While I have had a stamp of the British Colony of St. Vincent in my collection for quite a while, it was only recently that I received one inscribed with the full independent name of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The country achieved its independence from the British Commonwealth on October 27, 1979, but the first stamps with such a printed inscription weren’t released until September 1, 1981 (Scott #634A-634B), and were a rare occurrence until 1993. This makes the entity a bit unusual because stamps inscribed just St. Vincent were still released by the stamp issuer known as St. Vincent and the Grenadines after late 1979.
The country is located in the Lesser Antilles island arc, in the southern portion of the Windward Islands, which lies in the West Indies at the southern end of the eastern border of the Caribbean Sea where the latter meets the Atlantic Ocean. Its 150 square mile (389 km²) territory consists of the main island of Saint Vincent and the northern two-thirds of the Grenadines, which are a chain of 32 smaller islands including Saint Vincent. Some of The smaller chain of islands which as known as the Grenadine Islands includes those that are inhabited: Bequia, Mustique, Union Island, Canouan, Palm Island, Mayreau, Young Island and those that are uninhabited: Tobago cays (Includes Petit Rameau, Petit Bateau, Baradal, Petit Tabac and Jamesby), Petit Saint Vincent, Baliceaux, Bettowia, Quatre, Petite mustique, Savan and Petit Nevis. Most of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines lies within the Hurricane Alley.
To the north of Saint Vincent lies Saint Lucia and to the east is Barbados. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a densely populated country for its size (over 300 inhabitants/km²) with approximately 109,643 inhabitants. Kingstown is the capital and main port. The island of Saint Vincent is volcanic and includes little level ground. The windward side of the island is very rocky and steep, while the leeward side has more sandy beaches and bays. Saint Vincent’s highest peak is La Soufrière volcano at 4,049 feet (1,234 m). Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a French and British colonial history, and is now part of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, CARICOM, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
English is the official language. Most Vincentians speak Vincentian Creole. English is used in education, government, religion, and other formal domains, while Creole (or ‘dialect’ as it is referred to locally) is used in informal situations such as in the home and among friends.
The island now known as Saint Vincent was originally named Youloumain by the native Island Caribs who called themselves Kalina/Carina (“l” and “r” being pronounced the same in their language). The Caribs aggressively prevented European settlement on Saint Vincent until 1719. Prior to this, formerly enslaved Africans, who had either been shipwrecked or who had escaped from Barbados, Saint Lucia and Grenada and sought refuge in mainland Saint Vincent, intermarried with the Caribs and became known as Black Caribs or Garifuna.
The first Europeans to occupy St. Vincent were the French. Following a series of wars and peace treaties, the islands were eventually ceded to the British. While the English were the first to lay claim to St Vincent in 1627, the French centered on the island of Martinique would be the first European settlers on the island when they established their first colony at Barrouallie on the Leeward side of St Vincent in 1719. The French settlers cultivated coffee, tobacco, indigo, corn, and sugar on plantations worked by African slaves.
The British captured the island from the French during the Seven Years’ War fought between 1754 and 1763. St Vincent was ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris (1763), after which friction between the British and the Caribs led to the First Carib War. On taking control of the island in 1763, the British laid the foundations of Fort Charlotte.
The island was restored to French rule in 1779 and regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles (1783).
Between 1783 and 1796, there was again conflict between the British and the Black Caribs, who were led by Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer. Between 1795 and 1796, with French support from Martinique, the Black Caribs fought a series of battles against the British. Their uprising was eventually put down, resulting in almost 5,000 Black Caribs being exiled to the tiny island of Baliceaux off the coast of Bequia.
Conflict between the British and the Black Caribs continued until 1796. In 1797 British General Sir Ralph Abercromby put an end to the open conflict by crushing an uprising which had been supported by the French radical, Victor Hugues. The British deported more than 5,000 Black Caribs to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras.
In 1806 the building of Fort Charlotte was completed.
The La Soufriere volcano erupted in 1812.
Like the French before them, the British also used African slaves to work plantations of sugar, coffee, indigo, tobacco, cotton and cocoa until full emancipation in 1838. The economy then went into a period of decline with many landowners abandoning their estates and leaving the land to be cultivated by liberated slaves.
Slavery was abolished in Saint Vincent (as well as in the other British colonies) in 1834, and an apprenticeship period followed which ended in 1838. After its end, labour shortages on the plantations resulted, and this was initially addressed by the immigration of indentured servants. In the late 1840s many Portuguese immigrants arrived from Madeira and between 1861 and 1888 shiploads of East Indian labourers arrived. Conditions remained harsh for both former slaves and immigrant agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar prices kept the economy stagnant until the turn of the century.
In 1903, La Soufrière volcano erupted, killing 5,000 people. Much farmland was damaged, and the economy deteriorated.
From 1763 until its independence in 1979, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines passed through various stages of colonial status under the British. A representative assembly was authorized in 1776, Crown Colony government was installed in 1877, a legislative council was created in 1925, and universal adult suffrage was granted in 1951.
During the period of its control of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Britain made several unsuccessful attempts to affiliate the island with other Windward Islands, with the aim of simplifying British control in the region through a single unified administration. In the 1960s, several regional islands under British control, including Saint Vincent, also made an independent attempt to unify themselves politically. The unification was to be called the West Indies Federation and was driven by a desire to gain independence from British government. The attempt collapsed in 1962.
Saint Vincent was granted “associate statehood” status by Britain on October 27, 1969. This gave Saint Vincent complete control over its own internal affairs but was short of full independence in law. On October 27, 1979, under Milton Cato, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain full independence. Independence came on the 10th anniversary of Saint Vincent’s associate statehood status.
In April 1979, La Soufrière volcano erupted again. Although no one was killed, thousands were evacuated and again there was extensive agricultural damage. In 1980 and 1987, hurricanes damaged many banana and coconut plantations. Hurricane seasons were also very active in 1998 and 1999, with Hurricane Lenny in 1999 causing extensive damage to the west coast of the island.
On November 25, 2009, voters were asked to approve a new constitution in a referendum. The new constitution proposed to make the country a republic, replacing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state with a non-executive President. A two-thirds majority was required, and it was defeated by 30,019 votes (55.64 per cent) to 12,493 (43.13 per cent).
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, bearing the title Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The Queen does not reside in the islands and is represented in the country by the Governor General of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, currently Sir Frederick Ballantyne.
The office of Governor General has mostly ceremonial functions including the opening of the islands’ House of Assembly and the appointment of various government officials. Control of the government rests with the elected Prime Minister and his or her cabinet. The current Prime Minister is Ralph Gonsalves, elected in 2001 as head of the Unity Labour Party.
The legislative branch of government is the unicameral House of Assembly of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, seating 15 elected members representing single-member constituencies and six appointed members known as Senators. The parliamentary term of office is five years, although the Prime Minister may call elections at any time.
The judicial branch of government is divided into district courts, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and the Privy Council in London being the court of last resort.
I do not own very many Disney stamps although I have started to look for those depicting the characters engaged in stamp collecting. The miniature sheet of eight stamps, each denominated at $1.10 East Caribbean dollars, was obtained in a “mystery mix” of St. Vincent stamps and I was pleased with the education theme. The Scott catalogue assigned a single catalogue number to the entire sheet (Scott #2252) with each individual stamp bearing the minor letter a-h. This was part of a set of seven similar miniature sheets released on January 8, 1996 (Scott #2247-2253). Additionally, souvenir sheets with the stamps denominated 10 cents each were released on December 3, 1996 (Scott #2254-2250).
Education in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is neither compulsory nor free, although children are usually in school until the age of 15. In 1998, the gross primary enrollment rate was 90.5 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 83.5 percent. While enrollment rates indicate a level of commitment to education, they do not always reflect children’s participation in school. According to the government, cases in which children leave school before the age of 16 are investigated.
Saint Vincent is home to a number of International accrediting Medical Schools including All Saints University School of Medicine. Saint James School of Medicine, Trinity School of Medicine, and the American University of St. Vincent School of Medicine. In addition to the international schools, Saint Vincent is also home to local educational schools.