|Grenada became officially gained independent from Britian on 7 February 1974. This module provides an overview of the key events on Grenada' road to independence.
Road to Independence
Before the 14th century, Grenada was settled by Caribs, who displaced the earlier population of Arawaks. Christopher Columbus visited the island in 1498 and named it ‘Concepcion’ (later being named by the Spaniards after their own city, Granada). European settlement was slow to follow, due to the fierce resistance of the warlike Caribs, although Britain and France in particular competed for control. A company of London merchants tried and failed to form a settlement in 1605. The French launched more concerted attacks until, by 1674, they had subdued the Caribs and gained control of the island. By 1753, Grenada was a flourishing French possession, with 100 sugar mills and 12,000 enslaved Africans working the industry. The Caribs had been exterminated.
Britain took over from France in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris and again (having meanwhile lost control) in 1783 under the Treaty of Versailles. Britain introduced the cultivation of cacao, cotton and nutmeg; by the time of the emancipation of slaves (1833), the slave population had reached 24,000.
National political consciousness developed through the labour movement, with the formation of the Grenada Manual and Mental Workers Union.
In 1950, Grenada had its constitution amended to increase the number of elected seats on the Legislative Council from 5 to 8, to be elected by full adult franchise at the 1951 election. In a union organiser, Eric Matthew Gairy, formed the first political party, the pro-union, pro-independence Grenada United Labour Party (GULP).
On 10 October 1951 Grenada held its first general elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage. United Labour won 6 of the 8 elected seats on the Legislative Council in both the 1951 and 1954 elections. However the Legislative Council had few powers at this time, with government remaining fully in the hands of the colonial authorities.
A new political party, the Grenada National Party led by Herbert Blaize, contested the 1957 general election and with the cooperation of elected independent members took control of the Legislative Council from the Grenada United Labour Party. In 1958, the Windward Islands Administration was dissolved, and Grenada joined the Federation of the West Indies.
In 1960, another constitutional evolution established the post of Chief Minister, making the leader of the majority party in the Legislative Council, which at that time was Herbert Blaize, effective head of government. In March 1961 the Grenada United Labour Party won the general election and George E.D. Clyne became chief minister until Eric Gairy was elected in a by-election and took the role in August 1961.
In April 1962 Grenada's Administrator, the Queens representative on the island, James Lloyd suspended the constitution, dissolved the Legislative Council, and removed Eric Gairy as Chief Minister, following allegations concerning the Gairy's financial impropriety. At the 1962 general election the Grenada National Party won a majority and Herbert Blaize became Chief Minister for the second time.
After the Federation of the West Indies collapsed in 1962, the British government tried to form a small federation out of its remaining dependencies in the Eastern Caribbean. Following the failure of this second effort, the British and the islanders developed the concept of "associated statehood". Under the Associated Statehood Act on 3 March 1967 Grenada was granted full autonomy over its internal affairs. Herbert Blaize was the first Premier of the Associated State of Grenada from March to August 1967. Eric Gairy served as Premier from August 1967 until February 1974, as the Grenada United Labour Party party won majorities in both the 1967 and 1972 general elections.
In the early 1970s, then Premier Eric Matthew Gairy announced that he intended to seek Grenada’s independence from Britain. At the time, Mr. Gairy was facing opposition inside and outside of parliament from his political foes who bristled at his style of leadership.
The leadership of both the Grenada National Party (GNP) of Herbert Blaize and the New Jewel Movement (NJM) of Maurice Bishop had their reservations about Mr. Gairy’s independence plans. They made those reservations known when discussions opened with Britain on the path to independence for Grenada. Members of the GNP and NJM were part of a delegation that met British officials, and which included Mr. Gairy and representatives of his Grenada United Labour Party.
Over the objections of the opposition, and an eventual boycott of the ongoing talks with Britain by the opponents, Mr. Gairy persevered and Grenada was granted independence.
On 7 February 1974, Grenada became a fully independent state. Grenada continued to practise a modified Westminster parliamentary system based on the British model with a governor general appointed by and representing the British monarch (head of state) and a prime minister who is both leader of the majority party and the head of government. Eric Gairy was independent Grenada's first prime minister and Sir Leo de Gale its first Governor-General. Strikes during the independence preparations, which almost prevented the transition, were suppressed by, it was claimed, ‘Mongoose Gangs’ operating in the manner of Haiti’s ‘Tonton- Macoutes’.
The now well-known red, green and gold flag – with stars and nutmeg – was raised on Fort George on 7 February 1974, signalling nationhood for Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Eric Matthew Gairy was installed as our first Prime Minister, and Leo De Gale as the first Governor General.
Independence was celebrated by candlelight as employees of the local electricity company and other sectoral workers were on strike.
Upon Grenada’s attainment of Independence in 1974, the Grenada Constitution Order of 1973, which was made on the 19 December 1973 in London, came into operation on the day of Independence being 7 February 1974.
Meaning of Independence
Grenada becoming an independent nation, now meant that Britain, no longer controlled the affairs of the country. It was now the responsibility of the newly elected Prime Minister and the locally elected Cabinet. Independence also meant that a Constitution, symbols, emblems, an army, and passports had to be developed for the country.
As an independent nation, Grenada assigns Ambassadors overseas who represent the country. They sign treaties on behalf of Grenada and become members of various international organisations. This is important, as it gives the country equal rights on various issues relating to international trade, policies and treaties.