British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

45
SIERRA LEONE: REPORT FROM THE COMMISSIONERS OF AFRICAN INQUIRY, 18111

...All acts, orders, and every regulation of Government, having been till lately issued in the name of the Governor and Council, it would seem that the Governor can do nothing without their consent, and therefore he must be cautious, somehow or other, to preserve a majority, in order that the common business of the colony may be carried on. That a power so totally incompatible with the condition of Sierra Leone may be assumed and insisted on occasionally by the Council cannot be doubted, since within this year, a protest was made against a Public Act of the Governor, by a young man, upon the mere authority of his personal assertion (which could not be supported) that he had a fight to a seat in Council. This claim was afterwards urged in such a manner, and he was so backed secretly, by several signatures of a number of others, that it was found absolutely necessary to send him home, to preserve the peace of the colony.

All this indisputably proceeded from an idea that a seat in Council (and as in this instance a mere claim to a seat) includes a right to discuss every public measure with the Governor, to control him, and to share his power, leaving, however, all the responsibility upon his head.

The peculiar circumstances of Sierra Leone require much promptitude and vigour in the Government; and it is evident, that neither of these points can be obtained, if the Council have the power (as they no doubt will occasionally have the inclination) to thwart the Governor, or impede his views by tedious and trifling discussions on every subject, and by oppositions made chiefly to display their own weight. To avoid these inconveniences, it is proposed, that the power of Council should be limited to their voting, when any new law is to be enacted, or an old one repealed; to sitting with the Governor to hear appeals; and as Judges at the Court of Quarter Sessions, in the absence of a professional Judge.

A point of law respecting the Governor and Council should be finally settled. The Governor and Council when they act, do not vote as two separate authorities, but together. It is therefore contended, that all those acts which the law requires to be done by the Governor and Council, may in the event of the death or absence of every

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1
Parl. Papers, 1816 (506), vol. vii B,p.127: Appendix 22 to Report of Select Committee on African Forts, 1816. The Sierra Leone Company had relinquished their charter in 1807, and their lands and possessions were vested in the Crown. For the constitutional powers of Governor and Council in 1791 see Sierra Leone Studies, vol. xviii, pp. 44 ft. The Commissioners were far more critical of the forts and factories under the Company of Merchants trading with Africa than of Sierra Leone, but the Company was able to muster sufficient parliamentary support to postpone constitutional change.

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