Saturday, June 20, 2015

Injustice and Empire : Sir Thomas Picton Unveiled by Yr Aflonyddwch Mawr

    Remove Picture of Sir Thomas Picton from Carmarthen Courtroom
    Picton is a by word for injustice and torture and has no place in a  court of justice 

Yr Aflonyddwch Mawr held a meeting on 20th June 2015 in Carmarthen to expose the injustice and terror of Sir Thomas Picton in Trinidad and to call for his portrait to be removed from the Carmarthen Courthouse.        

The meeting was also presented with a poem Picton's  Veil originally published by John "Jacobin" Jones and Peter Finnerty which resulted in them being accused of seditious libel by Lord Castlereagh in the early 19th century.

See Castlereagh with dauntless front
Who in Hibernia bore the brunt
Of flogging torturing without end
In Soul allied as Picton's friend

Oh ! Fullerton the brave and good
With noble firmness you withstood
Torture and waste of human blood
Long may the god of mercy spare
Thy life unto a country's prayer
Gainst Tyrant Foes to prove her shield
Either in council or in the field.

Solidarity Messages for the Meeting were received from Trinidad, Venezuela and Ireland suporting the removal of Sir Thomas Picton's picture from Carmarthen Courtroom.

The National Workers Union of Trinidad and Tobago extends solidarity to you in your effort to reveal the real Thomas Picton, who far from being a hero, was a leading representative of the British empire who unleashed a reign of terror in Trinidad in the early years of the nineteenth century and is held in our part of the world to be an able representative of naked imperialism built on slavery, colonialism and economic exploitation. Keep up the good work!

Gerry Kangalee
Education and Research Officer

Solidarity message from Venezuela from Jesus Rojas

I extend solidarity to you in your effort to reveal the real Thomas Picton, a man who unleashed a reign of terror in Trinidad in the early years of the nineteenth century.

A man who inflicted an inhumane torture on Luisa Calderon who was one of those heroine that like many have suffered humiliation and injustice by oppressive regimes.

Today justice is asked by the many Luisa Calderon so that every day are forged in the struggle for the emancipation of their people..

One of the historian's responsibilities is to make such individuals better known to people of the present day, to rescue them from the "oblivion" or forgetfulness of history.
Keep up the good work......

Solidarity message from Ireland to Saturday Meeting from Belfast

The narrative of Irish Slavery in the West Indies and the United States remains an untold narrative as does the narrative of Native American tribe members who were also shipped as slave labour to the Carribean.

The extent of the cruelty and suffering of the enslaved, African, Native American and Irish peoples in the Carribean has only recently came to attentions of historians. Some historians seek to justify or even deny that cruelty and injustice existed, and that the Irish were merely indentured servants. They were without doubt in the complete possession of their owners who enslaved, brutalised, raped and murdered those they claim as their property.

We fully support the campaign to have the portrait of Sir Thomas Picton, removed, known the tyrant of Trinidad, his brutality and violent excesses horrified even his peers (a rare feat in in itself) and the British Government had him recalled from his position of prominence to answer to the courts in England for his conduct.

It is wrong that people who, throughout history profited on the misery of others, and are exalted for their promince, and those who suffered remain un named and un remembered. If Sir Thomas Picton is to be remembered it should be for his evil deeds not for any fleeting glory in battle. Remove his offensive picture

Maire McNally B.A., M,A, (UUJ), M.Leg. Sc. (QUB


                                  Sir Thomas Picton's Picture in Carmarthen Courtroom

At the beginning of the 21st Century we saw the bizarre phenomena in Britain of a nostalgia for the British Empire promoted by Michael Gove of the Conservative Party who as Education Secretary at the Hay on Wye Literary Festival waxed enthusiastic about Niall Ferguson's history defending the British Empire as a road to modernity and wanted every school teacher to tell this "wonderful" story.

It just so happened that Niall Ferguson's defence of the British Empire fitted perfectly with his neo-conservative defence of the American Empire in the post 911 world and hence Niall Ferguson was jettisoned into a successful literary orbit.

Michael Gove who has now moved from Education to Justice in the new Conservative government of 2015 - so it is opportune to look at the question of Justice and Empire.

This month of June 2015 witnesses the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo at which one of the "heroes" of Empire Sir Thomas Picton who was killed in battle of Waterloo resulted in his being immortalised by Victorian England with memorials throughout the Empire and a bust in St Paul's Cathedral in London and another monument in Carmarthen - Wales.

What manner of man was this hero of Empire Sir Thomas Picton, let us look at his commanders comments first :

The Duke of Wellington said of Sir Thomas Picton

"I found him a rough foul-mouthed devil as ever lived, but he always behaved extremely well; no man could do better in different services I assigned to him, and I saw nothing to confirm what Miranda had said of his ambition"

Source :

Philip Henry Stanhope, Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington, 1831- 1851, Oxford University Press, 1938, p.69
Furthermore Wellington noted :

"It would be impossible to deny that a very strong dislike towards the General was prevalent; his conduct on the island of Trinidad ... and the torture inflicted by his order on Luis Calderon, a torture which , by the way, had been given up in our army as being worse than flogging, had impressed all ranks with an unfavourable opinion of the man "

Source: William Gratton, Adventures of the Connaught Rangers from 1808 to 1814.
It is also possible the soldiers had heard of the execution of Hugh Gallacher an Irish artilleryman who served in Trinidad who was executed without even the pretense of a miltary trial by Thomas Picton

So what was it that happened in Trinidad that made The name of Thomas Picton a by word for injustice and Empire.

Let Bridget Brereton History Professor at the University of the West Indies inform us :
"I'll start with Luisa Calderon, because she lived in the very early 1800s. She was what was known as a "free coloured": a mixed-race person, daughter of a freed "mulatto" woman of Venezuelan origin.

She wasn't enslaved; she lived with another mixed-race person, Pedro Ruiz, a Port of Spain merchant.

In 1801, when she was about 14, or maybe even younger, she was accused of stealing money from Ruiz's shop. Ruiz himself accused her, and claimed she was acting in collusion with the man he thought was her new lover, Carlos Gonzalez.

Luisa was first examined by the governor, Thomas Picton, and then handed over to the chief magistrate of the town, St Hilaire Begorrat, Picton's close ally.

After she spent some days in the town jail, Begorrat tried and failed to get a "confession" from her.

He recommended that Luisa should be tortured, and Picton authorised it.

In fact, it seems clear enough that there was no robbery, that Luisa and Gonzalez had been framed by a jealous Ruiz"
The Case of Luisa Calderon might never have been known but for the visit to Trinidad by William Fullerton as part of a government commission into the future of the island.

A previous visitor to the prison McCallum describes the horrors of the prison in Trinidad as follows :

"In the lower department, which was like a hen coop .. were lodged no less than one hundred negroes, with large ugly chains riveted above their necks, waists and to my astonishment several British seamen confined to the same filthy hole.

In the ajacent cells were lodged about thirty or more poor Africans of all ages, accused of withcraft and necromancy. All these unfortunate creatures were schackled and rivetted to the ground, much exhausted with long and tedious confinement and extreme heat in a dirty hole"
McCallum - Travels p 174

Bridget Brereton continues :
William Fullarton, and his wife brought Luisa to Britain in 1803, and supported her there for several years—the court case involving her took a long time and of course her testimony was needed.

People's love for scandal being as great 200 years ago as today, Picton's allies spread rumours that Luisa gave birth to Fullarton's child when she was in Scotland. (Fullarton sued, and the case was going on when he died; Mrs Fullarton continued to look after Luisa in Britain).

More generally, the rumour was that she was a prostitute whom the Fullartons introduced into "polite society" in Britain.

Her testimony concluded with exhibiting the permanent marks of torture in form of a "seam or callus formed on both wrists"

Luisa did give evidence at Picton's trial in the Court of the King's Bench in 1806; he was found guilty.

But a retrial was ordered, and he was eventually acquitted in 1808.

Thomas Picton was a Tory and a fervent supporter of the Slave Trade and Slavery he borrowed and invested personally in land and slaves in Trinidad to make his fortune.

William Fullerton was liberal Whig influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment and an opponent of the Slave Trade and was to spend much of his later life exposing the barbarity of the Thomas Picton rule of terror in Trinidad leading to ultimate conviction of Thomas Picton for the torture of Luisa Calderon - but while a guilty verdict was returned no sentence followed and the script was flipped in 1808 making Thomas Picton the hero and Luisa Calderon the villain- she died in poverty in Trinidad.

However we should understand that both Thomas Picton and William Fullerton were for Empire and Imperialism - Thomas Picton with Slaves and William Fullerton with settler colonialists - Fullerton discussed with McCallum bringing Highland Scots from the Clearances to settle in Trinidad - their Whigism and Liberalism was racist but in a different way from Thomas Picton.

Luisa Calderon was used and abused by Thomas Picton the Tory Imperialist and also to lesser degree by William Fullerton in the battle for Whig and Tory Versions of the British Empire.

The tortured fourteen year old girl Luisa Calderon was to die in her thirities in poverty back in Trinidad and Sir Thomas Picton picture was to hang in a British Courtroom as a symbol of British Justice or as my title implies the INJUSTICE OF EMPIRE.

Also Read : Scandal of Colonial Rule- Power and Subversion in the British Atlantic during the Age of Revolution by James Epstein

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