Gold and the British Crown

"Chatoyer the Chief of the Black Charaibes in St. Vincent with his five Wives." Engraved by Agostino Brunias. Sourced from Bryan Edwards' The history, civil and commercial, of the British colonies in the West Indies 1801. Image courtesy of the John Carter Brown library


"Quel roi?"

After France ceded St. Vincent to Great Britain, Sir William Young quickly realized that the most cultivable land was under control of the Black Carib people. In 1768, he sent a proclamation to their settlements to inform them that they were ordered to swear fidelity to the British crown, that their land would be bought for 8 pounds per acre, and that, in five years, they would have to leave the island. Reportedly, when the translator delivered this message to Chatoyer, he responded, “‘Quel roi?’—what king was this, of Great Britain?”

"Pour Gold into Their Mouth and Say, 'Eat gold, Christian'"

Historia del Mondo Nuovo by Girolamo Benzoni was published in 1565 in Venice. Benzoni has a complicated attitude towards the indigenous population: he condemns the Spanish for their mistreatment and massacre of the natives, inspiring sympathy for the native populations. He also perpetuates harmful stereotypes of cannibalism. Benzoni describes native acts of violence, such as when they would catch Spaniards and “tie the hands and feet, throw them down on the ground, and pour gold into their mouth, saying: ‘Eat, eat gold, Christian’” (73), although he writes that these acts were usually in retaliation to the atrocities of the Spaniards.


Woodcut from Girolamo Benzoni's La historia del mondo nuovo, 1565. Depicts an indigenous figure pouring gold down the throat of a Spaniard. Image courtesy of the John Carter Brown library.