British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

8
TRINIDAD: GEORGE SMITH, C. J. TO LORD LIVERPOOL, 14 February 18101

Port of Spain.

. . . Such is the picture of our population. ⅚ slaves, ⅔ of the remaining sixth free people of colour in a state of degradation and the remainder free white inhabitants, reducing the latter description to about one-eighteenth of the whole population, and after deducting the number of women and children leaving the adult male population of free white inhabitants not more than one-thirtieth part of the whole. . . .

It [the British constitution] is beneficial only in its universal application in the community in which it prevails but like a vast army it requires a mighty plain to perform its evolutions. The House of Commons in England represents the whole people and has but one common interest with its constituents. A colonial assembly represents only a very very small part of the inhabitants whose feelings and interests are in direct opposition to the feelings and interest of the remainder; and it is owing to this vital, this irremediable defect in the legislative body of the English colonies that our slaves are proverbially worse treated than in other colonies. No maxim can be clearer than that laws are made for the people and not the people for the laws. In the present circumstances of our colonies, deprived by the abolition of the slave trade of all resources for increasing the number of their labourers, save that of increasing by their own population, policy not less than humanity calls aloud for such a system of government as may insure to this class of human creatures that protection which is essential to their increase, a practical, not a nominal, protection. This protection can only be afforded by an authority over which the master of the slave has no control and to which he must submit. And certainly he who claims himself a right over his fellow creatures not merely repugnant but in direct opposition to every principle of the British constitution has no ground in reason or justice for complaint if his exercise of such a right is at least overlooked by an authority which, though it may be in extent unknown to our constitution, is not more so than the principle on which he holds his own power over his slave. It is for this reason I consider a Government formed on the model of the British constitution to be incompatible with the vital

____________________
1
C.O. 295/24 (Miscellaneous section). Joseph Marryat and the English party were pressing for a British constitution and British laws. See L. M. Fraser, History of Trinidad, Port-of-Spain 1897, vol. i, pp. 334-6. G. Smith, the Chief Justice, had previously acted in this capacity in Grenada. He came into conflict with Governor Hislop in Trinidad and departed for England in 1811. He was not reinstated and was succeeded as Chief Justice by J. T. Bigge. Liverpool's reply, however (see below, pp. 93-96), takes a similar view of the inappropriateness of a British constitution for Trinidad.

-92-

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