Your article re Col. Marcus Despard was enlightening. I especially enjoyed the glimpse it afforded into the intimate family circle of the Despards: to date no-one seemed to have heard of a Mrs Despard, although her existence was presumed when a great grand-daughter visited Belize in Feb.,1999.(See the Reporter of Feb.17,1999). Confirmation that the “Edward Despard” of your article, and the “Col. Marcus Despard” of Mr Emory King’s Great Story of Belize, are one and the same person is provided by an inscription which appears on a Plan of the South Point of Belize River Mouth commissioned in 1787 by “Col. Edward M. Despard”, HM Superintendent In The Bay of Honduras. (See Y. Musa’s “Belize City-a historical exhibition(2000).
Despard arrived in the Settlement in 1787(not 1786 as stated in your article), and immediately it would seem, commissioned the survey. Why the rush? The view has been proposed that it was necessary to find accommodation for the Shoremen –as the 3000-odd Nicaraguans who the Baymen were made to receive here in consequence of one of the conventions to the 1783 Treaty of Paris were called. But the Settlers here were adamant that they would not be allowed to live at the River Mouth, and so designated the area between what is now Smith’s Bank and Hecker Bank for that purpose. The place was known as “Convention Town”, and appears in Court records as early as 1789.
Alternatively,could it be that his coloured wife urged on him the need to provide better housing for the black south-bank dwellers whose shanties shared space with the grave-yards, the prison, the hang-man’s derricks, whipping-posts and the barking yards? (The size of the lots was tiny when compared to their North-bank counterparts lending support to this speculation). If so, this would be in line with Linebaugh’s and Radiker’s position regarding his socialism.
But where he and the Baymen disagreed was not so much (if at all!) on his one-world views. Indeed it was on their recommendation that he got the job here, and those views would have been known to the Settlers who would see no incipient conflict as Burnaby’s Code offered similar rights to all free-men here, including the blacks and indians. The rub was Despard’s refusal to respect the legislative and electoral provisions of that Code, the then 22-yr old Constitution of the Settlement. (It would seem that Despard had a real problem with constitutional authority, and this finally cost him his life in 1803 when he was executed in England).
In fairness to Mr Emory King, who is an ardent student and disciple of Burnaby’s Code—as was Mr. Thomas Paslow—it is at least understandable, if not forgiveable, that he would within this paradigm, accord higher marks to Paslow than to Despard. And Thos Paslow took this constitutional fight , not only to Despard, but to every Superintendent in his lifetime—and there were many—who thumbed their noses at the Code.
Finally, whether the south-bank survey was to accommodate Shoremen or to benefit the south-bank blacks (in either case providing Despard a power base there from which to fight the constitutional authority of the Public Meeting), by going against the Constitution, he played the wrong card, for he alienated the one man who could have been his greatest ally. After all they were both Irishmen, both were rabid idealists, and both had wed black women.