Wednesday, November 04, 1998

Origins - Nanny and her Issue

Origins: “Nanny” and Her Issue[1]
Col Benjamin Gumbs was Deputy Governor of Anguilla during the French Invasion of 1798.  As a Colonel in the local militia, he led the Anguillians in the holding off at the Sandy Hill Fort of the French invading forces from St Martin.  Every school child is taught of the rout that ensued when the French militia was chased back to their landing ground at Rendezvous Bay.  There, the invading forces re-embarked, only to be destroyed in the channel between St Martin and Anguilla by HMS Lapwing in the ensuing encounter.  Col Gumbs’ story of the 1798 battle for Anguilla, and a description of conditions in Anguilla in 1825 when he was still alive, can be read at page 225 of the well-known travel book of the time – Six Months in the West Indies by author HN Coleridge.
In 1825, the island Council of Anguilla, in existence since 1650, was dissolved.  Government was henceforth provided from St Kitts as a result of the St Kitts statute called the Anguilla Act 1825.  The arrangement between the two islands was that an Anguillian representative would be elected to the St Kitts legislature, called the Assembly.  No law affecting Anguilla could be introduced into the St Kitts Assembly unless the Anguilla representative was present.  This arrangement was to last until the Anguilla Revolution of 1967, when the Anguillians cast off the rule of St Kitts and declared themselves an independent republic.  The British army intervened in 1969, to impose direct rule, and Anguilla regained her own separate legal and constitutional identity only in 1982 when St Kitts went into independence, leaving Anguilla a fully-fledged British Overseas Territory.
In 1825, the first representative from Anguilla to the St Kits Assembly was Benjamin Gumbs-Hodge MD.  Dr Gumbs-Hodge was a medical doctor, a native of St Marten and Anguilla, the son of Thomas Hodge and his wife Deborah, the sister of Col Benjamin Gumbs.  Dr Gumbs-Hodge married his cousin, the third child of Col Gumbs, named Mary after her mother.  Dr Gumbs-Hodge, from the evidence in the records, lived and worked in Anguilla during this period, and visited St Kitts from time to time to take his place in the Assembly.  There is some indication that in later years he settled more permanently in St Kitts, where no doubt there was a greater demand for his professional services, and a better chance of earning a living.
In 1830, Col Benjamin Gumbs, now well into his eighties, executed his last will and testament.  The Will is preserved amongst the deeds and wills in the Anguilla Registry of Deeds.  The year 1830 was in the closing days of the era of slavery in the British West Indies.  The old gentleman mentions the names of his slaves in his Will, particularly the slave women who bore children for him.  And, he gives the names of each of his slave children, as he provides for their freedom after his death, and leaves property to them and their mothers.
Col Gumbs leaves all his property to his various families.  As a social commentary, this Will is an invaluable document.  Col Gumbs owned property at Upper Quarter Estate, Statia Valley, Roaches Estate, Flat Caps, and Dog Island.  Some of his property he leaves to his wife and his children by her.  The greater part of his property he divides among his families by various slave mothers.  Each of these families is described in the same terms and with the same detail as that of his lawful family.  There is no shred of shame or dissimulation in the bequests the old patriarch makes to his various children.
One of the slave women was Nanny.  We know nothing of Nanny except that she was alive and well in 1830.  From her name we can deduce that in her youth she had helped look after the children in the main household.  Nanny bore five children for Col Gumbs.  They are Richard, Ann, Tabitha, Elizabeth, and Sara.  They are all mentioned in the Will.
Nanny’s eldest child and only son, Richard, is mentioned in several of the Deeds from time to time between the years 1825 and 1855.  We can assume he was born sometime before 1800.  By his wife Mary, Richard had two sons, Samuel and John.  There is a suggestion that in their later years, Samuel and John lived with their mother Nanny in the Danish Virgin Islands.  They appear to have engaged in the inter-island trading business.  They also lived for a while in St Barths, an important French smuggling and trading entrepot, then as now.
Richard’s eldest son, Samuel, was born in 1847 and died in 1932.  In 1866 he married a poor white girl, Charlotte Maria Owen of North Hill.  Charlotte bore him three children, Anna Eliza Rebecca Gumbs, Richard Benjamin Roberts Gumbs, and John Frederick Gumbs.  In his later years, Samuel is found living at North Hill where he was engaged as a clerk in some small business.  He was a lay preacher in the Methodist Church, and a letter writer for the neighbours around.
Samuel’s last child, John Frederick Gumbs, a great grandchild of the slave Nanny, was born in 1874.  In his youth he was a sailor, the captain of the Schooner Harrington, owned by one Shervington of The Quarter in Anguilla.  He later made his money working as a boson on boats of the Harrison Line in the first decades of the 20th century.[2]  In 1896, John Frederick married Catherine Josephine Carney, the daughter of the St Kitts-born merchant and property owner, John Joseph Carney.  John Frederick died in 1951, having served for many years as the Customs Officer of Sandy Ground.
John Frederick and Catherine had one child, Emile Johnson Gumbs.  Emile Johnson was born in 1896, and lived and worked for most of his life in Kingston, Jamaica, where he died.  In 1924 he married Inez Beatrice Carty.  They had three children, John Eric, who emigrated as a young man to Ecuador; Esme, who married a US officer stationed at Coolidge, the US military air base in Antigua, and moved with him to the USA when he was transferred; and Emile Rudolph Gumbs, who remained at home.  When John Frederick died in Jamaica, his sons John Eric and Emile Rudolph brought his body back to Anguilla, and he is buried just inside the entrance of the old Anglican cemetery in Sandy Ground.  His three children are the great great grandchildren of Nanny.
Emile Rudolph we all know.  He took up the family tradition of sailing and trading throughout the islands.  In later years he joined the revolutionary struggle against the St Kitts administration, and in time became Chief Minister of Anguilla.  Queen Elizabeth knighted him in 1994 for services to Anguilla, shortly before he retired from public service.  He lives quietly with his wife Lady Josephine Gumbs in the house built by his grandfather John Frederick Gumbs on Carney land at Sandy Ground.
And so, Nanny’s issue have closed the circle of the government of this little community.  Sir Emile was not the first, nor will he be the last of the sons of the slaves and the slave owners in whose hands the destiny of Anguilla will lie in the years to come.  We must reflect from time to time on who we are and where we have come from.  It is in this way that we can choose best where we want to go in the future.
First published in “Anguilla Life” magazine in 1998

[1]               The story of the descent of Chief Minister Sir Emile Gumbs from his forebear Deputy Governor Benjamin Gumbs through his slave Nanny, as constructed from conversations by the author with Sir Emile and a study of the deeds and wills in the High Court Registry
[2]               Oral information from Sir Emile Gumbs

Tuesday, July 28, 1998

Origins: The State of Anguilla

ORIGINS: The State of Anguilla, AD 1998[1]
Cultural anthropologists recognise at least four categories of human society.  There is the band, the tribe, the chiefdom, and the state.  Let us look at each of these, and see if we can apply their characteristics to the island of Anguilla.  My aim in this little exercise is to explore how safe it is to invest your treasure in Anguilla.
The band.  The band was the earliest and tiniest society known to humankind.  The archaeological record shows that the band consisted typically of less than 100 people, mostly related by birth or marriage.  Typically, the band lacked a permanent, single place of residence.  Its land was used jointly by the whole group.  All able-bodied persons foraged for food.  There were none of the formal institutions we have in the modern state, such as laws, police or treaties.  With all members of the band related to both of any two quarrelling individuals, any fight was soon ended by the mediation of concerned onlookers.
All human beings are thought to have lived in bands until about 40,000 years ago.  Indeed, most people lived in bands as recently as 11,000 years ago, ie, at the end of the last Ice Age.  Our closest animal relatives, the gorillas and chimpanzees, still live in bands.  The band was the political, economic and social organization that we inherited from millions of years of evolutionary history.  Today, bands of humans are found only in remote parts of New Guinea and Amazonia.  The majority of us have moved on.
The tribe.  Improved technology for extracting food allowed some bands of hunter-gatherers to settle in permanent dwellings in resource-rich areas.  This led to the second stage of human development.  As shown by archaeological evidence, tribal organization emerged 13,000 years ago in the Middle East.  At that time climate change and improved technology combined to permit abundant harvests of wild cereals.  Tribes began to form.  The tribe differed from the band mainly in being larger than the band.  The tribe typically consisted of hundreds rather than dozens of people.  The tribe usually had no fixed settlement.  Like the band, the tribe lacked a bureaucracy, police force and taxes.  Every able-bodied adult, including the “big man”, participated in growing, gathering or hunting for food.  Full-time craft specialists were lacking.  Most of the independent tribes, who until recently occupied much of New Guinea, Melanesia and Amazonia, have now been subordinated into nation states.  Beginning several thousand years ago, most tribes evolved into the next stage of human civilization, the chiefdom.
The chiefdom.  The third stage of human political development is the chiefdom.  Chiefdoms first emerged in the Fertile Crescent by 5,500 BC, and by 1,000 BC in Mesoamerican and the Andes.  The chiefdom consisted typically of several thousand people.  One person, the head-chief, exercised a monopoly on the right to use force.  The food surplus generated by the commoner went to feed various sub-chiefs, their families, bureaucrats and the craft specialists who made the canoes or adzes, or worked as bird-catchers or tattooists.  While tribes and bands relied on reciprocal exchanges of gifts, chiefdoms developed a new system termed a redistributive economy.  The head-chief would receive surplus food from every farmer, and then he would either throw a feast for everybody, or else give it out again gradually in the months between harvests.  Most chiefdoms have now evolved into the modern state.  It is arguable that the chiefdom continues to exist only in what are called dictatorships.
The state.  We know from the archaeological record that the final stage, the state, began to arise in about 3,700 BC in Mesopotamia.  In Mesoamerican the date for the state is about 300 BC, while in West Africa it was about 1,000 BC.  Typically, the population of a state usually exceeds 50,000 persons.  Initially, the paramount chief’s location became the state’s capital city.  A city differs from a village in its monumental public works, palaces, and government buildings, accumulation of capital from tribute or taxes paid, and concentrations of people other than food-gatherers.  Economic specialization is more extreme in the state.  Food is produced by specialist groups of farmers, herdsmen, fishermen, and gardeners, instead of by generalists who do a bit of everything as in bands and tribes.
Even small states have more complex bureaucracies than large chiefdoms.  In a state, internal conflict resolution is formalized by the establishment of laws, a judiciary and police.  With such a large population, the onlookers to a quarrel or fight were unlikely to be related to both parties.  They were, therefore, unlikely to mediate to prevent violence.  Binding rules of conduct, or laws, began to develop.  In a state, the laws are written.  Many early states had literate societies.  In both Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica writing was developed at about the same time as the formation of states.  By contrast no chiefdom developed writing.  The state is organised on political and territorial lines.  By contrast, bands, tribes and simple chiefdoms are defined by kinship.  State bureaucrats are selected at least partly on the basis of training and merit, not on the basis of kinship, as in a chiefdom.
Anguilla.  In Anguilla almost everyone is related to everyone else.  A second-generation US- or UK-born of Anguillian ancestry is welcomed back as “one of us”.  The highest compliment is to be called a “son of the soil”.  An unrelated resident, no matter how long he has lived in Anguilla, will likely always be considered a foreigner.  Kinship, not citizenship, is the dominant determinant for acceptance into the Anguillian community.  Few of the big chiefs or the sub-chiefs will have completed a secondary education and be qualified to be described as being able to read and write.  These are the familiar characteristics of the tribe or band.
Hunter-gathering is a characteristic of the band.  With a stretch of the imagination one can consider that there are nomadic bands of Anguillians pursuing hunter-gathering existences in the forests and savannahs of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and Slough, England.  Locally, foraging activities are carried out, often with semi-official encouragement, in the freezers and store-rooms of foreign owned restaurants and hotels in Anguilla.
In Anguilla, reading and writing skills have been substituted by watching moving pictures on small screens.  No one in Anguilla reads, is a familiar boast.  Laws and regulations, the characteristic of the modern state, are regularly ignored by the locals, even if strictly enforced on the foreigner living among us.  So, building regulations and planning rules are applied selectively and mainly to foreigners.  Planning laws and Regulations are seldom applied to Belongers, and never to the chiefs.  When a copy of the rules is requested, the usual explanation given is that the rules have not been written down, but that they are binding when applied.  Thus, in Anguilla today we find many of the characteristics of the early band or tribe.
In other respects, the island shows signs of being a chieftainship.  Certainly, the size of the population is too small to justify its being considered a state.  The big-chief syndrome replaces the rule of law.  Decisions of the Executive Council, the Court and the Legislature are frustrated with impunity by the will of any strong chief or sub-chief.  To obtain a Licence, obeisance must be paid, and tribute laid at the feet of one or more sub-chief, to personally placate him and acknowledge his authority.  Gifts for such licences and permits ensure their swift processing.  So, the Work Permit for every foreign worker must be personally approved by the Minister.  Traditionally, in Anguilla such Work Permits are not granted on the basis of any regulation or principle, but arbitrarily on the basis of favour and personal whim.  Once granted, the Permit must be renewed annually through a solicitation procedure designed to debase and degrade the less-fortunate applicant.  Some government agencies and private enterprises apply rules and regulations not on the basis of law, but on the basis of kinship or personal instructions from an important chief.  Certificates that should be issued as of right are sometimes inexplicably held up until word comes from “above”.
Until 40 years ago, Anguilla had no Legislature, Executive or real Judiciary.  The High Court that sat in Anguilla was considered foreign, as the judge came from overseas, and its decisions disrespected.  Few major governmental edifices existed.  Subsistence agriculture was the dominant economic activity.  Smuggling provided a variety of food and drink, and substituted for a successful cash crop.
Today, our principal economic activity can be seen as a variation on the once-honourable occupation of wrecking.  The lanterns on the coconut trees that once lured treasure-laden ships onto the reefs for pillaging have been replaced by the visits of overseas investors.  The investor is expected to attend on various local island chieftains.  They then invite the visitor to bring some of his capital to the island.  They hint at full cooperation, duty-free concessions, and untaxed profits.  Once the investor has been committed, every effort is turned to forestalling his project as long as possible from becoming a profitable concern.  Further tribute in one form or another paid to the chieftain may once again smooth the way.  Local observers joke that the island’s airport seems to have been deliberately constructed so that the arriving bright-eyed prospective investor can have no eye contact with the departing, frustrated and bankrupt investor.
A large, successful, foreign-owned hotel is not always an unmitigated blessing in the eyes of the local chief who in the first place induced the investor to put it there.  It could become a competing centre of power and influence that puts the chief in a quandary.  Loss of influence or control might become threatening.  If and when this happens, the investor is held responsible for every problem.  He is subdued and gently humiliated by finding crucial permits, licences and exemptions arbitrarily refused.  This clever, age-old tactic effectively keeps the investor constantly off-balance, duly submissive, cooperative, and gushing with tribute.
To mix and change the metaphor some more, the elite (in local dialect “the Executive Committee”) exploits the labour of the imported slaves (recipients of work permits) and the wealth, skills and talents of captured foes (code-named “investors”) who labour in the fields to construct public monuments and palaces (dubbed “hotels”) to the honour, glory and fame of the chieftain.
The hunter-gatherers of a generation ago who foraged in the arid fields of pigeon peas, Indian corn, and sweet potatoes, or harpooned fish on the reef, to keep body and soul together, have been succeeded by their children.  The crop has now changed to ‘plane-loads of tourists who arrive annually with the change of the season.  Once here they are expertly cultivated and cropped.  Suspicion of these visiting foreign possessors of a different culture, and with bottomless pockets, is encouraged by the chiefs and would-be chiefs alike.  In this way the chiefs coerce their tribesmen to maintain them in their high positions of exploitation.
In light of all the above, it is clear that Anguilla is principally a chieftainship.  We still have a long way to go before we can be called a modern state, ruled by law rather than by men.
28 July 1998
Revised 8 August 2014
Revised 3 June 2017

[1]       This article was first published in Anguilla Life Magazine to commemorate the occasion when the island’s Chief Minister visited a foreign-owned hotel, which had recently fired a member of staff caught stealing from the kitchen.  By threatening to withhold work permits required for foreign management, he successfully “persuaded” the hotel owner to return the larcenous member of kitchen staff to happy employment in the kitchen.  This instance of bad governance instead of being condemned was hailed by the Chief Minister and his followers as evidence of his great patriotism, leadership, and love of his people.

Tuesday, January 13, 1998

1998 Report to Chief Minister on Rifkin Letter

(1)         A reading of the international press over the past several years reveals that there is growing pressure on the UK government to rationalize the status of the British Dependent Territories (BDTs).
(2)         During the year 1998 the Labour Government in the United Kingdom will continue the exercise begun under the previous Conservative regime of reviewing the constitutional status of the BDTs.  The likelihood is that within the next 5 years all BDTs will either be Overseas Territories of Europe (OTs) or will have gone independent.  The British Government will shortly place on the table for the BDTs to discuss a proposal to abolish BDT citizenship and to make all BDT citizens full British citizens.
(3)         Pressure has principally come from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), headquartered in Geneva, concerned about the extent to which London and the BDTs are used by international criminals to launder hundreds of billions of illegal money each year.  (London is internationally recognised as one of the world’s largest launderers of illegal money.  Among the BDTs, Jersey and Cayman are two of the world’s largest offshore financial centres.  Cayman alone is the world’s 4th largest banking centre.  Bermuda is one of the world’s largest reinsurance centres).  The Anguillian Government, with the assistance of various professionals on the island, is presently striving to develop Anguilla’s financial services industry.
(4)         Anguilla has selected as its chosen tax regime a zero income tax system.  We pay for government services by taxing imports and consumption.  We have no taxes on income, profits, capital growth, dividends, royalties or interest.  Such a tax regime makes us attractive to international business persons as a jurisdiction to establish their trading and investment vehicles in pursuit of their international ventures.  If Anguilla can build on its incipient financial services industry, there will in due course develop in Anguilla a viable alternative and additional industry to the present fragile sole industry of Anguilla, tourism.  All of this is anathema to the bureaucracies of Washington and Brussels.  Especially if, as at present, we refuse to respect, far less enforce, the punitive tax regimes of those countries. 
(5)         Pressure is building up from the European Union bureaucracy in Brussels (EU) to have the Dutch, French and British rationalize and homogenize their OTs.  The Brussels civil servants of the EU do not understand how to deal with OT extensions of their European members, and want to have one rule applying to all of them.  Brussels preferably would like all of the OTs to be treated as homogenous extensions of Europe, so as to present a minimum of complexity for administration.
(6)         The consequence of the above influences and trends is that pressure will inexorably build on the British Government in the years ahead to impose centralized regulation, and to increase and enforce taxation on the BTDs.  Administrative convenience for central regulators, intelligence gatherers, and law enforcers, will be the touchstone of future policy development.  The needs and concerns of small island territories will be brushed aside, as the OTs are more and more marginalized to suit the convenience of the major players on the world stage.
(7)         The package offered to us will be wrapped in something called “good governance”.  We will be told that as OTs we will enjoy the privileges of EU membership, but that privileges come with responsibilities.  We will be told that Britain has obligations to ensure that her OTs meet the high standards of transparency, human rights, and respect for law, expected by her European partners.  We will be told that as OTs we will have to give up some of our rights and customs to be able to meet this high standard expected of us.  We must view all such approaches skeptically, and refuse to be drawn into what may be a baited trap.
(8)         The conferring of full British citizenship on us in place of BDT citizenship will confer some advantages on us.  At present we are not allowed to work in Britain without a work permit.  If we wish to holiday in Europe we have to obtain a visa.  British citizenship will allow the few of us who wish to visit Paris, London or Berlin the freedom to do so.  At present there is full employment in Anguilla, and there are few of us who would want to work in London or Paris.  With British citizenship, that option would be available to the few of us who would wish to pursue a career in those capitals, and who are presently obstructed from doing so.  For the sake of our children, some of us may want to relocate to a part of the worlds where there are more opportunities than in our small island.  In the event of a downturn in the Anguilla economy at some date in the future, increased options for finding employment in Europe through our holding British citizenship will appear an even bigger advantage than it does now.  At present, few if any advantages are apparent to us by our acquiring full British citizenship.
(9)         It has been estimated that some 3% only of BDT citizens remain after the departure of Hong Kong.  There are fewer BDT citizens who would wish to emigrate and go to live in Europe in any one year than there are East Europeans, Asians and Africans that land illegally on the beaches of Europe each day.  Giving the people of our small island full British citizenship does not pose any kind of cultural or social threat to the UK or to Europe. 
(10)     British citizenship with full reciprocity, by contrast, poses an immense threat to the people of our small territories.  Anguillians have as an example of what to avoid the neighbouring island of French St Martin.  In 1970 the population of French St Martiners, mainly native-born, was probably less than 15,000.  By 1997 that population had increased to over an estimated 50,000, most of them from Metropolitan France.  Hardly a native St Martiner is to be seen in the streets of French St Martin today.  Native St Martiners are a disgruntled and displaced minority in their own country.  The very peddlers in the market-place are metropolitan Frenchmen.  Anguillians are resolved that such a fate will not befall us.  We will accept British Citizenship only on the basis that there is not reciprocity, and Anguillians are permitted to preserve our culture and society.
(11)     In the event that the conferring on us of British Citizenship would in our view have the consequence of doing harm to our identity, culture, society, and legal and constitution systems, then we would opt to retain our existing BDT Citizenship.  If the disadvantages of full British Citizenship outweigh the advantages, then it would be pointless for us to give up the advantages we presently have.  The bureaucracy in Brussels might find it more convenient not to have to deal with us on our terms.  But, the convenience to Brussels is far outweighed by the right of us Anguillians to retain our legal, constitutional, social and cultural systems.
(12)     The concerns of the FATF over money laundering and the international drugs trade are noted.  However, we in Anguilla have learned over the years that the sensationalist international press has blown the involvement of the BDT banking system in illegal money laundering activities out of all proportion.  We suspect that the real target is not the drugs trade, but the many financial refugees from the litigation racket and tax burdens of European and North American states, who seek refuge for their hard-earned and at-risk assets in our offshore financial centres.
(13)     Anguilla has few natural resources besides the sea, sand and sun that surround us, and the skills and wit of its well-educated population.  We exploit the first of these two “natural resources” through the tourist industry. We have determined to apply the second of our “natural resources” to our lack of income, gift, profit, and death taxes, to develop a viable international financial services industry.  Anguilla is already a regional financial centre.  According to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank reports, Anguilla banks two-thirds of the foreign currency circulating in the Eastern Caribbean.  Anguilla is determined within the next 20 years to be a major financial services centre, recognised world-wide, not just regionally.
(14)     The provision of offshore financial services will offer our young people a variety of professional, business and employment opportunities that do not presently exist.  We as a government and the private sector have embraced offshore financial services as an acceptable industry for Anguilla.  No other industry offers young Anguillians so many career opportunities and produces so few industrial pollutants as the international financial services industry.  Anguilla has resolved not to impose any system of direct taxation on its people or on those who use our jurisdiction to effect aspects of their international trade and business.
(15)     With the above in mind, what are some of the basic, non-negotiable, elements of Anguillian society and community that our leaders should keep in focus at all times in discussions with the Europeans on the coming change of status of Anguilla as a BOT?  The following list is not exhaustive.  It includes:
(a) Retention of the Anguilla Constitution (as amended by Anguillians from time to time) as the supreme constitutional document of the land;
(b) Retention of the House of Assembly to enact allows, other than those that can constitutionally be enacted at Westminster, that will be enforceable on the people of Anguilla;
(c) Retention of full internal self-government;
(d) Retention of our present right that no taxation be imposed without the consent of the people of Anguilla;
(e) Retention of the constitutional status of Anguillian Belongership with all the rights and privileges of Anguilla Belongership;
(f)  A reduction of the reserved powers of the Governor, and an increase in the powers of the locally elected government;
(g) Allowing Anguillians the constitutional right to secede or withdraw as an OT and from the EU at any time its people should agree to do so, eg, to join a wider West Indian nation should that development ever arise.
Don Mitchell QC (Chairman)
Hon Hubert Hughes
Ms Ijahniah Christian
Dr Phyllis Fleming-Banks
Ms Josephine Gumbs
Mr Alistair Richardson
Pastor Cecil Richardson
19 January 1998