Tuesday, 31 January 2012 08:37
This is an extract from the introduction to the seventh chapter of the historical novel ‘Bahama Saga’ by Peter Barratt published by Authorhouse in 2002.
The first settlement on New Providence was named Charles Town in honour of the ‘Merry Monarch,’ King Charles II and was constructed along the waterfront which was an appropriate site for these new Bahamians who were first and foremost sailors who knew how to trade and live off the sea.
Chapter 7 - Pirates and Commerce (1670 - 1733)
Expulsis piratis, restituta commercia
- Former motto of the Bahamas
In 1670, Eight 'Lords Proprietors' obtained letters patent from the English Crown to add more territory to their already considerable possessions in the new world. The additional grants of land included the Bahama Islands that became the private property of a few absentee English noblemen. Sovereignty of the islands however remained firmly vested in the Crown. Thus the original grant to William Sayle, and twenty five other Adventurers, thought the term of their grant would be in perpetuity: ‘...the Said persons theire hiers and Assignes should have hold possesse and enjoye the Islandes forever...' (emphasis added). The ‘forever’ actually turned out to be a mere 20 years!
Shortly thereafter the Lords Proprietors took physical possession of the Colony. The centre of government and commerce officially moved from Eleuthera to Sayles Island (now officially re-named New Providence) where it has been ever since.
The first census in the country taken in 1671 recorded a total of 913 inhabitants in New Providence of whom 413, or nearly half, were slaves. For a brief time there was honest commerce in salt, agricultural products, lumber and ambergris. But the lure of wrecking and piracy was too strong.
The new Charter was drafted by John Locke the English philosopher who was secretary to Lord Ashley, one of the Lords Proprietors at the time. Despite the lengthy and strongly-worded Charter which established a bi-cameral parliament on the Westminster model the change of administration ushered in a period of incredible lawlessness on both land and sea. Eventually it became obvious to the English government that it would have to take a more active role in administering the country if it was to remain an English possession. The virtual anarchy in the Colony was finally brought to heel by a remarkable English sea captain named Woodes Rogers who, in 1718, was appointed the first ‘royal’ governor of the Bahamas. Rogers was possibly the greatest governor the Bahamas has ever had.
Island Notes is contributed weekly by Peter Barratt, an architect/town planner formerly in charge of the development of Freeport, and author of a number of books including FREEPORT NOTEBOOK and GRAND BAHAMA. His books are available in Grand Bahama at Oasis drug store, the Rand Nature Centre, Bahamian Tings and the Garden of the Groves shops. In Nassau you can find his works at most bookshops on the island.
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