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Wednesday, 30 September 2015 22:05

History of Anguilla

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Anguilla, once a lush island with dense rain forest, was discovered some 4,000 years ago by an Arawak-speaking Amerindian people who called it "Malliouhana". The Arawak, skilled farmers and fishermen and good at pottery making, had slowly made their way to the islands from South America by raft or dug out canoe.

When the English colonized Anguilla in 1650, they met no Arawaks, but their settlement was wiped out in 1656 by Amerindians from a neighboring isle who "killed almost all the men, plundered and burnt the houses, but kept the women and children as slaves". 10 years later, 300 French raided, and terrorized the people who fled into the woods.

Poor returns in cotton, which had replaced tobacco as the cash crop, created considerable hardships which increased from the 1688.

By the early 1700s, the remaining, resolute settlers had turned to sugar as the principal cash crop, the island undergoing transformation from a predominantly white society of small farmers to one mostly populated by African slaves.

In 1744, 300 Anguillians, assisted by two privateers from St. Kitts, captured St.Martin , the French half of our neighboring isle. In 1745, 700 French, on two frigates under M. de la Touche, retaliated from Crosus Bay, only to be repulsed. In 1796, 400 French tried once more, destroying the main settlements at South Hill and The Valley before the British frigate HMS Lapwing sunk their two warships, Le Desius and La Vaillante, causing much loss of life.

In 1825, British pushed Anguilla into a union with St.Kitts-Nevis. On Britain's recommendation, Anguilla was allowed to send one elected representative to the St.Kitts House of Assembly. In the 1840s, the island settled down, as a society of peasant farmers, fishermen and seafarers.

After the prolonged drought and great famine in the 1890s, when many had to creep into "the woods and gather berries and herbs for food", and the depression in the 1920s and 1930s, Anguillian men flocked to Santo Domingo to work in the cane fields, some later going to Aruba and Curacao to work in the oil refineries.

Reform and limited franchise came in 1936 due to original labour disturbances brought on by the depression, the Moyne Commission being set up by Britain study social and economic conditions in the colonies, resulting in universal adult suffrage in 1952.

The Federation collapsed in 1962, and Britain's failure to form the federation of the "Little Eight" brought new constitutions, to most islands, granting Statehood in Association with Britain. The Creation of the Associated State of St.Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla , on February 1967, without the wish on the people, sparked off the Anguilla Revolution.

On Anguilla Day, May 30, 1967, Anguillians marched on the Police headquarters and expelled the 13-man contingent of St.Kitts policemen. A peacekeeping Committee, established to run the affairs of the island until elections were duly carried out, approved the June 10 invasion on St.Kitts when the Defense Force camp and Police Headquarters were attacked by eighteen men, five of whom were captured.

After several years of negotiations Anguilla became a separate British Dependent territory on the 19th December 1980. A proud day for all the Anguillians, celebrated on May 29th, Anguilla Day.

(January 1981: Mr. Webster receives a fan-fare of music and cheers during Separation
Celebrations at the Park which bears his name.) The Anguilla Revolution of l967 had several leaders but it was Ronald Webster's determination and guts coupled with the resolve of the Anguillian people,
which saw the struggle through to a successful conclusion with Anguilla's achievement of formal and legal separation from the State of St. Kitt~Nevis-Anguilla on l9 th December 1980.

Webster gave courageous leadership at a time when it was badly needed and had instilled in the minds of the people that their goals were achievable what ever the odds. He enkindled hope in their hearts and had come to be regarded as the Father of the Anguillian nation. Under his stubborn leadership the people refused to succumb to the myriad obstacles which confronted them in their struggle for self-determination.

Once the struggle was over, Anguilla experienced a complete economic and social metamorphosis. The removal of St. Kitts' choke hold allowed the laying of the ground work for economic take-off and resulted in an improved standard of living for the people of Anguilla which presently ranks among the highest in the Caribbean.

Ronald Webster, like every human being, had his weaknesses. One of his greatest liabilities was his authoritarian leadership style (This leadership style may have been good for the Revolution but not for the democratic institutions—the political culture which emerged from the Revolution.) He developed personal political parties and as a consequence Anguilla had almost 14 years of personal rule. Webster centralized the decision-making process and brought under his control every aspect of government. He was of the genuine impression that this was the best way of ensuring that Anguilla moved forward but his defeat in the 1984 general elections showed that a majority of Anguillian people thought otherwise.

There had been attempts, over the years, to ignore and discredit Ronald Webster's contribution to the Anguilla struggle primarily on the basis of his performance in government in the post-revolutionary period. It is true that the had political shortcomings— that his way was the only way, but we cannot deny and history will not deny that he was a great revolutionary leader.

Excerpt from a 25th Anniversary Commemorative booklet of Anguilla's revolution produced by the National Bank Of Anguilla.
 
 
 

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