St Vincent was ceded to Britain by France under the Treaty of Paris in 1763. At this time, according to Edwards, the island remained home to around 100 Carib families (often called Red or Yellow Caribs by European writers) and 2,000 so-called Black Caribs. This latter group was descended from escaped or shipwrecked slaves who had intermarried with the indigenous inhabitants.
Chatoyer, the Chief of the Black Charaibes in St Vincent with his five wives, from: Bryan Edwards. The history, civil and commercial, of the British colonies in the West Indies. London: printed for John Stockdale, Piccadilly, 1807 [FCO Historical Collection F2131 EDW]Much of the land best suited to sugar production was controlled by the Black Caribs and as the British began to settle St Vincent, conflict became inevitable. In September 1772 hostilities broke out between the Caribs and the settlers, which ended in stalemate the following February. The Caribs and the British signed a peace treaty under which land was reserved for the Caribs’ use in return for their acknowledgment of British sovereignty.
Another stipulation of the treaty was that the Caribs were not to have ‘undue intercourse’ with the French islands, yet despite this, Anglo-French rivalry over St Vincent embroiled the Caribs on two occasions after 1773. They helped the French recapture St Vincent in 1779 (it was returned to the British under the Treaty of Versailles in 1783) and in 1795 France armed and supported a joint rebellion by the French settlers on the island and the Caribs.
Although, the leader of the Black Caribs, Joseph Chatoyer, was killed early in the conflict, the rebellion continued until June 1796, when the rebels were overcome. The beaten Black Caribs were deported en masse to the neighbouring island of Balliceaux, where overcrowding and disease led to a rapid decline in their numbers from over 4,000 individuals to just over 2,000. In 1797 they were transported to Roatán Island off the coast of Honduras. Many of them soon moved to the mainland, where their descendents, now known as the Garifuna, live to this day in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
The plate on display shows Joseph Chatoyer and his wives.
In this exhibition
- The challenge to Spain
- International rivalry
- Indigenous peoples
- Revolts and revolution
- The road to emancipation in the British colonies
- The 'mighty experiment': Britain's Caribbean colonies after emancipation
- Natural history
- Nineteenth century Caribbean colonial life