HC Deb 25 July 1822 vol 7 cc1801-44
Mr. Wilmot

rose to move that an humble address be presented to his majesty, "That he would be graciously pleased to issue a Commission under the great seal, to inquire into the state of the settlements of the Cape of Good Hope, the Mauritius, and Ceylon, and also into the administration of criminal justice in the Leeward Islands." The motion, he stated, divided itself into two distinct parts: first, as regarded the Cape of Good Hope, the Mauritius, and Ceylon; and, secondly, as regarded the Leeward Islands. With respect to tiles first, the commission which he proposed to send out was one of a very general nature; for the commissioners would be directed to inquire into the whole state of each colony—into its whole government; into the extent to which its different offices might be diminished, both in number and salaries; into the state of the laws; and also into the practical administration of justice. At the Cape of Good Hope, the commissioners would be instructed to inquire into the very subject on which the hon. member for Bramber, had so lately addressed the House. They would have to consider the actual state of the Slave population, and to ascertain the existence of the Slave trade, and the means of its complete prevention. The currency of the colony would also be submitted to their consideration. They would be desired to inquire into any abuses which might exist in the colonies, and into the nature of the remedies which it might be expedient to apply to them; and to suggest such improvements as might appear to them to be expedient and practicable. With respect to legal proceedings, instructions had already been sent out to take measures for introducing the English language exclusively into the judicial proceedings of the Cape of Good Hope; and with respect to the diminution of offices, the noble secretary of state for the colonial department had determined not to fill up the office of deputy colonial secretary at the Cape, which was now vacant until the commissioners had made their report on the subject. With regard to the Mauritius, the long continued dissentions in that colony, and the charges that had been preferred against the chief justice of the island, rendered such a measure necessary. Such a commission might, indeed, be less necessary in the island of Ceylon; but government had no hesitation to extend it to that island likewise, in order to satisfy the public regarding the manner in which its resources were managed. With regard to the sending out of legal commissioners to inquire into the state of the criminal administration of justice in the Leeward Islands, it would be in the recollection of members, that the noble lord opposite (Nugent) had brought in a bill at the commencement of the session to improve the administration of justice in those colonies. He (Mr. W.) had that time suggested to the noble lord, that, before such a bill was taken into consideration, it would be expedient to collect all the information that could be obtained in order to enable it to legislate wisely upon the subject. The noble lord con- curred in his suggestion, and agreed to withdraw his bill, on condition that no time should be lost in sending out commissioners for that purpose. He could assure the noble lord, that, if the present motion was agreed to, no time should be lost in forwarding them to the place of their destination.

Mr. Wilberforce

said, he had no doubt, if the appointments were judiciously made, that great good would result frond the commission.

Lord Nugent

said I wish, Sir, to express the sincere pleasure I feel in supporting my hon. friend's motion. The inquiry which is the object of it, is one of the highest importance to humanity and justice. It is at this time peculiarly called for, by abuses which have long been ripening in the Leeward islands, and which have now risen to a character and amount of which the House has but a faint idea. I have to thank my hon. friend for the early intimation, which he gave me, of his present motion. It relieves me for the present from a duty to which, in some measure I stood pledged. The main object which I should have had in view in calling the attention of the House to this subject, has been more than answered by the motion of this night. On the details, therefore, of the measure which I should have submitted, I shall not now enter. In truth, Sir, every question of West Indian jurisprudence is surrounded by very many and very great difficulties. Among these, is the difficulty of separating truth from falsehood, in the evidence obtained from the islands themselves. A general impression of misgovernment may often lead to much rills statement, and great grievances may provoke to great exaggeration. One of the greatest obstacles, in looking to an administration of public justice, such as we all should wish to see perfected in a British colony, unhappily lies in the existence of slavery: it lies in the obvious anomaly of the attempt to introduce the machinery of a free government into a society composed of master and slave. Whilst, however, it shall be unhappily necessary, that to a certain degree this dreadful curse of slavery should yet find countenance in colonies dependent upon England, it is peculiarly our duty to remove those minor obstacles which present themselves to the genera operation of British justice. And here we are met by an obstacle, difficult indeed to deal with; I mean, the smallness of the free white population, the only Persons possessing any share of political rights. Where men live together in very small societies, all public spirit soon becomes merged in a feeling of private conventional arrangement: a sort of corporate spirit soon prevails, fatal to the fair administration of the laws; and, above all, public opinion becomes a very weak and ineffectual check. In truth, public opinion in the lesser islands there is none. In consequence, numerous offices, some quite incompatible in principle and duties with each other, are frequently held by the same person. Magistrates have frequently to decide in matters of property, so strictly analogous to their own, that the principle of their own case is often involved in their decision on the case of another. The chief justices of these islands, without a single exception, instead of being rendered independent of suitors, are dependent for the greater part of their salaries upon annual votes of the assemblies; and these assemblies are entirely composed of resident planters, or managers of estates; between whom and their servants, or between whom and non-resident proprietors or merchants, every issue which, these judges have to try must generally lie. Under such a system, Sir, it is impossible to expect that magistrates, or courts, or judges; can be properly respected. Hence arise those outrages against law and against humanity which are perpetrated without disc guise and without check, and that habitual disregard and contempt with which the institutions of justice are treated in those islands.—Sir, if it be thus in criminal matters, in cases of property it is, if possible, even worse. Juries cannot be trusted where the cause lies between residents and absentees. Cases frequently occur, in which merchants and absentee proprietors are forced into the most ruinous compromises by the impossibility obtaining justice against resident planiers or managers. In truth, I have good reason to believe that, under the present system, a representative government and trial by jury, are instruments only of oppression and injustice. I believe that, on the whole, a power entirely arbitrary and irresponsible, vested in the hands of some one with fair dispositions and sufficient independence to do justice, would, in a majority of cases, give a better chance of substantial right. Accordingly, where a governor is resolved to do justice after his own way, without trucking to local influences, or conforming himself to the prevailing spirit of cabal and intrigue among the planters, he has only to withdraw himself from under their domination, and his power becomes totally arbitrary, uncontrouled, and practically, as far as relates to the authorities of the island, entirely irresponsible. And yet it is remarkable, that under such governors the fewest grievances are suffered, and the fewest subjects of complaint arise. But still, I ask, is this arbitrary system to be countenanced in a colony professedly under the protection of English law?—On the whole, I will venture to state, that the basis of a better system must be laid, first, in the consolidation of the courts of the different islands; and, secondly, in the disqualifying all persons having property, or acting as managers of property in the islands, from holding any offices connected with the administration of justice. Such step would give the fairest chance of justice being administered with equality and with mercy; it would provide for the respectability and independence of the colonial bench at a much smaller aggregate charge; and it would give a tenfold security to the now very precarious tenure of West Indian property.

Mr. Hume

approved of the motion, as tending to economy in the administration of the affairs of the colonies, which had been heretofore profuse and lavish. He was also anxious to have a similar commission for Trinidad, and should move, as an addition to the address, "That his majesty will be graciously pleased to direct that a commission be sent to the island of Trinidad, to inquire into, and report upon, the nature of the Spanish laws, both criminal and civil, as there administered; the extent of the taxes and other burthens imposed, upon the inhabitants; the powers, exercised by the governor; his proclamations respecting grants of land; and other matters that affect the welfare and prosperity of the colony:"

Mr. Marryat

said:—Mr. Speaker; while I fully acquiesce in: the motion for issuing a commission, to enquire into the state of the settlements of the Cape of Good Hope, the Mauritius and Ceylon, from which I augur very great advantages, both to those colonies and the mother country, I am also extremely anxious that the same benefit should be extended to another of our colonies, Trinidad, as proposed by the hon. member for Montrose: and I trust that my local knowledge of that island, and the extensive and constant correspondence that I have long maintained with it will enable me to state such additional facts, as will satisfy the House of the expediency of agreeing to his amendment.

The first reasons I shall offer, are founded upon the enormous amount of the exactions imposed, upon the inhabitants of Trinidad. That island produces about the same quantity of sugar as the adjacent island of Grenada, and therefore the ability of the inhabitants to bear burthens may be supposed to be the same. But the exactions wrung from the industry of the former, are so out of proportion to those levied on the latter, as to call loudly for enquiry and redress. The amount of the taxes annually raised in Grenada are about 30,000l. currency. Those raised in Trinidad, according to a pamphlet published here in 1817, by a very intelligent inhabitant and considerable landed proprietor of that island, are 106,000l. currency. The amount of law expenses and fees of the courts of justice in Grenada, are estimated at 20,000l. In Trinidad, according to the authority before quoted, they amount to 130,000l. The annual expense of the registry of slaves in Grenada is 200l. sterling. In Trinidad, the writer already referred to states it at 22,500l. currency. In Greer nada, the expenses attending the apprehension and restitution of a runaway negro, seldom or ever exceed 4l.,and frequently do not amount to half that sum. In Trinidad, 44 runaway negroes were apprehended together about two years ago; and after a tedious legal process, during the continuance of which they remained in gaol, were ordered to be restored, on their proprietors paying their respective, proportions of the expences, which amounted to no less a sum than 5,272l.;or nearly 120l. each, which in many cases exceeded the value of the negroes, considering the deterioration they had suffered, both in healthy morals and habits of industry, during their long confinement in gaol. I speak of this case from actual knowledge, having been drawn upon to pay part of the money, on account of the proprietor of some of these slaves, who at the same time transmitted me the official account of the charges. They appeared to me so enormous, that I felt it my duty to send them to the colonial office, with a letter expressing my sentiments upon the subject; but, to my surprise, I received rather a smart rap on the knuckles, for presuming to question the excellence of any of the regulations devised by sir Ralph Woodford, for the benefit of the inhabitants of Trinidad.

Large sums are also raised in Trinidad for objects of embellishment, utterly inconsistent with the means of the inhabitants. The governor orders the streets to be new paved, and assesses the proprietors of houses 4l. 6s. 8d. per foot on their frontage, to defray the expence of the alteration. The usual front of a lot being 60 feet, each proprietor of a lot of this description has to pay about 250l., for tearing up the pavement and laying it down again, with a kennel on each side instead of one in the middle. It is to be observed too, that this 4l. 6s. 8d. per foot, is the rate for one side of the street only; the owner of the house opposite, being obliged to pay the same amount; so that the whole expence of this alteration is a cruel tax upon the inhabitants of Port of Spain. Some of them have been actually obliged to mortgage, and others to sell their houses, to liquidate their assessments to the pavement; for unless they are paid by the day fixed in the Gazette, the marshal levies without further notice.—The governor orders new roads to be cut through estates one year, abandons them and orders others in a different direction to be made the year following, at a great expense to the unfortunate proprietors. In 1815, governor Woodford ordered a new road to be made through Marbella estate, upon which the able-bodied negroes belonging to that and several neighbouring plantations were employed nearly the whole of the month of March; and this appropriation of their labour, during the height of the season for making sugar, cost some of the proprietors a considerable portion of their Crops. The year following, in the month of August, when the labour of negroes upon the roads is in a great degree useless (from the rainy season having set in and made them beds of mud), but when their labour is essential for the purpose of weeding the canes on which the ensuing crop depends, sir Ralph Woodford ordered the negroes of the same estates to work upon a new road traced in a different line, that which was made the year before being abandoned.—The inequality of the burthens imposed on the inhabitants of Grenada and Trinidad is easily accounted for; Grenada enjoys a British constitution—her laws are framed by representatives chosen from among the people, and who can impose no taxes to which they do not themselves contribute, in common with their fellow subjects; but Trinidad is under an arbitrary government, and her laws are made by a single individual, who has no common interest with those over whom he rules.

Another subject that demands a commission of inquiry is, the nature and extent of the powers vested in the governor of Trinidad. These powers are defined in his majesty's proclamation of the 19th of June, 1813; which recites that "all the powers of the executive government, within the said island, shall be vested solely in our said governor, who is directed to administer justice and police, in conformity to the ancient laws and institutions, that subsisted within the said island previous to its surrender; (but with these saving clauses) as nearly as circumstances will admit, subject to such regulations, alterations and improvements, as may have been since made, and approved by us; subject also to such instructions as he may hereafter receive; or to such deviations, in consequence of sudden and unforeseen emergencies, as may render a departure from them manifestly expedient." In other words, his will is the law; as may be shown by the following exemplification of the powers he is authorised to exercise.—He may impose fines upon individuals, and imprison or banish them at his own will and pleasure. Fine and imprisonment have been circumstances of frequent occurrence, under the Spanish system of government continued in Trinidad; and the power of banishment is also asserted by sir R. Woodford, in his proclamation of the 19th August, 1815, prohibiting the inhabitants of Trinidad from supplying the independents of South America, with arms, ammunition, warlike stores or money. This proclamation declares, that all the inhabitants who contravene his orders, shall be banished and expelled from the colony, and their property be forfeited and confiscated to the use of his majesty. The denunciation against the Spanish independents, who had been permitted to reside in the colony, recapitulates all these powers: for it runs thus,—Those who shall be detected in the like offences, shall be forthwith imprisoned, their property be forfeited and confiscated, they shall be banished and expelled from the colony, and the securities entered into for their good behaviour be deemed and taken as forfeited to the government."—The governor sends for individuals, and examines them upon interrogatories, in answering which they are obliged to criminate themselves. He intercepts and opens letters addressed to individuals, demands a sight of those they may have received, and searches houses and breaks open locks, to obtain possession of papers, at his own will and pleasure. He imposes new taxes by his own sole authority. He has, indeed, a council, but the members are nominated by himself and removeable at his pleasure, and it is a council of advice not of controul; so that in fact their power is nominal.—The taxes have been greatly increased since the arrival of sir R. Woodford. Formerly the annual expences of the civil establishment were provided for; by a duty of 3½ per cent on imports and exports; and with this source of revenue only, general Picton left a balance of near 100,000 dollars in the Treasur when he gave up the government to his successor. The tax upon exports is now levied on the real, and hot as formerly on the official value; so that a hogshead of sugar which before paid about 1½ dollar, now pays an average of nearly three dollars. New taxes have also been laid on slaves, dwelling houses, wines and spirits.—The governor imposes new fees of office for himself and the other public functionaries. A docket of fees was published by governor Picton in 1798, and a new docket was published by sir R. Woodford in July 1816. The former neither took fees himself, nor allowed the judges to take any; but confined them to them to their salaries, and declared that "the administration of justice on their part ought to be gratuitous." The latter takes fees both as governor and as judge; and has taken the highest fees to himself, as being the highest in rank. His fee on merely writing his name to certify appeal papers, is no less than 50l. currency! The whole number of fees enumerated in governor Picton's proclamation is 13; in sir Ralph Woodford's new docket, the enumeration of them fills twenty-three handsome sized pages! So great is the avidity for fees in Trinidad, that they have even been extorted from unfortunate persons, who, escaping from the Spanish sought an asylum in Trinidad from the fury of contending parties and the horrors of civil war, for permission to reside there during the pleasure of the governor.—According to the Spanish law, a will in the hand-writing of the testator (the mode in which wills are usually drawn in that country), may be opened and proved before any of the judges or alcades, as well as before the governor or chief judge; and the fees, according to the old table, were 104 bits, or 9½ dollars. As people die fast in that climate, this source of emolument is worth monopolizing, and sir Ralph issued an ordinance, that such wills should in future be opened and proved before himself alone; and the fees now charged upon them, are stated to amount, in some cases, to 50 and even to 100 dollars. A great portion of the inhabitants of Trinidad are Roman Catholics; and such of them as can afford it, have the host or great cross carried before their funeral processions. Sir Ralph has contrived to exact a fee from them even at the grave, (where it might have been thought they would have been suffered to rest in peace), by demanding eight dollars as the price of his permission to use that ceremony.—I have heard that sir Ralph's emoluments are fixed, and that he derives no benefit from any of these fees; but be the money appropriated how it may, it comes out of the pockets of the inhabitants of Trinided; and I contend that they ought not so be subjected to such numerous and heavy exactions, at the pleasure of any individual, or for any purpose whatever, The exercise of all these powers may be, and I believe is, in perfect conformity to Spanish laws; and therefore it is not of the individual but of the system, that I complains: for I am persuaded, that if an angel from heaven was sent down to administer the government of Trinidad in its present form, he would find it impossible to give satisfaction; and this is a sufficient reason why it ought not to be continued.

The most oppressive, because the most important act in the administration of the government of Trinidad by sir Ralph Woodford, has been his issuing proclamations, striking at the root of the titles of all the landed property in the island, calling upon the inhabitants to hold their estates in future by a new tenure, to pay at once to the Crown 160,000l. fines, be- sides annual quit rents for ever, and not much less than 50,000l. fees to himself and his associates in office. On the 5th Dec. 1815, a proclamation appeared, declaring "a great proportion of the titles to land in the colony to be defective or absolutely void, either as arising from the neglect of the parties themselves, or from an abuse or violation, of their respective grants, or for want of some specific declaration of the royal pleasure thereupon; but that his royal highness the prince regent, taking these circumstances into his consideration, as well as the advantages that the inhabitants now and hereafter will derive, from a secure tenure and unmolested possession of their lands, has been pleased to declare, that such grants only shall be considered valid, as were registered in strict conformity to the Spanish cedula of 1783; but that the titles to other lands should be confirmed, on the owners paying a fine of 100l. currency each to the Crown, an annual quit rent of 5s. per quarrée, and being subject to have such portion of their grants resumed, as may not have been duly cultivated or as may be wanted for the public service." The landholders of Trinidad alarmed at these threatened exactions, appointed a committee, consisting of twelve gentlemen, seven of whom resided in the colony and five in London. The former undertook the task of preparing a memorial, in vindication of their rights; and the latter were requested to support it by representations to his majesty's ministers; and if these failed, by an appeal against one of the decrees of the governor.—Sir Ralph's impeachment of the titles to land held under Spanish grants, was founded on the 3rd article of the cedula of 1783, which prescribes that all grants should be registered in the Book Becero of Population; but a reference to the cedula shows, that it neither imposes the duty of registering them upon the grantees, nor makes the register itself essential to the validity of their titles. The language of the article is directory, not conditional. The document which is to serve as the title deed of their property, is declared in the cedula to be "The copy of the respective allotments;" in other words, the diagrams or plans of their grants, taken by the surveyor-general, and recorded in his office; which hitherto had uniformly been so considered and recognized.—The duty of registering these grants, properly belonged to officers appointed by the king of Spain, who attempted to derive undue advantages from their situation, and demanded large fees from the grantees, for doing that which they were already paid for doing by the king of Spain, and were bound by his royal cedula to do without fee or reward; the second article of that cedula declaring expressly, that these lands were to be given, "gratuitously and in perpetuity." Other clauses in this cedula, show that the king of Spain never contemplated the payment of fees for these grants, by the new settlers; for they exempt them from the payment of all duties and taxes for ten years; and direct the governor to furnish them with money out of the royal treasury, to purchase cattle, mules and implements of agriculture. This cedula opened Trinidad as an asylum for fugitive debtors; and all these provisions were evidently made with a view to the state of poverty, in which persons who availed themselves of it might be expected to arrive; and, are wholly incompatible with the idea of their being required to pay large tees for recording their grants.

From the foregoing considerations, there appear no grounds whatever for the language of this proclamation, "That a great proportion of the titles to land in Trinidad are defective or absolutely void, either as arising from the neglect of the parties themselves, or from au abuse or violation of their respective grants:" and in facther proof of the just title by which the inhabitants hold these lands, they appeal to the general laws of the Indies, which declare as follows:—"All parties who have received grants from the governors of any of the Spanish colonies, and who have resided upon and cultivated their land for four years, are entitled to dispose of the same by sale, or in any other manner they may think proper." [Recopilation, book 4, title 12, law 1.] The same law declares four years' residence and cultivation to give absolute dominion of property in grants so obtained. In support of the validity of the titles by which persons hold lands, though not recorded in the Book Becero, and of their being considered as having absolute dominion over them, after four years residence and cultivation, it may further be urged, that numerous sales and conveyances have been made from time to time, and recorded in the different public offices of the escrivanos in Trinidad: for it is obvious, that if the titles of these lands had been forfeited, as now declared, no Spanish lawyer would have advised his client to pay a valuable consideration for lands thus circumstanced.—The holders of the grants further appealed to the capitulation, under which the inhabitants of Trinidad surrendered to the British arms; the 8th and 9th articles of which guarantee all the private property of the inhabitants, as well Spaniards as such as have been naturalized; and pledged the British government to consider all contracts and purchases made according to the laws of Spain, as binding and valid.

The noble lord at the head of the colonial department, after hearing the representations of the committee on this subject, apprised them that he had given up the fines and quit rents, but intended to enforce the new rights claimed for the Crown Ralph's proclamation, of escheating lands for what he terms partial cultivation, and taking any part of them whenever required for the public service. These new rights were considered by the inhabitants, as far more oppressive than the fines and quit rents which had been abandoned. The latter were, at least, fixed and determinate in their nature; but the former destroyed the security of all private property, and placed every man at the mercy of the governor for the time being. These new-claimed rights, gave the governor the power of ejecting any individual out of his own house, on giving him merely a nominal indemnity, in a grant of un-cleared cleared lands; which are actually of little or no value, as large tracts of cleared land may be purchased in Trinidad for less than the expense of cutting down the of wood.

With respect to the point of due cultivation, all that is required, either by the cedula of 1783 or the Spanish laws of the Indies, is, that the grantee should reside upon and cultivate the lands allotted to him, with the means be possessed (in proportion to which the extent of his grant was regulated), for the term of four years; after which the law gave him absolute dominion over them, and the right of disposing of them by sale, or in any other manner he pleased. No man can guarantee the lives of his slaves, and if he were deprived of them by contagious disorders, or by any other calamity, the Spanish government did not punish him for his misfortunes, by escheating his lands. Much less should the British government enforce such a prin- ciple, after having abolished the slavetrade; a measure which, however dictated by the high considerations of justice, humanity and policy, must soon render the loss of slaves irretrievable.—In opposition to these new claimed rights, the inhabitants of Trinidad appealed to the laws of Spain, which recite all the reservations made by the Crown in colonial grants (among which the rights in question are not to be found), and distinctly declare that they relate to nothing else. The king of Great Britain can acquire no other rights, either by the conquest or the cession of Trinidad, than those which belonged to the king of Spain at the time of the surrender of the colony. He cannot assume those of which that monarch bad previously divested himself in favour of his subject, without violating their just rights, and infringing the capitulation under which they surrendered to his government. The committee therefore made a fresh representation to his lord ship, contending that the possessors of land under Spanish grants, were entitled to hold them, upon the terms on which they were originally accepted and cultivated but to this they received no answer.

A few months previous to the proclamation of the 5th Dec. 1815, sir Ralph had prosecuted Belmont estate at the suit of the Crown, on the ground of its being forfeited for, non-registry in the book Becero. Judge Bigge, who tried the cause, decided against the Crown, and declared the title of the owners to be good and valid. After that proclamation had been confirmed at home, the attorney-general of Trinidad appealed from the sentence of judge Bigge, and brought the case before the superior tribunal, in which sir Ralph is judge; who reversed judge Bigge's decree, and confiscated the estate. Another estate called the Union, adjoining to Belmont, was soon afterwards escheated, on the ground of being required for the public service; being wanted, as the decree, states, "for the enlargement of the lands occupied by his excellency the governor," whose country residence was situated at Belmont. An appeal was entered against the governor's decree confiscating Belmont; but before it could be brought to a hearing, sir Ralph obtained an order from Mr. Barry, the owner, to stop the proceedings, by paying him for the estate not by a nominal indemnity in wood lands, but in hard dollars; and thus disappointed the inhabitants of Trinidad, in their expectation of having a legal decision of the lords of appeal on the merits of their case. After this, sir Ralph proceeded to enforce his proclamations. Surveys were taken, by his order, in the two quarters of north and south Naparima; and various portions of land belonging to different estates were confiscated, under the new rights claimed for the Crown, and sold by public auction. These confiscations and sales have hitherto been confined to two out of more than thirty quarters, parishes, into which Trinidad is divided; the inhabitants of the rest of the island being left to enjoy pleasing sensation, that a similar fate is reserved for them at some future period. As their last resource, they have petitioned this House. A copy of their petition is in my hands, but the original is not yet arrived, the only mode of procuring the signatures of the land owners being by sending it round to them on their respective estates, which necessarily occasions considerable delay. It enters into a long detail of the injustice and oppression of the proceedings of sir Ralph respecting the grants of land, and prays that a commission tray be sent out to inquire into and report upon that subject; "and on such other matters, as are immediately and deeply connected with, and affect the welfare and prosperity of the colony." The statement of the petitioners appears to me to be unanswerable; and nothing can satisfy the justice of the case, but repeal of all the oppressive proclamations respecting grants of land in Trinidad.

Another part of sir Ralph Woodford's conduct that demands inquiry, for the honour of the British character, is his treatment of the Spanish independents who sought an asylum in Trinidad. When the royalist army was marching upon Guiria, that part of the coast that lies just opposite Trinidad, numbers of unhappy fugitives embarked in boats, canoes, and whatever small craft they could find, to save themselves from the exterminating fury of their enemies, and went over to Trinidad, where sir Ralph Woodford refused these unfortunate wretches, the greater part of whom were women and children, permission to land. The smallness of their vessels, and the want of provisions, made it impossible for them to seek any other port. They had no alternative but to return to the place from whence they came, where many of them were immediately massacred; and the rest fled into the woods and mountains of Guiria, to seek that shelter among wild beasts which had been denied them by sir Ralph. I stated these facts in one of the debates on the Foreign Inlistment bill, when the truth of them was denied by the noble marquis on the Treasury bench, and the then under secretary of state for the colonial department; but the correctness of my statement has since received a most unexpected confirmation. The report of this debate in the public papers found its way to the Spanish Main, and attracted the attention of the government of Columbia, who directed the attorney-general to examine on oath, persons worthy of credit and faith, as to the facts in dispute. Their depositions not only confirm all I stated, but prove much more, and give various details of the hostile treatment of the Spanish independents by sir Ralph Woodford. In the answer given to one petitioner who prayed for an asylum in Trinidad, he shelters himself under the authority of the British government; for he says, "it is inconsistent with the regulations by which I am instructed to guide my conduct, to admit to a residence here, during the present disturbed state of the Spanish neighbouring colonies, persons not being natural born subjects of his Catholic majesty." These words appear to be an actual proscription of all the Spanish independents; and unless ministers disavow having given such instructions, and show their disapprobation of sir Ralph's conduct, they will transfer the odium, which is now confined to him as an individual, to the government by which he is supported and patronized.

The effects of sir Ralph Woodford's cruel treatment of the independents, have been highly injurious to the commercial and manufacturing e interests of Great Britain. The intercourse with the Spanish Main had been so successfully cultivated by general Picton, that in the prospectus he sent to the colonial department, he states, that during his government above 1000 Spanish vessels, upon an average, cleared out annually at the secretary's office with British manufactures, in return for money and the produce of South America; and the secretary to governor Hislop sent home documents, showing the annual amount of the manufactures so exported, in his time, to be not less than eight millions of dollars. The principal part of the traffic between the Spanish Main and the free ports in the Leeward islands, was formerly divided between St. Thomas's and Trinidad; each being situated at the opposite extremity of the Antilles, and therefore well calculated for communication with different parts of the continent, and both being in the possession of Great Britain during the war. At St. Thomas's, general M'Lean, the governor, gave an asylum to all refugees from the Spanish Main, without inquiring whether they were royalists or independents; and so far from requiring fees from them, for permission to reside there, he liberally promoted subscriptions to relieve the distress under which too many of these wretched fugitives laboured. Unfortunately for the interests of the British manufacturers, it so happened, that, after the peace, we restored St. Thomas's (where the conciliatory treatment of the governor had attached the independent party) to the power to which it formerly belonged, and retained Trinidad, where the conduct of the governor had been of so hostile a nature. The consequences of the two different systems were then fully manifested. Returns of the vessels that enter and clear from the different ports in the West Indies, are regularly transmitted to Lloyd's by their agents. One packet brought them for a longer period than usual; from the 17th Sept. 1816, to the 24th Feb. 1817. The number that entered inwards and cleared outwards at St. Thomas's, from and to the Spanish settlements, in that interval, was 198 sail. Advices from Trinidad, of the same date, say, "We have now no intercourse with the Spanish Main." Nor has the trade of Trinidad ever recovered the blow given it by the conduct of sir Ralph; whose hostility towards the independents has not only injured the commercial prosperity of that island, but transferred a valuable branch of trade from British shipping to foreign shipping, and from British manufactures to foreign manufactures.

The nature of Spanish laws, both criminal and civil, calls for inquiry; which will demonstrate them to be, in the highest degree, oppressive and defective. In the first place, they recognize the principle of inflicting different punishments for the same offence, according to the rank and condition of the parties; in opposition to every principle of British justice, which knows no distinction of persons. In criminal cases, it is almost impossible to bring a culprit, to punishment; for according to the laws of Spain, no persons can be convicted of a capital offence, unless the actual commission of the crime be proved by two witnesses, not coming within the numerous exceptions of these laws. A boy under 14 years of age, a girl under 12, a relative within the fourth degree, an accomplice, an enemy, and various other descriptions of persons, are all declared incompetent witnesses; and presumptive evidence is inadmissible, even when confirmed by the evidence of one eye-witness. Not only do crimes go unpunished under this system, but innocence is oppressed. A woman named Betsy Diggin, was confined in gaol in Trinidad for seven years, charged with the murder of a man who was never known to be dead, but who, when she succeeded in obtaining a trial, was actually proved to be alive; and this woman was at length acquitted, after having suffered a punishment, which, in that climate, few persons would think preferable to death itself.—Another striking instance of the oppressive nature of the Spanish criminal laws, has been furnished in the case of Mr. Gallagher, the printer of the Trinidad Gazette; who, for inserting in his paper an advertisement from the committee, appointed at a general meeting of the inhabitants, for the purpose of endeavouring to obtain British Laws, was confined, by order of judge Smith, for more than two months, in a noisome cell among negro slaves and malefactors, to the great injury of his health, and at the imminent danger of his life; and at length was released only at the intercession of governor Hislop. From the treatment experienced by Mr. Gallagher, it appears, that as by the laws of Spain the editor of a newspaper can print nothing relative to matters of government, unless it be previously inspected and approved by the judge, while he is bound to insert every article sent by him for insertion, however repugnant to his own principles and feelings, no such thing; exists as the liberty of the press: that as by the laws of Spain a judge is authorized to punish any contravention of his orders, by imprisonment of the party in a loathsome and solitary cell, for an indefinite period, without bringing him to trial, no such thing exists as the liberty of the subject: that as by the laws of Spain a judge may condemn any person to pay an arbitrary fine, and take his goods in execution for the amount, without his being heard in his own defence, or even apprised of the crime alleged against him, no such thing exists as security of property. Yet these laws are the laws actually in force in the British colony of Trinidad!

The objections to the civil laws of Spain, as administered in Trinidad, may be comprised under the following heads: their unfitness for a commercial country; the delay arising from the forms of the proceedings; the expense occasioned by the length of the suits; the uncertainty of the decisions, owing to the discretionary power vested in the judges; and the obscurity of the laws themselves. Spain is not a commercial country. Her commerce is shackled by exclusive grants and monopolies; and here laws are ill adapted to the encouragement of that credit and confidence, which are the great foundations of commercial enter-prize among a free people. The Spanish laws prohibit creditors from bringing an estate to sale, under execution, for less than two-thirds of its appraised value, which generally far exceeds its real value. If, at the sale, a cash purchaser be not found, the creditor at whose suit the proceedings are instituted may be compelled to take the estate at the appraised value, and must immediately find cash to pay the balance. The object of most creditors is to realize the debts due to them, not to lock up still larger sums in the purchase of West India property for more than it is worth; and it is obvious that while debts can only be recovered under such difficulties and disadvantages, few advances will be made to planters in Trinidad.—A great discouragement to commerce in the Spanish laws is, that they do not allow interest according to the laws of Great Britain, and the custom of merchants, who make up their accounts annually, by adding the interest to the principal, and charge interest upon the whole balance in the new account. Here the law and the custom are completely at variance; and so long as any litigious debtor in Trinidad can avail himself of this plea, credit will not be given there as in the other colonies.—Mortgages are a species of security, the validity of which has always been held sacred in other countries, but has been much weakened by various decisions in Trinidad. Don Chacon, die last Spanish governor it that colony, issued a proclamation, legalising loans upon mortgages of estates, bearing interest at the rate of 6 per cent per annum, establishing a registry for re- cording those mortgages, and empowering the mortgagee, if the instalments were not regularly paid, to foreclose and bring the effects to sale in three days from the time of commencing the proceedings. Under this proclamation, many persons were induced to make advances to the Trinidad planters; and the colony had rapidly risen to that state of cultivation and prosperity, in which it was found when it fell under the government of Great Britain. This system was soon overset by the decisions of judge Smith, who decreed, on the 20th Sept. 1809, in the case of Thesiger and Farril, Bruce tercero oppositor, that according to the laws of Spain, no deed was valid that reserved interest on a loan; and on this ground declared Mr. Thesiger's mortgage to be void.—The same judge found out another mode of invalidating British mortgages, by enforcing a Spanish law respecting their registry, which declares, "the time prescribed for such registry is within six days after the execution of the deed, if the same has been executed within the metropolis and its limits; or within a month, where the execution took place, or the property which is the subject of the deed lies, in any other district." It is obvious that a mortgage executed in England, could not possibly be recorded in Trinidad, within the time prescribed by this law; and yet in the case of Cook v. Farril, judge Smith, on this ground, set aside Mr. Cook's mortgage, in favour of one subsequently given to Mr. Bruce.—Both the Spanish laws quoted on these occasions are found in the code of Old Spain, but not in the recopilation of the Indies; and therefore appear to have been improperly and erroneously acted upon by judge Smith, in opposition to the established custom in Trinidad, introduced by the proclamation of governor Don Chacon: because the Spanish law declares that, "As judges are obliged to know the laws and decide according to them, so they are obliged to know the customs and usages, that publicly and notoriously prevail in the cities and provinces over which they preside, and judge according to them; for not only the exercise of that which the law directs is confided to them, but also that which is established by custom and usage, and when they act in contradiction thereto they make their neighbour's cause their own, and may be punished by the judge of residencia; nor shall the ignorance of such custom or usage, if it is written, or of notorious practice, excuse them." In confirmation of this authority, it is expressly forbidden in the laws of the Indies, to enforce any edict of the kingdom of Old Spain, in any province of the continent, or islands upon the sea coast of the Spanish Indies of South America, not ordered to be there enforced by a special cedilla, dispatched by the council of the Indies for that purpose.

Another mode, (subject to the same objection), by which judge Smith superseded the validity of mortgages in Trinidad, was by applying to that colony a law passed in Spain, on the 16th July 1790; which in order to secure to the husbandman such a credit with the merchant as might enable him to continue his agricultural labours (during the period when for want of produce he might be destitute of the means of obtaining the necessary supplies), gave the merchant the right of payment for such supplies by preference, out of the crop of the succeeding year. On this principle, judge Smith decreed, in the case of Foulks v. Whitmore and Langton, October 18th, 1809, (and the precedent continues to be acted upon), that the supplies for cultivation of the estates, without limitation of time or amount, are to be paid in preference to mortgages; and as many estates for some years past have not paid the expenses of cultivation, the whole revenue is paid over to the island creditors to the exclusion of the mortgagee; whose security, instead of being the best, has now become the very worst that can possibly be held in Trinidad. These statements sufficiently prove, that the laws, as at present administered in Trinidad, are little calculated for a commercial country; and that they are injurious to the credit, and consequently to the prosperity of the colony.

The delays arising from the forms of the proceedings in the Spanish courts, will be at once comprehended, when it is stated, that all civil suits, except for, sums under 500 dollars (which are tried in au inferior court, and decided in a summary manner), are carried on by petitions and written pleadings, much in the nature of the proceedings in our courts of chancery; and consequently equal them duration. This fact is not denied, but imputed to the "peculiar nature of the Spanish system," by the Trinidad barristers, in their address to the chief judge, dated the 7th Feb. 1817, and sent home by sir Raph Woodford; in which they ascribe the observations made by the Trinidad committee, in their memorial to the secretary of state for the colonial department, to ignorance of the Spanish laws, and the peculiar nature of the proceedings in the courts of that colony." Some of those peculiarities will now be explained; in order to account for the almost interminable nature of a Spanish process, and for the great encouragement which the Spanish laws give the debtor, to contest the payment of a just demand. In the first place, the debtor enters upon a defensive litigation with his creditor under this peculiar advantage—that instead of being subject, as in an English court of law, to costs, if the creditor succeeds in establishing any part of his demand, he is exempted from them runless the creditor can establish the whole. It frequently happens, that some particular item cannot be substantiated, for want of the necessary document; and then the costs of an expensive and tedious suit are thrown upon the creditor, and sometimes absorb the whole of his debt. If the creditor surmount this difficulty, prove his whole demand, and obtain a sentence, the debtor has still various means of evading payment. He may pray, for a concurso of his creditors, and offer to surrender his whole property to be divided among them. They are then, convened by public notice, their various demands are given in, and legal proceedings instituted to establish them by proof. When these formalities are concluded, each creditor is to contend with the others for preference, according to the Spanish law. If the demands be upon specialties, they are decided upon according to priority of date, registry; or non-registry in, due time, and the privileges arising from the origin of the debt. Then follow contests between the mortgagees kind creditors for supplies; the latter claiming; a priority over the former, under the Spanish law as administered in, Trinidad. All this time the debtor continues in possession and is allowed alimony out of the estate, for taking care of the property. The creditor who instituted the original suit, and was at the expense of carrying it on for several years, after obtaining sentence, execution, and even sale of the property, often finds all his labour lost, and his claim set aside in favour of some more privileged competitor. When the debtor is at length ordered to deliver up the property to the depositario, or to a purchaser, the wife presents herself against all the creditors, and claims the fortune she brought her husband at her marriage, which she alleges to have been expended in improving the property in dispute; if the wife be dead, the children come in, through the father-general of minors, and demand their maternal property. Proofs are to be obtained, by order of the court, perhaps from distant parts of the world, of the marriage itself, of the marriage contract, of the property actually delivered to the husband, and of its expenditure. When these suits are terminated, the estate is sold, payable by instalments, at several years' credit. The law expenses are always first provided for out of the sale; and the creditors who are to receive the remainder, are frequently obliged to enter actions against the purchaser, in order to enforce the payment of the sum decreed to them by the sentence of the tribunal. So that even after the property has been sold, the delay in dividing it among the creditors still continues; and it very frequently happens, that neither debtor nor creditor lives to see the end of the litigation.

This is a true history of many law suits in Trinidad; and the expense of several British merchants who have attempted to foreclose mortgages or to recover debts in that colony, enables them, unfortunately for themselves, to vouch that the picture is correctly drawn and not too highly coloured.

The expense of Spanish law proceedings is the natural consequence of the mode in which they are carried on, and of the manner in which they are protracted. But a practical proof of this has been furnished, in papers sent home by sir Ralph Woodford, from which it appears, that the taxed costs in the court of the chief judge alone, for the six months from June 1816 to January 1817, amounted to no less than 36,000l.; and these costs apply only to the concluded causes, not to those yet pending, which are far more numerous. Estimating the costs of the courts at a very moderate rate, it will appear that the whole amount considerably exceeds all the taxes levied upon the inhabitants, heavy as they are. If such a state of things existed in this country, and the amount of the law charges paid by the public was greater than the taxes, what an outcry would be raised against such intolerable extortion! Since it has been officially proved that this is actually the case in Trinidad, nothing more need be said to show the enormous expense of the administration of justice in the Spanish courts.—From the same official documents we learn, that more than 2,200 undecided causes are now in their different stages of progress, in the court of the chief judge of Trinidad. If it be asked why the number of law suits in Trinidad bears so extraordinary a proportion to the population (the number of white people not much exceeding 2,000), the answer is easy; because the laws are administered in a foreign language. In every other country, where the laws are written in the language of the inhabitants, every individual knows the rules by which he ought to regulate his conduct; but in Trinidad, where the people in general are ignorant of the language in which the laws are written, most of them form their ideas upon questions relative to property, according; to the laws of the country from whence they emigrated, which, varying from the laws of Spain, lead them perpetually into error, and involve them in endless litigations. This great evil can only be removed by changing the system.

Another very important subject of complaint against the present administration of justice in Trinidad, is the uncertainty of the decisions, owing to the discretionary powers with which the judges are invested. Judge Smith's commission, dated 1st October 1808, runs thus. "And we do hereby authorise you to make such rules and orders of practice, relating to the proceedings in your courts, as may be found convenient for the more easy and effectual administration of justice, so as the same shall be conformable to equity and good conscience, and in no way contrary to the spirit of the Spanish law." Under this commission judge Smith introduced new rules, (as has been already shown) respecting mortgages, interest of money, and the preference due to the different classes of creditors, contrary to the laws of the Indies, and to the established usage of Trinidad. The innovations and uncertainties that have been introduced into the administration of justice in Trinidad, are a most serious grievance. Debts privileged at one period, have been superseded at another, in favour of debts of a different description. No decree in the tribunals can be considered as forming a certain precedent, to govern any future case. No man, therefore, knows whether the tenure by which he holds his property is secure; and property thus circumstanced must necessarily depreciate in value. Lord Camden has observed, that "the discretion of a judge is the law of tyrants; that it is different in different men, always uncertain, dependent on temper and circumstances. In the best, it is sometimes caprice; in the worst, it is every vice, folly and passion, that can degrade human nature." When these remarks are connected with the peculiar circumstances of Trinidad, where the powers of the governor, who is also a judge, are so enormous, it will be evident that of all places in the British dominions, Trinidad is the last, in which the discretion of the judge ought to be substituted for the fixed rules of law.

The right of appeal is a very inadequate remedy for the wrongs done by the decisions of the judges. It applies only to cases where the amount exceeds 500l. sterling, and even in those holds out little little prospect of redress. Judge Smith's commission runs thus: "In all cases of appeal you shall subjoin to the records of the proceedings of the cause, the reasons, together with the references to those parts of the Spanish laws whereon you have grounded your decisions." Thus the judge is to send home an ex-parte statement in favour of his own sentence, which in all probability will be confirmed, as neither the privy council nor any barristers in this country, are qualified to examine the Spanish laws in search of opposite authorities. If the privy council are merely to determine whether the sentence of the judge is correct according to the Spanish laws, it appears absurd to appeal from the judgment of a man who may understand something of them, to that of a set of men, who, however great their talents or information may be in other respects, understand nothing of them. If, on the contrary, it be intended to revise his sentences according to the spirit of British laws, it appears equally absurd to appoint a judge to decide according to Spanish laws, in the first instance, and then to reverse his sentences for not being conformable to British laws.

This state of the administration of justice, is a snare to the governors as well as to the governed. For modifying the severity of the Spanish laws, by the milder temper of the laws of Great Bri- tain (in strict, conformity to his instructions) and for substituting the picket, a punishment then used among our own cavalry, in lieu of the torture prescribed by the decree of the Spanish Alcalde, the late gallant and lamented general sir Thomas Picton, one of the most meritorious officers Great Britain ever possessed, underwent a long and unmerited persecution. He was suspended in his career of honourable service, injured in his private fortune, wounded in his dearest feelings; held up to public obloquy as a monster of cruelty and oppression, and in danger of being torn to pieces by an exasperated and deluded populace. Tardy justice, indeed, awaited him; but seven long years elapsed, before it could be established in a British court of justice, whether torture was or was not the law of Spain. This memorable case shows the injustice which results from our groping about in the obscurity and darkness of foreign laws; and should teach us to abide by the well known and understood laws of our native country.—In every point of view in which this subject can be considered, the defects of the present mutilated and garbled system are apparent, and are still more exceptionable than the Spanish laws (odious as they are to British subjects) would be, if administered without any alterations. A system, like a machine, consists of various parts, adapted to and fitting with each other. Take out any, of these parts, and substitute others intended for a different machine, constructed on different principles, and it will be found impossible to make them work together. Yet such is the attempt which has been so long persisted in at Trinidad; and the result is precisely what might have been expected, general dissatisfaction. The political and juridical machine should either be preserved: entire, or changed altogether.

Other objections to the Spanish system of jurisprudence remain yet to be noticed. The secret nature of the proceedings in the Spanish tribunals, has an injurious effect upon the public mind and morals. Nothing is known but to the parties and to the judge. Fraud remains concealed, and the bad man mixes in society, with the same opportunity as before, of repeating his mal-practices upon his were suspecting neighbours. But if trials were public and before a jury; and if the examination of witnesses were viva voce and in open court, the conduct of every man would be known virtue would be justified, and iniquity exposed; the public mind would be enlightened, and morals improved. So long as judicial decisions depend upon the Judge alone, so long must the bar look up to his favour for success in their profession. The frown of the governor, or the forbidding look of the judge, inflicts immediate punishment on him at whom it is directed; for the public are sufficiently sensible of the weight of these indications, to give their professional causes into the hands of the advocates who are most smiled upon. The independence of the bar can only be established, by transferring legal decisions from the decree of a judge to the verdict of a jury, according to the laws of Great Britain.

Strange indeed it appears that Spanish laws should still be in force in Trinidad, after the repeated assurances given by his majesty's ministers, that it was not their intention to continue them as a permanent system. In 1804, lord Hobart wrote a letter to governor Hislop, dated 2nd February, expressing the anxiety of his majesty's ministers, to introduce into the island of Trinidad, with the least possible delay, so much of the laws of Great Britain as might be expedient for the security of the persons and properties of his majesty's subjects, and For the general advancement of the interests of the settlement." His lordship added, "Trinidad having, by the late treaty of peace, become to all intents and purposes a British island, and all its inhabitants subjects to the British Crown, it is extremely desirable that a form of government, as nearly approaching to that which subsists in his majesty's other colonies as the situation of the settlement will admit of, should be established without delay." In 1806, lord Camden gave similar assurances to a deputation of the merchants of London interested in Trinidad in 1808, his majesty declared in the preamble of judge Smith's commission, "that it was expedient Spanish laws should remain in force, until the final settlement of a government and laws for our colony of Trinidad." The continuance of Spanish laws has been the subject of repeated complaints, both from the inhabitants of that colony and the in British merchants connected with it; in proportion as the nature and effects of those laws have been better ascertained and understood, the complaints against them have increased, and the petitions to be relieved from them have become more numerous and urgent. Soon after the arrival of the commissioners in 1802, an application was made to them by the inhabitants, praying them to recommend to his majesty the establishment of British laws. When the three years had expired which were allowed the inhabitants, by the treaty of peace, to settle their affairs, in order to their departure if they did not choose to become subjects of Great Britain, and when it was hoped that British laws would be established, another petition from the planters and merchants, dated Jan. 18th, 1805, was presented to his majesty, praying for British laws as established in the other islands. In 1806, a petition from the merchants of London trading to Trinidad, was presented to his majesty, praying for British laws for the recovery of debts. In 1808, a petition from the inhabitants was presented to the Prince Regent, praying for the British constitution, as established in the other British West India colonies. In the same year, similar petitions were presented to his royal highness from the merchants of London, Liverpool, Lancaster, Bristol and Glasgow. In March, 1810, an address from the inhabitants of Trinidad, praying for British laws, was presented to general Hislop, so numerously and respectably signed, that on the 18th May following, the council of the island, with the concurrence of the governor, addressed his majesty, "expressing their hope that the general wish of the proprietors and inhabitants would be complied with." In 1811, petitions to the same effect were presented to this House, from the merchants of London, Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow, Dublin and Cork.

From the first establishment of Spanish jurisprudence in Trinidad, by the British government, the defects of the system have been so strongly felt, that various changes in the mode of administering justice have been adopted from time to time, with the view of remedying the evils complained of. In 1797 (immediately after the conquest of the island) general sir Ralph Abercromby banished the Spanish lawyers, on account of their notorious venality and corruption, and appointed Mr. John Nihell, chief justice, directing him to decide all cases according to his conscience. In1800, governor Picton superseded judge Nihell, and es- tablished the court of Consulado. In 1806, governor Hislop abolished the court of Consulado, and re-appointed judge Nihell. In 1808, his majesty's government appointed Mr. George Smith chief justice, uniting both the original and appellant jurisdictions in his person. In 1810, governor Hislop, with the advice of the council and Cabildo, superseded judge Smith in the exercise of the appellant jurisdiction (under which he decided upon appeals against his own decrees), as being unconstitutional, and contrary to Spanish law. In 1811, governor Hislop revived the court of Consulado. In 1812 and 1813, there was no law at all in Trinidad; as appears from the petition of the barristers transmitted to the colonial department. In 1814, Mr. Bigge was sent out as chief justice, with a new commission, confining his jurisdiction to the court of the first instance, the appellant jurisdiction being vested in the governor: and since the return of sir Ralph Woodford from Trinidad, he is said to have submitted various new devices for re-modelling the Spanish system, to the consideration of the colonial department. These perpetual alterations in the administration of Spanish law, resemble the writhings of a man in pain, who vainly hopes, to obtain ease by shifting his position; and the failure of all the experiments hitherto tried, proves that no modification of a system radically bad can give effectual relief.

When the expediency of establishing British laws in Trinidad was discussed in this House in 1811, a powerful objection urged against that measure was, the apprehension that the proximity of Trinidad to the Spanish main furnished means of carrying on an illicit intercourse in slaves, and that the change of system would interfere with the measures thought necessary by government, to enforce the laws passed for the abolition of the Slave-trade. This danger no longer exists; for since that period, the Slave-trade and even slavery itself has been abolished, by the new Independent government. Another objection urged was, an idea that the laws of Spain were more favourable to the free people of colour and the slaves than those of Great Britain; and this idea was founded on a proclamation which was declared to have been the law of Trinidad, but to have entirely fallen into disuse since the colony came into our possession. This proclamation, however, never was law either there or elsewhere, as I shall clearly demonstrate. The laws of the Indies, as far as they relate to the internal government of the Spanish colonies, generally originate in the Audiencias, and are confirmed by the king in council; but if they originate with the king in council, they must be confirmed and promulgated by the Audiencias, before they have the force of law. This principle is laid down in the laws of the Indies; and the proofs that this ordinance was never promulgated by the Audiencia of the Caraccas, to whose jurisdiction Trinidad was subject, and consequently that it never was law in Trinidad, are clear and decisive. In the first place, it is not to be found in the Recopilation of the laws of the Indies, printed under the authority of the king of Spain, at his royal press in Madrid, in 1791, two years after the date of the ordinance; and the preamble to the Recopilation orders, in the king's name, that "all other laws, cedulas, or, dinances, instructions or acts, whether printed or manuscript, shall have no authority, it being differently provided for herein, or they being expressly revoked." In the next place, governor Picton, on the 30th June, 1800, issued an ordinance for regulating the treatment of slaves in Trinidad. This ordinance includes many provisions similar to those contained in the Spanish ordinance of 1789, with the addition of others which appear to have been taken from the Guardian act of the island of Grenada. If the Spanish ordinance of 1789 been the law of Trinidad, it would be absurd to suppose that governor Picton, in a proclamation, the preamble of which declares its object to be, "to prescribe reasonable bounds to the power of masters and others having the charge of slaves," would have enacted again what had been already provided for; or that he would have thought it necessary to prohibit the master from inflicting more than 39 lashes on a slave, in any case, by a new ordinance, if he had been prohibited from giving him more than 25 lashes, by an ordinance actually in force.—That this ordinance is not the law of Trinidad, may also be proved by the judicial decision of judge Smith. A French surgeon in that island, named Le Bis, who was also a planter, was tried before him for the murder of slave. It wits proved on the trial, that this slave had run away, and that on his being brought back, his master gave him nearly 200 lashes, and then went to breakfast leaving him tied up to the whipping post; and when he returned, found him dead. The attorney-general, Mr. Gloster, who prosecuted on behalf of the, Crown, cited governor Picton's ordinance, and contended that the master, having murdered his slave, by inflicting a punishment upon him contrary to law, must suffer the consequences of his crime. Mr. Knox argued, on behalf of the prisoner, that this ordinance never having been confirmed by the king, had not the force of law; he quoted the Recopilation, as warranting the punishment which had been inflicted; and contended that this was the only law in force in Trinidad, under the commission granted by his majesty to the judge, which directed the administration of justice according to the laws which were in force during the Spanish government. Judge Smith agreed in opinion with Mr. Knox, and acquitted the prisoner. A certificate of the facts of this case, in conformity to the foregoing statement, drawn up and signed by Mr. Knox, is now in my possession, and completely refutes the idea, that greater protection is given to the slaves by the laws of Spain, than by those of Great Britain.

If this subject be considered on general principles, it is impossible to imagine any system more incongruous and unaccountable, than that of continuing in every ceded colony, the form of government that was in force there, at the time of its surrender to his majesty's arms. By this means, instead of securing to our newly adopted fellow-subjects, and to those of our countrymen, whose spirit of enterprise may lead them to settle in these new acquisitions, the administration of laws calculated to promote their liberty and happiness, we leave it to chance to determine under what laws they shall live, as if it were a matter of little or no importance. Indeed, they have not even the benefit or a fair chance; for most of our conquests being made from powers having arbitrary governments, the forms and practices of those governments are of course continued; and thus, in point of fact, we have established despotism and oppression, in all their various shapes and colours in different British colonies.—It seems an anomaly in politics, that the conquerors should receive laws from instead of giving them to the conquered. Formerly, Great British acted on the system of ancient Rome; the wisdom of whose political institutions was fully proved, by the extent and duration of her empire. Whenever she extended her conquests, she introduced her laws and her language. She admitted her new subjects to a participation in the rights and privileges of Roman citizens, and thus animated them with zeal to support her cause, and maintain the honour of the Roman name. In like manner, ands with the same results, Great Britain once gave her colonies the benefits of British laws and the British constitution. Only eight months after the treaty of peace in 1763, by which she secured great colonial acquisitions, a proclamation was issued, declaring,—"That his majesty, to show his paternal regard for his newly-adopted subjects, and for the better security of their liberty and property, had directed his governors, so soon as the state and circumstances of the said colonies would admit, to summon and call general assemblies, and with the consent of their councils, and the representatives of the people, to be summoned as aforesaid, to make laws for the good government of the said colonies;" and in the mean time assuring the inhabitants, "that they should enjoy the benefits of the laws of England; for which purpose, courts of judicature and public justice for hearing and determining all causes, criminal as well as civil, according to law and equity, should immediately be established;" and these promises were duly fulfilled. Although the wisdom of this gracious and paternal proclamation has been so satisfactorily proved by the consequent prosperity of those colonies, the inhabitants of our more recent acquisitions are still aggrieved by the adoption of an arbitrary government, which subjects their liberty to the will of the governor, and their property to the discretion of the judge, sent out to rule over them.

Under the old colonial system, the inhabitants were naturally desirous of acquiring a knowledge of the laws by which their property was protected, and of the language in which they were written. To this study they were also prompted, by their desire to qualify themselves for a participation in the legislative power, as members of the colonial assemblies, or as magistrates. Thus they soon acquired British habits, manners and feelings; and the next generation became really, as well as nominally, British subjects. Under the new colonial system, none of those inducements operate upon their minds, but foreigners they are, and foreigners they will remain, to the end of time. In the former case, the hands and hearts of the inhabitants were with the government; and garrisons were only necessary to assist them in opposing the common foe. In the latter case, garrisons will be necessary to defend the colonies against the inhabitants as well as against the enemy. If ever we hope to diminish the expence of maintaining these possessions, we must return to the former system, and make the inhabitants, in the true sense of the term, British subjects. The truth the foregoing observation is admitted, in a pamphlet lately published under the direction of his majesty's ministers; which says, treating of the new colonies, "their collective peace establishment was thus primarily taken at 23,000 men. Ministers saw, indeed, that the same amount of force would not always be necessary for this service; but that portions might be withdrawn gradually, as the colonists became accustomed to the superior administration of British laws."* Strange indeed it seems, that if his majesty's ministers saw this, and were aware of the superior administration of British laws, they should act contrary to their own conviction, and continue the administration of foreign laws in all the ceded colonies: that instead of granting to the inhabitants those laws and that constitution which would promote their happiness and prosperity, attach them to the mother country, and gradually render large garrisons unnecessary, they should subject them to arbitrary laws and an oppressive form of government, which engender misery, discontent and insurrections, and require the constant maintenance, of a large and expensive military force. Mr. Burke says, "My hold on the colonies, is in the close connection which grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar privileges and equal protection. These are ties, which though light as air, are strong as links of iron. Let the colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights, associated with our government; they will cling and grapple to you, and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood, that your go- *State of the Nation, page 14. vernment may be one thing and theirs privileges another; that these two things may exist without any mutual relation, the cement is gone, the cohesion is loosened, and every thing hastens to decay and dissolution." The late general sir T. Picton, in a letter to the under secretary of state for the colonial deparment, dated the 25th July 1816, makes the following observation on the foreign population of Trinidad. "If you do not make citizens of them, by a liberal communication of all civil and political rights, they will always continue foreigners, and may eventually become enemies."

This new system is as much to be deprecated in a constitutional as in a political point of view. In all colonies to which it extends, the king of Great Britain is an absolute monarch, his will expressed through the governor being the law. The love of power is one of the strongest passions in the human breast; it is a growing, a corrupting, and a contagious passion. A taste for power at home, may therefore naturally arise in the mind of an ambitious king or minister, from the exercise of it abroad; and the consequences of this new system in the colonies may become dangerous to the liberties of the mother country. May it not be reasonably expected, that some future secretary of state for the colonial department, after receiving dispatches from the governor of Trinidad, who is embarrassed by no popular representation, who imposes taxes at his pleasure, and sentences all who murmur at his decrees, to imprisonment, banishment or confiscation of property, on coming to the cabinet and finding his colleagues harassed by opposition both in and out of parliament, may contrast the enviable situation of the West Indian governor with that of his majesty's ministers; and express a wish that the new order of things established in our colonies, could be introduced into the mother country? Since principles are immutable in their nature, and not dependent upon time or place, it may fairly be argued, that whatever system is best for the one is best for the other also. If arbitrary power be established in our colonies, it will soon, like their other productions, be imported here. As we sow, so shall we reap; and find, perhaps when it is too late, that by consenting to the adoption of those dangerous principles abroad, we have paved the way for their introduction at home. Fit instruments for such a purpose will hereafter be found, in governors, judges, and military officers, who have returned from the colonies, and who will naturally be desirous to continue the exercise of that despotic authority, in which they have so long been accustomed to indulge. Pecuniary resources for such an enterprise, may also be derived from the same system. The revenue of these colonies is the king's, and to be disposed 'of only as he shall direct. The amount of the taxes levied in them it regulated solely by the royal will and pleasure; and when the number and magnitude of the colonies now under arbitrary government are considered, it will be found that immense sums of money may be raised among them, for which the king is not responsible to parliament; and thus resources may be drawn from those of our fellow-subjects who are under arbitrary government abroad, to bring us under arbitrary government at home. Mr. Fox justly observed, "Give princes and ministers the exclusive right of disposing of any considerable part of the treasures of the nation, without account and without control, and from that moment the liberties of the people are gone for ever." The acute and intelligent Dr. Franklin, writing confidentially to a friend in England, declared his opinion of the consequences that would have ensued, if Great Britain had succeeded in her attempt to establish an arbitrary government in her north American colonies, in these emphatic words, "Our slavery would have brought on yours." The new system of colonial government is a second attempt to introduce this order of things; and therefore as we value our own liberties, as well as those of our fellow-subjects in the colonies, we ought to abolish the new, and revert to the old system.—The despotic nature of this new system is self-evident, It completely answers the following description of Blackstone: "In all arbitrary governments, the supreme magistracy, or the right both of making and enforcing laws, is vested in one and the same man, or one and the same body of men; and whenever these two powers are united together, there can be no public liberty." It appears also to be a violation of the laws and constitution of England; for though the right of conquest vests a temporary exclusive authority over conquered colonies in the Crown, yet a permanent legislative au- thority over colonies ceded to Great Britain, and which consequently have become integral parts of the empire, has never before been either exercised or claimed by the Crown alone; and it is somewhat surprising, that the two other branches of the legislature, should hitherto have taken no notice of this manifest encroachment upon their inherent and essential rights.

Great authorities may be quoted in support of the opinion, that although the king may govern a conquered colony in what manner he pleases, yet whenever such a colony is ceded to the British Crown, it becomes assimilated to the government of which it forms a part, and ought to be governed according to the laws and constitution of this country. The 6th of George III. declares, "that all his majesty's colonies and plantations in America, have been, are, and of right ought to be, subordinate to and dependent upon the imperial Crown and parliament of Great Britain, who have full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the Crown of Great Britain in all cases whatever." And the 18th George III. c. 12, renounces the right of the Crown and parliament to tax the colonies, except in matters for the regulation of commerce; but where is the law which declares the right of governing the colonies to be vested in the Crown, independent of parliament? On the contrary, the 2nd of Wm. and Mary, c. 2, declares "that the pretended power of suspending or dispensing with laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal." Mr. Locke, in his essay on government, says, "if any one shall claim a power to lay or levy taxes on the people by his own authority and without consent of the people, he thereby invades the fundamental laws of property, and subverts the end of government." Nevertheless, this power is exercised by the governor of Trinidad, in the name of his majesty. Bryan Edwards, in his history of the West Indies, commenting upon the celebrated case of Campbell v. Hall, in which the ceded colonies successfully resisted the attempted imposition of the 4½ per cent duty claimed by the Crown, gives the opinion of a serjeant at law, whom he considered a gentleman of distinguished ability, but does not name, in the following words. "If the king re- ceives the inhabitants under his protection, and grants them their property, deny that he has power to fix such terms and conditions as he thinks proper; for he cannot reserve to himself in his individual capacity, legislative power over them; that would be to exclude the authority of the British legislature from the government of a country subdued by British forces, and would be an attempt to erect imperium in imperio. One consequence of this would be, that such conquered territory might descend to an heir of the king, not qualified according to the act of settlement to succeed to the Crown of Great Britain. The king might give it to a younger son, or bestow it on a stranger. A thousand other absurd consequences might be pointed out, as resulting from such incongruity. The fallacy of lord Mansfield's argument proceeds from an endeavour to confound the king's civil and military character; and to perpetuate in the chief executive magistrate, the vast powers with which it is necessary to invest the generalissimo of the armies, during the continuance of military operations. The moment these Operations cease, he resumes his civil character; and in that character no man would venture to assert, that as king of Great Britain, he has the prerogative of being a despot in any part of his dominions."

This new system has been extended to so many of our colonies, that we may now judge of its effects, by experience. In New South Wales, an insurrection broke out, many years ago, in which the governor was overpowered, and sent home to Europe; and recent complaints from that quarter have been so loud, and have excited so much notice in parliament, that his majesty's ministers lately sent out a commission, to enquire into and report upon the state of that colony. In Ceylon, we have been involved in a war with the natives; and have deposed the legitimate sovereign of the country, after a bloody and expensive contest. In the Isle of France, dissentions have arisen between the chief justice and assistant judges; and vast masses of papers have been sent home by the contending parties, criminating and recriminating each other, till at length a commission has been sent out there, and to the Cape of Good Hope, as well as to Ceylon. In the Ionian Islands, there have been two insurrections of the natives, and great dissatisfaction among them still prevails. In Demerara, the pre- sident is just returned home, in consequence of a violent dispute between him and the governor. In St. Lucia, as well as in Trinidad, complaints have been made against the present system of government, and applications for a change have been addressed to the colonial department. Unless it can be shewn that similar in, surrections, dissentions and discontents have taken place, within the same period of time, in those colonies that enjoy British laws and the British constitution, these instances furnish the strongest possible inducement for reverting to the old system.

Whether we consider the dangerous political consequences to' Great Britain herself, or the injurious effects on the liberty, property, and happiness of her newly-adopted subjects, that result from the establishment of an arbitary system of government in her colonies, no doubt can be entertained but that British dominion and British laws, ought to go hand in hand. Great delegated powers, exercised at a distance from the seat of government, ever have been and ever will be abused, and we have no right to expect a miraculous interposition of Providence in our favour. As experience is the best monitor, so those arguments are the strongest which are supported by example. Jamaica and Trinidad were both captured from the Spaniards. Commissioners were sent to Jamaica, as well as to Trinidad, to frame laws and a constitution for the government of the colony. In Jamaica, as in Trinidad, the commissioners quarrelled among themselves, and agreed in nothing. Governor succeeded governor, experiment followed experiment, but discontent, tumult and misery prevailed; till at length British laws and the British constitution, and with them happiness and prosperity, were established in the colony. To borrow from Mr. Burke a beautiful passage, applied to a similar occasion, "From that moment, as by a charm, tumult subsided, obedience was restored, peace, order and civilization following in the train of liberty. When the day star of the English constitution had arisen in their hearts, all was harmony within and without." —Simul alba nautis Stella refulsit,— Defluit saxis agitatus humor; Concidunt venti, fugiuntque nubes, Et minax (quod sic voluere) ponto Unda recumbit The history of the Roman empire completely elucidates the different consequences of establishing a free or an arbitrary government over colonies. During the virtuous ages of the Republic, the provinces and colonies were governed on the former system; "and in their internal policy they formed a perfect representation of their great parent."* As the senate of Rome was chosen from the patres conscripti, so the senates of the provinces and colonies were chosen from the decuriones, or tenth part of the people, who were selected as being eligible to that office. Their municipal corporations, formed after the perfect model of the capital, were entrusted, under the immediate eye of the supreme power, with the execution of the laws. The Republic gloried, in her generous policy, and was frequently rewarded by the merits and services of her adopted sons. Domestic peace and union were the natural consequences of the moderate and comprehensive policy embraced by the Romans. The obedience of the Roman world (which according to Voltaire's enumeration, contained 107 millions of inhabitants) was uniform, voluntary and permanent. "The vanquished were blended into one great people; resigned the hope, nay even the wish of resuming their independence; and scarcely considered their own existence as distinct from the existence of Rome. The established authority of the empire pervaded, without an effort, the wide extent of her dominions; and was exercised with the same facility on the banks of the Thames or of the Nile, as on those of the Tiber,"* When the imperial government was established in Rome, a new order of things soon took place in her provinces and colonies. The emperors found it necessary to gain the popularity of the Roman citizens, by shows and games of the most magnificent and costly description; and at length by exempting them from all taxation. They were also obliged to make vast donations to the armies, who soon felt their power, and considered the emperors as the creatures of their will and the instruments of their licentiousness. To provide the means of this expenditure they violated the rights, of their provinces and colonies. They levied a * Gibbon vol. 1, p. 55. †Gibbon vol. 1, p. 69. land-tax, a capitation tax, and heavy contributions in corn, wine, oil and meat, for the use of the court, the armies and the capital. The annual contributions raised in the Roman provinces, according to the calculation of Gibbon, seldom appeared to be less than 15 or 20 millions of our money. He states, that in the lucrative provincial employments, the ministers shared with the governors in the spoils of the people;"* and that "the governors, or rather the monarchs of the conquered provinces, uniting the civil with the military character, administered justice as well as the finances, and exercised both the executive and legislative powers of the state." The same historian also tells us, what were the consequences of introducing this new system of arbitrary government into the dependencies of the Roman empire. "It was of little moment to the provinces, under whose name they were oppressed or governed. They were driven by the impulsion of present power; and as soon as that power yielded to a superior force, they hastened to implore the clemency of the conqueror." In Short, instead of being the barriers of the Roman empire, they opened their gates to her invaders. The system of free colonial government, be it remembered, accompanied the rise and prosperity, but that of arbitrary colonial government the decline and fall of the Roman empire.

Far different opinions from those of his majesty's ministers, on the comparative merits of the British and Spanish colonial systems, are entertained by very able and impartial judges. An eminent modern writer on these subjects, the originality, force and truth of whose sentiments, supported and illustrated by examples as well as arguments, have justly attracted the attention and admiration of Europe, says "If we would name a power useful to her colonies, and to whom colonies are useful, we should name Great Britain. If we would name one to whom colonies are useless, and who is useless to her colonies, we should name Spain. To what cause does he attribute the mutual prosperity of Great Britain and her colonies? To her free constitution, in which they participate. "All the European powers," he says, "have established their own from of government in their colonies. Thus despotism and arbitrary power have been the portion of those belonging to the *Gibbon; vol. 1, p. 101. nations of the South; liberty has been that of the colonies belonging to Great Britain. The British colonist has indeed to regret the loss of his native soil, but not of the government which endears it to his recollection; for at whatever distance he is placed from his country, he still enjoys her laws and constitution. In the West India colonies and Canada, the colonist is his own legislator, and possesses all the rights and privileges of a British subject. This is a powerful bond of union, which leaves little room for dissention between the mother country and her colonies. How different is the lot of the colonies belonging to other European powers, who, having no legislature of their own, suffer from the ignorance and instability of their rulers, as well as from the distance to which they must make their wants known, and their complaints heard. Such a state of things is grievous to the colonies, and embarrassing to the mother country. How much time and pains are necessary to convince men in other climes of the true situation of affairs in the colonies! How much perseverance is necessary, to overcome the difficulty of breaking through established systems, to fix attention upon interests so remote, and to obtain justice against the proteges and favourites of those to whom complaints must be addressed! Such is, however, the state of every European government, Great Britain excepted; and thus disaffection towards the mother country increases in proportion to the strength of the colonies, and the diffusion of knowledge; more especially since the successful example of the independence of the United States of America."* Mr. Burke says, that we are bound by every idea of political equity, to extend, as much as possible, the spirit and benefits of the British constitution, to every part of the British dominions. One of our best writers on colonial policy, thus expresses himself on the advantages of establishing the British constitution in our colonial possessions. "The constitution of the British colonial government in North America, is formed upon the model of that admirable system of domestic policy, which has secured the happiness of the mother country; raising her to an unexampled height of prosperity, and notwithstanding its theoretical defects, left her in a state of envied tran- *Des Colonies, par M. de Pradt, Tom. 1, p. 366. quillity and solid practical freedom, amidst all the political experiments and convulsions that have shaken the other nations of Europe. The governments of the British West Indies, are constructed upon the same excellent plan." The same writer reprobates the colonial system of Spain, in the following decisive and energetic language. "The system of law and policy is worse in Spain than in any civilized nation in Europe; the security of property is less firmly established, the corruption of judicature more frequent, the privileges of municipal judicature more extensive, and more incompatible with the freedom either of person or trade."* A policy has been adopted with respect to the colonies, if possible, still more iniquitous and absurd than that plan of domestic administration which we have been contemplating."† A writer already referred to, equally distinguished as a statesman and a philosopher, has left his recorded testimony, in favour of the old system of British colonial legislation. "The ancient system of the British empire was a happy one, by which the colonies were allowed to govern and tax themselves. Had it been wisely continued, it is hard to imagine the degree of power and importance in the world, which that empire might not have arrived at. All the means of growing greatness, extent of territory, agriculture, commerce, arts, population, were within its own limits, and therefore at it's command."‡ Having thrown away all these advantages in one instance, and lost our colonies in North America by the experiment, what infatuation is it to repeat the attempt in our remaining possessions.

It was not my intention to have touched on this subject, till the petition now on its way from Trinidad had been laid on the table of this House: but I could not so far suppress my feelings, as to remain silent on the present occasion. Indeed, I am not aware that a petition from the inhabitants of any colony is necessary as the foundation of a motion for a commission of inquiry. On the contrary, the last commission sent out, that to New South Wales, was in consequence of the statements made in this House by the hon. *Brougham's Colonial Policy vol. 1. p. 410. ‡ Ibid. vol. 1. p. 412. ‡Franklin's Correspondence, vol. 2, p.80. member for Shrewsbury. I was lately present at an entertainment given in this metropolis, to the minister plenipotentiary of the government of Columbia; and I never witnessed a more spontaneous and ardent effusion of public opinion, than was displayed on that occasion. Men of all political parties joined in expressing their congratulations on the triumph of freedom over despotism; and if the inhabitants of South America, trained up as they have been in habits of submission to arbitrary power for three centuries past, found the Spanish yoke so insupportable, that they have risked all that is dear to man to shake it off; I ask whether this is a form of government that ought to be continued among British subjects? I trust that every man who has British feelings in his breast, will answer no; and will vote for the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Montrose, of extending the commission of inquiry to Trinidad.

Mr. Goulburn

denied the correctness of Mr. Marryat's statements, and pledged himself that papers should be laid on the table, early in the ensuing session, which should fully disprove them. He entered his strong protest against the claim of what was termed the British constitution, and British law, for Trinidad. In a country like this in which we lived, where all the inhabitants were equal in the eye of the law, no system of government could be better adapted to promote the happiness of the community; but, unhappily, this was far from being the case in the West Indies. And in our Slave colonies, the effect of the British constitution, as it was called, wherever it prevailed, was to throw the whole power into the hands of the white oligarchy, to the exclusion of every other class from the enjoyment of the advantages of that constitution;—so that its boasted benefits were confined to a twentieth or thirtieth part of the whole population, who were thus enabled to tyrannize over the rest. In Trinidad there were about 3,600 whites of all ages, and both sexes; but in the same island there were about 14,000 free persons of colour, many of them persons of property; and nearly twice that number of slaves. Now, the Spanish laws secured certain privileges to the free people of colour, and to the slaves, which they did not enjoy in colonies governed by what was termed the British constitution and British laws;—so that, in giving the boon that was demanded to a fraction of the population, we should be inflicting a serious injury on the great mass of the community. There were serious difficulties, he admitted, in altering the form of government that had been improvidently granted to our old colonies—a form of government certainly ill adapted to the unhappy peculiarities of their case; but he could not consent that any father extension should be given to this evil; and whenever the proposition of the hon. gentleman with respect to Trinidad should be brought forward, he would give it his most determined resistance, as a proposition fraught with cruelty and injustice.

On the motion of Mr. Wynn, the debate was adjourned till to-morrow.