Pierre Colaire

Born at La Plaine in the mid-nineteenth century, Pierre Colaire represents the determination of the small farmer to survive, fighting against the pressures put upon them by the powerful planter interests.

Except for a few enlightened people such as Imray, the large plantation interests held sway, seeking to maintain dominance of agriculture by restricting the growth of the new peasantry. This was done by making it almost impossible for potential smallholders to buy crown lands and by imposing land and property taxes which would force them to leave their subsistence plots and work on the estates for cash so that they could pay taxes. By driving the small holderback onto the estates, the planter interest hoped to maintain control of labour at a time when there was growing shortage of labour in Dominica. The first test in the battle between the two opposing interests came when Pierre Colaire, a small holder at La Plaine, refused top pay the tax imposed on his property. As an example, the governor summoned the British Royal Navy warship "HSM Mohawk" to go to La Plaine with policemen and marines to force the eviction of Colaire from his Property. A group of villagers from as far as Delices assembled in protest and were shot at by the police and marines, killing four people.

There was a great political upheaval as a result: local parliamentarians protested to the British government, a commission of inquiry was instituted and eventuallythe hated tax laws were repealed. The consequences of Pierre Colaire’s action in the end was the recognition of the small farmer as the key to Dominica’s economic future, rather the inefficiencies of declining estates, and the redirection of agricultural policy in Dominica to meet the needs of the small farmer. He stands as a hero who paved the way for social and economic changes in landholding and labour for modern Dominica.

Article by Dr. Lennox Honeychurch

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