Great Bay, St. Martin Saturday, June23, 2012 - An early perspective on the call to make July 1 a “national” holidayEd. Note. The following editorial appeared in the Windward Islands Newsday of June 30, 1983, in commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the 1863 abolition of slavery. It is both an early perspective on the struggle to make July 1 a “national” public holiday in St. Martin (South) and the claim to Emancipation in 1848 for all of the people who were enslaved on the entire island.
July 1st must be a holiday*Friday, July 1st marks exactly 120 years since slaves on Dutch St. Maarten were officially proclaimed free. Officially, because unofficially, 3 days after slavery was abolished on the French side, 26 freedom fighters from Diamond Estate crossed the border to freedom on French St. Martin. The period immediately after April 28, 1848 when slavery was abolished on the French side was one of constant unrest and revolutionary acts on the Dutch side. Our forefathers fought for their freedom. They were not complacent slaves looking up to their oppressors to unshackle them, despite the insulting tone of J.D. Crol’s Abolition Proclamation.
This Proclamation, curiously written in English, offered the slaves “freedom”, at the same time demanding that they prove themselves “worthy of this benefit”. This is an example of how our history has been distorted by our oppressors. Freedom was in 1863 a direct result of struggle not “the blessing bestowed on you (us) by the paternal care of the King” as the derogatory document proclaims. The Proclamation (See front page) is in fact the same in French for the French Caribbean islands (R.G. Guadeloupe). It is, therefore, obvious that the slave-owners and the respective European Kingdoms they represented just got together to write a document which they would apply to their territories under their control whenever forced to do so by the revolutionary acts of the slaves. The document is, therefore, an agreed general CAPITULATION to the freedom fighters, not an “amnesty” decreed by the magnanimous grace of the “gracious” King. We should keep this in mind at all times. We should do so because nothing substantial has changed in our slave conditions since then. We should remember this because we are in a similar situation today where Her Gracious Majesty the Queen wants to “bestow on us, the blessing of independence” but instead of fighting for it as our forefathers did, our leaders without consulting us, are pleading to remain slaves under all conditions. In order for the significance of this day to remain with us forever, W.I. NEWSDAY is calling on the relevant local authorities to declare July 1st of every year a holiday. After all, we celebrate Kingdom day, and the Queen’s birthday. We should be able to commemorate ABOLITION DAY. NEWSDAY dedicates this issue to our heroes who fought to achieve freedom. May their descendants see the light and be worthy of their heroic deeds.
*Windward Islands Newsday 30 June 1983: 2.