West Indies Union
|West Indies Union|
|Commonwealth of the West Indies|
|Currency||West Indies Pound (WIP)|
The Commonwealth of the West Indies, also more commonly known as the West Indies Union, is a political union and sovereign state located in the Caribbean Sea, composing of the various islands in the west Indies that were former colonies of Great Britain. The country's capital is Lowlands (formerly known as Basse-Terre) on the island of Guadeloupe.
The West Indies Federation
Inspired by the independence of other British colonies like the Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos Islands and Jamaica, the islands that composed of the West Indies Union today also sought to negotiate with Britain for their independence. However, Britain was initially not receptive to the idea of creating multiple sovereign nations out of their remaining scattered colonies in the West Indies. However, in a conference in London (1920), Lord David Harper, a British diplomat, proposed for a "West Indies States". The expressed intention of the Federation was to create a political unit that would become independent from Britain as a unitary single state. However, the islands rejected this proposition, criticizing Harper's proposition as "out of touch" with the actual political situation in the islands. This proposition also failed to acknowledge the differences in culture between the islands, especially that some of the islands (specifically Saint Martin, St. Barthélemy, and Martinique) had a majority Francophone population. Since then, talks of an independent West Indies nation went cold.
In the 1940s, there was a renewed interest in a united West Indies nation. The Anglo-French statesman from Guadeloupe, George Gaudin, proposed the formation of a West Indies Union, which would be more of a loose confederation than a unitary state, but nevertheless would act as a single sovereign nation in matters of international affairs and defense. Gaudin's proposal was heard in Britain, but it was not only until 1940's that this new union would be realized. A referendum was held in each of the British territorial holdings in the West Indies, on the issue of membership in the new West Indies Union. By 1956, the following territories had opted for membership in the new political union:
- British Colony of Barbados
- British Leeward Islands
- British Windward Islands
Former French Colonies (Acquired by Britain)
- Guadeloupe (acquired by Britain during the Great Silesian War (1755)
- Saint Martin, St, Barthélemy, and Martinique (acquired from France during the Communard Revolution in the 1870s)
The union was ratified in 1956 (but implemented two years later), and officially became the Commonwealth of the West Indies, with the monarch of Great Britain being the head of state.
Secession of Saint Martin, St. Barthélemy, and Martinique
A lot of political infighting would occur within the new union. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, there was a resounding disgruntlement over the federal government, particularly in the former French colonies of Saint Martin, St. Barthélemy, and Martinique. They resented the seemingly pro-Anglophone policies set by the majority party in the West Indies Union legislature (currently led by the West Indies Conservative Party). They also resented the claimed 'lack of representation' for the Francophone islands. Several negotiations between the West Indies Union federal government, the Francophonic islands, and the Great Britain were held, but were unsuccessful in pacifying the political tensions on the island.
After a historic referendum held in the island of Martinique in 1963, Martinique officially seceded from the West Indies Union (which was deemed legal under the West Indies Union constitution). Similar referendums were also held in Saint Martin and St. Barthélemy, with them officially seceding from the Union a few weeks later. In the capital island of Guadeloupe, which was also a former French colony (which now had almost equal Anglophone and Francophone populations), there had been several calls for a similar referendum, but the federal government blocked any attempts at this as they deemed it to be detrimental to the integrity of the union.
The islands which seceded formed a new federation, the Antilles Federation.
The total population of the West Indies Union is at 2 Million, with the majority being of black West African descent. Minorities included Indians from the Indian subcontinent (called East Indians), Europeans, Asians, and Caribs. There was also a large population of mixed descent (mainly mulattos, but also Afro-Indian, Euro-Indian and mixed-Chinese). In terms of religion, Catholicism and Protestantism had almost equal numbers before the secession of Saint Martin, St. Barthélemy, and Martinique. In the present day, Protestantism make up 81% of the population, while Catholicism makes up 16% (mostly in the island of Guadeloupe). Other religious and/or irreligiousness make up the remaining 3% of the population.