Page images
PDF
EPUB

1840.] MEASURES DURING Sir E. MACGREGOR'S ADMINISTRATION. 489

various acts passed during the administration of his predecessor might exercise upon the different members of society under the new system. Though suffering from an impaired constitution, his delicate health did not prevent his devoting himself with anxious attention to the duties of his responsible situation. Few Governors of Barbados have been so universally beloved in the island as Sir Evan MacGregor.

In consequence of the exertions of the Solicitor-General, the Honourable R. Bowcher Clarke, in aiding important measures in the House of Representatives, especially that of the abolition of slavery, his Excellency the Governor requested Lord John Russell to solicit her Majesty to bestow knighthood upon him. His Lordship informed Sir Evan MacGregor that her Majesty had been graciously pleased to signify her intention of conferring on the Solicitor-General the honour of knighthood. This information was communicated to the House, over which Sir R. Bowcher Clarke presided as Speaker, on the 28th of April 1840, and was received with great satisfaction. In an address which passed unanimously in reply to his Excellency's communication, the House observed,—

"The House regard the honour which has been conferred on Sir R. Bowcher Clarke, as well a compliment to Barbados as a just acknowledgement of the public services of that gentleman; and when they remember the zeal and ability displayed by him in his gratuitous efforts, professional and political, to promote the welfare of this colony, and to carry out successfully the views and wishes of her Majesty's Government during a period of no ordinary difficulty and excitement, they rejoice that this earnest of the good feeling and intentions of the Government should have been given in the case of one so worthy of her Majesty's gracious favour, and so deservedly esteemed by his fellow-country

men."

A very remarkable and important trial took place in the Vice-Admiralty Court of Barbados in June 1840. John Taylor stood charged with the crime of having taken from that island some time in the year 1836 several free labourers of colour, and having sold them in Texas as slaves. The evidence was so clear that no doubt could exist of his having committed the crime, and he was sentenced to fourteen years transportation. This sentence was afterwards commuted into imprisonment; and under the administration of Sir Charles Grey, Taylor was discharged, with the advice and consent of the Board of Council, in January 1843, after an imprisonment of three years and nearly three months.

Dr. Coleridge, who had presided as Lord Bishop over the Diocese of the Windward and Leeward Islands, from the time when these islands were first erected into a bishopric in 1825 up to this period, was to take his final departure. I have alluded in former pages to the energetic measure of this truly pious prelate, who on his arrival sixteen years before,

found the churches that were to form his diocese in a disjointed and anarchical state, and in many instances a disregard of religion which was truly pitiable. It was therefore with deep regret that the clergy, as well as the laity, witnessed the departure of a personage who for so long a period had by his indefatigable exertions in the cause of religion merited their esteem so richly. Public addresses were presented to his Lordship before his departure, which took place on the 8th of June 1841.

The public loss which the colony suffered by the departure of the Bishop was not yet forgotten, when the death of Sir Evan J. Murray MacGregor, their excellent Governor, brought a new and heavy grief upon the island. Although his health had been for some time delicate, his death, which occurred on the 14th of June 1841, came unexpected. The Legislature determined that the funeral should be conducted at the expense of the public, and cards were issued for the melancholy occasion signed by the President of the Council and the Speaker of the House of Assembly. A large concourse of gentlemen assembled the next day at Pilgrim, including members of the army and navy, the Council and Assembly, the clergy and civilians in general. The coffin was deposited on a gun-carriage, fitted for the occasion, and covered with the Union Jack, to be drawn by the gray horses which drew his Excellency's carriage during his lifetime. However, the grays refused this last service, and six artillery horses were harnessed in their place. The melancholy procession proceeded to the cathedral, and the corpse was deposited with military honours in the vault of the late Alexander Ervine, Esq., who had been the founder of Freemasonry in Barbados in the year 1740, and to which order the late Governor belonged1.

The regret of the inhabitants at the loss of their Governor was no doubt sincere. During the period that he presided over them his conduct, both public and private, afforded a good example to others; and when the grave closed over him, it was truly said, "that the honoured remains of one of the best Governors that ever held the reins of office slept in the tomb." A meeting of the Board of Council took place when the Governor's death was known, at which Mr. John Brathwaite, as senior member of the Board, was sworn into the temporary administration of the government.

The half-yearly meeting of the Court of Grand Sessions was to have taken place on the 14th of June, over which the Honourable H. G. Windsor was to preside as Chief-Justice. Severe indisposition prevented his performing this office, and as no other magistrate could be sworn in

1 Sir Evan John Murray MacGregor, of MacGregor county of Perth, was a MajorGeneral in the army, and Aide-de-camp to his late Majesty William IV., Knight Commander of the Bath, and Knight Commander of the Guelphs of Hanover. He died in his fifty-seventh year.

to supply his place in consequence of the Governor's death, the session was delayed. Mr. Windsor's death, which took place on the 16th of June, added another loss to the melancholy occurrences which befell the colony during that month.

Major-General Darling, Lieutenant-Governor of Tobago, held a provisional appointment to assume the general government of the Windward Islands ad interim, in case of the absence or death of the GovernorGeneral. His Excellency arrived therefore in Barbados, and was sworn in Lieutenant-Governor on the 29th of June. He met the Council and Assembly on the 8th of July, and in his address declared that "he came among them entirely unknown except by name, and with neither prejudices to overcome nor partialities to conquer, and that he had no other object in view but the faithful discharge of his duty with equal justice to all; admitting as the only recommendations to whatever patronage might be at his disposal, an upright moral character and conduct, adequate station in society, and the indispensable qualifications derived from education. Beyond these he acknowledged no distinction."

Several regulations were made during the administration of LieutenantGovernor Darling, to put a salutary restriction on the emigration of labourers. Similar proceedings had been regarded with a jealous eye by a small party of extreme politicians the preceding year, as interfering with the liberty of the labouring classes to transport themselves and chattels to any place they pleased. The effects however of an unrestricted emigration, which frequently exposed the emigrants to the designs of unprincipled agents, rendered it necessary that the Legislature should interfere. The mortality in 1841, chiefly among children, was so great that it attracted the attention of the Lieutenant-Governor, and at his request the Archdeacon of Barbados (the present Lord Bishop) procured a statistical report of the deaths which took place in the months of July, August, and September 1841 as compared with the same months. during the years 1838, 1839 and 1840. The result was that the mortality, especially among children of the labouring classes, were three times the average amount of the former years. Among the children of the labouring classes the number of deaths during these three months were as compared with former years as three to one1.

The insufficiency of the hitherto existing regulation which empowered the Commander-in-chief for the time being to appoint a Chief-Justice from among the members of the Board of Council or the judges of the different

1 The average number of children of the labouring classes who died during the preceding three years in the months of July, August and September, amounted to one hundred and eighty-five, while in 1841 there died during that period five hundred and forty-one; the death of children of other classes amounted during the same period respectively to twenty-five and fifty-one. Compare likewise ante, p. 75.

precincts, has given rise to various remarks in preceding pages of this work. Mr. Dwarris, in his report on civil and criminal justice in the West Indies, dwells strongly on the incongruity of such a system; nevertheless years elapsed before it was remedied. It was in agitation to establish circuits for the West India Islands under the British Crown, but this plan was abandoned as soon as it was maturely considered, and it was now proposed that the chartered colonies should make ample provisions for a resident Chief-Judge and an Attorney-General, and that such appointments should be bestowed upon barristers-at-law. The Legislature therefore, in January 1839, passed a bill granting permanently to her Majesty the sum of two thousand pounds sterling, for providing a salary of two thousand pounds sterling for a resident Chief-Justice, and five hundred pounds sterling for a resident Attorney-General. The preliminary arrangements with her Majesty's Government having been entered into and completed, the Legislature defined in a special act the jurisdiction and duties of his office, and the Lieutenant-Governor by proclamation, dated the 5th of November, made it known that this act would come into operation on the 8th of that month. Her Majesty appointed Sir R. Bowcher Clarke Chief-Justice, and H. E. Sharpe, Esq. Attorney-General of Barbados. The Honourable Robert J. Walcott was the last of the temporary Judges who presided on the 26th of July over a Grand Session under the old system, and his Honour Sir R. Bowcher Clarke presided for the first time permanently installed as Chief-Justice on the 13th of December 1841.

The Lieutenant-Governor opened a new session of the General Assembly on the 16th of February 1842. In his address his Excellency alluded to the circumstance that it would probably be the last time of his meeting the Honourable Board and House in their public capacities, as the Right Honourable Sir Charles Grey, having received her Majesty's command to assume the Governorship, might be expected in a few days. He thanked them for their co-operation in the attainment and maintenance of good order, and for the cordial intercourse which had subsisted during the period of his administration.

CHAPTER XVII.

THE ADMINISTRATION OF SIR CHARLES GREY AS GOVERNOR OF BARBADOS FROM 1842 TO 1846.

SIR CHARLES GREY arrived in the royal mail steamer Medway,' in the evening of the 20th of February 1842, and landed the next morning under a salute from the Engineer's wharf, the yards of the several men-of-war in Carlisle Bay being manned, and the merchant-vessels and signal-staffs throughout the island displaying their flags. His Excellency was sworn in Governor-in-chief of the island and its dependencies on the 22nd of February. Sir Charles Grey met the Legislature for the first time on the 8th of March, when he delivered the following speech :

"Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Council,

"Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the Assembly,

"As an expectation was expressed at the opening of the Session that I should have to propose to you some important legislative proceedings, I think it right to state that I am not charged with any special communications. The general tenor of such conversations as I had with official persons in England upon the affairs of Barbados was, that the condition of the island, and the disposition of its inhabitants, were such as to encourage the hope of a happy and an easy period of government. Doubtless it has been mainly from these considerations that I was deemed worthy to fill this high station: and it is a great comfort to me that all which I have experienced and all which I have observed since my arrival, has confirmed the impressions which had been thus imparted to me. The goodwill and favour with which I and my family have been received on our arrival, though I heartily thank the inhabitants of Barbados for them, I am not so vain as to attribute to any other source than the long-proved loyalty of this colony, and to that right feeling which inclines to the anticipation of good, rather than of evil, and which is always willing, in the first stages of social intercourse, to presuppose the existence of good intentions. I am contented for the present to rest my hopes of abiding in harmony amongst you, of carrying away with me, if I live to return to England, a store of pleasant recollections, and of leaving a memory of some good done by me in Barbados which it may not be ungrateful to its people to preserve. The only points of your internal policy which I heard discussed in England were the measures you had adopted to prevent the abduction of labourers, and your new franchise bill. As to the first, there appeared to me to be a general impression that reference being had to the advantageous circumstances of Barbados, an unnecessary degree of alarm had been felt, and I am happy to find that this opinion is confirmed. I believe I may state as a fact that no perceptible diminution of the number of the labouring population has taken place, and that without producing any discontent, the rate of wages has rather fallen than increased.

« PreviousContinue »