Charles William Warner

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About Charles William Warner

Written by Angelo Bissessarsingh (VirtualMuseum Of trinidadandtobago)

THE GRAVE OF CHARLES WILLIAM WARNER, Attorney General of Trinidad, Colonial Cemetery, Botanical Gardens- THE STORY OF HIS RISE AND FALL For more than 25 years, Chas. Warner was the most feared and powerful man in Trinidad. A descendent of Sir Thomas Warner of St. Kitts, he was born in Trinidad to Col. E. Warner , a rich landowner and was delivered at sea while his parents were on a ship from St. Vincent bound for Trinidad. Sir Thomas Warner was the first Englishman to establish a permanent British colony in the Caribbean on the island of St. Kitts in 1623. Col. Warner was himself a powerbroker in the early days of Trinidad’s British period since from the time of conquest in 1797 until the 1830s, Trinidad functioned under martial law. Col. Warner was the proprietor of Woodland and other extensive sugar estates in the rich rolling plains of South Naparima and more than once was accused of swindling his way around to amalgamate his holdings. Col. Warner was married to the daughter of Sir Charles Shipley, Governor of Grenada who brought a considerable dowry . The only son of his parents and born in 1805. Charles was educated at Eton and admitted to the Trinidad Bar in 1829 where he had a brilliant legal career which made his reputation quite formidable. He was married in England in 1829 and was well placed upon his return to the island since its Chief Judge was his uncle, Ashton Warner. When Ashton Warner died in 1830, Edward Jackson, a young up and coming lawyer was appointed to act in his stead, but Col. Warner already had designs on the post for his son. Aside from official posts, Charles set up a flourishing legal practice which made him famous for in addition to being a powerful speaker in court, he was dashing and handsome….indeed, his father who died in 1849 was called ‘Handsome Ned’ in his time. In 1840 he was confirmed as Solicitor General by Sir Henry McLeod. In that same year he qualified as a Barrister at the Inns of the Court but suffered misfortune in 1841 when after bearing four children, his wife died suddenly. In 1844, incumbent Edward Jackson (a rival of Warner) died and Charles was confirmed as Attorney General. This was something he had been plotting for some time and the opportune demise of the obstacle to his ambitions cleared the way. Warner set about implementing an iron-handed version of the English Common Law. This saw the passing away of the old Spanish laws which had prevailed even after the conquest of the island. His reputation as a formidable man was sealed and he became known as the Napoleon or Caesar of Trinidad. He wed a second time in 1845 to Ellen Rosa, the daughter of John Joseph Cadiz, a fellow barrister . Ellen Rosa gave Charles four sons and four daughters. With a large family, his home had to be equal to the occasion. This building was known as the Hall and later became part of Bishop Anstey High School. It included a swimming pool, fishpond, and an extensive garden with many beautiful flowering plants where the great man would read books in Greek and Latin. Warner was a staunch Anglican and a foresworn antagonist of the French Creole Catholics who were in the majority. His most vocal critic was Sir Louis De Verteuil who was the de-facto spokesman for the Catholic faction and a Member of the Legislative Council. On all occasions , Warner sought to compromise the attempts of the Catholic church to maintain and expand its doctrine in the island while fervently supporting the growth of the Anglican archdiocese which from 1823 to 1870 experienced a major outward thrust with new chapels and schools being constructed across the island. In this drive he was supported by rich planters such as William Hardin Burnley (1780-1850) of Orange Grove, the wealthiest man in the colony. In digging at Catholic sentiments, he made illegal the practice of deathbed marriages which were often hastily performed by priests both for the souls of the nearly departed and to legitimize relationships for purposes of inheritance. He even stopped the salary of Archbishop Vincent Spaccapietra which was paid from public coffers. Moreover, the campaign laid into the French Creoles who traditionally had their children educated in France. Warner passed legislation which recognized qualifications obtained in law and medicine at English universities ONLY. His reformation even took a stab at the local schools where the Catholic institutions taught in French and followed a mix of ecclesiastical and secular curriculum. Warner tried to have this rearranged to suit and English regimen taught in that language. It was Warner who pressed Governor Lord Harris in 1851 to establish the Ward School system which would be governed by the Colonial government thus implementing free and unbiased public primary education. In fact, it was said by both his friends and enemies, that Warner manipulated the laws for his own purposes, as he was often accused of corruption. Warner practiced law whilst holding the post of Attorney General, oblivious to the conflict of interest. He was known as a friend to the wealthy British plantocracy which no doubt fattened his pocket. Aside from his annual salary of 800 pounds, Charles received ten golden guineas a day for the duration of any case he prosecuted for the colonial administration. Much like subsequent Attorney Generals, Warner was on permanent retainer on the payroll of large firms like the powerful Colonial Company which owned most of the sugar estates in the island and Orange Grove Estates owned by his friend Burnley. Unlike his successors who derived this lucrative income through puppet firms set up in the names of others, Warner was blatant and personally represented the sugar baron interests when and where it suited him. The cost of educating his children (four of whom were put through Oxford ) in England and the lavish lifestyle he enjoyed at the Hall (the silver service alone was worth a staggering 500 pounds) devoured his income. For all the money, Warner was constantly in debt and took it as his right to incur expenses without paying them at all. This was all right in Trinidad since his creditors were afraid of the legal power he wielded but these debts extended to England where merchants sent a note to the Colonial Office, exhorting the public officials there to convince the profligate Warner to settle his debts which in 1867 had been several years standing and varied from expensive wines ordered at a chandler’s emporium to 12 pounds owned for a suit to a tailor. Whilst continuing to practice privately in addition to holding the post of Attorney General, Warner often biased and manipulated cases where the outcome would cushion his pocket. More than once , plaintiffs were wronged by his doings since the defendant was either a society friend of the Attorney General or else well placed to endow his interests. Plaintiffs who lost against Warner were made to pay exorbitant legal costs which of course he pocketed. Two orphans whose affairs were left in trust to him were robbed of their legacies and Warner even scrupled not to rob the Anglican Church of which he was such a champion. When he left the island in 1853, Governor Harris left a sum of 300 pounds to be held in trust for the establishment of an English grammar school. The money was given to the Venerable Archdeacon Cummins who was Harris’ father in law. Not being a man of business and recognizing Warner as a champion of the Church of England , Cummins handed the Harris Trust over to the Attorney General to manage. Manage it he did since the wily AG lent the money at 6 percent interest to his cousin, Ms. Fitzgerald with the security founded on a house owned by Warner, so indeed, Warner lent the money to himself. Again, because of the sway he held, the Ecclesiastical Board was afraid to confront the Attorney General. When the money was required for use to expand Anglican missionary activities in the colony, Warner was called upon to account for the Harrs Trust. It was found to be bankrupt , neither principal nor interest being present. Archedacon Cummins, dying in 1869, summoned Warner to his deathbead to account for the money. The interest amounting to a considerable sum as well as the principal was never repaid. Two years earlier Warner defrauded the illegitimate child of one of his clients who had left a legacy of $2,000 with two trustees for the girl on her coming of age or marrying. Warner was able to persuade the trustees to lend him the money which was never repaid. The ruthless attorney general met his match in 1868 when the fair and impartial Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon came to Trinidad. Gordon was bent on implementing new home office policies to build a peasant class through allocation of crown lands and sweeping land reform that flew in the face of the interest of the old sugar barons who were financiers of Warner. The latter used many blocking and stalling tactics to befool the governor who saw what this man was at first glance. Warner even went so far as to misrepresent Gordon in the latter’s absence on leave to pass legislation contrary to the land reforms, but was stoutly resisted by his old opponent, Dr. L.A.A DeVerteuil, the Catholic leader. Gordon saw it as necessary to remove Warner from his post to that of Chief Justice where he could do less damage. Gordon was also made aware of the mismanagement of the Harris Trust and Warner’s scheming against those orphans placed in his purview. With this ammunition, the governor wrote to the Home Office and received permission to deal decisively with the Attorney General. Warner however, had his sources and was apprised of the impending doom and therefore resigned just before the governor was to act. In so doing he preserved the pension to which he was entitled as Attorney General from 1844-67 which he would have lost if perfunctorily dismissed. Thus ended in relative disgrace, the career of one of the most influential Trinidadians of the 19th century. A short time before his death, this description of the aged man was written by J.A Froude: “One duty remained to me before I left the island. The Warners are among the oldest of West Indian families, distinguished through many generations, not the least in their then living chief and representative, Charles Warner, who in the highest ministerial offices had steered Trinidad through the trying times which followed the abolition of slavery. I had myself in early life been brought into relations with other members of his family. He himself was a very old man on the edge of the grave; but hearing that I was in Port of Spain, he had expressed a wish to see me. I found him in his drawing room, shrunk in stature, pale, bent double by weight of years, and but feebly able to lift his head to speak. I thought, and I judged rightly, that he could have but a few weeks, perhaps but a few days, to live. There is something peculiarly solemn in being brought to speak with a supremely eminent man, who is already struggling with the moment which is to launch him into a new existence. He raised himself in his chair. He gave me his withered hand. His eyes still gleamed with the light of an untouched intelligence. All else of him seemed dead. The soul, untouched by the decay of the frame which had been its earthly tenement, burnt bright as ever on the edge of its release. When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain, And they breathe truth who breathe their words in pain. He roused himself to talk, and he talked sadly, for all things at home and everywhere were travelling on the road which he well knew could lead to no good end. No statesman had done better practical work than he, or work which had borne better fruit, could it be allowed to ripen. But for him Trinidad would have been a wilderness, savage as when Columbus found the Caribs there. He belonged to the race who make empires, as the orators lose them, who do things and do not talk about them, who build and do notcast down, who reverence ancient habits and institutions as the organic functions of corporate national character ; a Tory of the Tories, who nevertheless recognised that Toryism itself was passing away under the universal solvent, and had ceased to be a faith which could be believed in as a guide to conduct. He no more than any one could tell what it was now wisest or even possible to do. He spoke like some ancient seer, whose eyes looked beyond the present time and the present world, and saw politics and progress and the wild whirlwind of change as the play of atoms dancing to and fro in the sunbeams of eternity. Yet he wished well to our poor earth, and to us who were still struggling upon it. He was sorry for the courses on which he saw mankind to be travelling. Spite of all the newspapers and the blowing of the trumpets, he well understood whither all that was tending. He spoke with horror and even loathing of the sinister leader who was drawing England into the fatal whirlpool. He could still hope, for he knew the power of the race. He knew that the English heart was unaffected, that we were suffering only from delirium of the brain. The day would yet come, he thought, when we should struggle back into sanity again with such wreck of our past greatness as might still be left to us, torn and shattered, but clothed and in our right mind, and cured for centuries of our illusions. My forebodings of the nearness of the end were too well founded. A month later I heard that Charles Warner was dead. To have seen and spoken with such a man was worth a voyage round the globe.” His descendants , Sir Pelham Warner (1873-1963) and Aucher Warner were also prominent men, the former being known as the Godfather of West Indies Cricket and the latter rising to the post of Solicitor General, which had been held by his father in the 1830s. Charles William Warner died an old and fiery man . His sugar interests presented him with a gold cup and salver as a token of his value in their service. Warner, unable to afford living in his magnificent Hall, had moved from his mansion to a humbler locale near Brunswick (Woodford) Square a year before his death and the Hall was sold to the Siegert family of the House of Angostura. It was near Brunswick Square he breathed his last. Charles William Warner was buried with pomp and honour as befitted a man of his (admittedly diminished) stature after a service at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity not far from his home. He was buried in the cemetery at the Royal Botanic Gardens under a simple marble cross which reads: CHARLES WILLIAM WARNER CB born 19th Oct. 1805 died 26th Feb. 1887 Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the laws of Christ. THE GRAVE OF CHARLES WILLIAM WARNER, Attorney General of Trinidad, Colonial Cemetery, Botanical Gardens- THE STORY OF HIS RISE AND FALL For more than 25 years, Chas. Warner was the most feared and powerful man in Trinidad. A descendent of Sir Thomas Warner of St. Kitts, he was born in Trinidad to Col. E. Warner , a rich landowner and was delivered at sea while his parents were on a ship from St. Vincent bound for Trinidad. Sir Thomas Warner was the first Englishman to establish a permanent British colony in the Caribbean on the island of St. Kitts in 1623. Col. Warner was himself a powerbroker in the early days of Trinidad’s British period since from the time of conquest in 1797 until the 1830s, Trinidad functioned under martial law. Col. Warner was the proprietor of Woodland and other extensive sugar estates in the rich rolling plains of South Naparima and more than once was accused of swindling his way around to amalgamate his holdings. Col. Warner was married to the daughter of Sir Charles Shipley, Governor of Grenada who brought a considerable dowry . The only son of his parents and born in 1805. Charles was educated at Eton and admitted to the Trinidad Bar in 1829 where he had a brilliant legal career which made his reputation quite formidable.

He was married in England in 1829 and was well placed upon his return to the island since its Chief Judge was his uncle, Ashton Warner. When Ashton Warner died in 1830, Edward Jackson, a young up and coming lawyer was appointed to act in his stead, but Col. Warner already had designs on the post for his son. Aside from official posts, Charles set up a flourishing legal practice which made him famous for in addition to being a powerful speaker in court, he was dashing and handsome….indeed, his father who died in 1849 was called ‘Handsome Ned’ in his time. In 1840 he was confirmed as Solicitor General by Sir Henry McLeod. In that same year he qualified as a Barrister at the Inns of the Court but suffered misfortune in 1841 when after bearing four children, his wife died suddenly. In 1844, incumbent Edward Jackson (a rival of Warner) died and Charles was confirmed as Attorney General. This was something he had been plotting for some time and the opportune demise of the obstacle to his ambitions cleared the way. Warner set about implementing an iron-handed version of the English Common Law. This saw the passing away of the old Spanish laws which had prevailed even after the conquest of the island.

His reputation as a formidable man was sealed and he became known as the Napoleon or Caesar of Trinidad. He wed a second time in 1845 to Ellen Rosa, the daughter of John Joseph Cadiz, a fellow barrister . Ellen Rosa gave Charles four sons and four daughters. With a large family, his home had to be equal to the occasion. This building was known as the Hall and later became part of Bishop Anstey High School. It included a swimming pool, fishpond, and an extensive garden with many beautiful flowering plants where the great man would read books in Greek and Latin. Warner was a staunch Anglican and a foresworn antagonist of the French Creole Catholics who were in the majority. His most vocal critic was Sir Louis De Verteuil who was the de-facto spokesman for the Catholic faction and a Member of the Legislative Council.

On all occasions , Warner sought to compromise the attempts of the Catholic church to maintain and expand its doctrine in the island while fervently supporting the growth of the Anglican archdiocese which from 1823 to 1870 experienced a major outward thrust with new chapels and schools being constructed across the island. In this drive he was supported by rich planters such as William Hardin Burnley (1780-1850) of Orange Grove, the wealthiest man in the colony. In digging at Catholic sentiments, he made illegal the practice of deathbed marriages which were often hastily performed by priests both for the souls of the nearly departed and to legitimize relationships for purposes of inheritance. He even stopped the salary of Archbishop Vincent Spaccapietra which was paid from public coffers. Moreover, the campaign laid into the French Creoles who traditionally had their children educated in France. Warner passed legislation which recognized qualifications obtained in law and medicine at English universities ONLY. His reformation even took a stab at the local schools where the Catholic institutions taught in French and followed a mix of ecclesiastical and secular curriculum. Warner tried to have this rearranged to suit and English regimen taught in that language. It was Warner who pressed Governor Lord Harris in 1851 to establish the Ward School system which would be governed by the Colonial government thus implementing free and unbiased public primary education.

In fact, it was said by both his friends and enemies, that Warner manipulated the laws for his own purposes, as he was often accused of corruption. Warner practiced law whilst holding the post of Attorney General, oblivious to the conflict of interest. He was known as a friend to the wealthy British plantocracy which no doubt fattened his pocket. Aside from his annual salary of 800 pounds, Charles received ten golden guineas a day for the duration of any case he prosecuted for the colonial administration. Much like subsequent Attorney Generals, Warner was on permanent retainer on the payroll of large firms like the powerful Colonial Company which owned most of the sugar estates in the island and Orange Grove Estates owned by his friend Burnley. Unlike his successors who derived this lucrative income through puppet firms set up in the names of others, Warner was blatant and personally represented the sugar baron interests when and where it suited him. The cost of educating his children (four of whom were put through Oxford ) in England and the lavish lifestyle he enjoyed at the Hall (the silver service alone was worth a staggering 500 pounds) devoured his income.

For all the money, Warner was constantly in debt and took it as his right to incur expenses without paying them at all. This was all right in Trinidad since his creditors were afraid of the legal power he wielded but these debts extended to England where merchants sent a note to the Colonial Office, exhorting the public officials there to convince the profligate Warner to settle his debts which in 1867 had been several years standing and varied from expensive wines ordered at a chandler’s emporium to 12 pounds owned for a suit to a tailor. Whilst continuing to practice privately in addition to holding the post of Attorney General, Warner often biased and manipulated cases where the outcome would cushion his pocket. More than once , plaintiffs were wronged by his doings since the defendant was either a society friend of the Attorney General or else well placed to endow his interests. Plaintiffs who lost against Warner were made to pay exorbitant legal costs which of course he pocketed. Two orphans whose affairs were left in trust to him were robbed of their legacies and Warner even scrupled not to rob the Anglican Church of which he was such a champion. When he left the island in 1853, Governor Harris left a sum of 300 pounds to be held in trust for the establishment of an English grammar school. The money was given to the Venerable Archdeacon Cummins who was Harris’ father in law. Not being a man of business and recognizing Warner as a champion of the Church of England , Cummins handed the Harris Trust over to the Attorney General to manage. Manage it he did since the wily AG lent the money at 6 percent interest to his cousin, Ms. Fitzgerald with the security founded on a house owned by Warner, so indeed, Warner lent the money to himself. Again, because of the sway he held, the Ecclesiastical Board was afraid to confront the Attorney General. When the money was required for use to expand Anglican missionary activities in the colony, Warner was called upon to account for the Harrs Trust. It was found to be bankrupt , neither principal nor interest being present. Archedacon Cummins, dying in 1869, summoned Warner to his deathbead to account for the money. The interest amounting to a considerable sum as well as the principal was never repaid.

Two years earlier Warner defrauded the illegitimate child of one of his clients who had left a legacy of $2,000 with two trustees for the girl on her coming of age or marrying. Warner was able to persuade the trustees to lend him the money which was never repaid. The ruthless attorney general met his match in 1868 when the fair and impartial Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon came to Trinidad. Gordon was bent on implementing new home office policies to build a peasant class through allocation of crown lands and sweeping land reform that flew in the face of the interest of the old sugar barons who were financiers of Warner. The latter used many blocking and stalling tactics to befool the governor who saw what this man was at first glance. Warner even went so far as to misrepresent Gordon in the latter’s absence on leave to pass legislation contrary to the land reforms, but was stoutly resisted by his old opponent, Dr. L.A.A DeVerteuil, the Catholic leader. Gordon saw it as necessary to remove Warner from his post to that of Chief Justice where he could do less damage. Gordon was also made aware of the mismanagement of the Harris Trust and Warner’s scheming against those orphans placed in his purview. With this ammunition, the governor wrote to the Home Office and received permission to deal decisively with the Attorney General. Warner however, had his sources and was apprised of the impending doom and therefore resigned just before the governor was to act. In so doing he preserved the pension to which he was entitled as Attorney General from 1844-67 which he would have lost if perfunctorily dismissed.

Thus ended in relative disgrace, the career of one of the most influential Trinidadians of the 19th century. A short time before his death, this description of the aged man was written by J.A Froude:

“One duty remained to me before I left the island. The Warners are among the oldest of West Indian families, distinguished through many generations, not the least in their then living chief and representative, Charles Warner, who in the highest ministerial offices had steered Trinidad through the trying times which followed the abolition of slavery. I had myself in early life been brought into relations with other members of his family. He himself was a very old man on the edge of the grave; but hearing that I was in Port of Spain, he had expressed a wish to see me. I found him in his drawing room, shrunk in stature, pale, bent double by weight of years, and but feebly able to lift his head to speak. I thought, and I judged rightly, that he could have but a few weeks, perhaps but a few days, to live. There is something peculiarly solemn in being brought to speak with a supremely eminent man, who is already struggling with the moment which is to launch him into a new existence. He raised himself in his chair. He gave me his withered hand. His eyes still gleamed with the light of an untouched intelligence. All else of him seemed dead. The soul, untouched by the decay of the frame which had been its earthly tenement, burnt bright as ever on the edge of its release. When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain, And they breathe truth who breathe their words in pain. He roused himself to talk, and he talked sadly, for all things at home and everywhere were travelling on the road which he well knew could lead to no good end. No statesman had done better practical work than he, or work which had borne better fruit, could it be allowed to ripen. But for him Trinidad would have been a wilderness, savage as when Columbus found the Caribs there. He belonged to the race who make empires, as the orators lose them, who do things and do not talk about them, who build and do notcast down, who reverence ancient habits and institutions as the organic functions of corporate national character ; a Tory of the Tories, who nevertheless recognised that Toryism itself was passing away under the universal solvent, and had ceased to be a faith which could be believed in as a guide to conduct. He no more than any one could tell what it was now wisest or even possible to do. He spoke like some ancient seer, whose eyes looked beyond the present time and the present world, and saw politics and progress and the wild whirlwind of change as the play of atoms dancing to and fro in the sunbeams of eternity. Yet he wished well to our poor earth, and to us who were still struggling upon it. He was sorry for the courses on which he saw mankind to be travelling. Spite of all the newspapers and the blowing of the trumpets, he well understood whither all that was tending. He spoke with horror and even loathing of the sinister leader who was drawing England into the fatal whirlpool. He could still hope, for he knew the power of the race. He knew that the English heart was unaffected, that we were suffering only from delirium of the brain. The day would yet come, he thought, when we should struggle back into sanity again with such wreck of our past greatness as might still be left to us, torn and shattered, but clothed and in our right mind, and cured for centuries of our illusions. My forebodings of the nearness of the end were too well founded. A month later I heard that Charles Warner was dead. To have seen and spoken with such a man was worth a voyage round the globe.”

His descendants , Sir Pelham Warner (1873-1963) and Aucher Warner were also prominent men, the former being known as the Godfather of West Indies Cricket and the latter rising to the post of Solicitor General, which had been held by his father in the 1830s. Charles William Warner died an old and fiery man . His sugar interests presented him with a gold cup and salver as a token of his value in their service. Warner, unable to afford living in his magnificent Hall, had moved from his mansion to a humbler locale near Brunswick (Woodford) Square a year before his death and the Hall was sold to the Siegert family of the House of Angostura. It was near Brunswick Square he breathed his last. Charles William Warner was buried with pomp and honour as befitted a man of his (admittedly diminished) stature after a service at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity not far from his home. He was buried in the cemetery at the Royal Botanic Gardens under a simple marble cross which reads:

CHARLES WILLIAM WARNER CB born 19th Oct. 1805 died 26th Feb. 1887 Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the laws of Christ.

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Charles William Warner's Timeline

1805
1805
unknown ship between England and Barbados
1830
1830
Age 25
Trinidad
1832
1832
Age 27
1834
1834
Age 29
1836
1836
Age 31
1838
1838
Age 33
1841
1841
Age 36
London, England, United Kingdom
1848
1848
Age 43
1850
1850
Age 45
1852
1852
Age 47