Mr Ralph Ramkarran’s article in Sunday Stabroek of May 8, ‘Indentureship and independence’ gave us a peek into a part of the history of British Guiana, now independent Guyana. The fact that John Gladstone lied in his infamous letter promoting his adventure should not have come as a surprise. Gladstone saw the end of his business in enslaved labour, and he was willing to do anything to keep his enterprise afloat. Of course he was aided and abetted by former slave owners. Staring at the inevitable collapse of their enterprise after the apprenticeship period came to an end in 1838, they joined with Gladstone in the conspiracy of enticing the indentures.
That being what it was, I was surprised that someone as learned as Mr Ramkarran would have bypassed so many events that were uniquely related to the colony and the races. It must be understood that the indentures did not sit back and accept this “neo-slavery” as described by Rodney. Along with complaining to their representative, (who was in the colony) and using ‘sick-out’ as a weapon they drove the plantocracy crazy.
The retaliation of the owners was inevitable-more brutality, which prompted a commission to sort out the facts, to understand exactly what the indentures had gotten themselves into. What began in 1838 came to a screeching halt when indentureship was banned in 1840. As the inquiry was going on freed Africans volunteered and gave testimony in support of the indentures to the investigating commission. Each one recounted that the indentures were in fact being treated very harshly. By 1845 the ban was lifted and indentures returned to British Guiana.