British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

41
CEYLON: CHARLES HAY CAMERON TO LORD GODERICH, 10 August 18321

19, Chester Street [ London].

My LORD,

In the Report I had the honour to address to your Lordship on the 31st January last, I recommended that each court of original jurisdiction in Ceylon should consist of one Judge and three assessors, and that the assessors should be chosen as the jurymen now are in the Maritime provinces.2

I stated to your Lordship at some length in that Report the reasons which appeared to me to justify the scheme of judicature described in it. But it has since occurred to me, that by a slight modification, that scheme may be made subservient to the very important and beneficial purpose of giving to a class of native functionaries the skill and integrity necessary to render them fit for becoming Judges of original jurisdiction.

If this object can be accomplished, a very great saving of expense will ensue. For the salary with which a native Judge would be amply remunerated is quite trifling in comparison with the amount necessary to tempt a competent European to undertake so laborious an office in so warm a climate, and in so distant a region.

But independently of the economical question, it is of the utmost importance with a view to the future stability of our dominion in the East, and the improvement of our native subjects in general, that the higher classes among them should be rendered morally and intellectually competent to fill offices of trust.

What I now propose is, that one of the three assessors in each court of original jurisdiction should be a permanently official person, receiving such a moderate salary as will be necessary to remunerate a native of respectable station for giving up his whole time to the public.

It would be scarcely worth the while of any suitor to attempt to bribe or intimidate a functionary having so little power to affect the fate of the cause, except by reasons founded in law and justice; and as all the functions of the official assessor will be performed under the eye of the European Judge and the public, an attempt on his part to sacrifice justice to his private interests could hardly end in anything but detection and disgrace.

Here, then, will be a public servant, obliged by his office to revolve

____________________
1
Parl. Papers, 1833 (332), voi. xxvi, p. 385. C. H. Cameron, a disciple of Bentham, had reported in January 1832 on the judicial establishments and procedure in Ceylon after he had served on the Commission there with Sir William Colebrooke.
2
Cameron refers to his Report on the judiciary in Parl. Papers, 1832 (274), vol. xxxii, p. 78, which accompanied that of Colebrooke'on the general administration.

-149-

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