309. Telegram From the Embassy in Barbados to the Department of State1

2689. Subj: British Plans for Granting Independence. Refs: A) London 14922; B) Bridgetown 1968; C) Bridgetown 2232.2

1. Summary of British positions re independence for various of its Caribbean dependencies contained ref A is an update of those given to us and reported in our reftels B and C. A new element is that contained para 3 ref A. We were not aware HMG considering “cutting loose” British Virgin Islands. However, it should be said there is not much difference in doing so and in cutting such impoverished units as Dominica and St. Vincent adrift.

2. It seems clear HMG is now implementing a policy decision to cast off the last remnants of empire. Hopefully adequate provision for the material needs of the inhabitants thereof can be assured. The UK is certainly active in the Caribbean Group and continues making grant financial infusions but since the breakup of the West Indian Federation there is a notable and I believe censurable absence of serious British efforts to meld these small political entities into larger, more viable ones.3

3. The UK in addition to responsibilities in almost all corners of the globe is aware of the high cost to the French and U.S. taxpayers of Martinique, Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico. Who can blame the UK for wishing to “cut loose.” The future of the new states therefore is not promising.

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4. When I met with Richard Stratton, Supervisory Under Secretary, West Indies and Atlantic Department in London in late August he stressed that HMG considered the islands of the Caribbean were of far more significance to the U.S. than to the UK. This may well be so. Nevertheless we should not hasten to hang what some hardnosed veteran observers consider a chain of tropical millstones around the neck of the U.S. alone. The forthcoming independence of the Associated States makes it more important than ever that our approach to the economic development of the Eastern Caribbean be in concert with other interested nations and that we intensify our efforts towards the building of adequate regional institutions.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780390–1263. Confidential; Limdis. Repeated for information to London and USUN.
  2. Telegram 14922 from London, September 15, described British efforts to move most of their Caribbean possessions toward independence. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780377–0672) In telegram 1968 from Bridgetown, July 19, the Embassy stated that the “movement toward full independence of the West Indian Associated States is probably irreversible.” It also cautioned that “we shall have to navigate very carefully to assure we are not willy-nilly saddled with the burdens the British are laying down.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780298–0941) In telegram 2232 from Bridgetown, August 9, the Embassy reported on British plans for granting independence to several Caribbean mini-states, noting that constitutional talks with officials in St. Lucia were moving forward and negotiations with officials in St. Vincent were soon to begin. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780327–0801)
  3. The West Indies Federation was a union of British colonies that sought independence as a single political entity. It consisted of of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. The Federation was formed in 1958 and dissolved in 1962.