This Day in History

JN. Bellin’s Map of the Lesser Antilles, showing Grenada, the Grenadines and St Vincent, 1764

On this day, 3 September 1783, the Treaty of Paris returned Grenada to the British after four and a half years of French rule.

Following the capture of Grenada and the Grenadines on 4 July 1779 under the Comte d’Estaign, the French took control of the islands and attempted to reverse the past 17 years of British rule in their favour. The French residents on Grenada enjoyed the return of French control under Governor Durat, and quickly re-established contacts with the other French colonies in the region. Though many of the British residents remained on the islands to manage their affairs, they would later claim that the French administration mistreated them “in the most despotic manner… and that the British were sorely oppressed.”

Negotiations to end the various conflicts had been ongoing for quite some time, and as early as January 1783 the British and French had agreed to exchange the colonies they had captured from each other, including the return of Grenada and the Grenadines to the British. In January 1784 British rule was re-established in Grenada under Governor Matthew. (The major outcome of the peace was the creation of the United States of America as Britain lost its thirteen colonies.)

One consequence of the peace that affected Grenada was the partition of the Grenadines between Grenada and St Vincent. The idea had been suggested since 1776 by former St Vincent Governor Valentine Morris on solely security grounds. He believed that the islands closest to St Vincent, especially Bequia and the other islands north of Union Island should be protected and administered by it, especially in times of war. Thus in 1783 Governor Matthew was appointed “Governor-in-Chief in and over our island of Grenada, and the islands commonly called the Grenadines to the southward of Carriacou, and including that island and lying between the same, and the island of Grenada.” It appears, however, that the partition did not take effect until 1791, with St Vincent taking over the administration of the islands and islets north of Carriacou (and subsequently becoming St Vincent and the Grenadines). Though it is commonly held that Gun Point, the northern tip of Carriacou, belongs to St Vincent as a result of the partition, the actual evidence has not been uncovered.

A more lasting consequence of the return of Grenada to the British was the continued conflict between the French and British residents. The next phase of British rule led to increased persecution of the French residents in retaliation for their harsh treatment by the French. Though many French departed the islands in the wake of these new discriminations (like the loss of the right to vote and to serve in public office), some remained. In the revolutionary upheavals of the 1790s, the French in Grenada, under the leadership of the free coloureds, revolted against the British with the assistance of their slaves.

JN. Bellin’s Map of the Lesser Antilles, showing Grenada, the Grenadines and St Vincent, 1764


by John Angus Martin, curator of the Grenada National Museum

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