With its 1973 independence, a new Social Contract had been psychosocially and constitutionally enacted between the Bahamian government and the people. This was not the first Social Contract, but it became a principally defining one, because it was considered the most inclusively binding agreement, between populous and state, that the Bahamas had ever undertaken.

(The Financial Post, Saturday 8, September 1979)

Social contract, in political philosophy, is an actual or hypothetical compact, or agreement, between the ruled and their rulers. The Social Contract defines the rights and duties of each. It encompasses theories of political obligation between the lawgivers (government) and the populace who form society.

Ambitions were set high, as government officials and independence progenitors, promised that the new Bahamas would embody reverence to the sacrifices of the past, efforts to ameliorate the struggles of the present and offer promise to future Bahamians.

These same sentiments, expressed in the new ideals of the independence Social Contract of the Bahamas, had previously been considered, in abstract form, by philosopher and politician Edmund Burke in the 1700s.


EDMUND BURKE (1729 – 1797)

Edmund Burke was an Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher. Burke served as a member of parliament between 1766 and 1794 in the House of Commons for the Whig Party.

In the 1700s, Anglo-Irish Statesman and Philosopher, Edmund Burke expounded on the importance of the Social Contract.

Edmund Burke rejected the liberal view of the Contract that some theorised binds only the government and living citizens (society) of a nation. Burke argued otherwise stating “society is but a contract between the dead, the living and those yet to be born.”

In other words, civilisation, and in the creation of nations, we must give weight to those who came before – our ancestors; the living – ourselves; and those still to be born – the future.

Society, Burke theorised, needed to reflect the past, consider the present and meet the needs of future generations – a bridge of continuity.


1979 – GUARDING BAHAMIAN HERITAGE

In 1979, “Guard Our Heritage” was the mantra, proud Bahamians recited, unashamedly, from every athol, island and cay. Less than a decade into the new Social Contract, the country was pressing forward with its revolutionary ideals of creating a modern Bahamas, for politically and economically empowered Bahamians, from every walk of life.

“Guard Our Heritage” theme was chosen to mark a momentous achievement for the Bahamas. The country’s parliamentary democracy, was older and more peaceably maintained, than even that of its close neighbour, America. It was this strong form of democracy, which allowed the the country to evolve from slave colony under colonial rule to independent nation, under majority rule, peaceably, in the fullness of time.

Pride had taken hold in people’s minds and hearts. Pride permeated straight down to the soles of the feet of the foot-soldiers, the descendants of planters and settlers, the descendants of slaves, all who, had all but given up on the dream of becoming equal participants, in the political and economic future of their Bahamas.

So much was to be celebrated that the royals in England sent their Princess Anne to officially commemorate the Bahamas’s new psychosocial, constitutional Social Contract and the long history that gave birth to it.

(The Sunday Record, Sunday 9 September 1979)

(The Financial Post, Saturday 8, September 1979)

(The Financial Post, Saturday 8, September 1979)

Throughout Its History There Has Always Been Various Forms of the Social Contract Which Bound Government to the Bahamian Citizen

First administrators of the Bahamas, the Lords Proprietors, were really just early opportunity exploiters. They were shrewd money men. Drunk with pleasures from unfettered power, far away from the rule of kings, in a new unchartered land, they could shape as opportunity afforded. Their word was law. Your labour, their profit.

(The Sunday Record, Sunday 9 September 1979)

(The Sunday Record, Sunday 9 September 1979)

The beginnings of the first Social Contract between British colonial governments and settler society in the Bahamas, was a particularly crude one. It did not include all members of society, namely those designated as slaves. Slaves were chattel – property.

By 1726, the population of the Bahamas was an impressive 1,140 souls, comprising population of slaves, slave masters, freemen of colour, planters, settlers and itinerate traders. New Providence, Eleuthera and Harbour Island were the only populated areas.

After emancipation, in 1834, the relationship between government and people in the Bahamas began its long, arduous evolutionary development.

Obligations and responsibilities, trusts and duties were created which had not been there before.

Rights had to be granted to groups of people previously excluded from participating fully in society. For example, adult suffrage, extending the right to vote to women was a further evolution in the Social Contract for the Bahamas.

(The Sunday Record, Sunday 9 September 1979)

1964 – Beginnings of a Second, More Expansive, Social Contract Between Government and People

The first Bahamas constitution in 1964, transferred substantial powers from the British appointed Governor to the head of the elected government. One important portfolio was passed from the British Governor to the elected Bahamian leader – the authority over Crown Lands.

Bahamas Constitution 1964, ceding more power into the hands of the local legislative body, began a series of substantial events leading up to 1973.

Third and Most Substantive Social Contract 1969 to 1973

Independence is the highest form of nation recognition and obligation. Based on the support of law underpinned by its parliamentary democracy, the Bahamas expanded its Social Contract for the third and most substantive time in its history.

(The Financial Post, Saturday 8, September 1979)

Independence cemented the idea of Bahamian Heritage and the paramount need to preserve it, guard it and project it on. It was always the hope, of even the early Bahamians, that future generations may come to understand the immense sacrifice so many gave, so that the living, might feel pride in their unique Bahama Island heritage.

(The Sunday Record, Sunday 9 September 1979)
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