HISTORY OF SAINT LUCIA


No official record of Saint Lucia's discovery, in historic times, has yet come to hand, but the long held view that the island was discovered by Christopher Columbus has been reliably disproved. In fact, the navigator's records of his travels reveal that he never set foot on Saint Lucia.

In spite of this, the belief is still widely held that Saint Lucia was discovered on December 13, 1502.  Many writers still refer to this date as the island's "Discovery Day," and the fallacy is further perpetuated by the official observance of  December 13 as the island's "National Day."

FRENCH SETTLEMENT

The recognition of December 13 seems to have sprung from an old French tradition that the island was discovered by certain shipwrecked French seamen, who, it is believed, landed on December 13, and named it after the Virgin Martyr of Syracuse. Doubt on this theory has, however, been cast by Abbe J. Rennard in his "Histoire Religieuse des Antilles Francaises". He contends that the island was discovered by the Spaniards, but admits the impossibility of naming a definite date for their landing.

FIRST SETTLEMENT

Amidst all the hazy notions about the early history of Saint Lucia, the one undisputed fact is that the first attempt at a settlement on the island was made on August 23, 1605, by 67 persons, under the command of Captain Nicholas St.. John, who landed from the Oliph Blossome, on the ship being driven off course  on its way to Guiana.

Soon after the boat's departure from the island, the colonists were attacked by  the Caribs. After some days of heavy fighting, the 19 settlers who were still  alive had to take to the sea in an open boat.

GRANT TO CARLISLE

More than 20 years were to elapse before "Saint Lucia" received a place on any document. This time it was included among the islands in the grant of territories made to the Earl of Carlisle. The Earl, however, made no effort to colonize this possession and it was not until 1638 that one Captain Judlee (in some sources referred to as Major Judge or Jadlee), with a commission from Sir. Thomas Warner, arrived in Saint Lucia with about 300 men. For about 18 months, the settlement prospered and grew, without any major misunderstandings with the natives.

But the period of peace came to an end, in August 1640, when the Caribs, because of trouble encountered in another island, attacked Captain Judlee's settlement.  In a bitter fight, motivated by revenge, and with Caribs from  neighboring islands assisting their kith and kin, many hundreds were killed, and the very few settlers who survived had to flee the island. These two experiences, quite understandably, caused the British to steer clear of the island for more than two decades.

FRENCH STAKE CLAIM

In the meantime, however, the French developed an interest in Saint Lucia, claiming that it had been included in a grant made by Cardinal Richelieu to M. d'Esnambus in October 1626.  Despite this claim, it was 17 years before M. de Parquet, Lieutenant-General of Martinique, appointed M. Rousselan as Governor of Saint Lucia.  M. Rousselan, who married a Carib, kept his post until his death in 1654.

Following the death of Rousselan, there were frequent changes in the Governorship of the island until 1660, when local treaties were negotiated by the French Governors of St. Christopher and Guadeloupe and the British Governors of  Nevis, Antigua, and Montserrat and between the French and Caribs. These agreements, however, left Saint Lucia in the hands of the French.

BARBADIANS COME

In 1663, Francis Lord Willoughby arrived in Barbados, as Governor, and he immediately started to look for somewhere to send that island's surplus population. He didn't set his eyes far off - he turned to the neighboring island of Saint Lucia. The intention of Lord Willoughby and the Barbadians soon came to the knowledge of the French; they immediately informed the British Government of the title deeds of the Heirs du Parquet and they put Saint Lucia into a state of defense by erecting fortifications along Choc Bay.

The French claim was ignored, however, and the following year, more than 1000 Barbadians, accompanied by 600 Caribs, invaded Saint Lucia. The invaders met no resistance and, after surrounding the fort and calling upon the Governor, M. LeSieur Bonnard, to surrender, they took possession of the island. The Barbadian settlement did not last long, and by February 16, 1666, it was abandoned, following sickness, attacks by the Caribs, and many other difficulties.

Learning of the abandonment the French immediately returned, but they were quickly driven out by Francis Lord Willoughby, with forces from Barbados.

The following year, the Peace of Breda placed Saint Lucia in the hands of the French.

MORE BIDS

The British soon made another bid for the island. In 1672, they appointed William, Lord Willoughby, as Governor of Saint Lucia as well as Barbados, St. Vincent and Dominica; but the French still continued to occupy the island.

When the Company administering the island, on behalf of the French Government, was dissolved in 1674, Saint Lucia was annexed to the domain of the French Crown and made a dependency of Martinique. This action did not deter the British in their efforts to get possession of the island, and in 1686, they made another unsuccessful attempt - their ship of 50 guns was driven off.

The Saint Lucia colony of Frenchmen remained unmolested by the British until 1700, when Governor Grey of Barbados, by orderof the King of England,set claim to Saint Lucia, and informed d'Amblimont, Commander-in-Chief of the French Antilles, that he had been instructed to expel the French settlers. Grey was informed that any attempt to take the island would be repelled; and this announcement put an immediate end to the whole affair.

DESERTERS' COLONY

In 1713, the Peace of Utrecht was signed and a large number of French deserters arrived in Saint Lucia. The colony became so large that Marechal Count d'Estrees applied to the Regent of France for a grant of the island; this was upheld through Letters Patent issued in August 1718.

The British objected to the grant by the Duke of Orleans, but no military opposition was immediately mounted.

On July 24, the following year, d'Estrees organised a ceremony to mark his achievement and a Mass was offered in honour of Saint Lucy.

BRITISH BACK

D'Estrees did not long remain in undisputed possession, and on June 20, 1722, the island, along with St. Vincent, was granted by the King of England to John, Duke of Montague, who, at a cost of 40,000 pounds sterling, fitted out an expedition, and appointed Mr. Nathaniel Uring as his Deputy-Governor in the islands.

On September 10, the same year, Uring left Britain with a large flotilla. He reached Barbados on December 7, and arrived at Saint Lucia nine days later,to set up a settlement at Petit Carenage. Local French opposition was strong and very soon a warning came from Martinique that unless Uring and his settlers made a withdrawal within 15 days, they would be forced to do so. Uring tried to get help from British warships in the area, but this was not forthcoming. Faced with heavy landings of French troops, the Duke of Montague's Deputy-Governor immediately realized that the safest course was to leave the island.

A formal treaty was drawn up between the representatives of the colony and the French authorities in Martinique. The articles of the Treaty of Choc, as the document was named, provided that the French should leave Saint Lucia after the British had done so, and the island should be placed in a neutral state until the metropolitan governments of France and Britain had taken a definite decision on its future allegiance.

COLONISTS IN CHARGE

The withdrawal of the French troops did not result in the end of occupancy by the nationals of France, for the French colonists remained and continued to work their estates. Very soon, they were joined by other settlers from Martinique. At the same time, though, there were also a few British families, mostly Irish, on the island.

In 1735, a proclamation, calling for the withdrawal of all the settlers was issued. It was not obeyed, for the people had been developing their estates and were not willing to abandon them.

The next formal attempt to settle Saint Lucia was made in 1744 when the Governor-General of Martinique, the Marquis de Champigny, took advantage of the war beween England and France and established a garrison under the command of M.de Longueville.

The Treaty of Aix La Chapelle, in 1748, again declared Saint Lucia neutral, but it was stipulated that the claims for the island should be examined. There was no evacuation, however, and until 1756, the island virtually remained a French colony, (with de Longueville as Civil Commandant).

In 1756, England and France were once again at war, and more troops were sent to Saint Lucia by the Governor-General of the French West Indies.

It was not until 1762 that the British decided to again occupy the island, after the capture of Martinique by Rodney and de Monkton. A detachment was sent to Saint Lucia, and de Longueville soon surrendered, and Saint Lucia passed into British possession on February 25, 1762. But on February 10 the following year, the Treaty of Paris put Saint Lucia back into the hands of the French.

FORTS CONSTRUCTED

For the next 15 years, there was virtual peace in Saint Lucia. During the period, estates were developed and the fortifications were strengthened with the building of massive forts on Morne Fortune. The capital was also removed from Petit Carenage and built on its present site - but the time of undisturbed peace had not yet fully come.

Towards the end of 1778 orders were issued from London to Sir Henry Clinton, who was then stationed in New York. He was instructed to send reinforcements to the British commanders in the West Indies to be employed "in the conquest of Saint Lucia."

On December 13, 1778, Admiral Barrigton's reinforced squadron, with 12 transports and more than 5,000 men, entered Grand Cul-de-Sac Bay, and that same evening, Brigadier General Meadows and Prescot effected a landing.

The Chavelier de Micoud, who was then in command of the island with only a few officers and about 60 men at Morne Fortune, was quickly driven out, although he had been able to muster two companies of militia among the inhabitants.

Withdrawing to Morne Paix Bouche, de Micoud sent vessels to Martinique to inform Admiral Count d'Estaing of the attack.

The French Admiral promptly responded to the appeal and arrived at the island late in the evening. However, he decided to wait until next day to start his attack upon the invaders.

This attack started early but on three occasions it was repulsed. Despite the superiority of his forces d'Estaing eventually withdrew, after ten days of fighting.

The colony was then surrendered to the British, and General Grant took possession on behalf of the English Crown.

Two years later, on October 10-11, Saint Lucia was struck by a hurricane, gravely affecting its agriculture and trade, and causing many estates to be abandoned.

In May 1781, the French made another attempt to wrest Saint Lucia from the British. With 25 men-of-war, Admiral Count de Grasse sailed from Martinique to attack the island. He was seconded by the Marquis de Bouille who, with a large body of troops, was able to make a landing at Gros Islet. But their presence was only temporary, and a restricted success, for they were all soon driven off and had to withdraw to Martinique.

FRENCH OWNERSHIP

At the negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, the future possession of Saint Lucia was an important topic and it was eventually agreed that the island should pass into French hands; it was thus delivered up to the French Governor-General, de Damas, in January 1784.

For the next five years, the island went through remarkable economic improvement under the Governorship of Baron de Labourie; but the year of his death, 1789, was also the start of the French Revolution, and this brought with it new trouble for Saint Lucia.

Two years after the Revolution started, local agitation reached its climax when two revolutionary agents, Montdenoiz and Linger, hoisted the Tricolore on Morne Fortune causing the Governor, Colonel de Gimat to flee the island. As 1792 came to its close, the revolutionaires gained more inspiration from captain La Crosse who had been entrusted with the duty of propagating the new political philosophy in the island.

The following year, the National Convention of France sent out General Ricard as Governor. He arrived in Saint Lucia on 3rd February 1783, and the following day, he promulgated the Decree for the Abolition of Salavery in the French Antilles.

Ricard was also responsible for giving Republican names to all the island's towns and villages.

When war broke out between the French Republic and Britain, it was not long before it spread to the West Indies; and on April 4, 1794, British Colours were hoisted at Morne Fortune by HRH Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, Sir Charles Gordon, with a big garrison, was left behind to govern the island.

The surrender of the island sent many French ex-slaves and soldiers to the woods. From their encampments they launched attack after attack upon the British garrison, which, at the same time, was sorely tested and reduced by illness.

The attacks upon the British became more determined with the arrival of a large body of Republican troops under the command of Commissary Goyrand. He soon organised the disorganised forces, and, considerably reduced by illness, the garrison could offer little resistance. By June 1795, in spite of some strong opposition at Vieux-Fort and Rabot by Brigadier-General Stewart, the British evacuated.

BEGINNING OF THE END

Less than 12 months later, on April 26, 1796, 12000 troops, supported by a detachment of Rear-Admiral Sir Hugh Christian's squadron, arrived off the island under the command of Lieutenant- General Sir Ralph Abercrombie. Men were landed at Longueville Bay, Choc Bay, and Anse La Raye, and from these points they moved on Morne Fortune which had been heavily fortified by Goyrand. The resistance which the British troops and Moore was able to take possession of Morne Fortune and plant the British colours.

This defeat marked the beginning of the end for the Republicans, for despite continued resistance by those who were in the other parts of the island, they eventually gave up before the end of 1797. By that time, Moore, who had been appointed Governor after the victory of the previous year had been forced to return to Britain because of illness and he had been replaced by Colonel James Drummond.

By 1802, however, the Treaty of Amiens once again put Saint Lucia
into the hands of the French.
But it was not long before Britain and France were once again at war, and on June 19, 1803, Commodore Hood and Lieutenant-General Grinfield set out from Barbados to take Saint Lucia.

The squadron reached Choc Bay two days later, and the troops, disembarking without opposition, immediately set themselves up at La Vigie and Castries.  They called upon the French Commander to lay down arms, and when this request was not met, the fort was attacked.

Brigadier -General Jn.Fs Xavier Nogues, the Governor, eventually surrendered at the end of what was to be the last battle for Saint Lucia between the French and the British.

The island remained in British hands until it was finally ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1814.

SEPARATE UNIT

Up to 1838, Saint Lucia was administered as a separate territorial unit, with its Governor being in direct contact with the Colonial Office. In that year, it was annexed to the Government of the Windward Islands which then comprised Barbados, Grenada, Saint Vincent and Tobago, with the seat of Government at Barbados. It remained in the Windward Islands Group, in spite of many changes in the Group's composition, until the post of Governor of the Windward Islands
was abolished on December 31, 1959.

On January 1, 1960, a new Constitution came into force and the island was once again being administered as a separate unit with an Administrator advised by  an Executive Council comprising a Chief Minister, four other ministers ( one without portfolio), and the Attorney General. The Legislative Council then comprised ten elected members, two nominated members and the Territory's Attorney General, with a Speaker presiding at the sessions.

The next major constitutional development came on March 01, 1967 when Saint Lucia became an Associated State, with full control over all her internal affairs,and Britiain having responsibility for her Defence and Foreign Affairs, in consultation with the island's government.  

Under this status, the territory's Representative of the British Monarch again assumed the title of Governor, but for the first time, in its long history, the appointment was made after consultation with the citizens' elected leader.

This "association" continued until February 22, 1979, when the island became an Independent
member of the Commonwealth of former British Empire territories.

 

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