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At the capitulation of Barbados on the 17th of January 1652 to the forces of the Parliament under Admiral Ayscue, it was stipulated that the Government should consist of a Governor, Council and Assembly, according to the ancient and usual custom of the island; the Assembly to be chosen by a free and voluntary election of the freeholders in the several parishes; that no taxes, customs, imports, loans or excise should be laid, nor levy made on any of the inhabitants of the island without their consent in a General Assembly; and that all laws that had been made by General Assemblies not repugnant to the laws of England should be valid.
After the death of Cromwell, Colonel Thomas Modiford was appointed by the Committee Governor of Barbados. His short administration is only rendered remarkable by the sanction which he gave on the 6th of August 1660, to the Act limiting the existence of the General Assembly to one year. Humphrey Walrond succeeded him, and received the King's mandamus as President of the Council, after the restoration, and previous to the return of Lord Willoughby to Barbados in 1663. During this period several useful laws were passed, and among others an Act establishing the Court of Common Pleas, and declaring the method and manner of proceeding both to judgement and execution. By this law the island was divided into five precincts, and courts appointed to be held at certain times in the year for determining all controversies1.
This law was repealed in October 1664, and it was directed by Lord Willoughby and his Council that there should be but two courts, one to be held at St. Michael's, the other at Speightstown. No law appears to have been subjected to greater changes than the appointment of the Court of Common Pleas. This change having met with the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants, five months afterwards (March 17th, 1665) it was ordained by the same Governor and Council that there should be was on the 5th of April 1650. The first Act passed by Lord Willoughby is, according to the same list, "by the General Assembly, an Act for the better preservation of the present and future peace of the island," passed July 13th, 1650.
1 This Act (No. 28 of Hall's Laws) was passed August 29th, 1661, and divided the island into the following precincts, viz.-"1. The parish of Christ Church and St. Philip. 2. St. Michael, St. George, and St. John. 3. St. Thomas, and St. James. 4. St. Peter, including All Saints, and St. Lucy. 5. St. Andrew, Over Hill, and St. Joseph. Under this Act one judge and four assistants were appointed by the commander-in-chief, giving them, or any three of them, power to hear and determine all common pleas according to the laws of England, and laws and customs of this island. The first of which courts shall begin to be held at Oistin's alias Charlestown, on the last Monday and Tuesday in every year during January; the second court shall be held on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next following, at the town of St. Michael; the third at the Hole alias Jamestown, the Monday and Tuesday following; the fourth at the town of Speight's alias Little Bristol, the Wednesday and Thursday next ensuing; and the last court shall be held in the parish of St. Andrew, the Friday and Saturday following. The courts were to continue their sitting as above appointed, from four weeks to four weeks, until the 26th of September, and then they were to be adjourned to January following."
four Courts of Common Pleas, to be held at the four sea-port towns, namely, Bridgetown, Oistinstown, Holetown, and Speightstown, and that the Judge and assistants of St. Michael's should sit likewise at Christ Church, and those of St. Peter's likewise at St. James's1.
After the death of the Earl of Carlisle the proprietary government was dissolved, and Barbados reverted to the Crown; and after a severe struggle the inhabitants of Barbados were burthened with the four-and-a-half per cent. duty on all native commodities, in return for which they received the royal protection and a confirmation of their grants. Lord Willoughby received a new commission from the King, in which a clause was inserted giving to the King the power to approve of or disallow all laws that should pass in the island. Lord Willoughby undertook an expedition against the French islands, and was lost during the hurricane of the 4th of August 1666. A commission arrived from the King dated December the 5th, 1666, appointing Henry Willoughby, Henry Hawley, and Samuel Barwick to carry on the government jointly. During their administration, Philip Bell and Constant Sylvester were appointed Commissioners, in virtue of an Act passed the 8th of March 1667, to revise and compile all the laws and statutes then in force; and they reported that fifty-eight laws were in force on the 18th of July 1667, which were afterwards duly published in all the parishes of the island, and returned to the Clerk of the Assembly. These laws were sent to England for his Majesty's approbation, and although they were fully approved and confirmed, this confirmation could never be found among the records3.
Lord William Willoughby succeeded his brother. The Caribbee Islands were now divided into the Windward and Leeward Islands, and King Charles by a new commission appointed Lord William Willoughby Governor of Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Dominica, and Sir William Stapleton Governor of the other Leeward Islands. Guadaloupe formed the division between these two governments.
In this commission, which was dated the 6th of July 1672, it was required that all laws should be transmitted to England within three months after their passing the Legislature, for the royal sanction or disapproval; and although they should be considered in force until the King's pleasure should be known, such laws could only continue in force for three years, unless they had been confirmed previously by the King. On granting this commission, the King nominated the councillors and honoured them with the title of his Majesty's Council, and directed that, in case of the Governor's death or absence from the island, they should exercise the powers granted to Lord Willoughby or any succeeding Governor.
' Hall's Laws of Barbados, p. 33.
This act is entitled "An Act for settling the estates and titles of the inhabitants of this island to their possessions in their several plantations within the same."
Memoir of Barbados, p. 39. Oldmixon, vol. ii. pp. 28, 29.
powers of the Governor are fully enumerated in the two manuscripts to which I have several times alluded, and consisted of the right to expel or suspend any member of the Council, and in case the number of the Council happen to be less than nine (afterwards reduced to seven), to choose as many others as will make up that number, and no more, who are to remain in authority until his Majesty has confirmed them, or nominated others in their stead.
"Furthermore," quoting in the words of the manuscripts, "to summon, with the advice of the Council, general assemblies of the freeholders, and to dissolve them, as he thinks fit.
"To use the public seals of the island.
"To erect all necessary courts of judicature.
"To make the Judges, Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs and all other necessary officers.
"To pardon all offences, fines and forfeitures, treason and wilful murder only excepted, and in those cases to grant reprieves until his Majesty's pleasure be known.
"To present any person to ecclesiastical benefices.
"He has likewise power to muster and command the militia, and to use martial law upon soldiers in pay.
"To appoint marts and fairs, as also ports and places of trade.
"To make Deputy Governors in the several parts of his government. "To appoint persons upon vacancies of offices, granted by his Majesty to officiate until they be otherwise supplied.
"And that nothing may be enacted to his Majesty's prejudice, he is to enjoy a negative voice in legislative matters."
By his instructions the Governor is directed
"To administer to each member of the Council the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and an oath for the due execution of their places, and to grant them freedom of debate.
"Not to permit any member of the Council to be a judge.
"Not to execute any vacant office by himself or deputy.
"To regulate all fees and salaries.
"To take care that no person do execute more offices than one by a deputy.
"To dispense with the oaths of allegiance and supremacy to persons that bear part in the government, except the members and officers of Council, the Judges and Justices.
"Not to declare war without his Majesty's knowledge.
"Not to settle any other island within his government till further order. "Not to re-enact any law which shall not have his Majesty's confirmation except upon very urgent occasions, and upon no occasion above once1."
An Account of Barbados, MSS. The State of Barbados, MSS.
Under the government of Mr. Mitford Crowe an Act passed the Legislature in 1708 for establishing a Court of Grand Sessions of Oyer and Terminer, and General Sessions of the Peace. By this law it is directed that a court should be holden every six months, at which the Governor was to preside as Chief-Justice; and "all the proceedings at the said court should be had according to the laws and statutes of that part of the kingdom of Great Britain, heretofore called the kingdom of England, and according to the statutes of this island." It empowered the Governor, if he should decline to preside as such, to appoint a Chief-Justice with the consent of his Council. The impropriety of the Governor's presiding over this court rendered it necessary that the power of Chief-Justice should be delegated to some other individual, and since this came into operation, it has been until recently the practice of succeeding Governors to delegate this authority to a member of the Council, or to a Judge of the Common Pleas, who in the majority of cases did not possess any legal ability or forensic skill.
We cannot sufficiently express our astonishment that this absurd practice, which subjected the accused to the ignorance of the presiding judge in legal matters, should have been continued to our times. Our historical sketch will present us with instances where that powerful weapon, the sword of justice, was not always wielded with impartiality.
In 1654, John Jennings, Clerk of the Assembly, published for the first time the Acts and Statutes of the island of Barbados. They consisted of one hundred and two Acts, enacted after the surrender of the island to Sir George Ayscue1.
It does not appear that the statute-laws, which were collected in 1667, were printed; they were in the first instance written upon one hundred and fifty-three sheets of paper, from which a digest was made. However an Act passed under the Honourable Ralph Grey's government, dated the 7th of September 1698, for printing the laws of the island under the direction of William Rawlin or Rawlins, at that period Clerk of the Assembly, which, when printed, should be declared a statute-book, and no other impression to be of force or validity in this island2.
Many of these laws had become obsolete, and numerous others had
I do not find this first statute-book of the island of Barbados published in a printed form, mentioned by any of the former historians of the island. It is entitled, "Acts and Statutes of the island of Barbados, made and enacted since the reducement of the same unto the authority of the Commonwealth of England, and set forth the 7th day of September 1652. By the Honourable Governor of the said island, the Worshipfull the Council and Gentlemen of Assembly. Together with the Charter of the said island, or articles made on the surrender and rendition of the same. Published for the public good. London, printed by William Bentley, and are to be sold by him at the India Bridge.”
Acts of Assembly passed in the island of Barbados from 1648 to 1718. London, printed by order of the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, 1732.
been enacted since that period; it was found necessary therefore during the administration of Governor Pinfold to have a new collection of the statute-laws prepared. Mr. Richard Hall, a member of the General Assembly, had applied himself to this task, but his death took place before he had executed his design, and his son Richard Hall was commissioned to publish a new edition of the Laws of Barbados from 1643 to 1762, as collected by his father, with an abridgement, index, notes, &c. This collection, it was enacted on the 11th of May 1762, "shall be taken, deemed and held a good lawful statute-book of the Island of Barbados." The subsequent publications of Moore and Taylor contained merely such laws as had been enacted since that period1.
An Act to appoint watches in the respective towns of the island passed under Sir Bevil Granville in 1705. The town of St. Michael was divided in eight divisions, for each of which a constable was appointed to command the men sent to keep a watch.
In 1787, an Act for establishing regular Courts of Quarter Sessions, and empowering the Justices to appoint constables within their precincts, passed the Legislature, which enacted that these courts should be held occasionally every year in each parish.
Passing over minor changes, we arrive at a period which belongs to our own times. Successive governors had recommended the Legislature to provide a police for the security of the inhabitants: this referred chiefly to Bridgetown, where public vice was more concentrated than in the rural districts. Perhaps it was not so much a want of inclination, as the proper means of executing such a desirable object, that prevented its accomplishment. Riots, petty thefts and burglaries were becoming a serious evil, and the Vestry of St. Michael resolved upon establishing a police for their own district. An Act passed the Legislature on the 26th of October 1813, authorizing and empowering the Vestry to raise
By a resolution of the Legislature of the 27th of May and the 1st of July 1845, Mr. Sharpe, her Majesty's Attorney-General, and Mr. Sealy, her Majesty's SolicitorGeneral, were appointed to revise and consolidate the laws of Barbados, with a view to their publication. They reported to the Legislature on the 13th of September 1846, that they had completed their task, and classed the laws in four schedules, namely, schedule A containing acts or parts of acts which had become inoperative in consequence of late laws relating to the same subjects, or had fallen into desuetude, or become obsolete. Schedule B containing acts or parts of acts which were still in operation. Schedule C containing acts in operation which required to be consolidated, and amended on account of the changes which time and events had produced; but the principles of them in part, or in the whole, were still applicable to the state of the island. Schedule D containing acts or parts of acts which had been repealed, had had their effect, or been disallowed.
The Legislature voted to each of these gentlemen one hundred pounds sterling for their trouble; however, nothing further has been done, to the knowledge of the author, towards their publication, although several times mooted in the House of Assembly.