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George Hamilton Charles and the history of SVG

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Tue Apr 9, 2013

Editor: Say the name George Charles in Caribbean circles and people immediately think of George Charles in St Lucia; but there is a George Charles in the political history of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). George Hamilton Charles, to be exact.{{more}}

I was surprised when I was researching information about him and was asked what he had done since information about him was hard to locate. He played a role in the history of the nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines and should be remembered as such.

In short, he was born in Brighton, attended the Brighton Methodist School and then emigrated to Trinidad. He was involved in politics there under the influence of noted trade unionist Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler and won a political seat in the Diego Martin ward.

He returned to St Vincent and the Grenadines and became actively involved in politics in SVG. His Eighth Army of Liberation was the first group to be elected in 1951 after the granting of Universal Adult Suffrage, when everyone over the age of twenty-one could vote without the need for meeting property requirements. There were eight elected representatives belonging to this group led by George Hamilton Charles. They were Ebenezer Joshua (North Windward), Julian Baynes (St George), Rudolph Baynes (Kingstown), Samuel Slater (North Leeward), Clive Tannis (Grenadines), Herman Young (South Leeward), Evans Morgan (Mesopotamia). He was aware of the importance of trade unions to the political process, so he started the “United Workers and Rate Payers Union” as the base of the Eighth Army of Liberation in January 1951. He was not a member of the plantocracy and led the group and the way forward boldly. A courageous undertaking for local politicians then. For many citizens their political awareness was awakened at this time. His involvement in the May Day Parade of that year left an indelible impression in the minds of the Vincentian populace. These early indigenous politicians should all be remembered for their contribution to the country.

Internal problems in the Eighth Army of Liberation, involving a disagreement over a celebratory invitation to Government House after the elections of 1952, resulted in a 4-4 split between the BIG four and the LITTLE four. The BIG four led by Ebenezer Joshua consisted of three others, namely Julian Baynes, Rudolph Baynes and Samuel Slater, and the LITTLE four led by George Hamilton Charles consisted of three others, Clive Tannis, Herman Young and Evans Morgan. This split eventually led to the break-up of the Eighth Army of Liberation. George Hamilton Charles subsequently faded from the active political scene after Ebenezer Joshua, his former colleague, dominated the political scene.

George Hamilton Charles passed away on December 6, 2004, at the age of 87 and was accorded a state funeral on Thursday, December 16, 2004. He was laid to rest at the Brighton Cemetery. The publication “From Charles to Mitchell Part 1,” by Cecil Ryan and Cecil A. Blazer Williams, documents the contribution of George Hamilton Charles to St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Cheryl Phills King.

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