Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Colour Prejudice


Just over 120 years ago, the late 1870s, life in Trinidad reflected the ups and downs and overall uncertainties of the colonial experience.
All in all, the island was prosperous. Sugar was making money for those with money. Cocoa was on a sound footing, providing a trickle-down economy whereby many benefited. The indentured Indians laboured in the hope of either repatriation or in resignation to being consigned forever to this island.
Already, the central plains were acquiring the look of India that they would never see again, or which their children would never know. Jhandis fluttered over backyard shrines, dedicated to Lord Shiva as devotees murmured mantras, maintaining a transcendental connection to half-forgotten ashrams on the banks of Gangama; all these frozen in memory, evoked with ganja, specially imported by the British authorities as a solace and as a relatively safe alternative to the demon of rum.
Already there was an organised importation of West Indians negroes, mostly from the island of Barbados, who were more self-possessed than their local equivalents. They provided inexpensive labour and filled the ranks of the nascent civil service. They were also Protestant, which served to swell the numbers of that denomination favoured by the British. In those days, the real politic took place not between rich or poor or even black or white, but between Catholics and Protestants. This really meant between the British establishment, the governor and high officials, business people and professionals, and the local French whites and their coloured adherents. At the end of the day, what mattered was the cost of labour. Indians from India, negroes from the impoverished smaller islands, ensured that the price of raw materials for export was kept as low as possible. colonial rule was simple. The Indians in the cane, the negroes in the slums.
Where the real social action took place was in the murky, slightly out-of-focus interface between the people of African descent, from dark to light complexions, local or from other British territories, who were moving upward by dint of education and that most nebulous criterion of all, respectability. Nice manners, well-made clothes, a good grasp on the distinction between servility and graciousness or perhaps gratefulness—these educated people of colour had their champions who put up a show whenever obvious racial discrimination was dished out. Black editors complained:
"One class is protected blindly, without regard even to decency and propriety; and other classes degraded with a similar disregard to prudence, common sense and even safety ... The authorities show a lamentable want of discretion and judgment by irritating so often, so determinedly, and so unnecessarily, a sensitive race ... The dominant race enjoys to the top of its bent everything it can desire—power, place, emoluments, social position. It lives, it luxuriates, on the fat of the land. Why does it not enjoy itself quietly? And not every now and then insult the Children of the Sun by acts of gross injustice..." (from contemporary newspapers, as quoted in Prof. B. Brereton's "Race Relations").
Some made it as in the case of  a Mr. O'Brien, whose recommendation by his boss went, "he is a coloured man, and it is difficult to find appointments for men of his class," but, "the fact that he is annually chosen as secretary of the [Horse] Race Meeting shows the sort of consideration in which he is held by the community generally".
O'Brien was acceptable to the whites and so could work in the upper middle ranks of the service. It was regarded as scandalous in 1894 when a registrar of the supreme court, Ralph Monier-Williams, wrote a letter to the governor, requesting him to appoint to a clerkship "a person with as little coloured blood as possible and, if practicable, with no coloured blood at all, as these have given considerable trouble in the department within the last two years".
Trinidad, being as it is, the letter became a topic of discussion even before it got to the governor. The "Long Tom Cigar-Smoking Club of Almond Walk", made up of "a collection of rogues, intellectuals, chantwells, mystic-masons, gentlemen of leisure", to name a few, who met every morning to sit outside Mouttet's dry goods store on Almond Walk, now Broadway, to smoke cigars, take coffee and discuss the events of the day, condemned the occurrence. There was talk that he the official in question should be "tarred and feathered".
It was arranged for posters to be put up all over town, asking "what shall we do with Monier-Williams?" A police constable was ordered to protect him. The reaction of the governor was to appoint a "jet-black" man to the post. Many of the commentators of the day felt that Monier-Williams had been set up by the prejudice of people in his department who had attempted to use him to make a point and "to further their own notions about race". At a Long Tom meeting, held one rainy morning in August 1899, the Hon. Maxwell Philip observed "the coloured and black class in the West Indies occupy an intermediate position". "Marginal men" he called the educated, genteel, well-dressed, hopeful applicants to positions they could hardly imagine. They, the club members, knew what he meant. The English thought them treacherous, fickle and unstable, clever, yes, but lacking in moral worth.
Louis Fabien, raising to avoid a leak dripping from the ceiling in the old shop, said, "Insecurity, my dear, is the root of ambivalence on the one hand. We want to be like everybody else." "You mean you want to be accepted at the Union Club?" "Yes, I don't see why not!"
They laughed, knowing full well that the bags of cocoa that filled Jean Mouttet's store rooms, in fact what they were sitting on, belonged to Louis Fabien. Maxwell Philip proposed having a ball, and proceeded to organise it, at which, because of his prestige and wealth, he brought together what was in their opinion the best of the coloureds and the most acceptable of the whites.
They were not many actually "black" people at the ball. It was held at the Princes Building and was considered a success. Isolated as an event, it however caused comment. The "New Era", a newspaper owned by a coloured man, wrote in his editorial, "Europeans arriving in the West Indies believed that the natives were savages and cannibals". Educated non-whites had a strong sense of their moral and intellectual worthiness to move in the "best" circles. They felt that society was divided into "those who justly deem themselves entitled to a social position in the island consistent with their means and general behaviour, and those who believe that they have a prescriptive right to dictate who shall or shall not, be received into the ranks of the colonial society."
In the weeks that followed Philip's ball, two young men entered Monier-Williams' office in the Red House one evening and, to his surprise, emptied a pail of warm tar over his head and then the contents of a large pillow case. It is of interest to note that they were both white...
Some sixty years later, in the 1930s, C.L.R. James wrote, speaking of his own time, "There are the nearly whites hanging on tooth and nail to the fringes of white society and these hate contact with the darker skin far more than some of the broader-minded whites. Then, there are the browns, intermediates, who cannot by any stretch of the imagination pass as white, but who will not go one inch towards mixing with people darker than themselves."
The society tortured itself, "writhing in the confines of the racist ideology of local and metropolitan whites," writes Prof. Bridget Brereton. Quoting historian Donald Wood, she notes, "the whole intricate experience of the Afro-European encounter since the renaissance, the stereotypes formed by slavery, the legacy of the master and slave relationship, the complex of prejudices and judgments which formed the white view of the 'negro character' during slavery a mixture of affection and contempt, patronage and fear was carried into the post-emancipation adjustment."
The people of mixed race, who had risen from poverty or, in some cases, never were there, they bought into the white attitudes while taking on board various European mores, styles and points of view as they could manage. They tried to disassociate themselves from the working class blacks. Writing letters to the press, asking government "to act more stringently against immoral drum dances, for the sake of the respectable coloured sector which, being coloured, was sometimes classed with the scum that took part in the dances".
The colonial experience created a definition of self-hate that was remarkable, profoundly segmenting the society. Calypso, ever the mirror of society, went:
"Dan is the devil, the devil is dan,
brown nigger more bad than baccraman
but black is the baddest in the land."
J.J.Thomas, a black educator who expressed strong racial pride, spoke out against the extent to which self-contempt and self-hatred existed in his fellow blacks. He condemned the internalising of European values with regard to their superiority. he wrote, "colour prejudice is a ladder with almost endless rungs. It is a system of social aggression and retaliation."
J.J. Thomas was insightful with regard to his concept of Afro-America. He recognised that there were common links binding all blacks in the New World, realising that it was and is in fact the black presence that defined the New World.
His writing influenced many of his contemporaries. One of them was Edward Blyden, the founder of "African Nationalism" and "Négritude". As Prof. Brereton points out:
"Many Trinidadians saw that race prejudices were not the monopoly of any one group. It was not, said J.J. Thomas, a matter of oppressing whites and oppressed blacks. Race prejudice and discrimination were practiced by all sectors, and the coloured and black middle class was the most shade-conscious of all."
The equation of whiteness with superiority had been thoroughly internalised by many educated coloureds and blacks and the consequences of this indoctrination were easily noticed. There were those self-styled whites who desperately tried to conceal their 'negro blood'. According to the radical coloured activist Edgar Maresse-Smith, Philip Rostant was one of those. He wrote to the press:
"Mr. Rostant, in defiance of his crisped hair and the copper colour of his skin, has elected to be a white man. This would be harmless folly if Mr. Rostant would persuade himself of his bequéism and allow others to think as they please. But he feels that he dupes no-one and therefore falls into convulsions as soon as the word 'African' is pronounced, for fear that a hyphen will be placed between himself and the detestable African race."
Maresse-Smith and Rostant were political enemies, and Dr. Brereton points out, "the accusation may well have been entirely untrue, but the letter describes what was probably a well-known phenomenon."
It is of interest to note that both of these men were ardent nationalists, staunch supporters of greater local representation in elected bodies and justice for the poor. J.J. Thomas pointed out that educated and respectable creoles of all skin tones shared a common love for their country and a common sense of identity. This was a view that was shared by many, as one contributor wrote:
"The descendants of the old French and Spanish families, whether they have preserved their distinctive idiosyncrasies by intermarriages among themselves, or have formed a distinct race by the intermingling of African blood, as well as those who form that portion of intelligent blacks who have of late come to the front, are now known and designated as Creoles. These different sections of the native population are now so well linked to each other by intermarriage and daily intercourse that they form a compact body."
Creole society in the colonial period was dependent on social stratification, both in terms of class and caste. The white upper class excluded those with a "touch of the tar brush", notwithstanding wealth, breeding or the lightness of his or her complexion. They also excluded other Europeans, deemed not socially white, such as the Portuguese or the Syrians for that matter, and many of their own countrymen who did not belong to their social order. On the other hand, the line between the black masses and the non-white middle class was class-consciousness.
A working class, black person from the lower levels of society could, through education and the making of money, move upwards amongst the blacks and coloureds who had acquired respectability, and as such had become teachers, civil servants, or journalists. One could say that there were three significant indications by which a person's class may have been defined. There is by and large a certain yardstick of values in the society in terms of which families may be judged and ranked. In the context of Trinidad, to believe in and subscribe to the idea of superiority in being white, of a command of European culture, and of having a place, real or imagined, in the European ranks of the nobility. Other factors such as land ownership, once having possessed slaves, acceptance as such amongst their peers.
Both the white creoles and the coloured and black educated, land-owning professionals, shared and practiced a broadly similar lifestyle, in that they both modelled themselves on the European upper and middle classes, and subscribed to their cultural and social values. The white creoles with more cash in hand could make a better show of it. For lower-class blacks, the masses, they lived an entirely different life in a world very far removed from their sometimes close neighbours or relatives for that matter.
Thus, the roots of the segmentation of the society were laid. To this day, they run deep, and as such may be manipulated by clever people to support their own ends. One should bear in mind that these prejudices were in the first place artificial and were perpetuated by the colonial power for the purpose of dominating a subject people. "Divide et impere"—divide and rule. We all must now know that those days are past and we must condemn those who would have them return!

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Story of the Government House


 It will be interesting to record some of the facts regarding the construction of this old building as well as some information concerning it given by the late Mr. Thomas James St. Hill, six months before his death at the age of 90 in the 1930s, who, as a boy, had played around it and had frequent opportunities of roaming about its rooms. 
In describing it he said the house had no pretensions to architectural beauty, but the interior was nicely furnished. The ceiling and sides were of plaster of Paris; the walls were of tapia made from black pick-mock roseau, grown in the forest, split into three, with the pith scooped out and tapia laid between. 
The tapia was covered with white lime plaster, and plaster of Paris was laid over all. There was a chandelier in each of the two large rooms, the drawing room and the ballroom. Stucco work was around the chandeliers, while a gilt frieze ran around the rooms at the top. The doors were of cedar and nicely worked in design; the locks were brass ones about eight or nine inches wide, the staircase was six feet wide, the balustrade of which was of mahogany with turned rails. 
A marble stair ran from the ground floor to the landing, comprising twelve steps of black and white. There was a front gallery twelve feet wide, and, apart from the two large rooms described above the interior, was not otherwise large, so this gallery was often used as a dining verandah for balls and other purposes. The principal doors were of glass; there were no jalousie windows, but glass sashes; the reception room was marble-tiled and the staircase to the west, leading from the dining room to the garden was of red tiles. The upper part that ran to the north was two-storied, otherwise it was a one-storey building.
Mr. St. Hill further stated that this building, which had at one time been used as a Government House, was occupied for a good many years by the Hon. Ashton Warner, Chief Judge of the Colony, until his decease in 1830. Mr. Warner was the last occupier of this building, and from that time it fell into decay and ruin. On being asked why it was never tenanted subsequently, he remarked that it was supposed to be situated in an unhealthy locality, being greatly exposed to the north winds and that someone had died there of a malignant type of fever.
When giving the information recorded above, he also drew the ground plan of the building from memory. These measurements were duly checked by a local architect and found to be correct in every detail. This plan, however, has unfortunately been misplaced by the architect. It would have been interesting to reproduce it along with this photograph and the description of the interior. It would also be of interest to find out from what point this view was originally sketched. Mr. St. Hill further stated that when the Prince's Building was being built in 1861, this old property was demolished in order to obtain bricks to be used in the construction of the new building.
From parliamentary papers relating to the island of Trinidad of 18th February, 1823, we gather that the Belmont lands were leased to the government from January 1803 and that these were the lands "on which the Government House and buildings and the negro houses are erected". And further "at the time of the original contract for lease of land by colonial government there was only a small house 36 ft. x 18 ft. built of American timber, shingled and floored and a small hut covered with straw upon the said lands: the former building was newly shingled and repaired by the government previous to its occupation of the property".
As 'Paradise Estate' was bought by the government in 1825 and the great house thereon used as Government House, we think it could safely be averred that the governors who occupied this house were governors Hislop, Munro and Woodford from 1803—1825.
We are glad to be able to place on record these important facts regarding this historic building about which, until now, little has been publicly known. Indeed, there is one common theory about this place that this document explodes and that is that, the building on the Belmont Hill was never a Government House. There is abundant evidence to disprove this. Trinidad is thus greatly indebted to Sir Normal Lamont and the late Mr. T.J. St. Hill.
We are further indebted to Mr. T.I. Potter for the information regarding this property and the section taken at law by claimants to the land, as subjoined:

The old 'Government Cottage' on Belmont Hill.
The history of the old ruins to be seen on the crest of the hill which overlooks the city and the harbour of Port of Spain from what is now called Belmont Pasture is interesting.
The Belmont Estate, which apparently did not comprise much more than the present pasture and the ridge to the north-east of it, although the whole district to the south has taken the name, was a very old occupancy held by a Spaniard whose name is not recorded, because very probably, he was a squatter. In 1780 this man sold his holding to one Riviere, an immigrant to this island from St. Vincent. Riviere, in his turn, sold the occupancy to Don Francis Pasqual de Soler, who conveyed it to Edward Barry (a member of the firm of Barry & Black) on the 16th December, 1784, for the sum of "$900 of eight bits", (whatever that may be).
Edward Barry died some time after the purchase and the representative of his estate leased the lands and buildings, the cultivation (only 'provisions and plantains') having been abandoned, to the governor of the island as a site for a country residence, at a yearly rental of $1,200, and gave him a preferential option of purchasing the property at a fair valuation whenever the heirs of Barry could give a legal title to the lands. The residence was erected the same year, and Governor Hislop was the first tenant of it.
In the year 1811, the heirs of Barry got into financial difficulties, and Messrs. Park and Heywood took the Belmont property in execution. The court ordered an appraisement to be made, and the governor, Major General Monro, was notified of it. He objected to the inclusion of the governor's residence in the appraisement, and it appears that nothing was done until the 30th April, 1814, when notice of the order for appraisement was served on the new governor, Sir Ralph Woodford, who at once referred the matter to the attorney-general (Henry Fuller) in order that the interest of the crown in the property might be represented in the suit. On the 24th May, 1814, he directed the attorney-general to limit his objection to the valuation of the buildings.
The title of Belmont Estate was then raised, and the matter came into the court of first instance before the chief judge (John T. Bigge), who, after hearing the arguments of the attorney-general and the representatives of the heirs of Barry, dismissed the claim of the crown, and held that this title of the heirs of Barry to Belmont Estate was good, and he warranted it.
The attorney-general appealed against this decision to the court of civil appeal, which, at that time, was the court of intendant as regards matters relating to lands of the colony. This court had very large powers there.
The governor was the president of this court, and he had as his legal assistant a judge of the colony, who was called the 'assessor'.
After hearing both sides, the president reversed the decision of the chief justice, and decreed that the act of a servant cannot forfeit the right of the lord paramount, that no grant had been issued to any one, of the lands forming the Belmont Estate, and that there was no prescription against the crown in the colony, therefore His Majesty had never been divested of the ownership of the lands which formed Belmont Estate; but that the heirs of Barry could sue for compensation under a recent British proclamation dealing with crown lands and lands occupied in the island, which gave compensation in land to occupiers, in certain cases, where lands were resumed from them for public purposes; and that the rent received by the heirs of Barry would be taken into account in considering the question of compensation.
The representative of the heirs of Barry applied for leave to appeal to the Privy Council, which was granted, and the vexed question was submitted for final decision to that tribunal.
The case of the claim of the crown to the lands of Belmont, and the alleged arbitrary action of Sir Ralph Woodford in the matter formed one of the many grievances of the Committee of Landholders of Trinidad, headed by the late Joseph Marryat, M.P., in their petition in 1816 to the Secretary of State against what they considered to be the aggressive and tyrannical administration of the government of the colony by that governor.
Belmont Estate eventually became crown land, and the 'Government Cottage' was occupied by the governors of the colony until the 'Great House' of the 'Paradise Estate,' (which property had been purchased from the Peschier family and was converted into the Botanical Gardens and Queen's Park) was fixed up as a govenor's residence. It was then apparently abandoned and fell into decay. It is today the site of the Hilton Hotel.


Friday, 24 August 2012

A Ride on the Bus

A hundred or more people rushed to get the bus. It is supposed to carry 28 and no more according to law, but nobody on that bus seems to have much regard for the law.

The seats go to the victors in the battle of the doorway; though a couple have, as usual, cheated and scrambled through the window. Then the aisle fills up, while those seated have to keep ducking their heads lest they get decapitated by the bags and boxes being slung about as if it were an empty warehouse instead of a public conveyance full of seated passengers.
At last, there are 35 people in the bus and it is a physical impossibility for anyone else to get in without bursting the steep side of the body. Then the conductor arrives on the scene with a palet in his mouth, to announce that the bus they are in is no longer going. All out! And take the bus behind. Irate, having fought and won a battle to be robbed as easily of the fruits of victory, the passengers abuse the government, the railway, the driver, the conductor and then each other and each other's parents.

Now the scramble to get out instead of getting in takes place. While this is going on, the seats and windows get damaged and the passengers emerge to find their clothes torn. The other bus is already nearly full, so only ten out of the thirty-five get a passage to their home, thirty miles away.
At last, the bus starts. In the aisle, there is a woman who has settled herself on the floor, clucking like a hen as she does so. She gradually diverts herself of clothing as if she were home and prepared for bed; first comes off the stocking and shoe. Then she loosens her bodice and pulls her skirt up around her waist.

As she makes herself "comfortable", she naturally encroaches upon the space occupied by her tightly packed fellow passengers. When they try to assert their rights to the few inches they are sitting, lying or standing on, she rises, clucking furiously. She looks so formidable that everyone is silenced and she subdues, bristling her feathers as she does so.
She is the terror of the trip, that is, until two urchins get in and take up position on either side of her. They lean on her, press on her head and step on her outstretched nude legs. When she starts to cackle, they giggle and pay her no mind. At last, she can bear it no longer, rises with a titanic effort and throws them off, exclaiming, "Crise! You all want to stifle me!"

As the bus approaches within five miles of her destination, she starts to re-dress and make her toilet for arrival. Her stockings are pulled on and then begins the hunt between everybody's legs for the missing shoe that has got shoved around in the mêlées until it has found itself behind the tool box next to the chauffeur's seat. She makes such a noise and accuses so many people of stealing her almost heel-less shoe that everyone joins the search until it is recovered. The chauffeur, who eventually picks it up and returns it to her, gets roundly abused for his pains. But he is the only person in the bus that is her match. In fact, he surpasses her. In the city's tramcar is written: "It is forbidden for the chauffeur to talk to the passengers while the bus is in motion", for from the time the bus has left its starting place, the chauffeur has harangued the bus. Not for a moment has he let up from telling us about his private life, how he'd been to jail and how he liked it there.
At one part of his story, he was describing how he beat a fellow. To lend emphasis to the tale, he would let go the wheel and turn around to describe to the passengers with his hands how he did it. In the middle of one of his gestures, a jitney swung around a corner unexpectedly, and the chauffeur just missed having to describe to the court how it happened, with or without gesture.

Gradually, the passengers thinned out somewhat, as each village passed claimed a few, until there is actually a seat vacant. But to the amazement of the uninitiated, women waiting at the roadside are ignored when they frantically signal the bus. The chauffeur explains to his audience: "She alright, oui, let she get the next one."
The next one, as everyone knows, is four hours away. But the real explanation comes when on approaching the terminus at the other end, the chauffeur starts stopping every few hundred yards to pick up one or two men, who, from their conversation, are obviously friends. Together they sit and stand in the front of the bus, smoking away with their friend, the chauffeur, while the passengers behind look cynically at the sign right over the chauffeur's head, which warns that smoking, except on the rear seat, is strictly forbidden.

At last, the bus arrives at the last stop. The conductor, who has no further business, as the chauffeur is supposed to collect the tickets, now stands astride the doorway, making it difficult for passengers to leave. The passengers themselves have by now become so much a part of the environment created by the chauffeur and his conductor that they fight one another to get out of the bus, into the village, which is devoid of anything except for a few stray pouches slinking around the empty butcher's stall. The bus then turns around and begins another of its reluctant efforts to transport people.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Arrival of Fruits and Veggies

That not only people crossed the Atlantic to find new homes for themselves in these islands, but also a variety of fruits and plants, also made that crossing and like the people are now taken quite for granted as being of this place. These introductions began quite early.
The tribal people would have brought plants from "down the main," perhaps fruit trees like paw paw and pineapple and custard apple. We can only guess at these, but we do know that the Spaniards brought in a wide range of plants.
The sugar cane which had its home in the far east, came with them by way of Egypt, Sicily, Malta and the Canary islands. It was first planted in the Americas in Santa Domingo in 1520. The banana also arrived with the Spaniards. A priest first planted it in Santa Domingo in 1516 but it did not become a plant of great economic importance until after 1835. In that year a Martinique planter called Jean Francois Pouyatt, first planted the Gras Michel Banana at his property in the Jamaican parish of St. Andrew.
A year later, he exhibited some bunches of the banana at a fair and was given a prize of one doubloon worth about 12 dollars. Later the English and the French took a hand at brining in plants. the mango for example was taken from a French ship seized as a prize of war by one of Admiral Rodney's Captains. The Frenchman out of an Indian ocean island named Isle de Bourbon contained several varieties of mango which were being shipped to Martinique. These mangoes eventually found themselves all over these islands. A British governor of Jamaica, Sir John Peter Grant, around 1865, introduced several new varieties of mango. Cinnamon found its way to these islands aboard the same boat that had the first mangoes. Another significant import was of course the breadfruit, which is linked with the famous Captain Bligh and the mutiny of the "Bounty".
Bligh made a second voyage after his disastrous first attempt, and brought from the Pacific islands in H.M.S. Providence such valuable plants as the Jew Plum or Governor plum and the Otaheite Apple which we call Pommerac as well as the breadfruit. The ackee more famous in Jamaica was also brought by Bligh from the West coast of Africa. Citrus fruit crossed the Atlantic as did rice with the Spaniards. they experimented with grapes. They also brought nutmeg and almond trees, camphor the oil palm, rubber trees and Guinea grass may have made its own way. Ornamental plants like the oleander, the arum lily and honey suckle and violets which were all brought between 1770 and 1790. Water cress also arrived around this time as did the tamarind tree which came from India and the Kola nut from West Africa. The Casuarina from far off Australia. The bamboo found through out the West Indies first arrived from the far East. Para grass came from Venezuela. Very important was coffee which has its first home in Ethiopia and which was first used as a beverage in Egypt and the Mediterranean a long time ago. HenryVIII enjoyed it. There were coffee houses in London in 1625. It was first planted in Jamaica in 1728 and arrived in Trinidad a few years later.
As we know the coconut came on the wings of a storm to plant itself on the Mayaro beach. Now let us look at the other side of the picture. The Caribbean islands are a part of the Americas and the Americas gave as well as received.
When Columbus returned to Europe from his voyages of discovery he was greeted as 'discoverer of the New World', but the world which he discovered was not new. It had been settled by man for thousands of years from the far off period, some 25,000 or more years ago, when parties of Mongolian people crossing over by way of Siberia into North America. The process of wondering and settling took thousands of years. Generations of these early Americans spread out over the wide plains of North America, worked their way down the continent into central America and settled there, others moved through Panama into South America and fanned out across its great river basins and down the long spine of the Andes.
In the course of this long period of time, many of them passed from the first primitive state of being gathers and hunters of food to more advanced stage of being growers of food. They mastered the art of agriculture. Significantly, they produced societies capable of very advanced forms of mathematical calculation and scientific observation achieving the capacity to study processional astronomy. It is unknown whether they brought there capacities with them or whether these evolved on the continent.
"By the time Columbus arrived, the American Indian had learnt to cultivate more food and plants than all the rest of the world put together," wrote Prof. Phillip Sherlock. So though the West Indies and the mainland received so much , they were able to give. Amongst these gifts were maize, various varieties of potato, hard woods, imperishable, as they were called a quantity of herbs and plants from which important medicines and drugs are made, and, as Prof. Sherlock remarks, "a bird which people all over the world call the turkey, its not from Turkey at all, but from North America."

Friday, 17 August 2012

The Mayoral Election at Port of Spain


by Jean de Boissière

First published in 1937 in Boissière's book "Trinidad - Land of the Rising Inflection".

Before eight in the morning, the meager two benches provided for the public were filled with people to witness the election of a Mayor for Port of Spain. They were mostly women, all well over forty and more like lazy housewives, come for a morning's entertainment than a group politically conscious females. The men had the beaten, defeated look of most British West Indian workers, who after a lifetime of toil under the most grueling conditions grasp at whatever outlet offered the remains of their emotions
At nine, the Mayor took the chair and started what the public had believed would be an historical occasion. The first thing on the agenda was the swearing-in of the newly elected councillors. There were five of them. Two were former councillors of the party machine that kept the present Mayor in power. One was a new addition to that machine, and the other two were the new, trade union-supported councillors, whose votes were supposed to give the necessary majority to the anti-Mayor group.
As the councillors rose to take the oath, a very striking picture formed itself. In the center was an enormous baize-covered oval table: around it stood the councillors, aldermen and Mayor. Behind them a conglomeration of the dispossessed of all classes of Port of Spain stood pressing against the wall formed by the backs of the city fathers. The vast expense of table obviously stood for the private property rights of Port of Spain. The solid wall of capitalist-politicians protected the table from any encroachment by the assorted rabble at their backs.
The swearing over, the Mayor, who had climbed to political power by representing himself as the spokesman of the dispossessed, congratulated the newly-elected councillors in a speech that was notable only for an intimation to one of two trade union councillors, a barrister, of possible patronage, when he reminded him that despite the sinister reputation of lawyers in the community, the council very often found use for them. His empty praise, threats and promises delivered, he proceeded to the re-election of himself as Mayor of the city of Port of Spain.
The system of election theoretically was a process of the elimination of possible candidates until a division of the house was called to decide on the final two candidates. In practise, the chairman absolutely controlled the whole process of elimination by presuming to be the sole power for interpreting the ambiguous rules of procedure. Someone would propose a candidate and another an opponent. By a showing of hands they would select the substantiative candidate. They would be nine for McCarthy and six for Ambard, the rest abstaining. A little later in the proceedings someone would propose Cabral to oppose McCarthy who had remained the substantiative candidate. At the showing of hands there were seven for Cabral and six for McCarthy.
It did not suit the Mayor's party to have McCarthy eliminated at that particular stage with a possible build-up of Cabral as the eventual opponent. Whether or not that had anything to do with the apparent miscount by many of the councillors present could not be clear to the onlooker, but there was a great deal of confusion and the Mayor called for another showing of hands. This time it was six-six. According to previous procedures this meant that the substantiative candidate was eliminated and Cabral take his place. The Mayor immediately ruled that as McCarthv had nine votes in a previous contest against another opponent, in spite of the fact that every individual elimination contest left the right to abstain or change their candidate to the councillors, he still was the substantiative candidate.
Many councillors rose in protest at this high-handed interpretation of procedure by the Mayor. The councillors at Port of Spain hurled abuse at one anothers' head with vehemence that delighted the idle women and job-seeking men in the crowd, who understood naught of the politics of their city, but were delighted at being entertained in the manner they were accustomed to. The Mayor sat smiling at his well-managed circus that was behaving exactly as he wished it to: his rabble were being amused, and the councillors themselves were losing themselves and their dignity in a mirage that completely obscured the real issues at stake.
He called for yet another showing of hands. Some protested. He ignored them, and at the showing someone forgot who he had held up his hand for the first, and second times, and the result was six for Cabral and seven for McCarthy. The Mayor had got it as he wished, even if he had to trample the dignity of the civil body of Port of Spain in the gutter to do so.
Before any one councillor could catch his breath to give voice to a coherent protest, one of the Mayor's party proposed the Mayor as a candidate. It was now necessary for the Mayor to leave the chair. Two councillors of the opposing camp proposed a new chairman and were seconded. The Mayor announced the one that suited him as the new chairman, and ignored the other proposal as if it had never been made. Pandemonium let loose for the second time. The historic meeting went on without a chairman at all for fully fifteen minutes, while the opposition struggled for a hearing. In the meantime, three of the Mayor's party shrieked at one another from opposite side of the table about the interpretation of this procedure. It meant little, except as a very effective way of keeping the opposition from expressing itself. For even the most naive onlooker could see by now that the man who sat in the chair elected who he wanted as Mayor. Johnston made an offer to take the chair and appealed to the councillors to keep his right to sit there. But the opposition thoroughly rankled refused to support him. This also meant little, because if he was not entitled to it, neither was the candidate of the opposition, and the only alternative was the Mayor's henchman and deputy Pujadas. He took the chair.
The newly elected supporter of the Mayor rose to make a speech on the candidate he was voting for. He spoke in the manner of a school teacher whose self-taught diction is at best in the backroom of a rumshop. His string of elaborated catchwords lasted over 10 minutes. The chairman did not intervene while the opposition waited patiently.
There was another showing of hands at the conclusion of this boring interlude. Again the chairman seemed incapable of simply counting the number of raised hands. They bawled and screamed while one of the opposition leaders, Gomes, literally bursting with anger at the whole disgraceful affair, threatened to take the matter of the abuse of procedure to court at his own expense. The Mayor edged nearer to him and shrieked that if Gomes hit him, he would sock him on the jaw. With this, several of the Mayor's adherents of the bruiser type aggressively thrust themselves close to the Mayor and stood in a threatening attitude. This bit of gangster intimidation may have been the cause of the sudden subsidence of a storm that had broken several ink pots and at one point threatened to break up the meeting.
Calm again, Councillor Gomes rose to support his candidate against the Mayor. He began logically and clearly to deal with the years of administration or mal-administration. He spoke with a fine clear style, too fine, for the chairman ruled that he must not make a speech or at most not talk for more than five minutes. Gomes referred to the long speech of the schoolmaster. The chairman ignored him. Gomes sat down with an assured resignation.
A decision was called for and taken. Still nobody could count the hands correctly. So each name was put down and stated as candidate. One by one the councillors gave their vote until they came to Sinanan, the newly-elected, who had returned through the instrumentality of the trade unions. For weeks he had been sitting in the councils of the anti-Mayor opposition. Without a trace of embarrassment he voted against the people who had put him there and whose trust he had betrayed by sitting in on their plan of campaign. It gave the final disgraceful note to the whole sordid affair.
His vote gave the Mayor the chair for another year. It should not have been so as according to the procedure followed up to then. The opposition could have rallied their forces and proposed another candidate to oppose the Mayor who was only the substantiative candidate. But the chairman and the mob conspired to declare the new Mayor. The wildly enthusiastic populace, who had shown what mass action can do, danced up the street to the Mayor's office where they would celebrate the triumph of capitalist re-action with the few pence spared to buy rum. Thus ended a scene that would have outraged any self-respecting citizen of Port of Spain. But then there was very little room for such people in the council chamber on the morning the Mayor was elected.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Cocoa - a New World Product


The impact of the New World on the old is hard to grasp in these times of globalisation, but may be glimpsed in the appreciation of the sweet potato as being highly praised. It was precious a delicacy that when Falstaff in Shakespeare's play thinks of the wonderful treat that he will give to the ladies of Windsor, he cries "Let the sky rain potatoes" and he meant sweet potatoes, the rare delicacy from the Americas.
Historians and social scientists often talk of the debt of the New World to the Old; of the crops that were brought in to supplement the cassava and the maize of the Amerindians: rice, oranges, lemons, bananas, the grapefruit and the sugar cane. But the New World also gave many new things to Europe. New words entered European literature, such as tobacco, potato, maize, hammock, savannah, cannibal, hurricane, pirogue, manatee, tomato, quinine, alpaca, guano and cocoa.
The metals that come from Mexico and Peru were the cause of a price revolution that took place in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, and you will find countless references in English literature of the period to the silver, gold and jewels of the Americas. During this period, several references were made to gold, the bright red gold of the Guianas, and to the jewels and birds, the strange foods and fruit of the New World.
Some years ago, I went to Gran Couva to visit Mr. Louis de Verteuil, who had been in his time one of the great cocoa planters of Trinidad. Acres upon acres of cocoa trees surrounded the estate house, shaded by enormous immortelles, blazing a remarkable vermillion. He sat in his gallery, a wide-brimmed straw hat slightly tilted over his forehead. At first, I thought he was asleep. but as it turned out, he was listening to his cocoa growing. Later on, he told me about the "golden bean". He said that it was one of the really great gifts to the world. Europe, he said, knew nothing of the cocoa until the early years of the 16th century. Perhaps its first home was in the basins of the Orinoco and Amazon, but by the time that Columbus came to the Caribbean, it was known in Mexico and other parts of America. The tribes of Mexico thought that it was of divine origin, a plant from heaven. They used the beans as money, so that a province might pay some of its tribute to the chief in cocoa beans, and a man might pay ten beans for a rabbit and 100 beans for a slave.
He said that in South America long ago, in the time of Christopher Columbus and Herman Cortes, cocoa was prepared by boiling it with a mixture of ground corn and flavouring it with red pepper. The Emperor Montezuma is said to have been very fond of this drink and when his palace was taken, the Spaniards found vast amounts of cocoa.
The Spaniards, however, did not take to drinking cocoa until some nuns in Guanaco began to prepare it with sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Louis de Verteuil said that by the beginning of the 17th century, chocolate was a popular drink with the Europeans. Chocolate houses were opened in Oxford and London, one of the most famous being White's Chocolate House, which became a famous London club.
You would have found some of these early recipes a little too rich, and certainly costly. One recipe called for 100 cocoa beans, two heads of chili, a handful of anise or vanilla, a dozen almonds and some hazelnuts, some cinnamon, half a pound of sugar and a little annatto (ruccou) for colouring.
Most of the cocoa for Europe at first came from Venezuela, but slowly Trinidad gained some of the trade. cocoa seems to have been grown in the island quite early, for the Spaniards reported finding it in 1617, but it does not seem to have been cultivated on any scale before the end of the 17th century.
By 1710, however, it was the staple crop of the island.  Cocoa groves began to spread through the fertile Santa Cruz valley and in the Maraval valley, and money began to flow into Trinidad. Up to that time, this island had no staple crop. It had been a stopping place for foreign traders and pirates, raiding the coast of the mainland to the south. It had been a base for adventurers like Don Antonio de Berrio and Sir Walter Raleigh, who used it as a forward camp for exploring the Orinoco in and attempt to find El Dorado. Now, the golden bean gave Trinidad a crop that was valuable.
Barbados had its sugarcane, Trinidad had its cocoa, and we were told that cocoa grown in Trinidad was of a much better quality than the cocoa grown in Caracas and other parts of the mainland. It fetched a good price. Settlers began to move into the island and the Catholic missions did much to pacify the cannibals so as to encourage the industry. But as soon as man begins to grow any crop on a large scale, he provides some pest or disease with opportunity. In 1727, a "blast" hit the cocoa industry in Trinidad and wiped it out. The cocoa planters were ruined. Those who could manage to do so moved to the mainland. The Amerindians who had been growing cocoa under the guidance of the missions went back to their subsistence crops of cassava and maize—the result was that in 1735, the total population of Trinidad exclusive of the Amerindians stood at 162.
What was the disease? One can only guess. We are told that "the trees were apparently healthy and vigorous, flowering abundantly, giving fruits". None of them came to maturity, as young pods dried up before the full fruits. Different reasons were given for the outbreak of the disease. One planter said it was caused by the north wind. Another thought that it was due to the long spell of dry weather, another that it was caused by the appearance of a comet. One of the priests, Father Gumilla, was quite sure that it was an act of God, a punishment sent on the planters who had not paid their church dues.
Some thirty years later, a new variety of cocoa was brought into Trinidad, the "forastero". However, the cocoa industry did not really begin to flourish again until the Spanish government published its famous cedula of 1783, offering very generous terms to those who would like to come to Trinidad to settle, providing they were Catholic and took an oath of loyalty to the King of Spain.
This opened the door to significant development and later prosperity. Cocoa became, especially from the 1860s, a source of wealth for Trinidadians of all classes, conditions and colours. From small farmers to very large estates, the demand for Trinidad-grown cocoa created a trickle-down of wealth. Everyone got something. Money from the cocoa economy allowed middle and lower class people to provide an education for their children, enabling a generation to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and surveyors, and as such leave behind the prison of poverty and ignorance.
The cocoa economy provided disposable income which benefited the traders and commission agents who imported goods. This in turn provided employment to thousands of sales people, clerks and book keepers. It stimulated shipping, banking and insurance, and jobs in the growing government bureaucracy of this, the most prosperous island of the Lesser Antilles. Those were the good old days!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Tobago


A historian, whose name I cannot bring to mind, wrote that the Lesser Antilles, that curving island chain facing the rolling Atlantic breakers, are the "orphans of three centuries of sea power".
To get an idea of the development of Tobago is to begin to understand the manner in which it has been adopted and orphaned, abandoned and colonised, annexed and amalgamated over the centuries. David Niddrie, writing on Tobago, remarked:
"Once Columbus had broken his way into the Caribbean Sea, the Lesser Antilles became strategic defense and supply bases, vulnerable to all who sought to displace one naval power by another. From Puerto Rico southward, as far as Trinidad, the Spanish therefore sought to prevent any other maritime nation from settling these islands, so that the treasure galleons might have free passage between El Dorado and Cadiz."
Of all the European sea-going powers, it was only the Portuguese who did not challenge Spain in these waters. The Courlanders, the Dutch, the English, and the French, fiercely fought each other and Spain on an ongoing basis for more than two hundred years from the end of the 15th century on to the end of the 18th. Absurd wars commencing out of petty rivalries between autocratic rulers who were elaborately and intimately related to each other. These wars, starting out as set piece battles, where companies of men were moved about the countryside like tin soldiers on distant European battle fields, found frightful reflections of themselves in the Caribbean on remote islands that were previously known only to the migrating birds and the native Amerindians, engaged in perpetually following the tides' currents and the setting sun in search of unrecorded destinies.
Between the islands of Tobago and Trinidad lies a body of water known as the Galleons Passage, through which the huge lumbering treasure-laden ships, sailing from the silver mines of the Argentine and bound for the mints of Cartagena, passed. As such, Tobago became a key island amongst these contending powers. To the eye of the 17th century marauders, the beauty of Tobago lay along its leeward coast with its well-concealed, deep, safe harbours from which attacks upon Spanish shipping could be launched with impunity. To the cartographers of previous centuries, the Guyana coast was known as the Wild Coast, and although a Spanish possession, as just about everything was in the western hemisphere, it was not really held in strength by Spain. Both the British and the Dutch were attracted to this formidable wilderness. They would sometimes think of Tobago as a base camp for adventures, forays up into the great river systems, often to vanish without a trace.
By the mid-17th century, the French too sought to influence events. Tobago as a consequence was often caught up in these conflicts of interest. Did Columbus discover Tobago? Did he see it at all? This is in serious doubt. It is more than likely that it was stumbled upon by Amerigo Vespucci several years later.
The priest Bartolomeo de las Casas thought that Columbus called it Belaforma. Others said that its first name was Assumption, or Asuncion. But at last, it was called Tobago, after the shape of a tubed instrument called "tavaco" by the naturals, in which they smoked a herb that they called "cohiba" (tobacco). Sir Walter Raleigh may be given the dubious credit of introducing the herb now known as tobacco to the world after his visit to these islands. Today, both the French and the Dutch still spell Tobago, Tavaco.
A favourite of Queen Elizabeth I was the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley. He crossed the Atlantic, having in mind to explore the Wild Coast, and visited Tobago using it for "a place of arms". A Spaniard by the name of Juan Rodriguez created a homestead and made an attempt at the cultivation of tobacco for the purpose of export to Europe. This might have taken place around 1614. King James I of the United Kingdom, gave away Tobago several times. First he gave it to James Hay, Earl of Carlisle, in 1625, then, a few years later, he gave it to Philip Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke. Then, at the christening of his godson Jakob, the son of the Duke of Courland (Latvia), he presented it to the boy. This might well be the most controversial birthday present ever given, in that this gift was to bedevil the West Indies and various European nations for centuries!
It must be borne in mind that Tobago was not James' to give away at all. In fact, the Dutch, breaking away from the hegemony of Spanish domination, were to make a concerted effort to make the island their own. They too wanted the island as a base camp for their excursions to the Wild Coast. To the adventurers, sailing slowly with the night breeze beneath a brilliant, star-studded sky, the mountains of Tobago may have appeared intrusive shadows disturbing the gorgeous geometry of the constellations. With the dawn, the pastel skyscape would slowly give away to a view of lush tropical beauty, most attractive for cash crop farming.
Tobago, although small, compared to other islands, has such a variety of natural regions, each well suited to some specific crop. Tobago did not evolve as a monoculture as other islands, such as Barbados, whose economy has been dominated by sugar cane. In Tobago, the Europeans planted sugar cane, cocoa, cotton, indigo, cinnamon, peppers and tobacco. This was a very desirable feature, in that as prices for various commodities altered, with a bit of luck and careful planning, one could always have something to take to the market that would fetch a good price.
White people made money in Tobago. By the 18th century, the island began to be increasingly British, although France still had a hand to play. Notwithstanding, by 1773, there were 84 mills grinding cane, to which some 5,000 acres were devoted. 15,000 acres were under cotton. The cotton producers of Manchester sought the very fine yarn spun from cotton grown by a Mr. Robley of Tobago. Slavery came to Tobago with the Courlanders, who owned a slave-buying station on the west coast of Africa. It came with the Dutch as well. But it was with the English that Africans were to arrive in great numbers. With a high mortality rate, the slaves were replaced with a startling regularity, and quite literally worked to death.
There were revolts where white people were killed and there were of course reprisals. Slaves, however, were expensive, and there is a case recorded where 19 slave insurrectionists, tried and sentenced to be hung, were taken to the fort above Scarborough. Instead of hanging them all, the frugal Tobagonian planters hung one man nineteen times, giving the impression to the crowd of Africans beyond the walls that justice was taking its course!
In the period after emancipation, when the salubrious effects of Christianity, as interpreted by first the Moravians and then the Methodists, tended to whittle away retained African concepts and religious beliefs, Tobago was to receive several hundred freed Africans taken from Portuguese slave ships in the mid-Atlantic. David Niddrie recounts in his book "Tobago":
"One old man, aged 76 years, in the Scarborough market was able to relate his grandparents' account of the arrival of these new Africans who on their first free day, a Sunday, hollowed out the trunk of a silk cotton tree, stretched a hide over it and proceeded to beat out a wild dance rhythm in front of the Methodist church. While within three years those selfsame Africans had taken English and Scottish surnames and were going to church as avowed Christians, they undoubtedly reinforced African customs which were falling into disuse."
When one looks at the list of names of the Europeans who have owned lands in Tobago in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is remarkable that there are no white people there any more with a long and established ancestry. Their names, however, do survive this as the result of the female slaves who shared their beds, their lives and their misfortunes. Several old family names survive from 1764 settlements.
"Those whites who exploited the island in the 19th century had long since bankrupted themselves and disappeared into obscurity, yet many of their names remain with black people," writes Niddrie.
Some families still have stories handed down over the generations. There are even a few mementos that have survived in families. Attached is a photograph of a piece of needle work collected by Tom Cambridge while warden of Tobago, and a reproduction of Betty Creton's will.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Roume's last moments


His breath came in small, rapid gasps. His once sweetly handsome face now decimated by pain. Sunken cheeks, his lips propped up from beneath by teeth grown large from the shrinking of their foundations. Wisps of consciousness floated in and out like cobweb gently blowing in a shaft of sunlight, sometimes visible, sometimes not. Anchoring memories that had not entirely lost their flavour. He tried not to let the phlegm rattle in his throat, as he knew that that would make her feel that he was going. He was going.
He braced himself, assuming in his mind a more dignified way of lying, and tilted up his chin, glancing along his cheek towards where his official uniform was thrown across the back of a chaise longue. Gold brocade, handsome with the dark blue twill, the hilt of his ceremonial sword bringing a regality to it. The emperor's golden eagle shimmered, his eyes were moist. He thought to raise his hand to wipe away a tear. He decided not to, as it would alarm her. The cobwebs of his mind floated upwards and shimmered in the sunlight of recollection.
He saw himself and her and the child boarding the frigate Isle de France, 84 guns, at the dock at Port-au-Prince. They had said good-bye to Toussaint, whom he knew was the only person capable of keeping Haiti for France, if treated well, with reason and intelligence. Before he left, he had written a letter to Napoleon, advising against an expedition. It was ignored.
It was aboard the Isle de France that the first signs of illness had occurred, had occurred to him. A wrenching pain, so sharp, so surprising in its intensity that it made him crouch and grab the gunwale for support as the ship settled in the bosom of a long Atlantic roller to rise up, her bow breaking free. His face was cold with sweat.
New York was behind them, France ahead. He had been 22 when he first went to France, a place strange, yet familiar. He loved it, cushioned it with inherited memories, bathed with day dreams, dreamt while lying on the white sand at Grand Anse, the sky just a shade lighter than the sea. St. George's, a medieval skyline in miniature. This land of his forefathers.
He was at home in Paris, his father's House on the Rue de la Concorde was modest. They used it in the way that people used townhouses when they really lived in the country or on islands. He was rich. They were well connected. He met a girl in an enchanted circle of gaiety, charm and Mozart. Her name was Francis Wilhelmine. She was the daughter of Sir John Lambert Bart. and his wife Anne Holmes. They married in 1765 and returned to Grenada to a house newly built on a knoll, overlooking great beauty in the parish of Grand Pauvre, where their daughter Elizabeth was born in 1766 and where other babies were born only to die, tiny things to be buried quickly beneath the huge eucalyptus trees, inaugurating the family's graveyard on the estate.
His wife and daughter travelled with him to Trinidad in 1777, after his father's death. His mother had remarried a dandy, a sailor with a lean on a title, just a few months older than he. His adventures into finance had produced reversals. He now adventured to the nearby Spanish island, hardly populated, rich in potential. He would become its colonist with the inauguration of a celebrated cedula. He would become so many things. His marriage to Francis Wilhelmine not so much failed as it withered. His mother thought her extravagant. He knew she was faithless. 22 years later, when she was living in Trinidad, by then a British colony, he cited in his divorce petition in Haiti her liaisons with "two retired lifeguardsmen among others...". By then, his politics had changed; gone was his royalist past. Now he was republican, soon to be imperialist.  "She openly professed the most extreme and anti-revolutionary principles. She only associates with the enemies of the French people...". Port of Spain, in spite of being British, was populated by many royalists and noble Frenchmen. 
The vision fled, as the opiate faded and the pain returned. He awoke before dawn. She had climbed into bed with him for the warmth. There was almost no money. His daughter died at age 20, in 1786, during his Tobago years when he had served with Arthur Dillon. He as Ordinateur, Count Dillon as governor. He reported directly to the Marechal de Castries. The Parisian street sounds rose up with the melting mists, shouts and whistles. Bells chiming, the thump of a broom on a carpet, the clatter and rattle of horse-drawn traffic. She stirred. He realised that the little one was between them, Rosette, named in memory of his mother, Rose de Gannes, the Marquise de Charras, the Chatelaine of Champs Elysées on the island of Trinidad. His own plantation at Diego Martin. His first wife's estate at Ariapita just west of the town. Such a long, long way away from home. What home? Home in Grenada? Home in Haiti? Home in Tobago? Home in Tobago. He dreamt he had closed his eyes. He saw her plainly, dressed in white, in someone else's clothes, in the style of the previous century. She appeared to be in costume. He had almost laughed out loud. Dillon's glance contained him. A long-legged quadroon, auburn hair, bright blue eyes, her skin the colour of dark honey, young, 16, high-breasted, big-bottomed, her toes splayed apart from walking barefooted all her young life, strode past them without a glance in the market at Port Louis, now called Scarborough.
He made inquiries. She had been born in Grenada, her name Marianne Elizabeth Rochard, the natural daughter of Thomas Daniel Rochard Lepine and of Genevieve Katronice. That night, he and Dillon in court dress paced the front gallery of Government House in anticipation of the arrival of the Marechal. He saw her passing through the garden in the company of a group of young girls, who were ogling the officers as they sat smoking or playing at whist in the gallery. A carriage turned into the drive, two young slaves with torches ran before it, the girls had run away. Not her. The brilliance illuminated her features, enflamed them, he noticed her slightly flaring nostrils, he thought them endearing.
The officers rose to attention. The governor descended to greet the Marechal. Their eyes remained locked as significant events started to unfold. They became lovers at that moment and remained so for the rest of their lives. A daughter was born to them in Scarborough on the 6th July, 1788. Many years later, while acting French agent and commissioner in Spanish Santo Domingo, in a ceremony in Port Republicain, now Port au Prince, in 1799, in the presence of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Divisional General commanding forces in French St. Domingue, Louis Beauvais, Christophe Mornet and Paul L'Ouverture, he divorced Fanny Lambert and married Mlle. Rochard, legitimising their daughter. He was 56 and she 38.
The Spanish crown had granted a Cedula of Population, through his endeavour. This created modern Trinidad. The French crown had appointed him Ordinateur of Tobago, where he and Arthur Count Dillon had been so successful in carrying out the objectives set them by the French government. Under orders from Napoleon Bonaparte, he went to Haiti, then the most valuable colony in the world, providing about two thirds of the overseas trade of France, which had risen in revolt, overthrown its government and defeated the armies sent to subdue it. 
He was dispatched to exercise his talents with its leadership to win it back. He gained the friendship and the trust of the island's liberator, Toussaint L'Ouverture. He administered the Spanish half of the island, power passed between his hands, battles unrecorded were fought, won, lost, whatever.
Haiti was a genie that would never return to its bottle. General Leclerc, the emperor's brother-in-law, came with an army in 1803. This ended in complete defeat, Leclerc's death and final victory for the Blacks. Napoleon walked away from the western hemisphere. He even sold Louisiana to the newly made Republic of the United States. The great days of the French were over in the west. Roume's outstanding career was now over, too. The emperor had granted him a pension of 3,500 francs a year on 18 Germinal, an. XI (or 8th April, 1803). This ceased on his death that day in Paris, as he lay in the arms of Marianne; his daughter asleep beside them.
She had great difficulty in obtaining a pittance for herself and the child. She made several appeals to the Navy Ministry. At one point, Napoleon was reminded "Your majesty has refused this application because this woman is coloured". The note however continued "but she dies from hunger and a pension of 400 or 500 francs is recommended". Napoleon ordered that a pension of 600 francs a year be paid to her from the Naval Pensioners' Fund. He initialled the decree himself. Philippe Rose Roume de St. Laurent is hardly remembered by history.