How they lived beyond Emancipation

EMANCIPATION came to the colonies from the throne of the colonies in favour of the Industrial Revolution. But to the plantation/merchant hierarchies of the colonies, it was met with vexations that lasted beyond the turn of the next century. The manumitted populations did not conceive that their future would be subject to schemes to shackle their abolition, and circumvent their efforts by the local colonial government, the majority of whom were the plantation owners and merchants, their former enslavers.

To the Creole Africans, the concept of constructing of the villages and showing how they would proceed to develop was based on their own ancestral vision. “In many of the communal villages, the villagers established collective farms. As we have seen, this cooperative peasantry founded a great enterprise, developed it with marked business acumen, and forced into the colony what seemed to the colonists a perilous doctrine. It was the most revolutionary attempt, though small in scale in global terms, at rehabilitation after slavery. The Africans were thus immediately able to set up an economic system and a civilisation that rivalled capitalism. The plantation at once went into action against the cooperative village system. In the ‘London Times’, the cooperatives were seen as “Little bands of socialists living in communities.”

Under the combined attack of the plantation and the government from outside, and the church from inside, the collective economy collapsed” (See Scars of Bondage by Eusi and Tchaiko Kwayana; Free Press 2002). Thus, the liberation of the manumitted Creole slave was a historical feature that was met with severe malice by a race-hate-driven plantocracy towards the destruction of its economic liberation.

In the townships of Stabroek and New Amsterdam, repressive methods would be applied in diverse ways. The manumitted populations entered several occupations; thus, licences had to be acquired to perform these enterprises of self-employment that listed outside of artisans and other skills perfected on the plantations; thus, the boatmen, owners of cabs, mule and donkey carts operated for hire, and, most importantly, the high costs for huckster and shop licences where a sinister application to repress the Creoles from engaging profitably in the lucrative retail business. It was the planters and the established European merchants as the majority in the combined court who fixed the colonial taxes. Taxation on articles of common consumption embodied the nefarious plan to artificially raise the cost of essential consumer products to impoverish the Creole population, forcing them to return to plantation labour.

One of the most contentious issues was taking the taxes paid by the villages to aid the planters to import immigrant labour, causing the predictable floods and loss of livestock and produce, and, more important, infant mortality. This conflict also involved the manipulation of the eager Portuguese indentured labourer as ‘the enthusiastic fall guy’ to grab the ambitions of the Creole. This orchestrated plot led to social colony tensions that exploded between the Creole and the Immigrant Portuguese in the last half of the 19th Century, with the implosion of the ‘Angel Gabriel Riots’ 1857, and the “Gil-bread Riots” of 1889.

Though records have shown shopkeepers attempted to further impoverish the Creole population through crooked scales and inflated prices, along with the boast to the Creoles that with the murder of any other citizen, the King of Portugal had commanded that they be abstained from capital punishment in the colony (The case of Antonio D’Agrella, see ‘The Portuguese of Guyana:’ Mary Noel Menezes, R.S.M.) But the Creole population did not sit and only pray; they protested and defended their rights with civil unrest, not only directing their anger to confronting the scapegoats before them.

But as Governor Lyght confirmed, “that the temper of labourers is soured, it is not at all uncommon for remarks not of the civilist kind being made by groups of Creoles on meeting carriages and horses of officials to the effect that they the people were taxed {for} such luxuries.” This admission accepted that discontent was rife, widespread and openly vented. The Creole population was pressed into a debilitating tax after the ‘Angel Gabriel Riots’ to reimburse the stores affected. The architect of this was Governor Philip Wodehouse; on his way to the Stabroek wharf in July 1857, the population vented their anger by stoning him. This punitive tax was mercifully repealed by pressures by missionaries and other local pressure groups, as well as from the Anti-slavery Society in Britain. See-Part 2 Themes in African-Guyanese History.

With time, the Creole moved towards the public service, and dominated the stevedore areas of employment. These areas also had their extreme difficulties that led (mainly the stevedore wages) to the turn of the century 1900s-1905 disturbances that birthed the Union movement, and eventually the genesis of the significant local political movement.

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