Britain and the United States in the Caribbean: A Comparative Study in Methods of Development

By Mary Proudfoot | Go to book overview

Chapter V
THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT

1. THE STRUCTURE OF GOVERNMENT

Although in each group of dependencies the structure of society is wholly different from that of England or North America, none the less in each group the tendency is for the machinery of government to approximate more and more nearly, as time goes on, to that of the metropolitan country. In neither case has the metropolitan country actually imposed its own patterns; but in both cases the dependencies themselves, as they develop, seem to view any deviations from metropolitan forms as marks of inferiority.1

Both groups of dependencies derive the legal basis for their government from their respective metropolitan powers. Government in the British dependencies is based upon Orders in Council or Letters Patent, and Letters of Instruction to Governors.2 Government in the United States dependencies is based upon Acts passed by Congress. Thus in both cases the dependencies are governed within a legal framework which their respective metropolitan powers alone have the right to amend. The instruments of government for the British dependencies are short, and drawn up in very general terms. They are concerned, for the most part, with the constitutional relationship between the colony and the metropolitan power, and with the mechanisms whereby control by the metropolitan power can be ensured, as, for instance, the reserve powers of the governor. The instruments of government for the American dependencies have been much more detailed. For instance, until 1930, when Puerto Rico was offered the right to draw up her own constitution in so far as internal affairs were concerned, the number of executive departments permissible was as

____________________
1
This is not a new tendency in the British dependencies. Mr. Wood, for instance, who visited the B.W.I. in 1921 as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, and who made a very full report on the social and political conditions then obtaining, commented on the fact that the people 'look for political growth to the only source and pattern that they know, and aspire to share in what has been the peculiarly British gift of representative institutions'. Wood Report.
2

Wightpassim.

-97-

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