Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 1st 2014 Contents dren," wrote Major Henry Capadose of the
First West India Regiment, who was part of
the British garrison stationed in Trinidad and
was at Government House that day. He later
wrote a book, Sixteen Years in the West Indies,
about his tropical service.
It s generally thought that Emancipation
was proclaimed at the government buildings
and rum bond on the wharf (the site of the
Treasury Building today). But pictures of
those offices (which burned down in 1932),
show a long one-storey building.
Moreover, Capadose says: "HE, the Gov-
ernor, Sir George Hill, followed by the mem-
bers of council, the Judges and other official
Gentlemen, had repaired to the balcony of
the Council chamber to enquire into the cause
of such an assemblage as then filled the Court
Yard, below the building." He makes repeated
references to the balcony and the crowd
So the Governor s equivocal address---a far
cry from a proclamation---must have been
made at the old government buildings in
Brunswick (now Woodford) Square, torn down
a few years later to make way for the new
one, designed by Richard Bridgens, that later
became the Red House.
On that rainy Emancipation Day one of
the crowd, a young man, asked the Gover-
nor---in French---what was going on, and why
the managers and overseers on the estates---
some of whom had come with them to Port-
of-Spain---insisted the former slaves had to
Sir George told them, also in French, that
while it was true they were no longer slaves,
neither were they entirely free. They were
"apprentices"---as if they now needed to learn
the same skills they had been practising since
they were old enough to walk (the tiniest
members of the field gangs, who pulled up
weeds and gathered grass for the livestock,
started work at four years old). And for the
next six years they would still be obliged to
work for the same masters, unpaid, for 45
hours a week---and longer in crop season.
The Abolition of Colonial Slavery Act abol-
ished slavery "throughout the British colonies
on, from and after the First of August, 1834."
But---a huge but---it stipulated that only chil-
dren under six were actually free from that
date; older children and adult field workers
were to serve as "apprentices" for another
six years, and house slaves for four years
The people gathered in the rain took the
bad news calmly, but would not obey the
Governor s urging that they should "return
quietly home, like good folks, and resume
their avocations under employers who, doubt-
less would treat them kindly, and indeed the
new laws ensured them good treatment."
Other colonial officials repeated what Sir
George had said, but the rain-sodden crowd
"Pas de six ans, nous ne voulons pas de six
ans, nous sommes libres, le Roi nous a donné
la liberté!" they said. "No six years, we do
not want six years, we are free, the King has
given us our freedom!"
The crowd may have been sullen, but they
were peaceable. They stood there in the rain
and would not leave.
Some hot-headed members of the council
wanted the Governor to declare martial law
and have the crowd dispersed by force. The
militia had already been called out and were
stationed at street corners, in case of insur-
In reality, points out Capadose, "No symp-
tom of it appeared, beyond the obstinacy of
foolish old people in the government court-
yard, headed by a single young man, and
none of them had even a stick in their hands."
The Governor consulted Col Hardy.
"Martial Law!" exclaimed he, "against
whom?--- I see only old men, women, and
children, poor ignorant people, who come to
ask a question, and know no better."
Given this answer, Sir George could not
very well read the Riot Act. In the end, around
sunset, the police persuaded the doleful
apprentices to go home.
Capadose rode back to the St James Bar-
racks in Hardy s carriage. They did see some
celebrations on the way: "A number of girls
danced about in the streets, singing French
ariettes of, probably, their own composition
on the goodness of King William in granting
Col Hardy observed drily that it "looked
mightily like insurrection."
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, August 1, 2014
The celebrations with song, dance and Emancipation festivities will
reach its climax on August 1 when the ancestors are honoured with the
drum call and commemoration of the Emancipation proclamation at
A procession through the streets of Port-of-Spain to the Emancipation
Village begins at 8 am from Independence Square, Port-of-Spain,
followed by a concert from 1 pm.
The Flambeau procession at 7 pm from the Savannah and via Belmont
will end at the historic site of the All Stars panyard on Duke Street.
The curtain will come down on the event with the closing of the
Village at 10 pm.
The boiling house on a sugar estate, by Richard Bridgens, 1836. Crop season was the busiest
time of year, when the enslaved people on the estates were worked round the clock. Boiling the
sugar, gauging its consistency and ladling it into a series of coppers and cooling trays was
skilled and dangerous work, carried out in long shifts and in infernal heat.
...but the rain-sodden crowd remained
Continued from Page B1
Links Archive July 31st 2014 August 2nd 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page