Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

A West Indian Lobbyist in England: The Campaign of Dr Hyacinth B. Morgan on Behalf of the British West Indies, 1919-1955

Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

A West Indian Lobbyist in England: The Campaign of Dr Hyacinth B. Morgan on Behalf of the British West Indies, 1919-1955

Article excerpt

Introduction

From the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, lobbying conducted in England by colonial agents or members of the wealthy absentee planter class like the Beckfords and Longs of Jamaica greatly influenced British colonial policies. Conventional wisdom suggests that these lobbying efforts ceased by the end of the nineteenth century when the sugar industry became bankrupt. However, the career in parliament and in the British Medical Association of Dr Hyacinth B. Morgan of Grenada reminds us that in the twentieth century a different kind of lobbyist might have emerged. Motivated not by the prospect of economic gain but rather by a genuine interest in improving working-class conditions, Morgan helped prick the consciences of British parliamentarians and the public into acknowledging the need to change course, to promote decolonization, and to better embrace local aspirations for political and social change.

Who exactly was Morgan, though? How do the actions of this fascinating man help us unravel the intricacies of the move towards political emancipation for the British Caribbean from the absurdities of Crown Colony government? What light does the career of this medical doctor and parliamentarian shed on the efforts to improve working-class conditions in the early twentieth century?

In her brief biography of T.A. Marryshow, Jill Shepherd remarks that Morgan provided to him invaluable assistance with and entry into the worlds of British Labour Party officials in the 1920s and 1930s, when Marryshow was aggressively advocating greater local participation by Grenadians in charting their destiny.1 Despite the possible implications of this assertion, Morgan has failed to attract much scholarly attention. Although his presence in the House of Commons and involvement in political issues relating to the Caribbean antedated, by more than twenty years, the efforts of his fellow Grenadian and medical practitioner Lord David Pitt, Hyacinth B. Morgan remains a relative unknown in twentieth-century Caribbean historiography. This essay seeks to partly fill the scholarly void by shedding some light on Dr Morgan's political career as it relates to his activities promoting the interests of the British Caribbean in the early to mid-twentieth century. A white medical doctor, Fabian socialist, and Labour Party member, Morgan's efforts on behalf of the British working class and the Caribbean region in general were well known and recognized by many of his contemporaries in England, Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad and British Guiana, to name a few.

Early Life

Born in September 1885 of "poor" Irish parents who then lived in Grenada, Hyacinth Bernard Wenceslaus Morgan attended local schools on his native island. Morgan's father, Leo F. Morgan, was a local clerk accountant who was one of the signatories in 1894 to a petition initiated by William Galwey Donovan against proposals to limit the role of elected members in the St. George's Town Board.2 Leo had another son, Lawrence S. Morgan. About Hyacinth Morgan's mother we know very little. Morgan bemoaned his apparently forced estrangement from her during his boyhood years. Her death, sometime before his graduation from medical school, was another cause of grief for him. The stringent financial circumstances of Leo Morgan rendered him unable to pay fees for both sons to attend secondary school simultaneously. Hyacinth's winning a scholarship to the local grammar school solved that problem.

On graduation, Hyacinth Morgan worked locally for a few years, saving as much money as he could from his annual salary of £50 per annum so that he might further his education overseas. Probably influenced in part by his experiences while working in the Attorney General's office, his first interest lay in studying law. But his father would have none of it, insisting that he study medicine. "With only a few pounds in his pocket, determined to study medicine," he left for Great Britain in 1904. …

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