Ignorant Negroes/Tyrannical Masters: William Burnley and the Caribbean Slave Experience

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
Published: April 05, 2013 – trinicenter.com

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIn the 1950s when I was growing up in Tacarigua, Trinidad, West Indies, there existed a large, faded mansion in the Orange Grove Savannah that had seen the last of its glories. It stood there as a colossus on this magnificent expanse of land which, at that time, was one of the largest savannah in the country second only to the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad. It reminded one of the glorious days of a time long past. I was a young boy then and could not have known that in this residence there once lived one of the most important men in the West Indies during the first half of the nineteenth century.

As a young boy, we all knew of the Orange Sugar Estates (its formal title by then was the Trinidad Sugar Estates) a plantation that was central to the life of every person who lived in the district of Tacarigua. A century before-or even fifty years before-there were several sugar estates in the area—El Dorado, Paradise, Laurel Hill, Garden City-but by the 1950s, they had all ceased to operate. Only Orange Grove remained as the central sugar estate in the area around which all life turned. At crop time-that is, from around January to May-the entire village came to life. It was the source from which all the villagers received the necessary cash to buy items such as kerosene or clothing. Along with their meager salaries they received from Orange Grove, they made ends meet by cultivating their provision gardens and tending their chickens, goats, pigs, and cows. My grandfather (Robert James), my uncle (Niles), my brother Winston and even I for a short period, worked at the estates during crop time. I was saved from that experience by becoming a pupil teacher. My family-aunts, uncles, and grandparents -rented lands from the estate until the 1960s when the sugar industry was dying and the estate was forced to sell its lands to its tenants, the major portion going to a local developer called Home Construction Limited.

In the late 1960s when Black Power and Marxist radicalism set in, I began to understand that these lands, the Orange Grove Sugar Estates, were owned by William Hardin Burnley, the biggest slave owner in the country who was responsible for shaping much of the island’s policy between 1810 and 1850, the year in which he died. Even as slavery was coming to an end, he made various trips around the Caribbean and Latin America “for the sole purpose of observing and considering the state and efficiency of the laboring population in these various places, under different aspects of slavery and freedom, to enable him to form a more correct opinion as to the probable result of the measures now in progress in the British colonies.” When slavery ended, he made a gallant effort to recruit labor from all around the world (including the United States) to ensure that freedom of the slaves (that is, free labor) did not prevent his profits from flowing into his coffers and to ensure that the planters of the island had the labor they needed to ensure the continued production of their sugar estates.

But this is getting a bit ahead of my story. Who exactly was William Hardin Burnley; when did he arrive in Trinidad; and how did he become such a powerful figure in Trinidadian and West Indian affairs?

William Burnley was the son of a British gentleman, Hardin Burnley, who went to Virginia in the 1760s to make his fortunes. When the US Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Hardin Burnley took the Royalist side to the great astonishment of his brothers. As the war raged on, he fled to New York where William was born. In 1786 Hardin Burnley and his family returned to London where he became a successful businessman, an underwriter for Lloyds, and a director of the East India Company. In 1798 William visited Trinidad and liked what he saw. In 1802 he returned to the country where he stayed until his death, although he resided for short periods in London and Paris. Years later, Burnley testified that he spent most of the best years of his life in Trinidad.

When Burnley arrived in Trinidad, he was one of the most educated of its new immigrants having studied at Harrow, the famous boys’ school that educated Winston Churchill, prime minister of England, and Jawaharlal Nehru, prime minister of India. In 1832, bewildered by the challenges Burnley was posing to British rule in the island, Lewis Grant, governor of the island, acknowledged that Burnley came to the island “with the advantage of birth, capital, and education superior to probably any other colonist” and certainly with his own objects in sight.” In 1807 he married Charlotte Brown, who gave birth to two children, William Frederick and Joseph Hume Burnley.

Shortly after his marriage Burnley became prominent in the society. In 1810 he had the good fortune to meet George Smith, the chief oidor or chief justice of the island, with whom he became fast friends. Smith aided Burnley’s rise to fame and fortune by allowing the latter to act as his despositario general whose function it was to protect the widows and orphans of the society. Together they used the office to fleece the widows and orphans of their property. All the property that became the subject of litigation was placed under Burnley’s control and he received the revenues that were paid on them. No account of these transactions was ever kept and the rightful owners seldom received any payments. When things began to get out of hand, Smith fled the island. On July 12, 1810, Mr. Black, a member of the ruling Council of the island, sent a devastating letter to Mr. Joseph Marryat, Trinidad’s agent in London. It read in part:

The governor has long seen, and with great regret and dissatisfaction, the imperiousness of this man, but he never expressed his feelings openly until now. An extraordinary meeting of the Cabildo is to be held this day at which the Governor will preside, and we are to have a full meeting of Council on Wednesday, both of which have for their object the illegal, arbitrary behavior of this man, and I suppose to take some steps for arresting the evil. His ambition is now entirely absorbed by one object-to throw into the hands of Burnley all the property he can find an excuse for laying hold of in the country, either from the death of the proprietors or from claims of creditors, and that the revenues of these properties shall be by him (after having good pickings out of them) remitted to his friend Mellish.

Burnley you see has the office of Depositario General of his Court, a place of immense responsibility according to the Spanish law and for which the holder is obliged to give real security to a very large amount. But nothing of the kind has been done. Burnley is Depositario at large and it is computed that by Biennes de defuntos alone which he will be in possession of by the judge’s pleasure, in a short time he will have the amount of a million and-a-half dollars.

The next year Smith had fallen out of favor with Thomas Hislop, the new governor. He wanted to go to London to present his case to the secretary of state for the colonies. However, Governor Hislop himself was supposed to travel to London to see the secretary of state so he forbade Smith to leave the island during his (Hislop’s) intended absence, since Smith was supposed to act as governor when he was away. However, leaving the country was no problem for Smith. Burnley helped him to leave surreptiously by disguising him as a sailor and getting him aboard a schooner at Macquerie Bay in the northwest of the island.

Needless to say, Black’s suspicions turned out to be true. After Smith left the island, the Cabildo, the ruling council, named Samuel Span as the new depositario general. After he did the necessary inventory, he discovered that little of the money that was taken in by Burnley and Smith could be accounted for. At the end of the year he informed the governor that he could get no account of “judicial deposits” from Smith and therefore “humbly prays Your Excellency’s interference to prevent any such departure of His Honor George Smith from this island, or of his deputed Receivers, W. H. Burnley or J. B. Littlepage, Esqrs., or any other receivers of deposits whom His Honor George Smith may have appointed.” The governor immediately convened the Cabildo to deal with the matter. They agreed that if Smith wished to leave the country, the governor should ask him to give a proper record of the monies he or any other parties had received in pursuance of his duty. Smith responded promptly with all the necessary courtesies: “I beg to state to Your Excellency that at this moment there is not, I believe, a deposit of any kind in the hands of any one under my authority.”

Burnley used the monies he acquired to build up his business and to invest in real estate. At the end of his stint as depositario general he had acquired so much of the country’s land that anyone who wanted to do business in the island had to deal with him. In the 1820s when the planters panicked at the possibility of the slaves being freed, they sold their estates under value. Burnley bought up many of those estates and became an even wealthier man. When the enslaved Africans were emancipated in 1834, Burnley received L48,283, 18s, 5d, which was most of the compensation that was paid to the Trinidad slave owners. Between 1835 and 1840, his profits from Orange Grove Estates alone totaled L28,275, which meant that he profited whether slavery existed or not. He used his wealth to develop his international contacts and to consolidate his power. At his death he was the richest man in the island and its most prominent political figure.

Given his wealth, Burnley had to get into the political milieu to preserve his fortune. V. I. Lenin, in his polemic with Trotsky and Buhkarin on the correct role of trade unions intoned: “Politics is a concentrated expression of economics . . . . Politics must take precedence over economics.” Burnley was not a Marxist, but he knew where real power lay. When Sir Ralph Woodford, one of the more progressive governors of the island arrived in 1813, he named Burnley to His Majesty’s Council of Trinidad; the Legislative Council served mostly in an advisory capacity.

One of Woodford’s first tasks was to secure sufficient laborers for the island, Trinidad being notorious for not having sufficient laborers to till its soils. One year after he arrived, he asked each member of his Council to come up with suggestions to entice free laborers to settle in the country. Mr. Bigge, the chief judge of the island, favored the importation of European settlers. Lawrence Nihell, a member of His Majesty’s Council, suggested that Africans be brought to the island as indentures for a period of ten years. Burnley rejected this idea. He felt that “although robust and hardy, they were so grossly ignorant that they required to be taught everything they were to do.” He suggested that settlements of Asians, “a docile and intelligent class of laborers, already accustomed to agriculture, to whom the climate would present no drawbacks and whose very prejudices of caste would keep them from combining with the slaves, who, so long as slavery should exist, would be always more or less disposed to revolt. . . . Asiatic immigration would not only suffice to bring the whole island into cultivation but would eventually ‘banish the baneful system of slavery.'” From this early point of Trinidad’s history the terms of engagement between the Indians and the Africans were established. The enslaved Africans, he thought, were nothing but “ignorant negroes” as he described them in another context.

As behooved his prominence, Burnley did not get on well with Woodford or any of the other governors of the island. As far as he was concerned they were merely “birds of passage.” He remained the one constant presence in the island. As fate would have it, Burnley’s power and prestige in the island increased when, in 1815, his sister Maria married Joseph Hume, a member of the House of Commons, self-appointed guardian of the public purse, and a friend of the English working people. However, he easily reversed his position when it came to supporting his brother-in-law’s economic interest against his slaves. Hume was a friend of James Mill with whom he attended Montrose Academy, considered the best school in his region; he also developed a strong personal friendship with David Ricardo, the famous English economist. Hume would be of immense assistance to Burnley as he pursued his economic interest and engaged in quarrels with the Colonial Office.

Around 1820, in keeping with his new status, Burnley built a palatial mansion at Orange Grove, equal in status to the governor’s residence. It was said to have contained one hundred and one windows, one more than the governor’s residence in St. Anns. This was the building that I so admired as a young boy, the place where Burnley and his fellow planters gathered to strategize against any attempt to improve the condition of enslaved Africans.

In May 1823 when Thomas Fowell Buxton brought his first motion against slavery, he suggested certain reforms to ameliorate the conditions of the enslaved. Among other things, these reforms called for the abolition of female punishment; the reservation of certain days for the Negroes to labor on their own provision grounds; the discontinuance of working on Sundays; the abolition of the Sunday market; the abolition of urging the field slaves to their labor by the whip; and the introduction of religious instructions for the enslaved.

On June 26, 1823, when Woodford sent out the contents of this order to the members of Council (it came up for discussion in the Council on July 9th) Burnley and his fellow planters were decidedly against these measures. They met at Burnley’s mansion at Orange Grove to formulate their plan of attack. They believed that the supporters of amelioration in the House of Commons were totally misguided and that enslaved Africans had not arrived at a state of civilization where they could appreciate the blessings of freedom.

At another level, Burnley and his fellow planters could not contemplate that Negroes could be brought to a higher state of civilization without the generous use of the whip. “Negroes,” he argued, “are children of a larger growth, and the fear of punishment has now the effect, which under the regulation proposed, will require the application of it.” It was believed that they were ignorant and stupid. To refrain from whipping them was tantamount to allowing them to retain their savage ways. He insisted that the planters needed to exercise their “Domestic Jurisdiction by which a master is authorized to punish his Slave without the intervention of a Magistrate. This power is essential to the system. If taken away totally, or even partially repealed by the enactment of regulations prohibiting all corporal punishment, from that moment the fabric of Slavery is virtually destroyed, and the Negro, though not free will cease to be of any value to his master.”

The most reprehensible part of the regulations was the suggestion that they cease to whip the female slaves. Such a regulation, Burnley argued, was “so monstrous and extraordinary, that I hardly know how to approach the subject. . . . The intention of such an order, we are told, is to elevate the females in the scale of society, whilst the men are left as they were before, establishing, in fact, a decided superiority in favor of the former.” One wonders if this was a case of male social bonding or misogyny, particularly against those who were black.

It is no wonder then that in 1832 when it looked as though the British Parliament was contemplating the immediate abolition of slavery that Burnley and his fellow planters went into a tizzy. The principal source of their fear was an Order in Council of November 1831 (proclaimed in January 1832) which the planters felt had the potential to ruin their operations. To make matters worse, the Negroes refused to work; set fires to the plantations; and demonstrated total indifference to the destruction that was taking place around them. These actions led the Port of Spain Gazette to observe: “We learn, with much uneasiness and regret that the slaves on the Concord estate evinced by their conduct during the conflagration, a total want of any desire to save the property of their respectable human owner.” Malcolm X would have called them the “field negroes” who were determined to obtain their freedom by any means necessary.

Even as the enslaved were making their wishes known—the Mighty Shadow, a Trinidadian calypsonian, would have said, “Dey feeling the feeling, baby,”—the white inhabitants were intent on asserting their inviolable rights to their property (the enslaved) and resisting efforts of the Colonial Office to ameliorate the conditions of the enslaved. With this in mind, the white inhabitants met on Monday June 25, 1832, to select a deputy to represent their cause in England. They agreed that Burnley was “the fit person to represent the Inhabitants of Trinidad in England, and to act as their Deputy. Owing to talent, high character, and great practical experience of this gentleman, we may look forward to the best results to our just cause from his gratuitous executions in our favor.” For the next five years (between 1832 and 1837),Burnley spent most of his time in Europe representing the cause of his fellow planters and looking out for his own best interest.

While he was in London, Burnley met with several members of the Colonial Office. He did his best to thwart the drive toward emancipation but was unsuccessful. On October 18, he met with Lord Goderich to discuss an Order in Council that might have given the enslaved greater freedoms. He said that this order “might pave the way for more general substituting of hire service for free labor and a slave who during part of the year had been accustomed to work two or three hours daily for wages, would be rapidly preparing for the transition into the condition of a free laborer.”

Even as he met with officials from the Colonial Office, signals were being sent that the emancipation day was close at hand. Seeing the ferocity of the enslaved in Jamaica under the leadership of Samuel Sharp, in the summer of 1832, Lord Howick, the parliamentary undersecretary of the Colonial Office, wrote to the Jamaican governor to say: “The present state of things cannot go on much longer . . . every hour that it does so, is full of the most appalling danger. . . . Emancipation alone will effectually avert the danger.” This was true for Trinidad as well. Trinidadians also believed that the king had sent their “freepaper” in the form of an Order in Council of 2nd November 1831. No man or woman had a right to withhold freedom from them. To paraphrase Jean-Paul Sartre from another but related context, emancipation had begun; all that the hired soldiers could do was delay its completion.

Once the Emancipation Bill passed, Burnley changed his focus to deal with issues of compensation and apprenticeship, the new form of labor. Having spent much time in London, Burnley was better positioned to present his views to the colonial authorities. He was most intent on trying to shape the terms of apprenticeship and how the slave owners were to be compensated. Nicholas Drapper has observed that once the Slave Compensation Commission was established, the feeding frenzy began, and claimants who were close enough to the metropolitan centers had the best chance of shaping the new system and getting the most out of the system. This is one reason why Burnley remained in London for almost four years after the Emancipation Bill was passed.

Burnley, it seems, was most worried by the idea of a free labor class that would evolve as a result of emancipation. On January 24 he wrote a sixteen-page letter to Secretary Stanley in which the words “deepest anxiety,” “fear,” “dismay, “impending ruin,” “injurious results,” “valueless” and other such emotive terms inundated the first three pages of his text. It was almost as though, in their “microscopic, quantum way,” these emanations of consciousness revealed an unknowing and unknowable future-what perhaps Albert Camus would call “the Absurd”-where everything was about to be thrown into inevitable chaos. Burnley was not sure how things were going to turn out or how the evolving situation would affect the wealth he had gathered over the thirty years he had spent in Trinidad but he was concerned. This was a significant existentialist crisis for him.

Apart from (or perhaps, together with) this intense anxiety, Burnley was riddled with four major concerns: a) the fear of a limited African work force; b) a large, fertile land which, as he said, “possessed the richest soil on the most favored part of the globe,” and which he feared the apprentices would use to undercut his dominance and control; c) an increase in the cost of production that was likely to render his machinery “inactive and valueless,” and d) the ability of the workers to command whatever price they wanted for their labor thus raising the labor cost; a situation that would be disastrous for him and other planters; or, as he wrote “would bring them to ruin.”

Burnley’s fear of being ruined also revealed a deep-seated racism. He called for the introduction of white immigrants, not to work in the factories, but to superintend the manufactory occupations for which they were “considerably qualified.” He notes: “In every industrious department where skilled manipulation is more required than hard labor, their superiority over the African race would be manifest.” He agreed with “the experts” who argued that there are “some generic [in today’s language he would have said “genetic’] differences in the African race, rendering them more prone to idleness and vagrancy than Europeans; which not a few [persons] have boldly asserted.” Burnley was not unique in his opinion. Europeans such as William Cobbett believed that Africans were “dull, easily excitable and disposed to laziness.” One hundred and thirty years later Jean-Paul Sartre, in his preface to Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, proclaimed that “for with us [Europeans] there is nothing more consistent than a racist humanism since the European has only been able to become a man only through creating slaves and monsters.”

Having been away for a long time-that is, since 1832-Burnley returned to the island in June 1834 in time to see the response of the newly manumitted slaves to their formal freedom. Two letters he wrote to Nassau W. Senior, a famous Oxford scholar who worked on the Poor Laws, reflected just how he saw the Negroes. On August 9 he wrote the following letter to Senior:

I have sent you one of our newspapers (the only one published since the 1st August) to show you the particulars of the strike. The Negroes will not comprehend the system of apprenticeship, which when fairly explained present generally no great advantage to them. These principally benefited on the few that had hard and tyrannical masters, but throughout the island their treatment was humane and their work moderate. As such they do not hesitate to abuse the king for making any law at present on the subject. “If no free for six years, better let we tand as before till that time come.” They show themselves excellent lawyers-all who have come before me plead as a defense for deserting their estates, that the managers called them together some time and read them a paper saying “All we free on the 1st of August” but when questioned as to the restrictions and reservations explained at the same time, and they will give no answer.

On September 3 Burnley reported to Senior that the “grand appointment of apprenticeship,” in the colony was “politically . . . perfectly successful.” He meant, as he had said in communication with Hume, that apprenticeship had changed nothing. In spite of this success, he still disparaged the strike action of the apprentices. He notes:

The bribe of 20 million has effectively neutralized the opposition of the upper classes and the Negroes are too ignorant to understand the real position in which they are placed. They made a strike to obtain what they considered to be freedom, but being promptly met by force, they have relapsed into their former obedience and terror of their masters; and incapable of nice distinctions are satisfied now that slavery exists for them until 1840, whatever may be the term given to their existing condition. It is the impetus of past slavery [a term that he used previously] therefore which now carries apprenticeship onward in this colony at a smooth and steady pace. But as intelligence spreads, will the impetus slacken, and the system in my opinion work less efficiently every day?

Burley believed apprenticeship was a failure; just another form of slavery in a different guise, as he had written to Hume. Its demise, he said, would be “slow and gradual” although its promoters would proclaim its success to the world. “The further experiment in Antigua,” he says, “will soon show us what is to be expected from African free labor under the most favorable circumstances of density of population.” He says that if the Antiguan results were favorable, “then it would be of concern in this colony, where without a considerable influx of population we shall find but few hands to cultivate our estates after 1840. And whether we can even cultivate them up to that period will altogether depend upon the fiscal measures pushed in Great Britain with respect to foreign sugars.”

Burnley would devote the next sixteen years of his life looking for foreign laborers to undercut the gains made by Africans in the island and to insure that his profits kept on flowing. But as for the progress of the island in the proximate future-that is, until 1840 when apprenticeship was suppose to end officially–he would have to depend on the ignorant Negroes and tyrannical masters to see the island through. He never believed that the ignorant Negroes could amount to anything unless they were guided by their tyrannical masters.

Source: www.trinicenter.com/Cudjoe/2013/0504.htm

15 Responses to “Ignorant Negroes/Tyrannical Masters: William Burnley and the Caribbean Slave Experience”


  • He suggested that settlements of Asians, “a docile and intelligent class of laborers, already accustomed to agriculture, to whom the climate would present no drawbacks and whose very prejudices of caste would keep them from combining with the slaves, who, so long as slavery should exist, would be always more or less disposed to revolt

    It was quite clear that the choice of a post emancipation labor force was not incidental. The slave holding establishment sought and found a labor force they believed harbored the same natural anti African prejudices they did, and they were right. The British slave holding establishment figured that Indian Immigrants would have more in common with them, vis a vis a shared sense of racial superiority to Africans. It is quite doubtful that ideological racism that rationalize slavery would have continued across certain Caribbean territories, but for the choice of labor force chosen for indentureship. The mold was set for the current racial issues in T&T with the choice of a labor force to replace the rebellious ex slaves still harboring resentment over their holocaustic experience.

    Thus the only Caribbean territories in which racial prejudice has become key instruments in the interaction of the population happen to be Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. Although Africans were the inheritors of the Western social mores, Indians, with a pre-European cultural and religious belief system based on the superiority and inferiority of people smoothly gravitated into the vacated “massa role” in those territories

  • I would like to think that after over 150 years of living together and evolving most Indians in the Caribbean no longer hold these beliefs.

  • Most Indians in the Caribbean do not still hold those beliefs. The problem is that those who gravitate to politics use it as a means of achieving power, and there is always an assortment of pundits who gleefully roll out the double speak insinuations based directly on those beliefs.

    For example, to boast about the educational and economic accomplishments of East Indians in the US without paying homage to the blood and sacrifces that went into a struggle to create the environment where their talents and skills could show results is reflective of those kinds of beliefs. It is based on “look at we, we better than them”. Well them lived in bondage for 4 centuries while you did not. Despite the holocaustic conditions, experiences and environment in which they existed, they gave the world some of its most important contributions. Imagine thus if their history had not been incidented by that holocaust.

    Our position is that we are not superior to anyone, but neither are we inferior to anyone. And if it takes breaking down history and drawing attention to circumstances that separate or bring us together in order to make this point, we have to unhesitatingly take that course. Whether it angers anyone or not is of no importance. Speaking truth to power, regardless of whether that power is political, economical, social or perceptual, is essential to reframing the narrative about black people, and confronting the colorful and ethnically self serving synthesis of myths and falsely confused notions that inundate that narrative.

  • Many prominent media personnel as well as politicans in the USA, including your present President, have heralded the successes of Indians in the USA and at the same time implicitly suggest that other groups have not done as well.

  • “Our position is that we are not superior to anyone, but neither are we inferior to anyone.”(Rodwell Paton)

    You have touched on the a critical issue central to the all- time conflict in T&T. While the masses live in harmony, those in conflict for power and priviledge, believe that their particular ethnic group, Indian, African or White is superior to the other.

  • This article surmises the African disdain for working the land. As an agrarian society, Trinidad would have become nothing but a pariah African nation had it not been for the hard work of my ancestors on the sugar plantation.

    The Indians who came to Trinidad were lured by wonderful tales of a beautiful land and an easy life. Little did they know that the land was inhospitable and would require a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Today all should be proud of their achievements in making Trinidad a prosperous nation.

  • You have to be a monumental jack-anapes Mamoo. Africans are the pioneers of agricultural. They planted the first fruit tree, when neanderthals were running and hiding from dinosuars. When Indians arrived in the Caribbean, the land was already set, the crops had been sown and reaped for over a century.

    Africans moved away from the land in protest against being treated like slaves even though emancipation had taken hold. The slave masters considered Indians as allies in the quest to break Africans and keep them down. They made a good choice, because the new immigrants had been practising the kind of supremacist prejudice even longer than the Europeans.

    Who are the planters in Dominica, in St Lucia, in Barbados, in all of those other islands where indentured Indians were not taken. The biggest problems Africans have is in making sacrifices so narrow assed racist like you can creep in like parasites and enjoy the fruit of their sacrifice.

    • Mr. Paton,

      Pay Mamoo no mind. He is a well-known cyber-troll in these parts. No one can be so stupid to espouse the “beliefs” that he does, or at least I hope not.

      In the words of the late and goodly Dr. Williams, “let the (insert appropriate word) bray”.

      • “To make matters worse, the Negroes refused to work; set fires to the plantations; and demonstrated total indifference to the destruction that was taking place around them”–Cudjoe

        Read before you judge me trinimericano.

        • I have read enough, and if you truly understood the circumstances surrounding slavery, then you would understand why the slaves did what they did. Also, you are taking the quote entirely out of context.

          This is not what serious intellectuals do. The last time I tried to have a serious intellectual discussion with you, you displayed this debating weakness.

          For the record, I despise race baiting in all of its manifestations.

          The only thing I would apologize about is that I should not have lobbed the ad hominem towards you; however, your thread of commentary is consistent with one of that character. You have come on this thread with your provoking comments, and act surprised when you get the predicatble reaction.

          Come on, do not be so disingenuous.

          What can I say?

          • Intellectual honesty can be found in the aforementioned blog quoting the good doctor. I remember sitting across the room from a former trade union leader and he knew I was a bit reluctant to share my thoughts. His word to me was “you say what you think and I will say what I think”. That has always been my ” modus operandi” on these blogs. If I come across as racist that may be the furthest from by thoughts.

  • Roswell I tend to disagree with your assertion that all of Trinidad was developed by the African slaves road and all (lol) when Indians came. That is a nice romantic idea based on pure assumptions. When my ancestors came to the La Romain sugar estate 5 generations ago the land was incredibly inhospitable, no there were no negroes around in fact the land was never tilled before.

    The African presence was on the Northern part of the nation on a few estates. This can be see clearly in the settlement of Indians on the Sugar Estates. Yes the African abandoned the sugar estates over a 150 years ago and made every excuse not to work the land. They were not accustomed to this kind of hard work.

  • Okay Mamoo, I can accept that you are calling things as you see it, and calling a spade a spade. However, I am also free to say what is on my mind as well, and if I see deficiencies in your analysis, I will point them up. For you to quote the thoughts of a figure that Dr. Cudjoe identified as harbouring racist feelings towards people of African descent is a major analytical flaw, and it also smacks of intellectual dishonesty as well. I am not going to waste any more time pointing out the contradiction in the flaw in the quote you cited n your previous post, when weakness of that argument is very clear.

    Now, on the issue of African aversion to agricultural labour, well, it is far more complex. To best understand the African antipathy to plantation work, well they worked the lands under brutal and dehumanizing conditions, what do you expect? I should not have to argue this point any further. I will however make this analogy for you ponder. If a woman was brually raped, repeatedly over a period of time, do you think she will be able to have a normal sexual relationship with a man? In fact, I have heard of some women becoming lesbians as a result of these traumatic experiences. Hence, it is the same with African slaves. They did not want any part of plantations after slavery, given their experiences. This point, inexplicably, is absent, from your arguments up to this point.

    This will be my final point on the issue. If you do not accept what I have written, then believe whatever you want to believe.

    • Look no one is denying conditions were horrible that is why they rebel. Could you imagine working for no money, beaten when you are working too slow, who would want that. Indentureship was slavery under a different name. The work was hard. My mother and father was the last generation to work the land as hard as it was in the beginning of indentureship.

      They planted rice and sugar cane. They paid for it dearly with their bodies racked with pain in their latter years. My mother functioned by a sheer act of her will at night she would groan in pain from the days labour. She being a woman would really be doing a man’s job cutting the cane and throwing it on a trailer repeatedly or cutting it and throwing it on a row and later loading it on the trailer. This was done in the sweltering hot sun. The same for the rice fields where she worked in water up to her knees, cutting rice tying it in bundles and placing it on her head to take it for shearing. Man I could never do that and I don’t know of anyone who would do that today. Such labour must be saluted. She is no longer alive today but I always will remember and admire her iron will.

  • Prakashbhan Persad

    Why can’t we just accept history for what it is and get on with life! Does everything have to be viewed from racial lenses. History is history- now let’s understand this and build our future.

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