Resistance to Taxation at Friendship

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In 1862 when Sir Francis Hincks arrived as Governor, he observed that the East Coast Demerara area was suffering from a serious drainage problem. He decided that a steam-powered drainage pump should be set up in that location, and to defray the cost of $24,000 for the pump, he imposed a levy on the villages of Buxton, Friendship and Beterverwagting.

Buxton and Beterverwagting accepted this taxation but Friendship refused to pay. The village Board called a meeting to discuss the issue with the proprietors who expressed strong opposition to paying for the pump. Some of them used abusive language in expressing their opposition and they were eventually charged by the police with disorderly behaviour. Those who led this opposition to Hincks' levy were James Jupiter, Blucher Dorset, Hector John, Webster Ogle, Chance Bacchus and James Rodney (Snr).

After the villagers refused to pay, Hincks sent a marshal to serve notices on the proprietors whose levy ranged between 59 cents and $2.55. Despite the small size of these payments the proprietors stated that they would not pay on the grounds that the Governor was breaching a principle by which the villagers were being denied the right to decide on the payment instead of it being imposed on them.

On the 24 October 1862, the marshal returned with 50 soldiers, 50 armed policemen and a number of unarmed policemen to force the villagers to pay. As the villagers again refused to pay, the Governor ordered that their homes should be sold, and the Chief Engineer of the colonial Government was authorised to sell them at a public auction. This was eventually done but the proprietors, who were still living in their houses, were told that their properties would be returned to them if they paid up the levy within one week. It was later found out that a small group of property owners quietly broke ranks and decided to pay the levy, thus managing to regain their homes.

But the majority refused on principle to pay, and when they were finally dispossessed of their homes, they decided to push their case further for the return of their properties. They subscribed money and chartered a schooner to send Hector John, Webster Ogle and Chance Bacchus to England to present their petition to Queen Victoria. The schooner stopped in Barbados where the three men met the Governor of that island. But after they explained their mission, the Governor advised them to abandon their mission to England and return home.

On their return to Guyana, the proprietors of Friendship sent numerous petitions to Hincks and the Court of Policy demanding the return of their homes. This continued for about five years but both the Governor and the Court of Policy refused to accede to their requests. Some of the proprietors finally decided to take back their homes by force, but they were arrested and charged with criminal trespass. They were shortly after convicted by a magistrate; however, an appeal which was heard by Chief Justice Beaumont acquitted them.

After this acquittal, the dispossessed proprietors planned to make another attempt to regain their homes. The six leaders tried to quietly re-enter their homes, but a fight broke out between their supporters and the friends of the new owners. Police reinforcements had to be called in from Georgetown to put down the riot. The aftermath of these events was that the original proprietors never regained their properties.