Thursday, 20 December 2007
By Sue-Ann Gomes, published in “Book of Trinidad”, Paria Publishing 1989
The legend of El Dorado begins with gold, the precious metal eagerly sought after by man for centuries. Civilizations the world over have fought and conquered each other in the pursuit of gold. In the new world men will give their lives to behold the ever illusive city of El Dorado, the city of gold. Whole native civilization have been wiped out in the feverish search for the precious commodity. The arrival of Christopher Columbus into the new world opened the flood gate for the host of treasure seekers who descended into the new world to fulfill their burning desire for gold.
The exploitation and ravaging of the Indies for treasure lasted for centuries, the Conquistadores, and pirates alike relentlessly searching for the fabled cities built entirely of gold, and the golden men said to exist in the steaming, seething jungles of South and Central America. The Conquistadores dauntless iron clad men, heroically battled against nature itself to win the golden civilization for the Spanish Crown. They were told by the Amerindians of the vast riches to be found up the Orinoco; they were told of "El Dorado". These tales fuelled the raging fire that burned deep into the souls of the early Conquistadores. The fear of the savage jungles filled with mammoth dangers flickered dim against the unquenchable vision of the golden city of "El Dorado".
The Europeans came to the West, led only by dreams, ignorant and unprepared, having neither sufficient supplies nor men. They came with horses and they came in armor. However they were soon to learn of the perils of the jungle, the vast flatlands filled with miles of grass, the scorching heat, the rivers that appeared like oceans, the snakes that were mistaken for logs, the jaguars, the swamp, the twenty-foot long crocodiles that lay in wait and moved with lightning speed. Many soldiers died, quickly succumbing to strange jungle fevers. They were bitten by bats and tiny insects laid eggs in their flesh. They met the horrors of hell head on, wholly unprepared for the relentless wrathful form it displayed itself in. They journeyed up the Orinoco, they went into the Andes, it grew very cold, they died of pneumonia.
Apart from the elements, many Indian tribes waged war with these tall, fair men dressed in iron. The few Amerindian tribes who welcomed the Europeans were interrogated about the golden ornaments they wore, and the cups of pure gold from which they drank. The strangers were told of the men of gold of the sacred golden lakes that were to be found higher up river. And the Europeans never considered the possibility of ritual, or the distortion of the Indian's stories, they listened to only what they wanted to hear - gold and El Dorado.
So it was that the Spaniards were convinced of the existence of untold wealth waiting to be tapped just higher up the Orinoco. This idea was even further concretised with Pizarro's and Cortes' discovery of Mexico and Peru and the enormous treasures found in those lands. The Spaniards wished to secure the newly found and untapped wealth of the Indies. Trinidad therefore became a very strategic position, it became the port of the Spaniards, the starting point for the journey up the Orinoco river. It would be these Spaniards who would lay the foundation for the development of Trinidad and Tobago for they brought their laws and government in the form of Trinidad's Illustrious Cabilldo, however this would not happen for another several hundred years. Trinidad would be used merely as a stepping stone for the many heroic men who would die filled with the passion of conquering the splendid treasures of the golden city - El Dorado.
Ever since the first discoveries of the Indies, there has been talk of the provinces called El Dorado and it has been said that they are peopled by great numbers of Indians and contain vast riches and are very prosperous.
In the year 1531, Don Diego de Ordas, Knight of the Order of Santiago, attempted to make an entry into these lands in the hope of discovering them and having the Faith extended there. But nothing came of it and no better success attended the efforts of others who continued this enterprise until Captain Antonio de Berrio undertook it by virtue of the agreement made with him as to the discovery of the lands lying between the two rivers, Pauto and Papamene, at the exit of the New Kingdom of Granada.
He began to enter and to discover, so they say, the said lands called El Dorado. He travelled as far as the Island of Margarita and founded a settlement in the Island of Trinidad whence he intended to form an expedition and enter the said El Dorado by way of the Orinoco to Guayana.
From Trinidad he sent his Maestro de Campo, Domingo de Ibargoyen y Vera, to give an account of the whole matter to the King, Our Lord, that he might achieve this glory and to obtain men, arms and ammunition. In the year 1596 orders were given for a thousand settlers consisting of 600 bachelors and 400 married men with their wives and children to be supplied to the said Maestro de Campo. His Majesty also thought well to make a loan to the said Antonio de Berrio from his Royal Treasury with which to buy and fit out a number of fly boats to convey the said men and supplies and other things for which he had asked.
With all this the said Domingo de Vera set out from these Kingdoms for the Island of Trinidad. When he arrived there with these people, his lack of foresight and his bad government were such that the greater part were wasted and perished without having achieved any of the objects for which they were sent and without having gained any positive knowledge of what these lands contained, for their opinions differed.
The said Antonio de Berrio having died in the year 1597, his son Fernando who succeeded him, remained there, having with him the said Domingo de Vera and the remanants of the people who escaped. They are still insisting on continuing the exploration of these lands and for that purpose have asked the Governor of Venezuela to help them with cattle and other supplies. He writes to report that he is sending them and approves of this venture.
During the time when the said Domingo de Vera was in these Kingdoms and Antonio de Berrio was waiting in the Island of Trinidad, some English arrived there and landed and entered by the Orinoco River. They left an Englishman in the country whom our men afterwards captured there and who was sent to Seville and on to this Court. He had remained there as a hostage for certain Indians whom the English had taken away intending to bring them back and return and settle in these lands.
Ever since this, the Council has taken great pains to find out whether the enemy had found an entrance to these lands by way of the Orinoco and they regard this as of great importance still.
According to the letters of Alvaro Mendez de Castro, an honourable man known to the Council, written from Lisbon and enclosed herewith with a Castilian translation of a report which he also sent, the English have discovered a land between Brazil and Peru which they call Guiana. This is a land rich in gold into which, according to the said Alvaro Mendez de Castro, the English have entered by the River Maranon and are taking away much gold. Certain things in the Flemish reports seem to corroborate the accounts of the discovery of Guayana, or El Dorado, brought by the Maestro de Campo. If the enemy should settle and people it this would be very dangerous and much expense would be required to drive them out.
The Council having taken these matters into consideration together with the inferences which are to be drawn from the papers sent by the said Alvaro Mendez de Castro, it has seemed fitting that endeavour should be made to find out the exact truth of the matter which can be determined by writing to all the Governors of the districts and provinces contained in the said reports, and in the discoveries of Antonio de Berrio, requiring them to use their utmost endeavours to ascertain what truth there is in these claims, for the Indians of their districts are in communication with all the others.
The Council is also of the opinion that the Governor of Brazil should be required to enquire and advise us of any information which exists there about these provinces and those bordering them and whether any English, French or Flemish have made any entrance through those parts and if so, in what place and whether any have remained, in what numbers and with what defenses. Likewise it appears that it would be well to send two intelligent persons by sea and land who should go in a vessel for the special purpose to ascertain the truth of this matter as well by sea as by land. They should bring a very particular account of every detail whereby better deliberation may be made as to what should be provided in a matter of this urgent importance. In any case it would be necessary to put into some measure of defense, that part of Trinidad where the enemies usually come and are accustomed to use as a port in order to pass to the River Orinoco which is the principal entrance for El Dorado which has been so far discovered.
News has now come that 12 ships from England are going there which may result in great trouble unless in the meantime all possible measures for defense have been resolved and executed. It would be very helpful to all if the decision which was reached many days ago, to send the Armadilla to the Islands of Barlovento, was put into effect. May it please Your Majesty to consider this report and provide what is necessary.
Madrid, 30th January, 1599. ENDORSED.
On things concerning El Dorado. Let every effort be made promptly to secure a thorough investigation into the whole matter contained in this report recommending it to the attention of intelligent and trustworthy persons. As regards the fortification of the Island of Trinidad, it would be well for the Council to say how, when and how much is necessary and to whom this can be entrusted. As to the Armadulla, when the ships which are now being fitted out for patrol work during the coming summer have sheltered for the winter, the most convenient method may be considered and orders given accordingly.
A Report by the Council of the Indies to the King, Madrid, January 30th, 1599.
Report of the Discovery of ElDorado by Domingo de Vera, 1595 Madrid.
For 70 years in those parts many Captains with many people, horses and cattle have sought on many occasions to find the entrance to these New Provinces because of the reports by neighbouring Indians of their great size, fertility and riches, but without avail because of the surrounding mountains which are very high and steep and of the large rivers which surround it and which may more properly be described as fresh water seas. At last our Commander in the year 1593 conceded this venture to me, the Maestro de Campo, as general of this expedition. With 35 soldiers I found the way very easily and without difficulty and got through into the lands which in these parts are called Guayana, a matter of 35 leagues, in which I saw many large settlements of Indians of good disposition and well built who, both men and women, went naked, only covered in the parts which one does not honestly mention. The country is healthy, temperate and pleasant. It is fertile for the products of the Indies and above all is well favoured and covered with eternal forest. There is much game and fish and in all parts that I have seen, it is well suited for recreation and pleasure. It is very rich in gold and the Indians are ready to show me the place whence they get it but I said that my journey was not to seek gold (so as not to appear avaricious nor to let them know) but only to make friends with the people of these lands. I only took 17 pieces of worked gold which I sent to His Majesty and three battle axes of stone which alone they showed me. Though these people are barbarians they do not lack ability to give that up if good priests were sent to them. They told me that 7 days further on there is endless quantity of gold;
that in these mines no one may take it but the Caciques and their women and that it is collected with great superstition, first fasting for 3 days. In the rivers they find much gold being able to take it anywhere only giving as tribute to the Cacique such nuggets as are as large as the grain of maize or larger. The people are amicable, courteous and liberal. They treated and supplied us well. As I had but few people, I returned to the Island of Trinidad whence I had gone at the order of our Captain General and Governor, Antonio de Berrio. This province bounds on the one side with Tierra Firma opposite to the Island of Trinidad, on another with the Government of Cumana, Margarita and Venezuela and also with the New Kingdom of Grenada and with the Government of Popayan and Quito. It is one of the nearest lands which have been discovered in the Indies so that one can go there from Spain in less than 30 days. Report on what may be expected by those who go on this expedition. It should be known that we go to settle and and occupy these provinces which are of the character described above and that we shall pacify and conquer. Our General and Governor is Antonio de Berrio, by facu lty and authority granted by His Majesty. He will divide the lands between us as was done in Peru anc Nw Spain which were settled in this way. If we pacify a province of 100 pueblos with 1,000, 2,000 or 10,000 Indians more or less, these pueblos will be granted to each according to his labour, merit and efficiency. These pueblos will be granted for three lives which are those of the conquistador, that of his son and his nephew.
These supply the rents which His Majesty and Ministers have decided and published and are in conformity with the riches, abundance or sterility of the lands.
The Indians fur their labour will gain instruction in the matters of Our Holy Faith and shelter and protection, as though our children, so that they may recognise and appreciate the great work which our Commander does in bringing them to the obedience and protection of His Majesty. From this, those who wish to go will learn that we intend to populate these lands and not to depopulate them; to develop them and not to exploit them; to control them and not destroy them. Those who do not accept this are warned that they will suffer the anger of God who has clearly shown that those who rob and maltreat the Indians, perish in the land they try to desolate and their riches, acquired by deceit and tyranny, are lost in the sea and their families perish and are forgotten. Of this at the present moment in the Indies, are obvious examples.
CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE FROM 1577 TO 1866: Daniel Hart
1577 Don José de Oruña founded what he called the City of San José (St. Joseph), 6 miles from Port-of-Spain.
1584 Don Antonio de Berrio was appointed Governor of Trinidad.
1595 Sir Robert Dudley in a vessel called the Bear, of 200 tons, together with 2 Caravels which he had captured off the island of Palma, entered the Gulf of Paria and landed at Trinidad were he remained 40 days.
1595 Sir Walter entered the Gulf by the Serpent's Mouth with two sails; they anchored off Punta de Gab; he afterwards caused his vessels to move further up the Gulf, and they anchored off Point La Brea where he caused his vessels to be newly paved with the pitch of the Lake.
1596 Captain Lawrence Keymis touched at Trinidad.
Commanders in 1797 accorded to all those who did not wish to take the oath of allegiance to the King of England to leave the Island, a general census of the inhabitants was taken, of which the following was the result:
English - 663
Spanish - 605
French - 1,093
Subtotal - 2,361
English - 599
Spanish - 1,751
French - 2,925
Subtotal - 5,275
Indians - 1,154
Slaves - 20,464
Art. I. The officers and troops of his Catholic Majesty and his Allies in the Island of Trinidad, are to surrender themselves prisoners of war, and are to deliver up the territory, forts, buildings, arms, ammunition, money, effects, plans and stores, with exact inventories thereof, belonging to his Catholic Majesty; and they are hereby transferred to his Britannic Majesty in the same manner and possession as has been held heretofore by his said Catholic Majesty.
Art. II. The troops of his Catholic Majesty are to march out with the honours of war, and to lay down their arms at the distance of three hundred paces from the forts they occupy, at five o'clock this evening.
Art. III. All the officers and troops aforesaid of his Catholic Majesty are allowed to keep their private effects, and the officers are allowed to wear their swords. Art. IX. All public Records are to be preserved in such Courts or Offices as they are now in; and all Contracts or Purchases between individuals, which have been done according to the laws of Spain, are to be held binding and valid by the British Government.
Art. IV. Admiral Don Sebastien Ruez de Apodaca being on shore in the island, after having burnt and abandoned his ships, he with the officers and men belonging to the squadron under his command, are included in this Capitulation, under the same terms as are granted to his Catholic Majesty's troops.
Art. V. As soon as ships can be conveniently provided for the purpose, the prisoners are to be conveyed to Old Spain, they remaining prisoners of war until exchanged by a cartel between the two nations, or until the Peace; it being clearly understood that they will not serve against Great Britain or her Allies until exchanged.
Art. VI. There being some officers among his Catholic Majesty's troops whose private affairs require their presence at different places of the Continent of America, such officers are permitted to go upon their parole to the said places for six months more or less, after which period they are to return to Europe; but as the number receiving this indulgence must be limited, His Excellency Don Chacon will previously deliver to the British Commanders a list of their names, rank and places, which they are going to.
Art. VII. The officers of the royal administration, upon the delivery of the stores with which they are charged, to such officers as may be appointed by the British Commanders, will receive receipts according to the custom in like cases, from the officers so appointed to receive the stores.
Art. VIII. All the private property of the inhabitants, as well Spaniards as any such as have been naturalized, is preserved to them.
Art. IX. All public Records are to be preserved in such Courts or Offices as they are now in; and all Contracts or Purchases between individuals, which have been done according to the laws of Spain, are to be held binding and valid by the British Government.
Art. X. The Spanish officers of administration, who are possessed of landed property in Trinidad, are allowed to remain in the Island, they taking the oaths of allegiance to His Britannic Majesty; and they are further allowed, should they please, to sell or dispose of their property and to retire elsewhere.
Art. XI. The free exercise of their religion is allowed to the inhabitants.
Art. XII. The free coloured people, who have been acknowledged as such by the laws of Spain, shall be protected in their liberty, persons and property, like other inhabitants, they taking the oath of allegiance and demeaning themselves as becomes good and peaceable subjects of His Britannic Majesty.
Art. XIII. The sailors and soldiers of his Catholic Majesty are, from the time of their laying down their arms, to be fed by the British Government, leaving the expense to be regulated by the cartel between the two nations.
Art. XIV. The sick of the Spanish troops will be taken care of, but are to be attended by, and to be under the inspection of, their own surgeons.
Art. XV. All the inhabitants of Trinidad shall, within thirty days from the date hereof, take the oath of allegiance to His Britannic Majesty, to demean themselves quietly and faithfully to His government, upon pain, in case of non-compliance, of being sent away from the island.
Done at Port D'Espagne, in the Island of Trinidad, the 18th day of February 1797.
Joseph Maria Chacon
Source: Prof. Carl C. Campbell, Cedulants and Capitulants, published by Paria Publishing Co. Ltd. in 1992. P.P. House of Commons, 1826-1827 (428) =II, Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the subject of Titles to Lands in the Island of Trinidad, pp. 191-194.
Whereas by our royal instructions given the 3rd of September 1776 to captain of foot, Don Manuel Falquez, at that time governor of our island of Trinity to wind- ward, and by our commission afterwards granted to Don Joseph de Abalos, when we conferred on him the general superintendency of the province of Caracas, we thought proper to form rules and grant various privileges for the population and trade of the island afore- said; we have now resolved, in consequence of the representation our said intendant, as well as at the desire of some inhabitants already established there, and others who are anxious to become inhabitants thereof, to form a system of colonization and trade, by the following articles:-
Art. I. All foreigners, natives of nations and states, in friendship with us, who would wish to establish them- selves, or are already settled in our said island of Trinity, must make it appear, by the means prescribed by our government of the island aforesaid, that they profess the Roman Catholic religion; for without this indispensable condition, they cannot be admitted to settle there. But this justification shall not be required from the subjects of our own dominions, as no doubt can be harboured with respect to them on this head.
Art. II. Of foreigners who are admitted agreeable to the foregoing article the governor will receive the oaths of allegiance and fidelity by which they will bind them- selves to observe and abide by those laws and ordinances of the Indies to which the Spaniards are subject: in virtue of which oaths, we will in our royal name, grant unto them gratis and in perpetuity the lands they many be entitled to claim by virtue of the following regulations.
Art. III. To each white person, either sex, shall be granted four fanegas and two sevenths of land (equal to ten quarrees French measure, or thirty-two acres English measure) and half the above quantity for every negro or mulatto slave that such white person or persons shall import with them, making such a division of the land, that each shall partake of the good, bad and indifferent. And these distributions shall be recorded in a vellum book of population, specifying the name of each inhabitant, the date of his admission, the number of individuals of his family, his quality and rank; and every such inhabitant shall have an authentic copy from said book for the parcel of land allotted to him, which shall serve as a title to his property in the same.
Art. IV. The free negroes and mulattoes who shall come to settle in the said island, in quality of inhabitants and chief of families, shall have half the quantity of land granted to the whites, and if they bring with them slaves, being their own property, the quantity of land granted to them shall be increased in proportion to the number of said slaves, and to the land granted to said negroes and mulattoes, this is, one half of the quantity granted to the slaves of whites; and their titles shall be equally legal and granted in the same manner as to whites.
Art. V. After the first five years establishment of foreign settlers in the said island, they shall, by obliging them- selves to continue therein perpetually have all the rights and privileges of naturalization granted to them, and to the children they may have brought with them, as well as those that may have been born in the island, in order to be admitted in consequence to the honorary employments of the public, and of the militia, agreeable to the quality and talents of each.
Art. VI. No capitation or personal tribute shall at any time be laid on the white inhabitants; they shall only be liable to pay one piece of eight yearly for each of their slaves, of whatever cast, and that only to commence ten years after their establishment in the island, and this tax shall never be increased.
Art. VII. During the first five years the Spanish and foreign inhabitants shall be at liberty to return to their native country or former place of abode; in which case they will be permitted to carry with them such property as they brought to the island free from any duty of exportation, but on the increase during such time they will be liable to the payment of ten per centum: and it is to be understood that the lands which have been granted to such inhabitants as voluntarily quit the island shall devolve to out royal patrimony, to be disposed of for the benefit of others, or as shall be found most convenient.
Art. VIII. We grant to the old and new inhabitants that shall die on the island, without having apparent heirs there, the power of bequeathing their fortunes to their relations or friends, wherever they may be; and if their successors should choose to settle in the island they shall enjoy the privileges granted to their constituents: but should they prefer carrying away the inheritance, they may do so by paying upon the whole amount fifteen per centum duties of exportation, where the testator has been five years established, but if he died before that period, only ten per centum, as provided in the foregoing article, and as to those who die intestate, their parents, brothers, or relations shall inherit, even should they reside in foreign nations, provided they are Roman Catholics and settle in the island; but in case they cannot or will not become inhabitants, they shall be permitted to dispose of their inheritance by sale or gift, agreeable to the rules prescribed in the two foregoing articles.
Art. IX. We also grant to all the inhabitants of landed property in the said island power, agreeable to the Spanish laws, of bequeathing or otherwise disposing of their said landed property, without making any division thereof, to one or more of their children, provided that no injustice is done to the rights of the other children, or to the widow of the testator.
Art. X. Any inhabitant who, on account of a law-suit or any other pressing or just motive, may have occasion to go to Spain, or any province of our Indies, or to foreign countries, shall ask leave of the governor, and he will be entitled thereto, provided he is not going to an enemy's country or carrying away his property.
Art. XI. The Spanish as well as the foreign inhabitants shall be exempt for the space of ten years from the payment of tithes upon the products of their lands; after which period, which is to be reckoned from the first day of January 1785, they will only pay five per centum, which is half tithes.
Art. XII. They will be also exempt for the first ten years from the royal duties of alcabala upon the sale of their products and merchandizes and afterwards they will only pay an equivalent of five per centum; but when they ship in Spanish bottoms for our kingdoms of Spain they will be always exempt from any duties of exportation.
Art. XIII. Whereas all the inhabitants ought to be armed, even in times of peace, to keep their slaves in awe, and oppose any invasion or depredation of pirates, we hereby declare, that this obligation does not comprehend them in the class of a regular militia, and that they will acquit themselves of this duty by presenting their arms every two months at a review, to be taken by the governor, or by the officer he may appoint for that purpose; but in time of war or disturbance of slaves they ought to assist in defense of the island, agreeable to the disposition that may be taken by the commander-in-chief.
Art. XIV. The ships and vessels belonging to the old and new subjects, of whatever tonnage or build, must be brought to the island and registered there, with a proof of the property, and they will be made Spanish as well as those obtained from foreign nations, by purchase or any other lawful title, till the end of the year 1786, and they will be all exempt from the alien and qualifying duties; and those who may choose to construct vessels in the said island, government will permit them to cut the timbers necessary for that purpose, excepting only such timbers as may be necessary for the use of the royal navy.
Art. XV. The trade and importation of negroes into the island will be entirely free of duties for the space of ten years from the beginning of 1785, after which time the inhabitants and dealers in slaves will only pay five per centum on their current value on importation; but it shall not be lawful for them to transport said negroes from said island to any part of our dominions in the Indies without our royal permission, and a consideration of six per centum when thus imported into any of them.
Art. XVI. The inhabitants themselves can go (having the governors leave) with their own vessels, or freighted ones, being Spanish, to the islands in friendship with us, or to the neutral ones, to look for slaves, and take with them produce, effects, or any other property sufficient to pay for them, it being registered in the custom-house, and paying five per centum for exportation, which duty shall likewise be paid by the traders who with our permission shall bring slaves to the island, besides that which they will pay on importation of said slaves, from which we exempt the inhabitants, in order to encourage their cultivation and commerce.
Art. XVII. The course of trade between Spain and the inhabitants of Trinity, and that which they may carry on with such of their produce as is admissible in our islands and American dominions, will be totally free of all duties from the 1st January 1785, for the space often years and even at the expiration of said time they will be likewise exempt of all duties of importation into our kingdom of Spain, agreeable to the rules laid down in our last regulation of free trade; so that they can never be encumbered with any taxes other than such as will be fixed on the products of our other West Indian dominions.
Art. XVIII. In like manner Spanish and foreign goods and merchandize and also the fruits and liquors of this our kingdom, which shall be entered in our custom- house and transported to said island shall go free of all duties for the said term of ten years, and shall be in like manner introduced and expended therein; nor can they be reshipped for any other part of my dominions in the Indies; but in case it should be permitted on any urgent or just occasion, it shall be only such articles as are real Spanish, and on paying such duties as are provided by the regulation of free trade.
Art. XIX. In order to facilitate by every means the trade and population of the island, I permit for the said space of ten years, from the commencement of 1785, that the vessels belonging to the inhabitants of the said island, and likewise to my subjects of Spain, may make voyage to the said island, sailing directly with their cargoes from the ports of France, where my consuls reside, and returning directly to them again with the fruits and productions of the island, excepting cash, which I absolutely prohibit the exportation of through that channel; but with the indispensable obligation that my consul shall take an exact inventory of every thing that is shipped, which he shall deliver signed and sealed to the captain or master of the vessel, to be by him delivered at the custom-house in Trinity, and also with the condition of paying five per centum on the entry of the goods and merchandize, and the like quota on the exportation of the produce they shall ship in return to France, or to any other foreign port; but they must not touch at any Spanish port qualified to trade to the Indies.
Art. XX. Upon any urgent necessity, which may appear to the governor of the island, we grant to all its inhabitants, permission similar to that contained in the fore- going article, to enable them to have recourse to the French islands in the West Indies, under the indispensable obligation, that the captains or masters of vessels take exact invoices of their cargoes and deliver them to the officers of the royal administration, in order to compare them individually with the effects they bring, and exact the same contribution of five per centum on their current value in Trinity.
Art. XXI. In order to furnish my old and new inhabitants amply with what may be necessary for subsistence, industry, and agriculture, we have given effectual orders to the commanders of the province of Caracas, for the purpose of conveying to the island such quantities of horned cattle, mules and horses, as may be deemed necessary, at the charge of my royal revenues; and they shall be given to the inhabitants at the first cost and charges, till they can form a breed of them sufficient for their purposes.
Art. XXII. We have made the like provision for a sufficient quantity of flour for the space of ten years, and if through any accident there should happen to be a scarcity of this article on the island, the governor will permit the inhabitants to go to the foreign islands with their own vessel or vessels belonging to my subjects, to purchase as much as may be wanted, carrying for that purpose produce equivalent, and paying five per centum on the exportation thereof, and the same on the importation of the flour.
Art. XXIII. We have likewise ordered to be sent to said island from the manufactories of Biscay, and other parts of Spain, for the said space of ten years, all the instruments and utensils necessary for cultivation, that they may be given to the old and new inhabitants at the first cost; but after the expiration of said ten years, it will be their business to supply themselves; and if during said time, through any cause, there should happen to be a scarcity of said articles and expressing want of them, they shall be permitted to be sent for to the foreign islands in friendship with us, subject to the same regulations provided for flour.
Art. XXIV. We have also directed that two secular and regular priests, of approved learning and exemplary virtue, and well acquainted and versed in the foreign languages, shall go to Trinity to serve as pastors to the new inhabitants that may be there, and we will appoint a competent living for them, to the end that they may support themselves with the decency due to their character, and be no encumbrance to their parishioners.
Art. XXV. We permit the old and new inhabitants to lay before us, through the hands of the governor of the island, the regulations they may think most convenient and proper for the management of their slaves, and to prevent their running away; in the meantime, we have instructed our said governor as to the regulations he is to observe on that head, as well as with respect to a reciprocal restitution of runaway slaves from the foreign islands.
Art. XXVI. We have likewise instructed our said governor to use the utmost diligence that the plague of ants be not introduced into the island; to prevent which all the goods and effects coming from such of the Antilles as have been infested with this vermin, must be individually inspected; and whereas the inhabitants are the most interested in this point, they shall propose to government two persons of the greatest confidence and activity to examine the vessels, etc., and carefully attend to the performance of this point.
Art. XXVII. When the sugar crops shall become considerable or abundant in Trinity, we will grant to the inhabitants the liberty of erecting refining houses in Spain, with all the privileges and exemption of duties which we may have granted to any of our natural born subjects or foreigners who have erected such; and we will likewise permit, at a proper time, the erection of a council board in said island for the advancement and protection of its agriculture, navigation and commerce; with immediate direction to the governor in his particular instructions, and to the other judges, to use humanity, good treatment, and impartial and speedy administration of justice to all the Spanish and foreign inhabitants, and not to trouble or injure them in any way whatever, which would be very much to my royal displeasure.
Art. XXVIII. Lastly we grant to the old and new inhabitants of said island when they have motives deserving our royal consideration, liberty to send us their remonstrances through the means of the governor and minister for the universal dispatch of India affairs; and in case the business should be of such a nature as to require a person to solicit it, they shall ask our leave for it, and we will grant it, if their demand is just. And in order that all the articles contained in this regulation should have their full force, we dispense with all the laws and customs which may be contradictory to them; and we command our council of the Indies, the chancellors and courts of justice thereof, vice-kings, captains and commanders-in-chief, governors and intendants, common justices, the officers of our royal revenues, and our consuls in the ports of France, to keep, comply with, and execute, and cause to be kept, complied with, and executed the regulation inserted in this our royal Schedule. Done at St. Lorenzo, November 24th 1783, Sealed with our private seal, and subscribed by our under-written Secretary of State, and also Secretary for the universal dispatch of India affairs.
We the King. Joseph de Galvez.
A powerful wind buffeted the house in gusts that came every few minutes, producing a noise not dissimilar to howling. Between these blasts, the sound of the rain was like a hammering, a hammering of thousands of huge, elongated drops that drove themselves into the wooden shingles of the roof with the force of a battalion of infantry firing in unison. Lifting some, while sending others spinning away into the darkness, the enormous drops, driven by powerful velocity, dislocated garden tiles, smashed through leaves, emptied the dirt out of plant pots and shattered the glass panes in the upstairs windows. The wind, upon returning, turned the powerful downpour into a weapon even more dangerous, driving it to wash the gallery furniture off into the garden to be pounded into the mud of the devastated flower beds, bending, twisting the huge forest trees into hideous, alarming caricatures of themselves.
Inside the darkened lower story, the intermittent flashes of lightning illuminated a scene suspended in the stillness of time passed. Flowers, weary of their arrangement, wine bottles, empty of their potential, glasses drained, bouquets thrown, furniture still placed for, but now deprived of, conversation, confetti relieved of their gaiety lay about the floor, a dotty carnivalesque pattern that lead to the bottom of a flight of stairs leading to the bedrooms on the upper floor.
She lay as still as one of the embroidered patterns that decorated the quilt which covered them both, and listened to the thunder rolling away like distant artillery to be replaced by the scattershot of pelting rain and the mourn of the wind. The pounding in her head had passed, but the sweet misery in the secret parts of her body reminded her that this man whose weight dislocated the bed was her husband, and that this was her wedding night. She was 14 years old, her name was Rosa de Gannes, now she would be called Madame, Madame Roume.
The face of the earth turned slowly. The island of Grenada was relieved of the stare of the eye of hurricane, in those days nameless. The geography of the bed had changed. The weight removed, the intolerable sweetness lingered. Fun-filled childishness ended. What had taken place? What had not? Adolescence unvisited, games unfinished, world ended. World not begun. She reached for her doll. That too was gone. Outside a stillness, a hiatus, everything will be renewed. Inside, she felt a profound joy as she straightened her hair, straightened her night dress, straightened her body. The storm had passed.
Simon de Gannes de la Chancellerie married three times. From his first marriage there were two daughters, one of whom was Rosa. From his third marriage he had a son and a daughter. His son's name was Simon François Louis Chevalier de Gannes de Falaise. It is from Simon François that the de Gannes of Trinidad descend. The man that Rosa married at the young age of 14 could have been twenty-five years her senior. He, unlike his wife, came from the lesser nobility of Burgundy, France, but had risen in the colonial service and had become a wealthy plantation and slave owner in Grenada. His name was Laurent Philippe Roume.
From this marriage came three children. Philippe Rose Roume, who was born on the 13 October, 1743, another son, François, and a daughter. When Laurent Philippe, her husband, died in 1765, he left Rosa a wealthy woman, owning the prosperous estates of Belvedere and Paradise in the quarter of Sauterus in the north of Grenada, and a parcel of land of some 160 quarrées called Mont Saint Laurent.
For the aristocratic, land-owning society of Grenada of the 1740s and 50s, the island offered the best of all worlds. Men wore powdered wigs and jabots, knee-britches and swords with gold-plated hilts. Women stayed in the shade in preservation of their complexions and devised tiny, often hilarious beauty marks which they hid upon their persons so as to delight their lovers. Warehouses were full of goods to export: nutmeg, cloves, tobacco, tonka beans, cocoa, coffee, peppers, cinnamon, hogsheads brimmed with rum, sugar and molasses. Exotic fruit soaked silently in demijohns of alcohol, waiting to become after dinner curiosities for parvenus of the café society of Paris, Bonn or Basle. Other warehouses were filled to overflowing with all manner of wines, taffetas, laces, truffles, cheeses, dried fruit, farm machinery, gun powder, cannon balls and all else that was required to live in style in the tropics.
Slaves hauled, carried, fetched, worked the fields, the houses, the gardens, the yards; some were loved, others despised, some were simply worked to death, while others became the cherished and in secret, ancestors of "pass for white" beauties who went on to live in ante-bellum mansions in the state of Louisiana.
There was good music and bad. There were mask balls where absurd liaisons produced idiotic children, conceived in alcoholic stupor. There were the religious, the pagan, the agnostic and the ignorant. There were some who lived in the splendour of total solitude in enormous wooden mansions deep in the forested interior of the island, while others loved the winding steeps and steep twisting streets of St. George's, where fast clippers, elegant barcantines and royal frigates of the French King's ocean-going fleet turned at anchor in the most beautiful harbour in the Caribbean.
Rosa was just past 37 years of age when she met Bertrand de la Laurencie, chevalier de Charras, a sub-lieutenant in the French Royal Navy. He was fifteen years younger than Rosa; exactly three months younger than her eldest son. He came of a noble family from Angonmois, Poitou and Saintouge that had acquired the attributes of "noble and powerful" and "high and mighty seigneur" as early as the days when free use of such terms was proof of the authority that they possessed. She loved him proudly but without defiance of a society already profligate, where debauchery was an established practice and for a young gallant to be accepted by the unsurpassed beauty of the city was considered not merely "ton" or even "bon ton", but in fact "haut ton".
He claimed the title "Marquis de Charras" — like his grandfather and father, who had both been guillotined — and graced her with a coronet of that order of chivalry. It was said of him that some time before 1770, he sailed from Grenada and was never heard of again. The sad depredations of the French revolution and the work of Madame Guillotine was to confirm Rosa's illustrious title within two decades.
Rosa, perhaps lugubrious, certainly idle, passed the control of her financial affairs over to her son Philippe Rose who, hoisted upon the petard of association with the grande noblesse of the realm, elevated his surname to distinguish the wooded hillside that had become a part of his paternal inheritance and was to be known henceforth by history as Roume de Saint Laurent. Things were changing. In 1763, Grenada passed, after 150 years, from France to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris. Philippe's attempts to capitalise on the family fortune proved disastrous in that he was no match for the agents of the merchants of London in that island, Messrs. Bosanquet & Fatio. Had it not been for the "noble and efficient" business reputation and timely intervention of M. François Besson de Beaumanoir, Rosa's situation might have proved to be untenable.
1777 was a terrible year for Rosa. It was, however, a watershed year for her son. Philippe Roume came to Trinidad - perhaps it was love at first sight, perhaps he saw a way to redeem himself and to regain his and Rosa's losses. Suffice to say that he was possessed of vision. Trinidad was uncultivated, a wilderness, underpopulated, existing in a perpetual state of potentiality since its discovery more than 250 years before. Roume set to work and within five years had in his hand the Cedula of population of 1783, the document that established a French creole planter society on a Spanish island.
The creoles arrived by the hundreds. It is of interest to note that the word "creole" is derived from the Portuguese "criollo", a derivative of "criar", to breed, to bring up and from the beginning of the 16th century, it had been used to mean "European born in the West Indies".
After the recapture of Grenada by the French in July 1779, Rosa knew that their time in Grenada was over. Now Madame de Charras, and 50 years old, with resolution she set about the considerable task of creating a new life for herself in the strange and primitive environment of Trinidad. On the 18th April, 1779, her son had bought for her the small estate of San Xavier in Maraval, comprising three fanegas of land, from Dons Miguel and Francisco Lezama. In 1782, she applied to the Governor Don Martin de Salavenia for a grant of land adjacent to her modest holdings in Maraval. Granted were 85 fanegas 5 solares. The title deed described her as Doña Rosa de Gannes, Marquise de Charras. She went on to purchase several other small estates in the Maraval valley, eventually owning it virtually in its entirety, a magnificent domain through which ran a beautiful river, shaded by enormous bamboo, graced by rolling grasslands, surrounded by high forest, virgin and extremely valuable. She named the whole "Les Champs Elysées" and built a large rambling wooden thatched house, decorated with the cast-iron pillars from her previous Grenadian mansion. These still stand at the portico of the Trinidad Country Club.
The date of Rosa's death is uncertain. In his divorce proceedings of January 1799, Philippe Rose affirmed that his parents were dead. She therefore did not attain the allotted biblical span of three score and ten. It is said that her grave is on the grounds of the country club, the exact location is only guessed at.
Roume's last moments – A fictionalized version of the death of Roume de St. Laurent, containing factual elements of his life.
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.
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Gerard A. Besson (Jerry) was born in 1942 in Belmont, Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies. He was educated at Tranquillity Boys’ School and St. Thomas High School, Principal R.A. Young, in Port of Spain.
He worked with Selmore Display Company (headed by designer Wayne Berkeley, whose slogan was "Sell more by display"); Trinidad and Tobago Television; Norman, Craig and Kummel Advertising; as advertising manager for Habib’s Stores and Spartan Garments; and at Kenyan & Eckhart, Coleman, Prentice and Varley advertising agency in Trinidad.
He married Sheelagh Hezekiah in 1972; their three sons are Andre, Aaron and Dominic. They were divorced in 1997, and he married Alice Schwarz in 1998.
In 1972, he founded Creative Advertising with his wife, Sheelagh Besson, Kenneth Chee and Clive Bradley, which he led as Chairman and creative director for more than 20 years. In 1993, Creative Advertising was merged with Lonsdale, Saatchi & Saatchi Trinidad Limited, where he was the creative director and a member of the board of directors. Mr. Besson retired as a director of Lonsdale, Saatchi & Saatchi in 2002 and continues to work with his company Paria Publishing Company Limited, which he founded in 1982, as chairman and publisher.
To date, Paria Publishing has published and produced well over 80 titles on the history and culture of Trinidad and Tobago, and is presently engaged in the production of corporate publications, company histories, advertising campaigns, and annual reports, as well as content providing for a wide variety of organizations in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean region.
Over the years, Mr. Besson served as a member of or advisor to various government-appointed work groups. As such, he served for seven years on the Council of the University of the West Indies (St. Augustine Campus), and was a director of the National Museum. He has contributed to the establishment of a library at the President’s House at the time of the presidency of His Excellency, Noor Hassanali, and he was the convenor of the cabinet-appointed work group occasioned by the centenary anniversary of Tobago becoming a ward of the unified colony of Trinidad and Tobago, 1887- 1987. He contributed to a Y2K advisory group appointed by government, and the Tourism Development Agency (TIDCO) series of seminars to enhance the tourism product. He was also appointed to the board of the National Trust. He also worked with APDSL as a consultant on a sites and attractions policy for the tourism authority.
In 2004, he established a museum for the Police Service at Police Headquarters, Port of Spain. It was the third in a series of small museums planned and designed by Gerard Besson, the first being a company museum for the House of Angostura, and the second the City of Port-of-Spain Museum at Fort San Andres.
During 2005, Mr. Besson served on the Advisory Council for the setting up of an Academy of Arts, Letters, Culture and Public Affairs of the University of Trinidad and Tobago. In 2005, he also served as Chairman on the committee to inaugurate the O'Meara Campus, the Battery Point Campus, the Tamana InTech Park and UTT Campus, and to organise the first graduation ceremony of the UTT.
Mr. Besson is a member of the Society of Caribbean Historians, an international organisation for the furthering of historical research and teaching of the Caribbean experience, to which he has presented papers. He is also a member of the Caribbean Publishers' Network, a pan-Caribbean association created to support and promote indigenous publishing throughout the region.
Mr. Besson was also a delegate of the UN-sponsored conference with regard to copyrighting indigenous folklore, held in 2002 under the auspices of the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
On 31st August, 2007, Gerard Besson was awarded by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago the Hummingbird Medal (Gold) of the Order of the Trinity for Heritage Preservation and Promotion.
WELCOME TO CARIBBEAN HISTORY ARCHIVES
Presented here, among other pieces of information, are articles written for Newsday from 1st January, 2000 to 31st December, 2001, on a miscellany of historical topics concerning the Caribbean in general and Trinidad and Tobago in particular. Some of these articles have been fictionalised, so as to evoke the mood and temper of the times, based on historical sources which can be viewed under the link “Bibliography”.
Sunday, 16 December 2007
A key figure in Trinidad's colonial past, Philippe Rose Roume de Saint-Laurent is regarded as having lived his life in service to the West Indies and its people.
Roume was born on October 13th, 1743 in Grenada. Having been educated on his native soil, it is said that he had planned to spend the rest of his life there, disassociated from public affairs. However, when Grenada fell under British rule in 1763, Roume's loyalty to France led him to take up the position of the only French member of His Britannic Majesty's Council, but he and four others were expelled by the acting Lieutenant-Governor in 1776 for impeding conciliar business. His allegiance to the land of his forefathers motivated his subsequent refusal to join the militia against France, which earned him open disapproval from the British in Grenada. These events were two of several factors that motivated Roume to leave Grenada and travel to Trinidad.
When Roume first visited Trinidad in 1777, the island was still largely undeveloped. Serendipitously, Roume befriended the Spanish officer Don Juan de Catilla, who was surveying Trinidad for the purpose of producing accurate maps. Roume joined de Catilla on his exploration of the island, during which time they examined Trinidad's economic prospects. Fascinated by Roume's ideas, de Catilla urged him to write a report for the Spanish officials in Caracas. The report was well received, and Roume was invited to return to Trinidad to further assess the colony's potential. In the resulting report, Roume proposed incentives for settlers and, in the interest of the new colonists, advocated for the appointment of a Governor who would encourage unity and harmony between the settlers. The Intendant at Caracas followed Roume’s advice, and elected Don Martin de Salaverria, the Commandant of the company of Coastguards at Caracas.
Before he finally relocated to Trinidad in 1781, Roume traveled around the West Indies, encouraging residents of the other islands to settle in Trinidad. Governor Salaverria encouraged Roume to present his ideas for Trinidad’s development to the Intendant in Caracas. Impressed by his vision, the Intendant agreed that Roume should travel to Madrid and present his ideas to the authorities there. Roume went first to Paris, where he took the opportunity to inform the Spanish Ambassador of the state of affairs in the Caribbean. Knowing that the future of the island of Tobago was an issue at hand, Roume advocated for Tobago remaining under French rule, which it did.
After much difficulty, Roume was denied any meetings with Count Galvez, the Minister for the Indies, in Madrid. Galvez was unwilling to share any credit for the plans for Trinidad. However, on November 20th, 1783, the cedula including Roume’s proposals for Trinidad’s development was granted, notwithstanding Galvez’s elimination of any credit to Roume himself. In extensive debt by the end of his voyage, Roume submitted a claim for re-imbursement, which Galvez disregarded.
Despite these setbacks, Roume saw his vision implemented in Trinidad with positive results. He had recommended the election of a Governor who would be objective and unbiased in dealing with the old and new settlers. The well-respected Don Jose Maria Chacon filled the role, and his governorship saw increases in population and prosperity.
With little hope of returning to Trinidad due to his dire financial situation after his visit to Madrid, Roume went to his wife’s house in Paris, desperately seeking employment. At the same time, the French colony of Tobago was in need of an equipped ordonnateur to help improve its suffering economy. Roume presented himself as a candidate and was chosen for the position in April 1786. Roume worked with newly appointed governor Count Arthur Dillon to remodel Tobago’s systems of law and taxation, resulting in tremendous improvements. However, with the advent of the French Revolution and Dillon’s departure in 1789, the Chevalier de Jobal was elected acting governor and proved to be a dishonest college for Roume. Seeing much of his work crumbling before him, Roume willingly departed Tobago in late 1790. On the other hand, the unstable political situation occurring in the island of St. Domingue at the same time would lead Roume to the pinnacle of his career.
St. Domingue, being the most valuable colony in the world, was vital to the French economy, so the news of Revolution on the island was a great threat. In 1791, Roume was appointed by the National Assembly in Paris as part of a three-man Commission to confront the situation in the colony. While hopes for the Commission’s success were high, the Commissioners’ loyalty to the ideals of the Revolution incensed the whites in St. Domingue. Two of the Commissioners departed the colony, fearing for their safety, and Roume followed suit and returned to France in June of 1792.
Despite his departure, Roume remained attentive to the situation in St. Domingue. In 1796, he traveled to Santo Domingo as part of the French Government’s third attempt at a Commission. While in Santo Domingo, Roume supported measures in favour of the blacks in St. Domingue His sentiments were acknowledged by Toussaint L’Ouverture, who asked Roume to take over the position of sole Agent for France in St. Domingue.
Roume and Toussaint had forged an intriguing respect for one another over the years. On one hand, they trusted each other as fellow West Indians, with Roume even requesting Toussaint’s presence as a witness at his divorce hearing and second marriage in 1799 to Marianne Elizabeth Rochard, a coloured woman born in Grenada. On the other hand, Roume’s and Toussaint’s opposite allegiances cemented the rift between them.
Victory for the blacks against France’s attempt to hold on to the colony of St. Domingue marked the end of Roume’s career, and he returned to France. He died in 1805, not wealthy, but contented.
Exploring Port of Spain, one will find streets and structures named after the significant figures in Trinidad’s past. There is no memorial or street named for Philippe Rose Roume de Saint-Laurent, but the enduring effects of his visions and achievements are evocative of his tremendous contributions to the development of modern Trinidad.