Eric Williams: From Columbus to Castro: The History of
the Caribbean, 1492-1969.
Harper & Row, Publischers, New York and Evanston, 1970.
THE COCKPIT OF EUROPE
sugar, slaves, this Caribbean trinity represented an enormous accession
of wealth and power. Not surprisingly, Spain's imperialist rivals insisted
on their share. The Caribbean islands began their association with modern
society as the pawn of European power politics, the cockpit of Europe,
the arena of Europe's wars hot and cold.
This imperialist rivalry was anticipated even
before the voyage of Columbus. A resident of Portugal, Columbus
first sought Portuguese sponsorship for his projected voyage of discovery.
The Portuguese Crown rejected him. The exploration of the African
coastline, culminating in the voyage of Bartholomew Diaz to the Cape
of Good Hope in 1486, had brought the circumnavigation of Africa and
the discovery of the Cape route to India within their reach. The Portuguese
saw no point in supporting a man whom they regarded as a boastful adventurer
with a crackbrained scheme designed to achieve a purpose —a new route
to India— which seemed already assured.
then approached the Italian republic of Genoa, where he was born, and
Venice. He found, however, similar vested interests in his path, concerned
with keeping Oriental
trade in its existing overland channels via
the Mediterranean, from which both republics benefited considerably.
turned, therefore, to the younger nations, which had no such vested
interests in the question, and which were interested in any project
tending to break down existing monopolies which belonged to others:
Spain, England and France. Shrewdly playing off one against the other,
he himself went to Spain, whilst he sent his brother to the Court of
Henry VII of England. Spain's decision was delayed by the war against
the Moors, but, with the conquest of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold,
the Sovereigns of Spain reached an agreement with Columbus. When his
brother arrived with an invitation to visit England, it was too
Portugal's apprehension and jealousy were soon
manifested. On leaving the Canary Islands, Columbus evaded three Portuguese
vessels which, in his opinion, had been sent to intercept him. On his
return from his successful voyage, he encountered Portuguese unfriendliness
in the Azores, and when he landed near Lisbon after a severe storrn
he had encountered, the King of Portugal sent for him. At the meeting
the King expressed the view that Columbus' voyage violated the monopoly
of Guinea he had received from the Pope, and Portuguese hostility was
not diminished by Columbus' delusion that he had reached Asia. As the
story goes, however, the King refused to agree to a suggestion from
some of his courtiers that a quarrel should be picked with Columbus
and that the discoverer be slain on the spot.
assured the Sovereigns of Spain that the countries he had discovered
were as much theirs as their kingdom of Castile. The Sovereigns, taking
no chances, hastened to secure confirmation of the annexations by the
traditional method of the period, a bull from the Pope, who happened
to be a Spaniard, Alexander VI. Portuguese monopoly of Guinea rested
on a series of discoveries, sanctioned by papal bulls granting to the
King of Portugal all land discovered south of Cape Bojador. By a treaty
of 1480 Spain had conceded to Portugal all the islands discovered or
to be discovered from the Canaries southward in the region of Guinea.
Some compromise and delimitation of the respective claims of the two
governments were necessary if a clash was to be avoided between the
two imperialist powers. The natural arbiter
two Catholic powers were concerned in that period was the
In a bull issued in 1493, the Pope confirmed
the existing rights of Portugal and established those of Spain by drawing
an imaginary line from north to south, one hundred leagues west of the
Azores and the Cape Verde Islands. East of this line was the Portuguese
sphere of influence; west, the Spanish. Dissatisfied because no mention
was made of India, the Spanish Government persuaded the Pope to issue
another bull, in September, 1493, in which Spain was accorded full rights
to hold such lands as it might discover to the south and west “and eastern
regions and to India”. Columbus' hope of reaching India by sailing west
thus received papal recognition.
The Portuguese Government was not satisfied
with this line of demarcation. The two powers thereupon entered upon
direct negotiations, which culminated in the Treaty of Tordesillas,
on June 7, 1494. This treaty fixed the line at 370 leagues west of the
Cape Verde Islands. By this rectification, Brazil became Portuguese.
Caribbean history, conceived in International
rivalry, was reared and nurtured in an environment of power politics.
The Pope enjoined his partition on all men and nations, as follows:
'Let no person, therefore, presume to infringe, or, with rash boldness,
to contravene, this page of our commendation, exhortation, requisition,
donation, concession, assignation, constitution, deputation, decree,
mandate, inhibition, and will. For if any person does, he will incur
the indignation of Almighty God, and the blessed apostles Peter and
But the Pope had no divisions. On March 5,
1496, Henry VII issued a patent to another sailor, John Cabot, to undertake
a voyage of discovery. The date has been called the birthday of the
British Empire. Whilst no concrete results were obtained, the patent
is of significance. It omitted the words 'Southern Seas', thus giving
tacit recognition to Spanish and Portuguese discoveries and, to that
extent, to the papal document. But its very issuance rejected any interpretation
of a partition of the entire world between Spain and Portugal, and
was a warning that the English Government regarded ownership as based
at least on discovery. What had not been discovered was open to all.
Francis I, King of France, in a celebrated protest, made explicit what
was implicit in Henry VII's charter to Cabot. 'The sun shines for me
as for others,' he said. 'I should very much like to see the clause
in Adam's will that excludes me from a share of the world.' God, he
added, had not created those lands for Spaniards only.
While England concentrated in the main on a
north-east passage to Asia, France sent out expeditions which reached
the St. Lawrence, Florida and Brazil. As the Protestant Reformation
reduced the Pope's 'divisions', and Europe moved closer to the wars
of religion, Protestantism and nationalism saw in the Spanish monopoly
of the New World the chief bulwark of Catholicism in Europe and the
sinews of Spain's military strength. Protestant England and Catholic
France became the chief enemies of Spain; they were soon to be joined
by Protestant Holland, when it succeeded in declaring its independence
England became the spokesman for the newcomers
against Spanish pretensions to a monopoly of the entire New World based
on the papal partition. Sir William Cecil (later Lord Burleigh), the
Elizabethan statesman, told the Spanish Ambassador to England in 1562
that 'the Pope had no right to partition the world and to give and take
kingdoms to whomsoever he pleased'. The British Government countered
Spanish claims with the doctrine of effective occupation. In 1580 it
rejected the Spanish pretension to a monopoly, 'either because of donations
from the Pope or because of occupations touching here and there upon
those coasts, building cottages, and giving names to a few places ...
by the law of nations such occupations could not hinder other princes
from freely navigating those seas and transporting colonies to those
parts where the Spanish did not actually inhabit; ...prescription without
possession availed nothing.' Queen Elizabeth herself forcefully enunciated
the doctrine of freedom of the seas: 'The use of the sea and air is
common to all; neiiher can any title to the ocean belong to any people
or private man.'
stake involved was enormous: the entire treasure and empire of the New
World, and not only of the West Indies. On September 26, 1583, the treasure
fleet from the New World brought a shipment of fifteen million pesos
in bullion, after leaving a million behind in Havana because the ships
laden. 'This is a pretty penny,' concluded one announcement, 'which
will give new life to commerce.'
England, France and Holland, however, also
desired new life for their commerce. Three policies were available to
the newcomers. The first was piracy and buccaneering—knight-errantry,
as a British historian whimsically describes it. The first and most
obvious method of challenging Adam's will was to take from his self-appointed
heir. Columbus met French pirates on his first voyage, and, on his return
from his third voyage, had to take a different route to avoid a French
fleet which was awaiting him. The Spaniards were wont to speak of 'Lutheran
corsairs'. But Catholic Frenchmen had no scruples about preying on the
treasure of another Catholic state. In 1522 a Florentine buccaneer,
Verrazanno, in the service of the King of France, captured three Spanish
vessels, two laden with Mexican treasure, and the third with sugar,
pearls and hides from Hispaniola. He made presents therefrom to the
King of France, who, in amazement, exclaimed: 'The Emperor can carry
on the war against me by means of the riches he draws from the West
Piracy thereafter lost its individual and occasional
character and became an essential feature of national policy on the
part of Spain's enemies in Europe. The pirates, directly or indirectly
backed by their governments, lay in wait for the treasure fleets, attacked
isolated ships, and even carried their depredations to the Spanish dominions,
where they besieged cities, held them to ransom and plundered them.
The undeclared war in the Caribbean, in the sixteenth-century phrase,
'no peace beyond the line,' was enshrined in the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis
of 1559 between France and Spain: 'west of the prime meridian and south
of the Tropic of Cancer... violence by either party to the other side
shall not be regarded as in contravention of the treaties.'
incarnation of this phase of Caribbean history is Sir Francis Drake.
Born in Devonshire, of a father who was both a strong 'Reformation man'
and a kinsman of seamen, bred and reared among ships and sailors, Drake
personified the Elizabethan age, its growing sense of nationalism, its
confidence in, 'this scepter'd isle... this precious stone set in the
silver sea', and its antagonism to Spanish absolutism and Catholicism.
To Drake his attacks on Spain were as dear in the sight of Heaven as
notoriously were in the sight of his Queen;
he regarded them as a crusade, a war against idolatry.
But the material aspects of his crusade were
not lost upon him. 'I have brought you,' he said to his men before Nombre
de Dios in 1572, 'to the Treasure-House of the World. Blame nobody but
yourselves if you go away empty.' His famous message to the Spanish
Governor of the town, that he had come 'to reap some of your harvest
which you get out of the earth and send into Spain to trouble all the
earth', typified national policy. Drake assured Queen Elizabeth that,
though the whole world were the King of Spain's garden, it was hers
to pluck the fruit thereof. The Queen participated in his famous and
grandiose expedition to Spain's multi-million dollar empire in the New
World, which yielded a dividend of forty-seven pounds on every pound
in-vested. 'It was such a cooling to King Philip', said someone in Europe,
'as never happened to him since he was king of Spain.'
The danger was obvious. The Spanish Ambassador
to England urged his King to issue orders 'that no foreign ship should
be spared in either the Spanish or Portuguese Indies, but that every
one should be sent to the bottom... This will be the only way to prevent
the English and French from going to those paris to plunder; for at
present there is hardly an Englishman who is not talking of undertaking
the voyage, so encouraged are they by Drake's return.' But it was Drake
whom the Spaniards feared most. They were apprehensive that he would
capture the entire treasure fleet, which, as the Venetian Ambassador
at Madrid reported, would mean the ruin of half Spain, while a mere
delay would cause the bankruptcy of many merchants in Seville. Drake,
however, missed the fleet by a few hours, 'the reason best known to
God,' as he stated philosophically. But Spain was in a panic. The Bank
of Seville broke; the Bank of Venice was in despair; and the King of
Spain, regarded as a bankrupt, was unable to raise a loan of half a
destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588 —in which Drake, leaving his
game of bowls, played the leading role— did much more than save England
from invasion. It signified the supremacy of British over Spanish sea
power, and the lesson was underlined by Drake's daring exploit of 'singeing
the King of Spain's beard' in the very harbour of Cadiz itself. The
that Elizabeth's distaff was keener than Philip's sword. Drake became
a legend, a devil whose name kept colonial children quiet, and the luckless
admiral of the Spanish Armada was tormented by urchins who cried under
his window, 'Drake is coming, Drake is coming'. But more than all this,
the significance of Drake for Caribbean history lies in his words to
Lord Burleigh on July 28, 1586: 'There is a very great gap opened, very
little to the liking of the King of Spain.'
The second policy pursued by Spain's rivals
was that of contraband trade, which showed up the holes in Spain's commercial
system as Drake had found the chinks in Spain's armour. The exemplar
in this field was another Englishman, Sir John Hawkins, a kinsman of
Drake. Sailing to Guinea in 1562 in violation of the Portuguese monopoly,
he initiated the English slave trade by obtaining a cargo of three hundred
slaves, partly by the sword, as he confessed, partly by other means.
Taking the slaves to the West Indies, he trespassed on the Spanish monopoly,
and disposed of two-thirds of his cargo in Hispaniola to the eager planters
for hides. Either through audacity or stupidity, Hawkins left the remainder
with the authorities as a deposit, and sent half the consignment of
hides to Cadiz in Spanish ships in the care of a partner. The cargo
was confiscated in Spain, Hawkins' partner narrowly escaped the Inquisition,
and the slaves left in Hispaniola were forfeited. Hawkins protested
But the incident indicated that the Spanish
monopoly could be whittled away by contraband trade as well as sapped
by military means. 'Contraband became the continuation of war by other
means. The Dutch, independent in 1580, were quick to learn the lesson.
So ubiquitous did they become in the Caribbean that the Spanish Governor
of Venezuela recommended that they should be kept out by poisoning the
neighbouring salt pans to which they were in the habit of resorting.
and Hawkins revealed that Spain was unable to defend its empire and
monopoly. The attention of Spain's rivals was thereby directed to their
third policy, that of encroaching on Spain's territorial monopoly, establishing
colonies of their own even in the southern seas, in defiance of the
papal injunction, and from there penetrating more easily the paper walls
of the Spanish colonial system, The wish of an obscure clerk in the British
Treasury, Richard Eden, was about to be fulfilled, that 'that rich treasury
called PERULARIA', the bullion warehouse of Seville, should be brought
to the Tower of London.
Using as their yardstick the doctrine of effective
occupation rather than mere declarations of sovereignty, the newcomers
directed their attention in the main to three easily accessible regions
which Spain had neglected and over which its suzerainty was merely nominal.
These areas were the Lesser Antilles, Guiana and North America.
The intellectual exponent of this phase of
inter-imperialist rivalry was an obscure English clergyman, Richard
Hakluyt, a man of wide vision and discernment, whose imagination had
been fired by accounts of the voyages of discovery, the industrious
editing of which has been his chief claim to fame, and which has been
commemorated by the establishment of the distinguished society which
bears his name. Hakluyt was, in the deepest sense of the word, an imperialist,
and he looked upon colonies as a cure for the ills, particularly the
economic ills, of the state.
Hakluyt set himself the task of stimulating
the English to colonial activity and of bolstering national pride. Delving
into old and rare documents going back to the remote past of Tacitus
and the Venerable Bede, he insisted that England had, from the beginning,
played an honourable part in trade and discovery. In fact, he argued,
England's exploits were more daring than those of Spain and Portugal.
These two nations had had the writers of antiquity to guide them, who
had guessed at the existence of the New World, and their voyages of
discovery had been launched with their own towns and islands to succour
them, the Canaries and the Azores for example. England, on the other
hand, had turned to the stern and uncouth North Seas, 'altogether destitute
of such clear lights and inducements', to lands which, unlike the Spanish
and Portuguese voyages, were barred with ice, mist or darkness. Hakluyt
was forced to concede that English enterprise had not met 'with the
like golden success, nor with such deductions of Colonies, nor attaining
of conquests'. This it was necessary to correct.
now’ he wrote in his preface to the famous book he published in 1589,
The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of
the English Nation, 'it is high time
for us to weigh our anchor, to hoist up our
sails, to get clear of these boisterous, frosty and misty seas, and
with all speed to direct our course for the middle, lightsome, temperate,
and warm Atlantic, Ocean, over which the Spaniards and Portuguese have
made so many pleasant, prosperous and golden voyages.' Hakluyt spared
neither time nor energy in, and subordinated all opportunities for private
gain and preferment to unlocking and disseminating Spain's secrets,
obtaining and translating Spanish documents ('as may any way avail us
or annoy them') describing all the chief rivers, ports, towns, cities
and provinces of the West Indies, providing all the necessary information
so that Queen Elizabeth 'shall by God's assistance, in short space,
work many great and unlooked for effects, increase her dominions, enrich
her coffers, and reduce many Pagans to the faith of Christ'.
Hakluyt objectively appraised the possibilities.
'The time approacheth,' he concluded, 'and now is, that we of England
may share and part stakes (if we will ourselves) both with the Spaniard
and the Portuguese in part of America and other regions as yet undiscovered.'
A staunch supporter of Raleigh's expedition to Virginia in 1584, Hakluyt
envisaged that 'this western voyage will yield unto us all the commodities
of Europe, Africa and Asia, as far as we were wont to travel, and supply
the wants of all our decayed trades'. The Governor of Virginia assured
him that the new colony would produce wines, oils, flax, resins, pitch,
frankincense, currants and sugar—whatever England was in the habit of
obiaining from Spain, France, Italy and the East.
The influence and personality of Hakluyt played
a role not to be minimised in the orientation of British policy. An
ardent advocate of the improvement of navigation, he urged the establishment
of a readership in the art of seamanship either at London or at Bristol.
He advocated investigation into the causes and cure of tropical diseases.
No ivory tower intellectual and propagandist, he was himself a shareholder
in many of the colonising and commercial ventures of the period. By
his editing of The Principal Navigations and, above all, by his
Discourse of Western Planting, which he wrote in 1584 and presented
to Queen Elizabeth, Hakluyt was able, by the time of his death in 1616,
to exercise more influence over the minds of his countrymen and over
the development of the British colonial empire than all his contemporaries
combined. Before bis time, British policy, like earlier Spanish policy,
had not gone beyond concern with gold—taking Spanish gold, as Drake
had done, or seeking new mines of gold, as Raleigh sought in Guiana.
With Hakluyt imperialism was substituted for buecaneering, agriculture
supplanted gold, mercantilism superseded bullionism.
In this inter-imperialist rivalry the dominant
commercial considerations were reinforced by powerful political and
religious motives. Spain, lord of the New World monopoly, was the centre
of the Counter-Reformation in Europe. Spain's wealth from the Indies
represented the mainstay of Catholic strength in Europe. Spain's armies
and Spanish hegemony in Europe were financed by Spain's mines and trade
in the Caribbean and America. It became, therefore, a matter of vital
policy for the Protestant powers to sap Spanish strength and drain Spanish
resources by diversionary expeditions over the ocean. Gaspard de Coligny,
for example, Admiral of France and the leader of the French Protestants,
strongly advocated the policy of attacking Spain in the Indies in order
to weaken her in Europe. The battlefield of the Wars of Religion was
not only Germany but also the Caribbean.
Big business and imperialism associate a country
with strange bedfellows. There emerged a de jacto Protestant
alliance between England and the Netherlands, supported to a considerable
extent by Catholic France, against Spain. The struggle, on the part
of England with its increasingly parliamentary government and the Netherlands,
whose citizens were revolted colonials, had, overtones of a 'democratic'
struggle against absolutism. Virginia, said Sir Thomas Dale, its Governor,
on his return to England in 1616, 'being inhabited by His Majesty's
subjects will put such a bit into our ancient enemy's mouth as will
curb his haughtiness of Monarchy.'
it was to the Caribbean that the European challenge, following Spanish
policy, was chiefly directed. Sir Walter Raleigh made several attempts
to colonise Guiana. A hundred years later than Columbus, he was as much
obsessed with gold as Columbus had been. He longed to discover 'a better
Indies for her Majesty than the King of Spain hath any'. This meant
gold, for Spanish wealth and strength came not 'from the trades of sacks
and Seville oranges, nor from aught else that either Spain, Portugal,
or any of
his other provinces produce; it is his Indian gold that endangereth
and disturbeth all the nations of Europe'.
This was, no doubt, true. But Raleigh was in
essence a conquistador after his time. In his opinion, 'where
there is store of gold it is in effect needless to remember other commodities
for trade'. Guiana, he was convinced, had gold, 'a country that hath
yet her maidenhead, never sacked, turned, nor wrought', and he looked
to the establishment in London of 'a Contraction-House of more receipt
for Guiana than there is now in Seville for the West Indies'. This was
the first, but not the last, occasion on which Guiana was considered
as offering a solution of the problems posed in the West Indies.
Partly owing to the influence of Hakluyt, England
had become too sophisticated to take Raleigh seriously. He was released
from imprisonment to make a final attempt to locate the gold of Guiana,
in the very year of Hakluyt's death, and, as a result of his failure,
he was executed two years later. It was to permanent settlements in
the Caribbean that England and the other European nations turned. In
an effort to reinforce one of the expeditions to Guiana, the English
made their first attempt to settle in the West Indies, in St. Lucia,
But the settlement was a failure as a result
of the hostility of the Carib Indians. A similar attempt to settle in
Grenada four years later failed for the same reason. The Dutch landed
on the barren rock of St. Eustatius in 1600, and the Dutch West India
Company was established in 1621. In 1623 the English landed in St. Kitts,
and in 1625 in Barbados. In the latter year the French also landed in
St. Kitts. The two nations decided to partition the island between themselves.
In 1624 the British House of Commons considered a project for the formation
of a West India Association regulated and established by Act of Parliament,
along the lines of similar companies organised in the past for trade
with the Levant, Russia, and the East Indies. Sir Benjamin Rudyerd strongly
supported the project as the best way 'to cut ihe King of Spain at the
root and seek to impeach or supplant him in the West Indies'. The struggle
over Adam's will was about to enter a new phase. The will itself was
to be challenged.
What did the new nations propose to do with
their new Caribbean colonies? The Spaniards had made no bones about
their policy. They wanted gold, they wanted sugar, they wanted both
reserved to Spain. If they could get both only by enslaving the Amerindians
and transporting enslaved Africans, they were prepared to enslave.
The European intellectuals of the day were
outraged. The Englishman, Sir Thomas More, in his Utopia opposing
the substitution of livestock for agriculture which depopulated the
English countryside, launched an attack on Spain's policy. His Utopians
held the gold and silver adored by the Spaniards 'in reproach and infamy',
using them for making chamber pots, fetters and chains. But his Utopia,
where property was held in common, where there were neither rich nor
poor, where time was devoted principally to intellectual pursuits, was
based on slaves—or 'bond-men', as More euphemistically called them.
Las Casas, in his turn, presented a picture
of the noble savage and of Hispaniola, the cradle of Spanish imperialism,
as the true Elysian fields of the ancients. This was the line followed
by the celebrated French essayist, Michel de Montaigne, who condemned
ihe Spaniards for their destruction of Amerindian civilisation and turning
'the richest and most beautiful part of the world upside-down for the
traffic of pearls and pepper!' Francis Bacon, after Hakluyt, took a
more positive approach. In his essay 'On Plantations' he set out his
ideas of colonisation. He envisaged not an economy based on mining,
export crops, and slavery, but a self-sufficient society of small farmers
producing principally food crops. Bacon was particularly hostile to
the mining economy, and he advocated free trade in respect of colonial
produce. Never even mentioning slaves, Bacon proposed the emigration
of free artisans —gardeners, ploughmen, smiths, carpenters, joiners,
fishermen, with a few druggists, surgeons, cooks and bakers.
Europe, however, was not impressed by its intellectuals.
'The design in general is to gain an interest in that part of the West
Indies in the possession of the Spaniard, for the effecting whereof
we shall not tie you up to a method by any particular instructions.'
Thus did Oliver Cromwell, Protector of England, launch in 1655 the expedition
to the West Indies which he called his 'Western Design'. The pattern,
however, was not English but European.
British from their original bases in Barbados and the central portion
of St. Kitts, had proceeded to Nevis, Antigua and Montserrat
before Cromwell's acquisition of Jamaica.
From St. Kitts, where they occupied the two
extremities, the French moved to Martinique and Guadeloupe, St. Bartholomew
and St. Martin which, abandoned by the Spaniards, they partitioned with
Holland in the same year. After driving out the Caribs, the French occupied
Grenada and laid claim to St. Lucia. In the same year, 1650, France
took possession of St. Croix, driving out the Spaniards who had expelled
the English, who had in their turn removed the Dutch with whom they
had at first shared possession. Tobago was ceded to France by the Dutch
in 1678, and after many vicissitudes, France also secured a part of
Guiana, known as Cayenne.'By the Treaty of Ryswick, in 1697, Spain confirmed
French occupation of its long established settle-ment in Hispaniola,
'the most beautiful and fertile part of the West Indies and perhaps
of the world', which became Saint-Domingue.
The English and French governments, unable
to agree as to the disposition of Dominica and St. Vincent, signed a
treaty with the Caribs in 1660 by which the latter were left in possession.
The Dutch, traders first, last and always,
occupied St. Eustatius and Saba. By The Treaty of Breda, in 1667, they
ceded New Amsterdam (New York) to England in exchange for Surinam.
The Danes made their first permanent Caribbean
settlement on St. Thomas and a few years later laid claim to St. John.
The race to secure a place in the Caribbean
sun was joined by the German state of Brandenburg-Prussia. The Elector,
Frederick William I, listened readily to proposals of a Dutchman, Benjamin
Raule, to set up a Brandenburg company to trade with Guinea and the
West Indies. In 1680 a Prussian naval expedition was sent to the Caribbean
to prey on Spanish shipping. The expedition suffered from the handicap
that Prussia possessed no harbour in the Caribbean, and accomplished
no more than the capture of a few small vessels. In 1684 Raule unsuccessfully
tried to buy either St. Vincent or St. Croix, but France was the stumbling
block. Thereupon he turned to Denmark, and, in the following year, a
treaty was signed by the two governments whereby, while St. Thomas remained
Danish, the Brandenburgers received a plantation sufficient to employ
two hundred Negrees, free from taxes for the first three years. Difficulties
with the Danes led the Brandenburgers to continue the search for their
own territory. They tried to secure Crab Island, which was subject to
occasional raids by the Spaniards from Puerto Rico, but the Danes refused
to withdraw their claims to it. Negotiations in 1687 to secure Tobago
failed owing to Dutch opposition. Eventually, in 1689, Brandenburg took
possession of the rocky islet of St. Peter in the Virgin Islands. Upon
this rock Prussia sought to build a Caribbean empire. It was ersatz
for the vast western design of the Welsers in the preceding century.
One European country was unsuccessful in its
bid for a share in Adam's inheritance. That country was Sweden, temporarily
raised in the seventeenth century by the military achievements of Gustavus
Adolphus in the wars of religion, to the status of a great power. The
stimulus to Swedish colonial expansion, as in the case of Brandenburg-Prussia,
came from a Dutchman, Willem Usselincx, who had played an important
role in the founding of the Dutch West India Company, but who, disgruntled
with the results, offered his services first to Denmark and then to
Sweden. In 1624 the King of Sweden directed Usselincx to establish a
general company for trade with Asia, Africa and America. Financial
difficulties delayed inauguration until 1627. The company founded a
settlement on the banks of the Delaware. Ih 1647 another company, the
Swedish African company, was organised to establish a trade with Guinea.
The entire scheme was a failure. The Dutch looked upon the Swedes as
rivals, and both the Delaware settlement and the forts in West Africa
fell to the Dutch in a war between the two countries. Sweden had to
wait until the followiing century to obtain a share in the slave trade
and a colony in the West Indies—part of the small French island of St.
had to face not only the assaults of her European rivals ; but also
the attacks of European pirates. Men of all nationalities and faiths,
united by the fact that the majority were fugitives from justice, their
only industry was war on the Spaniard. Called buccaneers, from the Indian
word boucan (a wooden gridiron made of several sticks placed
upon four forks upon which they broiled hogs) they constituted an unorganised
group of men who acknowledged no leadership except on their raids, when
they chose the most expert as their leader, a Morgan or a L'Olonnais. Of
no fixed abode, they concentrated in the neighbourhood of the wild cattle,
used sheds covered with leaves as protection from the rain, wore only
a pair of trousers and a shirt, and slept in sacks to keep off the insects.
They looked, said a French observer after seeing some who had returned
from hunting wild cattle, like 'the butcher's vilest servants, who have
been eight days in the slaughter-house without washing themselves'.
Brave, well-armed, fairly numerous, operating from Tortuga, off the
coast of Hispaniola, their mission civilisatrice was to constitute
a terror to the Spaniards and a valuable auxiliary to Spain's rivals.
The raids of the
buccaneers contributed materially to the weakening of Spain by depriving
her of a great store of the precious metais. Their plunder, however,
served no constructive economic purpose, such as, we may be sure, Drake's
did; the historian of this phase of Caribbean history tells us that
they spent 'with huge prodigality what others had gained with no small
labour and toil’. The capture of Maracaibo in 1666 yielded a plunder
of 260,000 'pieces of eight', the buccaneers even carrying away the
ornaments of the church, its bells and paintings, to consecrate, they
said, that part of their booty to building a church in Tortuga. Morgan
stormed Porto Bello two years later, obtaining a booty of a quarter
of a million 'pieces of eight'. His address to his men is reminiscent
of the spirit of Sir Francis Drake: 'If our number is small, our hearts
are great; and the fewer persons we are, the more union, and the better
shares we shall have in the spoil!' Trinidad was plundered in 1673,
yielding a booty of 100,000 'pieces of eight'. In 1683 buccaneers captured
Vera Cruz, the richest city in the New World, gaining possession of
more than six million dollars. So profitable and popular was the profession
that even women participated; the sex of Mary Read and Anne Bonny, captured
in 1721, was only revealed when they declared that they were pregnant.
Buccaneering ultimately became a nuisance to
the governments which fostered and connived at it, but the buccaneers
were not reluctant to flout the wishes of even their own governments.
When war between France and Spain was brought to an end by the Treaty
of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1668, the buccaneers claimed that they were not
bound by the provisions of the treaty, as they had not signed it or
participated in the negotiations. By the Treaty of Madrid, in 1670,
England and Spain agreed to forbear from pillage, to revoke all commissions
for this end, and to punish those who contravened the treaty. Shortly
after, the French Government decided also to suppress the buccaneers
because they interfered with ships of all nations. In Saint-Domingue
the buccaneers were persuaded to change over to tobaceo cultivation.
England set a buccaneer to catch a buccaneer: Morgan was raised to the
dignity of Sir Henry Morgan, Deputy Governor of Jamaica.
If they could not get at the Spaniards in the
colonies, the European buccaneers attacked them on the way home. The
Spaniards were harried by large-scale national attacks by their rivals
on the Spanish treasure fleets. In 1628 Admiral Piei Heyn of Holland
achieved what had been Drake's dearest ambition: he captured the entire
Spanish treasure fleet off Cuba and unloaded its cargo on Cuban soil.
The Dutch booty consisted of 177,357 pounds of silver; 135
pounds of gold; 37,375 hides; 2,270 chests of indigo; 7,961 pieces of
logwood; 735 chests of cochineal; 235 chests of sugar; together with
pearls and spices. It fetched fifteen million guilders, and the Dutch
West India Company declared a dividend of fifty per cent.
The audacity of the blow, combined with the
severity of the loss, was a torture to Spain, and businessmen shuddered.
The general of the fleet was executed after five years' imprisonment,
while the admiral ended his days in a penal settlement in Africa. On
the other hand Heyn became a national hero, and was appointed Lieutenant-Admiral
of Holland, second only to the Admiral-General, who was the head of
the state, the Prince of Orange. All Holland rushed to pay homage to
Heyn. 'Look how these people rave,' he said, 'because I have brought
home so great a treasure. But before, when I had hard fighting to do
and performed far greater deeds than this, they scarcely turned round
to look at me.'
Twenty-seven years later, Holland's success
was duplicated by England, and Admiral Blake accomplished what Heyn
had done before him. Cromwel’s western design, territorially a failure,
was a financial success. Blake captured the treasure fleet outside Cadiz;
the captain's ship alone carried two million pesos in bullion. Cromwell
was among those who witnessed with satisfaction the long procession
as the booty was conducted with befitting splendour through the streets
of London. Two years later Blake, learning that the Spanish treasure
fleet had put in for safety into the Canaries, and its treasure, amounting
to ten and a half million pesos, disembarked, attacked the fleet and
destroyed it in Santa Cruz harbour. The bullion remained useless to
Spain in the Canary hills.
By the end of the seventeenth century, amid
all the confusion in the Caribbean, one fact stood out with startling
clarity— Adam's will had been proved a forgery. Spain's territorial
monopoly had been whittled down to Cuba, Puerto Rico, the eastern two-thirds
of Hispaniola, and Trinidad. In 1648 Holland was granted, by the Treaty
of Munster, one of the King of Spain's 'two eyes'—freedom of trade with
the Spanish colonies. By the Treaty of Madrid, in 1670, Spain recognised
England's annexations iIn the Caribbean, thus dumping the papal injunction
of 1493 into the wastepaper basket. By the Truce of Ratisbon, in 1684,
France and Spain agreed to peace both in Europe and beyond the Line,
thus ending the legal fiction of the preceding century.
The stage was now set for the struggle between
Adam's new heirs, with Spain the bystander. By 1674, England was beginning
to take the view that it was to her interest to preserve the Spanish
empire in the Caribbean, and that the real enemy was France. England's
policy was, in the words of a French writer, to "portugalise' Spain,
as Portugal was brought, by a treaty of 1703, into a relationship with
England whereby Portugal ruled but England traded. The conflict loomed
between Britain and France for the Spanish inheritance. France was fully
alive to the prospect. On September 30, 1678, the French Minister of
Marine, Colbert, wrote to the Governor of Guadeloupe as follows, in
much the same tone as Queen Elizabeth had sent instructions to Sir Francis
Drake a century before:
King ordered me to write to you these lines on a very important matter
which must be kept very secret. Peace being made with Spain in Europe,
but not in other parts of the world, it may be true that some day his
Majesty will take the resolution to trouble the great and free commerce
that the Spaniards have in the West Indies. In order to put yourself
in a position to execute his Majesty's orders, he wishes you to pay
particular care during your voyage to know surely and exactly the precise
times of the departure of the flotas and the galleons from the
coast of Spain; the precise navigation they pursue; what route they
keep; what islands
or mainland they touch at; what is the fighting force of the galleons;
if they are in a state to fight; and the number of the King's ships
that ought to be armed to undertake an enterprise against them.'
'God has committed the Indies to the trust
of the Spaniards that all nations might partake of the riches of the
new world; it is even necessary that all Europe should contribute towards
supplying... that vast empire with their manufactures and merchandises.'
Thus spoke the Foreign Minister of Spain to the British Ambassador in
the early years of the eighteenth century. The Ambassador was not a
child. The unprecedented liberality concealed a galling humiliation.
Spain, the cynosure of all eyes in the sixteenth century, was the sick
man of Europe in the eighteenth. Had the Ambassador remonstrated, he
would have objected to the 'all Europe'. There was not room enough in
the Caribbean for all Europe. There was not even room enough for Britain
and France. Since neither would renounce, and neither would agree to
share, war was inevitable. The Anglo-French struggle for the right to
minister to the sick man's needs and to be designated his sole heir
constituted the dominant factor in eighteenth century politics in Europe
and the Caribbean.
The French soon saw a less clumsy method than
that envisaged by Colbert for laying hands on the Spanish inheritance.
The Spanish brides of Kings Louis XIII and XIV of France in the seventeenth
century had explicitly renounced all hereditary rights on the Spanish
succession. But, at the end of the century, King Charles II of Spain,
an idiot and a chronic invalid, was still childless, and the question
of the Spanish Succession became an apple of discord among the chancelleries
British and the Dutch, the leading maritime powers, feared that the
Spanish crown would fall either to France or to Austria. The former
would mean a vast Franco-Spanish empire dominating Europe and America.
The latter would spell a recrudescence of the sixteenth-century Hapsburg
empire. It was a choice between the frying pan and the fire. They began,
therefore, to work out with France a treaty of partition of the very
Spanish dominions which had been developed only as a result of the Pope's
earlier partition two hundred years before. The King of Spain, concerned
solely with the maintenance of the integrity of the Spanish dominions,
made a will in 1698 in which he declared the Electoral
Prince of Bavaria his sole heir. Nothing so little became the
young Prince's life as his leaving it; he died, unceremoniously and
injudiciously, less than three months later. The official cause of his
death, smallpox, was received with scepticism in many quarters.
Frustrated, the sick man defied prognostications
of his imminent demise and made a new will, which was opened immediately
after his death on November 1, 1700. The King had declared his sole
heir Duke Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV of France. Louis XIV
stood pledged to a partition treaty with England and Holland whereby
the Spanish colonies and Netherlands would go to the second son of the
Hapsburg Emperor, on condition that they were never to pass into the
hands of the Austrian line of the Hapsburg, and the Spanish possessions
in Italy to the son of Louis XIV. What was Louis XIV to do? He had signed
a treaty renouncing the throne of Spain for any of his immediate family,
but the King of Spain, sane, in his own right, had declared a French
prince his heir. Louis XIV made his momentous decision before a full
meeting of his court, in the presence of the Spanish Ambassador. 'Gentlemen,'
he said, pointing to his grandson, 'you see here the King of Spain,
His descent called him to this Crown; the deceased King so ordered it
by his testament; the whole nation desired it, and earnestly entreated
me to give my assent; such was the will of Heaven; I have fulfilled
it with joy.' Turning to his grandson, he said: 'Be a good Spaniard;
that is now your first duty; but remember that you are born a Frenchman,
and maintain unity between the two nations; this is the way to make
them happy and to preserve the peace of Europe.'
Louis XIV was wrong. The 'Family Compact',
as it carne to be called, between the two countries, later solemnised
by a formal treaty, may have been the way to make France and Spain happy,
but it disturbed the peace of Europe for a century, 'The Pyrenees have
ceased to exist,' was the private and exultant comment of Louis XIV.
It was a challenge to Britain and Holland, themselves united by a personal
union of two crowns. They decided to bury their long-standing commercial
hatchet in face of the greater danger that had appeared. More than a
century before the statement of George Canning, when faced with a similar
predicament in 1823, Britain decided that, if France had Spain, it would
not be Spain with the Indies.
The Anglo-French rivalry, begun in 1700, lasted
until 1815. Merging with other dynastic and territorial questions in
Europe, it was marked by the European campaigns of four of the world's
greatest commanders—the Duke of Marlborough, Frederick the Great, Napoleon
Bonaparte, and the Duke of Wellington; and, on the naval side, by the
exploits of Rodney and Nelson. The vital issue was not who should be
king of this country, and who of that, but whether Britain or France
should dominate the Spanish colonies and be supreme in the Caribbean.
The battlefields were the Spanish Netherlands, the fields of Germany,
Italy, Spain and even Russia, Canada and the Caribbean.
But the most important theatre of the war was
the Caribbean, the decisive arm the navy and not the army. Jonathan
Swift, writing in 1712, wondered how it was that, while some politicians
were showing the way to Spain by Flanders, Savoy or Naples, the West
Indies never seemed to come into their heads. The Duke of Marlborough
was sceptical of what he called side-shows far away, but he dared not
oppose the project of sending troops to the West Indies. 'For God's
sake,' wrote Horace Walpole, senior, to his brother, Robert, Prime Minister
of England, in 1735, 'think of the West Indies. I have hitherto preached
in vain; but any misfortune there will hurt you more than any other
thing in the world.' Chatham spoke grandiloquently and inaccurately
of conquering Canada on the banks of the Elbe. The centre of gravity
was the Caribbean; it was there, in the words of Jamaica's leading sugar
planter, Alderman William Beckford of London, 'where all our wars must
begin and end'.
The long see-saw struggle in the Caribbean
is sufficient testimony of the importance attached by both Britain and
France to that theatre and all that it represented. There were two aspects
to the struggle: the one purely territorial, for additional territory;
the other concerning the monopoly of trade with the Spanish colonies.
From the territorial aspect, the West Indian
colonies assumed an importance that appears almost incredible today,
when one, looks at these forgotten, neglected, forlorn dots on the map,
specks of dust as de Gaulle dismissed them, the haggard and wrinkled
descendants of the prima donnas and box office sensa-tions of two hundred
Take, for example, the speech of Queen Arme
of England to the House of Lords on June 6, 1712: 'The division of the
island of St. Christopher's (St. Kitts) between us and the French having
been the cause of great inconvenience and damage to my subjects, I have
demanded to have an absolute cession made to me of that whole isiand,
and France agrees to this demand.' The acquisition of St. Kitts was
one of Britain's greatest gains in the first war for supremacy between
the two nations, and the condominium of 1627 was abolished.
St. Kitts, at least, meant sugar. What Crab
Island could boast of is not clear, though malice might suggest that
there is something in a name. In 1722 the English laid claim to the
Danish islands of St. Thomas and St. John, as well as to Crab Island,
a constant bone of contention between Denmark and Spain, which had attained
international importance in the seventeenth century when Prussia tried
to annex it. The Governor of St. Thomas asserted that the British design
was, by acquiring St. Thomas and Crab Island, 'so to hem Porto Rico
in that they would make themselves masters of it on the first break
with Spain'. The eighteenth-century Caribbean islands and islets were
the Pacific atolls of the twentieth.
In 1730 Anglo-French hostility flared up anew
over the sovereignty of the Windward Islands of St. Lucia, St. Vincent
and Dominica. The British claimed 'an undoubted right' to all three,
which were associated with the jurisdiction of Barbados. The French
asserted 'an incontestable right' to St. Lucia and argued that Dominica
and St. Vincent belonged to the Caribs by the treaty of 1660. Both nations
agreed to evacuate all the islands until the issue could be determined
by negotiations. Foreign bases in the Caribbean have a long, if not
a respectable, history.
good example of the value attached in the eighteenth century is even
the most insignificant Caribbean territory is the Anglo-French controversy
over Turks Island, today a small dependency of Jamaica, with a population
of a few hundred, then as now producing salt. Hardly any eighteenth
century statesman could have located it on a map; as the Duke of Newcastle
thought that Cape Breton was an island, any of his colleagues might
have placed Turks Island somewhere off the coast of Turkey. One of the
last links in the Bahama chain of islands, the inconsequential territory
occupied a strategic position at the opening of the Windward Passage
between Cuba and Hispaniola. The Governor of Saint-Domingue, with the
consent of the Governor of the Spanish part of Hispaniola, who exercised
nominal suzerainty over Turks Island, sent an expedition in 1764 to
suppress pirates who made it their hideout, destroy their setlements,
and build a lighthouse. His motives were, superficially, unimpeachable.
The British, however, claimed the island with an almost incomprehensible
vehemence. The British Foreign Minister, George Grenville, sent for
the French Ambassador, Count de Guerchy, and said to him:
'Whatever claims you may have, set them up,
we will hear them, but first the island must and shall be restored...
When it is restored to His Britannic Majesty, then, and not till then,
will a single word about claims be heard or admitted. I shall wait nine
days for your answer... if I do not receive your answer at the end of
that time, the fleet now lying at' Spithead shall sail directly for
the West Indies, to assert the rightful claims of Britain.'
The French backed down. War over Turks Island
was averted. But not before an even more astonishing idea of its importance
had emanated from the Governor of Saint-Domingue. The suggestion was
that a tripartite condominium be established, between Britain, France
and Spain; the co-sovereigns would divide the saltponds between them,
send an equal number of colonists, and undertake jointly the construction
of lighthouses. The Spanish Government, however, refused to abdicate
its sovereignty, and the British Government thought better of making
a mountain out of a saltpond.
most dramatic example, however, of Anglo-French rivalry in the Caribbean
was the controversy, at the peace treaty of 1763, as to whether Britain
should restore to France Ganada or Guadeloupe, both conquered during
the war. The mere equation of the two areas provokes derision today.
Yet the foreign offices of the two governments were seriously agitated
over the issue, and in England, at least, it gave rise to a violent
pamphlet warfare. Eventually Britain restored Guadeloupe and retained
Canada. But this decision did not mean that Guadeloupe, in the eyes
of the British Government, was less valuable than Canada. In fact, precisely
the opposite was the case. Choiseul, the Foreign Minister
of France, prided himself on a successful diplomatic coup
by which he had retained a valuable sugar island and given up a
vast territory which many Frenchmen derided, as Voltaire did, as 'a
few acres of snow'.
This dramatic comparison of the Caribbean and
mainland colonies was reinforced by the British restitution to Spain
of Cuba, also captured in the war, for Florida. During the War of American
Independence, the British Government rated the Caribbean colonies even
higher. It was prepared to cede the strategic fortress of Gibraltar
to Spain in return for territory in the Caribbean. George III rejected
Spanish offers of Oran in return fox Gibraltar, and insisted on Puerto
Rico instead. The Spaniards baulked at Puerto Rico or Cuba, 'the limbs
of Spain', as these two islands were called, and offered West Florida
or the Spanish part of Hispaniola in exchange. George III insisted on
one of the following equivalents for the fortress: Puerto Rico; Martinique
and St. Lucia combined; Guadeloupe and Dominica combined. Formal proposals
from the British Government suggested the exchange of Gibraltar for
either Puerto Rico or Guadeloupe, St. Lucia and Dominica, or Guadeloupe,
Dominica and Trinidad.
The negotiations, which bore no fruit, are
particularly significant for the importance they indicate of Puerto
Rico, virgin territory virtually, the Cinderella of the Caribbean until
1898. The Spaniards refused to cede the island, no matter what the bribe.
On the oiher hand, the British Parliament would not hear of ihe cession
of Gibraltar. Edmund Burke, the great orator, was ihe most powerful
opponent of the traditional eighteenth century policy towards the Caribbean.
He warned the House of Commons in 1782 'against being cheated by ihe
idea of an extensive, rich, and profitable territory being given in
exchange for a bare rock. Puerto Rico was in every sense of the word
an unclothed territory. All the wealth of Spain had not been equal to
its cultivation, and we had a sufficient evidence in our islands of
ihe difficully and expense of cultivating a territory'.
The second aspect of the Anglo-French struggle
concerned not annexations of Caribbean territory but trade with the
Spanish colonies. As always, the crucial issue was the trade in Negro
slaves, the asiento or contract with the Spanish Government for
the supply of slaves. The French king of Spain, like a good Spaniard,
immediately granted the asiento to France, for the introduction
of 48,000 slaves in ten years into the Spanish colonies. Britain's victory
in the war meant the transfer of the asiento from France to her
rival, 'the part which we have borne in the prosecution of this war
entitling us to some distinction in the terms of peace', as Queen Anne
explained to the House of Lords. The British obtained the same privileges
as had been conceded to the French, but for the space of thirty years,
England was jubilant. The asiento clause was the most popular
part of the Treaty of Utrecht.
The British, however, obtained yet another
valuable privilege by the treaty. This was the right to send one ship
a year, of five hundred tons, later increased to six hundred and fifty,
to the Spanish colonies with British merchandise. The cargo of the 'annual
ship' was to be sold only at the time of the annual fair, and not before
the arrival of the Spanish fleets. The goods were to be exempt from
all duties. The King of Spain was to have a quarter share in the vessel,
and five per cent of the profits on the remaining three-quarters. The
long British struggle, for over two centuries, to penetrate the Spanish
monopoly, ended in victory for the British.
the beginning the annual ship contained the seeds of potential trouble.
The first sailed from England in July 1717, with a cargo valued at £256,858.
During the thirty years for which the concession was granted, only eight
annual voyages were undertaken. But there is sufficient evidence to
justify the repeated Spanish claim that the ship, unloaded in the day,
was secretly refilled at night. The annual ship, the centre of legitimate
trade, was thus converted into a depot of contraband trade, a depot
in American waters, through which more goods entered the Spanish colonies
than were carried in half a dozen galleons. One annual ship, when measured,
was found to carry a cargo of 2,117 ½ tons, exclusive of sixty-five
tons of iron. The excess was confiscated by the Spanish authorities.
The annual ship carried neither provisions nor water, and was accompanied
by sloops from Jamaica, themselves laden with merchandise which was
transferred to the ship when it anchored off Porto Bello. It was claimed
in England that through the annual ship British goods to the value of
£75,000 sterling were sent to the fair at Porto Bello, and that
the trade yielded a profit of 100 per cent.
The smuggling trade which the annual ship facilitated
gave rise to many difficulties in the Caribbean. The Spanish coastguard
dealt firmly with captured smugglers. One of them was the notorious
Captain Jenkins. As the story goes, one of his ears was cut off, and
he was told to iake it to his King, and tell him that he would be treated
in similar fashion if ever the opportunity offered. Jenkins appeared
before the House of Commons with his tale. When asked what he thought
when he found himself in the hands of such barbarians, he produced his
ear and made the memorable reply: ‘I recommended my soul to God, and
my cause to my country!' The House of Commons stated that it was the
undoubted right of British subjects to sail their ships in any part
of the seas of America. The Spaniards countered with the story of a
certain noble Spaniard who had been made by an English captain to cut
off and devour his nose. His Government took up his cause, though his
nose was not available for demonstration. Spain flatly denied the British
claim that British subjects had any right to sail to and trade with
their West Indian colonies. They protested against the traducing of
coastguard activities as infractions of commerce and treaties, and pointedly
added that the British Government had done nothing to put down smuggling
by British subjects. The resultant war, called in the textbooks the
War of Jenkins' Ear, settled nothing and left the status quo in the
The symbol of this period of Caribbean history
is the famous British Prime Minister and colonial statesman, William
Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham. He, more than any other Englishman,
is responsible for the British tradition which lasted down to the Entente
Cordiale, that Trance, there's the enemy!' Chatham's dominating
passion is expressed in his computation that British gains were multiplied
fourfold by their injury to France. The French, warmly reciprocating
his feelings, none the less respected the man; they hailed his resignation
from the Cabinet in 1761 as the equivalent of two victories. In a famous
speech on January 20, 1775, Chatham described France as a 'vulture hovering
over the British Empire, and hungrily watching the prey that she is
only waiting for the right moment to pounce upon'. No one in the eighteenth
century appreciated better than Chatham the vast importance of the West
Indian colonies and the danger of the Family Compact. Out of the Cabinet
and in opposition, he argued —more from parliamentary strategy than
from any genuine disagreement— against the peace treaty of 1763 by which
Britain restored Guadeloupe to France and Cuba to Spain. He wished to
retain Havana, saying that, from the moment of its capture, 'all the
riches and treasure of the Indies lay at our feet'. He condemned the
restoration of St. Lucia in the Caribbean and of Goree in West Africa
to France, criticising the British Government for having 'lost sight
of the great fundamental principie that France is chiefly, if not solely,
to be dreaded by us in the light of a maritime and commercial power'.
The activities of other European powers were
of lesser significance in the eighteenth century. Denmark strengthened
its claims on St. John by establishing settlements thereon, and increased
its Caribbean empire by purchasing St. Croix from France in 1733. The
only other event of importance involving another European power was
the retirement of Brandenburg-Prussia from the race. There is a note
of asperity in the letter of the Great Elector, Frederick William I,
in 1715, announcing the with-drawal: 'The resolution which we have previously
made shall remain as it was that we will not divert any more of our
means either in goods or in cash, to this African and American trading
business...' The Welsers had retired from Venezuela, and now Prussia
withdrew from St. Thomas and West Africa.
1783, when the war of American Independenee came to an end and put yet
another truce to the eighty years of Anglo-French warfare in the Caribbean,
Britain had added Grenada, St. Vincent and Dominica to its empire. France,
however, remained in possession of Saint-Domingue —having settled the
boundary question with Spanish Hispaniola in 1777— Martinique, and Guadeloupe,
their seventeeth century possessions, and had added St. Lucia and Tobago.
The French thus remained in possession of some of the most valuable
West Indian territories, Cuba excepted. They had lost the war but won