LETTER: Picton’s record as slaver worse than SJA’s legacy

Now that Picton has established its very own “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to decide the fate of Sir John A. MacDonald’s statue on Main Street, it might also be time to consider the history of Sir Thomas Picton, the town’s namesake.

Thomas Picton was Welsh, the highest ranking British officer to be killed at Waterloo in 1815 in the Continental Wars. In 1797, Picton was part of a British force that captured Trinidad for the British Empire, substantially profitting  through continued slave trade.  He was installed as governor and his rule with an iron fist marked by command as a slave owner that included deadly hangings, floggings, imprisonments that led to his being called ‘The Tyrant of Trinidad’.

Picton was a brutal slave owner known for his cruelty, sadism and inhumanity. He revelled in torturing blacks, one most notable incident causing the governor’s recall to England for trial in 1806.

Picton was found guilty of illegally torturing a non-slave (free) girl.  Part of Picton’s treatment of the girl consisted in the suspension of eleven-year old Louisa Calderon who was forced to support for two days her entire weight on a wooden stake while being hung from the ceiling by one leg and a hand bound together.  Then the girl was locked in solitary confinement for eight months.  Louisa Calderon had been accused of knowing who had taken some money of a plantation owner.   Picton was re-called to England where he was convicted at an 1806 trial, being released on appeal by a technicality, in time to fight at Waterloo.

During our moment in time with support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, there are many motions before Cardiff Council for all Picton references throughout Wales to be removed.

With reference to the men who lend their names to town of Picton let us compare some of their actions:  No doubt Sir John A. was a flawed person as many of us are, but he tried to do his best.  He tried to create a country where United Empire Loyalists displaced in the United States could prosper while still expressing allegiance to The Empire.  Sir Thomas did his utmost to ensure the economy of the British Empire would prosper on the backs of black slaves. Sir John A. felt a sea-to-sea railroad would unite Canada.  Sir Thomas felt slavery could help The Empire to prosper. Sir John A. thought residential schools would help indigenous children to assimilate, even consulting with native leaders.  Sir Thomas preferred an ignorant slave population which would be controlled by slave owners to the benefit of The Empire.

While it is impossible to recount the personal histories of both men let us conclude Sir John A. operated in a generally positive vein; Sir Thomas operated through a generally oppressive vein. It is only to ask when the name for Town of Picton will be changed to a more positive and wholesome namesake.

Who said those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it?

Would County people wish to be remembered by the actions of Sir John A. or by those of Sir Thomas?

I personally don’t want to be linked with a slaver.

Mike Bondy

Prince Edward County