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The American acquisition of military and naval facilities at Chaguaramas in Trinidad during World War II led to a significant Anglo-American controversy during the late 1950s. In 1957 the Chief Minister of Trinidad, Eric Williams, began a campaign to eject the Americans from the base. Members of the Eisenhower administration regarded the campaign as evidence of anti-Americanism and the US Navy sought to undermine Williams by cooperating with his opponents. This interference was resented by British policy-makers who were planning to grant independence to Trinidad as part of a West Indian federation. The resulting Anglo-American disagreement continued until a compromise, which allowed the United States to retain the base in return for economic aid, was reached in 1961. The episode is significant in demonstrating that Washington was concerned about incipient anti-Americanism within the Anglophone Caribbean and in signifying British determination to defend their remaining colonial interests after the Suez crisis.

Had the British colonies of the Caribbean never existed, students of twentieth century Anglo-American relations would have wished to invent something very like them. No other region of the world offers a similar opportunity to study American ambivalence about European decolonization. For the great geographical fact about the Caribbean Sea was its proximity to the North American continent, while the great historical fact about the West Indian territories was that their society and politics had been entirely shaped by an encounter with European imperialism. Whereas the dissolution of the European empires in Africa and Asia could sometimes be contemplated with a certain degree of detachment in Washington, DC, for reasons of propinquity the postcolonial dispensation of the Caribbean lands to the south of Florida was always a pressing matter. During the 1950s and 1960s the administrations of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson sought, with only intermittent success, to limit the influence of those regional leaders who were regarded as unsympathetic to American Cold War policies including Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Cheddi Jagan in British Guiana, Fidel Castro in Cuba, and Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic.1 To this list needs to be added Eric Williams in Trinidad who, like Castro, successfully evaded American attempts to discontinue an exceptionally long career of political leadership. Before offering a detailed narrative of the development of the controversy that ensued when Williams began his campaign for the removal of the American base in Trinidad, it is worth examining the factors that determined the attitudes of the various parties including Trinidadian resentment at what was regarded as a colonial imposition, American concerns about anti-Americanism in the Western Hemisphere, and British determination to ensure that decolonization occurred in an orderly manner.

Williams's relationship with the United States after his election as chief minister of Trinidad in 1956 was dominated by his determination to renegotiate the ninety-nine-year lease over Chaguaramas, which had been granted as part of the destroyers-for-bases deal in the Second World War. The American presence, which extended beyond the harbor at Chaguaramas to the whole of the northwest peninsula of the island, prevented Trinidadians from visiting traditional vacation spots, while exposing the island to the perils of the Cold War, including a much publicized danger of radiation from new technologies operating at the base. The campaign against the base culminated in one of the most famous events in Trinidadian political history: a march to Chaguaramas in pouring rain during which protestors sang a calypso with the refrain, “Uncle Sam, We Want Back We Land.”2 Whereas for Williams Chaguaramas was a colonial imposition acquired without local consent, for planners in Washington it constituted the southern hinge on which hemispheric security rested. During the interwar period the American navy had sought additional facilities in the Caribbean as a forward defense for the Panama Canal; after the British granted the ninety-nine-year lease in 1941, Chaguaramas was regarded as integral to the security of Central America.3 In the late 1950s the base also became the site of a missile tracking station, which, in the era of Sputnik, was valued by the Department of Defense as a significant Cold War asset.

For American policymakers, and particularly the U.S. Navy, Williams's campaign against the base appeared to be a manifestation of anti-Americanism. Parker has noted concerns that Trinidad might generate “a legitimately organic strain of anti-Americanism should Williams choose to nurture it.”4 The increasing scholarly interest in anti-Americanism has tended to focus on the Latin states of Latin America: the most prominent and insightful examination of the phenomenon identifies the Venezuelan protests against Nixon in May 1958 as the starting point for a new era of hostility to American influence.5 When combined with Cheddi Jagan's accusation of American complicity in the ousting of the government of British Guiana in 1953, the Chaguaramas controversy demonstrates that anti-Americanism was not confined to the Hispanophone Caribbean; the British West Indian territories were early participants in the development of a broader resistance to the regional policies of the United States.6 The unrelenting nature of Williams's campaign caused the American navy to work with opposition groups in an attempt to unseat him. The actions of Jagan and Williams in the 1950s thus predate the most significant examples of Washington's confrontation with anti-Americanism drawn from the Hispanophone regions. The most prominent of these is the Cuban revolution that took place in the midst of the Chaguaramas controversy. Castro's victory is said to have “blasted the political stakes of anti-Americanism into the stratosphere.”7 However, the impact on American attitudes to Williams was to confirm preexisting arguments: for the diplomats, it suggested that measures of propitiation were required to prevent Trinidad's leaders mimicking Castro's policies; for the navy, conciliating Williams risked bolstering his position and facilitating a second wave of Castroism in the Caribbean. In this sense the Cuban revolution had surprisingly little impact on the debate about Chaguaramas, but it is significant that the controversy took place in the context of a wider confrontation between populist politics in the Caribbean and American power.

The Eisenhower administration was also forced into an encounter with the third party to the dispute, the British colonial authorities who retained sovereignty over Trinidad until independence in 1962. The episode illustrates that, even in the Western Hemisphere and even in the immediate post-Suez era, the British were not willing to entirely relinquish their influence in favor of their transatlantic partner. Their defense of Williams demonstrated a determination to arrange Trinidad's independence on their own, rather than Washington's, terms. The exigencies of British decolonization generated disagreements with American policymakers that were largely the consequence of differing perspectives on the transition to independence in the Caribbean. The location of British Guiana and Trinidad within the Western Hemisphere ensured that American governments analyzed the politics of those countries in terms of their impact on hemispheric defense during the Cold War; to Britain, the demission of power was a practical, political problem that had to be resolved as far as possible through the co-option of local politicians to their agenda, in this instance, the federation of all the territories of the Anglophone Caribbean. If the Americans looked at Trinidadian politics from a Cold War perspective, the British were consumed by the preoccupations of a fading imperial power. Although they had their own reservations about Williams, British policymakers resented American interference in the delicate process of securing an orderly transition to independence in the Caribbean.

Robust British opposition to American interference is significant given the historiographical portrayal of Suez as a watershed in London's relations with Washington. The Chaguaramas controversy erupted eight months after the end of Britain's war against Egypt. The traditional view that the British defeat in Egypt finally forced London to reconcile itself to a junior role in the transatlantic partnership has been challenged repeatedly in recent years, and Petersen has gone so far as to suggest that “the Suez crisis freed Britain from the American embrace in the Middle East and possibly also elsewhere.”8 Corroboration for this thesis can be found in British determination to secure concessions for their colonial surrogates from the Eisenhower administration in the case of the American base in Trinidad, which constitutes one of these “elsewheres.” The British were assisted by Eisenhower's skepticism about the navy's anti-Williams agenda, which contrasts markedly with Kennedy's implacable determination to remove Jagan from British Guiana a few years later. In the case of Trinidad, the British pressed Washington persistently to offer concessions despite repeated signals from inside the administration that such appeals were unwelcome. It is on this point that the small historiography on the controversy is most in need of revision. Palmer's detailed analysis suggests: “Although the British wanted to appear impartial in the Chaguaramas dispute they almost always tilted on the side of the Americans.”9 This interpretation is undermined by evidence that British policymakers resented American attempts to interfere in the internal politics of Trinidad, rebuffed suggestions that a way should be found to oust Williams, and eventually secured American acquiescence to a renegotiation of the Chaguaramas lease at the Tobago conference in December 1960.

The British determination to safeguard Williams's position is explicable in terms of their broader policy towards the Caribbean. Relations between imperial metropolis and periphery cannot be envisaged as a vector along which British instructions were carried smoothly and without friction to a colonial surrogate. Caribbean policy was an outcome of a complex set of relations between the government in London, which consisted of a number of departments with differing interests and perspectives; local British administrators and officials on the islands; the government of Trinidad, which came under the control of Williams after the 1956 elections; and a set of intra-Caribbean relations between Trinidad and the other territories in the Anglophone Caribbean. During the late 1950s, these groups were broadly united in supporting a federation, but there was disagreement about how the territories should regulate their relations with the federal centre.10 Williams's rivalry with the Barbadian Grantley Adams, who became the first federal prime minister in 1958, played a role in determining his policy towards the Chaguaramas issue. The American presence also became the most controversial issue in domestic Trinidadian politics: Williams's opponents in the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) denounced his adventurism. His persistence in pursuing the base issue suggests that Williams was both genuinely outraged by the proprietorial attitude of the United States on the northwest peninsula and saw the campaign against it as a means of mobilizing popular support.

Trinidadians had been ambivalent about the base since its establishment, and a brief overview of the wartime circumstances in which the original destroyers for bases deal was struck is essential to understanding the attitude of the various parties to the dispute. If the Second World War did not have quite the profound effects in the Caribbean that it had in those regions, such as Southeast Asia and North Africa, which became theaters of armed conflict, the war at sea did have significant ramifications for the people of the region. Viewed with hindsight, it marked a further step toward the establishment of American hegemony in the Caribbean at the expense of British prestige and credibility; the more tangible and immediate effect was to establish a large American military presence in the Anglophone Caribbean. Within a week of becoming prime minister on May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill wrote to Franklin D. Roosevelt with a long list of military requirements, the first of which was the loan of forty to fifty destroyers. On July 31, Churchill informed Roosevelt of the alarming rate of attrition suffered in the Battle for the North Atlantic: eleven destroyers had been lost in ten days. He predicted “if we cannot get a substantial reinforcement, the whole fate of the war may be decided by this minor and easily remediable factor.”11 This placed Roosevelt in an invidious constitutional position but also provided a strategic opportunity to rectify the inadequacies of Caribbean defense identified in Fleet Plan XX, which had recommended the acquisition of new facilities to guard the Panama Canal.12 Roosevelt anticipated that providing Britain with destroyers might offer Republicans an opportunity to exploit popular Anglophobia. This danger would be circumvented if he demonstrated that the deal advanced American strategic interests at the expense of the British.13 Roosevelt cautioned the British ambassador, Lothian, that Congress would expect “Molasses,” including the lease of bases in the Western hemisphere and a guarantee that the vessels would not be surrendered to Germany.14 The proposed sites were in Newfoundland, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, British Guiana, and Trinidad.

Anglo-American negotiations were made still more painful because of legal advice that the president could not trade U.S. property in a barter arrangement of the kind the British wanted. Roosevelt was required to obtain certification from both the War and Naval Secretaries that any agreement would enhance the defense of the United States.15 An exchange of notes on September 2, 1940, left detailed matters of jurisdiction for subsequent agreement, while allowing the British to obtain the destroyers immediately. It explicitly granted the American government leases for ninety-nine years but did not specify the precise geographical location of the bases.16 Once detailed discussion of these matters began, problems arose in the British territories, particularly Trinidad. The governor of the island, Hubert Young, was exasperated by American claims. He initially reported “widespread satisfaction” that the establishment of an American base might offer opportunities for economic development.17 Once he discovered that the U.S. Navy would require a site at Chaguaramas on the northwest peninsula, Young's attitude changed.18 He encouraged Admiral John W. Greenslade, who surveyed the region, to consider alternatives sites on the grounds that the northwest peninsula was a key site for recreation, and the use of the beaches was an integral part of the culture of Port of Spain. Such arguments failed to divert Greenslade's attention away from the perfect natural harbor at Chaguaramas. Young concluded that the American attitude was “all take and no give.”19 In January 1941, he reported that his executive council regarded the proposed site as “quite unsuitable and wholly unacceptable and are profoundly shocked both by American attitude and by concessions which HMG appear to be ready to make.”20 Young was unable to wring any further concessions to local opinion from the metropolitan government that handed over control of the northwest peninsula on March 27, 1941.21 The American presence on the island infuriated local people who had to be relocated but generated a more ambivalent response from the wider population who were attracted by some aspects of American culture and scandalized by others.22 Young's continued captiousness on the subject of Chaguaramas led to his dismissal in 1942.23 However, his defense of the interests of ordinary Trinidadians was later the inspiration for Williams's populist campaign against the base.

While Young was trying to obstruct progress towards the establishment of a naval base at Chaguaramas, Williams was at the outset of his career as a historian in the United States.24 Williams was from a lower–middle-class Trinidadian family and won an island scholarship to study at Oxford in 1931. During the following decade he obtained a first-class degree and a doctorate. A modified version of his Ph.D. thesis was published as Capitalism and Slavery, which proved a seminal intervention in the historiography of the Atlantic slave trade.25 Williams endured overt racial prejudice at Oxford and was frustrated by his failure to find employment in Britain or to get his work published.26 He left to work at Howard University in the United States in 1938 and subsequently became an influential figure on the Caribbean Research Council and Anglo-American Caribbean Commission. On his account, the cautiousness of British imperialists thwarted his efforts to promote greater regional autonomy through the counsels of these organizations. He recounted his struggle with the commission in a speech delivered at Woodford Square on June 21, 1955, after the effective termination of his contract.27 Williams provided his audience with a detailed rendition of his dissatisfaction with the colonial proclivities of the Anglo-American allies and initiated his campaign to become chief minister of Trinidad.28 At the outset of the following year, he formed the People's National Movement (PNM) and with astonishing speed established what came to seem like a permanent ascendancy over Trinidadian politics. As chief minister from 1956, he led the country to independence in 1962 and continued as prime minister until his death in 1981. Yet at the outset, American policymakers had been anxious to curtail his career because of the anti-American sentiments that seemed to be manifest in his campaign against their presence at Chaguaramas. Williams survived because he was consistently able to demonstrate popular support, and this in turn persuaded the British to resist American attempts to secure their strategic interests through his removal.

Official British conceptions of a successful transition to independence after 1945 required the uniting of the disparate Anglophone territories of the Caribbean into a federation. Such a dispensation would be more viable economically than separate independence and provide an effective container for radical forms of nationalism. The demographic and, in particular, the financial ballast offered by Trinidad was essential to this program. Once British support for the island economies was terminated, Trinidad's oil resources were expected to provide the necessary funds for wider West Indian development. In 1960, Trinidad exported $393 million of crude petroleum.29 This was dwarfed by Venezuelan production, but it was more than sufficient to assure its economic dominance over the microeconomies of the eastern Caribbean islands. A report investigating the fiscal viability of the federation estimated that Trinidad generated 41.8 percent of the total tax revenue of the ten putative federal territories.30 From a British perspective, it was essential that whoever led Trinidad to independence must be willing and able to mobilize support for the federation; given that Williams's political battle-cry was “Federate, federate, federate,” he was the obvious candidate.31 Consequently, although British politicians and officials frequently disparaged the self-dramatizing way in which Williams defended local interests, they tolerated him as the man most capable of overcoming regional scepticism about federation.

One of the trickiest obstacles was local rivalry over the location of the federal capital, which had a bewilderingly complex history even before it became entangled with the renegotiation of the 1941 lease on the Chaguaramas base. In 1947, the Montego Bay conference outlined a blueprint for a federation with its capital in Trinidad, but a conference held six years later in London favored Grenada. Once the expense of locating the capital in one of the smaller territories had been calculated, Grenada's claim was invalidated. A new debate ensued between Jamaica, Trinidad, and Barbados with only the latter two strongly pressing a claim. On February 11, 1957, the Standing Federation Committee (SFC) decided in two rounds of voting that Trinidad should host the federal capital. An investigation was authorized into sites available on the island. After surveying seven different localities, the SFC subcommittee recommended that Waller Field or O'Meara/D'Abadie would both be suitable if the federation wished to have a capital based on a “twin town” concept. However, if the SFC would authorize the creation of a federal capital within the precincts of the territorial capital of Port of Spain then Chaguaramas was judged the most convenient location.32 The full SFC expressed no interest in the twin town concept and on May 8, 1957, recommended that the Americans return the northwest peninsula in order to make way for the federal administration. The British Colonial Office groaned that the SFC “has made the most embarrassing solution of the site for the capital which they could possibly have made.”33 The alarmed response of the State Department set the precedent for future negotiations. Britain's colonial attaché in Washington was informed that the proposal “was somewhat provocative, paid little regard to their role in the defence of the Caribbean Area, and did not augur well for future relations with the West Indian Federation.”34

Given the subsequent history of Williams's conflict with Washington over the matter, it is somewhat paradoxical that the Trinidad government was initially the most sympathetic of the unit territories to American sensitivities. Patrick Solomon, who represented Trinidad on the SFC subcommittee, predicted that the United States would not release the Chaguaramas site and that his government considered the base “important for the defence of their oilfields.”35 Williams initially consented to the Colonial Office line that the issue of the potential return of Chaguaramas should be resolved through “normal channels” rather than raised directly with Eisenhower. The State Department expressed “warm appreciation” of his moderation on the matter.36 Williams's independence of mind and rivalry with other federal leaders suggested that he could be relied upon to disrupt the united front presented by West Indian leaders. The consul general in Port of Spain predicted “it would appear in Trinidad we should have little to fear from a polite, well reasoned but firm refusal to release the Naval station for use as a Capital site at the present time.”37 However, as events were about to reveal, Williams was the kind of politician who reacted instinctively to new developments.

In response to demands from Norman Manley of Jamaica and Grantley Adams of Barbados, the British government persuaded the Eisenhower administration to attend talks with West Indian leaders in London in July 1957. While preparing for the meeting, Harold Macmillan's government became ensnared by the directly contradictory demands of its Caribbean protégés in the SFC and its Cold War ally in Washington. The State Department wished to enlist British support in moderating the policies of local politicians in order to prove to a suspicious Defense Department that the conference was a worthwhile exercise. Leaders from the British Caribbean, who had been cajoled into the federal enterprise by constant promptings from London, expected British support for the establishment of the federal infrastructure at Chaguaramas. The preparations for decolonization in the Caribbean were pressing, and British policymakers were more cognizant of solicitations from the future leaders of the planned West Indies federation. The British colonial secretary, Alan Lennox-Boyd, was surprisingly blunt in refusing to promise a sympathetic presentation of American concerns at the conference. Before the American delegates arrived, British officials suggested to the Caribbean politicians that they should consider alternative sites for the capital but indicated that they were willing to coordinate efforts to secure the release of a portion of the northwest peninsula of Trinidad.38

Once the conference began, long-standing and careful British calculations about how to achieve an orderly demission of power in the Caribbean were imperiled by the almost allergic American reaction to Williams that was compounded of roughly equal parts personal antipathy and strategic calculation. The turning point in American relations with Williams can be precisely identified: the first day of the London conference on July 16, 1957. On that day, Williams presented a furious indictment of the historical injustice of the 1941 base agreement that he incorporated into a memorandum two days later.39 The immediate cause of his switch from calm arbiter to ardent advocate of an American withdrawal from Chaguaramas was his discovery of the wartime correspondence between the former governor, Hubert Young, and the British government. As a historian, Williams had a talent for documentary analysis, but the fact that Young had been virulently opposed to the siting of the American base at Chaguaramas was self-evident. His examination of the historical record convinced Williams that a new conception of the relationship between his administration and the Americans was a political requirement. He explained the significance of the historical context at the end of his submission: “I could not possibly put myself in a position in 1957 of being less concerned and less vigilant in defence of the fundamental interests of the people of Trinidad than a British colonial governor and the Executive Council of 1941. To do so would not only be a gross betrayal of the confidence which the people of Trinidad have so generously placed in me, my Party and my Government. It would also be political suicide. I intend neither betrayal nor self-destruction.”40 Williams's rhetoric disturbed the American ambassador, John Whitney, who told Lennox-Boyd that he interpreted Williams's submission as an ultimatum, and they now faced a “real battle” over the capital issue. Lennox-Boyd was gratified by the discomfort experienced by American delegates because it compelled them to consider more sympathetically the nature of British dilemmas in the Caribbean.41

From the outset there was a contrast between the conciliatory British approach and American inflexibility on the issue of Chaguaramas. One of the participants who later wrote an account of the controversy recalled that West Indian politicians discovered at this meeting that “they could expect no help for their cause from the British government.”42 An analysis of the documentary record suggests, to the contrary, that British officials were critical of their American counterparts for insisting that the strategic importance of Chaguaramas precluded any discussion of its use as a site for the federal capital and refusing to recognize the political necessity of Trinidad's cooperation in the federal project. British Minister of State David Ormsby-Gore cited American reluctance to accept West Indian proposals for a commission to survey Chaguaramas and other locations as evidence of their intransigence. He estimated that the “the personal intervention of President Eisenhower may well be the only hope of bridging the gap.”43 This was a perceptive suggestion because, although the documentation on Eisenhower's attitude to Trinidad and Williams is scarce, what is available suggests that the president was more relaxed than his military advisers about the potential loss of the base. On July 19, Macmillan asked Eisenhower to endorse proposals for a joint commission, whose remit would be to reexamine the viability of Chaguaramas as well as other potential sites for the federal capital. The tone of his letter was designed to appeal to residual anticolonial sentiment in Washington and concluded: “I really feel guilty in troubling you about this matter but all this ‘liquidation of colonialism’ is going so well that I would be sorry if there were any hitch, especially in the Caribbean.”44 Macmillan's request did cause trouble, or at least a frantic round of phone calls in Washington, but it worked. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Arthur Radford was agitated by the British prime minister's failure to acknowledge American strategic constraints, but Eisenhower was sympathetic and pragmatic.45 The president's reply went as far as to suggest that if the federal or British governments “definitely wish us to leave Chaguaramas we would of course do so.” This was perhaps rhetorical: the substance of the letter rehearsed the objections of the Defense Department before accepting the joint commission idea.46

The former governor of the Gold Coast, Charles Arden-Clarke, chaired the joint commission, and all three parties to the dispute were represented. Its task was to report on the technical issues associated with the return of portions of Trinidad's northwest peninsula and the costs and benefits of other sites. This took eight months. In the interim, Williams's relations with the American government deteriorated, partly as a consequence of his irritation with reports in the New York Times about American determination to cling on to the base. On August 11, 1957, the paper reported, under the headline “Navy Aims to Keep Trinidad Base,” that there was “a fund of good will towards the United States dating from wartime” in Trinidad and that naval personnel would be very sorry to leave such a delightful, salubrious station.47 Five months later it recorded the view of naval officials that West Indian leaders were taking “a short sighted and somewhat parochial view of an important national and hemispheric security problems.” The paper also noted that the navy had recently offered contracts worth $250,000 for the expansion of facilities at Chaguaramas. This was a reference to the construction of a new missile tracking station.48 On January 15, 1958, the Trinidad Guardian amplified these reports for the benefit of its local readership. It quoted a “high political source” in London who explained, “the United States will definitely make a gesture towards building of a capital but you can bet your bottom dollar that site won't be Chaguaramas.”49 Williams exploded at what he regarded as the prejudicing of the outcome of the joint commission's deliberations. His government issued a memorandum accusing the American administration of demonstrating “complete disregard” for the integrity of the joint commission and suggesting that this was “generally interpreted as an attitude of domination to a small, friendly neighbour.”50

From Williams's perspective, news reports detailing the enlargement of American military facilities at Chaguaramas were a deliberate provocation; for the Pentagon the construction of the missile tracking station was an urgent and essential element of an experimental program designed to detect Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) flights. By this point, Williams had been identified by a number of key figures as a dangerous maverick whose anti-Americanism had the potential to undermine hemispheric defense. Both Parker and Palmer have paid some attention to the Eisenhower administration's resort to covert action against Williams, but a full account of the internal debate has yet to emerge.51 His principal foes over the next few years were the American consul general in Port of Spain, Walter Orebaugh, the assistant chief of naval operations, Joseph H. Wellings, and the chief of naval operations, Admiral Arleigh A. Burke. From early 1958, American officials pressed the British to either gag Williams or remove him. Wellings proposed that, in the absence of any action by the British authorities in Trinidad, the U.S. government should authorize a covert campaign against Williams and in support of the opposition DLP who were preparing to contest the first federal elections in March 1958. The State Department approved of these measures but stressed that “any materials provided to the opposition should be disseminated without attribution and United States sources themselves should refrain from making public comment.”52 One particularly bizarre element of this campaign was the determination of Orebaugh, in cooperation with the DLP's Ashford Sinanan, to publicize Williams's personal problems and, in particular, the court orders issued against him in the United States because of nonpayment of alimony to his first wife. Reflecting on the success of the DLP in the federal elections Orebaugh suggested “we must then speed up the process of cutting him down from his pedestal. The recounting of his marital problems before the federal elections helped and the Sinanan trial can be even more helpful.”53 Unfortunately for this strategy Williams abandoned plans to sue Sinanan for slanderous remarks made against him during the election. The matter of American judicial action against Williams over nonpayment of alimony remained an irritant in relations with Trinidad for years to come.

The British governor, Edward Beetham, was infuriated by American interference in Trinidadian politics. He argued that their clandestine approach inevitably generated hostility in Trinidad and responded to demands that he silence Williams with indignant passivity: “there is nothing more that we can do at this juncture which would be of any material advantage: we cannot muzzle the Press nor the politicians any more than you in the United Kingdom can do so.”54 American requests for British assistance in countering Williams's propaganda were not much more warmly received in London than Port of Spain. Fresh memories of American criticisms of colonialism during the Suez crisis were evident in British reactions and would be echoed again in the later debates over Jagan's leadership in British Guiana. The foreign secretary, Selwyn Lloyd, complained that “the Americans want it both ways, in both encouraging anti-colonialism of all kinds and then lecturing us for not behaving as colonialists.”55 A pattern was emerging that was replicated whenever the issue of Williams and the Chaguaramas base reappeared on the Anglo-American agenda. American officials argued that Britain's responsibility as an ally was to police and contain anti-American feeling in its Caribbean colonies; the British regarded this as presumptuous and resented American meddling in efforts to achieve a smooth transition to independence.

Arden-Clarke's joint commission report was completed in May 1958. It accepted in full the American argument that no portion of the northwest peninsula of Trinidad could be returned for use as a federal capital. A number of alternative sites on the island were identified. West Indian politicians united to condemn the report, but significant differences emerged between them in response to Anglo-American efforts at propitiation; Williams was in the vanguard of the irreconcilable faction. Both Lloyd and Lennox-Boyd feared that federal discontent would jeopardize the future of the new federation. They rejected federal demands for another conference but proposed a review of the situation after ten years. Dulles expressed sympathy for the “Moderate Prime Minister” of the federation, Grantley Adams, and accepted the rather vague proposals for a review after a decade. He only demurred when the British suggested that the exercise might be required at an even earlier date.56

The Trinidad government was not interested in a review after a decade. In reporting to his own Legislative Assembly Williams stated, “One gets the impression that the only reason for Trinidad's existence on this earth is that a naval base should be located somewhere.”57 He threatened to launch his own investigation into the legal status of the base. According to American sources, he also initiated a campaign of surveillance directed at Orebaugh.58 Trinidad's relations with London and Washington were now becoming ever more embroiled with inter-island rivalry. Both Mordecai and Parker have pointed out that the decision of the federal prime minister, Grantley Adams, to implicitly accept the ten-year moratorium on discussion of the base stoked Williams's anger.59 However, less coverage has been devoted to the directly opposite reactions of the transatlantic allies to Williams's new offensive: it drove London toward further measures of appeasement and entrenched the anti-Williams faction in Washington. Orebaugh presented a full rendition of the case against Williams at this time: “The negro racism of Williams and his PNM if transferred to the national scene in equal intensity bode ill for the international posture of the new federation. The accompaniment to negro chauvinism will be anti-white and possible specifically anti-American feelings.”60 The State Department continued to cooperate with the DLP in their campaigns against the PNM. In June 1958, Orebaugh was instructed: “you might let the opposition know that in our opinion they would do well to begin to concentrate their efforts upon beating Williams on Chaguaramas and other issues in local elections.” They also indicated that they hoped to persuade Macmillan's government that “Eric Williams is a greater danger than the British had tended to think.”61

From a British perspective, American irritation with Williams was short-sighted. They believed if the nationalist sentiments for which Williams was a spokesman were not accommodated, ambitions for a fruitful relationship after independence would be frustrated by the emergence of more radical forces in Caribbean politics. This required further concessions on Chaguaramas. In October 1958, Philip Rogers, who was responsible for Caribbean affairs in the Colonial Office, recorded that “Dr. Williams has become almost uncontrollable on this issue and that his activities represent a very serious danger to the relations of the West Indies, the United States and the UK.” He advised the Foreign Office: “Williams is an unpredictable sort of individual . . . It is however all too clear that in this case he is distressingly consistent and is determined not to let the Chaguaramas issue drop during the next ten years.” The Foreign Office agreed that a compromise was necessary to calm Caribbean opinion. The British embassy in Washington suggested to the State Department that an early conference to review the 1941 agreement might mollify Williams but were told “no amount of harassment on Eric Williams part is going to force them into holding a conference.”62

During 1959, American views of Williams soured even further. Issues in dispute included the existence of a mysterious radiation threat from the base; the possibility of a four-power conference to revise the terms of the 1941 lease; and Williams's relationship with the Marxist historian and journalist C. L. R. James. In April, the American embassy in London transmitted Colonial Office concerns that Washington seemed unaware of the likely consequences of independence in the British Caribbean: the metaphor employed was “sitting on a powder keg watching fuse burn down.”63 American officials classified Williams as a cause rather than a symptom of anti-Americanism and believed he was impervious to compromise. Perhaps the most significant evidence for this view can be found in Williams's admonishing of American officials during meetings with the new consul general, Robert McGregor, to discuss “Day-to-Day” problems at the base. McGregor became indignant as Williams accused American administrators of making money from Chaguaramas through the maintenance of a fee-paying private members' club and depressing citrus prices by distributing free grapefruit grown on the base.64 Most significantly of all, Williams disseminated rumors that the new technology being developed at Chaguaramas could expose the public to dangerous levels of radiation.65 He alerted Trinidadians to this menace during the course of one of his regular addresses in Woodford Square on July 3. Two weeks later, he delivered a major speech at Arima anatomizing the history of imperialist oppression, which dated back to Columbus's expeditions. The American presence in Trinidad was the latest instance of this; their strategic interests were interpreted as an obstacle to the struggles of the West Indian people for independence. Williams explained, “having begun to revolt against European colonialism, they encountered the new danger of colonialism, from the USA talking about the American Mediterranean.”66

Aside from the rhetoric Williams's substantive demand was for separate representation for Trinidad at a four-power conference to review the 1941 agreement. His rivalry with Adams precluded participation as a member of a federal party, but the notion of an independent delegation led by Williams made it more difficult for the Colonial Office to persuade the Eisenhower administration to accept any kind of revision conference.67 British officials believed further reconsideration of the ninety-nine-year lease arrangements would be the best means of mollifying local sentiment at a time when they were plotting a course to independence. On July 10, at the insistence of the federal leaders, the British government formally requested a review conference. This latest approach was thoroughly unwelcome in Washington where it was seen as yet more evidence of London's tendency to side with Williams, who was identified as the real sponsor of the conference idea. The State Department politely declined the conference proposal; they were “sure that no good could come from discussions between the United States Government and Mr. Williams.” Instead they suggested regulating the issue through the normal diplomatic channels between London and Washington, thus effectively marginalizing local political actors.68

British attempts to mediate between West Indian leaders and policymakers in Washington merely succeeded in mining the depths of hostility to Williams. Aside from his uncompromising stand on Chaguaramas, Williams's broader political affiliations caused concern. In particular his turbulent but intimate friendship with the Trostskyist activist and cricket aficionado James became the subject of unfavorable comment.69 As the author of a book entitled World Revolution, James was not a figure that American policymakers felt they could ignore, even if he devoted as much time to the denunciation of Stalinism as to attacks on the inequities caused by global capitalism. He returned to Trinidad in April 1958 and stayed on to edit the journal of the PNM, the Nation. While James was an exceptionally unlikely Che Guevara figure and Williams an even more unconvincing candidate for the role of another Castro, in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution Caribbean leaders were under particularly close scrutiny. During 1959, the State Department consulted their allies in the DLP about the nature of James's relationship with Williams and were not reassured by the intelligence they received.70 American officials continued to drop broad hints that they were eager to take whatever measures were necessary to get rid of Williams. Walworth Barbour of the State Department told the British ambassador, Patrick Dean, that they were dismayed by the British desire to treat Williams gently. In order to avoid further Anglo-American disagreements, he suggested the British consider “whether in fact it was possible to reach any solution with Dr. Williams.” The American embassy in London gave the impression that Williams was “in their eyes the classical ‘bogy.’” These reports shocked the Colonial Office who found American reactions “more unforthcoming and uncompromising in tone than had been expected.”71

From the British perspective, Williams was one of the least likely Caribbean politicians to seek any kind of tactical or strategic alliance with Moscow. The PNM had initially been rejected for membership of the West Indian Federal Labour Party because it did not conform to socialist principles and only ever attained associate membership of this regional grouping.72 Palmer has noted Williams's personal distrust of Castro and Jagan, and described him as “an ardent anticommunist.”73 The political doctrine which he espoused in his speeches at Woodford Square and elsewhere was that European imperialism was responsible for the exploitation of the Caribbean people, but he did not suggest that this could be remedied by class conflict. Instead he persistently argued for the unity of the Anglophone Caribbean. Ken Boodhoo notes the ambitious nature of Williams's nationalism by suggesting he was “arguing for the emergence of a Caribbean man reflecting a regional personality.”74 Despite his association with James, as a politician Williams's constituency was the aspirant Afro-Trinidadian middle classes. Even at the height of his campaign against the base, Williams never suggested that it should be replaced by the Soviets. In that sense, though not all others, Trinidad was not really a Cold War battlefield.

The atmosphere of impending crisis over Chaguaramas secured it a place on the agenda for Eisenhower's visit to London in August 1959. The president's brief stressed anti-Americanism rather than communism as an issue in relations with Trinidad:

The Premier of Trinidad is a very complex individual who was educated at Howard University and at Oxford. He is anti-US and to a slightly less extent, anti-British. He has made many slanderous remarks against the US, particularly in regard to the US naval base at Chaguaramas. The British despite requests on our part, have taken no steps to curb Dr. Williams. It is believed that unless he is checked, we will continue to have trouble.75

While Eisenhower and Macmillan discussed Berlin and the Cold War on August 28, Christian Herter and Lloyd debated West Indian politics. Herter was emphatic that Chaguaramas was of “first class importance to the US” and that Williams's aim was actually “to get the US out altogether.” Lloyd responded that a refusal to compromise would only intensify local anti-American sentiment “so that it would be almost impossible for internal political reasons for them to negotiate a reasonable agreement when the Federation became independent.” This did not convince Herter who reiterated the view that current problems were attributable to “the unreasonable attitude of the West Indian authorities.”76

Despite this categorical rejection, British persistence during the following three months paid off. There were practical reasons for London's perseverance. While they awaited a permanent home, federal institutions were located in a number of buildings across Port of Spain. The proximity of the Trinidad unit government and the federal government only intensified the rivalry between Williams and the federal prime minister, Adams. Latent tensions between the two men were sublimated into furious arguments over who should be allowed to conduct future negotiations about Chaguaramas. British policymakers tended to sympathize with Williams's demand for some form of bilateral negotiations with the United States. There was a pervasive belief that Williams would compromise if Washington demonstrated some flexibility. Reports that the American consulate in Port of Spain was promoting the idea of bilateral talks with Williams were interpreted as the beginnings of a potential rapprochement. Lennox-Boyd noted that this was “at first sight more hopeful.” In September 1959 one official, John Marnham, expressed the conviction “that for whatever reason Dr. Williams is now genuinely anxious to reach a reasonable settlement.”77

British optimism was partly justified. While the Defense Department remained adamant that Williams should be removed, the British appraisal of the situation in Trinidad eventually proved more cogent or, at least, more persuasive to the State Department. Perhaps the decisive consideration, and the point that the British stressed repeatedly, was that some form of renegotiation over the base and the federal capital was inevitable. The Anglo-Saxon powers would exercise greater influence before, rather than after, independence because plans for an early demission of power would increase Williams's authority. Philip Rogers concluded after visiting the Caribbean that Williams was a more convincing postindependence leader than Adams. He explained, “unless we can meet him in some way it is more likely than ever before that he will resort to beating the anti-American drum . . . At the moment he is still in a conciliatory mood and if we can get the exploratory talks going soon . . . I think there is a real chance of resolving the situation.” On October 17, the Washington embassy was instructed to reopen the matter of the base yet again. Rogers's view was that Williams had “a good deal of justification” in wanting to conduct direct negotiations with the Americans, rather than under federal auspices. This would inevitably cause difficulties in Washington, but the Eisenhower administration was expected to accept a further conference to revise the terms of the 1941 agreements.78

These efforts to encourage a compromise with Williams took place in the shadow of Castro's revolution,which required still more meticulous scrutiny of the allegiance of all Caribbean leaders. It was perhaps inevitable that Williams should be spoken of in some American circles as “another Castro,”79 but there were three countervailing factors that mitigated the Cuban effect. The first was that many in the State Department and the president himself accepted the logic of the British analysis of the significance of Trinidad's independence. As early as May 1959, the State Department received legal advice that after independence, the federal or Trinidad government would not be automatically bound by the obligations undertaken by the British government on their behalf in 1940–41. This news was only gradually assimilated, but three months later, the new undersecretary of state, Robert Murphy, informed the deputy secretary of defense, Thomas Gates, that the State Department believed that “the US will be confronted with stiffer negotiations if we wait several years to deal with an independent and probably truculent West Indies Federation.” Although Murphy's message still referenced the “the potential extremism of Dr. Williams,” concessions to West Indian opinion were now conceptualized as a means of bolstering pro-American sentiment in the region rather than as appeasing anti-Americanism.80 This new line of reasoning was not congenial to the navy and Burke paid frequent visits to Murphy's office in the State Department to quarrel about Williams and Chaguaramas.81

A second influence on American policy was the failure of the local actors whom they had covertly sponsored to put up any effective resistance to Williams. Although the navy remained zealous supporters of the DLP, the State Department suggested it was wrong to “assume that the DLP would necessarily remain pro-US any longer than would suit its political purposes.”82 In September 1959, Murphy was briefed to the effect that Orebaugh's clandestine alliance with the opposition was inexpedient. The DLP were incapable of rallying the opposition to Williams, and the rising figure within the party had Communist affiliations of his own.83 This was Rudrinath Capildeo who during the 1940s had been a member of a Communist student organization in north Wales.84

Finally the appointment in July 1959 of a new American consul general, Edwin Moline, was significant. Whereas Orebaugh had been thoroughly alienated both by Williams's manner and his politics, Moline was sympathetic to the problems that confronted the Trinidad government. Almost as soon as Orebaugh left, there was a dramatic change in the tone of reports from Port of Spain. Briefing State Department officials by phone, the interim appointee, Robert McGregor, suggested that Orebaugh's policy was unhelpful and that the American government should be more flexible.85 After his installation, Moline sought authority to conduct direct negotiations with Williams about Chaguaramas.86 Washington conceded the principle of renegotiation while steadfastly rejecting Moline's proposals for bilateral talks. It was estimated that Adams's federal government would be more sympathetic than Williams to American strategic requirements.

The Defense Department lost its bitter dispute with the diplomats over Chaguaramas during the fall of 1959. On September 18, Donald Logan, the first secretary at the British embassy, told James Swihart, who was responsible for British affairs in the State Department, that if the American government refused both bilateral talks and a conference to discuss a renegotiation of the 1941 leases, Williams's position would only be strengthened.87 Three days later the deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs, Ivan White, bluntly informed Wellings that he had changed his mind and now favored revising the lease agreements under which they held the wartime bases in the Caribbean. Wellings insisted that the “real problem” was the failure of the British to restrain Williams. Officials at State responded by pointing out that Capildeo was not much better as an alternative.88 On November 5, the Pentagon's refusal to acknowledge State Department communications about Chaguaramas prompted Murphy's deputy, Livingston Merchant, to demand a reply to his boss's proposals for talks with the federal government within a week. The Pentagon opted to continue their period of purdah.89 They calculated erroneously that their recalcitrance would effectively block another round of discussions either with State or with the local authorities in the West Indies. Instead, after the week was up, White provisionally told the visiting Foreign Office deputy undersecretary, Paul Gore-Booth, that the administration would undertake base negotiations with the federal government.90 When Merchant announced that the agreement on the revision talks would be formalized on November 20, Thomas Gates, who was about to be promoted to secretary of defense, launched a counterattack. He secured some delay in the formal agreement and at a meeting on November 25 issued a direct appeal to Herter for “indefinite postponement” of the discussions.91 Herter rejected the idea in writing the same day.92 Finally on November 28, White informed the British ambassador, Harold Caccia, that “with misgivings in some quarters,” Washington would agree to participate in tripartite talks on the revision of the 1941 agreements.93

Effectively the Anglo-American partners had reached a compromise: Washington had conceded the principle of renegotiation with the federation, but the British had accepted that Trinidad would not have separate representation. Initially the refusal to negotiate directly with him aggravated Williams's sense of grievance. Beetham warned that the Trinidad government would insist on bilateral talks at some point; when he delivered the news on December 9, he reported that Williams's “instant reaction was one of disgust.”94 Rivalry with Adams and the federal authorities was again a key consideration, and Mordecai notes that the federal prime minister's acceptance of the idea of a tripartite conference proposed by the transatlantic powers enlivened Trinidadian sensibilities because “playing a leading part in any Chaguaramas discussion had become a matter of national prestige.”95 Williams would participate as a member of the federal delegation only on condition that the Trinidad government conducted preliminary negotiations with the Americans on a bilateral basis. Adams's announcement of the tripartite talks, combined with ongoing American refusal to endorse bilateral negotiations, was taken as a deliberate act of incitement by Williams. After a month, during which he refused to speak to Beetham, Williams wrote, “HMG is neither mentor nor friend nor ally but sees our struggle in light of considerations of its own, in which the wishes and aspirations of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and of the West Indies play an insignificant part.” From his perspective, the British connection had prevented Trinidad achieving “a satisfactory and honourable settlement” that would only be possible after independence.96 Even Williams's principal ally in American policymaking circles, Moline, was forced to report that the chief minister was preparing to return to the attack on Chaguaramas.97

After three years of arguing with Washington about Williams, the British remained determined to press the case that Eisenhower had made to them about Gamal Abdel Nasser during Suez: the only means of preventing anti-imperial sentiments souring relations in the postcolonial era was through a negotiated solution. During a trip to Washington in March 1960, Robin Hankey of the Foreign Office told White that “time was working against us” and noted that Williams had already met Castro. For the Colonial Office, Marnham asked his sceptical American interlocutors “if it would be possible to squash up somewhat in Chaguaramas to make room for the Federal Capital.” White responded “he had more doubts than HMG appeared to have about the wisdom or possibility of doing business with and trusting Dr. Williams.”98 Wellings, who was the most dogged proponent of this line, reiterated it during meetings with Moline in Trinidad. Moline recorded that Wellings had been affable during his visit “but was still of the opinion that I considered it possible to do business with Williams, a point he will never accept.”99 As usual it was the State Department that conveyed naval oppositionism to the British. Swihart explained “so far as the US Navy are concerned, Port of Spain would remain Port of Spain and the home territory of Dr. Eric Williams, of whom they nourish the deepest dislike and distrust.”100

There was more sympathy for Williams in the White House. When Macmillan had written to Eisenhower at the outset of the crisis the president had demonstrated a kind of radical equanimity in suggesting that American interests in the base were not so great as to require its retention against local opposition. As the Chaguaramas episode moved toward its conclusion, his views remained the same. At a National Security Council (NSC) meeting on March 17, 1960, Eisenhower's unique approach to English expression was on display as he described the differences between his advisers over Chaguaramas as “picayunish.” Fortunately, he elaborated, “the US would probably find it wise not to be indifferent to the West Indies. Cuba should be a warning to us. We need not be paternalistic but we should be benevolent. Eric Williams was trying to get us out of Trinidad. Perhaps our relinquishment of our facilities in Trinidad would not be a bad thing except for the sums of money we have put into our base there.”101 Although there is little evidence of Eisenhower directing policy after this point, as preparations continued for the conference, which would decide the fate of the base, his conciliatory approach prevailed.

Williams's campaign for the return of Chaguaramas culminated in remarkable fashion on April 22, 1960, which he anointed as independence day for Trinidad and the West Indies. In front of a large crowd gathered in Woodford Square, Williams's deputy, Patrick Solomon, read out a statement calling both for the return of the Chaguaramas base and separate representation for Trinidad at the impending conference on the revision of the base agreement. Then Williams proceeded to incinerate seven documents that incarnated the seven deadly sins of colonialism; inevitably, the base agreement was one of the “sins” set ablaze. As each of the texts ignited Williams declaimed, “To Hell with it.” In the midst of increasingly heavy showers, marchers carrying banners proclaiming “Road to Independence Passes Through Chaguaramas” and other slogans, set out for the base. At one point an impromptu calypso “Uncle Sam, we want back we land” was rendered. At the end of the demonstration Williams reverted to the demand for the return of the northwest peninsula and promised to erect a statue of the quondam governor, Hubert Young, directly opposite the entrance to the base. On the same day PNM officials delivered a memorial enumerating local grievances to both the American consul general and the British governor.102

Just as this public campaign reached its climax, Williams was preparing privately to compromise in order to reap the financial benefits of his previous intransigence. His split with James and his declaration that Trinidad was in the Western camp in the Cold War signaled his intention to consider a rapprochement.103 Eisenhower's injunctions encouraged the State Department to ignore cavils from Defense and make the best deal they could with him. They accepted that the Trinidad government should take the lead on the Chaguaramas issue at the conference by adopting a procedural expedient that would allow the establishment of subcommittees to deal with particular issues. This would enable Williams to chair those meetings concerned with the Chaguaramas lease. In June, the British colonial secretary, Iain Macleod, discussed the impending conference with Williams and suggested that, although an initial plenary meeting would convene on a tripartite basis, the substantive discussions would incorporate direct negotiations between the U.S. government and the “unit” governments.104 Predictably this procedure appealed to Williams and horrified the navy. The State Department warned the Foreign Office of the likely difficulties, explaining that Admiral Burke, in particular, nourished “the deepest dislike and distrust” of Williams. White later complained that they had only sold the idea of a tripartite conference on the basis that it would allow their negotiators to “circumvent individual meetings with Dr. Williams.”105

The renegotiation of the wartime Caribbean leases took place in three stages between November 1960 and February 1961, and American delegates finally talked directly with Williams. The stage II talks in Tobago were the scene of the detailed negotiations between the Trinidad and American governments, and were conducted in a surprisingly convivial atmosphere. Instead of making efforts to destabilize Williams, American diplomats made preparations for “some very tough negotiating” based on bilateral agreements with other countries that sited bases, such as Libya.106 By this stage, however, they were willing to compromise on two crucial issues: in an attempt to ameliorate the local sense of economic injustice, they were willing to offer additional economic aid to Trinidad and to return some of the leased territory for use as the federal capital site.107 At Tobago they agreed to abandon over 20,000 acres of land on the northwest peninsula and to assist with five major capital projects: land reclamation at Caroni, port development, railway rehabilitation, road improvements to Chaguaramas, and the establishment of a liberal arts college.108 In return, Williams accepted that the American base would continue into the postindependence era. After his triumphant return from Tobago, Williams was confronted by the leader of the DLP in the Legislative Council, A. P. T. James, who reminded him of the “we want back we land” calypso. He recalled one version of the lyric: “We don't want any charity/Give we back we land/Uncle Sam, we want back we land.” In order to magnify the apparent change in Williams's previously rigid opposition to the American presence, James asked about the American aid “whether that is not charity.”109 Although this was deliberately unfair, James's intervention did point to the decisive role that the promise of financial assistance played in changing Williams's attitude. The DLP disparaged the meagerness and uncertainty surrounding the American offer, but it was self-evidently a significant asset in the transition to independence. Other factors were at work, including the more emollient attitude of the U.S. delegation at Tobago and the latitude offered Williams by the split with C. L. R. James. In these conditions financial recompense was accepted for the colonial imposition of 1940–41. However, the land that Uncle Sam had finally returned was not used as a federal capital site; in 1962, the entire constitutional infrastructure collapsed as a consequence of the decision of the Jamaican people in a referendum to secede from the federation. The case that the chief minister, Norman Manley, made in favor of the federal project was undermined by the widespread view amongst Jamaicans that an association with the states of the eastern Caribbean would be an additional economic burden that it was not necessary for them to assume. Williams responded by rejecting the further delays in the process of decolonization that would accompany any attempt to rescue the federation, and in August 1962, he became prime minister of the independent unitary state of Trinidad and Tobago.110

Now that there was no longer any requirement for a federal capital, it was the issue of the capital projects that caused tensions in relations with the newly independent Trinidad government.111 After Williams reconciled himself to the Chaguaramas base, American strategists concluded that they could do without it. With political demands emanating from the federation nullified and a change in American strategic policy, a more cooperative relationship developed. In 1963, the first American ambassador to an independent Trinidad reported that Williams had “adopted a generally constructive position toward US.” He recorded, “In its one year of independence Trinidad has shown itself to be self-respecting democracy, fully committed [to] free institutions.”112 Three years later the Pentagon decided that the maintenance of the base was uneconomical and reached an agreement with the Williams government on early withdrawal.113 In June 1967, American forces evacuated the defence facilities accompanied by a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.114 As stipulated in the 1961 agreement, they retained access to a U.S. Air Force satellite tracking system and navigation facilities, while the Chaguaramas Development Authority utilized the empty buildings for a hotel/convention center, which later hosted the Miss Universe competition.115

In structural terms, Anglo-American relations and British decolonization were governed by a triangular set of relations: the partnership between London and Washington formed one side, links between the United States and the peripheral territory another, with the third comprised of the connection between the imperial metropolis in London and the colony. Reexamining the three sides of the decolonization triangle from the perspective of the Chaguaramas controversy, one finds that the notion of anti-Americanism played a role in Washington's relations with the extant Anglophone empire as well as the defunct Hispanophone empire, that the British were unabashed in defending their conception of decolonization even in the aftermath of the Suez humiliation, and that actors in the imperial periphery were able to exploit successfully the requirement for collaborators in the process of decolonization. The broader pattern demonstrates that Williams resisted American pressure by recruiting London to the cause of revising the Chaguaramas lease. His insistence that the Americans should clear out to make way for the federal capital was precipitated by the discovery of the Young correspondence, which enlivened Williams's sense of injustice and encouraged the pursuit of redress. The broader motivation for the campaign was provided by the conflict with the DLP in Trinidad and with Adams in the federation. Once the United States proved willing to negotiate bilaterally, and thus acknowledge a kind of formal equality, substantial issues about radiation or grapefruit production at the base receded, and Williams accepted material recompense for the injury caused by the 1940–41 deal. The concession finally made at the Tobago conference demonstrated that a peripheral territory, such as Trinidad, could begin to shape its own political future prior to independence.

Examining Washington's relations with the colonial periphery, it is evident that American policymakers offended nationalist opinion through the determined pursuit of what were perceived as vital strategic interests. Unlike larger populous colonial territories, such as India or Nigeria, Trinidad could play a direct role in the defense of the continental United States. Pressing security issues encouraged American policymakers to trample on local sensibilities at precisely the moment when the nature of an independent and autonomous West Indian society was undergoing the closest consideration by its chief minister, among others. Williams's radicalism derived from a vision of West Indian nationhood unimpaired by external constraints, which included the lease of its land for ninety-nine years as a consequence of a wartime deal between two foreign powers. Given Williams's opposition to communism, the more potent issues were Cold War security concerns and the possibility of incipient anti-Americanism in the Anglophone Caribbean.

The British defense of Williams illustrates that in many cases, there was a codependency between metropolitan policymakers and nationalist leaders in the periphery of the empire in the era of decolonization. From this side of the triangle, the more pertinent comparison is not Castro's Cuba, but Jagan's British Guiana. Like Williams in the late 1950s, Jagan in the early 1960s was labeled a threat to American security interests in the Western hemisphere. In both instances, American policymakers worked closely with local opposition groups who were perceived as more sympathetic to their Cold War concerns. In British Guiana, American insistence that the British dismiss their colonial surrogate secured Jagan's replacement by Forbes Burnham in December 1964. Williams's key advantages were that that he was an indispensable actor in the planned transition to an independent West Indies federation who could be relied upon to resist Soviet influence in the Caribbean. Despite the navy's efforts, it was difficult to portray him as another Castro and easy to regard him as an important figure in securing a smooth transition to independence in the Anglophone Caribbean.

On the third side of the triangle, it is evident that after 1956 Anglo-American relations took place in the shadow of Suez. In the case of Chaguaramas, however, it was evident that the British were not willing to abandon their own analysis of events in favor of the American interpretation. Washington's relations with the Caribbean were increasingly dominated by the perceived rise of anti-Americanism in general and the Cuban revolution in particular, while the key issue in British relations with their Caribbean dependencies was the establishment and consolidation of a federation of the Anglophone islands. The interaction between these factors generated a significant controversy that initially threatened to destabilize Trinidadian politics but eventually consolidated the position of the leader of the PNM, Eric Williams. In this sense the episode can be regarded as one of the few examples of British success in exploiting the trans-Atlantic partnership to secure precisely the outcome they desired. Despite the persistence with which Williams campaigned against the American presence at Chaguaramas, the British defended him because they could not entirely ignore local demands, as represented by the calls of the calypsonians during the march in the rain, for the return of the land lost in 1941.

Footnotes
  • 1

    For British Guiana, see S. Rabe, US Intervention in British Guiana (Chapel Hill, NC, 2005); C. Fraser, “The New Frontier of Empire in the Caribbean,” International History Review 22 (2000): 583661; R. Waters and G. Daniels, “The World's Longest General Strike,” Diplomatic History 29 (2005): 279307; for Guatemala, see P. Gleijeses, Shattered Hope (Princeton, NJ, 1992); S. Schlesinger and S. Kinzer, Bitter Fruit (Garden City, NY, 1982); R. H. Immerman, “Guatemala as Cold War History,” Political Science Quarterly 95/4 (198081), 62953; for Dominican Republic, see P. Gleijeses, The Dominican Crisis (Baltimore, 1979); A. F. Lowenthal, The Dominican Intervention (Cambridge, MA, 1972); B. Palmer, Intervention in the Caribbean (Lexington, KY, 1989); R. Crandall, Gunboat Democracy (Lanham, MD, 2006). Compiling a bibliography on American relations with Castro is a formidable task, but the best starting point is T. G. Paterson, Contesting Castro (Oxford, 1994).

  • 2

    Aspects of the controversy are dealt with in C. Palmer, Eric Williams and the Making of the Modern Caribbean (Chapel Hill, NC, 2006), 76–137; C. Fraser, Ambivalent Anti-Colonialism (Westport, CT, 1994), 147–59; J. Parker, Brother's Keeper (Oxford, 2008), chaps. 4 & 5; J. Mordecai, The West Indies: The Federal Negotiations (London, 1968), chaps. 6 and 10.

  • 3

    C. Witham, “On Dealing with Gangsters: The Limits of British ‘Generosity’ in the Leasing of Bases to the United States,” Diplomacy and Statecraft 7, no. 3 (1996): 569610.

  • 4

    Parker, Brother's Keeper, 115.

  • 5

    A. McPherson, Yankee No!: Anti-Americanism in US-Latin American Relations (Cambridge, MA, 2003).

  • 6

    Jagan's accusations of U.S. involvement were made in the immediate aftermath of the overthrow of his government in C. Jagan, Forbidden Freedom (London, 1954), chap. 10.

  • 7

    A. McPherson, “Introduction,” in Anti-Americanism in Latin America and the Caribbean, ed. A. McPherson, (London, 2006), 19.

  • 8

    T. Petersen, “Post-Suez Consequences: Anglo-American Relations in the Middle East from Eisenhower to Nixon,” in Reassessing Suez, ed. S. Smith (Aldershot, UK, 2008), 217.

  • 9

    Palmer, Eric Williams, 101.

  • 10

    Mordecai, West Indies, passim.

  • 11

    W. F. Kimball, Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, Vol. 1: Alliance Emerging (Princeton, NJ, 1984); Churchill to Roosevelt, May 15, 1940 (C-9x), 37–38; Churchill to Roosevelt, June 15, 1940 (C-17x), 49–51.

  • 12

    D. Yerxa, Admirals and Empire: The United States Navy and the Caribbean 1898–1945 (Columbia, SC, 1991), 108–11.

  • 13

    J. Moser, Twisting the Lion's Tail (New York, 1999), 132–33.

  • 14

    Memorandum by Roosevelt, August 2, 1940, U.S. Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1940 (Washington, DC, 1958, 3: 58–59 (hereafter FRUS); PREM 3/463/1, Lothian to FO, 3 August 1940, The National Archives, UK (hereafter TNA).

  • 15

    Memorandum by the Legal Adviser (Hackworth), August 2, 1940, FRUS, 1940 3: 59–61; PREM 3/463/1, Lothian to FO, August 19, 1940, August 23, 1940, August 25, 1940, August 28, 1940, August 30, 1940, TNA.

  • 16

    Lothian to Secretary, September 2, 1940, FRUS, 1940 3: 73–74; Secretary to Lothian, September 2, 1940, FRUS, 1940 3: 74–75.

  • 17

    FO 371/24260, Governor (Trinidad) to CO, September 7, 1940, TNA.

  • 18

    FO 371/24260, Governor (Trinidad) to CO, October 9, 1940, October 14, 1940, TNA.

  • 19

    FO 371/24261, Governor (Trinidad) to CO, November 28, 1940, December 10, 1940; FO 371/24262, Governor (Trinidad) to CO, October 22, 1940, December 7, 1940, December 21, 1940, TNA.

  • 20

    PREM 3/464/1, Governor (Trinidad) to Colonial Office, January 18, 1941, TNA.

  • 21

    Parliamentary Papers 1940–1941, Cmd. 6259: Agreement Relating to the Bases Leased to the United States of America, March 27, 1941.

  • 22

    For a fascinating overview of the impact of the American wartime “invasion,” see H. Neptune, Caliban and the Yankees (Chapel Hill, NC, 2007). Prominent literary accounts include S. Selvon, A Brighter Sun (London, 1952), V S. Naipaul, Miguel Street (London, 1959), and R. De Boissiere, Rum and Coca-Cola (Melbourne, 1956).

  • 23

    R. W. Bullard and R. T. Stearn, “Sir Hubert Winthrop Young,”Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

  • 24

    For detailed discussion of Williams's career, see K. Boodhoo, The Elusive Eric Williams (Kingston, Jamaica, 2001), and S. Ryan, Eric Williams: The Myth and the Man (Kingston, Jamaica, 2009).

  • 25

    R. Sheridan, “Eric Williams and Capitalism and Slavery: A Biographical and Historiographical Essay,” in British Capitalism and Caribbean Slavery: The Legacy of Eric Williams, ed. B. Solow and S. Engerman (Cambridge, 1984).

  • 26

    E. Williams, Inward Hunger (London, 1969), 52.

  • 27

    The speech is included in E. Williams, Forged from the Love of Liberty (Port of Spain, Trinidad, 1981), 269–80.

  • 28

    I. Oxaal, Black Intellectuals Come to Power (Cambridge, 1968), 108–15.

  • 29

    Colonial Office List 1962 (London, 1962).

  • 30

    Jamaica, which had twice as many people as Trinidad produced 42.0 percent of the total. Parliamentary Papers 1955–1956, Cmd. 9618: The Plan for a British Caribbean Federation: Report of the Fiscal Commissioner, Appendix C.

  • 31

    Williams, Hunger, chap. 14.

  • 32

    Federation File, box 5, SFC(57)43, April 27, 1957, National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain, Trinidad (hereafter NATT).

  • 33

    CO 1031/2024, Wallace minute, May10, 1957, TNA.

  • 34

    CO 1031/2024, Washington (Colonial Attaché) to Secretary of State, May 9, 1957, TNA.

  • 35

    Federation Files, box 5, Report of Meeting in Trinidad, April 9–12, 1957, NATT.

  • 36

    CO 1031/2024, Wallace minute, February 28, 1957, Secretary of State to Trinidad (Beetham), February 29, 1957, Mercer minute, April 26, 1957, TNA.

  • 37

    Jenkins (Port of Spain) to State Department, May 13, 1957, Record Group (RG) 59, General Records of the State Department, Central Files 1955–1959, box 3209, National Archives II, College Park, Maryland (hereafter NA II).

  • 38

    CO 1031/2024, Colonial Attaché (Washington) to Secretary of State, June 27, 1957, Secretary of State to Colonial Attaché (Washington), June 27, 1957, Note of a Meeting held at the Colonial Office, July 10, 1957, TNA.

  • 39

    CO 1031/2024, Summary Record of Discussion, July 16–23, 1957, TNA.

  • 40

    S. R. Ashton & D. Killingray, eds., British Documents on the End of Empire Series B, Vol 6: The West Indies (London, 1992), Memorandum by Williams, July 18, 1958, 178–84.

  • 41

    CO 1031/2024, Lennox-Boyd minute, July 17, 1957, TNA.

  • 42

    Mordecai, West Indies, 113.

  • 43

    PREM 11/2880, Ormsby-Gore to PM, July 19, 1957, TNA.

  • 44

    E. Geelhoed and A. Edmonds, eds., The Macmillan-Eisenhower Correspondence (Basingstoke, UK, 2004), Macmillan to Eisenhower, 19 July 19, 1957, 72–73.

  • 45

    Papers of John Foster Dulles, Transcripts of conversations with Radford, Elbrick, and the President, July 20, 1957, Telephone Calls, box 7, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas (hereafter DDE Library).

  • 46

    Geelhoed and Edmonds, Macmillan-Eisenhower, Eisenhower to Macmillan, July 20, 1957, 73–74.

  • 47

    New York Times, August 11, 1957, 33.

  • 48

    New York Times, January 10, 1958, 24.

  • 49

    Trinidad Guardian, January 15, 1958, 1.

  • 50

    CO 1031/2025, Mancini (Joint Commission) to Colonial Secretary (Trinidad), January 21, 1958, enclosing Memorandum by Trinidad government, TNA.

  • 51

    Parker, Brother's Keeper, 118; Palmer, Eric Williams, 115.

  • 52

    Parsons to Jandrey, February 10, 1958, RG 59, Office of Caribbean and Mexican Affairs: Records Relating to Trinidad, Lots 64D38&66D43, box 1, NA II.

  • 53

    Orebaugh (Port of Spain) to Dale (State), 14 May 14, 1958, RG 59, Office of Caribbean and Mexican Affairs: Records Relating to Trinidad, Lots 64D38&66D43, box 1, NA II.

  • 54

    CO 1031/2025, Beetham to Rogers, February 19, 1958, TNA.

  • 55

    CO 1031/2025 Hoyer-Millar to Caccia, March 21, 1958, TNA.

  • 56

    CO 1031/027, Hailes to Secretary of State, May 30, 1958, June 1, 1958, Marnham (CO) to Hanley (FO) June 2, 1958, PREM FO to Washington, June 7, 1958, TNA.

  • 57

    Legislative Council Debates (9th, vol. 8) col. 1845, June 6, 1958, NATT.

  • 58

    Memorandum of a Conversation, Williams and Dale, Washington, June 20, 1958, CO 1031/2027, Beetham to Secretary of State, June 18, 1958, Hailes to Secretary of State, June 19, 1958, Williams (Washington) to Marnham (CO), June 24, 1958, TNA: RG 59, Office of Caribbean and Mexican Affairs: Records Relating to Trinidad, Lots 64D38&66D43, box 1, NA II.

  • 59

    Parker, Brother's Keeper, 123–24; Mordecai, West Indies, 120–123.

  • 60

    Orebaugh (Port of Spain) to State, May 16, 1958, RG 59, State Central Decimal Files, box 3207, NA II.

  • 61

    Dale to Orebaugh, June 26, 1958, RG 59, Office of Caribbean and Mexican Affairs: Records Relating to Trinidad, Lots 64D38&66D43, box 1, NA II.

  • 62

    CO 1031/2039, Rogers minute, October 15, 1958, Rogers to Hankey, October 16, 1958, Williams (Washington) to Rogers, October 20, 1958, TNA.

  • 63

    Barbour (London) to State, April 30, 1959, RG 59, State Central Decimal Files 1955–1959, box 3208, NA II.

  • 64

    For full transcripts, see Williams Papers, vol. 1557 Meetings between Trinidad and American representatives, May-June 1959, Eric Williams Memorial Collection, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.

  • 65

    State Department Briefing for Murphy-Caccia talks (n.d.), RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, NA II.

  • 66

    Trinidad Guardian, July 4, 1959, 1, July 5, 1959, 1, July 18, 1959, 1; E. Williams, Forged, 306.

  • 67

    CO 1031/2039, Rogers to Hailes, March 11, 1959, Trinidad (Beetham) to Secretary of State, April 2, 1959, Secretary of State to Trinidad (Beetham), April 4, 1959, Beetham to Hailes, April 23, 1959, TNA.

  • 68

    CO 1031/2041, Washington (Hood) to FO, August 7, 1959, Hood to Lloyd, August 8, 1959, TNA.

  • 69

    On the connections between James's sporting and political allegiances, see C. L. R. James, Beyond a Boundary (London, 1963).

  • 70

    Fraser, Ambivalent Anti-Colonialism, 156.

  • 71

    CO 1031/2041, Dean memorandum, August 18, 1959, Whitelegg minute, August 25, 1959, Secretary of State to Acting Governor General (West Indies), August 25, 1959, TNA.

  • 72

    Mordecai, West Indies, 80.

  • 73

    Palmer, Eric Williams, 133.

  • 74

    Boodhoo, Elusive Eric Williams, 108.

  • 75

    Position Paper on US Bases in the West Indies, 21 August 21, 1959, White House Central: Subject Series, box 52, DDE Library. Eisenhower's brief was not quite correct about the Howard connection: Williams worked on the final manuscript of Capitalism and Slavery while working at Howard University but did not obtain a degree there.

  • 76

    CO 1031/2041, Record of a Conversation between Lloyd and Herter, FO, August 28, 1958, TNA.

  • 77

    CO 1031/2042, West Indies (Acting Governor-General) to Secretary of State, September 2, 1959, September 5, 1959, September 7, 1959, Lennox-Boyd minute, September 4, 1959, Marnham minute, September 11, 1959, TNA.

  • 78

    CO 1031/2042, Rogers (CO) to Hankey (FO), October 21, 1959, Hildyard (FO) to Logan (Washington), October 27, 1959, TNA.

  • 79

    This was Kohler's characterization of the attitude of the Department of Defense. Kohler to Merchant, December 8, 1960, RG59, Bureau of European Affairs: Office of British Commonwealth, Caribbean Dependencies, box 1, NA II.

  • 80

    Memorandum of a Conversation between Yingling, Clock and Burn, May 5, 1959, Murphy (State) to Gates (Defense), August 20, 1959, RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 1, NA II.

  • 81

    Memorandum of Conversation, Murphy and McGregor, July 30, 1959, RG 59, State Central Decimal Files 1955–1959, box 3206, NA II.

  • 82

    Dale to White, August 4, 1959, RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 2, NA II.

  • 83

    Cummings to Acting Secretary of State, September 18, 1959, RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 1, NA II.

  • 84

    Oxaal, Black Intellectuals, 165.

  • 85

    White to Merchant, April 14, 1959; RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 1, NA II.

  • 86

    Palmer, Eric Williams, 118–20.

  • 87

    Memorandum of a Conversation between Logan and Swihart, September 18, 1959, RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 1, NA II.

  • 88

    Memorandum of a Conversation, September 21, 1959, RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 1, NA II.

  • 89

    Willoughby to White, November 13, 1959, RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 1, NA II.

  • 90

    CO 1031/2042, Hood (Washington) to Foreign Office, November 11, 1959, TNA.

  • 91

    Merchant to White, November 17, 1959, Kohler to Merchant, November 19, 1959, Merchant to Secretary, November 19, 1959, Memorandum of a Conversation, Herter, Gates, Irwin, Merchant, November 25, 1959, RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 1, NA II.

  • 92

    Herter to Gates, November 25, 1959, Christian Herter Papers, Chronological Series, box 8, DDE Library.

  • 93

    CO 1031/2042, Caccia (Washington) to FO, November 28, 1959, TNA.

  • 94

    CO 1031/2042, Trinidad (Beetham) to Secretary of State, November 30, 1959, December 9, 1959, TNA.

  • 95

    Mordecai, Federal Negotiations, 191.

  • 96

    CO 1031/3036, Beetham (Trinidad) to Secretary of State, January 15, 1960, TNA.

  • 97

    Willoughby to White, March 14, 1960, RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 1, NA II.

  • 98

    CO 1031/3036, Brief for Discussion with White, March 24, 1960, Meeting of Colonial Office and State Department officials, March 28, 1960, TNA.

  • 99

    Moline to Swihart, 21 March 21, 1960, RG 59, Office of Caribbean and Mexican Affairs: Records Relating to Trinidad, Lots 64D38&66D43, box 1, NA II.

  • 100

    CO 1031/3036, Meeting of FO and CO officials with White, 28 March 28, 1960, TNA.

  • 101

    Moline to Swihart, 21 March 21, 1960, Memorandum of Discussion at 437th mtg. of the NSC, March 17, 1960, Papers as President, NSC Series, box 12, DDE Library.

  • 102

    Trinidad Guardian, 23 April 23, 1960, 1–2.

  • 103

    Boodhoo, Elusive Eric Williams, 167.

  • 104

    CO 1031/3036, Meeting of Secretary of State with Trinidad Council of State, June 10, 1960, TNA.

  • 105

    CO 1031/3036, Carter (Washington) to Hankey (FO), August 9, 1960, Thomson (Washington) to Edmonds (FO), September 22, 1960, TNA.

  • 106

    CO 1031/3038, Thomson to Hankey, November 14, 1960, TNA.

  • 107

    Willoughby to Swihart, March 14, 1960, White to Swihart, July 21, 1960, RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 2, NA II.

  • 108

    Parliamentary Papers 1960–1961, Cmd 1369: Federal-US Agreement on Defence Areas, June 1961.

  • 109

    Legislative Council Debates vol. 10, July 10, 1959–March 18, 1960, col. 852, December 19, 1960, NATT.

  • 110

    Williams, Inward Hunger, ch. 27.

  • 111

    Yoe to Whitney, February 14, 1961, RG 59, Office of the British Commonwealth: Records Relating to the Caribbean Dependencies 1941–1962, box 1, NA II.

  • 112

    State Department to U.S. Embassy (Port of Spain), May 29, 1966, Crisler Memo for the Record, October 27, 1966, RG 59, General Records of the State Department, Central Files 1964–1966, box 1687, NA II.

  • 113

    U.S. Ambassador (Port of Spain) to State, December 19, 1963, RG 59, General Records of the State Department, Central Files 1963, box 4070, NA II.

  • 114

    New York Times, June 19, 1967, 15.

  • 115

    On the postbase history of Chaguaramas, see J. Tunbridge, “The Churchill-Roosevelt Bases of 1940: The Question of Heritage in their Adaptive Reuse,” International Journal of Heritage Studies 10, no. 3 (2004): 24347.