The Battle of St. George’s Cay, 1969 in 1898 (Letter to the Editor)
The Battle of St. George’s Cay, 1969 in 1898
I can recall first reading Knowing Down Our Own Thing about three years ago. I was captured by the opening lines “The masters of any society, legitimate or illegitimate, have the power to shape historical accounts of events to suit their ends”.
|X Communication (Cover)|
The next day I found myself purchasing a copy of X Communication (1995). The writing style captured my interest as did the life experiences balanced with some humour.
My focus, however, is to address issues which over the years came as a result of ‘fine tuning’ the perspective of the battle (“Tenth Perspective”, Amandala, 2007).
In 1969, you argued that the celebrations of Battle came about through the efforts of “the sycophantic Creole bourgeoisie” to legitimize their “supremacy in the civil service” (1995, 1).
You see, your 1969 thesis matches perfectly in the events of 1898 and deserve to be expounded upon.
At the time of your writing, you were not deeply interested in all the details of the battle. The recorded facts are not in dispute (Judd 1989). The essential question was “When and why did the celebrations of the Battle take place? Why should we celebrate ‘slave loyalty’?” This is where the year 1898 becomes important. This is the year the Centennial Committee came into being.
|Defense of the Settlers...|
The pattern that emerged was that the Battle was used to harmonize the master-slave/labor relations that existed in the colony. More than that, the Centennial Committee used this celebration as a means by which they could validate their emerging Creole identity and assert their status as the Natives of the colony.
Scholarly works on this matter are those by Assad Shoman (1994), Anne Macperson (2003, 2007) and Karen Judd (1989, 1992). Their works are heavily based on evidence in the Clarion and the Colonial Guardian available at the Belize Archives in Belmopan.
There are many articles which base themselves on the idea that Simon Lamb initiated the Centennial Celebrations. However, Lamb is not listed as a Committee member (See Clarion, April, 1898).
In fact, one of the celebrations that Simon Lamb did spear head was the 1st August Emancipation Jubilee in 1888. The formation of the People’s Committee came into being as a reaction “to the August Emancipation Jubilee by marking the battle anniversary a month later with a private evening entertainment,” that same year (Macpherson 2003, 116).
|Clarion April 29, 1898|
Simon Lamb does appear in the committee, to my knowledge, however, by 1907, seven years before his passing in 1914.
I want to hypothesize that Lamb become active in its celebration upon realizing that the “Emancipation” celebration was not very well supported by the other members of the middle class and the colonial authorities. Interestingly, Emancipation Day continues to pass us by, year after year, without any celebrations.
It is interesting to read the speeches that were given on the occasion. No one dared to point out the inhumane treatment endured by the enslaved much less did anyone mention the enslaved resistance against the ‘masters’.
Actually, there were members of the People's Committee who even-though they could trace their African heritage through their maternal lines, never attempted to do so. No, there weren’t any benefits in doing that…
Here a few quotes from the Bishop of Honduras who on September 11th in 1898 addressed the congregation gathered St. John's Cathedral as a part of the Centennial Celebrations said:
|Clarion Sep 16, 1898|
"Your ancestors have conquered this country for England, remember that England is the greatest civilizing and missionary power in the world and that she only conquers by the power of God" (Clarion, 1898).
Dear Editor, in all this, I’m attempting to highlight the fact that your analysis was right on track in 1969 and to spur discussions on the matter. Yet, as I’m sure you have realized, it is important to point out that the symbolic meaning and significance of celebrating the 10th varies upon gender, class, and ethnic backgrounds through time and space.
This is a follow up to my post on The Battle of St. George’s Cay Celebrations: Retracing ItsDevelopment
Colonial Guardian 16 September. 1888. Belize Archives.
Clarion April 1898. Belize Archives.
Cain, Ernest. “The life story of Simon Lamb”. Excerpt from an unpublished manuscript. Retrieved from:http://amandala.com.bz/news/the-life-story-of-simon-lamb/
Defence of the Settlers of Honduras Against the Unjust and Unfounded Representations
of Col. George Arthur, Late Superintendent of the Settlement (London: A. J. Valpy, 1823). Retrieved from: http://books.google.com.bz/books/about/The_defence_of_the_settlers_of_Honduras.html?id=wsP68VpPgfUC&redir_esc=y
Lamb, Simon. Biography by National Heritage Library: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BxhTSw46jsthMkRBNXFRdUN0ZmM and http://www.bnlsis.org/dotnetnuke/BelizeanBiographies.aspx
“Imagining the Colonial Nation: Race, Gender, and Middle-Class Politics in Belize, 1888–1898.” In Race and Nation in Modern Latin America, edited by Nancy Appelbaum, Anne S. Macpherson, and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt, 108–31. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003
Judd, Karen. (1989). "White Man, Black Man, Baymen, Creole Racial Harmony and Ethnic Identity in Belize". Paper presented at the 15th International Congress, Latin American Studies Association, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Retrieved from:http://lasa.international.pitt.edu/members/congress-papers/lasa1989/files/JuddKaren.pdf
Macpherson, Anne S. (2007). From Colony to Nation: Women Activists and the Gendering of Politics in Belize, 1912-1982. USA: University of Nebraska.
Metzgen, Monrad Sigfrid (ed.), 1928, Shoulder to Shoulder or the Battle of St. George's Cay. Available at: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxhTSw46jsthandJN1BEUkx3LU0
Ramos, Adele. “Founder of the 10th celebrations, Simon lamb, remembered”. In Amandala: http://amandala.com.bz/news/founder-of-the-10th-celebrations-simon-lamb-remembered/
Shoman, Assad. (1994, Revised 2000). Thirteen chapters of a history of Belize. Belize: Angelus Press.
Vernon, L. (1994) I Love to Tell The Story. Heritage Printers, Belize City. Availabe online:http://www.sjc.edu.bz/belizeanstudies/newsmodule/view/section/13/id/22/src/@random4aa17babe0057/
* Unfortunately, Google has blocked us from downloading "free ebooks" (outdated copyright materials). I'm not sure what is the plan there, but it seems it's a country restriction. However, feel free to email me for a copy.