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THE FEDON REBELLION (MARCH 2, 1795-JUNE 19, 1796)

Caldwell Taylor

That martyred place called Haiti was the locus of the only successful overthrow by slaves of their masters. And you
know what? Grenada’s Fedon Rebellion (MARCH 2, 1795-June 19, 1796) came closest to replicating Haiti’s singular
triumph, a matter that has escaped the attention of the historians.

The rebellion takes the name of its leading protagonist, Julien Fedon, the owner of the Belvedere estate in the St John’s.
In the popular imagination Fedon is a trickster and superlative military strategist, who shod his steed backwards to fool his
enemies.

Fedon and his troops controlled all of Grenada except the parish of St George’s, the seat of government, between March 1795 and June 1796. During those insurgent months 14,000 of Grenada's 28,000 slaves joined the revolutionary forces in order to write their own emancipation and transform themselves into “citizens”; some 7,000 of these self-liberated slaves would perish in the name of freedom.

The Fedon” Rebellion” was launched on the night of March 2, 1795, with coordinated attacks on the towns of Grenville /
La Baye and Gouyave. It is certainly worth remembering that 1795 was a red-letter year and a “turbulent time” throughout the Caribbean.

It was the year when the St Vincent Black Caribs, led principally by the flinty Chatoyer (Chatawae), went to war against the
British. Killed on March 14, 1795, Chief Chatoyer’s heroism inspired the first full-length play written and performed by
Blacks in the United States: “The Drama of King Shotoway” (sic) was first staged in 1823 and African –American theatre was
off to a hopeful beginning.

The story of the Black Carib War of 1795 also spawned what literary critic Paula Burnett has called “the Caribbean’s first
epic poem”. Written in the mid-1880s by Vincentian Horatio Nelson Huggins (1830-1895),Hiroonia: A Historical Romance
in Poetic Form, was first published in Trinidad, 1930.

The year 1795 was also the year of the so-called “Guerre des Bois” (Bush War) in St Lucia.

It was the year of the Colihault Uprising in Dominica.

The year of a Curacao’s major slave rebellion, led by Tula, Mercier and Karpata.

It was the year of a slave insurrection in Demerara (Guyana).

It was the year of the Coro slave uprising in Venezuela, led by Black generals Jose Leonardo Chirino and Jose Caridad
Gonzalez.

It was the year of rebellious rumblings in Trinidad, these inspired by the news from Grenada.

It was the year of the Second Maroon War in Jamaica.

The Maroon war of 1795 led to the eviction of more than five hundred Maroons from their Jamaican homes- they were
exiled to Nova Scotia (Canada ). In Nova Scotia, the Maroons kept up their resistance and were eventually shipped to
Sierra Leone.

The Fedon Rebellion had undisguised revolutionary ambitions and these are best illustrated in Fedon’s comment that
he intended to make Grenada a “Black Republic just like Haiti”.

Fedon and his cohorts, principally Jean-Pierre La Vallette, Charles Nogues, Stanislaus Besson, Etienne Ventour and Joahim Phillip, were of course indebted to the French Revolution and its bold and universal message of liberty, equality and fraternity; these ideas led the French to ban racial discrimination (1792) and to abolish slavery ( 1794).

The news of these exciting proclamations set ablaze the highly combustible grievances of all sections of Grenada’s
French –speaking population: French planters whose properties had been expropriated by the English, who wrested the island from France in 1763; French Catholics who were denied civil rights and political rights on account of their faith;
Free Coloureds Frenchman (like Fedon) who desired the rights of free men; slaves who craved freedom.

Like moths to a flame, these aggrieved Franco-Grenadians were drawn to the incendiary vocabulary of the French Revolution.

End of Part 1

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