Caribbean History

Throughout Caribbean history, mulattos as the majority of the free coloreds, have constituted a significant amount of the population. In the specific islands of Barbados, Saint Domingue, and Jamaica, the status of the mulattos during particular times, differed from one to the other. The economic, social, and political structures within these islands affected mulattos in each and every way. On the island of Barbados in the mid-seventeenth century, Britain maintained control. The crop of sugar cane was booming throughout the island. However, much to the disapproval of Britain, her island began to attract the Danish merchants. The planters on the island of Barbados began to trade this precious crop of sugar cane with the Dutch and were making immense profits. Britain attempted to resolve this by passing several Navigation Acts in 1650-1651. These Acts stated that Barbados, as well as Britainís other colonies, were to be under the influence of Englandís trade and no other. Eventually, Britain perceived London as the major warehouse of the Caribbean. They wanted the profit of all Caribbean goods to be made within Britain. Amidst all of this imperial chaos were the mulattos. As a whole these people were known as free coloreds. They were the sons and daughters of white planters and black female slaves. The white planters wanted their illegitimate children to grow up free. However, mulattos were forbidden to own plantations and were mostly poor. They consisted of artisans, skilled workers on plantations, clerks, traders and part-time soldiers in local militias. The island of Barbados was completely occupied with plantations. Barbados was on the verge of becoming the Caribbeanís primary sugar producer. The role of the mulattos through this time period was trivial. Although they were a fairly large population, emphasis was placed on the slaves that were producing Britainís gold, sugar cane. The British government was concentrating on acquiring more slaves for their new plantations. Meanwhile, the mulattos as a growing force, were being overlooked and oppressed by Britainís selfish officials. The year of 1790 on the island of Saint Domingue instituted much change. Although, sugar was introduced to the French islands later than others, by 1790, Saint Domingue was well established as a dominant sugar producer. This island was achieving greater amounts of capital than any of the British islands. Saint Domingue was achieving this by means of lower export duties and a wider range of markets. With this fact came the presence of large plantations which in turn came the influx of huge quantities of African slaves. Planters as a result wanted the power to make their own judgments about laws dealing with their plantations and slaves. Consequently, in March of 1790, The French Revolution sparked the Estates General to transform into The National Assembly. This Assembly granted the West Indian assemblies of planters to make their own laws. This decision troubled the mulatto population of Saint Domingue. These mulattos were receiving better treatment than any other mulatto population. French laws allowed them to own land and become masters of plantations. Mulattos were wealthier within Saint Domingue. These free men and women of partial color were worried that planters would use their new position to enact racist laws against them. Driven by fear, the free coloreds and mulattos began to find a means to protect themselves. Word of these actions caught in France, in Paris, the group Amis des Noirs (Friends of Black People) formed. A man named Vincent Oge petitioned the National Assembly of France to grant blacks and free coloreds liberty and equality. The Assembly refused and Oge reacted by traveling to Saint Domingue to rally the free coloreds and mulattos. Unfortunately, the mulattos did not respond and Oge and his followers were captured and executed. Mulattos wanted to maintain their status as free coloreds but were shocked and enraged about Ogeís death. France realized the unsettled notions that The French Revolution instilled within Saint Domingueís population. Franceís own social divisions between her wealthy and middle class had carried over into her colonies. The white planters wanted power as did the black population. So, here in the year 1790 Saint Domingue sits on the brink of a massive revolution caused by immense social divisions. In which case, mulattos were playing a major role within its development. Jamaica in the late 1860ís was amongst the presence of uncompromising change. Emancipation had been well established throughout the Caribbean islands at this time period. Freed blacks and mulattos were involved in the struggle for land on the island of Jamaica. They complained that parish vestry committees and magistrates were using the law to prevent black ownership of land. They claimed that a great deal of rich land was unused and it should become Crown land, or public land. The governor of Jamaica at this time, Edward Eyre, was opposed to this idea and the Queen of Britain proved to be also. Consequently, the Morant Bay riots which involved a tremendous amount of free blacks and mulattos led to Eyreís apparent realization of Jamaicaís problems. Although the events at Morant Bay were not organized or planned, their impact played an important role in Jamaicaís change to Crown government. Eyre told the British government that there was word among the coloreds and mulattos that they planned to make Jamaica into a second Haiti. Britainís assembly then out of fear, turned her colonyís government around and elected a council for a Crown government. This transition in Jamaica was quite significant for free coloreds and mulattos. After two hundred years of representative government, Jamaica had become a Crown colony. This implemented a change in the life of every colored person throughout the island. Britain sent a new governor by the name of Grant to Jamaica. He began in the late 1860ís, to execute a cut in power of those who had been oppressing the free blacks and mulattos. This was a time of conceivable hope for the colored population of Jamaica. There are various contrasting points evident throughout this inquiry into mulatto presence in specific Caribbean islands. Although the time periods are obviously a major basis for many strong differences, other factors come into view. For instance, there is a significant difference between the treatment and social status of mulattos within British colonies verses French colonies. In the mid-seventeenth century in Barbados, a British colony, mulattos were an irrelevant force among the greed driven white planters. Their social status was poor. While in the French colony of Saint Domingue in 1790, mulattos as free coloreds were the strength behind the movement towards becoming the independent state of Haiti. Their upright status was becoming threatened by unjust planters and they chose to react by revolting. In the island of Jamaica, mulattos despite their freedom, were losing an equality battle against strict island magistrates. These mulattos in the late 1860ís were soon provided with the opportunity of new government. A government which looked to be moving in the direction toward deserved equality for any colored person. Economically, all three nations were quite stable. Barbados was at the height of its sugar production as was Saint Domingue. Britainís eyes were on profit and not the mulatto population of Barbados. The mulattos on the island of Barbados were insignificant in the eyes of their mother country. They did not affect the thriving economy of their island. In Saint Domingue, mulattos on the other hand, were extremely crucial. Their population of free people held the position of satisfactory status. They sustained the power to bring Saint Domingue to a revolution. However, their actions eventually brought Saint Domingueís economy to a massive halt. Politically, Saint Domingue and Jamaica were affected by their mulatto population in a great way. As I have stated earlier, Saint Domingueís free mulattos instituted the collapse of the Crown existence in the island. Also, in Jamaica, the mulattos and colored society raised the dilemma of biased vestry and magistrate committees. This, as well as their rigid revolts, led to the establishment of Britainís Crown colonies after two hundred years of representative government.