2 research outputs found

    Coloured Members of the Bahamian House of Assembly in the Nineteenth Century

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    This article focuses on some little known 'coloured' members of the House of Assembly of the nineteenth century. The position of the Bahamians of mixed race is discussed, particularly vis-à-vis the white Nassauvian elite. Their achievements are noted, but the limitations of their political careers are emphasized. These men were, in essence, politically and socially ambitious individuals, who did not seek to represent the lower classes or black Bahamians. Moreover, party organization was not yet a feature of the Bahamian political system, except during a period of religious turmoil in mid-century when denominational adherence was the grouping factor. The coloured representatives were generally pro-Government and pro-established Church

    The merchant princes of Nassau: the maintenance of political hegemony in The Bahamas 1834-1948

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    The former slave owning class in The Bahamas fought a rearguard action to defendits political, economic and social hegemony. It shaped the local Abolition Act of1834 to meet its own requirements, particularly to ensure apprentices would remainin a position of subservience and obedience.The initial period of concern for the welfare and rights of the freedmen onthe part of the Imperial Government soon waned and the white oligarchy was leftto govern the newly emancipated without much interference from London.Imperial Government policy also aided the elite in preventing the formation of aclass of independent, peasant freeholders. On the Out Islands labour orsharecropping tenancies, squatting and the working of commonage were the norm.Coercive labour systems procured a stable and dependent workforce in a number ofindustries. The cash economy was limited outside of Nassau and themerchant/landowners were in possession of the little available capital.Tough laws, designed to keep the lower classes in awe and fear ofauthorities, were passed by a Legislature dominated by the white elite. Much morewas spent on law and order than education or social reforms. The Bahamascontinued to be governed under the seventeenth century Old Representative systemand the ruling class stubbornly protected its rights and privileges. But theconstitutional system was not a responsible one and hardly representative. Openvoting, inequitable constituencies, a franchise weighted in favour of the propertiedclasses, non-payment of representatives and plural voting ensured the return of thewhite Nassau merchants. The agro-commercial elite had a limited vision beyondits own interests, particularly in regard to financial policy. There were manystruggles between the Legislature and the Governors over control of finance andexpenditure, reaching its climax in the 1930s when the Governor insisted onReserve Powers. The Colonial Office investigated the possibilities but realisedthat, barring a crisis, the initiative had to come from the Assembly, which wouldnever have arisen in The Bahamas.The ruling whites experienced little challenge from the coloured and blackmiddle classes. They sought to assimilate themselves into white society anddistanced themselves from the black lower classes. They were generallyconservative in their views. The non-whites did not attempt to form a politicalparty, despite the fact Bahamian society became more polarised in the 1920s and1930s. No leaders emerged to take advantage of the discontent. After the 1942Riot, the ruling whites made a few limited concessions that safeguarded theirdominanc