Remarks by Hon. Rufus Bousquet at the ceremony in Observance of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade
Home Up Remarks by Hon. Rufus Bousquet at the ceremony in Observance of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Address by Honourable Rufus Bousquet at the Annual Dinner and Dance Gala of the Saint Lucia-Toronto Association Independence Anniversary Message From Honourable Rufus Bousquet February 22, 2007


Remarks by Honourable Rufus Bousquet


Minister for External Affairs,


International Financial Services, Information and Broadcasting


at the ceremony in Observance of the 200th Anniversary


of the Abolition of the Slave Trade at Derek Walcott Square


Sunday March 25th, 2007


Excellency, Dame Pearlette Louisy, Governor General of Saint Lucia, Rt. Honourable Sir John Compton, Prime Minister, Members of the Cabinet of Ministers, Parliamentarians, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, other distinguished guests, citizens of Saint Lucia, Ladies and Gentlemen,


We gather here today in a mood of reflection, of remembrance, but also of celebration. Reflection on the dehumanizing nature of the slave trade and all its ramifications, remembrance of the struggles which our ancestors had to endure and celebration, that inspite of all of this, the Children of the slave trade have survived, have excelled and have prospered.


Notwithstanding this, the legacies of the slave trade and of slavery itself remain vivid in our minds and our psyche and many have argued, that some of the characteristics which our nationals exhibit even today are a direct result of this history. Characteristics such as dependency, low self esteem, poor interpersonal skills and other related negative features.


But perhaps I should spend some time focusing on some of the reasons why the slave trade was abolished in the first place; Because contrary to some accounts which indicate that the abolition of the slave trade was a result of an act of magnanimity by the colonial power, there were circumstances which in fact made the continuation of the slave trade untenable.


Economic Reasons


Sugar in the West Indies was entering Britain free of duties (Navigation Acts). It faced dire competition from beet sugar and sugar from the French colonies. Although West Indian sugar was more expensive to produce, due to the lack of duties imposed, it entered the British market at a cheaper rate. It is argued especially by the late Dr. Eric Williams that Britain wanted to limit the amount of West Indian sugar that entered British markets. It was decided that the way that this could be done was to end the slave trade as the slaves produced that sugar. However, when this did not curb the amount of sugar entering Britain they opted to end slavery itself.


In addition, some West Indian planters were coming to favour abolition. In 1806, so much sugar was sent to Britain that the price slumped and the average planter made no profit. These planters believed their losses would become even greater if the new conquests of Trinidad and Guyana were turned over to sugar. This could be prevented if they were not able to import slaves and starve future producers of the labour required to produce additional sugar.

Humanitarian Reasons


In England, the Quarters became the first campaigners against the slave trade and in 1727 passed a proposal against it. In 1787 the Quakers formed the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. According to William Claypole and John Robottom, the members believed that slavery could be forced to collapse once planters could not acquire new slaves. Ending the trade, rather than slavery itself, would avoid the question of whether the planters should be compensated for the loss of their slave property. Another advantage was that the laws affecting trade were made by the English Parliament, whereas to end slavery itself would mean interfering with laws made by the colonial assemblies. The most resolute spokesman in the House of Commons for abolition was William Wilberforce. Although Wilberforce and the abolitionists put forward numerous proposals to abolish the slave trade as well as collected evidence of its atrocities, success did not come quickly. Finally, however, on March 25th, 1807, the British Parliament passed the Abolition Act.

The dehumanization, degradation and debasement which slavery heaped upon the Africans was visible from their capture in Africa, through to the middle passage and was most blatant in slave plantations in the colonies of the New World.


  • The separation of individuals from their families and geographic and social roots


  • Their capture like animals, chained and horded like mindless beasts to the coasts and waiting ships


  • (To maximize profits) as many slaves as was physically possible were packed onto slave ships and chained together by hand and feet. Many died on the journey from diseases like smallpox and dysentery. Others committed suicide refusing to eat. Yet others were crippled for life because of the way they were chained.


  • Branding and mutilation was also readily practiced.


  • Whipping was the main method for controlling slaves. The number of lashes depended on the seriousness of the offence (39 lashes was the number for most offenses. One caught runaway slave received 200 lashes and this would have continued if the plantation master’s wife had not pleaded for his life).


  • Slaves were in fields from sunrise to sunset and at harvest time they did 18 hour days. Women worked the same hours as men and pregnant women were expected to continue until their child was born often in the fields of forced labour.


  • In those conditions the death rate was naturally high and so child bearing started at the age of 13. By 20, women were expected to have 4 or 5 children. Some plantation owners promised women their freedom after 15 children.


That we have survived is due in no small measure to the resilience of our forefathers. It is this resilience and endurance which we must now call upon as we observe this anniversary.


Today marks the 200th year since the Proclamation of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The Caribbean Community successfully initiated the co-sponsorship of a Resolution on the Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade at the 61st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Most importantly, the 2006 Resolution, among other things, acknowledges that the slave trade and the legacy of slavery are at the heart of situations of profound social and economic inequity, hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice, which continue to affect people of African descent today and recalls the reference in the Durban Declaration on the importance of “provision of effective remedies, recourse, redress and compensatory and other measures at the national, regional and international levels”, aimed at countering the continued impact of slavery and the slave trade.


The Resolution which was adopted in November 2006 with the support of an overwhelming number of Member States of the UN designates March 25, 2007, as the international day for the Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, urges all Member States of the United Nations that have not already done so to develop programmes, to educate and inculcate in future generations the lessons, history and consequences of slavery and the slave trade and requests the Secretary-General of the United Nations to establish an outreach programme to commemorate the anniversary, including the holding of a Special Session of the UNGA on March 25th, 2007. It also requests the UN Secretary-General to submit to the 62nd Session of the General Assembly, a special report on initiatives by States to implement the relevant paragraphs in the Durban Declaration aimed at countering the legacy of slavery and contributing to the restoration of the dignity of the victims of slavery and the slave trade.


As we reflect on these issues today, let us re-commit ourselves to the ideals of struggle, of endurance of hard work; The qualities which have seen us produce two nobel laureates and many other individuals of world repute whose outstanding individual qualities have served not only St. Lucia but the Caribbean and indeed the world.

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