A woman from Grenada carrying banana
Black Grenadians, or Afro-Grenadians (referred to simply as African or Black constitute 82%), and mixed black and European ancestry (Mulatto are 13%) constitute 95% of the Grenadian population according to 2012 Census.
The Europeans and indigenous Arawak Caribs are only a 5% of the population. Ghanaian Fante (Akan) people with their population of 19% constitute single most largest African tribe, followed by Yoruba and Igbos at 34%.
The Fante domination is seen in Grenada`s Akan Fante Anancy (Kweku Anansi) story-telling amongst Grenadians as well as names like Ato, Ebo, Quame etc. The Island could therefore be described as a full African or Black Island just like most of the Caribbean Islands. The evidence of the African influence in the island can be seen in their Obeah worship, Yoruba Shango cult worship as well as the Big Drum Dance of Carriacou.
Grenada woman roosting corn like it is done by Akans in Ghana.
Grenada, an island nation in the eastern Caribbean archipelago, early in history earned its nickname as "The Isle of Spice," as shiploads of nutmeg, cinnamon, mace and clove made their way across the Atlantic to satisfy the European demand for the exotic aromas and tastes of the New World and beyond.
Grenada was originally inhabited by Arawak Caribs until it was discovered by Columbus on his third voyage in 1498 and was colonized by the French and later by the English, the islands of Grenada still retain traces of these European influences in their culture, architecture and place names. The Capital, St. George’s, is located on the south west coast of Grenada. It is the seat of government and the main commercial centre.
The island of Grenada is the largest island in the Grenadines; smaller islands are Carriacou, Petit Martinique, Ronde Island, Caille Island, Diamond Island, Large Island, Saline Island, and Frigate Island. Most of the population lives on Grenada, and major towns there include the capital, St. George’s, Grenville and Gouyave. The largest settlement on the other islands is Hillsborough on Carriacou.
The islands are of volcanic origin with extremely rich soil. Grenada’s interior is very mountainous with Mount St. Catherine being the highest at 840 m. Several small rivers with beautiful waterfalls flow into the sea from these mountains. The climate is tropical: hot and humid in the rainy season and cooled by the trade winds in the dry season. Grenada, being on the southern edge of the hurricane belt, has suffered only three hurricanes in fifty years.
About Grenada: Carriacou & Petite Martinique
Known as the “Land of Reefs”, Carriacou is the largest and believed to be most populated of the group of islands known as the Grenadines. It is located 12 28’N & 61 28’W and is a dependency of the State of Grenada. Carriacou is 13 sq miles and the highest point on the island is High North Peak, at a height of 956ft above sea level.
Like the island of Grenada, Carriacou was first inhabited by the Arawaks, then the Caribs from whom it got its name. The French eventually settled on the island, which was ceded to Britain in 1763. The population of approximately 6000 inhabitants, consists mainly of African descendants, some of whom can trace their ancestry back to the African tribes to which they belong.
There is still some French influence on the island, which is found in the surnames of the locals and in the names of villages such as L'Esterre, La Resource, and Beausejour. The main language is English, with some local patois derived from French and African languages. The main religions are Catholic and Anglican.
The main town and port of entry is Hillsborough, the business center with a small hospital and the main police station. Business hours are generally between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm. Transportation between the islands is provided via a regular ferry service, in addition to daily flights for persons who prefer traveling by air.
Other main settlements are the villages of L'Esterre, Harvey Vale and Windward.
Carriacou is renowned for its boat building industry, especially in the village of Windward. Boat building was brought to the island by Scottish colonizers, who settled on the island during the 19th century. The traditional methods of boatbuilding are still practiced today and can be seen in the many local schooners that ply between the island of Grenada and Carriacou.
Fishing and agriculture (including livestock-rearing), form the mainstay of the island’s economy. Today, except for the lime industry which has been intermittent, only a few farmers grow small crops for their own consumption. The Island boasts of its heritage of gingerbread houses and windmill ruins.
Rich in tradition, Carriacou has many unique customs and festivals handed down from African and European ancestors. These include traditional weddings, traditional boat launching, Tombstone Feast "Saraca" Libations, Big Drum Nation Dance, Village Maroons, Shakespeare Mas, All Saints Candle Lighting "Pass Play" and Fishermen’s Birthday Celebrations.
Other major events held each year are Carriacou Carnival which is held in February or early March of each year; Carriacou Regatta, a racing event for locally built boats held on the first weekend in August and Parang Festival, a celebration of the island's traditional Christmas music and culture held prior to Christmas.
Famous personalities originating from Carriacou include, two Prime Ministers in Hon. Herbert Blaize and Sir Nicholas Brathwaite, Dr. Lamuel Stanisclaus – former Grenada Ambassador to the United Nations, Anthony C. George - the designer of the national flag and Canute Calliste - national artist.
Petite Martinique, measuring roughly one mile in diameter with a conical shape. is a small volcanic island of just 586-acres; with the highest hill, the 'Piton', rising to 756 feet above sea level. Located 3 miles east of the north end of Carriacou, the population is less than a thousand inhabitants. Like Carriacou, Petite Martinique was first settled by the French and many islanders have names of French origin.
The east coast is rocky and totally uninhabited while most people on the island reside on the calmer western leeward side. The only beach is found here as well. However, the island is still only reachable by boat. Petite Martinique is in very close proximity to the other Grenadine islands which makes it easy to visit via speedboats.
The people of Petite Martinique like Carriacou, also have a rich cultural heritage with its own regatta big drum dance and traditional wedding ceremony featuring cake dancing and flag dancing.
Fishing and boat building are the two main sources of revenue.
The official language, English, is used in the government, but Grenadian Creole is considered the lingua franca of the island. French Patois (Antillean Creole) is also spoken by about 10%–20% the population. Some Hindi/Bhojpuri terms are still spoken amongst the Indian descendants, mostly those pertaining to the kitchen; such as aloo, geera, karela, seim, chownkay, and baylay. The term bhai, which means 'brother' in Urdu and Hindi, is a common form of greeting amongst Indo-Grenadians males of equal status.
The language of Grenada evolved from its heritage of English, French and African ancestry. Grenadian English is based upon a tradition of British education. An American may read a quaint word like 'whilst' and be charmed, but if you live in Grenada you get to use this word.
The word 'labor' in the US spelling may be spelled 'labour' in Grenada, for example, or the word 'destabilization' in the US spelling may be spelled 'destabilisation.' This occurs often. The British lilt of some English heard in Grenada is pleasant and soon understandable. It has happened that upon hearing the British educational tone of spoken English, one assumes the speaker is Grenadian - no, there is a kind of international tone of the spoken language from the British educational system in the heritage of former British Colonial colonies - was the lesson of strict 'proper' English at work.
A French-speaking person may recognize a phrase like 'Morne Jaloux' or 'Lance aux Epines" which are locations, or numerous other words and phrases because of the remnants of French culture in Grenada.
French-African patois or Grenada Patois or Grenada Creole are some of the various names of Grenada's vernacular languages. Many sayings and colloquialisms are spoken, often with a mixture of African, French and English.
Before the 14th century, the Caribs who displaced the earlier population of Arawaks, settled Grenada. Christopher Columbus during his third voyage to the new world in 1498 sited the island and named it Concepción. The origin of the name "Grenada" is ambiguous but it is likely that Spanish sailors renamed the island for the city of Granada in Spain. The French then adapted Granada to Grenade, and the British followed suit, changing Grenade to Grenada. The Caribs who inhabited the island drove off all settlers, both English and French, for more than one hundred and fifty years. In 1650 a French party succeeded in acquiring the island from the Caribs in exchange for knives, trinkets, and brandy. Having gained a foothold, they systematically killed most of the native population. Forty of the last Caribs on the island leaped to their death in a mass suicide at La Morne des Sauteurs, or "Leapers' Hill."
European settlement was slow to follow due to the fierce resistance of the warlike Caribs. The island remained un-colonized for more than 150 years although Britain and France fought for control.
French colony (1649–1763)
On March 17, 1649, a French expedition of 203 men from Martinique led by Jacques du Parquet founded a permanent settlement on Grenada. Within months this led to conflict with the local islanders which lasted until 1654 when the island was completely subjugated by the French Those indigenous islanders who survived either left for neighboring islands or retreated to remoter parts of Grenada where they were marginalised—the last distinct communities disappeared during the 1700s. Warfare continued during the 1600s between the French on Grenada and the Caribs of present day Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The French named the new French colony La Grenade, and the economy was initially based on sugar cane and indigo. The French established a capital known as Fort Royal (later St. George). To shelter from hurricanes the French navy would often take refuge in the capital's natural harbour, as no nearby French islands had a natural harbour to compare with that of Fort Royal. The British captured Grenada during the Seven Years' War in 1762.
British colony (1763–1974)
Grenada was formally ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The French re-captured the island during the American War of Independence, after Comte d'Estaing won the bloody land and naval Battle of Grenada in July 1779. However the island was restored to Britain with the Treaty of Versailles in 1783. Britain was hard pressed to overcome a pro-French revolt in 1795–1796 led by Julien Fedon.
Grenada slave revolt
Africans in Grenada
When the United Kingdom gained control of Grenada in 1776, it began the import of African slaves for use on the cotton, sugar and tobacco plantations. Most of the slaves imported to Grenada hailed from Nigeria (specifically Igbo and Yoruba, more than 37,000, 34% of the slaves of the island) and Ghana (Fante people, more than 18,000, 19% of the slaves of the island).
To a lesser extent, slaves were also were imported from Senegambia (more than 5,000, 4.9% of the slaves of the island), Guinea, Sierra Leone (more than 12,000, 11% of the slaves of the island), Windward Coast (more than 14,000, 13% of the slaves of the island), Bight of Benin (more than 5,800, 5,4% of the slaves of the island), Congo (specifically Kongos) and Angola. The slaves of Central Africa numbered more than 12,000 people, 11% of the slaves of Grenada. Many of the slaves were also Mandinka.
Mary Mensa Bonsu and Athlene Cruickshank, who is from Grenada.
Grenada's first census, in 1700, recorded 525 slaves and 53 freed slaves living on the island. Julien Fédon, a mulatto planter, led a violent rebellion on the island, leading a group of slaves. The rebellion led to the takeover of Grenada by Fedon, who afterwards freed the slaves who participated in the rebellion. The struggle of the slaves for their rights continued for a year and a half, until the British regained control of the island. The British, as a punishment for disobedience and rebellion, executed the alleged leaders of the rebellion, however Fedon was never captured.
On 19 June 1796, British forces in Grenada captured the remaining rebel strongholds and ended Fedon’s Rebellion. Following the attacks on Gouyave, St. John and Grenville, St. Andrew on the night of 3 March 1795, Grenada was plunged into bloody conflict as its French inhabitants, whites and especially free coloureds, led their slaves in revolt against the British. The rebels, led by Julien Fedon, carried out their threat and executed over 40 British hostages, including Lieutenant Governor Ninian Home, when their camps were attacked by British forces on 8 April 1795. In the following months the war dragged on, and by early 1796 the rebels controlled most of the island. They were, however, unable to capture the strategic Town of St. George and its immediate surroundings, which the British had maintained control over.
By March 1796 the British, with reinforcements, captured the strategic positions of Post Royal and Pilot Hill in the east, cutting off the rebels’ primary external supplies of weapons and food. British forces continued to stage successful victories, and on 10 June Captain Jossey, representing French forces in Grenada, signed articles of capitulation, thus ending the rebels’ control of Gouyave and areas on the west coast. The British had categorically rejected the surrender of the Grenada free coloureds, including Julien Fedon. Thus, the remaining rebels fled to their mountain stronghold at Fédon’s Camp and awaited the final assault, which took place on 19 June and ended in the defeat of the rebels. Though open hostilities ended on 19 June, it took weeks for the British to capture the remaining rebels who remained in the woods.
It took the British 16 regular military units, inclusive of hired troops, 15 months, and the loss of hundreds of soldiers from yellow fever and hostilities before the rebellion of its new subjects and their slaves was quelled. Over 50 rebels were captured, tried and found guilty of high treason, and 35 “noted brigands” were publicly executed “on a large gibbet in the Market place in St. George’s” on three occasions in July 1796. In a final act of vengeance the heads of the rebels were reportedly severed from their bodies and publicly displayed. Rebels not jailed or executed, together with their families, were subsequently deported.
The rebellion of the French and their slaves (Fedon’s Rebellion) against the British remains second only to that the successful Haitian Revolution!
Nutmeg was introduced to Grenada in 1843 when a merchant ship called in on its way to England from the East Indies. The ship had a small quantity of nutmeg trees on board which they left in Grenada, and this was the beginning of Grenada's nutmeg industry that now supplies nearly forty percent of the world's annual crop.
In 1877, Grenada was made a Crown colony. Theophilus A. Marryshow founded the Representative Government Association (RGA) in 1917 to agitate for a new and participative constitutional dispensation for the Grenadian people. Partly as a result of Marryshow`s lobbying, the Wood Commission of 1921–1922 concluded that Grenada was ready for constitutional reform in the form of a 'modified' Crown colony government. This modification granted Grenadians the right to elect 5 of the 15 members of the Legislative Council, on a restricted property franchise enabling the wealthiest 4% of adult Grenadians to vote
Toward independence (1950–1974)
In 1950, Eric Gairy founded the Grenada United Labour Party, initially as a trades union, which led the 1951 general strike for better working conditions. This sparked great unrest—so many buildings were set ablaze that the disturbances became known as the 'red sky' days—and the British authorities had to call in military reinforcements to help regain control of the situation. On October 10, 1951, Grenada held its first general elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage - Gairy's Party won 6 of the 8 seats contested. From 1958 to 1962 Grenada was part of the Federation of the West Indies.
On March 3, 1967, Grenada was granted full autonomy over its internal affairs as an Associated State. Herbert Blaize was the first Premier of the Associated State of Grenada from March to August 1967. Eric Gairy served as Premier from August 1967 until February 1974.
Independence and revolution (1974–1983)
Independence was granted in 1974 under the leadership of Eric Gairy, who became the first Prime Minister of Grenada.
Civil conflict gradually broke out between Eric Gairy’s government and some opposition parties including the New Jewel Movement (NJM). Gairy’s party won elections in 1976, but the opposition did not accept the result, accusing it of fraud. In 1979, the New Jewel Movement under Maurice Bishop launched a paramilitary attack on the government resulting in its overthrow.
The constitution was suspended and Bishop's "People's Revolutionary Government" ruled subsequently by decree. Cuban doctors, teachers, and technicians were invited in to help develop health, literacy, and agriculture over the next few years. Agrarian reforms started by the Gairy government were continued and greatly expanded under the revolutionary government of Maurice Bishop.
Invasion by the United States
Coup and execution of Maurice Bishop
Some years later a dispute developed between Bishop and certain high-ranking members of the NJM. Though Bishop cooperated with Cuba and the USSR on various trade and foreign policy issues, he sought to maintain a "non-aligned" status. Bishop had been taking his time making Grenada wholly socialist, encouraging private-sector development in an attempt to make the island a popular tourist destination. Hardline Marxist party members, including Communist Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, deemed Bishop insufficiently revolutionary and demanded that he either step down or enter into a power-sharing arrangement.
On October 19, 1983, Bernard Coard and his wife Phyllis, backed by the Grenadian Army, led a coup against the government of Maurice Bishop and placed Bishop under house arrest. These actions led to street demonstrations in various parts of the island. Bishop had enough support from the population that he was eventually freed after a demonstration in the capital. When Bishop attempted to resume power, he was captured and executed by soldiers along with seven others, including government cabinet ministers. The Coard regime then put the island under martial law.
After the execution of Bishop, the People's Revolutionary Army formed a military government with General Hudson Austin as chairman. The army declared a four-day total curfew, during which (it said) anyone leaving their home without approval would be shot on sight.
US and allied response, and reaction
The overthrow of a moderate government by one which was strongly pro-communist worried U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Particularly worrying was the presence of Cuban construction workers and military personnel who were building a 10,000-foot (3,000 m) airstrip on Grenada. Bishop had stated the purpose of the airstrip was to allow commercial jets to land, but U.S. military analysts argued that the only reason for constructing such a long and reinforced runway was so that it could be used by heavy military transport planes. The contractors, American and European companies, and the EEC, which provided partial funding, all claimed the airstrip did not have military capabilities. Reagan was worried that Cuba – under the direction of the Soviet Union – would use Grenada as a refueling stop for Cuban and Soviet airplanes loaded with weapons destined for Central American communist insurgents.
On October 25, 1983, combined forces from the United States and from the Regional Security System (RSS) based in Barbados invaded Grenada in an operation codenamed Operation Urgent Fury. The U.S. stated this was done at the behest of Prime Minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica. While the Governor-General of Grenada, Sir Paul Scoon, later stated that he had also requested the invasion, it was highly criticised by the governments of Britain, Trinidad and Tobago, and Canada. The United Nations General Assembly condemned it as "a flagrant violation of international law" by a vote of 108 in favor to 9, with 27 abstentions. The United Nations Security Council considered a similar resolution, which failed to pass when vetoed by the United States.
After the invasion of the island nation, the pre-revolutionary Grenadian constitution came into operation once again. Eighteen members of the PRG and the PRA (army) were arrested after the invasion on charges related to the murder of Maurice Bishop and seven others. The eighteen included the top political leadership of Grenada at the time of the execution as well as the entire military chain of command directly responsible for the operation that led to the executions. Fourteen were sentenced to death, one was found not guilty and three were sentenced to forty-five years in prison. The death sentences were eventually commuted to terms of imprisonment. Those in prison have become known as the Grenada 17.
Grenada since 1983
When U.S. troops withdrew from Grenada in December 1983, Nicholas Brathwaite of the National Democratic Congress was appointed prime minister of an interim administration by Scoon until elections could be organized. The first democratic elections since 1976 were held in December 1984 and were won by the Grenada National Party under Herbert Blaize who served as prime minister until his death in December 1989. Ben Jones succeeded Blaize as prime minister and served until the March 1990 election, which was won by the National Democratic Congress under Nicholas Brathwaite who returned as prime minister for a second time until he resigned in February 1995. He was succeeded by George Brizan who served until the June 1995 election which was won by the New National Party under Keith Mitchell who went on to win the 1999 and 2003 elections and served for a record 13 years until 2008.
In 2000–2002, much of the controversy of the late 1970s and early 1980s was once again brought into the public consciousness with the opening of the truth and reconciliation commission. The commission was chaired by a Roman Catholic priest, Father Mark Haynes, and was tasked with uncovering injustices arising from the PRA, Bishop’s regime, and before. It held a number of hearings around the country. Brother Robert Fanovich, head of Presentation Brothers’ College (PBC) in St. George’s tasked some of his senior students with conducting a research project into the era and specifically into the fact that Maurice Bishop’s body was never discovered. Paterson also uncovered that there was still a lot of resentment in Grenadian society resulting from the era and a feeling that there were many injustices still unaddressed.
On September 7, 2004, after being hurricane-free for forty-nine years, the island was directly hit by Hurricane Ivan. Ivan struck as a Category 3 hurricane and damaged or destroyed 90% of the island's homes. On July 14, 2005, Hurricane Emily, a Category 1 hurricane at the time, struck the northern part of the island with 80-knot (150 km/h; 92 mph) winds, causing an estimated USD $110 million (EC$ 297 million) worth of damage. By December 2005, 96% of all hotel rooms were open for business and to have been upgraded in facilities and strengthened to an improved building code. The agricultural industry and in particular the nutmeg industry suffered serious losses, but that event has begun changes in crop management and it is hoped that as new nutmeg trees gradually mature, the industry will return to its pre-Ivan position as a major supplier in the Western world.
In April 2007, Grenada jointly hosted (along with several other Caribbean nations) the 2007 Cricket World Cup. The Island's Prime Minister was the CARICOM representative on cricket and was instrumental in having the World Cup games brought to the region. After Hurricane Ivan, the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) paid for the new $40 million national stadium and provided the aid of over 300 laborers to build and repair it. During the opening ceremony, the anthem of the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) was accidentally played instead of the PRC's anthem, leading to the firing of top officials.
The 2008 election was won by the National Democratic Congress under Tillman Thomas. The 2013 election was won by the New National Party under Keith Mitchell winning all 15 seats.
About 65 percent of Grenadians are Roman Catholic. Most of the rest belong to Protestant denominations which include Anglican, Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Baptist. Most of Grenada's small Indian population is Hindu. Shango, a traditional African religion, is still practiced, generally in combination with Christian beliefs. African religious practices are especially prominent on the small island of Carriacou. The mingling of Christian and African traditions can be seen in the island's boat-christening ceremonies, which combine holy water, sacrificial goats, and African-derived Big Drum music.
After slavery was abolished in 1850, there was a shortage of labor on the plantations, and therefore the British imported a considerable number of indentured laborers from Nigeria, mostly Yoruba speakers from Ilesha. Although they were superficially Christianized, they have kept a number of their original religious traditions until today. In the so-called Shango cult, Yoruba deities ( orishas ) are invoked in a dialect derived from their native African language.
The cuisine of Grenada reflects a variety of influences: Amerindian, African, French, British, and East Indian. Foods commonly found at the market include yams, avocados, callaloo greens (similar to spinach), oranges, papayas (called "paw-paws"), plantains, mangoes, and coconuts. Many fruits are available year-round.
About twenty different kinds of fish are caught off the coasts. Both fish and chicken dishes are served at many meals. Popular Caribbean staples include pigeon peas and rice, and "callaloo," a dish made from callaloo greens, okra, salted pork, crab, and fresh fish. The dish most closely identified with Grenada is "oildown," a mixture of salted pork and breadfruit steamed in coconut milk.
Popular beverages include locally brewed beer; rum punch spiced with lime juice, syrup, and grated nutmeg; "mauby," a soft drink made from the bark of the maubi tree; and cocoa tea made from cocoa beans and spices steeped in hot milk
MAJOR HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS
Grenada's public holidays are New Year's Day (January 1), Independence Day (February 7), Good Friday and Easter Monday (March or April), Labor Day (May 1), Whit Monday (May or June), Corpus Christi (June), the August holidays on the first Monday and Tuesday of August, Carnival (mid-August), Thanksgiving (October 25), and Christmas (December 25 and 26).
The country's most important festival is Carnival. In Grenada, this celebration is held in August instead of the usual pre-Lenten time to avoid conflicting with the Grenadian Independence Day.
Carnival begins with a Sunday night celebration leading into the Jouvert (jour ouvert– opening day ) festivities at dawn on Monday, which feature Djab Djab Molassi, who represent devils ( Djab Djab (jab jab) is derived from diable, the French word for "devil"). These merrymakers streak their faces and bodies with grease or molasses, which they delight in smearing on bystanders.
Another traditional festival is Fisherman's Birthday, celebrated on the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul at the end of June. It involves a ritual blessing of nets and boats, boat races, and food and dancing.
Grenada Spice Mas Festival
The premier cultural event, ‘Spice Mas’ is Grenadian expression in all its glory, climaxing during the second Monday and Tuesday in August, this annual event with multiple activities takes months of planning and coordination. Brimming with pageantry and expression linked to our African, French, British and Caribbean heritage, Carnival is colourful, humorous and full of surprises.
Calypsonians, steel pan orchestras, beauty contestants, ‘fancy mas’ bands and others perform and parade to compete for Carnival honours. Grenadians gather to watch, participate and enjoy. Many take on disguises in the costumes of ‘Shortknee’ and ‘Jab Jab’ players. The Shortknee tradition combines pieces of distant Grenadian history expressed through masks, dance, chants and colourful costumes.
Armored with tiny mirrors to reflect enemies and ankle bells to make music, masqueraders in knee-length pants carry talc powder as they stomp through towns and villages. The powder is a symbol of appreciation and sprinkled on those who make cash donations. Jab Jab revelers paint their bodies black, put red helmets with make-believe horns on their heads, and march in energetic groups. Originating with African and European rituals, Jab Jab has evolved as an integral part of contemporary Spice Mas, shedding long ago customs of frightening Carnival patrons and establishing a unique rhythmic chant to Carnival. All this and more, can be part of your Spice Experience.
Calypso and steel drum music are both popular forms of entertainment in Grenada.
The native music of Grenada is Big Drum music. Derived from the African call-and-response tradition, it consists of song, dance, and drumming. Although its roots are similar to those of calypso and reggae, it is more authentically African.
The Big Drum is actually a set of three drums, originally carved from trees and later made of rum kegs. The skin of male goats is used for the two side drums and the skin of a female goat for the middle one. The middle drum, which has pins threaded across its surface, produces the most complicated rhythms. The singers are usually women, and the lead singer is called a "chantwell." The lyrics are usually satirical, making fun of governing figures or social customs. Dancing is performed inside a ring of people by dancers wearing full skirts and headdresses and who interact with the musicians. Big Drum music is performed on Carriacou at religious ceremonies including weddings and funerals.
Woven handicrafts include hats, purses, baskets, placemats, and other items made from straw, bamboo, and wicker. Salad bowls, kitchen utensils, furniture, and other items are made of mahogany and red cedar. Jewelry is made from black coral and turtle shells.
Underwater Sculpture Honoring Africans Thrown Overboard
“Vicissitudes” Underwater sculpture in Grenada in honor of African Ancestors who were thrown overboard the slave ships during the Middle Passage of the African Holocaust
This is located in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Grenada under water… Pass it along so more people will know about this wonderful work of art in honor of those who perished so tragically. Artist, Jason DeCaires Taylor
THE FÉDONS OF GRENADA, 1763-1814
Julien Fedon, who was thus appointed leader, was owner of the Belvidere Estate, where the conspirators had been in the habit of meeting to concert their plans. Unfortunately, we have no reliable information concerning his personal appearance or his antecedents. He seems to have been a man of very mean abilities; nor was he possessed of any extraordinary courage, but in his detestation of the whites, and his readiness to assent to any species of cruelty and atrocity, his companions saw sufficient qualifications to entitle him to command.1
This excerpt is taken from Garraway's Short Account of the Insurrection of 1795-96. This book is significant for being the first published work on Fédon's Rebellion by a Grenadian resident who did not actually live through the period of the event. The author was a descendant of John Garraway, a Lieutenant Colonel of the Grenada Militia who took the field against the revolutionaries in 1795-6. In the passage cited above, Garraway presents what seems to have been regarded as all the information then known of the leader of the Insurrection.
Julien Fédon was the acknowledged leader of the abortive revolution that today bears his name. He almost succeeded in his intentions to overthrow chattel slavery and British rule in Grenada, and for sixteen months was virtual master of the colony. In the end, it took about 10,000 troops, including a corps of military slaves and a crack German mercenary unit, to restore slavery and British rule.
Fédon himself was never captured. His final whereabouts and fate remain a mystery to this day. Alone amongst the black revolutionary leaders who emerged in the Caribbean during the Age of Revolution, he never suffered an ignominious death at the hands of the forces of reaction.
During the next two centuries, Fédon became a folk hero and a legend, an inspiration to Grenada's nationalist leaders and revolutionaries. Today, the mountain that was his personal camp during his abortive revolution is the only place in Grenada that bears his name. Morne Vauclain, situated on his former property, Belvidere Estate, St. John's parish, in the centre of Grenada, was first re-named Morne Fédon (meaning literally "Fédon's Mountain"), then Fédon's Camp, the name it still carries. The Fédon family name, meanwhile, has completely disappeared from Grenada.
Whatever other causes for which Fédon and his fellow revolutionaries fought and died, they fought for the destruction of chattel slavery and British colonial rule. These two institutions have been discredited during the period following the suppression of his abortive revolution. However, during the subsequent two centuries, a period characterized by Emancipation, decolonisation and political independence, there exists today in Grenada no public remembrance to Fédon's heroic attempt to destroy both.
Garraway's work appeared nearly a century after the end of Fédon's abortive revolution. It was during a period where the British Empire was poised to rise to greater heights of imperialist grandeur, with territorial gains in Africa and Asia in the offing. France, a close competitor for much of the eighteenth century, was left in Britain's wake during the nineteenth. In Grenada, with Fédon being pro-French, or, anti-British, Garraway's attempt to obscure his place in history and to bring into focus Louis La Grenade, Fédon's coloured contemporary, and who stood for British rule, chattel slavery and social inequality for Grenada's free coloureds, is understandable.
Garraway's work seems also to have appeared at a period in Grenada when the role of the colony's free coloureds had been the subject of debate. Of the leading French free coloureds in Grenada during the 1790s, La Grenade stood alone in casting in his lot with the British, and never joined the revolution of 1795. Garraway posthumously confers on him the title, "Hero of the Insurrection," and bestows what he sees as a long overdue recognition for his role in putting down the revolution, a recognition, he argues, that was denied by racial prejudice on the part of the colony's white ruling class. The Short Account, then, is another attempt to obscure the truth about the events of 1795-96, and to justify the victory of the British and their coloured hangers-on.
Garraway's assertion that "no reliable information concerning [Fédon's] personal appearance or his antecedents" was available in 1877 becomes untenable in the face of the documentary records kept in the Registry of the Grenada Supreme Court in St. George's. These documents, in the main related to the period of British rule from 1764 onwards - except for the French 'interregnum' from 1779 - 1784, a period to which we will return below - are open to the public. By 1877, the year of the appearance of Garraway's Short Account, these documents were already nearly a century old. They contain, among others, information relating to Julien Fédon, his family, antecedents, siblings and relatives. A century and a quarter after 1877, decaying but still quite legible, these documents provide us with a substantial body of information on the Fédons of Grenada.
Jab jab-pour it on
In the historical record, "Fédon" is but one of several ways by which this family name is spelt. At various occasions from 1763, it has been spelt "Fedon," "Foedon," "Feydon," and "Fidon," in addition to "Fédon."3 It seems that the first occasion on which the family name is mentioned in Grenada's historical record that has survived to the present is in 1763. In a tax return for that year, Governor Robert Melvill reported that one "Pierre fedon" of Grand Pauvre (re-named St. Mark's by the British) was assessed and taxed 18 livres for 3 Negroes for which he was required to pay tax. According to the assessment, Pierre Fedon had no Negroes "under the age of 14." Further, his assessment showed that he had no "horned cattle...horses...sheep...mules."4 In fairness to Garraway, he may not have had access to this particular document in 1877. However, the other public documents lodged in the Registry of the Grenada Supreme Court were within Garraway's reach. His "ignorance," at the very least, of Fédon's "antecedents" therefore suggests other motives.
This studied ignorance of the Fédons persisted well into the twentieth century. One of Grenada's premier historians, the Roman Catholic priest Raymund Devas, followed Garraway's cue:
Whatever people may think of him, the name Julien Fédon will always be remembered in Grenada. A great mountain is named after him, being known as Fédon's Camp. He was a Coloured man, and said to have been educated in England.5
Devas's "ignorance" becomes more curious when one observes the diversity of his cited sources and the obvious rigour of his research. They range from the records of the Roman Catholic Church to Paxton House, Berwickshire, Scotland, the property once owned by Ninian Home, the British Lieutenant Governor who died during Fédon's abortive revolution.
Devas's work may be seen as the last of an unbroken line of authors who wrote on Fédon's Rebellion up to 1964. From 1795 until then, published authors on this subject were invariably white, male and British. Since then, black professional historians and nationalist writers have entered the debate. The most important of these are George Brizan6 and Edward Cox.7 Their works represent the first attempts by local writers to address the phenomenon. Of Julien Fédon, the professional historian Edward Cox wrote:
A mulatto of French extraction, he may not have been resident on Grenada in 1772 and certainly does not appear as a property holder in that year.... With the exception of Joachim Philip, Fédon and his associates all came to public attention suddenly about 1790. There is a strong likelihood that none was born in Grenada and that all immigrated to the island either during the period of French occupancy between 1779 and 1784 or thereafter.8
The document that gives the best view of the structure of the Fédon family is, however, not the one of earliest date found so far. Written in French during British rule, this was a Deed of Gift of two French quarreys of land from Julien and his siblings to their mother, Brigitte Veuve Fedon, and which was entered on December 9th 1788.9 This Deed reads, in part:
...que nous Julien fédon, Jean pierre fédon Marianne fédon, charles forgérie au nom Et comme ayant Epousé Escolastique fédon, Et charles Nogués aussi au nom Et comme ayant Epousé Marie Louise fédon, touts Residents En cette Isle Grenade Sous notre marque ordinaire, et Soussignés, Et en presence de temoins, En notre qualité de propriétaires de deux quarrés De terre indivis, Sis et Situés aux Etages de l'habitation nomme la Grosse pointe déclarons avoir de notre Bonne Et franche Volonté fait don Et Donnation; trasport [sic] et Delaissement, comme de fait per Ces presentes nous faisons Don & Donnation, transport, Et Delaissement a Brigitte Veuve fedon negresse libre notre mére [sic] Résident au quartier de St Mark de cette Isle Grenade...10
The Deed is signed by Etienne fedon, charles forgerie, Escolastique fédon, Julien fédon [sic], Charles noges [sic], Jean Pierre fédon, Jean fédon, Marianne fédon, Marie Louise fédon, Michel Belleran, et Marie fédon. There were three witnesses to the Deed of Gift: Paul Batarel, Jean Aguiton and Julien Lussan.
This document immediately shows that by 1788, their mother Brigitte was a "Veuve," the French word for "widow." There were 8 children produced by the marriage of Pierre and Brigitte Fédon, evenly divided between boys and girls. The documents do not, however, indicate the eldest and youngest. Their names suggest strongly that Pierre and Brigitte may have produced one set of twins: Jean and Jean Pierre; and maybe one set of triplets: Marie, Marianne and Marie Louise. The tone of the document suggests that the piece of land - 2 French quarreys - equivalent to roughly 6½ English acres, had been left them "indivis" - the French word for "indivisible" by their deceased father, and that it could only have been alienated by the legatees simultaneously, hence the reason for the presence of all their signatures or "marques ordinaires." The Deed of Gift indicates that of all the Fédon children, only Julien signed in his own name, thereby suggesting that his siblings were illiterate.
The Deed also shows that the Fédons were related by marriage to the Forgeries, the Bellerans and the Nogues. In the context of the abortive revolution that would break out seven years later, the witnesses to the Deed of Gift, along with the in-laws, would assume critical importance: Julien's brother-in-law, Michel Belleran, resident then in Carenage, Spanish Trinidad, would be an important member of the support group that purchased and sent arms and other supplies to Grenada from that colony. Charles Nogues would become Aide-de-Camp to Julien Fédon himself, and would also be a commissioned officer of the French Revolutionary Army, appointed at Guadeloupe. Last but not least, the Deed of Gift shows that, contrary to the testimony he gave in 1795, the Fédons were well-known to Julien Lussan, who would turn traitor and betray the revolutionary cause to first the Spanish authorities, then the British. His testimony would be vital to Pierre Alexandre's conviction and execution at St. George's in March 1795.
The evidence shows that Brigitte Veuve Fédon had at least one other child by another, possibly previous relationship to her marriage with Pierre. His name is given by John Hay as "Michaud," a former maroon hunter who, after being permanently disabled in the line of duty, had been awarded a pension for the rest of his life by the government. This did not prevent him from joining the revolution led by his half brother, Julien.11
The Fédons were also joined by marriage to another free coloured family, which, the records suggest, was also prominent in the parish of Grand Pauvre (or, Saint Mark's). This was the Cavelan family. Such was the level of intimacy between the two families that no less than 3 Fédon brothers married 3 Cavelan sisters: Etienne married Elizabeth;12 Jean married Marguerite (or, Margaret);13 and, Julien married Marie Rose. This intimacy was reflected in their business dealings. Brothers and sisters-in-law frequently bought and sold property from and to each other. For example, Etienne and Elizabeth sold two quarreys of land to Julien and Marie Rose in April 1788;14 and Charles and Marie Louise Nogues sold a piece of land in Gouyave to Julien Fédon in 1790.15
There is another document amongst the British records that deserves notice. It is the registration of a document in the Grenada Supreme Court, written in a mixture of English, French and Spanish. It appears to have been the marriage of Fédon's sister Marie (spelled "Maria" in the Spanish records) and Michel Beleran:
Sello Segundo, Seis Reales, Años De Mil Setecientos Ochenta y Ocho, y Ocho y Nueve....Micel Beleran, y Maria Fedon...en la Isla Trinidad.
The rest of the document is written in Spanish. On the "cover" of the document is written "Ent. 12 Novr. 1788 by Julien Fedon, pd." The "pd." indicates that Julien Fédon paid the requisite registration fees. The then Registrar of the Grenada Supreme Court, Benjamin Webster, recorded its registration in the Court.
The records held in The Registry of the Grenada Supreme Court are, in the main, of two sets. The larger of the two is written in English, the majority of which are catalogued. They cover the longest period, from 1764 to the present, with an obvious break represented by the period 1779 - 1784, during which France ruled the colony. In examining the manner in which the documents as a whole are arranged in the vault, it seems obvious that the British did not integrate the two sets of documents after their rule was restored in 1783. They simply put them away the French records, apparently, without even the proverbial backward glance, and began, as it were, afresh, in 1784. In the Registry's vaults they have remained, more or less undisturbed, for more than two centuries.
The French records are, for the most part, uncatalogued. They do not appear in the indexes in current use, are placed in a number of bundles wrapped in brown paper tied with string, apparently the work of a now unidentified Grenada public servant who wrote some rather perfunctory labels on them sometime during the late 1960s. In order to "discover" any information contained therein, one is obliged to trudge, ad hoc, through bundles of documents. Although some of these documents are deteriorated beyond repair, most are in excellent condition.
It is in this set of French records that cover the period of French rule that much more is known of the Fédons, particularly Julien himself. Collectively, the Fédon documents establish beyond doubt that this family lived in the parish of Grand Pauvre long before the start of the French occupation of 1779-83. This is particularly obvious in this extract from the Grand Pauvre parish records of 1779-1783:
acte de mariage de julien foedon et de marie Rose cavelan mûlatres libres
ce jourdhuy trente et unième du mois de janvier mil sept cent quatre vingt L'ance gouyave; nous sousigné......apostolique de l'ordre des grand frêres, dit grands cordeliers et curé de cette paroisse de Sainte Rose au quartier du grand pauvre dans l'isle grenade, n'ayant d'ecoue.......avons Realisé le mariage de Julien foedon; et de Rose cavelan, mariés depuis Six ans par le ministre anglois.....nous ensuitte donné la Bénediction nuptiale; en présence de joseph verdet et de francois....16
Below the signatures of the officiating clergyman and the witnesses to the ceremony is written the sentence: "les parties contractantes ont declarés ne savoir signer," translated, "the contracting parties have declared that they cannot sign."17 This strongly suggests that in 1780 both Julien and his bride were illiterate. This marriage entry also suggests that the couple were previously married under an English minister - "par le ministre anglois," some 6 years before. The reason for the 1780 nuptials is not known at this time, but the entry indicates that they were first married in 1774.
Towards the end of 1780, there appears another entry pertaining to "julien foedon" and "marie Rose cavelan:"
Baptême de............ foedon
L'an mil sept cents quatre vingt et le vingt quatre du mois de decembre nous sousigne missionaire apostolique de l'ordre des grands frêres dit grand cordeliers, et curé de cette paroisse de Sainte Rose au quartier du grand pauvre, dans l'isle grenade, nous donné la Baptême a une petitte [sic] fille nomme sur les fonds Baptismause, née le quatorse du mois de novembre de ........en legitime mariage de julien foedon et de marie rose cavelan Les père et mère. Son parain antoine Roy; la marraine veuve Brigitte foedon tous deux de ...............dans ....dit quartier du grand pauvre; en .....de quoÿ nous avons signé ce present act le même jour et an que dessus..
At the bottom of this entry, Julien Fédon seems to have signed "julien foedon" alongside that of "antoine Roÿ," as well as the parish priest of Grand Pauvre Parish. There is no signature for Marie Rose Cavelan. This was a significant change from the January before. Several other matters emerge from this entry. The first is that theirs was not a "shotgun" wedding on January 31, 1780. The marriage seems to have been consummated well within acceptable limits, and the baby girl was born well over the nine-month period for conception and gestation! Also, Julien seems to have been close to his mother, who did double duty as godmother and grandmother. The godfather, Antoine Roy also appears as a very close friend of the Fédons. The baptism entry inadvertently informs us that Brigitte was a "veuve" from as early as 1780, which places the death of Pierre Fédon at sometime before that year. Unfortunately, the condition of the document makes illegible the name of the daughter baptised.
The French records also contain documents pertaining to other members of the Fédons. For example, there is one with the self-explanatory title: "17 aout 1780: Vente de 5 negres par Etienne Feydon au Sieur Joseph Schmit." Another example is the marriage contract between "Jean feydon & margueritte Cavelan":
contract de Mariage de Jean feydon & margueritte Cavelan......Jean feydon, fil legitime de Jean Feydon, vivant habitant en cette isle, et de Brigitte Libre, Les Pere, et mere, La ditte Brigitte Veuve Feydon....natif [sic] de la paroisse Saine Rose de cette isle de la Grenada, Stipulant pour lui et son nom, Majeur D'age, d'une parte Et Marguerite Cavelan fille legitime de...Michel Cavelan et....Marianne Lemico, ses pere et Mere native de la paroisse de Sainte Rose...Stipulant en son nom Majeure d'age D'autre part...
This document establishes the identities of the parents of the Fédon siblings. They were Jean and Brigitte Fédon, and that they were natives of Grenada, the parish of Sainte Rose. This again establishes the residence of this family in the colony. However, page 4 of the Register of Grand Pauvre for 1780 places this matter in some doubt. The entry is called "Mariage de jean Foedon et de margueritte Cavelan mulatres libres":
.....le nommé Jean foedon, ne en legitime mariage de Pierre foedon européén, et de Brigitte negresse libre crêole de l'isle martinique, les pêre et mêre, d'une part et margueritte cavelan fille nêe en legitime mariage de michel cavelan et de marie-anne .....les pêre et mêre...
The facts seem to become clearer. Pierre Fedon was European, or, French. Brigitte, "negresse libre," was originally from Martinque. However, while it seems obvious that we are dealing with the same people, their names seem to be used somewhat interchangeably. Jean and Margueritte were married on August 22, 1780. Immediately below the entry for their marriage is another entry. "Baptême de margueritte Rose marie anne foedon mestive:"
Ce jourdhuÿ vingt deux du mois d'aôut, mil sept cent quatre vingt....avons donné le Baptême a une petite fille a laquelle on a donné pour nom margueritte Rose marie anne sur les fonds Baptismeuse née le quinze avril de la même année ; de jean foedon et de margueritte cavelan les pêre et mêre....Son parein julien foedon, Sa maraine Brigitte negresse libre vêuve foedon...22
This brings another dimension to the family life of the Fedons and the Cavelans. Their daughter was born on April 15, 1780, several months before they were officially married. As it would be in the case of Julien in December of the same year, Brigitte Veuve Fedon was also godmother. Julien, as we have seen, stood as godfather of his - and his wife's, niece. While the significance of Brigitte being both godmother and grandmother to her children's children, Julien's standing as godfather suggests his seniority amongst the siblings. While the marriage entry showed the identity of Brigitte's husband and does not list her as a "Veuve," the baptism entry shows her as a widow. The daughter baptised was referred to as a "Mestive," thereby suggesting again that she - and her mother - may have possessed Amerindian ancestry.
These two entries show that the Fédons' father was French - "European," suggesting that he was white. Brigitte was apparently from Martinique. The records have not yet revealed the point at which the two parents moved to Grenada. The "Pierre foedon," however, seems to have been he who paid taxes on his slaves in 1763. Brigitte, however, seems to have lived in Grenada from about the same time.
In the French records held at Aix-en-Provence, its passenger lists for people leaving the port of Bordeaux during the period 1749-1758, have revealed an interesting entry:
FEDON Pierre, orfèvre, a embarqué dans le port de Bordeaux, sur l'Infante, le 10 juillet 1749, à destination de la Martinique.23
It does not require a perfect knowledge of French to understand the contents of this entry. Pierre Fedon, a jeweller, embarked on the ship 'l'Infante' at Bordeaux bound for Martinique, on July 10, 1749. It is beyond doubt that he is the husband of Brigitte Veuve Fedon. As the 1780 records indicate, she was from Martinique. There is also very little doubt that he is the same "Pierre fedon" who owned lands and slaves in Grenada in 1763, for which he paid taxes for that year.
Pierre Fedon would have arrived at Martinique sometime around the end of August 1749, possibly after a hard voyage. They were crossing the south Atlantic in the middle of the hurricane season, and leads one to question the reasons why such a trip was attempted at that time of year.
The circumstances surrounding the marriage of this recently-arrived French jeweller and a free black woman sometime between 1749 and 1756 must make fascinating reading, if they ever become known. It seems easy to surmise that Pierre and Brigitte "Libre" met in Martinique shortly after the Frenchman's arrival, became married, and left for Grenada not long afterward. The fact that Michel Cavelan also moved to Grenada from Martinique, and settled in Grand Pauvre, the same parish as the Fédons, suggests strongly that they knew each other, and may have left for Grenada together. The two families' settling in the same parish, with landholdings of similar size, suggests intimacy and a similarity of economic means.
If we place Julien's age "at least 35" in 1787 (see below), that gives him a year of birth, as we have seen, of 1752. In the legal documents that have survived, Julien is referred to as a native of the parish of St. Mark's (Grand Pauvre). This leaves a rather narrow window of time between Pierre's arrival from France, marriage to Brigitte and relocation to Grenada. This matter becomes complicated when one considers that Julien may not have been the first child. It is quite possible that some were born at Martinique, while others were born in Grenada.
There is also another document entitled, "24 juillet 1780: contrat de Mariage de pierre Feydon et Margueritte Libre." This contract was solemnised in the marriage entry of August 2, 1780:
Mariage de jean pierre foedon et de margueritte mulâtres libres
....jean pierre foedon né en legitime mariage de pierre foedon êuropéén, et de Brigitte negresse libre crêole de l'isle martinique les pêre et mêre d'une part, et margueritte libre native de la gouyave.....24
Jean Pierre, it seems, was not to be left out of the flurry of weddings that took place during a rather busy 1780. He married a "Margueritte," but not a Cavelan, unlike his three brothers (perhaps there were no more daughters!). He opted for "Margueritte Libre," a free mulatto woman, native of Gouyave, who, like her mother-in-law "Brigitte Libre," did not appear to have had a family name. Another document, identified only as "No. 134," in the French records of 1779-1783, is entitled "Transaction Entre jean pierre feydon et Benoit Cazeneuve."
The year 1780 was a busy one for the Fédons and the Cavelans. Between the marriage of Julien and Marie Rose in January and the baptism of their daughter in December, there was much else to celebrate: the births and marriages that took place must have presented more than ample opportunities for celebration. But, in the midst of all this joy there was at least one moment for sadness:
inhumation de michel Cavelan25
Etienne's, Jean's and Julien's father in law, Michel Cavelan, "agê aux environs de soixante ans natif de l'isle martinique,"26 was buried on May 14, 1780. The entry also provides interesting information. The first is that Michel Cavelan was, like Brigitte Veuve Fédon, a native of Martinique. It is quite possible that they knew each other before moving to Grenada. The second is that Michel Cavelan's death occurred one month after the birth of Margueritte Rose Marie Anne on April 15. It seems that the grandfather's death postponed nuptials and baptism.
Amongst the French records for the period 1779-1783, Deed "No. 183" seems to have been one of the most interesting:
Jullien Feydon, Mulatre Libre resident au quartier du Grand Pauvre Paroisse Sainte Rose .....Mille Sept cents soixante cinq ...du proces verbal de partage de l'habitation du Sieur .....Cavelan.
Of all the Fedon documents in the French records, this is both the largest and most damaged by insects during storage over the last two centuries. It runs into several pages, but its delicate nature allowed for only the most cursory examination. It seems to make reference to a transaction in the year 1765 between himself and the person who seems to have been his eventual father-in-law, [Michel] Cavelan. Julien's possible entry into a contract in 1765 may suggest that in that year he was already an adult.
To return to the matter of the actual date of marriage of Julien and Marie Rose, the question becomes rather puzzling when one considers another legal document registered in 1787, three years after the restoration of British rule. This is a "Certificate of Freedom" for Marie Rose Cavelan Fedon. It reads, in part:
By John Hay and Walter Carew
Esquires two of His Majesty's
Justices of the Peace for the
said island of Grenada
Be it remembered that on the fourth day of March in the Year of our Lord 1787, Joseph Verdet and Francois Philip Esquires, of the island aforesaid, being two credible Freeholders within this Island, personally came and appeared before Us & declared solemnly upon Oath, that they the said Joseph Verdet and Francois Philip, and each of them, have known a certain Mestive Woman named Marie Rose Cavelan, of the age of Thirty four Years, or thereabouts, the Wife of Julien Fedon, a Mulatto and a Planter, now residing in the Parish of Saint Mark, for the space of five years and upwards; and that during such space of five Years, the said Marie Rose Cavelan was regarded and reputed to be, to all intents and purposes whatsoever free from Slavery and always behaved and demeaned herself decently, and as becoming a free Person of her complexion.27
This document is interesting for several reasons. The first is that it corroborates the marriage of 1780 - "five years and upwards," but makes no reference to the marriage of 1774. The Certificate of Freedom also alludes to the possibility that Marie Rose's personal freedom may have been challenged. Only the year before the date of her Certificate of Freedom, the Legislature had enacted 'An Act to require all free Mestives Cabres Negroes and other coloured free Persons residing in or who may hereafter arrive in these Islands to Register their names for the purpose herein mentioned.'28 The Preamble of this act referred to the ineffectiveness of earlier acts to control the level of free coloured persons in the colony.29 Although the Legislature had re-instated all or most of the laws passed between 1765 and 1779,30 the 1786 version showed their continuing concern over the growing number of free persons of non-white origin.
One of the provisions of this Act was that if a person's freedom could not be immediately verified, that individual was committed to prison for a period of 6 weeks, during which time his or her freedom was required to be established. If after the end of this period, the person failed to establish his or her freedom, that person was sold as a slave. The document suggests that Fédon's wife was detained by the authorities for some time, pending verification of her personal freedom. It was only after Verdet and Philip - the former being a witness to the wedding of 1780, and most likely, Fédon's best man at the nuptials, swore an Oath verifying her state of freedom, which was endorsed by John Hay and Walter Carew, Justices of the Peace - that she was released.
But, the Certificate of Freedom also differs with the marriage entry of January 1780. Whereas the earlier document refers to Marie Rose as a "mulatresse libre," the 1787 document refers to her as a "Mestive Woman." According to Edward Long, a "Mestive" (or, "Mestize") was the issue of a union between an "Indian and a Mulatta"31 The Certificate of Freedom, then, suggests an Amerindian ancestry for Marie Rose and her sisters. The presence of indigenous people living in Grenada is hardly surprising. The Jacobin priest Père Labat was mortified to find them there on his fact-finding visit at the turn of the seventeenth century. Incidentally, Labat found the "Carib Indians" living on the Jacobins' property at "le Fond du Grand Pauvre."32 More recently, Governor Macartney made reference to them during his tour of duty as Governor in 1778,33 and then in 1779.34 That the Cavelan sisters possibly had Amerindian ancestry is probably not unexpected, as they were from one of the areas in Grenada last known to have them living.
Another important feature of Marie Rose's Certificate of Freedom is the establishment of her age. It is given as "Thirty four Years, or thereabouts." If Marie Rose was thirty-four in 1787, then she must have been born in 1753. Given the conventions of the time, then her husband should have been at least 35, being born as early as 1752. This places him as being a native of Grenada before British rule was established.
Legal personal freedom was the most highly valued commodity in slave society.35 The subsequent documents after the restoration of British rule show the Fédons' preoccupation with this matter. From about 1790, the family began to grant personal freedom to some of their slaves. On July 10, 1791, Julien Fédon granted "full freedom and Manumission" to "that Cabresse Slave named Mary Jeanne and her three Children to wit Francois Louis, Edward and Rose."36 This manumission was endorsed by "John Hay and Jean Baptiste Ollivier Esquires two of the Guardians of Slaves appointed in consequence of an Act of the aforesaid Island." Marie Jeanne and her children were found by the Guardians to be "not likely to be become burthensome to the Public and apparently healthy."37
Fédon then gave manumission to "that Mustee Slave Guillaume La Grange."38 The witnesses on this occasion were Ettienne Ventour, John Adams Packer and his old friend, his daughter's godfather, Antoine Roy. As in the case of the manumission of Marie Jeanne and her three children, the two appointed Guardians of Slaves for the Parish of St. John - where Julien and Marie Rose were then living, were Jean Baptiste Ollivier and John Hay. These two Guardians duly certified that La Grange was "not likely to become burthensome to the Public and apparently healthy."
Before Julien and Marie Rose had moved to St. John from St. Mark's, however, they had jointly begun to grant manumissions. In what must have been an extraordinary day, the couple and Brigitte Veuve Fédon manumitted no less than 8 slaves between them. Julien and Marie Rose together gave freedom to "that Cabre Slave named Louis."39 The witnesses to this manumission were Paul Laurensy, Pierre Boudon and "Batarel," whereas the certifying Guardians of Slaves were William Bell, William Sandbach and Francis C.M. Clozier. Marie Rose's mother-in-law was more generous on that occasion. Brigitte Veuve Fedon, "of the Parish of St. John," gave manumission to "that negroe woman Slave named Anne and her six Children to wit Jean-Louis, Matiale, Adelaide, Clotide, Jeanette and Alexis."40 The witnesses on this occasion were John Adams Parker, Etienne Ventour and Pierre Valie. The appointed Guardians of Slaves were Simon Bond, Francois Philip and Patrick Fotheringham. The fact that Brigitte Veuve Fédon made "her mark" suggests strongly that she was illiterate.
From an examination of the French records generated during 1779 and 1783, it may be observed that there had been a steady stream of manumissions during this period, which gathered momentum upon the restoration of British rule in early 1784. In the Registry of the Supreme Court, there is a particular Deed Book, R1 that is comprised almost exclusively of manumissions, granted particularly during the early months of 1784. The reasons for such a spate of manumissions during this period have not yet been ascertained. The only readily available explanation seems to be the anxiety to be legally free under British rule. The upshot of all these manumissions was that the population of the free black and coloured population experienced a sudden rise from this period, an increase not necessarily due to natural means. When one takes into consideration the emigration of white French Roman Catholic families to Trinidad during this same period, then the drop in the proportion of the white population and a rise of the free coloured population to become the largest sector of Grenada's free population are not surprising developments.41 Cox cites the free coloured population as being 53% of the free population after 1783:
By 1783 on Grenada...free coloreds no longer formed the smallest population group, an unenviable position that then fell to the whites.42
Julien was not to be left out. In an entry entered on February 18, 1784, Julien Fedon gave manumission to a "Cabre Slave commonly called or known by the name of Isaac Marseile of the Age of One Year and Nine Months."43 This immediately raises the question as to the reasons why he manumitted his 21-month-old slave. Obviously, the slave's mother was also Fédon's slave. The age of the child suggests the not uncommon occurrence that this slave's owner was also his biological father. His mother's name was not given, and neither was it mentioned that she was given her freedom as well. This Deed of Manumission is different from the others in that there were no witnesses or Guardians, except Benjamin Webster, Register of the Grenada Supreme Court. Unlike their predecessors, this Deed was executed and entered into the Court's records on the same day, 18th February 1784. In this Deed of Manumission, Fédon made a "mark," indicating a state of illiteracy.
The documents pertaining to Belvidere Estate make for interesting reading. Contrary to the suggestions of such writers as Jan Carew,44 Julien did not inherit the estate from his father. Deed Book C4, held in the Registry of the Grenada Supreme Court, establishes beyond doubt that the estate was purchased by Julien and Marie Rose Cavelan Fédon in 1791. The Indenture, occupying pages 251 - 282, between the Fédons and James Campbell, was "for conveying unto and to the use of the said Julien Fedon his Heirs and Assigns for ever a certain Coffee and Cocoa plantation Tract or parcel of Land in the parish of Saint John called Belvidere..."45 The agreed to price was "Fifteen thousand pounds Current Money of the said Island of Grenada." Upon the date of the execution of the Deed, the Fédons paid 10 Shillings to Campbell. The Witnesses to the transaction were Neill Campbell and Ben [that is, Benjamin] Webster, "one of the Assistant Justices of His Majesty's Court of Common Pleas."46 According to the Deed, Belvidere Estate contained "by Admeasurement Four hundred and fifty Acres of Land..."47 With the property came "the buildings thereon and eighty Slaves, Sixteen head of horned Cattle and five horses..."48 The names of the slaves were given in a separate schedule, as well as those of 20 other slaves that appear to have been the slaves owned by the Fédons prior to the purchase.49
These documents suggest that, in purchasing Belvidere from James Campbell, the Fédons took permanent leave of their home parish of St. Mark's. In a Deed placed immediately following that of the purchase of Belvidere in Deed Book C4, they sold to Francois Philip "all that Coffee plantation Tract or parcel of Land lying in the same parish of Saint Mark and called or known by the name of Lancer containing by estimation Twelve Quarres or Thirty eight Acres and a half of Land English Measure..."50 Ten slaves were also sold with the property. For this, Francois Philip paid the Fédons the sum of three thousand one hundred and fifty pounds.
The sale of such a large estate as Belvidere to a free coloured couple, was, to say the least, unusual. To have sold the property to a French free coloured, in those highly charged political times, was quite another matter. At the time of the sale, the colony had entered a heightened phase of political tension. While it is true that Fédon had been a signatory to the Public Declaration of Loyalty less that a year before, the situation had been no less tense. The Legislature had been systematically enacting laws to restrict the free physical movement of the non-white population. The revocation of the 1768 Royal Order in 1789 was soon to come into effect. This excluded the participation of the French Roman Catholics in the public affairs of the colony. There was also the matter of the restrictions on subjects of non-British origin owning land in significant amounts. Why would such a well-connected member of the British establishment - no less than a Senior Member of the Council and former Acting Governor, sell such an extensive property to not only Roman Catholics, but a coloured couple at that?
The papers of the British based firm of Lushington and Law provide another dimension to the sale of Belvidere to the Fédons. This volume, uncatalogued in the Registry, is called "Abstract of sundry Securities and Transactions to and by William Lushington and James Law Esqrs., and Lists of the Deeds in their possession." This company, which had extensive business dealings with prominent colonists of British origin in Grenada, including Alexander Campbell, William Hall, Edmund Proudfoot, Benjamin Webster, Duncan Campbell and Ninian Home during the last half of the eighteenth century, also negotiated a loan to James Campbell, then owner of Belvidere Estate. The documents show that, on the 20th and 21st December 1790, Lushington and Law made a "Loan of £3000 Sterling to James Campbell Esquire upon Mortgage of a Plantation called Belvidere in Grenada."51 The parties to the transaction were listed as "James Campbell ...by the s'd. Alexander Campbell his Attorney of one part and William Lushington & James Law of the other part."52 The "Recital" shows that there was no mistake of the property:
..citing that James Campbell was seized in fee of an Estate called Belvidere situate in the said Island of Grenada and that Messrs. Lushington and Law at the request of s'd Alexander Campbell had agreed to lend James Campbell £3000 upon the Security of s'd. Estate.
It is witnessed that in cons'on [that is, consideration] of £3000 Stg. By Lushington and Law paid to James Campbell he bargained sold alienated released and confirmed unto the said Lushington and Law and to their Heirs and Assigns The Plantation called Belvidere in the parish of St. John in Grenada containing 400 acres more or less and all the Negroes and Stock then upon the Estate and all other Negroes & Stock which should be upon or belong thereto whilst any money should remain due upon the Security thereby made.53
The terms of the loan then set out a regular schedule of payments to Lushington and Law, beginning with 21 December 1791, and ending on December 21, 1800. The loan agreement also shows the pattern of business dealings between the British business houses and West Indian planters. As long as money was owed to Lushington and Law, the debtors were required to ship and consign to the firm all the produce of the estate - coffee and cocoa, "and all other produce," to the creditors.54 The proceeds from the sales of this produce in Great Britain, minus "the usual and accustomed Charges of Commission and other charges attendant upon such Consignments and Sales," were to be applied towards repayment of the interest of the loan.
At the bottom of the page was a most interesting note:
N.B. Messrs. Lushington and Law have no Title Deeds but the above relative to this Mortgage except that Mr. Jas. Campbell's power of Attorney to Mr. Alex'r. Campbell.55
In other words, James Campbell had mortgaged Belvidere to Lushington and Law, but had not delivered the Title Deed to his creditors. Since the loan was granted upon the recommendation of Alexander Campbell, and also, since James Campbell gave to Alexander Campbell Power of Attorney, the reality was that Alexander Campbell himself was guarantor of the loan. This transaction was entered into some 6 months before the Indenture with the Fédons was entered into. In the "Abstract" there are no documents or references that indicate Lushington and Law's knowledge of the mortgage that he entered into with the Fédons. There is also no indication whatever that James Campbell repaid the loan from Lushington and Law before he sold it to Julien and Marie Rose Cavelan Fédon in 1791. James Campbell, then, had sold a property that, technically, was not legally his to sell, for a sum five times the amount for which he took out a mortgage on the same property 6 months previously.
The loan agreement contained the "Usual Covenants," one of which read:
Mr. Campbell covenanted for payment of the principal and Interest of the principal and Interest pursuant to the proviso and that he had done no act to incumber and he likewise covenanted in the usual manner for Title quiet enjoyment and further assurance after default in payment and that during all the time that any money shall remain due he would keep the Mortgaged premises in good order and condition.56
James Campbell did not "encumber" the Estate. He simply sold it. There is no evidence as yet found in the documents that suggests that a legal controversy arose over the sale of the already encumbered Belvidere to the Fédons. At the time of writing, it is not even known whether Fédon knew of the prior mortgage after their Indenture in May 1791. However, the Return of the Forfeited Estates of July 1796 indicates that a controversy may have existed. As we shall see, Campbell claimed that the Fédons never made any payments towards the mortgage by March 1795. This claim may not have stood up to serious scrutiny. The Indenture provided for loan repayments to be made at specific dates. For Campbell's claim to have substantial weight, the Fédons would have had to default on the payments due on June 1, 1792, June 1, 1793, and June 1, 1794. It is almost inconceivable that Campbell would have failed to take legal action against the Fédons for three years.
However, the individuals directly and indirectly involved in these transactions of 1791 suggest a personal dimension to the events of 1795-96. Fédon became leader of the abortive revolution, and Alexander Campbell was another key personality in the piece. From a legal point of view, James Campbell, a member of the colony's Legislature, was not legally competent to enter into such a transaction with the Fédons. His associate, Alexander Campbell, possibly a relative, was also involved. Campbell was a colonist of high standing. The hero of the "Campbell v. Hall" case of 1764 - 1774, former Colonial Agent for Grenada, and, former Speaker of the Grenada Assembly, he enjoyed a very close personal relationship with then Lieutenant Governor, his fellow planter Ninian Home. Campbell and Home were at Paraclete, Home's estate on the night of March 2, 1795, and were captured the following morning. In Fédon's Declaration of March 4, 1795, only 2 names - Home and Campbell, were cited among the some 40 prisoners captured by that time. They were both executed on April 8, 1795.
The documents cited apart, there are others that were entered during the period after 1791. They are: "Julien Fedon from James Campbell: Lease and Release, 1792;"57 "Julien Fedon and Wife from James Campbell: Mortgage, 1792;"58 "Julien Fedon from Jean Baptiste Pinel & Others: Lease & Release, 1792;"59 "Jean Fedon and Wife from Paul Thomas La Croisade & Wife: Lease and Release, 1794;"60 and "Jean Fedon & Wife from Francois Charles Marie Clozier, Lease and Release, 1794."61
There was one entry for 1795 that involved the Fédons. This was an "Indenture," between Jean Fedon and Margaret Cavelan his Wife and Renée Passée, dated 31 December 1794, and recorded in the Court on 12 January 1795.62 It was for the sale of "eight Negro Slaves." The agreed to sum for their sale was eight hundred pounds. The buying and selling of slaves was a commonplace event. In light of what transpired from March 2-3 1795, such a sale should be placed in this context.
We know from Francis McMahon that revolution was planned during 1794. He cites the authority of LeRich, who told him early in the proceedings, that if his advice had been followed, the revolution would have been set in train during Christmas, three months before the internal war actually started. As a matter of fact, the evidence points to the start of planning at about mid-1793, more than six months before Victor Hugues arrived off Guadeloupe.
It may never be proved conclusively, but this transaction concluded at that time suggests strongly that its proceeds were used to help to purchase arms and related supplies for the revolutionary cause. Why else would Jean sell slaves that he knew that he was going to free in a matter of weeks? It seems logical to conclude that the funds were used for the purpose of revolution. This may lead to the question as to why did his brother Julien not sell his slaves for this purpose? This question may be answered in the preparations that were being made at Belvidere itself during the period in which the sale was negotiated and concluded. There were extensive works going on, for example, those atop Morne Vauclain (Fédon's Camp) and Mt. Qua-Qua, at which John Hay, Francis McMahon, William Kerr and the other prisoners were held from March 3 until April 8. The construction of those places could only have been accomplished with a concentrated application of labour.
The records indicate that Julien Fédon came to public prominence around 1790. The incident that has been most cited to demonstrate this has been the Public Declaration of Loyalty of that year. As the records also show, he was a joint owner of "Lancer" estate with his wife at the time of the Public Declaration, and only officially became master of Belvidere in 1791. An examination of the 35 signatories of the Declaration indicates that most of them were free coloureds. The prominence of this group in 1790 suggests that the migration of the mostly white French planters left a vacuum in the social leadership of the community as a whole, one that was filled by the free coloureds. This is not surprising, as from as early as 1783 they accounted for 53% of the colony's free population.
This departure of the white French planter class removed from Grenada's political stage the group that was of the same ideology as the white British planter class. Denied a place in the British colonial establishment by their religion and country of origin, they moved to Trinidad, where they formed part of the politically conservative, racially pure ruling élite with whom Chacon, the Spanish governor, surrounded himself during his administration (1784-1797)
The vacuum created by the departure of this white group was filled by the emerging free coloured group. This body was, presumably, younger, more acutely aware of their position in the society, and, as events show, less reluctant to adopt radical - even revolutionary strategies in order to seek redress of their grievances. By 1791, Julien was perhaps the personification of this group. A small-scale plantation owner before he acquired the sprawling Belvidere property in 1791, the sketchy bits of his career currently available show him exhibiting the conservatism of the slave-owning class. The signatories of the Public Declaration also identified them with the British ruling class, and their determination to uphold the status quo.
None of the records found to date suggest that the Fédons were born into slavery. Since the slave laws determined that all children assumed the status of their mothers, and since Pierre and Brigitte were married, it seems that the Fédon siblings were not born into slavery. The evidence also suggests that the Fédons were from St. Mark's and later of St. John, and such were not 'urban' people.
Ownership of Belvidere placed him squarely amongst the large slave and estate-owners of the time. While he was not amongst the largest slave-owners, his 100 slaves in 1791, coupled with the 450 acres of Belvidere definitely placed him amongst the largest landowners. On the other hand, Belvidere was a coffee and cocoa estate, which did not require as large a workforce as sugar cultivation.
Arnold Sio in his article, "Marginality and Free Coloured Identity in Caribbean Slave Society,"63 argues that, in the historiography of free people of colour in the Caribbean, three issues have been neglected by historians. These are culture and social organization; unity and group consciousness; and, style and goals of their political activity. Most of what is known of the culture of the free coloureds is that of the upper stratum of the population, who were said to have emulated the whites. Of the majority of the free coloureds as a group, he argues, little is known.
From what has been gleaned from the documents, the Fédons did not originally belong to the upper stratum of the free coloureds. The family as a whole appears to have been small-proprietors and slave-holders. Before 1791, Julien and his wife owned the relatively small "Lancer" estate in St. Mark's. His signing of the 'Public Declaration of Loyalty' in 1790 showed that, despite his modest means, he identified strongly with the British ruling class.
Their acquisition of 'Belvidere' and simultaneous disposal of 'Lancer' symbolised their family's movement from the lower social strata to the upper echelons of at least the free coloured slave-owning élite. His decision in 1795 to strive actively to overthrow the established order with which he had unambiguously identified five years previously - and the ultimate failure of that initiative - virtually ensured the almost complete expunging of his name from Grenada's historical record, except to portray him as a bloodthirsty, implacable foe of the British, a traitor attainted with high treason.
Before 1795, however, Fédon's social behaviour, as is shown in the legal documents, identified with the upper echelons of the slave-owning élite. The peculiar social and political climate did not ensure unrestricted entry into this British dominated group. The first disability was his mixed ancestry. This effectively debarred him from holding public office. To compound matters, the Fédons were Roman Catholics of French origin. Two years before he became master of 'Belivdere,' the institutionalised minority in the Legislature granted by Hillsborough in 1768 was withdrawn by the British Crown.
The Fédons, then, personified the upwardly mobile French free coloureds, whose aspirations for social prominence were frustrated by British rule. This group, which came to prominence by the emigration of a substantial number of the white French to Trinidad after 1783, saw their social rights, guaranteed by two international treaties, progressively eroded by repressive laws that restricted their personal freedom, and threatened those areas of economic activity that time and custom had allocated to them.
The evidence suggests that Grenada's social climate after 1783 made for an alliance with the slaves. The historical record has not yet revealed documentary evidence of the revolutionaries' ideals, programmes and objectives. However, the official documents that have survived give some evidence of their intentions. John Hay, a medical doctor captured by the revolutionaries who later wrote of his experiences, also provided a glimpse of that alliance between the free coloured revolutionaries and their slaves. In this anecdote, Hay showed Fédon's position on the question of slavery - and inadvertently revealed his own:
...addressing himself to Mr. McBurnie's negroes, he asked them if they would remain prisoners, or take a part with them; after some hesitation they acceded to the latter proposal: he then took them by the shoulders, turned them out of doors, observing at the same time, they were as free as he was.64
So far, documentary evidence to support reports that Fédon and his fellow revolutionaries had freed their slaves prior to the start of hostilities has not been located. Hay's anecdote shows that Fédon himself accepted as social equals people who had been legally chattel only moments before. This was a complete turnaround to the Julien Fédon who had signed the 'Public Declaration of Loyalty' nearly five years before. Standing behind this change from slave-owner to emancipator and revolutionary was a significant ideological shift. This shift in ideology, and the period in which it occurred, corresponds roughly to the general deterioration of the social condition of the French community as a whole between 1784 and 1795, but had intensified after 1790. Laws repressive to the French Roman Catholics were passed by a legislature whose constitutional arrangements debarred them from participation in the colony's public affairs. Their most consistent, implacable opponent, Ninian Home, was installed as Lieutenant Governor in 1793. This appointment was the culmination of a series of developments beginning in early 1784. When placed with the revocation of Hillsborough's Royal Order of 1768, the French must have obtained the distinct impression that His Majesty's government had abandoned them, and with that, all pretence of impartiality in the colony's administration.
On the other hand, The French Revolution had broken out in 1789 and, four days after Home had been installed as Lieutenant Governor of Grenada, Britain joined The First Coalition against France in the French Revolutionary War. In the wider Caribbean, the St. Domingue slaves rose in revolt in 1791, giving inspiration to their brothers in the other slave societies. The French National Convention ratified Sonthonax's unilateral declaration of abolition of slavery in St. Domingue (Haiti) on February 4, 1794, but had gone further: it declared abolition of slavery in all France's colonies, and extended unqualified citizenship to all people therein. In June of that same year, Victor Hugues was sent out by the National Convention to implement the 'Decree of Pluviôse' in the Eastern Caribbean.65 This was part of the strategy to regain France's eastern Caribbean empire lost to the British by April 1794, and if possible, to wrest Britain's colonies from her as well.
One of the major points of Hugues's strategy was to make contact with those groups who had long-standing ties with France, and those who were dissatisfied with British rule. The French of Grenada qualified on both counts. When Hugues's agents made contact with Grenada's French sometime after June 1794, they found a plot for armed insurrection in an advanced stage of preparation. The headquarters - Belvidere, Fédon's estate - had already been chosen; their food supply had been established since 1793, and the leader, Fédon himself, elected.66 Hugues provided ideological, diplomatic and military assistance. Fédon was given a commission as General. His brother-in-law, Charles Nogues, also an officer of the French Revolutionary Army and appointed at Guadeloupe, was made Aide-de-Camp.67 Nogues's appointment was a reflection of the close ties that existed between the families well before 1795, and may indicate that the leadership of the revolution was dominated by the Fédons and their extended family.
Hay's Narrative also shows that the strategy of the Grenadian free coloureds included not only the slaves, but the colony's Maroons. The history of the Grenada Maroons is not as well studied as their Jamaican, Vincentian and Surinamese counterparts. Their presence in Grenada predates British rule.68 During the first days of the abortive revolution, Fédon boasted to his prisoners, including John Hay and Ninian Home, the Lieutenant Governor, that he and his colleagues "were perfectly acquainted with the mode of making war in the woods."69 It has not yet been ascertained how Fédon and his revolutionaries came by that knowledge. The Laws of Grenada provide a clue. In the 1767, the Legislature passed 'An Act to Compel....' The purpose of this act is self-explanatory. The Government made it mandatory for the colony's free coloured males to hunt down the Maroons, who had chosen 'dangerous' freedom in the woods over 'peaceful' slavery on the plantations. Most of these maroons found refuge in the heavily forested interior of the colony. Fédon and his free coloured brethren must have so compelled. There is the evidence of Michaud, Juilen's half brother, who had been permanently injured from this very activity. It seems that the British, in trying to put the free coloureds against the maroons, only succeeded in exposing the free coloureds to the knowledge of "making war in the woods." This unintended consequence may be observed in this anecdote in which Hay saw a group of Grenada maroons formally joining Fédon's abortive revolution:
Upon my entering the gate, five run-aways were pointed out to me, then surrendering themselves, three men and two women, making part of thirty who had already come in: the three men were armed with muskets in very good order, one of them their chief.70
It is quite possible that the Maroons taught the revolutionaries, either directly or indirectly, the mode of "making war in the woods." They had fought both the British and French a protracted defensive war to protect their freedom that they had taken into their own hands.71 Every British Governor, from Melvill to Home, sent out parties of militia to subdue them. Their long-resistance to slavery fused with Fédon's Rebellion in 1795.
The decision to adopt collective political violence in 1795 represents a remarkable alignment of circumstances and developments. The social condition of the French, already tenuous before 1784, experienced accelerated deterioration thereafter. By 1793, their state had reached an all-time low, when Home was appointed Lieutenant Governor. At the same time, the success of the American (1776-83), French (1789) and Haitian (1791) revolutions demonstrated to the French Grenadians the applicability of collective political violence to overthrow oppressive and tyrannical regimes. The appearance of Hugues in 1794 provided crucial support. This is obvious in the revolutionaries' use of Jacobin revolutionary terror. This style of government, based upon the threat and use of extreme political violence, was perfected by the Jacobins of France, led by Robespierre from 1793 to 1794. This policy was used in order to strengthen France against both her internal and external enemies after the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in late 1792. Fédon's Declaration and Summons to Surrender, dated 4 March 1795, shows the influence of the Jacobins:
Without entering into any detail of our rights, we summon you, and all the inhabitants, of every denomination in this colony, to surrender...to the republican forces under our command...And we give you notice, that in the case of your not submitting, as you are enjoined, you shall be liable to all the scourges of a disastrous war; and that all persons whomsoever that shall be taken in arms, or who shall not have joined the national flag in such time as we shall judge fit...shall be punished with death, and their estates burnt, and the land confiscated to the use of the Republic.72
The Declaration unambiguously linked the French sense of deprivation of their rights as British subjects with the threat and use of collective violence as a means to redress these disabilities and gave a definite political dimension to their enterprise. In so doing, Fédon and his group of revolutionaries adopted methods that were relatively unknown to British culture. But, it seems more than that. In order to secure their rights, the French Grenadians had decided to alter the basis of Grenada's relationship with Europe: to become a colony of France, who had by the 'Decree of Pluviôse' abolished slavery and granted unconditional citizenship to all people living therein. This was a revolutionary step. It shows that they understood that the only way in which their social rights could be guaranteed was nothing short of a complete transformation of the existing social order: a revolution.
The loyalist British and a few French refused to surrender. The colony then experienced nearly two years of social and military conflict. French civilian and military administrators, along with the local French revolutionary group led by Fédon himself, controlled most of the colony's territory for nearly two years before the attempted revolution was finally put down by the British.
The fate of the Fédon family as a whole is not known at time of writing. So far, research has not yielded the death of Brigitte Veuve Fedon. The historical record has provided only glimpses of its individual members. For example, Jean-Pierre was the commander of the group of revolutionaries that captured the party of Ninian Home, the Lieutenant Governor, James Farquhar, his Aide-de-Camp, and Home's close friend Alexander Campbell on the morning of March 3, 1795.73 Jean-Pierre himself was killed in the British attack on Belvidere on April 8, 1795.74 Hay also wrote that Fédon's wife and daughters were present atop Mt. Qua-Qua during the battle, but definite information on their fate after April 8 is unknown at time of writing. It is quite possible that the rest of the family joined their relatives in Trinidad during the period. It is also known that Jean-Pierre's wife, Margueritte "Libre" Fédon, was present at Belvidere, but her whereabouts after April 8, 1795 are also unknown for the moment.
Of Julien's in-laws, the only one of whom definite information is known is that of Charles Nogues, his Aide-de-Camp. He was captured alive, tried under the Court of Oyer and Terminer, sentenced to death and hanged on August 11, 1796.75 The French records show that his son, most likely Julien's nephew, was sent to Guadeloupe under the care of Victor Hugues prior to March 3, 1795.76 His fate is also unknown at time of writing.
The Fédons appear in the Act of Attainder. Officially titled, 'An Act to attaint certain Persons therein Named of High Treason unless they shall render themselves and submit to Justice on or before the first day of September One thousand seven hundred and ninety five,'77 the Act rendered those identified by name therein and rendered - without trial - several hundred revolutionaries - attainted with high treason by legislation. Except for Jean Fedon, none of the other Fédon siblings specifically identified in the 'Deed of Gift' of 1788 were attainted. Several other familiar names appear. In addition to Julien himself, there were "Pierre Bernard Fedon," "Bartholomew Bernard Fedon," "Jean Baptiste Bernard Fedon" and "Louis Bernard Fedon." Etienne was not identified in the Act. He is not accounted for in the historical record after 1788.78 Included in the Act were Julien's other brother-in-law, Charles Forgerie, as well as his good friends Antoine Roy and Joseph Verdet. Some of the witnesses to his pre-1795 legal documents were also attainted, including Paul Laurensy and Ettienne Ventour. Père Pascal Mardel, the Roman Catholic parish priest of St. John, the parish in which Belvidere is located was also attainted with high treason, and executed on July 1, 1796. Among the final persons named in the Act was one "Michaud Christophe." This appears to have been the only person with the name "Michaud" so identified, and may have been Julien's half-brother by his mother's side observed by Hay as commander of the post at Balthazar.
For the colonists of British origin, the Act of Attainder was the final solution to the question of keeping colonists of French origin in Grenada after 1784. This matter had been contemplated from the restoration of British rule. In the Registry of the Grenada Supreme Court, there is a volume entitled Record bk. of commissions proclamations, representations by French settlers, Vice-Admiralty & other court matters &c. partly indexed. The volume is handwritten, and contains transcriptions and legal opinions on matters relating to law and politics, particularly after 1783. Its author is obviously someone with legal training. The legal opinion entitled, "Presentation on the propriety of permitting the French Inhabitants to remain in Grenada (1784)," demonstrates beyond doubt that the higher levels of the colonists of British origin had contemplated driving out the French since 1764, but particularly after 1784, when the colony was restored to British rule after four years' French rule.
...the Idea of converting a Frenchman into a good English Subject, however specious in Theory, is impracticable & absurd: And the World must be satisfied therefore, that in adopting now...the measure of excluding the French from any further property or residence in Grenada, the Crown submits only to a necessity, founded on conviction and imposed by its' duty to its natural Subjects.....The safety of Government essentially requires the Exclusion of those who adopt a different Principle - had the King of Great Britain directed his Arms towards the retaking of Grenada during the War [that is, after the island was taken by France in 1779 and before the cessation of hostilities in 1783], were these very persons, these late British Subjects by Oath, as part of the Troops who were destined to oppose his success?80
The opinion further argued that the behaviour of the French during the French interregnum of 1779-83, disqualified them from being British subjects. Inasmuch as the Crown persisted in so considering them, one could not avoid the imputation of their having been traitorous ones. The solution to this issue, was simple enough:
...far from being entitled to a further enjoyment of their Property and a privilege of Residence in the Island, both their Lives and Estates would be liable to pay the Forfeit of their Conduct, It becomes then a species of Indulgence to them, if the Crown, without Crimination or too severe a scrutiny into their conduct, treats them only as persons, whom it once endeavoured to attach to itself as good Subjects, but who by Habit, Education, and the superior Influence of their natural Sovereign, are always in danger of being perverted into Mischievous Members of Society, if permitted to remain in it, and whose removal, the Public welfare, and a regard to its' own Subjects absolutely require.81
The opinion recommended that the British government gave the French the 18 months that were granted them in 1764 to remove themselves from Grenada, as the first experiment to make loyal British subjects of them had failed.
As well argued as the opinion was on the question, its premise mistook the symptoms for the cause. It was a pity that the author had not included in his considerations the situation in Quebec, where the British government had undertaken to provide identical treatment to the French colonists in both territories brought into the Empire by the Treaty of Paris of 1764. What transpired in both colonies was quite different. In 1774, the British Parliament made good its obligation under the Treaty by passing The Quebec Act. This special law guaranteed the religious and civic freedoms of the French Canadians, in a situation where, in British law, the Test Acts 1673 and 1678 disqualified Roman Catholics from holding public office.82 No such law was passed for Grenada, in defiance of the Treaty of Paris. As the Cambridge History of the British Empire wrote, "thus the wise recognition of French Catholic privileges in Canada accorded under the Quebec Act...was reversed in the case of Grenada."83
The British lack of consistency in policy towards the two colonies produced two entirely different results. Coupland, in commenting on the effects of the Quebec Act, wrote that "it proved the sincerity of [British] conciliation, because it attested the British Government's willingness to accept and protect the survival of an alien nationality under the British, it determined the allegiance of the seigneurs and the Church...On its social and religious side, if not on the political, it was the Ark of the Covenant. ...it won for itself a jealous devotion rarely accorded to the law-making efforts of imperfect men."84
However, Coupland was silent on the effects of the British failure to put into place a similar measure for Grenada, as it was required to do under the Treaty of Paris. When the American Revolution broke out in 1775, the French Canadians ignored the entreaties of the fledgling United States to join the Revolution. They remained solidly loyal to Britain, even after France officially joined the War against Britain and called on them to rise against the British.85 The author of the "Presentation on the propriety of permitting the French Inhabitants to remain in Grenada," mistook the issue. The 'disloyalty' of the French inhabitants was in fact the manifestation of the failure of British policy towards these subjects between 1762 and 1779. The presentation of 1784 shows that attainting the French with high treason and confiscation of their properties were contemplated by the colonists of British origin at least twelve years before 1795.
The records do not show the trial and execution of any of the Fédons after the abortive revolution was officially put down on June 19, 1796. His and his brother's estates were confiscated by the Crown. In the schedule of the "Return of Slaves Unattached to Estates and forfeited by attainted Persons," the following entry was placed for Belvidere, Fédon's estate:
This estate is at present in possession of the mortgagee who sold the property to Fedon and never received any part of the purchase money which was much more than the real value of the Estate.86
In the end, Campbell admitted publicly that he had overcharged Julien and Marie-Rose Cavelan Fédon for Belvidere in 1791. The abortive revolution gave him the excuse to retrieve the property and to avoid possible legal complications with Lushington and Law from the sale of the property when it was in fact mortgaged to the firm before he sold it to the Fédons. It is inconceivable that the mortgagors had defaulted for so many years without it being seized by the mortgagee. But then, Julien and Marie Rose were not present to defend themselves. The return of the forfeited estates also reveals another discrepancy: the original estate of 450 English acres bought in 1791 had shrunk in size to 360 acres in 1796. The fate of the missing 90 acres remains unknown at time of writing.
The fate of Julien Fédon remains a mystery to this day. Of all the leaders produced in the Caribbean during The Age of Revolution, he is unique in that he was never captured and made to suffer a cruel and shameful death at the hands of the forces of reaction. In the last known sighting of Fédon, his escape from his pursuers closely resembles flight:
Fedon himself has very narrowly escaped twice or thrice being taken, the last time was by throwing himself down a place where no one of our soldiers white, or black, dare venture after him; his object, and that of the few remaining out in the Woods, is to get off in a Canoe; we have by good intelligence destroyed several that were preparing in the Woods for that purpose, and I trust, that this, their last hope, will fail them.87
There was hope. Fédon managed to escape Grenada. Bryan Edwards wrote:
What was the fate of Fedon was never certainly known; but as a canoe, with a compass belonging to him nailed to the bottom of it, was found overset at some distance from the island, it was generally believed that he had drowned while endeavouring to make his escape.88
For the British soldiers and historians, the phenomenon of the nailed compass at the bottom of the canoe may have meant nothing. However, for Africans, particularly of the Kongo ethnic group, the boat, and the nailed compass, were signs of tremendous significance. If it was in fact the revolutionary leader who had left the canoe, Fédon had left a message. He had converted the canoe into an nkisi, a power symbol for his self-preservation. For the purposes of this paper, "power" is defined as "an ineffable force that stems from a belief in greater than human forces. The need for a belief in power emanates from a desire to protect and enhance human life. The concept of power springs from a fear of destruction as well as hope for order and balance."89
The word nkisi has no English translation. "Minkisi (plural of nkisi) are fabricated things, yet they can be invoked to produce desired effects, they have a will of their own, and they may willfully command the behavior of human beings ... people depend on minkisi to do things for them, even to make life itself possible."90 An nkisi could be a clay pot, a shell or a carved figurine - or a boat. The "potent power" of the nkisi is usually located in its centre. It is comprised of a round hole in which certain materials are stored. The boat, with the compass nailed in the centre seems to have been a crude but effective nkisi constructed for effecting change.
The nailing of the compass in the centre also carried a significant meaning. In African traditional religion, ritual specialists can activate or invoke spirit powers by adding materials to an object. It is quite likely that the compass, when the nail was driven into it, it changed its character as a compass, that is to say, an object for finding directions. The four cardinal points could have then meant "Yowa," the Kongo "cross" which signifies the cosmos, the four movements of the sun and the continuity of human life. The four points, and the circumference of the cross means "the certainty of reincarnation: the especially righteous Kongo person will never be destroyed but will come back in the name or body of progeny, or in the form of an everlasting pool, waterfall, stone, or mountain."95 From the standpoint of Kongo culture, the nailed compass was a message: "I will return." In the overturned canoe, some of the most important symbols of Kongo mysticism were contained.
The overturned canoe may also have been a significant Kongo symbol. The ideal Kongo existence is "Mbanza Kongo," a mountain situated over a body of water. Robert Farris Thompson explains:
The N'Kongo [i.e., an inhabitant of the capital of Kongo] thought of the earth as a mountain over a body of water which is the land of the dead, called Mpemba. In Mpemba the sun rises and sets just as it does in the land of the living...the water is both a passage and a great barrier. The world, in Kongo thought, is like two mountains opposed at their bases and separated by the ocean.
When viewed from bow to stern - or vice-versa - the overturned canoe lying on the surface of the ocean is symbolic of "Mbanza Kongo." It may also have been a message that the revolutionary chieftain had successfully made his escape. The sea was barrier to his pursuers, but at the same time, it was his passage to freedom.
Kongo culture, as well as Yoruba, was present in Grenada well into the twentieth century. Former Governor, Hesketh Bell, in his work, Obeah: Witchcraft in the West Indies,97 provided definite evidence that Kongo and Yoruba culture existed in Grenada during the nineteenth century, and even before that. Some of the ships that brought slaves to Grenada during the late eighteenth century also left from ports in central Africa. Slaves bearing such names as "Francis Congo, Robert Ebo, Antoine Congo... Couacou," were living in Grenada, thereby suggesting Kongo, Igbo and Akan origin.
If it was in fact Fédon who had left the sign - the compass was, after all, said to have belonged to him - then it suggests that he had been exposed to the traditional culture of west central Africa. It also suggests that his relationship with Grenada's Afro-Creole complex may have been stronger than those with the white European culture group. He was a rural based free coloured, not the ordinary member of that group who tended to gravitate to the towns. Most of his life was spent, apparently, in rural Grenada, where the dynamics of free coloured - slave relationships were probably more intimate. Also, given the fact that for most of his adult life he was a small farmer, apparently growing coffee and cotton, the relationships between master and slave were not as rigid as in an enterprise producing sugar.
When this is added to his record of manumissions before 1795, his ready affinity to "Mr. McBurnie's negroes" and his knowledge of the "mode of making war in the woods," a picture as of a person steeped in the African-Caribbean culture begins to emerge of this revolutionary leader.
After the captured revolutionaries were hanged and beheaded in Market Square, St. George's, transported to what is today modern Belize, and some of their wives and children in permanent exile in Trinidad and elsewhere, Grenada returned to an uneasy calm after nearly two years of internal war. The Corps of Loyal Black Rangers - a company of military slaves - busied itself in ferreting out the remaining fugitive 'brigands,' as the revolutionaries were called, for years afterward. Joachim Philip, who with Charles Nogues brought in the first Declaration and Summons to Surrender on March 4, 1795, was captured at Petit Martinique in 1803. Jacques Chadeau was captured, it is said, atop Mt. Qua-Qua, in May 1808. He had eluded capture for a remarkable 12 years. He was hanged at Cherry Hill, just west St. George's, and his body left to rot on the gallows.
Such was the fate that awaited Juien Fédon, if he was ever captured. He was not. The Minutes of the Council for December 16, 1814, show the following entry:
His Excellency the Governor communicated to the Board that he had received Information of a Nature which induced some credit to be given to it that Julien Fedon the Chief of the Brigands concerned with the Insurrection in 1795 and long supposed to be drowned had made his Escape to the Island of Cuba where he lately was or now is and that considering it to be of some Importance to ascertain this fact and if possible to apprehend the Traitor he thought it highly adviseable to know if the Commander in Chief would lend their Names in a public demand to be forthwith made on the Spanish Government to deliver him up.
This information had come to Grenada via the Governor of Trinidad, then also under British rule. At the end of the meeting, the Council resolved to request the cooperation of the Trinidad Governor to ascertain the whereabouts of one Joseph Crombet, one of the persons named in the Grenada Act of Attainder in 1795, and who was said to be then living in Trinidad. At its meeting of February 21, 1815, the Governor suggested the sending to Cuba of "a trusty Person who would by Personal Knowledge be enabled to identify the Person of Fedon should he prove to be at Cuba..."
The records have not yet yielded the outcome of this initiative. By June 1817, two years later, the matter had not returned before the Council.
Perhaps in fulfilment of the promise made in the nailed compass in the upset canoe, Julien Fédon did return. The mountain originally called Morne Vauclain, the site of his personal camp during his abortive revolution, was first named 'Morne Fédon,' meaning literally, "Fédon's Mountain," then "Fédon's Camp," a major tourist attraction in modern Grenada. Over the two centuries after the failure of his abortive revolution, he passed from mortal man to folk hero and legend, an inspiration to Grenadian and Caribbean nationalists, revolutionaries and artists.
Former Prime Minister of Grenada, Eric Gairy, once claimed to be a descendant of Fédon, and Gairy's successor, Maurice Bishop, himself a descendant of Louis La Grenade, the only major French free coloured figure who did not join the revolution, adopted Fédon as his hero. Bishop had a military camp - Camp Fedon - named in his honour during his government from 1979 to 1983. The People's Revolutionary Government, led by Maurice Bishop, also had a publishing house, "Fedon Publishers," established during this period. It was Bishop's short-lived administration that helped to revive interest in the Fédons over the last three decades.
There is a strange footnote to Bishop's interest in Julien Fédon. Together, they are perhaps the two most controversial figures in the modern history of Grenada - and the physical remains of both men cannot be readily located.
A substantial amount of research remains to be performed in order to reconstruct the story of this remarkable, controversial African-European-Caribbean family. The whole truth may perhaps never be known. Except for the decaying records kept in the Registry of the Grenada Supreme Court, the Fédon name has almost completely disappeared from the country. Outside of the dry facts gleaned from these legal documents, the only source of information on the Fédons resides in the folk memory and legends that have been handed down by the oral tradition over the preceding centuries.
Contemporary Grenada has been constructed upon a foundation of the struggle against chattel slavery and colonial rule. In 1795, Fédon accepted the mantle of leader in Grenada's most sustained struggle against both. The abortive revolution that he set in train was crushed, but slave society in Grenada was shaken to its foundations. A little more than a decade later, the British slave trade came to an end. In 1833, chattel slavery followed. In 1974, colonial rule was formally dismantled. The Fédon contribution to these causes remains to be officially recognised.