property.
The fourth grants the same privileges to black or coloured colonists, but only one half of the quantity of land given to the white colonists. The lands given to the slaces remain practically the same.
The fifth stipulates that the foreign colonists after a stay of five years in the island, and on their promise to continue to live there, will enjoy all the rights and privileges attached to nationalization, which would include the children whom they had brought with them and those who had been born since. In consequence, they would be admitted to honourable appointments in the administration and militia, according to their aptitude and ability.
The sixth exempts all the white colonists from all head or personal tax, but it hit them through their slaves, in that after a period of ten years in the island, they paid a tax of one strong piaster (or a dollar) per head per annum, but the cost of this was ever to be increased.
The seventh grants to the Spanish and foreign colonists, after a period of five years from the date of their arrival in the island, the facility to leave, together with the valuables which they had brought with them, without any export tax. The valuables acquired during their stay in the island were subject to an export tax of ten percent, and the lands which had been granted to them, were returned to the Crown.
The eighth grants to the already established and new colonists who have no natural heirs in the island, the facility of makings wills in favour of their relatives and friends abroad, and such heirs from abroad who came to establish themselves in the island, were to enjoy the same privileges as their benefactors. But if they prefer to transfer their inheritance elsewhere, they would have to pay an export duty of fifteen percent, and if they stayed over five years, they would have to pay an export duty of fifteen percent. The same privileges are granted to natural heirs who are established abroad in the case of their relatives in Trinidad dying instestate.
The ninth also grants to the colonists established in the island, the power to bequeath in accordance with Spanish laws, their real properties which are not capable of division either to one or many of their children, provided that this does not result in any prejudice to the legitimacy of others and to that of the widow of the Testator.
The tenth permits the colonists on account of legal processes or because of other urgent private affairs, to leave the colony to go to Spain, to Spanish colonies and to foreign countries, provided they are not enemy countries, after having obtained permission from the Governor.
The eleventh exempts the Spanish and foreign colonists from the payment of tithes during ten years from the 1st January 1785, and from the expiration of this period, their contribution is fixed at half tithes or five percent.
The twelfth also exempts these said colonists from payment of the “alcabala”, which is the tax payable on the sale of their produce and merchandise, during the same period of ten years. On the expiration of this time, a tax of five per cent is payable on all exports, except those sent to Spain in Spanish ships, as these had freedom from all taxation in perpetuity.
The thirteenth in peace time imposes a duty on all colonists to keep themselves armed in order to control their slaves and to resist any attacks from pirates, and for these purposes they were formed into corps of regular militia. In time of war, or if there should be a revolt of slaves, their obligation was to rally the defense of the island.
The fourteenth imposes on both former and recent colonists who are the owners of vessels of any size and make, the obligation to put these under the Spanish flag, in addition to those which they might have purchased abroad up to the end of 1786. This was to be done without cost of registration or naturalization. Those of the colonists who wished to build vessels in the island, were granted permission to cut timber free of charge from the Crown forests.
The fifteenth permits free of any franchise, the introduction of black slaves and the trade in them, for a period of ten years from the 1st January 1785. On the expiration of this term a duty of five per cent was payable on slaves imported into the island, and six per cent on those who were exported to other Spanish colonies.
The sixteenth permits colonists to leave for the purpose of selling their produce in the foreign but friendly islands, provided that an export tax of five per cent was paid, and also provided that the profits from these ventures should be used for the purchase of slaves. The same tax is imposed on merchants who import slaves, but this does not include the import tax from which colonists alone were exempt.
The seventeenth grants an absolute free franchise on all direct commerce between Spain and Trinidad and also on the produce of the island shipped to Spanish possessions in the Indies, during the period of ten years as from the 1st January 1785. At the expiration of this term the only articles which were declared free were those in the final schedule of commerce which were all exempted.
The eighteenth grants during the same period of ten years the same free franchise on all importations from Spain of materials and merchandise, Spanish and foreign, also provisions and liquors from Spain, and of all these imports no export was allowed to the other colonies except of Spanish articles. These were subject to the taxes in the schedule of commerce recently published.
The nineteenth, during the same period of ten years, authorizes Spanish vessels to accept cargoes for Trinidad in the French Consular Ports. In Trinidad, cargoes for the said ports paid a tax of five per cent on entry and the same on export of produce, except on those whose export was prohibited.
The twenthieth in cases of urgent necessity grants permission to give all colonists the same privileges for the French islands in America on payment of the same tax of five per cent on entry and exit of provisions and merchandise.
The twenty first promises the colonists that orders will be sent to the Captain General at Caracas to supply them at current prices, with the necessary cattle for their food industries and agriculture, up to the time when the colonists themselves have been able to breed sufficient for their own requirements.
The twenty second also promises to the colonists that similar orders will be sent to allow them to import flour during the period of ten years from the 1st January 1785. In the case of scarcity, they would be allowed to go elsewhere to buy under the Spanish flag, and in payment they would export produce which would be charged a five per cent duty, similar to that imposed on flour received in exchange.
The twenty third also promises to the colonists the sending of similar orders to the factories in Biscay, so that during the same period of ten years, they could be supplied with the agricultural tools, and in case they should not arrive, they are authorized to procure them from the foreign and friendly islands, on the same conditions established for flour in case of scarcity.
The twenty fourth also promises to newly arrived colonists, that two priests who knew foreign languages would be sent to them as parish priests, and to these would be given sufficient income so that they can live according to their character, as without this, they would have to recourse to the purses of their parishioners.
The twenty fifth obliges all colonists to submit to the King, through the Governor, the regulation which seems to be the best for the conduct of their slaves, on condition that this regulation should be in accordance with instructions which the Governor will receive regarding this matter, and this must be based on the principle of the restitution of fugitive slaves from the foreign islands.
The twenty sixth recommends a very severe surveillance in order to prevent the introduction from neighbouring islands of destructive ants.[xv] It orders a rigorous inspection of vessels and also of luggage and effects of new colonists who arrive from the ant-ridden islands.
The twenty seventh promises to give the colonists the right to establish sugar refineries in Spain when the sugar crops in Trinidad had become sufficient for them to make a profit. They will enjoy the same privileges and liberties granted to foreign nationals. It also promises, but later on, the establishment of a Consular Court or Commerce Court in the island, in order to extend protection to agriculture, shipping and commerce. It also recommends that in the meantime the Governor and other judges should undertake an administration which is just and prompt and humane, so that justice can be done to all inhabitants, both Spaniards and foreigners.
The twenty eighth gives the right to all inhabitants of the islands, to petition the King through the intermediary of the Governor. They are also granted the facility to go to Spain in person for the purpose of obtaining relief from the wrongs which they may have suffered. A final paragraph stipulates, as is usual, that all provisions of the law which are contrary to the present Cedula remain in abeyance, and the officials of the American colonies and the Consuls in the Consular Ports in France, are hereby ordered to obey.[xvi]
In order to understand the complete plan for colonization adopted by Spain, we must remember, following the Cedula of Population, the Code Noir, drawn up by Roume de Saint Laurent, and promised by the twenty fifth article of the Cedula, even though it did not come into force until six years later. It is actually dated at Aranjuez, the 31st May 1789, and carries the title of the Roual Cedula for Protection of Slaves in the Spanish Colonies. This work undertaken by the new colonists in Trinidad, plainly gives effect to the noble thoughts of Roume de Saint Laurent who said, that he wished to make the life of slaves as happy as their state would allow, because he was well known for his great humanity. The honour of preparing this Cedula was confided to Mr. Joseph de la Forest, a French colonist from Grenada who was the Syndic Procurer (or Attorney General) of the Cabildo in 1785. This duty could not have been confided to anyone with more philanthropic ability.[xvii] The regulations are preceeded by a long preamble which states that, many abuses having been introduced into the education, treatment and work of slaves by their masters or owners, it had become necessary to remedy these matters, particularly at this moment when liberty having been granted to the Spanish subjects by a Royal Order dated 28th February 1785, it had become necessary to regulate the treatment of the blacks, as the number of slaves in the Americas was bound to increase considerably. The regulations are divided into fourteen articles as follows:
1.            Education – Every single proprietor, whoever he may be, is obliged to instruct them in the precepts of the Roman Catholic Religion in order that they may be baptized within the year of their instruction; he is also bound to grant them rest on public holidays, except at harvest time. On those days, as the slaves will have to attend Mass, a priest will be provided at the expense of the master. Every day after working hours, they will have to say the rosary with devotion, in the presence of the master or his steward.
2.            Food and Clothing – The master is under the obligation of feeding his slaves, as well as their wives when they can earn their keep, which is fixed at twelve years for girls and fourteen for boys. As there is no other fixed rule as to the quality of the difference of climate, it is stipulated that the magistrate or syndic appointed for the protection of slaves will decide the quality and quantity of food and clothing to be allowed to them according to their age and sex. This regulation shall be fixed upon the door of the Town Hall and of the church of each district so that everyone may be informed.
3.            Work of Slaves – The slaves will be principally employed in agriculture. In order to make their services profitable to their masters and to the state, their tasks will be regulated by the magistrates and syndics in the manner as said in the foregoing chapter. The rule is that for two hours each day they will be free to do whatever work they want to their own personal interests, and every year they will receive from their masters two dollars for the use of their families; over sixty years and under seventeen years they will not be at the service of these masters, and women will not be employed in any work which is not comformable to their sex.
4.            Relaxation – On public holidays, after attending Mass followed by religious instruction, the slaves will be allowed to relax in the presence of the master or steward, men and women separately, excluding those of neighbouring estates. Attention must be paid that there should be no excessive drinking and that their amusements should end before evening prayer.
5.            Housing and Infirmary – All slaves will be accommodated in suitable houses to protect them from all types of weather, unmarried men apart from women, and each house will be provided with beds, blankets, and other necessary objects; each man will have his bed and there shall be no more than two beds in each house.
Another house, warm and comfortable, will be for the sick, and there they ought to receive all that will be necessary for them. If they have to be sent to the hospital due to lack of space or the proximity of a town, the master will be bound to pay their daily hospital fees decided upon by the magistrate according to what was stated in Chapter 2. In case of death, the master will have to reimburse the hospital the funeral expenses.
6.            The Aged and the Infirm – Those who due to old age or illness are incapable of work, as well as children of both sexes, must be provided for by their masters. Such people cannot be given their liberty in order to get rid of them unless a sufficient amount of money be given to them to ensure their subsistence; the sum to be decided upon by the magistrates and syndics.
7.            Marriage of Slaves – The master must not allow concubinage but must encourage marriage among his slaves. Neither must he hinder them from marrying the slaves belonging to other masters; in the latter case, if the estates are distant from one another so that the newly married couple are unable to fulfill the object of marriage, the master shall purchase the wife of the husband at a price fixed by two experienced arbitrators nominated by the two parties, and in case of disagreement, a third will be chosen by the two arbitrators. If the husband’s master refuses to buy his wife, the wife’s master will have the right to buy the husband.
8.            Duties and Punishments of Slaves – As masters of slaves are obliged to maintain them, to educate them and to employ them in useful work proportional to their strength, age and sex, without forsaking their children and those who are old and sickly, so on the other hand there is an obligation on the part of the slaves to obey and respect their masters and stewards, to perform the work which is given to them to do according to their strength, and to respect them as the heads of their family. Consequently those who fail to fulfill those duties will be punished in the measure of the seriousness of their offence. The punishment will consist of imprisonment, chains or whip, the latter not to exceed the number of twenty five lashes so as not to cause any contusion or bleeding. These punishments cannot be imposed on slaves except by the master or steward.
9.            Applying Greater Punishments – When slaves commit crimes which deserve a more severe punishment, the master, his steward or any other witness will have the culprit arrested and will inform the court so that in the presence of his master and his defender he will be judged and punished in accordance with the seriousness of his offence. The same procedure as applied to common criminals will also be applied to the slaves. If the slave is condemned to pay a third of the expense of the trial, and even if the corporal punishment inflicted on him according to the seriousness of his crime, goes as far as death or the mutilation of his limbs, the master will be responsible for it.
10.        Omissions or Excesses of Masters and Stewards – The master or his steward who fails to provide education, food, clothing, relaxation, housing, etc of slaves or who should forsake their children and those among them who are sick, will pay a fine of $50 for the first time, $100 for the second time and $200 for the third time. These fines will be paid by the master even when his steward is at fault. If the latter is not in a position to pay them, one thurd will be for the informer, one third for the judge, and one third for the Fines Chest which will be mentioned later. In case these fines do not produce the desired effect, the Queen will be informed so that she may decide whatever she may wish. If the masters or their stewards are guilty of excess in punishing their slaves causing wounds, bleeding or mutilation of limbs, beside paying fines, they shall be prosecuted as criminals and will be punished in proportion to their crime. The slave shall be taken away and sold to another master if he is able to work. The amount of the sale shall be put in the Fines Chest. If the injured slave is no longer able to work and therefore cannoy be sold, he will not be returned to his master but the master will be bound to provide a daily sum which shall be fixed by the magistrate for his subsistence, and this for the rest of his life, paying every month in advance.
11.        Of those who injure Slaves – Slaves can only be punished by their masters or their stewards, therefore no other person will be permitted to ill-treat, chastise, wound or kill without incurring the punishment enacted by the law against those who commit the like excesses towards free people. The master of the slave who has been thus ill-treated, has the right to file a law suit against the criminal which will be defended by the Attorney, the Protector of Slaves.
12.        List of Slaves – The slave masters are bound to provide the magistrate of their district with a list of the slaves they possess, mentioning the age and sex of each one, so that the Notary of the Town Hall may enter them on a separate register which will be kept in the said Town Hall to this effect. Each master whose slave runs away is bound to inform the magistrate within 3 days so that mention will be made of it in the register to avoid suspicion of murder. Should the master not fulfill this obligation, he will be obliged to produce proof either of the absence or the natural death of his slave; failing which he will be brought to court.
13.        Method of Investigating the Excesses of Masters and Stewards – As it will be difficult for slaves to bring their complaints to the lawful authority, it will be necessary to find out how they are treated by their masters. To this effect the priest responsible for the religious instruction of slaves on each estate, will seek information about the treatment they receive. Should there be reason to complain, he will secretly let the Attorney General know, and it will be the duty of the latter to open an enquiry. If the complaints are unfounded, the priest will not be held responsible for informing the Attorney, as the mission of the latter will be only to notify the magistrate to open the enquiry and to pursue whatever procedure he may have begun. Besides these means, it will be necessary that trustworthy persons be appointed by justices and magistrates to visit estates three times a year and to report whatever they will have observed contrary to regulations of the foregoing chapter; it is also declared that the denunciation of every infraction of these regulations is a public law which gives the privilege of secrecy to every informer, and that no one will be charged for his information.
Finally it is declared that the justices and Attorneys as Protectors will be answerable for any neglect of theirs in making use of any necessary means to enforce these Royal Resolutions.
14.        Chest of Fines – In the towns and villages where the forementioned regulations will be enforced and wherever there will be Court of Justice, a Chest with three keys will be put and kept in the Town Hall, one of which will be delivered to the Justice of the Peace, another to the Governor, and the third to the Attorney General. In this Chest will be kept the amount of fines received from those who have not obeyed the Royal Orders. The money will be used as a means of enforcing these same orders, and cannot be touched without an order signed by the three entrusted with the keys, who will be responsible for whatever may be missing and are obliged to replace it so that the yearly accounts which have to be presented to the Intendant of the Province may be approved of by him. Then comes the final required section where it is stipulated that every law or custom opposed to the present Cedula, is and remains cancelled, and that the Supreme Council of the Indies and the American public servants are obliged to conform and have it enforced.[xviii]
Such is the collection of regulations of colonization adopted by Spain on the recommendation of Roume de Saint Laurent. These regulations applied to all the different colonial classes of the time including whites, people of colour and the slaves, and they became the basis of our public laws. They did not however, apply to the Indians who were still confined to their missions and subject to the double tutelage of the priests and the magistrates. The regulations are remarkable for their liberality and consideration. The Code Noir cuts right across the dragon-like legislation which applied to the slaves at the time. It is highly honourable to the colonist who proposed it and the government which adopted it. As regards to the Cedula of Population, the success which it was shortly to attain is evidence of its great value. As usual however, this success did not fail to provide a number of criticisms among those who had first spoken of it with praise. These people amongst other things, said[xix] that Spain had made the great mistake of turning Trinidad into a foreign colony on whose loyalty she could not depend. This specious objection does not hold good when carefully examined. Certainly it would suit the nations to have their colonies populated by their own nationals. But since this desirable state could not be arrived at, they would have the choice of either abandoning them or populating them by means of foreigners. At the time, Spain herself was depopulated and could not possibly think of depriving herself of her inhabitants in order to send them to Trinidad, and on the other hand, neither could she resolve to abandon so important a colony. To condemn the re-population of colonies by foreigners is also to condemn all conquests, seeing that it is obvious that countries which are conquered are necessarily then populated by foreigners. Spain, by inviting foreigners to come and colonise Trinidad, would she not with good reason be bound to emphasise her aptitude to mould together foreign races and to assimilate different classes? Furthermore, would not these foreigners who had chosen to live under Spanish laws, offer to Spain far more guarantees of loyalty and fidelity than those whom she had succeeded in bringing into her power by conquering them? From all these points of view one is obliged to conclude that, Spain, unable to colonise Trinidad with her own nationals, had given proof of true colonizing genius in re-populating her by foreigners.
Thus it was that after six years of incessant efforts, the tireless Roume de Saint Laurent finally saw his generous project crowned with success. From this moment one would have thought that there was nothing left for him to do but to reap the fruits of his devotion; but this did not mean anything, and it was his very devotion which became the cause of his ruin. As so often happens to well meaning benefactors, he was repaid by the ingratitude of the government which he had served. He appealed in vain to the Court of Spain, not for a reward for his services which he had undertaken quite voluntarily, but for a refund of the expenses of the voyages which he had undertaken to the different islands, Caracas, and Europe, voyages which had consumed the whole of his fortune. In vain did he appeal to the Intendant, Don José de Abalos, to remind him of his promises and to ask him to support his appeal. Finally, crippled by debts which he had contracted to carry out these voyages, he was forced to leave Madrid and to retire to Paris. There he renewed his soliciting through the intermediary of the Spanish Ambassador, but he obtained nothing but vague promises. Because of his debts, soon he had nothing to look forward to but prison. It was during this period of sad misery, while living in a garret that unexpected help came to him from the French Government. The Marshal de Castries, minister of Marine, being informed of the presence in Paris of the ex-judge from Grenada, sought him out and offered him the appointment of the Intendant in the island of Tobago. This appointment was then one of great responsibility, and the Minister wanted to seize the opportunity of appointing such a highly competent man. But Roume de Saint Laurent was too scrupulous to accept this offer there and then. Although the parsimony of the Spanish government had brought him to poverty, he still considered it his duty not to abandon his service to them without properly relinquishing his duties, and he requested the Minister to delay the matter for a short while so that he could find out the result of a final conference which he had arranged to have with the Spanish Ambassador. At the embassy there was no one but the first secretary to whom Roume de Saint Laurent explained by the brilliant offer which had been made to him by France. The Spanish first secretary advised him to accept it. Hardly had he engaged himself in the service of France than he received from the Court of Spain the appointment of First Commissioner of Population in Trinidad, with a salary of $2,000.00. He could not however, accept this reward from Spain, since it was both too late and too mean, so he left for Tobago.[xx]
In this way he was rougly separated from Trinidad; the benefactor to whom she owed so much, the eminent man who had consecrated his noble faculties and his prosperity to her cause, the devoted servant who, for her had sacrificed the best years of his life and his fortune, and even the affections of his family. He had established all this in 1781, and it was not to be his fate to see Trinidad again.[xxi] He was actively engaged in the great events of the end of that century, and in 1792 we find him in the eminent post of Chairman of a Commission of three appointed by the National Assembly of Santo Domingo, for the pacification of that colony which was then in revolt. Later, in 1796, he was Chairman of a second Commission of two, and was sent by the Director to the same colony and with the same object. On this occasion he became Governor of the Spanish portion of that island which had been ceded to France in 1795, and soon after that he was also Governor of the French part of the island[xxii]. But in spite of the splendid services which he rendered to our country, thanks to the short memories of those who benefited, even his name is hardly known. It is for us a great pride and satisfaction that we have been able to bring his splendid services to the notice of our compatriots.
Two months after the date of the Cedula of Population, on 23rd June 1784, the government of Trinidad passed from the hands of Don Juan Francisco Machado, into those of Captain Don Antionio Barreto, who was temporarily appointed while awaiting the arrival of the Governor elect, Don José Maria Chacon.[xxiii] It was during the administration of Captain Barreto that the Cabildo, finally giving way to the force of circumstances, decided to move to Port of Spain, where they held their first meeting on the 20th August 1784.[xxiv] Some weeks previously, on 7th June 1784, the Cabildo had appointed one of its Regidors to supervise the portioning out of fish and provisions arriving by launches from the mainland, and to forestall any monopoly, and to have them disposed of at the priced fixed by the Tariff.[xxv] It was a case when one can say that it was hunger which made the wolf come out of the forest.





[i]  Free Mulatto, Address to Earl Bathurst, p. 8
[ii] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.81
[iii] Free Mulatto, Address to Earl Bathurst, p. 4
[iv] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.82
[v] Marquise de Charras, Naturalizacion, ms. 1787. Then they came from Dominica, Martinique, St. Vincent and most of all from Grenada.
[vi] Free Mulatto, Address to Earl Bathurst, p.4 et seq.
[vii] Id., ibid
[viii] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.84
[ix] Free Mulatto, Address to Earl Bathurst, p.7. Obviously the author mistook the role of traders with that of coloured planters. In his way of thinking Roume de Saint Laurent was making no distinction between the latter and white people. It is reasonable to believe that the distinction, which was introduced in the Cedula of Colonisation, came from the governor.
[x] Marquise de Charras, Natualizacion, ms., 1787.
[xi] De Lery, Memoire sur l’ile de la Trinité, 1786, ms.
[xii] Bryan Edwards, History of the B.W. Indies, t.IV, p.299, art. Trinidad.
[xiii] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.87
[xiv] Or 32 acres, an English measurement.
[xv] The ants, which are seen today in Trinidad, may have been introduced by the colonists despite the precautions taken, or perhaps have always been there but gone unnoticed by the colonists.
[xvi] See the Cedula of Colonisation.
[xvii] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.91. A coloured illegitimate son of M. de la Forest, having inherited the wealth as well as the humanitarian principles of his father, since he had as a direct inheriter, bequeathed his fortune and name to a young slave of his workshop.
[xviii] See in the Appendix of the English translation of the Code Noir of which the Spanish original was unobtainable.
[xix] E.L. Joseph, History of Trinidad, part II, Chap. VIII p.165 et. Seq. To this ridiculous objection, the author adds a double calumny which will be mentioned later.
[xx] Marquise de Charras, Naturalizacion, ms., 1787.
[xxi] Id., Ibid.
[xxii] Beard, Life of Toussaint Louverture, passim.
[xxiii] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.88
[xxiv] Id., ibid, p89.
[xxv] Meany, Abstract of the minutes of Cabildo, 1733-1813, ms., p.88