The Bay Islands a Historical Perspective
Part 1 of 3

September 10th, 2011
by George S. Crimmin

[private] v9-9-Speaking OutDuring the past several years I have heard many conflicting versions describing how the Bay Islands became a province, state, or department of the republic of Honduras. The treaty between Honduras and her majesty the queen of England regarding the Bay Islands and the Mosquitia was originally signed at Comayagua on November 28, 1859.

The title literally states: “treaty between her majesty and the Republic of Honduras respecting the Bay Islands, the Mosquito Indians, and the rights and claims of British subjects.” The term “subjects” can be interpreted as “citizens.” The treaty was signed by her majesty’s personal envoy, Sir Charles Lennox Wyke, esquire and companion of the most honorable order of the bath. Mr. Wyke was also described as her Britannic majesty’s envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary on a special mission to the republics of Central America. His Excellency don Francisco Cruz, representing the president of the Republic of Honduras who is portrayed simply as the political chief of Comayagua.

The treaty reads: “Her Britannic majesty agrees to recognize the islands of Ruatan, Guanaca, Utile, Barberete, and Morat, known as the Bay Islands, and situated in the bay of Honduras, as part of the republic of Honduras.” I find the language here captivating because the Honduran constitution in its article 10, instead of stating that the Bay Islands are also a part of Honduras declares that the Bay Islands belong to Honduras.

I have always considered the language in the Honduran constitution offensive and degrading because when you use the term “belong” you are usually referring to property not free people. The treaty was presented to both houses of the British parliament by command of her majesty Queen of England, and ratified in the spring of 1860. The ratifications were exchanged also at Comayagua later in the year. Based on my research the official turnover or surrender occurred the following year 1861. What I find truly amazing with this contract, is that nowhere are the two main characters mentioned at all.

We know through historical records that at the time her Britannic majesty was really Queen Victoria, and the Honduran president was Mr. Jose Santos Guardiola. Why their names were omitted is a mystery to me. At the time the Bay Islands were governed by a magistrate, Mr. Uwins Elwin who was born in England, on June 30, 1811 was governor general. Mr. Elwin was elected in August 1853 as the first president of a 12 member first legislative assembly of the Bay Islands. He was also elected that same year as one of three justices of the peace, together with Mr. John sergeant, M.C. Bride, and Mr. Thomas Connor.

As a boy growing up in West End, I used to know a gentleman by the name of Mr. Thomas Connor. He was a descendant of the justice Connor mentioned here. The treaty went on to stipulate that the Bay Islanders were to retain perfect freedom of religious beliefs and worship, public and private, and if any wished to withdraw from the islands, they would be allowed to do so. In addition, they could dispose of their property and take the proceeds with them. This was a most difficult time for our ancestors, who had no say in regard to their suddenly changed reality. In the words of my grandmother, the late Joanna Randleston -Crimmin: “it was a bitter pill to swallow.” Most of our progenitors were reluctant to surrender their British citizenship for that offered by Honduras. Today, some of my fellow Bay Islanders regard April 22 a day of celebration, but there isn’t much to celebrate. I would think a day of mourning would be more appropriate. [/private]

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