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Bermuda: Culture & History

Bermuda, like every island

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Quote Stranded Replybullet Topic: Bermuda Culture & History
    Posted: 03 Apr 2007 at 11:59am
1/ There is no evidence of human habitation of Bermuda prior to the arrival of Europeans.  When they arrived the island was inhabited by wild hogs, presumably the survivors of shipwrecks.  Spanish wrecks had left temporary human inhabitants who had been rescued, but who left a marker to let later arrivals know they were not the first.  The island has been continually inhabited since the wreck of the Sea Venture in 1609. It was enroute to Jamestown, Virginia.

2/ Black Seal Rum is not brewed in Bermuda. It is distilled and blended in the Caribbean to a Bermuda recipe that has been in the Gosling family for many generations. Common mixed drinks are the Dark and Stormy (Black Seal and Barritts Ginger Beer) and Black and Coke (Black Seal and Coke).  Black Seal is also served on the rocks, or in a brandy snifter.  From the snifter, it recently scored 96 out of a possible 100 points at the World Spirits Championships. A little fun fact about the rum - the logo is a pun on words - until recently in it's history black seal rum could still be purchased in bulk from the Goslings warehouse. You brought your own bottle, they filled it, corked it, then dipped the top in black wax. Hence, the pun, Black Seal rum.

3/ Slavery was introduced to Bermuda around 1616 by members of the Virginia company, who brought North American natives who were knowledgeable in the growing of tobacco. The venture failed, as the both climate and slaves were not well suited to cultivation of tobacco on the island. We still have the name of Tobacco Bay in St. George as the legacy of that time. Later African slaves were imported from the Caribbean.  Indentured Scots, English and Irish were also brought to Bermuda and kept in life long servitude. Convict labour was used to build the Royal Naval Dockyard, and Boer prisoners of war were pressed into chain gangs labouring on various public works. Slavery (under several guises) wasn't particularly a racial issue in here. To Bermuda's credit, between emancipation in 1834 and US emancipation in 1863, the island became a refuge to many American slaves who arrived by ship, were told by locals that they were free, and refused to return to the US.

4/ The Bermuda Colonial Government was formally on the side of the British during the US war of independence, but local Bermudians mounted a raid on the local powder magazine, stole the contents and sold it to American rebels. This makes the population of Bermuda among the oldest ally of the United States. In the 1980s when our insurance industry was threatened by proposed changes in US regulation, the premier at the time was said to have taken the bills of sale for gun powder to show the American president as evidence of the long relationship of the two peoples.

5/ There has been an independence movement in Bermuda for many years. At times both major political parties (the United Bermuda Party and the Progressive Labour Party) have called for independence. In the UBP independence referendum of 1995, 75% voted to retain the current ties to the UK. Their fire stolen, the PLP called for a boycott of the vote by members of their party although it is generally accepted that the boycott was only partially effective.  Current polls indicate that across the population there is still only about 25% support for independence.

6/ In recent years Bermuda has become a world leader in Insurance and Reinsurance, second in the world only to Lloyds as a center for insurance expertise and risk capacity.  Bermuda insurance companies were the first to absorb major losses immediately after the 911 terrorist attacks.  We do have other exempt company business such as the world headquarters of Bacardi, a number of other major corporations. Insurance is essentially a separate industry. It is followed by the offshore businesses with tourism taking third position in the economy. The synergy of tourism with business has worked well for Bermuda and for our visitors.

For accuracy, it should be noted that a Bermuda Exempt Company is exempted from local ownership laws, and it may not trade in the local economy.  Although there is no direct income tax in Bermuda, payroll taxes and compulsory benefits to workers amount to approximately a 10% of gross plus $5000 tax on employment earnings across the economy. There are also significant import duties (almost everything is imported to the Island), significant real property and corporate taxes.  All of these taxes apply to exempt and local companies alike.


Edited by Stranded - 03 Apr 2007 at 2:06pm
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Quote Scott Replybullet Posted: 03 Apr 2007 at 11:37pm
Thank you for the great information.  We'll work on rewriting that article and noting your comments.

Do you have any citations?
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Quote Stranded Replybullet Posted: 04 Apr 2007 at 8:19am

Scott,

Most of this stuff is simply what you pick up living here - if you're interested in how and why things are the way they are. But.. you piqued my curiosity and made me think if I'd have my name attached to some of this I should check it for accuracy.

Of the things that I wrote off the top of my head, only two can I not support. I couldn't find evidence of Scots as indentured, and I couldn't find evidence of Boers being pressed into forced labour. Apart from that, I think my comments are well supported by the record.

Anyway... if you have Bermuda questions I'm happy to do the research for you.. good fun, and I love to promote Bermuda. It's a magical little place.

You're doing quite an ambitious project! Good luck!

Ian

 

 

Not formal citations - but - I happened to have the internet, google, and a recent history of Bermuda kicking around the house -

1/ If you read the Wikipedia article on history of Bermuda (much more detail than I've seen elsewhere) you'll see my brief is supported there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bermuda

2/ See http://www.goslingsrum.com/history.asp for the "black seal" pun. As for the popularity of the Dark and Stormy and Black and Coke, you'll have to try them for yourself to understand.

3/ From "Bermuda - Five Centuries", Rosemary Jones, Pg.45 - "The first record of slavery in Bermuda occurred under Danial Tucker's administration, when the governor sent a ship in 1616 to the West Indies to find "an Indian and a Negar" to dive for pearls in Bermuda - making the island the first English colony to import blacks". She goes on to say that during early years blacks worked as slaves, indentured servants or apprentices like many of the white English settlers, bound to a single master for a number of years. In an inset on Pg.47 Jones says - "American, Mexican and Carribean Indians were shipped to Bermuda and sold as slaves during the 17th Century. Public records indicate Indians from various tribes including Mohicans, Wamponogs, Marragansetts, Pequots, Caribes, Cherokees and Arawaks were brought to the island." She goes on to discussion of a revolt lead by black and Irish indentured servants. Pg.83 "Starting in 1823 English and Irish convicts were shipped across the atlantic for use as cheap workers for the British Government". I was unable to find reference to Scotts being indentured. I was also unable to find good evidence that Boer's here around 1900 were used as pressed labour.

4/ From "Bermuda - Five Centuries", Rosemary Jones, Pg.77 - "The night of August 14, 1775 was calm and stifling hot...". Follows a lengthly and detailed recount of several dozen men robbing 100 casks of gunpowder from the local magazine, sale to the Americans and the ensuing unsuccessful attempts by the British to prosecute the perpetrators. As for Sir John Swan using the paperwork to convince Bush senior of our long relatoinship, that is urban legend. Swan was phenomenally successful at promoting the insurance industry in the late '80s, so he must have had some convincing argument or leverage.

5/ Again from "Bermuda - Five Centuries" pg.233, the earliest record there of independence is the Pitt Commission of 1977, who recommended it as a way to ease social pressures on the island. She says that both parties have espoused independence over time and discusses the PLP boycott of the '95 referendum. Jones quotes Charles Gosling, president of the Chamber of Commerce, "Independence does not belong to any one political party. It belongs to the people of Bermuda. We have to ensure that this is not something that is going to be divisive and ultimately destroy the island." *followed I'm sure by a round of Black Seal for the bar... As for the current suppoort, those stats were recently published in the Royal Gazette and/or Bermuda Sun. I didn't have a chance to track them down this morning but I'm confident they're accurate. There's an online site that I think maybe be a little biased, but they do quote the same stats. See http://www.coha.org/2006/02/25/bermuda-independence-by-any-means-governance-as-an-obsession/

6/ See http://www.bermuda-insurance.org/x-prnews-article.aspx?ArticleID=200703231452PR_NEWS_USPR_____MXF004.xml - there is a lot of internet advocacy for the Bermuda insurance industry and discussion of Bermuda's economy on the net. I happen to think that it should be looked at as separate from the other international business. Probably there's a 40%, 20%, 30% split between Insurance, other international business and tourism.

As for the status of Exempt companies, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Bermuda - it's probably not definative, but again, there is lots of info on the web about the exempt company system.

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