PEP COLUMN: Royals should have been handed their bill
Instead of expending $800 000 of our citizens’ hard earned money on hosting a visit to Barbados by Queen Elizabeth II’s son, our Government should be presenting both the British Government and the Royal Family with demands for the payment of “reparations”(or “compensation”) to our nation!
Reparations are owed, not only for the damage inflicted through slavery and the slave trade, but also for the systematic plundering of the tax revenues of Barbados by the British Monarchy between the years 1663 and 1838! The facts are as follows:-
By 1663, some 36 years after the settlement of Barbados, the early Barbadian land-occupiers were extremely concerned that they had no security of title to their land, and that they were considered mere tenants-at-will of the purported private “proprietor” of Barbados – the Earl of Carlisle.
This led a number of these early Barbadians to encourage the then King of England to supplant the Earl of Carlisle. Furthermore, as an inducement to the King, it was suggested that if he did so he could benefit financially by extracting a handsome tax from his new colony.
This idea proved to be so tempting to King Charles II that he immediately acted upon it by cancelling the Earl of Carlisle’s claim to Barbados, and sending his own Governor – Lord Willoughby – to Barbados with instructions to put such a tax in place through the local House of Assembly.
Lord Willoughby arrived in Barbados in August 1663, and, having failed to recognize that the old regime’s House of Assembly was no longer legal or valid, proceeded to insist that these Assembly-men pass an Act conferring on the King of England an annual 4½ per cent tax on every thing grown or manufactured and shipped from Barbados.
The Assembly-men resisted, leading Lord Willoughby to use such threats and force that the leader of the resistance – Colonel Farmer – was arrested and sent to England as a prisoner, on charges of sedition and high treason!
It is in these circumstances that the notorious 4½ per cent tax was put in place, and was used by the British Monarchy for the next 175 years to extract a massive amount of capital from Barbados – capital that was largely produced by the skill and labour of generations of enslaved black Barbadians.
So onerous was this imposition on Barbados, that on no less than 10 different occasions over the life of the tax, the Barbadians officially appealed to the British monarch to relieve them of this unjust burden.
When the Barbadians finally succeeded in having this iniquitous tax discussed in the British Parliament in the 1820s and 1830s, one Lord Brougham described it as “the most injurious . . . in the history of taxation.”
It was recorded in the British Parliament that the massive sums of money that had been extracted from Barbados had been used to feather the nests of several members of the British aristocracy. Thus, financial resources that should have remained in Barbados to develop infrastructure and institutions for the benefit of future generations of Barbadians were used to enrich England and Englishmen!
Literally millions of pounds sterling had been extracted from Barbados! Indeed, the sum was so large that in the 1820s it was said to be equivalent to three times the value of all the real estate in the island.
If therefore we convert these 19th century sums of money to 21st century values, we will realize that Barbados is owed billions of dollars! And of course, this is separate and distinct from the additional billions owed in reparations for slavery and the slave trade!