HC Deb 15 February 1866 vol 181 cc581-3

Sir, in accordance with what I understand to be the opinion of the House, I will now proceed simply to lay the Bill for the Government of Jamaica upon the table of the House. I will make no statement with reference to the general subject, but merely state what are the con-tents of the Bill. The Bill will then be in the hands of Members, who will have the opportunity of perusing and considering it before they come to debate upon it. Now. Sir, it is in the knowledge of all those who have looked into the papers with reference to the late events in Jamaica, that the Jamaica Legislature in the first place passed an Act for the revision and re-construction of their own constitution; but upon receiving from me an intimation that I should be ready to submit the question to the judgment of the House, if it were desired that I should do so, the Governor of Jamaica communicated that to the Jamaica Legislature, and that Assembly readily assented to the substance of a new form of constitution being left entirely in the hands of the Crown; and it is stated by the Governor in his despatch that the understanding of the Legislature was, that if passed by the Crown, it should be carried out in its full and plain meaning, Now, the course we took then was this:—It is our opinion that it would not be right to call upon the House, in the present state of its knowledge with respect to the colony of Jamaica, and while the inquiry that has been ordered into the recent events that have occurred there is pending, finally to determine what the form of Government for the colony should be. We think that the wiser course would be to ask the House to ratify the measure which the Legislature of Jamaica itself has arrived at—that we should under-take the responsibility and duty of providing in the manner asked from us by the Legislature of Jamaica for the Government of the colony for a period. And the intention is that the House should agree, in the first instance, to the proposal of the Crown to substitute a Government similar to that now existing in Trinidad for that which has hitherto existed in Jamaica. We propose, then, to do that, with the permission and by the sanction of the House, by Order in Council. We propose the Bill should be in force for a limited period, and that that limited period should be for three years. That will enable the House to judge of the information which they will receive as the result of the Commission of Inquiry. It will enable them to judge whether the measures taken by Order in Council, as is proposed, for the purpose of re-constituting the Government of Jamaica, are wise and salutary measures, and likely to be productive of benefit to the colony. The House will then be called upon either to make the Bill perpetual, or to furnish some other form of Government, as in the judgment of the House may be deemed expedient and necessary. The provisions of the Bill then are simply to ratify for a limited period the measures at which the Jamaica Legislature has itself arrived. If had time to make a statement of the grounds on which the Bill is proposed it would be evident to the House that I do not propose to make any change upon temporary grounds, but on grounds permanent in their character. I do not believe that it will be desirable at any period so proximate as to be within the scope of our present horizon, either to return to the old constitution of Jamaica, or to adopt a plan of a mixed representation and nominated Council like that which was enacted in the first Bill, As I said we propose the measure on permanent grounds, but we do not think it is fair or desirable to call upon the House finally to part with its control over the subject, with the information before us and the present investigation going on. The right hon. Gentleman then moved for leave to bring in a Bill to make provision for the Government of Jamaica.


put it to the Government whether it would not be better to wait till some information was received from the colony before introducing a Bill which would entirely change the whole constitution of Jamaica, with the possibility of having after a very limited period, perhaps six months, tore-construct that constitution over again?


said, it was quite clear that the Government of Jamaica had abdicated its functions and placed the government in the hands of the Crown, and it was consequently necessary to provide some other mode of government. Did the right hon. Gentlemen intend to specify in the Bill the kind of government that, by Order in Council, would be established in the colony. [Mr. CARDWELL: No!] Then he (Mr. Walpole) thought that the right hon. Gentleman would make some little mistake there. Parliament should consider the kind of Government they intended, by Order in Council, to establish in the colonies.


declined at that late hour to enter into a discussion of the Bill, but would raise no objection to its introduction.

After a few words from Mr. REMINGTON MILLS,


expressed his entire concurrence in the Motion just made by the Secretary of State. Although a change in the constitution of Jamaica had been forced upon them by recent events, yet some such measure as that now proposed by Her Majesty's Government had for many years past been deemed necessary by all who were conversant with the condition of the colony. As far back as 1839 the late Mr. Charles Buller expressed that opinion in the then House of Commons. As it was intended to assimilate the constitution of Jamaica to that of Trinidad, he could only hope that the result of the change would be to render Jamaica as prosperous as that sister colony.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to make provision for the Government of Jamaica, ordered to be brought in by Mr. SECRETARY CARDWELL and Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 17.]

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