The Bay Islands a Historical Perspective
Part 2 of 3

October 17th, 2011
by George S. Crimmin

v9-10-Speaking OutOn the twenty-first day of May 1860, at a public meeting held at Port McDonald, Roatan, Lieutenant Governor Thomas Price read a proclamation from Queen Victoria to the inhabitants of the Bay Islands. Here is a summary of that communiqué:

“Whereas we have found ourselves constrained by paramount motives of state policy to separate the Islands of Roatan, Utila, Bonacca, Barbarete, Helene and Morat, commonly known as the colony of the Bay Islands, from their connection with our crown; and entered into a treaty with the government of Honduras. We shall at an early day, of which further notice will be given to cede the said islands to such commissioners as may be appointed by the president of Honduras to receive them.”

The commissioners mentioned in the historical transcripts were Commandant Rafael Padilla Duran and Señor Francisco Cruz. Great Britain had firmly controlled the Bay Islands since 1839, with sporadic control since 1642. The conclusion of this communiqué ended with these words: “And our loving subjects, and all other inhabitants of the Bay islands, will take notice, and govern themselves accordingly.”

Lieutenant Governor Price then made a brief address to those gathered, assuring the people that every protection would be afforded to those who might desire to continue under the protection of the British crown. And those that remained should not fear that their interests would be compromised. After the adjournment of the meeting, according to the New York Times published June 7, 1860, another meeting was held by the people of the island, and they voted to demand certain guarantees from the Honduran Government–guarantees in exchange for a smooth transition to Honduran sovereignty, guarantees that were promptly agreed to by the Honduran government.

Many historians believe that the assassination of Honduran President Jose Santos Guardiola was directly related to his agreeing to these terms. The following is a list of the guarantees that were agreed to:
Article I. the ratification of all titles to lands owned (ratification simply means formal approval).
Article II. The right to acquire more lands by purchase or other legal methods.
Article III. The forms of grants and transfers to be preserved as at present.
Article IV. The price and mode and assignment to remain the same until altered by an assembly chosen by the inhabitants of the islands.
Article V. The right to choose local representatives to regulate the local laws of the island.
Article VI. No tax or loan could be levied on the islands or harbors without the consent of the inhabitants.
Article VII. No troops were to be quartered on the islands without the consent of the inhabitants.
Article VIII. Freedom from forced military service for all islanders and laborers employed by islanders.
Article IX. The use of the English language in the courts and public records.
Article X. Freedom to ingress and egress without a system of passports.
Article XI. Free enjoyment of religious worship, according to the dictates of conscience.
Article XII. The laws and customs prevailing in the islands while under British rules would remain in force until altered by the inhabitants.
Article XIII. The islands would be governed by residents of their own choosing and would have the right to hold public meetings to discuss real or supposed grievances.

These guarantees were secured from the Honduran government for the purpose of perpetuating the civil and religious liberty of the inhabitants of the Bay Islands, and transmitting the same unimpaired to their posterity, in other words, to us. These guarantees the Honduran government has never lived up to, which, by all accounts, should render the treaty null and void.

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