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PERIOD FROM THE ADMINISTRATION OF PRESIDENT SKEETE IN 1820 TO THE DEATH OF GEORGE THE FOURTH IN 1830.
MR. LANE's conduct during the grand sessions at the trial of Ryan, which deprived him of his functions as a justice of the peace, having been investigated by the House, it was resolved, on the 5th of December 1820, "that it is the opinion of the House, from the evidence before it, that the charges contained in Lord Combermere's letter of the 26th of June 1819, against Mr. Lane, have not been substantiated; and he is, in the opinion of the House, acquitted from unbecoming conduct as a magistrate on that occasion." Such a result was to be expected at a period when the House consisted almost entirely of members who had opposed the measures emanating from his Majesty's representative.
The House of Assembly had been occupied during the session of 1820 to 1821 in revising and settling the fees of public officers. During the investigation the House summoned several of the officers to produce their dockets of fees. Among others, Robert B. Clarke, Esq. was desired to attend on the 17th of April 1821 at the bar, and to produce the bills of costs of the prothonotary's office; to which he replied that, as they were records of his office, he did not conceive himself justified under his oath of office to produce them. His refusal led to lengthened debates, as to whether the House possessed any right to commit Mr. Clarke to the common jail for contempt. It was contested that the House had no right to summon the prothonotary before it. In the latter end of the seventeenth century the Colonial Assembly made great struggles for power; the Government at home kept careful watch over their proceedings, and at last thought it necessary to interfere, and to pass the 7th and 8th of William III. chap. 22, in which, among other things, it is declared "that all laws, bye-laws, usages and customs, which shall be in practice in any of the plantations, repugnant to any law made or to be made in this kingdom, shall be utterly void and of none effect." Two years after this, on the 9th of August 1698, the Colonial Act was passed to settle the rights and power of the General Assembly, in which it is enacted that it shall be lawful for the House to send for officers' papers and records1. This act only remained in force nine months; it was repealed in May 1699, in consequence of the King's refusing to confirm it. During Governor
1 No. 574 of Hall's Laws Repealed.
Grenville's administration No. 204 of Hall's Laws' was passed, giving power to the Committee of the House, then sitting for the revision and publication of the laws of the island, the right to send for officers' records, &c. It was therefore contended that, did the House possess such an inherent right, there would have been no necessity to pass a special law for that purpose. These objections were however removed by an appeal to precedents; and among others it was stated that a Committee had been appointed in May 1745 to inquire into the condition of Charles Fort, who were empowered to send for persons, papers, and records: and in April 1746 the House came to the following resolutions:
"Resolved, That an inquiry into public grievances is one of the highest rights and privileges of the General Assembly of this island, and essential to its constitution.
Resolved,―That the General Assembly of this island is, and stands vested with power and authority to call before them and examine all persons, papers and records, necessary for the discovery of all public grievances; and to punish those who shall in contempt of such their power and authority, refuse to appear before them when summoned; or who appearing, shall refuse to answer all proper questions that be put to them upon such examination.
"Resolved,―That whoever attempts to impede any inquiry of the General Assembly of this island into public grievances, or artfully conceal, or endeavour to disguise the truth, in giving evidence upon such inquiry, is an enemy to his country."
From this and other precedents, it was considered that the House did possess such a right, which it was now solemnly called upon to protect, and to hold inviolate the privileges of the people.
Mr. Clarke, who had been removed under the custody of the marshal during the debate, was again called to the bar, when the Speaker inquired of him whether he still persisted in refusing to produce the papers required by the House. He replied that, it being the sense of the House that he should produce them, he would be ready to do so the next day; but the Speaker intimating to him that the House required them forthwith, or at least a portion of them, he proceeded to his office in the custody of the marshal, and soon appeared at the bar and delivered in some of the papers, which by order were laid on the table. The House having established the right to have papers and records produced, Mr. Clarke was discharged, and the papers returned to him.
Lord Harewood had presented to the colony of Barbados the picture of his ancestor Edwin Lord Harewood. The Assembly, in gratitude, requested his Lordship to sit for a picture of himself, to be painted at the expense of the colony. Mr. Jackson, the artist, executed it at the cost of two hundred guineas. Lord Harewood had died meanwhile. These two portraits are now at Pilgrim, the residence of the Governor.
President Skeete sailed on the 18th of April 1821 for England, and the administration devolved on Mr. Samuel Hinds, who was sworn in on that day. A guard of honour, consisting of the grenadier company of the fourth King's Own regiment, received President Skeete at the Engineer's Wharf on his arrival there for embarkation, a tribute of grateful respect which the military under Major-General Mainwaring paid him for the interest he invariably evinced for their welfare.
The new House met on the 3rd of July. The President in his address observed that it was probably the last time he should meet them, as the new Governor might be daily expected; as his parting words of advice, he urged them to let the discord between the two Houses cease, as public dissensions were always injurious to the public interest. His advice however was not heeded; years elapsed before a reconciliation took place, and the unhappy differences of the two branches of the Legislature even crept into domestic life and led to disputes and estrangements. An amicable adjustment did not take place before October 1823; and then it was of no long duration.
Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Warde, K.C.B., who had been appointed Governor-in-chief of the island of Barbados, and Commander of the forces on that station, arrived with his family and suite on the 25th of July 1821, in his Majesty's ship 'Pyramus,' and took the usual oaths of office on the following day. He met the Legislature on the 31st of July, and alluded in his speech to the distressing breach which existed between the two branches of the Legislature, and he confidently trusted that peace and harmony might be re-established. An Act for the better support of his Excellency passed the Legislature, which settled four thousand pounds currency per annum upon the Governor during his administration.
The militia-law had been in operation three years, when, on the 4th of June (1822), the Assembly came to a conclusion that this act, not having received the sanction of the Sovereign, had expired, in conformity with an order of the Privy Council of the 15th of January 1800. This doctrine having been promulgated, several officers of the militia appeared in their uniform on the parade-ground during the legal hours established for the exercise of their regiments, without performing duty, and several non-commissioned officers appeared on the ground without uniform, with a view, as was supposed, to set the law at defiance. The Governor therefore issued a proclamation stating that he had obtained the legal opinion of his Majesty's Attorney- and Solicitor-General, both of whom declared in writing that these laws remained in full force. His Excellency based likewise his reason for considering the law to be in force upon a letter from the Secretary of State to the Governor of Grenada, in direct opposition to the order in council of 1800; and acting under the legal opinions
of the Crown lawyers, he felt it to be his duty to enforce the law until the instructions of Earl Bathurst had arrived on this subject1.
As the question with regard to the validity of such laws as had not received the express sanction of the Sovereign in Privy Council was of importance, a Committee of the Council was appointed to investigate the history of the legislation of the colony with respect to this assertion. This Committee reported that out of one thousand four hundred and eighteen laws passed from the year 1641 to the year 1820, only twelve public acts had been confirmed by the Sovereign in Privy Council. All other public acts then in force had only the royal approbation notified to the Colonial Government by one of the principal Secretaries of State. The Committee came to the conclusion that the Assembly had misconstrued the purport of the order in council, and observed:
"That this is not merely the assertion of an abstract right, the following case will serve to prove :-In the year 1667, the Legislature of this colony passed an Act (No. 238 in Hall's General List of Laws), directing how the clerks and marshals of the several Courts of Common Pleas within this island should be appointed, and what they should receive. At this period of our history, the offices of clerks and marshals of the Courts of Common Pleas were not held under royal patent; but, about forty years after the enactment of this statute, Queen Anne claimed the right of appointing these officers by her letters patent. The House of Assembly of that day objecting to the royal claim, Queen Anne silenced them by issuing a repeal of the Act; and accordingly in August 1709 the Act was formally repealed (forty-two years after its enactment), and the respective judges of the colony were ordered to be furnished with copies of the repeal, that they might govern themselves accordingly.'
From this case we learn two things:-first, that the royal assent in Privy Council is not necessary to give validity to the acts of the colonial Legislature; for Queen Anne, by ordering a formal repeal after the expiration of forty-two years, virtually acknowledges that the act was in force until so repealed by her, and that such repeal was necessary to destroy it; and, secondly, that there is a right reserved to the Crown to repeal at any time, however distant, such acts as have only received the royal approbation or allowance.
1 The following extract furnishes the information with regard to Colonial enact
"Office of Committee of Privy Council for Trade, Whitehall, 8th June, 1816.
SIR, "Their Lordships desire me to say, in answer to the queries conveyed in Sir Charles Shipley's letter of the 16th October last, as to the effect of Colonial Acts, to which neither his Majesty's assent or dissent may have been communicated, that their Lordships conceive that every act assented to by the Governor, such act not having a suspending clause, must have its complete validity, although it should not have been confirmed by his Majesty in council. (Signed)
'To H. Goulburn, Esq."
this constitutes the difference between acts confirmed in Privy Council, and acts of which the royal approval only has been signified by one of the principal Secretaries of State. The royal confirmation in Privy Council seems to give the same stability to the colonial acts as attaches to the acts of the imperial Parliament.
"That all laws of the island, unless confirmed by the King in Privy Council, do cease and determine at the expiration of three years from their enactment, is quite a modern doctrine; and was never, your Committee believes, formally asserted by any authority, until the present House of Assembly declared, by their vote of June the 4th, that, 'under an order of the Privy Council of Great Britain of the 15th of January 1800, the militia-act could not be considered in force, as it was more than three years since the last act, continuing the militia-act, had passed, and the House of Assembly had received no communication of the royal assent having been given to it.""
Moreover with regard to the militia-law, the Committee referred to No. 14 of the royal instructions to the Governor, wherein his Majesty declares it to be "his will and pleasure that no law for establishing a militia shall be a temporary law." The Committee felt themselves justified in assuming this case as instar omnium, a proof that they are right in supposing that the order in council was not intended to render necessary any new formalities to give validity to the colonial acts, but simply to induce the colonial government to use due diligence in sending to England an early account of all their proceedings for the information of his Majesty's government. A communication from Earl Bathurst confirmed these views, and the misunderstanding of the Assembly was set at rest1.
The good understanding which existed between the Governor and the Assembly was for a short while disturbed. His Excellency had addressed to the Speaker an especial call of the House, accompanied by a document explanatory of his reasons for that call. The Assembly regarded this message as a desire of the Governor to dictate to the House; but the Governor, in addressing the Legislature after the general election on the 30th of July 1822, explained that his conduct did not proceed from any desire to dictate, but from a wish to promote the welfare of the colony. Sir Henry Warde most generously sent a communication to the Speaker of the House at the meeting on the 5th of November, in which he offered to relinquish one thousand pounds of his salary in consequence of the embarrassments of the island. The members did not take advantage of his Excellency's consideration, and requested that he would continue to receive the sum originally voted to him.
The death of Mr. Gibbes W. Jordan on the 16th of February deprived
The Governor on his inspection of the first or royal regiment, on the 6th of January 1823, communicated the confirmation of the militia-law to the regiment, and it was made known for general information in a colonial general order.