Front Page Titles (by Subject) Jack P. Greene, Of Liberty and of the Colonies: A Case Study of Constitutional Conflict in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century British American Empire - Liberty and American Experience in the Eighteenth Century
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Jack P. Greene, “Of Liberty and of the Colonies”: A Case Study of Constitutional Conflict in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century British American Empire - David Womersely, Liberty and American Experience in the Eighteenth Century 
Liberty and American Experience in the Eighteenth Century, edited and with an Introduction by David Womersley (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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“Of Liberty and of the Colonies”:
The early modern English/British Empire in America was a negotiated empire. From the beginning, the weakness of coercive resources in the colonies forced London officials to build metropolitan authority upon settler-created structures of power. To an important extent, therefore, metropolitan colonial authority had always coexisted with extensive local autonomy on the part of provincial governments dominated by colonial settlers.1 Increasingly aware of the growing economic and strategic importance of the American colonies, some officials at Whitehall began in the late 1740s and early 1750s to take a deeper and more sustained interest in their affairs and governance. More than at any time since the 1670s and 1680s, metropolitan officials exhibited a growing preoccupation with the political and constitutional organization of the overseas empire, stimulating the first serious metropolitan theorizing about the nature of the empire since its inception at the end of the sixteenth century.2 The same metropolitan concern manifested itself more concretely in a variety of measures designed to bring the highly autonomous and implicitly republican regimes in the American colonies under closer London supervision.
With little influence among the settler regimes that had long controlled most colonial polities, metropolitan officials more and more in the early 1750s bullied Crown governors into trying to enforce London directives. Threatened with reprimands and dismissal and desperately trying to stay in favor with their London superiors, governors in many colonies in turn endeavored to enforce metropolitan directives by any means they could contrive. Where polities were deeply divided or contained latent fissures, governors sometimes managed to enlist considerable local support in these efforts, but they everywhere encountered spirited opposition from settler leaders who interpreted their actions as subversive of long-standing settler rights and liberties, both inherited and customary. Throughout the 1750s and early 1760s, Britain’s American empire was riven with conflicts of varying intensity over such issues.3
Providing occasions for the activation of ancient settler demands to spell out the precise nature of settler rights and liberties and to obtain metropolitan recognition of them, these conflicts raised again old constitutional questions of the most fundamental nature, centered on the problem of how or whether Britons overseas were to enjoy the same liberties and identities as Britons at home, questions that would lie at the heart of the great settler revolt of thirteen of Britain’s continental colonies twenty years later. So intense did these conflicts become that in many colonies neither side could sustain them, with the consequence that during the late 1750s the empire reverted, at least for the short run, to its traditional negotiated state, with the balance of political power lying in the hands of settler leaders. Seeking to illuminate this important episode in metropolitan-colonial relations, this essay focuses on the experience of Jamaica, Britain’s most economically important and politically precocious colony. It will also use this experience to unpack the meaning of liberty among settler populations in the latent republics that had emerged out of the first century and a half of British imperial activity in the Americas.
In the eighteenth century, contemporary metropolitans widely regarded Jamaica as Britain’s most significant overseas colony. Economically, it was by far the highest-volume producer of sugar products among Britain’s Caribbean colonies, it took vast quantities of British manufactured goods in return for those products, and it offered the most extensive market for Britain’s profitable slave trade. Strategically, its situation in the heart of the Caribbean provided Britain both with an important forward position in the contest for empire and offered British traders, usually clandestine but sometimes legal, a base for tapping the wealth and markets of Spain’s American colonies.
Like every other British colony, Jamaica had its own special character and situation. What principally distinguished it from British continental colonies was the large proportion of black slaves, who outnumbered whites by nearly ten to one. This figure was lower than that for the Leeward Island colonies of Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis, and St. Kitts but considerably higher than that for Barbados or South Carolina. What made Jamaica different from other British West Indian colonies were its size (as one of the four Greater Antilles, it was many times larger than the small island colonies in the eastern Caribbean) and its proximity to the heart of Spanish America. As Jamaican free settlers were acutely aware, these two conditions made this valuable colony especially vulnerable to attack—from its own unruly slaves and from potential foreign enemies. As a result, they solicited and received far more metropolitan naval and military aid from London than did any other British colony, at least before the late 1740s.
Because it enjoyed such extensive metropolitan bounty and because that bounty operated as a vivid illustration of the insecurity, even impotence, of its settler population, one might expect that Jamaican settler leaders would, out of gratitude and fear of losing that bounty, have been the meek adherents of metropolitan commands and the exponents of an ideology of moderation and accommodation. That this was emphatically not the case is powerfully revealed by the history of Jamaican-metropolitan interactions from 1748 through the early 1760s. That history suggests that Jamaica may well have been Britain’s politically most precocious and most militantly assertive colony in defense of what it regarded as its constitution and liberties. Repeatedly during this era, Jamaican political leaders, operating through their elected Assembly (or Parliament), openly and unequivocally defied metropolitan directives, invoking what they referred to as “the principles of our happy constitution, and the liberties and privileges of Englishmen” in defense of local rights and liberties against metropolitan measures they regarded as efforts to subvert them. No other colony matched Jamaica in terms of its consistent and vigorous defiance of these measures.4
When London authorities began to intensify their supervision of the colonies in the late 1740s, they paid particular regard to Jamaica, principally because of its economic and strategic importance. They soon identified a number of problems, most of them longstanding. These included the small proportion of free people in the population, the engrossment of thousands of acres of uncultivated land by some of the principal planters, the disorganized state of the militia, the incendiary character of the island’s politics, and the strong Jamaican lobby in the city of London. They showed a special interest in its lack of white population and, reviving an older metropolitan concern, toyed with the project of forcing Jamaica’s largest landholders to relinquish title to vast tracts of lands they could not or did not cultivate. This scheme never got very far but it remained an underlying issue throughout the third quarter of the eighteenth century.
Much more important were several contested issues of governance. The Crown had long exerted authority over royal colonies to disallow colonial laws that seemed inimical to metropolitan interests or subversive of metropolitan control, and when, expressive of the new and more intense engagement with colonial administration, the British Board of Trade, the government body chiefly concerned with colonial oversight, began in the late 1740s to review Jamaica legislation more closely, it found a number of problems arising out of the weakness of royal restraints on the Assembly. One problem involved the duration of colonial laws. Because the process of legislative review in Britain was cumbersome, lengthy, and sporadic, legislatures throughout the colonies had long since learned to pass controversial laws for only short durations of one to three years so that they would expire before the review process could have any effect, and the Jamaica legislature was no exception. As early as 1747, the Board of Trade complained to Governor Edward Trelawny that many Jamaica acts had been “passed for so short a time that there” was “no room left for the Royal Assent or Disapprobation.”5
A second problem involved the colonial legislatures’ extensive control over provincial finance. In Jamaica’s case the Board discovered that the Assembly was routinely using its financial powers to establish its jurisdiction over a wide range of activities that in Britain were the exclusive province of the Crown. These extended to the auditing of public accounts, the regulation of the militia, and even the making of orders and regulations concerning the King’s troops stationed in Jamaica.6 In his letters to the Board of Trade, Trelawny, who had been governor of Jamaica since 1738, explained how the Assembly operated. Whenever it sought his approval of a bill “of a new and extraordinary nature,” he reported, he could do little more than protest because the members of the House invariably “made use of their old prevailing method,” keeping “back one of their Money Bills, so” that he “was forc’d to yield.”7 By such measures, the Assembly had effectively nullified the royal veto power in Jamaica and turned the colony into a self-governing polity in terms of its local affairs, a virtual settler republic.
Because they had no direct control over colonial legislatures, which in every province derived their authority from an entirely independent power base, metropolitan officials had no effective devices for getting around such evasions of royal control. Indeed their only option was to put pressure on governors to veto any laws that expanded local legislative authority. Accordingly they began in the late 1740s increasingly to issue special and formal instructions to governors forbidding them to assent to measures through which legislatures encroached upon royal prerogative powers, chastising and threatening with dismissal any governors who violated these instructions.
Trelawny was one American governor who was not so easily intimidated. Not only had he compiled a strong record as governor over the decade from 1738 to 1748, his most notable achievement being the pacification of the Maroon rebels early in his administration, but he was also extremely well connected in London. Born in 1699 to a prominent Cornish family who controlled at least three seats in Parliament, he had himself entered Parliament for the borough of West Looe in 1724 and had sat for the borough of East Looe for the next decade. He seems to have traded his family’s political patronage for office, becoming a commissioner of customs in 1733 and the governor of Jamaica four years later.8 A client of Henry Pelham, who became the head of the British ministry in 1748, Trelawny was unusually well protected against complaints from either his London superiors or political adversaries in Jamaica and England.9
Yet, not even Trelawny managed to escape the Board’s censure for failure to adhere to his instructions. In response to an early admonishment, he told the Board in June 1749 that he always obeyed his instructions when he could do so “without danger or inconvenience to the Publick Tranquility.” However, he explained in justification of his repeated capitulation to the measures of the Assembly that because the Assembly paid no heed to those instructions and raised money only with the conditions that pleased it, the “infallible consequence” was “that it will often happen, that either the soldiers must be without their Country Subsistence or His Majesty’s Instructions deviated from.” Requesting the Board “to consider this matter, & then let me have positive Orders not to recede from my Instructions,” he declared that he would not thereafter “recede one tittle from them on any account.” But he warned that the need to provide for the soldiers gave the Assembly a powerful lever with which to disrupt the colony’s public life. Until a standing revenue was established to secure the soldiers’ payment, he predicted, the royal instructions could never be enforced against the wishes of the Jamaica Assembly.10 Constitutional reality in Jamaica dictated that Crown directives could not be implemented without legislative consent.
Trelawny had elaborated upon this situation two months earlier in two letters to Henry Pelham. These letters constituted an elaborate critique of existing constitutional arrangements within the Empire and proposed changes designed to bring the colonies under much tighter metropolitan supervision. The principal defects in British imperial governance, Trelawny wrote, were structural. The “grand error in the first decoction of Colony Government,” he declared, in echoing the complaints of virtually every governor who held office in the early modern British Empire, was in the balance of power within colonial governments. While “too great power” had been “lodged in the Assemblies,” the governors, endowed with “pompous enough” titles, effectively had very “little power.” In the specific example of Jamaica, this situation made it possible for any assembly that was resentful of having been badly “us’d by their mother” government in London or was stirred up by “a popular Assembly-man” who was “disoblig’d by the Governor” to make sure that the government would be “without mon[e]y, however necessary it may be for the Soldiers, & forts.” With no resources to use to “perswade or terrify an assembly,” a governor, Trelawny complained, was impotent against “the great power that comes to the Assembly from the sole right they assume of framing mon[e]y-bills.” Moreover, in every colony the assembly represented the predominant property interest. For that reason, to place power in the assemblies was to lodge it, in Trelawny’s words, “in the Planters themselves,” a mistake that, he was convinced, was “the Pandora’s box from whence our evils have issu’d;” hence, in Jamaica’s case, “the engrossing of lands, the paucity of white inhabitants, the bad state of the Militia &c &c &c.”11
To remedy these problems, Trelawny, picking up on the central assumption animating the new drift in colonial administration in London, called for metropolitan officials to “consider our Colonies” not as would “a Merchant or Planter,” but “in a more general & political sense.” Although he proposed a number of measures to shore up executive authority in the colonies, he regarded such measures as “palliatives only.” To get at the root of the problem of imperial governance, he proposed that “a State of the Colonies . . . be laid before the Parliament.” Declaring that it was “high time” that the ministry take such a step, he argued “that unless there is an hearty & steddy intent to go to the bottom of things, unless there is resolution to consider fully the state of the Colonies & make a thorough reformation to be settled by Act of Parliament, all other things will be ineffectual, productive of no lasting good, but [be] a meer transitory amusement” (92, 95–96).
The most important element in that reformation, Trelawny made clear in setting forth his boldest proposal, was to take most of the authority to raise revenue out of the hands of the assemblies. “Whereas now a Colony Government is supported from year to year, as it were from hand to mouth, by annual bills rais’d by the Assembly, the standing revenue of the Island being very inconsiderable,” he observed, “an Estimate should be made, (by a medium of former actual expenses for any numbers of years the Board of Trade should think proper) of what the future services of Government may be suppos’d to amount to, & then, that those very funds, (as the duty on negroes, rum, &c) which now are rais’d annually should be settled perpetually by Act of Parliament to answer those services.” Once “a proper & ample Revenue [had been thus] settled by Parliament for the current & ordinary services of the Country,” Trelawny noted, governors would have “no need to trouble the Assembly for a supply but upon extraordinary occasions” (92, 96).
In Trelawny’s view, such a measure, which he referred to as his “grand Elixir,” could not fail to produce “unaccountable . . . good”: “all squabbles between Governors & Assemblies would cease at once as it were by some charm. There will be an authority in a Colony Government, which will be rescued from the dependence on the humour of an Assembly, Who will then ‘tis to be hoped turn their thoughts from Politicks to Planting, & to the real good of the Colony. It will not then be in the power of a popular man to blow the assemblies up into a blaze, & all Westminster to the very Palace under the Greatest alarms.” “Let this once be set right,” he predicted, “& all other things will go right; Trade & Planting will of course necessarily prosper” (95, 96).
In expressing his conviction that such an action by Parliament was “agre[e]able to the ancient [emphasis added] constitution of England,” a constitution whereby Parliament itself had met only to grant “aids upon extraordinary occasions,” Trelawny implicitly acknowledged that it was contrary to the tradition of active and regular Parliamentary government that took shape in England—and the colonies—during the seventeenth century and had been institutionalized during the Glorious Revolution. Whether colonial political leaders might have opposed such a drastic revision of existing governing arrangements seems not to have occurred to him, albeit he was certainly aware that it would be necessary to have their approval or acquiescence (92, 96).
But Trelawny’s proposals seem never to have made it beyond Pelham’s chambers. No doubt, at least some men in power, including the Earl of Halifax, Pelham’s new president of the Board of Trade, would have been sympathetic to Trelawny’s call for sweeping reforms. Weak politically, Pelham’s ministry, like most of those which succeeded it over the next quarter century, seems not to have been agreed on when or under what circumstances reforms in imperial governance should be undertaken or how far they should go. As a result, the Board of Trade had little choice but to fall back on its old stratagem of insisting upon strict gubernatorial adherence to the royal instructions. Thus did the Board in November 1749 again admonish Trelawny for “passing Bills for imposing Duties upon Rum & other strong Liquors for a shorter Term than one Year.” Denouncing his behavior as “an Innovation of a very dangerous Tendency & expressly contrary to his Majesty’s Instructions,” it expressed its great concern “that any Exigence should have obliged you even once to acquiesce in a Method of raising Supplys so extreamly improper in every light & on every good Reason of State.” Reason of State, not considerations of local rights and liberties or local convenience, the Board thus suggested in an important departure from traditional modes of metropolitan-colonial relations, should determine the nature of imperial governance. The Board did not deny “that Circumstances may fall out and Exigencys do sometimes occur in the Administration of Government to make a Deviation from His Majesty’s general Instructions expedient & indeed necessary,” but it added “that to justify such Deviations the Necessity must be very apparent and such Deviations cannot be too seldom Practiced.”12
The difficulty with such an approach was that governors rarely had means at their disposal to persuade assemblies to comply with their instructions. Thus, when, in response to an earlier chastisement from the Board, Trelawny in October 1749 exhorted the Jamaica Assembly “to make your bills agreeable to his majesty’s instructions, and to consider what a cruel dilemma you will otherwise put me to, either to risk the security of the country for want of supplies for the pay of the soldiers, the forts, and other necessary services, or else to go contrary to his majesty’s instructions, which are and must be the rules of my conduct,” the Assembly expressed its “extreme regret . . . to put your excellency under any dilemma” but quickly moved on to take other measures that brought Trelawny still further censure from London authorities.13
Indeed, the Assembly at this session took one of its boldest steps yet. Annoyed by the actions of the Crown’s receiver general, it insisted upon passing a revenue bill that placed the monies raised by the bill into the hands of a commissioner of its own choosing, and Trelawny again had no choice but to accept it. Such a measure, while common enough in other colonies, represented a substantial innovation in Jamaica, where the receiver general had customarily handled all public monies. Moreover, to add to Trelawny’s difficulties, the Assembly the following April signaled that it intended thenceforth to keep all public monies in the hands of officers of its own appointment by again including a clause to appoint a receiving commissioner in the annual supply bill. Though he “rejected the first Bill that came up with that Clause, & prorogu’d the Assembly,” members of that body “continued fixt [in their determination] to insert this Clause in all their Bills,” whereupon Trelawny explained to his London superiors he “was forced to yield; but not till I had the unanimous opinion of the Council,” the governor’s advisory board, and the Upper House of the legislature “that it was for His Majesty’s Service as the case was, that I should do so.” Trelawny acknowledged that this action was directly “contrary to my 17th Instruction” and professed “that this deviation from my Instructions gave me the utmost concern, & that nothing but the necessity I was really under, of otherwise losing all the Mon[e]y Bills, could have oblig’d me to submit to it.”14
The Assembly’s actions did not escape the notice of London authorities. Already in January 1750, Trelawny’s London agent Francis Gashry informed him that the Assembly’s measures had immediately “occasioned much speculation & a variety of opinions in the Ministry &c,” with some being “for having the Instruction [forbidding such a measure] strictly insisted on” and others thinking it “better to take your advice and temporize a little and at a proper opportunity to Endeavour to bring this affair into its old Channels.”15 As Gashry put it in reference to another contemporary dispute involving Trelawny, the debate seems to have been over whether “this matter should be consider’d Legally” or “in a Political Light.”16 In the end, the exponents of a tough line won out, the Board of Trade denouncing the Assembly’s efforts to appoint revenue officers as “an extraordinary Insult upon his Majesty’s Government” and “a dangerous Precedent.” “Unless a firm stand be made against the Encroachments of the Assembly,” the Board told Trelawny in September 1750, “they will continually avail themselves of the same Plea of Necessity whenever they think proper to attempt further Infringements upon his Majesty’s Authority, already too much weakened in many of his Colonies by Proceedings of a like Nature.”17
Over the next year, the Board kept up the pressure on Trelawny. Indeed, the more deeply it dug into the recent laws of Jamaica the more convinced it became that Trelawny had repeatedly breached his instructions. He had, the Board discovered, passed many tax acts in which the Assembly had appointed commissioners to receive money that the Board felt should have been “lodged in the hands of the Crown’s receiver general,” and in August 1751 it wrote Trelawny “highly condemn[ing] your Conduct in giving your Assent to these Laws in open violation & contradiction to an express Instruction. We every day experience the fatal Effects of the Encroachments of American Assemblys upon the Prerogative of the Crown more especially in Money Bills,” it added in expanding upon a point made in its letter of the previous September, “and therefore it more earnestly behooves every Person Whom His Majesty has entrusted with the Powers of Government in his Plantations to guard against every Attempt to lessen the Power & Authority of the Crown.” Further, it instructed him to persuade the Assembly to pass acts for the same ends without including the objectionable clauses.18
Trelawny remained unrepentant, essentially replying that he expected to be relieved by a new governor the following year and would wait on the Board to explain himself orally when he got to London.19 In the meantime however, he made little effort to check the Assembly. On instruction from London, he did manage to persuade the Assembly to consider a measure to oblige all people with uncultivated land either to dispose of it or plant it, attributing his success in this matter to the threat in the instruction that failure to handle this problem in Jamaica would lead to the Board’s bringing the matter before the British Parliament. This threat, Trelawny wrote, had “a great weight with many & will be a principal cause of our succeeding if we do succeed.” In the end however, the Assembly failed to produce such a law, hinting that it was inconsistent “with our constitution and present circumstances” and in fact persuaded Trelawny to consent to several other measures regarding the administration of the judicial system and the regulation of officer’s fees that the governor knew the Board would find equally objectionable.20
Writing to the Board several months after he had passed these laws, Trelawny admitted that they should have included suspending clauses. More and more during the late 1740s and early 1750s, the Board had insisted upon the inclusion of a suspending clause in many types of legislation, including especially laws that modified statutes already confirmed by the Crown and laws affecting the Crown’s prerogative claims. Such a clause suspended the operation of a law until it had been formally approved by the British Privy Council. An old device, such clauses were much disliked by colonial assemblies because they sharply reduced their capacity to handle problems expeditiously and represented a check upon their legislative independence. This dislike meant that they had been relatively little used during the first century of British imperial governance. The Jamaica Assembly was no exception. As Trelawny informed the Board in March 1752, this was “a point they could never be brought into.”21
But Trelawny never again had to carry the battle over the enforcement of royal instructions to the Assembly. Despite opposition from people in the administration in London, his considerable political capital with Pelham enabled him to resign and to designate his successor, Admiral Charles Knowles, a person often stationed in Jamaica. With great applause from the Jamaican settler establishment for his political accomplishments during fourteen years in office, Trelawny left Jamaica in November 1752, a few months after Knowles’s arrival. Before he could ever appear before the Board of Trade, he died in January 1754 as a result of a malady contracted on shipboard during his passage to England. As Knowles would later charge, Trelawny’s enormous popularity in Jamaica was a function of his thorough capitulation to the Jamaican political establishment. When he arrived as governor, Knowles later wrote the Duke of Newcastle, secretary of state in charge of colonial matters, he discovered that his
Predecessor had so far Yielded up his Power that he had not Authority left, without the Consent of the Ruling Demagogues [in the Assembly], for to make a Common Majestrate or even an Ensign in the Militia; Three fourths of the Money rais’d for the Current Services of the Year was likewise solely in their Disposition, and they appropriated it as they Pleased, without ever Accounting to His Majesty[’]s Auditor General here for one Penny; The Method of Levying and Paying in of the Taxes, was likewise solely in these Great Men, and was to be paid by their Commissioner to such Favorites & to such purposes as they thought proper; by these and such like means, They invested themselves with all the Power both Civil & Military, and the Arbitrary manner in which They exercized it, has been the Occasion for near this Century past of the continual disputes, between them and their Governors & kept up a Spirit of Animosity & dissention amongst the People.
The Assembly’s preponderance of authority was not, as metropolitan officials assumed, a relatively new phenomenon, a function of gubernatorial capitulations to recent innovations, but, as Knowles thus suggested with far more accuracy, one that stretched back to the colony’s earliest days.22
With no powerful patrons in London, Knowles never had the option of following Trelawny’s example, albeit Trelawny did his best to try to make it possible. In a masterful political stroke, Trelawny had paved the way for a similar accommodation between Knowles and the Jamaican political establishment. In the fall of 1751, he assembled twelve of the colony’s most prominent public figures, many of whom had long been bitter political rivals, and persuaded them to bury the hatchet for the sake of political peace. Trelawny drew up a written “Association,” which they all signed, pledging themselves to put aside the “great heats & animosities” and the pursuit of the “private resentments” that had frequently characterized Jamaican politics during Trelawny’s administration and to support Knowles “as long as he appears to us to have at Heart the public Service.” In letters to Knowles and his London agent, Francis Gashry, Trelawny congratulated himself upon his success. The association, he reported, produced “a happy reconciliation between the Parties of this Island” that brought immediate “Peace, harmony & joy” and laid “a sure foundation . . . for those blessings to continue during the whole time of Mr. Knowles’s Administration.” The implicit assumption underlying the association, of course, was that Knowles, like Trelawny, would allow himself to be guided by its members’ advice. As Trelawny told Knowles, no one knew “the interest of the country better” than “all the principal Gentlemen of the Island on the spot.”23 The formation of the association was a de facto acknowledgment of the overwhelming influence of the local political establishment and the lack of gubernatorial independence in Jamaica’s internal affairs, giving the provincial Jamaican polity a quasi-republican character.
Knowles was at first quite happy with this arrangement. Trelawny, he wrote Gashry, had “installed me to my heart[’]s wishes, & I hope by reconciling Men, has so temper’d their Minds that I shall have a quiet Administration.”24 Indeed, Knowles seems to have operated under the naive belief that he could use Jamaica’s new-found political harmony to enhance royal authority in the colony. In November 1752, shortly after his arrival, he wrote the Board of Trade a long letter in which he manifested his own desire to be a constitutional reformer. Speaking directly to the Board’s long-standing concern with “the difficulties most of the Governors of this Island have laboured under to execute his Majesty’s Instructions, by the Balance of power being constantly in the House of Representatives,” he pointed out what the Board already knew as a result of its recent dealings with Trelawny: that the Jamaica Assembly had “long (tho’ contrary to His Majesty’s Instructions) assumed to themselves the Sole power of raising and appropriating Money exclusive of the Council” and that the Assembly’s use of this power meant that it was “indeed the Government.” Moreover, he added, the fact that the Assembly “was never so filled before with so many Gentlemen of Figure and Substance” meant that its “weight” was “even heavier and the Consequences more to be dreaded.” With “no Mol[l]ifications or Gratifications left here in the disposal of the Administration,” he observed, a remedy through which the Crown could acquire its “just weight” in island governance had proven to be “next to impossible.”25
Knowles traced the source of this imbalance to the “first Concoction” of the Jamaica constitution, specifically to the weakness of the Royal Council, which was too small and dependent on the governor to act as an effective counterweight to the Assembly. In consultation with “Mr. Trelawny and several of the ablest Gentlemen of this Community,” probably some of the twelve members of the association, Knowles devised a scheme to redress this situation. This scheme proposed to increase the size of the Council “so far as to take in every Gentleman of weight in the Country,” thereby at once making the number of its members roughly equivalent to that of the Assembly and depriving the Assembly of all its “Gentlemen of Figure and Substance.” To render the Council’s members more independent, he proposed to raise property requirements for membership, thus presumably excluding dependent placemen from the metropolis. Although he suggested that the governor be permitted to designate from this larger number of councillors a smaller group to act as his advisers on executive matters, the members of which he could change at will, Knowles proposed to free all councillors from dependence on the governor by making it impossible for him to remove them from office without the consent of the majority of the Council or a hearing before the Crown. With its new independence, Knowles thought, the Council would be able to act more “freely in” its “Legislative Capacity.” At no point in the letter did Knowles reveal any awareness of the extent to which such an arrangement, by giving local leaders control of both Houses, would have vested virtually all of the remaining vestiges of metropolitan authority in the hands of the local establishment.26
If such an arrangement would have been satisfactory to Jamaican political leaders, it “greatly alarm[ed]” the Board of Trade and other colonial officials. As Gashry reported from London in July 1753, it was “so little Relished here that People talk[’]d of it with great warmth,” and he predicted that it would “never go downe.”27 For its part, the Board of Trade dismissed Knowles’s ideas out of hand. Although it acknowledged that the colonial assemblies had shifted the balance of power in colonial governments to themselves, it insisted that this development derived “from an improper Administration of Government,” not “from any original Defect in the Constitution.” “By a prudent & steady Exercise of the Powers given him by his Commission and Instructions,” the Board told Knowles, the governor had all the authority he needed “to check and divert the Attempts of any one Branch of the Legislature to encroach upon any other, and whenever such a Disposition appears, the Conjuncture calls upon him to exert his Resolution as well as his Sagacity.”28
How far the Board was willing to go in insisting upon strict gubernatorial adherence to the royal instructions was revealed in its relations with Knowles during his first two years in office. Reinforced by formal opinions from its own legal counsel and the Crown’s attorney and solicitor generals,29 the Board had already in February 1753 laid out its legislative standards following an extensive review of Jamaica legislation passed during the last two years of Trelawny’s governorship. Many of these laws were in violation of the instructions in that they expired in a year, they appointed commissioners to collect and hold public revenues, or they altered or repealed laws already confirmed by the Crown without including a suspending clause. The Board denounced such practices as “lessen[ing] His Majesty’s just and necessary Authority over his Colonies, by which their Connection with and Dependence upon their Mother Country can only be preserved.” It directed Knowles to assent to no laws “which may contain any Provisions contrary to any of His Majesty’s Instructions,” assuring him that all such acts would be disallowed. By forcing Knowles into a strict adherence to his instructions, the Board signaled its intention to rein in the authority of the Jamaica Assembly by restricting its capacity to pass temporary legislation, to appoint provincial revenue officers, and to frame legislation free of suspending clauses.30
Knowles’s response plaintively underlined the difficulties this approach presented for him. He immediately agreed that the Assembly’s refusal to include suspending clauses in any of its laws carried “such an Air of Independence and trenches so much on the Just Authority of the Crown” that he would in future veto any bills that altered those that had already been confirmed by the Crown or contained “matters of a new and extraordinary nature.” But he warned that this approach might produce a political impasse. Men of the “best abilities and greatest weight in the Community,” he told the Board in expanding upon Trelawny’s earlier assessment, had assured him that suspending clauses were “what the People are in general averse to, and that if His Majesty will not permit them to make Laws where the nature and evident necessity of the Case calls upon them, they must dutifully submit, and must be contented to live under the Common Laws of England, and such Statute Laws as are now in force.” He asked “for His Majesty’s orders how I am to act in Case matters should come to such an extremity that” the Assembly would “chuse to be deprived of having the benefit of such new Laws as the Exigencies of Affair may require, rather than give up the point of a suspending clause.”31
This threat was the first in a series. Over the next decade, the Jamaica Assembly would several times express its adamant opposition to metropolitan restrictions upon its legislative capacity and repeatedly reveal its conception of the Jamaica constitution as an arrangement that, while providing room for metropolitan review of provincial statutes, placed control over all internal contingent affairs in the hands of the Jamaica legislature. These threats would cumulatively expose how far the Jamaican political establishment was willing to go to preserve the local autonomy it had so long enjoyed as a quasi-republican polity within a nominally monarchical empire.
Nor did Knowles expect any more cooperation in the Board’s program to force the Assembly to pass supply bills for more than one year or to give up the appointment of revenue officers. Of such “long usage” was this method of raising supplies that he predicted that it “would throw the Government into the utmost Confusion and disorder if I should keep back these Supply’s upon either of these Accounts.” He then asked for the Board’s orders as to “how far you would recommend it to me to go, in Case the Assembly,” as he anticipated, refused to give in. “When I have Your Lordship[’]s definitive orders,” he promised, “I shall inviolably adhere to them without adverting to any Consequences,” vowing, like the obedient admiral that he was, always to make “His Majesty’s Commands the sole Rule of my Conduct” and to adhere to them “steadily and with the utmost precision.”32
Long before the Board of Trade could have received this plea for direction, however, that body had sent Knowles still another expression of its wrath. In drawing up Knowles’s formal instructions in 1752, the Board at the request of the House of Commons had included a special clause directing him to prepare “an exact and full account” of the “present State of the island of Jamaica,” giving particular attention to the problem of uncultivated lands and the paucity of white settlers. Not knowing enough to prepare this report himself, Knowles, to the great dismay of the Board, which regarded this instruction as a private communication to the governor, had sent this instruction to the Assembly. Even more objectionable to the Board, Knowles had proceeded to pass an act to disable placemen, including all Crown officers from sitting in either the Council or the Assembly. For several years the Board had been receiving complaints about Jamaica legislation to regulate the fees of those officers, contrary, as one of them said, to “a long series of practice or Custom supposed,” within the British constitutional tradition, “to be of equal Authority with the Law.” With this exclusion act which the Board complained was “probably the first of it’s [sic] kind which has ever been transmitted from any of His Majesty’s Colonies,” the Assembly had boldly sought to diminish the status and influence of Crown bureaucrats in Jamaica, thereby once again enhancing its own authority at the expense of that of the Crown. For Knowles to have passed such an extraordinary measure without a suspending clause, the Board informed him, was “so manifest a Violation of your Instructions[,] so unbecoming a Sacrifice of the prerogative of the Crown[,] & such an Injustice to it’s [sic] Officers as deserves the severest Censure.”33
Such severe censures provided the impetus for a constitutional confrontation in Jamaica. Stung by the Board of Trade’s critique, Knowles thenceforth rigidly insisted upon adhering to his instructions. At his next meeting of the Assembly in September 1753, he opened the proceedings with a recommendation that the Assembly comply with an instruction that it digest all Jamaica’s “laws into one code or system.” The Virginia legislature’s general revision of the laws of that colony in 1749 had enabled the Board to undertake a systematic review of Virginia laws and to disallow many that seemed to contradict metropolitan notions about the proper mode of colonial governance, and this experience inspired London officials to recommend similar revisions to ten other royal colonies, including Jamaica. No doubt well aware of the Virginia experience, however, the legislatures of no other colonies complied with this recommendation. In Jamaica, as Knowles reported in January 1754, the Assembly simply ignored it. Metropolitan officials finally withdrew it altogether in 1761. Evidently, American assemblies had no intention of permitting such codifications to become a vehicle for restricting their scope for legislative action. More immediately important, Knowles, in the same speech, called upon the Assembly to “pay that dutiful regard to his majesty’s instructions to me, in framing all your bills, as I may be able readily to give my assent to them.”34
For its part, however, the Assembly ignored the implicit threat in this announcement and proceeded to frame its supply bills in its customary manner. When in mid-October 1753 it presented Knowles with several bills, he discovered that two bills, an additional duty bill and a measure to prevent frivolous arrests, had been framed without regard to his instructions. While the former appointed a commissioner to receive and issue public money “in derogation of the officer appointed by the crown” for that purpose, the latter had been passed “for a limited time, and without a suspending clause.” These measures, Knowles announced, were “so contrary to the tenor of his majesty’s instructions to me, that I cannot pass them.” Accordingly he rejected them and prorogued the Assembly for a day so that it might have “another opportunity of re-considering and altering those bills” in such a way that they would not be “liable to those objections.”35
When Knowles convened a new session the following day, he again entreated it “to comply with the demands of your sovereign, who hath upon all occasions, extended the most distinguished marks of his royal favour to this colony” and to pass legislation in a form agreeable to his instructions. In this standoff with the Assembly, Knowles thought that he had a trump card: the Board of Trade’s July 1753 report on twelve Jamaica acts passed in 1751 and 1752 during the final years of Trelawny’s governorship. Prepared for the Privy Council, this report left little doubt that London officials would thenceforth subject Jamaican laws to a very strict review and disallow any measures that were contrary to the royal instructions. Laying this report before the Assembly, Knowles asked its members to consider whether in view of the Board’s harsh line it would be of any benefit to “you or the people of this island” to continue to refuse to include suspending clauses in its bills.36
The report represented a wholesale condemnation of a pattern of behavior on the part of the Jamaica Assembly that, as the Board implicitly suggested, seemed bent upon aggrandizing its own authority at the expense of that of the Crown. In the Board’s opinion, most of the laws it reviewed constituted a serious violation of the royal instructions. It condemned four revenue acts which appointed commissioners to receive and disburse public monies as “an open breach and violation of the” governor’s seventeenth instruction forbidding him to pass any revenue measures that did not put the money to be raised under the control of the Crown’s receiver general. To an act granting all supreme court judges tenure during good behavior, a measure that would have brought Jamaican practice into conformity with the English as it had been established at the time of the Glorious Revolution, the Board objected that “the Situation and Circumstances in which the said Island or other American Plantations stand” made it “[in]adviseable, either for the Interest of the Plantations themselves, or of Great Britain, that the Judges in the former should hold their places” during good behavior rather than, as had been the case in Stuart England, at the pleasure of the Crown. It denounced a law to use ballots in elections as a “great . . . Innovation” that was contrary to both English practice and “long usage” in all the colonies except South Carolina. It objected to an act to appoint commissioners to hear debt cases on the grounds that it made “an extensive a Change in the Constitution of Government with respect to the administration of Justice” and represented a “great . . . incroachment on Your Majesty[’]s Prerogative to which the establishing Courts of Justice belongs.” It criticized an act excluding Crown officers from sitting in the Assembly and acting in the Council in a legislative capacity as “extraordinary and unprecedented” in that it barred the Crown’s servants in Jamaica “from Privileges which they ought to enjoy, in Common with the rest of Your Majesty’s Subjects.” Finally, it found defective this law and four others of “an extraordinary nature” because they had been passed without a suspending clause in violation of the governor’s twenty-second instruction. “Obedience to” that instruction, it declared “has been always thought most necessary to be secured, and can be no way so effectually secured, as by constantly denying the Royal approbation to every Act passed in contradiction to it.” With this declaration the Board signaled its intention to seek disallowance of all such laws in the future.37
But the Assembly was not to be intimidated by the Board of Trade’s threats. This was the body which two years earlier had been daring enough to resolve that the Board had “no right to take notice” of any Jamaica affairs that were “not a public act of the legislature of this island, or represented to them by their agent in London,”38 and Knowles subsequently reported to the Board of Trade that since “the arrival of Your Lordship[’]s Representation to His Majesty against the 12 Acts passed here in 1750 and 1751” Chief Justice Rose Fuller, a leading member of the Assembly, had “with others of the same turbulent Spirit been endeavouring to propagate amongst them [the contention] that your Lordships and the Ministry intend to take away their Priviledges as Englishmen.”39 Instead of backing down, the Assembly went on the offensive, Speaker Charles Price evidently reminding Knowles of the principles of the association earlier formed by Trelawny and various leading men and informing him that if he “intended to Govern quietly,” he should follow the advice of not the Board of Trade but the members of the association.40 When Knowles made it clear that he would not submit, the Assembly, in response to Knowles’s speech at the opening of the new session, adopted on October 29 a set of seven resolutions that directly challenged the constitutionality of the assumptions underlying the Board’s report as well as its emerging policy for imperial governance.
These resolutions focused on the two most prominent constitutional issues: the Assembly’s right to appoint revenue officers and the suspending clause requirement. The first resolution dealt with the former issue, the Assembly declaring without equivocation that it was “the undoubted right of the representatives of the people, to raise and apply monies for the services and exigencies of government, and to appoint such person or persons for the receiving and issuing thereof, as they shall think proper,” a right, it asserted, that “this house hath exerted, and will always exert, in such a manner as they shall judge most conducive to the service of his majesty, and the interest of his people.” The six remaining resolutions dealt with the suspending clauses. No such clause, the Assembly declared, “hath ever been inserted in any act of a public nature, passed by the legislature of this island.” Such clauses, it announced, could only function to prevent the application of expeditious “remedies . . . against evils or inconveniences” and, had they been required in the past, might actually have prevented the colony from defending itself “against its foreign and intestine enemies.” Arguing that the existing system whereby all laws were subject to review and disallowance by the Crown was “agreeable to the prerogative of the crown of England, and of the rights and privileges of the people of that kingdom, to which the people of this island are undoubtedly entitled,” it denounced the suspending clause requirement as “a very great alteration of the known and established constitution of this island” and “derogatory to the undoubted right the subject hath of proposing laws to the crown.” For that reason, the Assembly resolved, it could not “consent to the insertion of such clause[s] in public bills, without giving up the rights of the people, their own liberties, and the happy constitution which they have enjoyed under his present most gracious majesty, and his royal predecessors, for above seventy years.”41
With these resolutions the Assembly again emphatically defended its conception of the Jamaica constitution as an instrument that gave its members, as the guardians of settler rights and privileges, absolute independence in the passage of provincial laws. If it willingly conceded that those laws were liable to subsequent review and disallowance in England, it wholly rejected the contention that the Jamaica legislature might be subject to any prior metropolitan restrictions as a constitutional innovation and an abridgement of its historic autonomy to which it was determined never to submit.
In transmitting these resolutions to Knowles the next day, the Assembly expressed its “readiness” to comply with royal commands “in every instance consistent with the trusts reposed in us by the people, and those rights which we do most humbly apprehend ourselves entitled to, under the happy influence of his majesty’s mild government.” Caught in the middle between the intransigence of the Board of Trade and that of the Assembly, Knowles could only respond weakly that he would take the resolutions “into consideration, and compare [them] with his majesty’s instructions, whose command I am in duty bound to obey.”42
Although Knowles subsequently informed the Board of Trade that he regarded the Assembly’s resolutions as the “most extraordinary . . . ever entered into by any Assembly in His Majesty[’]s Colonies” and shrewdly pointed out that they “sufficiently shew[ed] the sense they have of being Independent here,” he ignored the resolutions, swallowed his pride, and continued to try to cajole the Assembly into passing legislation. The bankruptcy of the Crown’s receiver general Benjamin Hume revealed that he could not repay £20,000 of the public money, nearly all the money in the treasury, and Knowles tried to work with the Assembly to prevent such an unfortunate development in the future. For its part the Assembly agreed not to forego the appointment of revenue officers but to appoint the receiver general as its collector, thus preserving the principle that it had the right of appointment. But it altered the custom of the receiver general’s receiving a commission based on a percentage of taxes by insisting that he be paid a salary instead. By this action, Knowles complained, the Assembly was endeavoring “even to make the Crown[’]s Officers dependent upon them.”43
This situation significantly increased tension between the Assembly and Knowles, who tried with only modest success to persuade the Assembly to raise the receiver general’s salary. When the Assembly proved recalcitrant, Knowles, growing more and more impatient, insisted on November 14 that the Assembly resolve this problem before it “proceed[ed] to any other business.” In response the Assembly asserted its “undoubted right . . . to proceed in such business as is before them”; declared Knowles’s request “a direct violation and breach of the liberties and privileges of this house, and a high infringement of the liberties of the people”; announced that it “would not proceed in any business, until” it had been “righted in” its “liberties and privileges”; and demanded from Knowles “a reparation.” When the governor denied that he had meant to disturb the Assembly “in the exercise of their rights and privileges” and charged it with misconstruing his expressions, that body denounced him further for thereby abridging its “right of applying to his excellency for reparation” and asserted that his denial constituted “a great reflection on the honour of the house, and a new violation of their liberties and privileges.” When the House continued to refuse to do any business, an exasperated Knowles twice more prorogued the Assembly for a day, reconvening it on November 20 and 22. At his wits’ end, Knowles finally apologized to the Assembly when he reconvened it again on November 22, and he subsequently sought to dampen animosities by giving “an Entertainment at his Farm to many of the Gentlemen of the Assembly,” thereby restoring some degree of political harmony with the Assembly which eventually passed five bills that Knowles could sign.44
As it proceeded back to business, however, the Assembly entered upon its journals a sworn copy of Charles II’s 1661 proclamation for encouraging immigration to Jamaica. According to Knowles, Rose Fuller had obtained this document from London for the specific purpose of stirring up opposition to the Parliamentary inquiry into the state of Jamaica lands. In 1752 the House of Commons had directed the Board of Trade to prepare a report on what had been done over the past two decades “toward peopling, strengthening, and improving the Island of Jamaica.” Laid before the House of Commons in February 1753, this report became the basis for a printed bill “for coming at a knowledge of the Titles by which the present occupyers of Lands [in Jamaica] hold them.” Although the session ended before the bill had been passed, the Jamaican lobby in London, several of whom, including William Beckford, a member of Parliament, had titles to vast uncultivated acreage in Jamaica, endeavored to head off the bill. Originally, Fuller’s objective in obtaining Charles II’s 1661 proclamation, according to Knowles, was to distribute it about the island to let people “see the Conditions or Terms on which they held their Tenures, in order to prepare them to oppose the methods intended by the Printed Bill offered by the House of Commons last Year . . . in Case the same should pass into a Law.”45
In the political climate of Jamaica in the fall of 1753, however, this document quickly came to serve another purpose. With “the arrival of Your Lordship[’]s Representation to His Majesty against the 12 Acts passed here in 1750 and 1751,” Knowles reported, Fuller had “with others of the same turbulent Spirit been endeavouring to propagate amongst” the public the idea “that your Lordships and the Ministry intend[ed] to take away their Priviledges as Englishmen.” Emphasizing the clause in the proclamation declaring all children born in Jamaica to be “naturall borne subjects of England” and “free denizens of England” with “the same privileges, to all intents and purposes, as our free borne subjects of England,” Fuller allegedly presented this document “as a Magna Charta for this Island.” No doubt, as Knowles suggested, Fuller and his colleagues had this document read in the Assembly and inserted in the Assembly minutes to underline its status as fundamental law—“a Magna Charta” that provided a legal basis for Jamaica’s claims for English rights and local autonomy as exhibited in part by the Assembly’s resolutions of October 29.46
While political storms raged in Jamaica, the wheels of London administration were moving slowly but inexorably in a direction that gave Knowles even less scope for maneuver. In November 1753, John Sharpe, Jamaica’s London agent, petitioned against the Board of Trade report on the 1751 and 1752 laws in terms that made it clear that Jamaica’s conception of imperial governance differed markedly from those of the Board of Trade. Defending the acts as being “of great and publick Utility and calculated for the ease and benefit of the Subjects” of Jamaica, he denied that any of them encroached upon the prerogative. Arguing that the royal instructions did not “affect the Rights of the Assembly,” he contended that the Assembly’s appointment of revenue officers followed logically from the principle that “the same Power which gives and raises the Money . . . hath a right to give the Collection of it to whom they please” and pointed out that this right was “exercised by the Assembly in all the other Sugar Islands,” adding that “it would be extream hard to deny it to Jamaica.” Because many of the measures contained “nothing in the least” that affected the royal prerogative but related “wholly . . . to Regulations touching their own Property and within themselves,” he stated, they were “within the discretion and power of that Legislature.” Acts that related solely “to the Domestick Management of the Affairs of Jamaica,” did not “prejudicially affect the Royal Prerogative of the Mother Country or Sister Colonies,” and were “approved of and desired by all His Majesty’s Subjects in that Island,” he declared, should be confirmed, not disallowed. Representing the views of the Jamaica legislature, Sharpe could scarcely have been more explicit in his enunciation of the doctrine that the domestic affairs of Jamaica were the province of the Jamaica Assembly and that metropolitan officials ought not to interfere unless Jamaican laws somehow violated the royal prerogative or affected the welfare of other polities within the empire.47
When the Privy Council took up the Board of Trade’s report in February 1754, however, it took little heed of Sharpe’s arguments. Rather it thoroughly endorsed the report, confirming only two of twelve acts, disallowing seven, and authorizing the issuance of an additional instruction to Knowles to deal with the suspending clause and issues relating to the three short-term acts that had already expired. This instruction censured Knowles and threatened to remove him from office if he did not “pay a due Obedience and Regard for the future to your Commission and Instructions by constantly refusing your Assent to any Bills of an unusual or extraordinary Nature and Importance wherein Our Prerogative or the Property of Our Subjects may be prejudiced or the Trade or Shipping of this Kingdom any way Affected untill” he had sent them home for approval. The instruction followed this endorsement of suspending clauses with an admonition never to give his “Assent to any Law for raising Money . . . by which it is not expressly declared that such Money shall be put into the Hands of our Receiver General” and, by implication, not under the control of any Assembly-appointed officers.48
In Jamaica in the meantime, Knowles, desperate to break the impasse between himself and the Assembly, took measures that brought constitutional conflict in the island to an entirely new level when he seized upon a January 1754 petition from Kingston merchants to the Crown as a device that would enable him to govern the island on the terms demanded by his London superiors. This action stimulated an internal controversy within Jamaica that lasted almost five years and went through several distinct phases. Bringing Knowles into fierce political struggles with the island’s entrenched political leadership, it eventually cost him his job.
The first phase of this controversy, lasting for the first six months of 1754, involved a vigorous round of petitioning in which the antagonists laid out their case for or against the Kingston petition. Emanating principally from the colony’s overseas merchants, most of whom resided in Kingston, the Kingston petition requested the removal of the colony’s capital from Spanish Town to Kingston on the grounds of Kingston’s superior size, its importance as Jamaica’s chief port and urban center, and the inconvenience of having to go seventeen miles inland to Spanish Town to conduct one’s legal business. Immediately throwing his support behind this petition, Knowles recommended it to his London superiors as an instrument by which “the Planters’ Pride & Power” could be lowered and the “Trade[,] strength & Revenue of the Island” increased.49
In letters to the Duke of Newcastle, who had succeeded his brother Henry Pelham as chief minister, and the Earl of Holdernesse, who as secretary of state for the southern department had nominal authority over colonial affairs, Knowles explained the benefits that would flow from the success of this petition. “Since the first appointment of Assemblys in this Island,” he told Holdernesse, “the Planters have constantly composed that Body” because “the Seat of Trade was too remote from the Seat of Government for the Merchants, & Burghers of Port Royal & Kingston to attend a session without Manifest loss and detriment to their Affairs.” The result was that “the Planters have engross’d that House to themselves & by their Oppulency & high Spirit have constantly obstructed the Governours of this Colony from carrying on His Majesty’s Instructions, and all [other] Measures . . . calculated for whatever good purposes unless they tended purely to their own Interest.” Thus, he explained to Newcastle, had “these powerful princes” been able to acquire “vast Tracts of Land” and to screen from metropolitan eyes both the extent of their holdings and “the Slender (nay wicked) titles some of them hold these lands by,” with the result that they had been able to keep the price of sugar high by preventing their extensive uncultivated lands from “being improved into Sugar Plantations” or being occupied by new white settlers. Neither the amount of sugar produced nor the white population, he predicted, would ever be increased “till some of the Vast Tracts of Land belonging to these Mighty-Men” were “resumed by Law and Vested again in the Crown.” Considering trade “a mean Vocation,” the planters had, Knowles charged, for “a long time supported an Interest against the Merchants with the verry Money they borrow from them,” a practice that the merchants were “determin’d to submit to . . . no longer, but to gett into the Assembly, if the Government is removed to Kingston, as their business will admitt of their attending the House there which it wou’d not do in Spanish Town,” thus “destroying the [planters’] Power, & creating a country balance for the future.”50
Holding “the greatest part of the Property of the Country in their hands,” the merchants, Knowles explained, were “Men of Interest in the Island,” who would not fail to operate as “a Check upon the Planters[’] insolence and [to] enable a Governour to carry on His Majesty[’s] Service with . . . great ease and certainty.” Whereas the planters had always been the “constant Contemners and Opposers” of government who on every occasion and on every issue had betrayed their determination to “govern without Controul,” the merchants had “a constant reliance on the Government,” were always the governor’s “hearty Friends,” and could thus be depended upon to support all metropolitan measures intended to add “Strength & Security to the Island,” including uncovering the “flagrant . . . scene of Deceit” surrounding the planters’ land engrossment. Knowles called upon Newcastle, Holdernesse, and the “rest of the King’s Ministers” to act favorably upon the Kingston petition and thereby seize upon such a favorable opportunity for establishing metropolitan authority in the colony. “The late behav[i]our of the Assembly,” he added darkly, made it absolutely “necessary that something shou’d soon be done, or there will be an End of all Regal Authority here.”51
His sanguine expectations notwithstanding, Knowles through his support of the Kingston petition only succeeded in intensifying his political problems within Jamaica. Led by Rose Fuller, Speaker Charles Price, and Richard Beckford, three of the most prominent political figures in the colony, the Spanish Town interest soon mounted a counterpetition aimed at keeping the capital in Spanish Town. To oppose the Kingston petition, Fuller organized a rally of a few hundred people in Spanish Town on January 31, 1754, just a few yards away from the building in which Knowles was holding a session of the court of chancery. According to Fuller’s subsequent defense of his behavior, this meeting included some town inhabitants who were not freeholders but principally consisted of a combination of people “in eminent Stations,” including seven judges and court officials, six assembly members, several justices of the peace, the rector of the parish church, eight barristers, “several Gentlemen of Estates, and many Freeholders and Housekeepers of the said Town and Neighbourhood thereof.” But Knowles, regarding the gathering as a mob and Fuller’s action in calling it as a blatant attempt at intimidation, summoned a company of troops from Kingston to keep order and charged Fuller with inciting a riot. Although no riot occurred, local residents quickly began to make life in Spanish Town miserable for the governor and his family, “huzzaing and singing . . . impudent songs” as they passed by the King’s House, his residence, insulting his wife while he was away on a tour of the island, preventing his servants from buying meat in the market, and breaking into the King’s House, taking the island’s mace, shattering it, and strewing the pieces before the governor’s door. The local doctors even refused to treat his sick child. This harassment effectively drove the governor out of Spanish Town. Fearing for his family’s safety, he moved to Kingston into a house provided by some of the Kingston petitioners. Unless the capital itself was removed to Kingston or “something of that kind . . . done now to create a Ballance in the Assembly,” he excitedly told his London superiors, “I do apprehend the King will have no share in the Government of this Island long, without force to support it.”52
Along with the Kingston petition, these events stimulated an intensive contest for the support of the island’s rural parishes. The result was an extraordinarily extensive political mobilization, the scale of which was certainly unprecedented in Jamaica and probably also in any of the other American colonies. In January 1754, 591 people had signed the original Kingston petition, and 545 people, only 11 of whom had not signed the original petition, signed a second one a few weeks later.53 Most of the parishes in eastern Jamaica drew up and signed petitions to support the Kingston proposal: 87 people from the town and parish of Port Royal, 69 from the parish of St. Andrew, 78 from the parishes of St. Mary and St. George, and 188 from the parish of St. Thomas in the East. Altogether, these petitions contained 1,024 signatures from 975 different people.54
Galvanized into action by these petitions, the supporters of Spanish Town drew up three separate petitions between February 1 and June 24, 1754, that included 529 signatures from 506 different people.55 The parishes immediately surrounding and to the west of Spanish Town also produced petitions in support of the existing capital, with the signatures of 13 people from the parish of Clarendon, 7 from the parish of St. John, 12 from the parish of St. Catherine, 11 from the parish of Vere, and 221 from the parishes in Jamaica’s westernmost county, Cornwall.56 In total, these petitions contained 801 signatures of 747 different people. Thus, at least 1,722 people, perhaps 20 percent of Jamaica’s total free population including women and children, participated in this contest by signing their names to petitions. Slightly more than half, 56.6 percent were on the Kingston side; 46.4 percent supported Spanish Town.
During the spring and summer of 1754, rival Jamaican interests thus flooded London with petitions for and against removal of the capital to Kingston, but the Spanish Town interest did not stop with sponsoring petitions. In early April an anonymous writer, perhaps Thomas Frearon, a learned and much respected judge who had never been out of Jamaica, writing under the pseudonym Veridicus, or truth teller, took the contest to another level with the production of a substantial pamphlet. With some additions from an anonymous London lawyer associated with Gray’s Inn, this pamphlet was published in London in September 1754 under the title The Respondents Case. Whereas the initial Kingston petition and all the petitions that later supported it had stressed the utilitarian arguments for removal, The Respondents Case following the lead of the Spanish Town petition not only sought to demonstrate the inutility of removal but also to set forth “the juridical Case” against it. In the process of constructing “the Law State of the Case,” Veridicus, exhibiting substantial learning in history, law, and languages, laid out the intellectual underpinnings of the Assembly’s aggressive defense of settler liberties as they had taken shape in the colonies over the previous century and a half.57
In colonies, as in larger polities, wrote Veridicus, the function of government was largely protective. That is, it secured the lives, properties, and liberties of the inhabitants. No less than the metropolis, however, the colonial polity was socially exclusive and unequal. As he explained, laws were “principally made for the Protection and Security of the Freeholders, Settlers and staid Inhabitants of a Colony,” and the “staid” inhabitants by no means included everyone who resided there. They did not, for instance, include “transient Persons, mere Merchants, Factors, Agents, or any other set of Transients, having no Plantations, or what is among us called Settlements, and who have only a momentary Residence, and Habitations for the Time being in this Island.” Such people were but “Under-strappers, the mere Factors and Agents of his Majesty’s Planters . . . and . . . only to be looked upon as the Carnalia of this Country, and the mere Turba Rhemi of Kingston.” Neither did the staid inhabitants include the many “Ruffians, Sailors, and other transient Persons, who frequently resort[ed]” to the port of Kingston “in mighty numbers.” They emphatically did not include the many thousands of slaves, many of whom were eager “to change Conditions with their Masters.” “In all Countries of the World,” declared Veridicus, such transients or, in the case of slaves, disenfranchised people, had “little or nothing to do with the Policy and publick Laws” and no “Right to interfere with the Policy of the State” or to apply for “the Repeal of publick Laws,” the “Honour of Obedience to the Laws in being” operating as the only right to which they were entitled (20, 23, 30, 50, 55–56).
The organs of government were thus, according to Veridicus, all the instruments of the staid population. Thus was the Assembly, the lawmaking body of the colony, composed of members who were “not only the greatest Proprietors of and in the Country” but also had been “severally chosen out of the best people by all the Freeholders of the respective Parishes in this Island.” Precisely because they were thus representative of the “staid Families” in the colony, such people knew “best the true Interest of this Country, which is certainly blended with their own, as well as with that of their Constituents.” With this statement Veridicus implicitly endorsed the position the Jamaica agent John Sharpe had taken in his presentation to the Privy Council the previous November: that the Jamaica Assembly also knew better how to legislate for their country than did distant officials in London. Invariably, as well, the actions of the Assembly represented—and embodied—“the legal sense of this whole Island as to all and singular Matters in question.” If the Assembly made the laws, the courts enforced them and adjudicated disputes arising out of them—with the security of the lives, liberties, and properties of the colony’s staid inhabitants primarily in mind. As the repository of all the statutes, court decisions, land records, and wills and inventories of the staid inhabitants, the island record office was thus “the Charter-Chest of all the Titles to every individual Plantation, as well as to all the opulent Estates on this Island” (14, 31, 51–52).
Perhaps because it had so recently and repeatedly been called into question by the actions of London officials, Veridicus took special pains to spell out the legal foundations of colony governance. Authority in British colonies, legislative and all other kinds, depended in his view upon a variety of supports. These included, in the first instance, the original and fundamental laws promulgated coeval with or soon after the initial settlement. Citing Sir Edward Coke’s commentaries on Magna Charta in his Institutes, Veridicus argued that “any By-laws, Acts, Orders or Concessions made contrary to” these fundamental laws were actually “against law” because they were “against the general Liberty of the Subject” and were therefore “void and ineffectual as being against Law.” Indeed, he concluded, because “all His Majesty’s Planters, or the greatest Part of them,” had become “staid Inhabitants, and very considerable Settlers in this Island” on the basis of “the public Faith flowing from these fundamental Laws,” they “ought never to be altered; and indeed . . . never [could] be altered, without renting all Order, and breaking all Unity, without sapping the very Foundation of the Constitution of this Country” (7–8, 12–13).
The English inheritance was a second source of authority for colonial governance. Veridicus cited Charles II’s 1661 proclamation that Jamaicans would have the same status as “free Denizens of England” with the “same Privileges to all Intents and Purposes as his Majesty’s free born Subjects of England” to show that “the Laws of England” were “their Birth-right” and that “the People of Jamaica” had “just the same legal Rights to the Possession of their own Freeholds” and to other inherited rights including consensual government and due process of law “as the People of England have to theirs.” Indeed, in making this case, Veridicus took the usual colonial line that Charles II’s proclamation, like other similar documents issued in connection with the establishment of civil government in other colonies, was “in Truth of the Nature of Declaratory Laws, for they gave no new Right, but only declared an old one.” Even without such an instrument, he contended, those “brave Britons who made the Conquest of Jamaica” would automatically have taken their inheritance—“all the old and valuable Laws of England”—with them. That inheritance, he insisted, was “truly the Birthright of the People of this Island.” By adding such “a valuable Jewel” to the English Crown and opening up such “a fine large Avenue to the Wealth of the World,” he argued, the conquerors of Jamaica could not possibly “be supposed to have forfeited” that birthright (4, 8, 10–11).
A third source of authority in colonies was metropolitan judicial rulings. Veridicus cited several cases at Westminster adjudging, as he put it, “that the Benefit of all the Laws of England preceding the Conquest of this Island, did of Right appertain to the Conquerors.” Chief among these laws, he wrote, was “the uncontroverted Magna Charta of England,” which, according to these judicial rulings, endowed “the People of Jamaica” with full entitlement “to all and singular the Benefits, Privileges, Protection and Immunities conceded [to the metropolitan English] by that Law or Charter” (10–11).
A fourth source of authority for Jamaica governance explored by Veridicus was explicit contract. The 1728 Jamaica Revenue Act, which provided a perpetual revenue for the island’s civil establishment, declared all English laws as had “been at any time esteemed, introduced, used, accepted or received as Laws in this Island . . . to be and continue Laws of this his Majesty’s Island of Jamaica for ever.” Confirmed by the Crown, this act, wrote Veridicus, constituted “a fair, honest and mutual Contract between the King and People,” by which, in return “for a valuable Consideration,” the King acknowledged that “all the Privileges, Immunities, Freeholds and Possessions” of Jamaicans would become “perpetual.” Though, like Magna Charta, it gave “no new Right” but only “ratified and confirmed existing ones,” this act, Veridicus emphasized, was “in Truth, the modern Magna Charta of Jamaica,” a “Charter of Confirmation” that further guaranteed that “all our Liberties, Immunities, Privileges and possessions enjoyed under the Charter” would be “possessed Justâ Causâ praecedente” (8–10).
A fifth and highly important source of authority was colonial custom. Veridicus quoted Coke on the authority of “the Customs of the Realm” in England, “the most valuable and significant” of which were those that met the four tests of being “ancient, universal, uninterrupted, and notorious.” As inviolable possessions “claim[ed] by Prescription,” rights based on such customs were legally sacrosanct, even if there were no other legal foundations for them. Veridicus cited the writings of Secretary of State John Thurlow to prove that any “Possession which surpasseth the Memory of every Man living” could “be deemed an Immemorial Possession” that “create[d] an inflexible legal Title.” In the case of Jamaica, he argued, “the tacit Consent of the King, his Governors and the People” had “effectually operated” to do just that. “’Tis certain,” he declared, “that, 99 Years [of] quiet Possession” created “an uncontrol[l]able Prescription of a just right.” “Every such antient, uniform, general Custom of the Country,” he claimed, “maketh a Part of the Law of the Land,” of “the Laws and Customs of his Majesty’s Island of Jamaica” (5, 13, 39–40).
In Veridicus’s view the English doctrine of custom was paralleled by still a sixth source of authority for colonial polities: international practice as rooted in Roman and civil law. He cited various provisions from the Justinian Code to show that possession, in some cases for as little as three to ten years, constituted a “sufficient Legal Title,” not just to freeholds but also to “Chattels, Franchises, consuetudinary Liberties, incident Privileges, or such like Concomitants of the Freehold.” These provisions were in turn the original source of “all the Possessory Laws of Italy, France, Germany, and Holland” as well as the customary law of England itself. “Being of almost ten times ten Years Duration,” rights based on the doctrines of possession, asserted Veridicus, “should be deemed an uncontrolable Title in Jamaica, and in every other British Colony that is not sufficiently settled, and that not only in Odium of those who rashly and unjustly attempt to disturb the peaceable Possession of the veteres Colonii; but also, lest by a constant Uncertainty, the Settlers of Colonies being as diffident as unsecure, might be thereby induced to neglect the Improvement of what they do possess” (15–20).
A seventh and final source of authority for colonial governance was natural law. Whatever was deducible “from the original and primary Law of Nature,” declared Veridicus, was “as much a Rule for Kings, and . . . as just a directory of their Actions, and as solid a Basis for their solemn Determinations in the great Concerns of Mankind, or in the most important Affairs of the World, as any other Law, Act or Statute whatsoever.” What was authorized by the “Light of Nature,” which Veridicus suggested was equivalent to “natural Sense” and the “Law of Reason,” carried as much weight, he argued, as what was sanctioned by positive law and custom. Thus, the principle that the acquisition of a privilege carried with it “all that is naturally incident to that Privilege,” he declared, was at once “a Rule in Reason, a Maxim in Law, and a certain and eternal Principle in Nature” (7, 42–43).
In all instances, according to Veridicus, these sources of authority operated to promote four fundamental principles of British governance. The first was the idea of consent. Colonial governance, no less than metropolitan governance, was consensual, all acts requiring the agreement of both governors and governed. This consent could be explicit as, for instance, in the formal promulgation of positive law through statutes, or implicit as in the mutual acquiescence to a longstanding custom, “the tacit consent of the King, his Governors and the People,” wrote Veridicus, operating “as effectually . . . as their express Concourse doth, or could have done in the making of a positive Act for that very [same] Purpose” (5).
The second principle involved the subordination of the King or his colonial representatives to the law. If “Justice and Reason” dictated to the King what “he ought not to do,” law, in the English constitutional system, told him precisely what he could not do. Long consented to by the populace, “the just Prerogative of the Crown” constituted an essential “Part of the Law of the Kingdom,” but prerogative, declared Veridicus, could not be extended to the destruction of ancient rights “declared and confirmed by Charters and Laws.” Such rights, he asserted, could “never be legally or justly annihilated by mere Prerogative: For to dispense with such perpetual and fundamental Laws” was “against the Petition of Right” and therefore beyond the bounds of prerogative authority” (37–38, 57).
A third principle involved the sanctity of due process of law. Veridicus cited Coke to show that, according to English legal traditions, “no freeborn Briton, or other free Man, shall be ousted of his Possession, or be directly or indirectly attacked or invaded as to any Franchise, customary Liberties, Privileges or Immunities without an open fair Trial, according to the Law of our Land, and the verdict of twelve sworn honest and legal Men, or by a Jury of our own Peers” (14).
The fourth principle involved the sanctity of possessions, a term that extended not just to tangible property but to all fundamental privileges, rights, and liberties. Thus, Veridicus contended, the “constant and uninterrupted possession” of liberties over a period that “surpasseth the Memory of every Man living” had to “be deemed an Immemorial Possession,” to which its possessors had “an inflexible legal Title” (4–5).
From these principles and the sources of authority on which they were based, Veridicus contended, it followed that colonial “Liberties, Franchises and Privileges,” like those of the metropolis, flowed “from positive and perpetual Laws” and were “grounded upon uninterrupted and immemorial Possession” and could not legally be undermined through the application of such illegal, that is, nonconsensual, devices as “a high commission, dormant Powers, obsolete Instructions, and new born Innovations” that sought to “deprive us the People of that sweet and pleasant Security which we enjoy under wise but not fleeting Laws, under an established but not a floating Government” (42, 68). Both “the publick Laws” and “the authoritative Sentiments and the Legal Sense of this whole Island,” Veridicus concluded, required that no custom could be abridged through the unilateral actions of the metropolitan government. Rather they could be changed only “in the regular and usual Way by . . . the Representatives of the People elected and legally Assembled” (50, 52, 54).
Implying that Jamaica was not part of a national state but was, rather, a “Lordship” based upon a mutual covenant between the Crown and the freeholders of Jamaica, Veridicus argued that “by disfranchising it’s [sic] freeholders, and depriving it’s [sic] antient Possessors and kindly Tenants of their Dominium utile, to which they have the same just Right and legal Title that their King Lord hath to his said Dominium directum,” the application of such devices would not only destroy the colony’s constitution but effectively annihilate “the very Lordship itself, and . . . destroy the Dominium directum of this Island” (22).
Declaring that “anticonstitutional Innovations may prove as fatal to Colonies as Plague, Pestilence, or Famine” and were “the certain Fore-runners of Destruction, Devastation, and Extirpation,” Veridicus concluded by demanding “that no Change or Alteration be made use of in the King’s Writs, and that there may be no new Modelling or Transmigration of his Majesty’s Courts, and that, there may be no intermeddling with our Freeholds, our Records, and our Laws; and that the fundamental Constitution of this Country, it’s [sic] antient, well-approved Customs, and it’s [sic] universally received consuetudinary Liberties may not directly or indirectly be incroached upon, invaded or innovated: And all this we with Humility and Sincerity do request,” he added, “because we know that it is our Right, and because we very plainly do foresee, that a contrary Conduct to what is here desired, may tend to turn Order into Anarchy, Amity into Animosity, and to open upon our Country the Flood-Gates of false Policy, Madness, and Misery!” (49, 65–66).
In a telling passage, Veridicus complained that the Kingston petitioners, instead of going about things “in the regular, and usual Way by a solemn and proper Application to the Representatives of the People elected and legally assembled in Virtue of His Majesty’s Royal Writts,” had bypassed the Jamaica legislature altogether and applied “to the Sovereign directly and immediately and without any Intervention.” With this complaint, Veridicus strongly suggested that the Jamaica legislature was the proper venue for consideration “of such weighty Affairs” as a change in the location of the capital, a matter “in which the Order of his Majesty’s Government, the Peace of the People, and the Security of the whole Society” were so deeply concerned, and betrayed his resentment that the petitioners had called the metropolis into a matter that ought to have been left to the provincials. He thereby implied that whether the Crown in Britain should or should not be consulted on any provincial matter was a subject for the determination of the provincial legislature. In the views of the Jamaican political establishment, not the least objectionable feature of the Kingston petition was thus its implicit challenge to the competence of the legislature and to the local autonomy Jamaican settlers had so carefully cultivated for the better part of a century (53).
Whether or not any relevant London officials ever read The Respondents Case, the government moved cautiously in its response to the uproar over the proposal to make Kingston the seat of governance for Jamaica. The Privy Council received the initial petitions from the Kingston and Spanish Town interests in late May 1754 and referred them to the Board of Trade two weeks later. Over the next eight months the Board held more than twenty meetings hearing testimony on the merits of these petitions, but it seems to have been reluctant to report back to the Privy Council.
Indeed, the Board’s relationship with Knowles continued cool. At the very time he was endorsing the Kingston petition, the Board was denouncing him for having consented to a law excluding royal officers from sitting in the Assembly and admonishing him “for the future [to] act with a due Regard to His Majesty’s Rights and those of his Officers and the Welfare of the Government intrusted to your Care.”58 Moreover, the Board infuriated Knowles by seeming to side with Rose Fuller, whose extended family in England was closely allied with the existing ministry, in reference to the alleged riot in Spanish Town on January 31, demanding that Knowles submit proofs for his charges that a riot had occurred and that Fuller had incited it and even providing Fuller with copies of Knowles’s official letters to the Board. Knowles especially objected to reports that the Earl of Halifax, the president of the Board, had said that Knowles would be recalled in three months. Insisting that he had done no act of government “without the advice and concurrence of His Council and a due regard to the Royal Instructions (which,” he insisted in a telling point, “is the cause of all this uproar and opposition),” he argued that a consideration of all the facts would doubtless exonerate him from any charges of wrongdoing and result in his receiving “that support necessary towards carrying on this Government.”59
But little support was forthcoming. The Board did support Knowles in his controversy with Fuller, who was chief justice of Jamaica, over the jurisdiction of the judges in the spring of 1754. Whereas Fuller insisted that Jamaica judges could hold courts of nisi prius on the basis of a 1751 Jamaica law that had been recommended for disallowance but not yet disallowed, Knowles contended that both the impending disallowance of the law and the failure of the judges to obtain a royal commission specifically empowering them to hold such courts prevented the judges from holding them. In defiance of Knowles, Fuller contended that as long as the act was not disallowed, the judges deemed themselves “bound by our Oaths as Judges to regard the said Act as a Publick Law of this Island and to put the same in execution untill a disallowance thereof by the King shall be notified to your Excellency in Form,” and congratulated his ally and fellow judge John Morse for actually holding such a court, “taking him by the hand and telling him he had acted like an Englishman and that he had as much right to do what he had done as any Lord Chief Justice of England.” According to Knowles, the “sole view” of Fuller and Morse in holding such courts was “to insult his Majesty’s Authority.” When Knowles dismissed Morse for this behavior, Fuller resigned his commission as chief justice.60 Similarly, the Board suggested in the fall of 1754 that Knowles’s endeavors to defeat the “extraordinary Attempts and Innovations” of the Jamaica Assembly would win royal approval. But it remained wholly noncommittal on the fate of the Kingston petition on which Knowles had pinned his hopes for political survival. Rather, it recommended that he use his “utmost Endeavours to conciliate the unhappy Differences by which the Peace of the Island has been so greatly disturbed, and to avoid all Occasion of future Controversy and Dispute, taking Care at the same time to observe your Instructions and on every Occasion acting with a steady and due Regard to them.”61
Left on his own, Knowles, increasingly aware that settler Jamaicans would never support the removal of the capital to Kingston without a formal legislative enactment by the Assembly, adopted the desperate political strategy of trying to win legislative approval, thereby launching the controversy over the capital into a second and even more complicated phase, one that would continue through June 1755. To further his new strategy, Knowles sought to gain a majority in the Assembly by manipulating elections. Accordingly, he dissolved the Assembly and called for new elections early in the fall. Between the fall of 1754 and May 1755, he called three successive elections and dissolved two more Assemblies in his effort to achieve this goal.
Held in early October 1754, the first election, hotly contested in many parishes, produced a significant gain for Knowles and the Kingston interest but not a firm majority. His supporters did, in conformity with his instructions, succeed in pushing through a revenue bill without, as he put it, the “Clogg of Commissioners as had been usual for some years past.” Taxes were to go directly into the hands of the Crown’s receiver general. But Knowles’s actions in trying to gain a majority in the Assembly soon embroiled him in a new dispute with that body over legislative procedures and privileges. Bad weather had prevented elections in two eastern parishes expected to return members in the Kingston interest, and, contrary to long-standing procedure, Knowles issued writs to hold new elections in these parishes after the Assembly had convened but before it had requested him to issue such writs. Notwithstanding the presence of many of his supporters, the Assembly invoked the conventional English Parliamentary principle, long since incorporated into Jamaica constitutional practice, that the House was the proper judge of elections and returns of all members and that it had “an undoubted right . . . to void all writs issued by the governor, during the continuance of the assembly, for electing members to serve in this house, when such writ shall be issued without the request of this house.” Denouncing these resolves as “extraordinary” and confident that his supporters would do even better in a new election, Knowles dissolved the House after it had sat for just over two weeks.62
In his dissolution speech, Knowles seized the occasion to articulate the principles that he hoped would lead to a gubernatorial majority in the Assembly. Contending that their resolutions but “too plain[ly]” manifested a disposition for “carrying things on with so high and usurped an authority,” he reminded the Assembly that the “prerogative of the crown, and the liberties of the people” were both “your duty to maintain and preserve, as well as mine,” and accused it of “invading them daily.” Seizing upon the association established by Trelawny as an effort by “some of you . . . to alter the established constitution of your country” by entering into a secret and “wicked association, destructive to the rights and property of the inhabitants” and the “extraordinary paper . . . sent me the last assembly, by your speaker,” as “proofs of the designs that have been laid, to subvert our happy constitution, and wrest power out of the hands of the crown,” he charged the Assembly with having “for years past lavished away” vast sums of money “in donations and gratifications to particular favourites” and promised to make such peculation “publicly known” so that the people might thereafter “have an opportunity of contributing to their own happiness . . . by a more proper choice of their representatives.” “The sounding words, liberty! and privileges!,” he asserted, “convey dangerous ideas; but the loss of the people’s liberties may as soon happen . . . through the tyranny of a decemvirate,” he declared in a direct reference to the members of the association, “as under the administration of any single person.” Almost as an aside, Knowles ended his speech by challenging the Jamaican view of the foundations of settler liberties, declaring, in repeating conventional metropolitan theory about the constitutional structure of the Empire, that the Assembly’s existence derived from nothing more than “his majesty’s commission, under the great seal to me directed.”63 In the election contest that followed, Knowles and his supporters dilated upon these themes. No doubt with the governor’s sponsorship, an anonymous writer signing himself Jamaicanus and claiming to be “a Native of this Island” who had formerly opposed the “Measures of the Government,” published early in 1755 a pamphlet that reproduced both the association and Charles Price, Sr.’s advice to Knowles on how to have a peaceful administration. Denouncing these documents as “dangerous Attempts to destroy and subvert both” the “glorious Constitution and [the] Government (which makes us envied by all other Countries),” Jamaicanus expressed his “Detestation and Abhorrence of all Illegal; Anti-Constitutional and Tyrannical Associations of Ten, Eleven, or let their Number be what it will,” declared that “only a groveling wretch” could possibly “choose to set any one, or more of his Fellow Subjects, to lord it over himself,” and called upon “all Free Britons and honest Men” to disown those involved in the association.64 Particularly intense was the campaign to discredit Charles Price, Sr., his opponents denouncing him as “the ruling Demogogue” who had “so long Governed this Island that he will not easily give up his Power.” “I appeal to all who know this Island,” declared Knowles, “whether the Laws for these fifteen or sixteen years past, have not been made by him and two or three of his Colleagues[,] leading Men of the Assembly for private views and purposes only.”65
Knowles’s tactics so far succeeded as to enable his supporters to win an equality in the January 1755 election, and in case of yet another dissolution, he predicted that he had “a certainty of a Majority of five.” For that reason he confidently predicted that his opponents would be forced to give in, and on the day after the Assembly met on January 20, he confidently wrote the Duke of Newcastle in London that he doubted “not of being able to execute effectually all His Majesty[’]s Instructions & Govern this Island in Peace & quietness. I have had an arduous task to bring matters this length,” he wrote, congratulating himself on his success, “having had a stubborn race to deal with.” But Knowles’s optimism was short-lived. When he endeavored to gain a majority in the Assembly by demanding that it unseat James Dawes, who in 1748 had been convicted at Westminster for having uttered “treasonable expressions” against George II, the Assembly, by a narrow vote of nineteen to seventeen, sustained its decision to admit Dawes on the grounds that by taking all the necessary oaths required of an assemblyman and thereby pledging his fidelity to the King, he had “obtained a legal right to sit in the house.” No doubt salivating at the prospect of winning a majority of his own supporters in the House by a new election, Knowles thereupon dissolved the Assembly after it had sat for just four days, denouncing the actions of the Assembly majority to his superiors in London as little less than “inviting Traytors to take an Assylum in the Assembly of Jamaica.”66
In the ensuing elections, Knowles and his party succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, obtaining a majority of nine. First meeting on April 8, 1755, it elected Edward Manning, a merchant and strong supporter of the removal of the capital, as speaker, thus depriving Charles Price, Sr., of the office for the first time in over a decade. Thereafter, it moved quickly to achieve Knowles’s agenda, voting on April 17 to bring in a bill to remove the seat of government to Kingston, passing on April 30 that bill, sending it on May 7 to Knowles for his signature, and passing a bill on May 19 to build a house and offices for the governor in Kingston. Knowles signed the measure the same day. By this series of actions, the Assembly rejected the appeals of the inhabitants of Spanish Town to keep the capital there.67
Knowles was ecstatic. “Whilst the Governing Power was in the hands of Mr. Price, Fuller, Beckford & their Faction,” he wrote Newcastle immediately after he had signed the removal bill, passing such a bill “was always look’d upon [as] next to an impossibility.” “The many Arbitrary Acts of Power the Factious opposition to Government here had invested themselves with,” he told the Board of Trade in reiterating a complaint he had frequently made, had been a “matter of Complaint for near a Century past, and to divest them of this Usurped Power & open the People[’]s Eyes, who had been so long deluded, was no easy task, yet,” he exclaimed proudly, “I have the Pleasure to tell Your Lordships [that] I have accomplished this, and will venture to say [that] if the Act for removing the Courts & Records is confirm’d, not only the Peace of the Island will be effectually restored, but His Majesty’s just Rights & Prerogative maintain’d in every point.” Yet, he had to admit that, in defiance of the Crown’s repeated instructions, he had had to pass this unusual bill without a suspending clause in order to obtain the Assembly’s and the Council’s support. Evidently not even his strongest supporters in Jamaica were willing to permit suspending clauses to be introduced into Jamaica legislation! Pleading necessity and “Numberless other Reasons . . . both Provincial and Political,” he urged both Newcastle and the Board to seek Crown approval of the removal law. Without such approval, he warned, “I foresee [that] nothing but Anarchy & Confusion will ensue, and Oppression to all those who have assisted me in bringing these Measures to bear.”68
The removal bill was not the only instance of Knowles’s political triumph in the spring of 1755. During the heat of the October 1754 election, Knowles and his party began to suspect that Francis Delap, a supporter of the Spanish Town interest and as provost marshal the person responsible for overseeing elections, might try to deliver the election of three members for Port Royal parish to the Spanish Town interest. Accordingly, just before the election, Knowles, with the Council’s approval, replaced Delap and ordered him to return the writs for Port Royal and two other parishes. Because Knowles had neglected to notify Delap of his dismissal and because the writs had not been executed, Delap thought that his compliance with this order might render him, as he later put it, “liable to many Pains and Penalities, contained as well in the Laws of Great Britain, as in the particular Acts . . . of this Island” and refused to deliver them to his successor, instead hiding them in chests stored at the houses of Charles Price, Sr., and William Wynter in Spanish Town. Though Price and Wynter immediately handed over the chests containing the writs, Knowles ordered Delap’s imprisonment, first in Kingston and then at the fort at Port Royal, where without the government’s showing any cause for his imprisonment he was held in irons, debarred from access to counsel or friends, prohibited the use of pen, ink, and paper, and told that he would shortly be dispatched to England “as a State Prisoner.” Though Knowles did not carry out this last threat, the courts, now presided over entirely by people of his appointment, consistently denied Delap access to habeas corpus and bail. Indeed, the government brought no formal action against him until February 1756 when it finally filed three informations charging him with secreting the writs “with an Intention to suspend the Execution of the Writ[s], subvert the Government, and disturb the Peace of the Country.” Yet, Jamaica’s supreme court showed no hurry to begin proceedings, and Delap continued to languish in jail.69
The Delap affair represented an important sidebar to the removal controversy because, as the Jamaican political establishment was aware from the very beginning of Delap’s imprisonment, it raised fundamental constitutional questions about the capacity of a desperate and unrestrained governor to manipulate the judicial system in his private interest in violation of traditional English legal safeguards for the rights of individuals. From jail, Delap urged his political allies to “exert themselves” in his behalf “to support the Law, and the Liberty of the Subject” and warned them that if they did not do so the law would be unable to protect any person “from Injury and Oppression” of the sort he had experienced. Through their agents in London, they made sure that this latest instance of Knowles’s arbitrary behavior came to the attention of metropolitan authorities. The result was an order from the King and Privy Council commanding Knowles to admit Delap to bail and to show cause for having imprisoned him. Instead of complying with this order, which he received while the Assembly elected in May 1755 was sitting, Knowles laid the case before the Assembly, in which he now had a substantial majority. On May 9 and 10, the Assembly reviewed the case, praised Knowles for having Delap confined, and asked the governor to order the attorney general to prosecute Delap for “his wicked crimes and misdemeanours, with the utmost rigour of the laws.” Thus vindicated by the legislature, Knowles quickly sought the approval of the courts. On June 18, 1754, the supreme court, functioning with a jury handpicked to achieve a result favorable to Knowles, found Delap guilty, the jury, despite an effective defense, deliberating for less than two minutes. The chief justice sentenced him to pay a fine of £500 and serve a year and a day in prison “without Bail of Mainprize.” Reporting this outcome to Newcastle, Knowles expressed certainty that the result of the trial would “sufficiently Justify my Conduct to His Majesty and His most Honourable Privy Council” as to clear “up my Conduct to the World” and win “the approbation of my Sovereign.”70
But Knowles’s victories came at a high price. The behavior exhibited by him and his adherents deeply alarmed much of the settler population, created profound resentments against them, and stirred manifold apprehensions about the tyrannical potential of delegated government unrestrained by close metropolitan supervision and unchecked by the power of an independent representative assembly. As Knowles’s May Assembly was getting on with the passage of the removal bill, an anonymous tract, entitled simply “Grievances,” unprinted, perhaps because the governor controlled the Kingston press, circulated in manuscript around the colony. As its title implied, “Grievances” consisted largely of a five-page list of actions by Knowles and his followers that could be construed as “publick Grievances” that gave “great cause of Complaint” and cried “aloud for Redress.” Denying the Assembly its privileges and harassing it with prorogations and dissolution, interfering in elections and “new Model[ling] the ways of Elections” for the purpose of giving “a Party all advantages for obtaining a Majority devoted to give a Sanction to” his “unwarrantable” proceedings, suspending laws, intimidating judges and dismissing any who would not heed his commands, replacing public officers with “inferiour Men” whose chief recommendation lay in their willingness to serve as “the Instruments of Faction,” obstructing justice, imprisoning people without cause, ignoring petitions, dispossessing men of their estates, and engaging in a variety of acts that showed nothing but contempt for the “antient usage and custom” of the island—these were only the most egregious of many examples of Knowles’s “arbitrary Ministration of Power.” “Is this treating British Subjects as what they are?,” asked the author. “Is it not exercising the most arbitrary Power over a People?[,] & ought the [lives and] Properties of Britons be thus Sported with[?].”71
But this document also had two larger points to make about the nature of British colonial governance. The first was that “Subordinate Powers,” such as those exercised by colonial governors, included “no authority beyond what is by positive grant & Commission granted to them,” no power even of exercising “the prerogative of doing good beyond that grant & Commission, much less of employing it to carry on uncertain projects or to serve private purposes.” The second was that the governor’s commission directed him “to govern not only according to the Fundamental Laws of the Mother Country but also according to the particular Laws & Customs of that Colony over which it” granted “the governing Power[,] provided the same” were “not repugnant to the Laws of the Mother Country.” The “particular oecomony of a Colony” sometimes required its legislature “to make Laws different in some respects from the Laws of the Mother Country.” In a colony like Jamaica, the very “being and subsistence of” which required “a permission of holding some of Human kind in perpetual Slavery which by the fundamental Laws of the Mother Country absolutely abhors within itself,” the author argued, the “repugnancy so provided against” could “only relate to what is Subversive of that form of Government[,] that Liberty & property established by those fundamental Laws, and what tends to dissolve that dependency of the Colony on the Mother Country, and to lessen that Utility which is necessary for the well being of both, and for which it was first Settled.” For that reason, the author contended, “Whatever Customs & Laws of the Colony circumscribed within these bounds are established & have been allowed of, they are the Customs & Laws by w[hi]ch that Colony should be Governed Jointly with the fundamental & General Laws of the Mother Country extending to that Colony.” For that reason, the author insisted in an obvious reference to Knowles, “A Subordinate power appointed to govern that Colony by such a limitted Commission who acts Contrary to those Customs & Laws or in Violation of them, Abuses his Authority, is guilty of a breach of Trust[,] and exerts an Arbitrary Sway.”72
When the May Assembly found a copy of this wholesale condemnation of Knowles and his allies tacked to the House door, it branded it “a false, malicious, and scandalous libel, highly reflecting upon the justice and wisdom of his excellency the governor’s administration, as also upon the proceedings of the honourable privy-council of this island, and of this house, and tending to create jealousies in, and inflame the minds of the people” and ordered it “burnt in the open street, fronting this house, by the hands of the common hangman.”73
With passage of the removal bill, the conflict over the location of the capital entered still a third phase, one in which each side desperately sought to persuade metropolitan authorities either to confirm or to reject the bill. Knowles’s expectations that metropolitan appreciation for his achievements would insulate him from attacks such as that composed by the anonymous author of “Grievances” and enable him to accomplish the constitutional revolution in Jamaica which his superiors enjoined on him proved to be entirely illusory. In April 1755, well before Knowles had succeeded in getting the removal bill through the Assembly, some London officials had decided that his repeated dissolutions and other tactics had thrown Jamaica “into great Confusion and Disorder, and greatly obstructed the Course of Justice and Government there,”74 and at the same time, the Crown’s law officers concluded that Knowles had no solid legal foundation for dissolving either the October 1754 or January 1755 assemblies. With regard to the former, they ruled that the Assembly’s claim that the governor had no right during sessions to issue writs for elections was “analogous to the Law & Practice of England” and depended entirely upon the “Constitution & Usage” of Jamaica; concerning the second they decided that James Dawes’s subscription to the oaths of allegiance in Jamaica meant that his English conviction “was no legal Objection to his right or capacity of sitting” in the Jamaica Assembly.75 In July the Board of Trade advised the Privy Council that Knowles’s actions in unilaterally moving the courts and legislative session to Kingston without the consent of the Assembly was “improper.”76
These actions were a harbinger of the metropolitan reaction to the removal law. The Board of Trade was dismayed by the absence of a suspending clause in the bill. As Rose Fuller, just arrived in England from Jamaica, gleefully reported to a correspondent in Jamaica, Knowles “had promised the ministry that he should carry the suspending clause by his supporting ye favourite scheme of ye removal,” and the ministry was therefore deeply “surprised to find those laws passed and executed without it.” As a result, Fuller wrote, the ministry was “heartily displeased” with Knowles, “which I doubt whether they ever were before, the language being that though he was wrong headed, & did irregular things yet he was doing the King[’s] business, meaning that his proceedings would produce the injection of that clause in our acts.” Because Knowles had failed in that grand objective, Fuller reported, the ministry now appeared ready to remove him and “reject ye laws upon account of that clause being omitted.” Certainly, as Ferdinand Paris, London agent for the Spanish Town interests, informed Fuller, the removal act was “flat in the Teeth of all the Reports & Orders on the 12 Acts of 1751 & 1752, as well as contrary to the Instructions & without a Suspending Clause.”77
A month later, Paris wrote Fuller that a leading member of the Board of Trade had told him that the Board had two profound reservations about the removal act that would probably prevent its being confirmed. The first was a doubt about whether the Jamaica legislature could by its “sole Authority, enact, & execute, a Repeal of a former Law, confirm’d by the Crown,” or whether such an attempt was “not void, & a nullity, for Want of Power” in the legislature. The second was whether “the Commands, in the Instructions to the Gov[erno]r, not to pass unusual & extraordinary Bills, without the Suspending Clause” did “not operate like an Exception, out of the Powers, given in the Commission to the Gove[rno]r & thereby render this Act a mere Nullity, ab Initio.” Accordingly, when the Board met in late October, it voted to send the removal act to William Murray and Sir Richard Lloyd, respectively attorney general and solicitor general, for an opinion on “whether the Legislature of Jamaica have a Power by their Constitution, to pass such a Law, to take immediate Effect, without the Crown’s Consent, & without inserting in it, a Clause, suspending its Execution, until the Pleasure of the Crown could be known.” A few days later, the Board wrote Knowles expressing its own displeasure that he should have assented to such a law without a suspending clause “after the very positive Instruction you have received from His Majesty upon this Point.”78
At the same time, Fuller and Paris were endeavoring unsuccessfully to bring Knowles’s persecution of Francis Delap before London authorities. In the view of his supporters, Delap’s treatment and trial represented a violation of all of the basic principles of English law. Pointing out that “his Judges had before found him Guilty in the Legislative as they have now in their Judicial Capacity,” they charged that the vindication of Knowles for his treatment of Delap had required a packed jury, complained that even after his conviction Delap remained a “mark of an outrageous & wanton Fac―n to throw their unruly Darts at,” and celebrated him as a genuine “Martyr to Liberty.” Judging Delap’s petition to the King unsuitable for presentation because of the nature of its prayer, his friends in London urged Delap and their allies in Jamaica to submit a new petition with a “proper prayer.” Delap’s case was “so flagrant,” Fuller wrote, that it afforded such “a fine opportunity which may never again happen of establishing the liberty & property of ye colonies upon a pure & solid foundation and of trying the disposition of ye great men in England to us that I think we should be out of our senses if we did not prosecute it to the utmost.” The establishment of “the Liberty of ye Subject in ye colonies upon a just & solid foundation,” he wrote to a correspondent in Jamaica, was a matter in which “we are all soe deeply interested” that the case had to be pursued “or we are undone.”79
In the meantime, Knowles’s opponents in Jamaica complained that they lived under “a Scene of Oppression[,] venality & indeed every Species of immorality” and that this “Unhappy Country” had been “Subdued & Chained under a Yoke of Tyranny.” They could only hope that when Knowles’s “system of Government is detected, & laid open to Publick View” in London, metropolitan authorities would recall him, make him an “Example for all future G―s,” and restore all other Jamaica affairs “to their Pristine State.” “Our Publick Disorders daily encrease,” lamented Thomas Frearon, “so that if there be not a Speedy remove, I can[’]t say what the Consequences may be.” Without relief from Britain in the form of the disallowance of the removal bill, Edward Clarke warned Fuller, “this Country will languish away by Fraud, Corruption, & Oppression on one Side, and passion, perversity, & futility on ye other.” In view of the impending war with France, the “Disorder & Confusion within” Jamaica seemed to its residents especially ominous. Unknown to his opponents, Knowles had indeed, already in July 1755, used the prospect of war to ask the Board of Trade for leave to resign the Jamaica governorship and return to sea.80
The disorder about which Clarke and Frearon complained was never more evident than during the first legislative sessions held since passage of the removal bill. Principally called to pass a tax bill to provide funds for metropolitan troops stationed in the island, the Assembly convened in late September 1755 to find the political balance shifting in the opposition’s favor. Over the previous few months, the death of two members of the governor’s party and the resignation of one member of the opposition had reduced the governor’s majority to four, but the defection of two members of the governor’s party and the possibility of gaining additional seats in the by-election to fill vacated seats combined to raise opposition hopes for regaining control of the Assembly. Led by former speaker Charles Price, Sr., the opposition came to the opening session with plans, as a later writer charged, to “purge the House of several of its Members, regulate all the Courts of Justice and Public Offices upon their own Plan, and carry back the Court and Records to Spanish-town again.” When the Assembly met, the absence of one member of the governor’s party enabled the opposition to gain a majority of one, and it quickly pushed through votes to suspend two members of the governor’s party on dubious legal grounds, thereby gaining a working majority of one. This majority enabled the opposition to initiate an investigation of Knowles’s dismissal of judges and other public officers. In the debate over the money bills to pay the troops, one opposition member avowed “with the most insolent and indecent Language . . . that His Majesty, or his Ministers, might have taken warning by former Resolutions of the House, and have ordered his Governors to recall these Troops, for that they would not provide for them any longer,” and the House proceeded to extend the old money bills for just a few months in direct violation of Knowles’s instructions not to pass any bill for a shorter term than one year.81
But Knowles, having, in his view, finally put “an End” to the power by which “the great Planters . . . had been long used to govern their Governors,” was determined, as one of his supporters later remarked, not to “suffer the Reins that had been put into his Hands by his Royal Master to be wrested from him by a Party, which, by a Despotism long usurped and tamely submitted to, has reduced the Substitute of the Sovereign to a mere Instrument of their own Power, and made use of his Name as a Sanction to their Oppression.” Accordingly, on October 23 he prorogued the Assembly for an hour, a step that had the immediate effect of readmitting the two suspended members which made the governor’s party equal in numbers to the opposition and gave Speaker Edward Manning, one of Knowles’s principal supporters, the deciding vote. When opposition members perceived what had happened, they tried to break up the House by leaving en masse, but the governor’s party used force to keep three of the opposition in the House and proceeded, in an election inquiry, to displace an absent member with one of their supporters and to expel another opposition member, thereby regaining a comfortable majority. When the sixteen opposition members who had left the House refused to return, the Assembly expelled all of them as well. With fewer members than were required for a quorum, the Assembly was unable to do further business until late November when the Rump reduced the quorum from twenty-one to nineteen and eventually to fifteen, after which it passed a money bill in a manner “conformable to his majesty’s instructions” so that the troops could be supported, albeit many settlers refused to honor it.82
From the point of view of the opposition, these machinations represented a new low, even for the Knowles administration. Claiming that the prorogation for an hour and the subsequent expulsion of seventeen opposition members had no other purpose than to screen Knowles from the Assembly’s inquiry “into the Abuses in the several Courts of Justice” and other oppressive measures, they saw Jamaica, in the words of Edward Clarke, as “Languishing under ye most Despotic Acts of Government[,] Ruled by ye wanton will of a little Tyrant[,] the weight of whose power began to grow terrible,” a veritable “Babel of Power & iniquity” in which “the Ancient Frame of a well-constituted government” had been completely torn “to pieces” by Knowles’s “set[t]ing aside all orders[,] rank[,] & degrees amongst men—Rendering ye Administration of the Government weak & frail in all its branches by turning out fit and introducing unfit persons in all the offices Civil and Military—Making hasty dunces in ye Court of Chancery [and] passionate & petulant Decretal orders to ye manifest injury of good Substantial Men[’]s Credit & perhaps at ye Ruin of orphans most certainly to their great Loss—Granting partial Administrations (as ordinary) to favorites no ways entitled there to the prejudice of other persons. In short,” Clarke declared, “by every iniquitous Act of G―n―t he has perpetuated a name here to Posterity that will sting in the Nostrils of all Mankind When not one Single Virtue in either Public or a Private will be remembered to his Honor!”83
Perhaps sensing that he could no longer keep his coalition together, Knowles reportedly became “a mere Frantic,” bolting his doors, remaining in his house for a day or two at a time, becoming “suspicious of Every Body he Speaks to, Jealous of Ye Advice given him even by those he had always Consulted,” and having “no reliance . . . but upon himself & even there he is not at peace.” Starting in mid-December 1755, he began pressing his request for permission to resign. “For want of proper Support” from London, he wrote the Board of Trade in early 1756, “I find myself driven to a state of desperation . . . and entirely unable to discharge the Duty of the Trust reposed in me.”84
London authorities soon granted this request. By early January 1756, Knowles’s opponents had gotten a petition to London complaining about the “extraordinary and Illegal methods” the governor’s party had used “to obtain a Majority” in the October Assembly, and the Board of Trade concluded that “the Minds of His Majesty’s Subjects” in Jamaica were so “greatly inflamed, and [such] great Heats and Animosities have prevailed,” that Knowles, whether or not he was responsible, should be removed. Perhaps because metropolitan authorities recognized that Knowles’s maladroit behavior derived in some major part from their insistence that he not deviate from his instructions, the Privy Council on January 27 did not dismiss him but merely gave him leave to resign.85
At the same time, the Board was moving to resolve the dispute over removing the capital to Kingston. On December 27, 1755, Murray and Lloyd, the attorney and solicitor generals, reported, after extensive hearings, that Knowles should not have passed the removal act and two accompanying statutes without suspending clauses, and on February 12 the Board, complaining that “the Practice, which is become too frequent in His Majesty’s Colonies, of passing Laws of a Nature not warranted by his Majesty’s Instructions, which take immediate Effect and continue in force till His Majesty’s Pleasure be signified to the contrary, is productive of Consequences very prejudicial to His Majesty’s Service,” reported against the removal act and three other statutes passed at the same time. On February 19, 1756, the Privy Council Committee on Plantation Affairs voted to accept the report. Also in February the Crown appointed Henry Moore, a Jamaican with close ties to the ministry, lieutenant governor to succeed Knowles and instructed him to dissolve the Assembly, call new elections, and get the new Assembly’s opinion on the wisdom of moving the capital.86
With Knowles on the way out and the removal bill in the process of disallowance, the Jamaican lobby in London struck directly at Knowles in the most public way. In late January 1756, William Beckford, Jamaica’s most extensive landholder who had become an absentee in England in the early 1750s and was elected to Parliament in 1754, condemned Knowles in the House of Commons for his “tyrannic government of Jamaica” and moved for all the papers necessary for a prosecution. When the ministers tried to head off an inquiry on the grounds that Knowles had already been recalled, William Pitt chastised the ministry for “endeavouring to screen the guilty,” and the ministry agreed to call for papers, which minister Henry Fox collected from the Board of Trade and presented to the House over the next two months. But it would be another year before the House formally considered the charges against Knowles.87
Knowles did not leave Jamaica until early July, and during the intervening months public life in Jamaica remained embittered. Knowles continued to denounce “the People (the Rebells to All Government I mean),” who, notwithstanding all his efforts, still seemed to be “much in the same disposition of Mind” that had led them to oppose all his measures to shore up royal authority in the colony.88 On the other side, the opposition found nothing to admire in the Knowles administration, charging that he had appointed Catholics to office89 and arbitrarily forbidden people to leave the colony.90 The imprisoned Francis Delap continued to deplore the failure of due process of law in Jamaica under the Knowles regime. Metropolitans should not assume “that we are Free, or in a Condition to State our Grievances, or that our J―s, C―ts, Records &c, are upon the same fair footing . . . as in England. In England,” he wrote, “you have Fair-Play,” but in Jamaica one could only expect “to be tryd by a Gang of Sh―p―s and P―k P―k―ts, who have first Rob’d you, had afterwards charged you with Robbing them, who could at one and the same Time Act the several parts of Inquistions, accusers, W―t―ss, J―udg―s, and J―rs, all of them Consederate and Unanimous to Punish you first and then to try and find you Guilty.” With Fuller, Delap continued to hope that his “unfortunate Case” would “Attract the Attention of all Friends of Truth and Liberty” and “be considered as that of all His Majesty[’]s Subjects and Especially of those Residing in the Colonies.”91 Even as Knowles was preparing to leave the colony in June, the opposition feared that he and his allies, still in control of the Assembly, would try to “take some very extraordinary steps,” such as passing the removal bill with a suspending clause and thereby at once answering the chief metropolitan objection to the measure and making sure that the capital would remain in Kingston.92
Although Knowles reportedly “continued his Mad Rash Conduct to the very last day,” his departure in early July filled the opposition with optimism. “After such a Series of Injustice[,] Tyranny & Confusion,” said Delap, who had recovered his freedom only a week before Knowles’s departure, Jamaica, in the words of Spanish Town resident Charles White, now had “a noble Prospect, of Tranquility being once more restored to this so long distracted Country.” The “Dog Star is set and no more rages amongst us,” White said, “and all his pestiferous influence ceases.” “Everything has been done for us at home[,] as the phrase is[,] that our hearts could wish,” White declared in expressing his gratitude to metropolitan authorities for removing Knowles, and the Spanish Town interest looked forward to Knowles’s receiving his final comeuppance in London. It was impossible, wrote William Nedham, “that the Ministry will Protect & Support a Man of his Stamp.”93
When Henry Moore, newly appointed lieutenant governor, succeeded Knowles in July 1756, the contest over the removal of the capital entered a fourth and final phase marked by relative political tranquility and the eventual resolution of this bitter dispute. Moore gained the instant applause of the Spanish Town party when he “immediately dissolved Our Oxhead Assembly of P―k P―kets,” issued writs for a new Assembly to meet in Spanish Town in mid-August, and announced his intention to live in the King’s House at Spanish Town. Moore himself was remarkably sanguine about his prospects for “reconciling the Animosities which have reign’d so long among us.” Unlike Knowles, he made no attempt to interfere in elections, and he wrote his English patron, the Earl of Holdernesse, that the Kingston interest had been so discredited through its association with Knowles that it would be unable “to return more than eleven Members,” the “inclination of the People” tending hugely toward the people who had had no association with Knowles’s party. Expressing confidence that the Assembly would “set forth the real Sentiments of the People, in regard to” the location of the capital, he confidently predicted that “in a very short time all odious distinctions will be laid aside, & we shall unite again for the Public Service.”94
Thomas Pinnock, a Jamaican who had supported Knowles for most of his tenure, was not so sure. Doubting that Knowles’s presence was in itself the real “Obstacle to harmony” in Jamaican public life, he expressed the fear that “Contention” was “the darling passion of this Community.” “This Island is healthy, pleasant, and fruitfull, and affords the Industrious Man a genteel and agreeable living for his labour” so that “he may live Comfortably & Enjoy his little in great cheerfulness, provided he can curb his Ambition,” he declared, “but as our Government over Slaves is allmost Absolute, so it intoxicates the brain, and creates in us a most notorious Desire to Lordity over our Equalls, from whence great men can Bear no Controle, nor have they any bounds to their passions. I have been here from England [since] the entrance of 1731, and I have seen little or no alteration in the minds of people for as the Old ones have dropt of[f], the like principles have been in their Successors.”95
For the short term at least, Pinnock could scarcely have been more accurate. In the election for the new Assembly, just nine of thirty-two members adhered to the Kingston party, and when that body met on August 17, it immediately signaled its political colors by electing Charles Price, Sr., speaker. As the long-term speaker, Price was the nominal leader of the Spanish Town party. At Moore’s request, the Assembly quickly set to work responding to the metropolitan call for the “unprejudiced and dispassionate sense of the legislature” upon the issue of the location of the capital. On September 3, it sent an address to the King in which it expressed its view that Spanish Town was the “proper place” for the capital. At the same time, it condemned Knowles’s removal bill as “an unjustifiable and unconstitutional” attempt to render “the prerogative subservient to the purposes of a few, instead of following the royal example of your majesty, by making it the protection of your subjects in general.” Offering to satisfy the legitimate grievances of Kingston merchants by establishing circuit courts to be held in Kingston and ports of entry in other parts of the island, the Assembly prayed that “your loyal subjects will be restored to the full enjoyment of their rights and privileges” as they had existed before Knowles undertook his nefarious schemes to rig elections and subvert the wishes of a majority of the island’s inhabitants.96
Although Moore predicted that this address and his own “perseverance and moderation” would produce a reconciliation, subsequent events proved that he was far too sanguine. The Jamaica Council was still controlled by Knowles’s appointees, and its behavior demonstrated that Jamaica was yet a long way from political quietude. Not only did it refuse to join in the Assembly’s address to the King, it sent an address of its own reaffirming its commitment to the removal bill and the principles that lay behind it.97
At the same time, the Assembly began to move aggressively to investigate what it referred to in a letter to Jamaica’s London agent as the “unconstitutional methods made use of, to get an assembly to answer the purposes of Mr. Knowles,” including the imprisonment of Francis Delap. From late September through mid-November, its committee on the state of the island subjected the behavior of Knowles and his allies to what it referred to as a “parliamentary enquiry.” On October 9, it summarized the preliminary results of its findings in an address to Moore. In this address, the Assembly asked Moore to suspend Philip Pinnock, whom the Assembly subsequently denounced as “the principal promoter of all the grievances and uneasinesses” Jamaica had experienced under Knowles, from his seat on the Council and to remove him from the chief justiceship, principally on the grounds that his treatment of Delap had polluted “the fountains of Justice” in the colony. “The unconstitutional, illegal, and cruel treatment, Mr. Delap received” at the hands of Pinnock and his fellow judges, the Assembly complained, “wants a precedent, unless we look back to the age of the star-chamber,” while the condition of his confinement was unknown outside the bounds of “the Turkish dominions.” Because Pinnock remained a powerful advocate for the removal bill in the Council and a staunch foe of Moore, the lieutenant governor eagerly granted this request, suspending Pinnock from his seat on the Council and removing him from the chief justiceship. This action put Moore at loggerheads with the majority of the Council, threatened to undermine “his plan of moderation,” and ultimately forced him to suspend six additional councillors, a move that brought him the Assembly’s hearty approval. With neither the governor nor the Council on its side, the Kingston interest no longer had a power base from which to pursue its claims.98
In London during the winter and early spring of 1757, the Jamaican lobby renewed its campaign against Knowles in the House of Commons. With the backing of First Minister William Pitt, William Beckford, who had introduced the subject to the House in January 1756, and Rose Fuller, recently elected to Parliament, among others, prepared an elaborate brief against Knowles in February 1757, listing twenty specific examples to prove that he had “Enterprized many things to divide” Jamaicans “into Parties and Factions contrary to the Established Custom and Laws of the Island,” attempted “to destroy the Freedom of Elections and Privileges of the Members of the Assembly,” thereby seeking to intimidate “the Legislative Power” of Jamaica, interfered with judicial proceedings, and “wantonly exercised an Arbitrary and tyrannical Power ag[ain]st such of the Judges, Counsellors, Members of Assembly and Officers of the Crown as had Courage and Integrity to represent against his unlawful and dangerous proceedings.” Six resolutions rehearsed in detail and condemned Knowles’s persecution of Francis Delap.99 In his defense, Knowles’s supporters produced an elaborate pamphlet detailing the history of his administration and arguing that the enmity against Knowles arose entirely from his determination to put an end to the power by which Jamaican planters “had been long used to governing their Governors.” His only fault, the anonymous writer of this pamphlet claimed, lay in his refusal to “suffer the Reins that had been put into his Hands by his Royal Master to be wrested from him by a Party, which by a Despotism long usurped and tamely submitted to,” had “reduced the Substitute of their Sovereign to a mere Instrument of their own Power, and made use of his Names as a Sanction to their Oppression.”100
Although the Jamaicans succeeded in getting the House of Commons to call for additional papers on the Knowles administration, Pitt’s resignation on April 4 derailed their efforts, and by the time that Pitt returned to office on June 18, the Knowles matter had been settled—and in a way far from congenial to Jamaican settler interests. Not only did the House fail to condemn Knowles, it resurrected the Board of Trade’s adverse October 1754 report on the Jamaica Assembly’s defiant resolutions of October 29, 1753, and—for the very first time in the history of British imperial governance—intervened in the domestic internal affairs of an American colony by passing on May 23, 1757, three resolutions denouncing the Assembly’s resolutions of October 1753. The first and second of these resolutions declared the Assembly’s claim to exclusive control over public funds and to the right to appoint officers to handle those funds to be “Illegal, repugnant to the terms of his majesty’s commission to his governor of the said island, and derogatory of the Rights of the Crown & people of Great-Britain.” The third denied that the Crown’s demand for suspending clauses in unusual Jamaica legislation represented any “alteration of the constitution of that island” or was in any way “derogatory of the rights of” the king’s “subjects there.”101
The high point of the initial phases of the metropolitan effort to tighten the reins of empire, these resolutions—emanating from the metropolis’s highest power—seem to have carried little weight in Jamaica. So that “his majesty’s subjects in” Jamaica might “be fully apprized of the sense of” the House of Commons upon the Jamaica Assembly’s “extraordinary claims,” Board of Trade Secretary John Pownall transmitted the resolutions to Lieutenant Governor Henry Moore just eleven days after they had passed, and Moore duly transmitted them to the Assembly when it met in November 1757. Although the Assembly entered the resolutions in its minutes and voted that they “lie upon the table, for the perusal of the members,” it took no further notice of them, neither acknowledging their receipt nor challenging their validity.102 As William Lewis reported to Rose Fuller just two months later, “most of the Gentlemen” in the island, seemed to have had “a surfeit of Contention, and” were “willing to pass over some defects rather than continue to deserve the Character of [a] turbulent ungovernable people, which in England ’tis said is given to us.”103
The same sentiments probably also accounted for the dropping of the Delap affair. Delap, unsatisfied with the Assembly’s investigation of the previous fall, which he denounced for its failure to get “to the Bottom of the principal Matters, the great Abuses of power under the late Adm[inistratio]n especially those relevant to the Freedom of Elections, the Privileges of the Assembly, & other Fundamental points,” continued to press his case for another two years. Reminding Jamaica’s principal political leaders in both Jamaica and England that his case was not that “of a Single Man, that had been ill treated . . . but took in the freedom of the People, the Whole Matter of Elections, & indeed the very fundamentals of our Constitution,” he argued that “a better Opprtunity could not happen, for getting our Rights & Liberty’s & those of the Colony’s in general fixed and Ascertained” and urged his supporters to push “Mr. Knowles, both at Law, & in the House of Commons” for “the Acts of Tyranny & Oppression they have been guilty of towards me” and “to leave no Stone unturned” to vindicate him and to “Support . . . the common cause of Liberty and of the Colonies.” But his ministrations were of little avail. As late as October 1758, he was still complaining of “the Shamefull Neglect of the Assembly or Principal Gentlemen” in not avidly pursuing his case and of their “scandalous . . . Desertion of the Cause.” “Strange!,” he declared, “that such an opening Should be lost” for “Getting our Rights & Libertys better Settled and Secured.”104
The Jamaican political establishment exhibited a similar spirit of accommodation in its appointment of a new London agent. When Lords Holdernesse and Halifax both recommended Lovel Stanhope for the Jamaica agency, Ferdinand J. Paris, solicitor for the Spanish Town interests, pointed out that Stanhope was a mere “Creature of” the “Courtiers” and warned against the dangers of being “drawn into such a Snare.” If “the Gentlemen of Jamaica” give way to “one single application of this Sort,” he cautioned, “they may rest assured, they’l never be free Agents Themselves, nor have a free Agent for them, hereafter; but their Agency will be lookt upon, as a Court Perquisite, to be always insisted on, as a Thing usual, & of course; for some great Man’s poor Relation, or Dependant.” Thus forfeiting control over the agent, Paris predicted, would make “certain, that all their Purposes & Designs & Instructions, would be instantly communicated to & as instantly defeated by the Ministers unless they perfectly quadrated with their own Schemes.” Declaring that the colony agent “sho[u]d be very faithful, & desirous to serve his Jama[ica] Ma[ster]s,” Paris called upon the Jamaica Assembly, which he referred to as “a Body of People, over whom no Courtiers have any coercive Authority, as yet,” to insist upon its right to be “free in the Choice of so high a Trust” and thereby “keep Themselves free, & not bind Themselves, their Posterity, & their Country, in Fetters, to any Court Minion, whatever.”105 But, as planter William Gale reported to Rose Fuller, the recommendations of Holdernesse and Halifax, “to whom we are so immediately indebted for the Late Change” in the governorship, “had such Weight, that, as soon as they were known, to have spoke their Inclinations in the Affair, the Election [of Stanhope] was Unanimous.”106
No doubt, the Assembly’s failure either explicitly to challenge Parliament’s resolutions or to pursue the Delap case also had much to do with the fact that the fate of the capital removal bill was still pending in London. On this complicated issue, the wheels of the administration moved slowly. On February 8, 1757, the Board of Trade held a hearing to which it invited representatives of both Spanish Town and Kingston interests. At this meeting the Board outlined a plan whereby the removal act would be disallowed, the repository of records and the supreme court would remain in Spanish Town, the governor’s residence and the site for Assembly meetings would be left to the governor’s discretion, and circuit courts and ports of entry would be established in Kingston and elsewhere in Jamaica “for the Ease & Conveniency” of suitors, witnesses, jurors, and masters of vessels. The attorney and solicitor generals, Robert Henley and Charles Yorke, took more than three months to approve this plan, with the provision that the Crown should not establish new courts without “an Act of the Legislature in Jamaica, or by the Parliament of Great Britain.” On May 25, 1757, the Board of Trade finally laid the plan before the Privy Council, which on June 15 asked for further details on port locations and suitable circuit court districts. The Board took nearly a half year to produce this information.107
In the meantime, public life in Jamaica remained outwardly calm. Moore peppered his London superiors with letters, claiming to have succeeded in “restoring Peace to this distracted Country”—without violating his instructions.108 Some members of the Jamaican political establishment wished for the appointment of “a Man of Family and Spirit” to succeed Knowles as full governor, while others distrusted the “new Politicians” who seemed to want to become “Great Men” without attending to “the business of the Country.” “Poor Jamaica,” lamented the planter William Lewis, “hath lately been deprived of so many Gentlemen of Capacity and Fortune, that it seems to be on its last Legs.” Still others continued to hope that justice would “be administered to” Knowles, “that late Disturber of our Peace and perverter of our constitutional Rights.” Except for the Kingston partisans, however, everyone agreed with Moore that Jamaicans “enjoy[ed] perfect Tranquility under the present mild Administration.” As William Gale wrote Rose Fuller, there was no longer in Jamaica any “such thing as Delaping or Dragooning a Man out of his Liberty or Estate.”109
Yet, they also agreed that the “Minds of the People” could never “be at rest . . . as long as the Fate of” the removal bill was “in Suspense.” “As soon as this affair is determined,” Thomas Frearon wrote Rose Fuller in June 1757, “the Heats & Animosities in this Country will subside & . . . we shall again become a united People, an Event much to be desired by all good Men, especially in this Time of War with a potent Enemy.” As the decision dragged on through 1757, however, they became increasingly concerned as to “whether we shall be restored to our Rights, or not,” and they became more and more worried when they heard that the merchants of London, Bristol, and Liverpool had petitioned Parliament in favor of the removal bill. “We wait with the highest Impatience for the decision at home,” William Lewis wrote Rose Fuller in January 1758, “and with great Astonishment that it is so long in Agitation, from whence arise some fears and Apprehensions.”110
Finally, in December 1757, the Board of Trade completed its plan to establish three new ports in Jamaica and divide the island into three counties that would double as circuit court districts. On the grounds that “the Intervention of Parliament here in Matters which relate to the peculiar Police and private Oeconomy of particular Colonys has not been usual, and may therefore if introduced in this Case excite Jealousy and Uneasiness in the Minds of His Majesty’s Subjects in that Island,” the Board opted to leave this piece of legislation in the hands of the Jamaica Assembly.
But it did recommend that the attorney and solicitor generals prepare a draft of a bill to establish circuit courts and counties to be sent to Jamaica, not as a piece of legislation that the Jamaica Assembly had to pass, but merely “as an Instruction to the Governor . . . for his Guidance and Direction [in] passing such Law.” Accepting this report, the Privy Council’s committee on colonial affairs directed the preparation of this draft legislation. But it took another six months for the attorney and solicitor generals to complete this work. On June 29, 1758, more than four years after it had first taken up the matter on May 29, 1754, the Privy Council formally disallowed the removal law and sanctioned the Board of Trade’s proposals for settling the Jamaican dispute. A week later, the Board transmitted this outcome to Jamaica.111
Reaching the island in late September, this news set off elaborate celebrations in Spanish Town, where local residents burned effigies of Knowles, his flagship, and “an eminent merchant” of Kingston, probably the then-deceased merchant Edward Manning. Moore duly laid notice of the disallowance of the removal bill and associated acts before the Assembly, then in session, and recommended passage of the draft act dividing Jamaica into three counties, complete with circuit courts. Overjoyed, the Assembly immediately prepared an address of thanks to the King, expressing its great sense of gratitude and “duty to your majesty and your people,” a phrase that hinted at a separate political status and identity, and then set to work on the draft act. The Assembly made a number of small modifications to meet local circumstances but essentially accepted the draft act in the form submitted to it. Moore ecstatically reported that the Assembly had passed the bill “with no more Opposition to it than will barely shew the Efforts of a Faction Allmost extinguished.”112 The long constitutional crisis in Jamaica was seemingly over.
When George Haldane, the newly appointed governor of Jamaica, arrived in the colony in April 1759, Moore was able, as he later reported, to deliver “the Government in perfect tranquility.” Haldane did nothing during his short tenure to alter this situation. Some Kingston inhabitants offered him a house and pen to reside in Kingston, but he “politely refused” the offer, evidently intent upon not repeating Knowles’s mistakes. When he met the Assembly on May 1, he was delighted to hear it praise the settlement of the previous year as a set of regulations “justly calculated to give proper relief to one part of” the Crown’s “dutiful subjects” in Kingston while “at the same time, preserving the legal rights of the other” in Spanish Town. He was especially pleased when the Assembly, in an obvious move to make sure that the governor would continue to reside in Spanish Town, voted £12,000 to purchase lands near the capitol for the governor’s use “and to be annex’d forever to the Crown.” Though he did not himself expect to profit much from this measure, Haldane predicted that within a few years it would provide a substantial revenue that would put “governors forever afterwards out of the power of the people.”113
Haldane’s sudden death, on July 26, 1759, returned Henry Moore to the governorship which he held for more than two years until the arrival of Haldane’s replacement, William Henry Lyttelton, in December 1761. Moore’s tenure was hardly placid. In April 1760, the island was wracked by the most general slave uprising in its history. Led by a charismatic slave foreman called Tacky, the rebellion spread rapidly from the north coast eastward and westward and lasted for more than three months. The Jamaica militia managed to suppress it with the help of the British troops stationed in the island and the independent Maroon population, which honored its treaty commitment to hunt down runaway slaves. The rebellion put the Jamaican settler community into a panic, but it also helped to allay political unrest within the colony. As Jamaica’s factions united in an appeal to Britain for more troops, Moore’s second stint as governor was relatively quiet. The grave constitutional crisis of the 1750s provoked by aggressive metropolitan efforts to trim the authority of the Jamaican settler establishment seemed finally to have run its course.114
Whether metropolis or colony had gained most from this controversy and the developments that preceded it could not have been totally clear to contemporaries. Through its extreme claims of October 1754, the Jamaica Assembly had invited the attention and unprecedented intrusion of the British Parliament into Jamaica’s internal governance. In the face of metropolitan resistance, moreover, the Assembly had had to back down from its most extreme claim, the authority to appoint revenue collectors, and maintained a tenuous hold on the principle by naming the Crown’s receiver general as collector. By accepting the essentials of the 1758 draft legislation for dividing the colony into counties, the Assembly also opened up the possibility of forfeiting some of its legislative initiative to the metropolitan government. Finally, in the rush to ensure that Jamaica’s governors would continue to reside in Spanish Town, the Assembly contributed to make metropolitan governors more independent financially.
On the other hand, the Assembly’s control over the island’s finances, the foundational source for its extensive authority in the island’s governance, remained virtually absolute, and perhaps most important, it had never given way on the metropolitan demand that it include suspending clauses in legislation that either altered already confirmed laws or was of an unusual nature. Finally, the provincial political establishment could interpret the metropolitan government’s repudiation of Knowles’s efforts to move the capital to Kingston and destroy the political base of the planter establishment as a vindication of Jamaica’s customary rights and of the elaborate constitutional arguments constructed by Veridicus to defend those rights. In short, a decade of close attention to Jamaica affairs had left constitutional arrangements almost exactly where they had been when metropolitan authorities undertook to lessen colonial autonomy in the late 1740s.
How far the Jamaican establishment would go to defend its vision of the Jamaica constitution was revealed early in William Henry Lyttelton’s administration. On February 15, 1762, the Privy Council, upon the recommendation of the Board of Trade, disallowed four Jamaica acts passed between 1756 and 1761 having to do with the regulation of imports and the treatment of prize ships during the Seven Years’ War. In its long report on these acts, the Board made clear that, notwithstanding its lack of success over the previous twelve years in bending the Jamaica Assembly to its will, it had by no means abandoned the objective of diminishing colonial autonomy and expanding metropolitan authority in the American empire. The report condemned the Jamaica legislature for eliminating duties imposed by a 1728 act confirmed by the Crown and called upon the Crown “to discountenance the irregular practice, which has but too much prevailed in all your majesty’s colonies, of setting aside the provisions of perpetual laws confirmed by the crown, by temporary laws made to take immediate effect, without the royal consent.” For making general commercial regulations on matters “to which the jurisdiction of the British legislature alone” could “extend,” the Jamaica legislature, the Board declared, was guilty of “an arrogant assumption of power” that was “not warranted by the constitution” and “justly” deserved “the severest censure.” Regarding an act which established the death penalty for some categories of smuggling, the Board expressed its amazement that “the legislature of Jamaica could have so far departed from the known and established principles of Justice, equity, and reason, and the laws of the mother country, as to have adopted so sanguinary a clause.” In closing, the Board called for “such declaration of your majesty’s disapprobation and animadversion, as the conduct of the legislature of the island of Jamaica, in passing laws of so extraordinary and unprecedented a nature, shall appear to your majesty to deserve.”115
When Lyttelton laid this report before the Jamaica Assembly in October 1762, he was appalled by its response. The Privy Council had signified its willingness to assent to a new prize law that was free from the objectionable clauses in the disallowed laws, but the Assembly would have none of it. Rather, as it informed Lyttelton, it had “maturely weighed the purport of the proposition, permitting them to re-enact the provisions of the act passed in 1756, for the regulation of prizes” and decided that it “did not incline to accept the proposition.” Boldly asserting that it did not “admit the objection of the board of trade to that act to carry any weight” and that its members were “by no means disposed to submit their sentiments to the determination of that board,” the Assembly announced that it would never “at any time, suffer them in any respect to direct or influence their proceedings, by any proposition or proceedings whatever.” At the same time, the Assembly went on the offensive against the Board, authorizing a committee to compile a list of the many Jamaica acts passed since 1728 “which appear not to have been reported on by the board of trade, in order to receive his majesty’s confirmation or disallowance.” This last step, Lyttelton told the Board of Trade, was to supply a foundation for bringing “a charge against your Lordship’s Board of having neglected to lay many of their Laws before the King.”116
When Lyttelton expressed “his amazement” that the Assembly would take a report adopted by the King in Council so lightly and called upon it to explain its “extraordinary and unprecedented declaration” and discharge itself “from any intention of treating” the Board “in a contemptuous manner, and thereby affronting his majesty’s mild and gracious government,” the Assembly denied that it meant to show “the least disrespect to his majesty, or his most honourable privy-council,” but saucily expanded upon its denunciation of the Board of Trade. By endeavoring “to represent the legislature of this island in a very disadvantageous light to his majesty, and” mentioning “them as objects of his severest censure,” the Assembly told Lyttelton, the Board of Trade had given them adequate grounds to “think themselves ill-treated.” Excoriating the Assembly for the “public manner in which you have arraigned the conduct of the king’s commissioners for trade and plantations,” Lyttelton thereupon prorogued the legislature for a short cooling-off period.117
When Lyttelton reconvened the Assembly a week later, it was unrepentant. It considered but rejected a motion to inform Lyttelton that it was “so far from intending to apologize” for its expression “of our resentment of the treatment we have received from the” Board of Trade that it was “unalterably determined to vindicate ourselves to his majesty, from their hard and unjust aspersions.” According to Lyttelton, there were two reasons for this rejection: first, because the Assembly decided “that a complaint to His Majesty wou’d not avail them,” and second, because it agreed that “it became them better to assert their own Rights & Liberties themselves by Resolutions of the Council & Assembly than to refer them to the decisions of any third party, even of the Crown itself.” Accordingly, the Assembly immediately set to work constructing and adopting a set of seven resolutions to which the Council concurred with minor amendments on October 23. The Council having, as Lyttelton told the Board, been “comprehended in the censure” of the Board, were “no illwishers to the measures of the House of Assembly.”118
These seven resolutions represented a reiteration and an elaboration of the constitutional ideas Jamaica’s political establishment had been honing for decades in defense of its claims for the predominant role in Jamaica’s internal affairs. The first resolution cited Charles II’s 1661 proclamation to support the assertion that Jamaican settlers were “intitled to the benefit and protection of the Laws of England and to the rights and Priviledges of Englishmen.” The second used the 1728 Jamaica revenue act as the foundation for the claim that all English laws that had “been at any time esteem’d[,] introduced[,] used[,] Accepted[,] or received as Laws of this Island” should “Continue Laws of . . . Jamaica forever.” The third resolution declared that Jamaica had “enjoyed without Interruption for upwards of Eighty Years the Use and Benefit of the Laws of England and among others That most essential privilege[:] the power of Enacting Laws for their own Government and Support by a Legislature composed of His Majesty’s Comm[ande]r in Chief[,] His Majesty’s Council and an Assembly of the Representatives of the People.” A fourth resolution cited earlier reports by the Board of Trade to prove that it was “the Constitution of this Colony confirmed by constant and invariable Usage that all Laws of a Publick Nature which” were “not repugnant to the Laws of our Mother Country” were “in full force and Effect after they have been passed by the Gov[erno]r[,] Council and Assembly,” albeit they “remain[ed] liable to be rejected by His Majesty in Council.” A fifth resolution asserted that Jamaica could “not have made so considerable a Progress in its Settlements . . . with a less Degree of Protection than its Constitution affords.” Implicitly calling into question the constitutionality of suspending clauses, the last two resolutions declared that the Board of Trade’s recent castigation of the Jamaica legislature for “setting aside the provisions of perpetual Laws confirmed by the Crown” was “a Misrepresentation of the Constitution of this Colony and would if admitted deprive us of some of our most valuable and established Rights[,] abridge the power of the Legislature and draw this Colony into many inconveniences as well as into a dangerous and unconstitutional Dependance upon that Board.”119
In two probing letters to the Board of Trade, Lyttelton sought to spell out for his metropolitan superiors the meaning of the legislature’s stand on this question. No friend to the constitutional pretensions of American assemblies, Lyttelton would later deplore the fact that late seventeenth-century English authorities had given up on their efforts to establish “in Jamaica the Irish Constitution” after “they had shown so much firmness and resolution to support the rights of the Crown.” In the case at hand, he explained, the resolutions “fully shew[ed] the sense which the Assembly & Council have of what they judge to be their Rights & Privileges.” “Whatever powers” the Assembly “was meant to have by His Majesty’s Commission & Instructions to His Governors,” he declared, “an Inspection of their Journals” revealed that its members had “for some years last past considered the House of Commons of Great Britain as their Model & have assum’d and exercis’d the powers thereof as nearly as the circumstances of this Country cou’d allow of,” assuming that whatever they “found upon consulting the Journals of the House of Commons to have been constitutionally done there” was “a sufficient authority to them to proceed in the same manner here.” Moreover, Lyttelton observed, they claimed their authority, not as metropolitan officials had long claimed, “by virtue of His Majesty’s Commission to His Governor,” but on the basis of their “inherent Right so to do as English Subjects, entitled to the use & benefit of the Laws of England of which the Custom of Parliament makes a part.” Of course, this position stood in complete opposition to the House of Commons 1757 resolutions concerning Jamaica, which, as one metropolitan commentator interpreted them in 1763, had declared “in the Case of Jamaica that the Colonies have no Constitution” but “that the Mode of Government in each of them” depended entirely “upon the Good Pleasure of the King as expressed in his Com[m]ission and Instructions to his Governor.”120
At the same time, Lyttelton complained, the Council had built a parallel pretension “to exercise the powers of the House of Lords . . . upon the same foundation.” Considering itself in its legislative capacity to represent “one of the three Estates . . . of this Island,” its members constantly “endeavour’d to assimilate themselves in every thing as nearly as they cou’d to the House of Lords in Great-Britain, whose powers and usages they have, as far as ever the condition of this Country cou’d admit of, consider’d as an Authority & model for them to govern themselves by.” No wonder, then, that the Council had “readily . . . concurr’d with the Assembly in asserting a right . . . jointly with the Governor & Assembly to pass laws contrary to the King’s Instructions; & in considering your Lordship’s Report to His Majesty . . . as a misrepresentation of their Constitution.”121
Having “already acquired too much force by the toleration it has met with here to be done away with by anything less than His Majesty’s Interposition & Declaration against it,” the doctrine on which these parallels were founded, Lyttelton believed, was not the grandiose pretensions of the assemblymen and councillors only but was “universal” and “much espous’d by the Inhabitants of this Island in general.” Stressing his helplessness in “this difficult Station” and his inability to deal with the situation on his own, Lyttelton entreated the Board “to reflect how extremely difficult it is for the King’s Governor to support His Majesty’s Authority in this Island with a Council assuming the Powers of the House of Lords, and an Assembly those of the House of Commons of Great-Britain if at any time they shall be possess’d by a Spirit of Faction [or opposition], more especially when it is consider’d that . . . the Assembly shou’d grant annual supplies, without which the King’s Troops cannot be subsisted, or many other charges of Government be defray’d.”122
Notwithstanding the fact that settler Jamaicans offered repeated and “strong assurances . . . of their Loyalty & dutiful attachment to His Majesty,” Lyttelton concluded, they “nevertheless[,] as far as I am able to judge, [displayed] such an eager desire to be freed from those restraints, which the wisdom of His Majesty’s Councils has put them under in common with the rest of His Colonies in the great point of Legislation, & such an aspiring endeavour to acquire in their Assemblies & within the Sphere of their activity the same Powers and Privileges as are enjoy’d by a British House of Commons, as, I humbly conceive, may well deserve the consideration of His Majesty’s Ministers.”123
Reminding the Board of the Assembly’s “constant & steady refusal to insert a clause, in any Act they pass, suspending the execution thereof until His Majesty’s pleasure be known” and of the incompatibility between the Jamaica legislature’s resolutions and the House of Commons’ 1757 condemnation of the Assembly’s October 1753 resolutions “as derogatory of the Rights of the Crown & people of Great-Britain,” Lyttelton stressed the point that the Jamaica legislature’s defiance of the Board of Trade was neither “accidental [n]or temporary” but rather grew “out of the opinion which the people of this Island have form’d of the Constitution of this Government & of their Rights & Privileges and will therefore be likely to produce similar effects to those I am now contemplating whenever they shall think those Rights infringed either by your Lordships in your Representations to The King or by me in the execution of His Majesty’s Instructions concerning the passing of Laws or otherwise.” These opinions, he counseled, were “too deeply rooted & founded upon Doctrines & Practises of too high & complicated a nature to be removed or much lessen’d by any Means in my power without His Majesty’s special directions & Interposition[,] which are so necessary that either this Country must be thrown into a state of the greatest Confusion & distraction by a denial on my part of the validity of the pretensions of the Council & Assembly, unless that denial be supported by a solemn Declaration of the Crown, not to say the Parliament also, of such a sort as may bring back the Government to its first Principles again, or His Majesty’s Authority & the Honour of your Lordship’s Office must suffer by an acquiescence in me.”124 The dilemma Lyttelton described was precisely the same as the one Trelawny had identified in his letters to Henry Pelham fourteen years earlier, and it was no closer to being resolved.
Through his long analysis Lyttelton hoped, as he wrote George Grenville, both to impress the Board of Trade with “the manner in which I have endeavour’d to do my Duty as His Majesty’s Governor on this occasion” and to shift responsibility for dealing with the recalcitrant and bumptious Jamaicans to London. In this last hope he was to be sorely disappointed. The “commotions” in Jamaica merited an article in a London newspaper and, according to the Jamaica agent, Lovel Stanhope, put “the Board of Trade in such a Temper, that I dare not show my head at their Board till their Heat is a little subsided.” The Board found the legislature’s resolutions to be “of so very extraordinary a nature and Tendency, so injurious to your Majesty’s Authority and subversive of the great constitutional Principles of Provincial Government” that, it wrote the Privy Council in February 1763, it immediately sent them to the attorney and solicitor generals for consideration. The challenges represented by the resolutions, it declared, were “of the utmost importance to the Maintenance and support of your Majesty[’s] Government, not only in Jamaica, but in all your Majesty’s American Colonies.” Although the Privy Council held several meetings between March 3, 1763, and December 14, 1764, to consider “the most proper method to be taken by the Government upon this occasion,” it seems never to have taken any formal action.125
Why the Privy Council should have failed to take some action on a challenge so fundamental is unclear. Perhaps it was overtaken by events. By December 1764, Lyttelton was on the verge of involving himself in an even more intense controversy in Jamaica over the extent of the Assembly’s privileges, a controversy that would interrupt the normal process of governance in Jamaica for two years and lead to his resignation.126 Perhaps it was distracted by a variety of other colonial issues posed by the new American territories acquired as a result of the recently concluded Seven Years’ War. Or perhaps it simply did not know what to do. The lesson of the immediately previous decade and a half and of the subsequent privilege controversy suggested that settler Jamaicans were a stubborn people willing to go to extraordinary lengths in defense of their liberties and constitution, even if it meant standing up to the might of the metropolis. Without the sanction of the settler community, the pronouncements of the metropolis carried little authority in the de facto settler republic of mid-eighteenth-century Jamaica. And when the metropolitan government repeatedly failed to secure such sanction for its pronouncements, it had little choice but to back off. From the late 1740s through the early 1760s, the Jamaican provincial establishment, operating principally through the Jamaica Assembly, had shown itself, in response to a series of challenges from the metropolis, to be indomitable and, in regard to the colony’s provincial affairs, governable only on its own terms.
The Assembly had long enjoyed wide latitude in constructing and presiding over the internal polity of Jamaica, and its stubborn and successful resistance to the new policies emanating from London after 1748 underlined its continuing commitment to the idea of legislative supremacy within the island’s government. In the constitutional structure that had evolved in Jamaica, the representative component—what Montesquieu referred to as the republican element in the metropolitan British constitution—was extraordinarily powerful. To suggest, as I did at the outset of this essay, that this development had long since turned Jamaica into a settler republic is emphatically not to argue that Jamaican leaders at any point subscribed to republican political ideology. Rather, it is to restate the familiar point, made by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations in 1776, that Britain’s American colonies were “republican” in “their manners . . . and their governments” long before they became formally republican in 1776.127 The extensive authority of the legislative branch had made Britain’s American colonies functionally republican long before they became antimonarchical. That is precisely why, during the North American settler revolt that began in 1774–76, the transition from monarchy to republican government was so easy in those polities that had the wherewithal to participate in that revolt and why the revolution it produced was so profoundly conservative.
The colonial case against Britain in the 1760s and 1770s, like the Jamaican responses in the 1750s, was deeply conservative in that it invoked an ancient colonial and, by implication, imperial constitution as a defense against metropolitan innovations in the system of British imperial governance. Until 1776, colonial spokesmen sought, not escape from the British Empire, but the equal enjoyment of British rights and liberties within the empire. Like their Jamaican predecessors, they principally drew their conceptions of liberty from the English jurisprudential tradition articulated over time, first by various metropolitan legal theorists, and then, by whig polemicists, a tradition which generations of colonial leaders had internalized and employed to support colonial claims to traditional English rights and liberties. By incorporating those rights and liberties into the constitutional structures they had built in every colony, they had effectively naturalized them and turned them into Jamaican or Virginian or Pennsylvanian liberties. Without the full possession of these rights and liberties, they had repeatedly professed, they would be little more than slaves. Living in societies that protected slavery by law and, in many cases, had heavily slave populations, they knew at first hand what slavery was like, a point upon which Edmund Burke put special emphasis in his explanation of the American commitment to liberty. The Jamaica conflict of the 1750s may have been exceptional in its duration and intensity, as in the impression that it made upon metropolitan political consciousness, but it was by no means unique. For Britons living outside the bounds of the home island, in Ireland and in America, enjoying British liberty within the larger empire had long required a high degree of provincial self-government.
In 1763, on the eve of the great controversies that led to the secession of the thirteen colonies from the British Empire, that Empire, as illustrated by the experience of Jamaica, remained what it had been in the late 1740s and earlier: a negotiated empire in which the provincial legislatures, ever alert to any threat to the liberties of the colonies, exercised as great a degree of influence in shaping the imperial constitution as did metropolitan authorities. In the ongoing effort to understand the constitutional structure of the early modern British Empire, historians need to be acutely aware of the extraordinary significance of this influence.128
[1. ]Jack P. Greene, “Negotiated Authorities: The Problem of Governance in the Extended Polities of the Early Modern Atlantic World” in Greene, Negotiated Authorities: Essays in Colonial Political and Constitutional History (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1994), 1–24.
[2. ]Peter N. Miller, Defining the Common Good: Empire, Religion and Philosophy in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 195–213.
[3. ]Jack P. Greene, “ ‘A Posture of Hostility’: A Reconsideration of Some Aspects of the Origins of the American Revolution,” American Antiquarian Society Proceedings 87 (1977): 27–68.
[4. ]George Metcalf, Royal Government and Political Conflict in Jamaica 1729–1783 (London: Longman, 1965), provides an excellent general narrative of mid-eighteenth-century Jamaican politics.
[5. ]Board of Trade to Edward Trelawny, June 16, 1747, Colonial Office Papers (hereafter cited as CO) 137/19, p. 70, Public Record Office, London.
[6. ]See Board of Trade to Trelawny, January 31, 1749, CO 138/19, pp. 103–4; royal instruction, #28, Journals of the House of Assembly of Jamaica (hereafter cited as Assembly Journals), 7 vols. (Kingston, 1798), April 27, 1748, 4:118.
[7. ]Trelawny to Board of Trade, May 10, 1748, CO 137/26, f. 28.
[8. ]On Trelawny’s governorship, see Metcalf, Royal Government, 58–108.
[9. ]Trelawny’s political clout in England may be followed in Francis Gashry to Trelawny, February 3, 1750, Vernon-Wager Manuscripts, Box 15, Peter Force Papers, 8D, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
[10. ]Trelawny to Board of Trade, June 8, 1749, CO 137/25, ff. 89–92.
[11. ]Trelawny to Pelham, April 13 and 29, 1749, in Jack P. Greene, ed., “Edward Trelawny’s ‘Grand Elixir’: Metropolitan Weakness and Constitutional Reform in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century British Empire,” in Roderick A. McDonald, ed., West Indies Accounts: Essays on the History of the British Caribbean and the Atlantic Economy in Honour of Richard Sheridan (Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago: University of the West Indies Press, 1996), 93, 95–97.
[12. ]Board of Trade to Trelawny, November 10, 1749, CO 138/19, p. 119.
[13. ]Assembly Journals, October 24 and 26, 1749, 4:190, 194.
[14. ]Gashry to Trelawny, January 25, 1750, Vernon-Wager Manuscripts, Box 15, Peter Force Papers, 8D, Library of Congress; Trelawny to Board of Trade, April 10, 1750, CO 137/26, f. 126.
[15. ]Gashry to Trelawny, January 25, 1750, Vernon-Wager Manuscripts, Box 15, Peter Force Papers, 8D, Library of Congress.
[16. ]Gashry to Trelawny, February 3, 1750, ibid.
[17. ]Board of Trade to Trelawny, September 1, 1750, CO 138/19, pp. 132–33.
[18. ]Board of Trade to Trelawny, August 6, 1751, CO 138/19, pp. 163–65.
[19. ]Trelawny to Board of Trade, June 13, 1751, CO 137/25, f. 208.
[20. ]Trelawny to Board of Trade, September 16, 1751, CO 137/25, f. 215; Assembly Journals, September 10, October 3, December 14, 1751, 4:277, 282, 322.
[21. ]Trelawny to Board of Trade, March 25, 1752, CO 137/25, ff. 236–37.
[22. ]Charles Knowles to the Duke of Newcastle, May 21, 1755, Newcastle Papers, Additional Manuscripts 32855, ff. 80–82, British Library, London.
[23. ]Trelawny to Knowles, October 23, 25, 26, November 2, December 9, 1751, and Trelawny to Gashry, November 2, 1751, Vernon-Wager Manuscripts, Box 15, Peter Force Papers, 8D, Library of Congress; Jamaicanus, The Jamaica Association Develop’d (London, 1757), 5–7.
[24. ]Knowles to Gashry, Vernon-Wager Manuscripts, Box 5, Peter Force Papers, 9, Library of Congress.
[25. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, November 18, 1752, CO 137/25, ff. 279–80.
[26. ]Ibid; Knowles to Board of Trade, September 13, 1753, CO 137/26, ff. 5–11.
[27. ]Gashry to Knowles, July 26, 1753, Miscellaneous Papers, 1619–1783, Additional Manuscripts 19038, ff. 50–51, British Library.
[28. ]Board of Trade to Knowles, May 16, 1753, CO 138/19, pp. 473–74.
[29. ]Matthew Lamb to Board of Trade, November 20, 1752; Dudley Ryder and William Murray to Board of Trade, January 22, 1753, CO 137/25, ff. 261–62, 267.
[30. ]Board of Trade to Knowles, February 13, 1753, CO 138/19, pp. 378–82.
[31. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, June 27, 1753, CO 137/25, ff. 376–77.
[33. ]Leonard W. Labaree, ed., Royal Instructions to British Colonial Governors 1670–1776, 2 vols. (New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1935), 2:744; Board of Trade to Knowles, May 16, 1753, CO 138/19, ff. 468–69, 475–76; Francis Delap to [Peter Forbes], February 13, 1751, Sharpe Papers, Manuscript 366, National Library of Jamaica, Kingston; Petitions of Thomas Graham, 1753, CO 137/25, ff. 265–66, 360–61.
[34. ]Assembly Journals, September 18, 1753, 4:401; Board of Trade to Knowles, June 3, 1752, CO 138/19, pp. 258–59; Labaree, Royal Instructions, 1:167; Knowles to Board of Trade, January 12, 1754, CO 137/27, f. 18.
[35. ]Assembly Journals, October 18, 1753, 4:418.
[36. ]Assembly Journals, October 19, 1753, 4:419.
[37. ]Board of Trade to Privy Council, July 19, 1753, CO 138/19, pp. 481–99. This report is reprinted in James Munro and W. L. Grant, eds., Acts of the Privy Council of England: Colonial Series, 6 vols. (London: His Majesty’s, 1908–12), 4:215–23.
[38. ]Assembly Journals, October 26, 1750, 4:259.
[39. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, January 14, 1754, CO 137/27, ff. 130–31.
[40. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, January 12, 1754, CO 137/27, ff. 1–20.
[41. ]Assembly Journals, October 29, 1753, 4:431.
[42. ]Assembly Journals, October 30, 1753, 4:432.
[43. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, January 12, 1754, CO 137/27, ff. 1–20; Brief against Charles Knowles upon a Complaint lodged against him by Wm. Beckford in the House of Commons [February 12, 1757], Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 18, 7a, East Sussex Record Office, Lewes, England.
[44. ]Assembly Journals, November 3, 6–8, 14–17, 19–20, 22, 1753, 4:440–43, 448–51, 454–56; Brief against Charles Knowles [February 12, 1757], Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 18, 7a, East Sussex Record Office.
[45. ]Assembly Journals, November 22, 1753, 4:455; Knowles to Board of Trade, January 12, 1754, CO 127/27, f. 16; A Short Account of the Interest and Conduct of the Jamaica Planters (London: M. Cooper, 1754), 13–14.
[46. ]Assembly Journals, November 22, 1753, 4:455; Knowles to Board of Trade, January 12, 14, 1754, CO 1377/27, ff. 19, 130.
[47. ]John Sharpe, Extract of a Petition [November 1753], Sharpe Papers, Manuscript 367, National Library of Jamaica, Kingston.
[48. ]Minutes of the Privy Council Committee, February 5, 14, 26, Privy Council Papers, Public Record Office, 4/1, pp. 945–49, 951; Grant and Munro, Acts of the Privy Council, 4:215–23; Privy Council Minutes, February 28, 1754, Privy Council Papers 104, pp. 40–41; Board of Trade to Privy Council, February 27, 1754, CO 138/20, pp. 10–14; Labaree, Royal Instructions, 1:150–51.
[49. ]Privy Council Memorial to the King, January 1754, Egerton Manuscripts 3490, ff. 19–32, British Library; Knowles to Duke of Newcastle, January 29, 1754, Newcastle Papers, Additional Manuscripts 32734, ff. 86–88.
[50. ]Knowles to Holdernesse, February 5, 1754, CO 137/60, f. 69; Knowles to Newcastle, January 29, 1754, Newcastle Papers, Additional Manuscripts 32734, ff. 86–88.
[52. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, February 15, 1754, CO 137/26 and May 7, 1754, CO 137/27, ff. 196–98; Rose Fuller’s Answer to Charles Knowles’s Complaint, September 1754, CO 137/28, ff. 70–74.
[53. ]Memorial of the Merchants and Factors of Kingston to the Board of Trade, January 1754, CO 137/26, ff. 176–87; Petition of Kingston Merchants to the King [February 1754], CO 137/27, ff. 453–56.
[54. ]Port Royal Petition [February 1754], CO 137/27, f. 162; St. Andrew Petition, ibid., ff. 157–58; St. Marys and St. George Petition, ibid., f. 161; St. Thomas in the East Petition, ibid., ff. 159–60.
[55. ]Spanish Town Petition, February 1, 1754, CO 137/27, ff. 184–87; Spanish Town’s Answer to the Kingston Petition [February 1754], CO 137/27, ff. 139–53; Spanish Town Petition, June 24, 1754, CO 137/28, ff. 52–57.
[56. ]Clarendon Petition [February 1754], CO 137/27, f. 210; St. John Petition, ibid., f. 211; St. Catherine Petition, ibid., f. 212; Vere Petition, ibid., f. 213; Cornwall County Petition [June 1754], CO 137/28, ff. 62–64. The small number of signatories from Clarendon, St. John, St. Catherine, and Vere, most of whom were local justices of the peace, suggests the haste with which these petitions were assembled.
[57. ]Veridicus, The Merchants, Factors and Agents Residing at Kingston in the said Island, Complainants, Against The Inhabitants of Spanish-Town, and of the four adjacent Parishes, and against the Members of the honourable Assembly, annually and constitutionally held at saint jago de la Vega, and against the Planters, Freeholders, Settlers, and chief Body of the People of the Island of Jamaica: The Respondents Case (London, 1754), ix.
[58. ]Board of Trade to Knowles, January 31, 1754, CO 138/20, pp. 4–8.
[59. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, October 7, 1754, CO 137/28, ff. 95–97. See also Board of Trade to Privy Council, October 15, 1754, CO 138/20, pp. 41–79.
[60. ]This dispute may be followed in Metcalf, Royal Government, 125–27. The quotations in this note are from Knowles to Board of Trade, April 10, 1754, CO 137/27, f. 138, and June 24, 1754, CO 137/28, ff. 21–22; and Fuller to Knowles, June 15, 1754, CO 137/28, f. 33.
[61. ]Board of Trade to Knowles, October 15, 1754, CO 138/20, pp. 85–97.
[62. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, November 20, 1754, CO 137/28, ff. 154–55; Assembly Journals, November 7–8, 1754, 4:484–85.
[63. ]Assembly Journals, November 8, 1754, 4:485.
[64. ]Jamaicanus, Jamaica Association Develop’d, 25–26.
[65. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, December 31, 1754, CO 137/28, f. 166.
[66. ]Knowles to Newcastle, January 21 and 25, 1755, Newcastle Papers, Additional Manuscripts 32737, ff. 198–99, 248–49; Knowles to Board of Trade, January 21, 1755, CO 137/28, f. 292, and January 25, 1754, CO 137/29, ff. 1–2; Assembly Journals, January 22–24, 1755, 4:491–93.
[67. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, April 10, 1755, CO 137/29, f. 17; List of Assembly members, April 8, 1755, CO 137/29, f. 21; Assembly Journals, April 9, 17, 22–26, 29–30, May 7, 19, 1755, 4:496–97, 503, 508–14, 519, 531–32.
[68. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, May 19, 1755, CO 137/29, f. 40; Knowles to Newcastle, May 21, 1755, Newcastle Papers, Additional Manuscripts 32855, ff. 80–82.
[69. ]An Account of the Trial of Francis Delap, Esq; Late Provost-Marshal-General (London: T. Kinnersly, 1755), viii, ix, 45.
[70. ]Ibid., x, xi, 54, 7, 8; Assembly Journals, May 9–10, 14–15, 1755, 4:521–22, 525, 528–29; Knowles to Newcastle, June 30, 1755, Newcastle Papers, Additional Manuscripts 32856, f. 411.
[71. ]“Grievances,” Hall Family Papers, MSS 0220/FB226, Folder 44, Mandeville Special Collections Library, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.
[73. ]Assembly Journals, May 1, 1755, 4:515.
[74. ]John Pownall to William Murray and Richard Lloyd, April 25, 1755, CO 138/20, pp. 110–11.
[75. ]Murray and Lloyd to Board of Trade, April 29, 1755, CO 137/28, ff. 7, 9–10.
[76. ]Board of Trade to Privy Council, July 3, 1755, CO 139/20.
[77. ]Rose Fuller to ______, September 3, 1755; Rose Fuller to John Venn, September 3, 1755; and Ferdinand John Paris to Fuller, September 30, 1755, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3, East Sussex Record Office.
[78. ]Paris to Fuller, October 4, 1755, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3; John Pownall to Murray and Lloyd, October 30, 1755, ibid., Bundle 20, No. 7; Board of Trade to Knowles, November 6, 1755, CO 138/29, ff. 70–71.
[79. ]Edward Clarke to Fuller, September 4, 1755; Fuller to ______, September 3, 1755; Paris to Fuller, November 12, 1755, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3; Fuller to ______, Fall 1755, ibid., Bundle 20, No. 13.
[80. ]Edward Clarke to Rose Fuller, September 3, 1755, October 24, 1755; Thomas Frearon to Fuller, October 15, 1755; Mark Hall to Fuller, October 21, 1755, in Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3; Knowles to Board of Trade, July 25, 1755, CO 137/29, f. 50.
[81. ]See for a narrative reflective of Knowles’s point of view An Historical Account of the Sessions of Assembly, for the Island of Jamaica: Which began on Tuesday the 23d of Sept. 1755 (hereafter cited as Historical Account) (London, 1757), 9, 16, 54.
[82. ]Ibid., 4, 71; “The Prorogation for an hour,” March 17, 1756, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 18, No. 7d; Knowles to Board of Trade, December 1, 1755, CO 137/29, ff. 98–99; Assembly Journals, September 23–24, October 23, November 11, 19, 1755, 4:533–35, 540–44, 549–50.
[83. ]Historical Account, 60; Edward Clarke to Rose Fuller, December 20, 1755, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3.
[84. ]Edward Clarke to Rose Fuller, December 20, 1755, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3; Knowles to Earl of Holdernesse, December 13, 1755, Egerton Manuscripts 3490, ff. 36–37, British Library; Knowles to Board of Trade, January 2, 1756, CO 137/29, f. 107.
[85. ]Board of Trade to Privy Council, November 4, 1755, January 21, 1756, CO 138/20, p. 137, 150–53; Order in Council, January 27, 1756, CO 137/29, f. 92.
[86. ]Murray and Lloyd to Board of Trade, December 27, 1755, CO 137/29, ff. 70–71; Account of the Proceedings before the Privy Council on Removal of the Seat of Government in Jamaica , Privy Council Papers 1/50/45; Board of Trade to Privy Council, February 12, March 9, 1756, CO 138/20, pp. 160–66, 172–76.
[87. ]Horace Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of George II, 2 vols. (London, 1846), 2:152–53; Journals of the House of Commons (London, various dates), 27:399, 457, 468–69, 530 (January 23, February 18 and 24, March 17, 1756); Henry Fox to Board of Trade, January 26, 1756, CO 137/29, ff. 82–84.
[88. ]Knowles to Board of Trade, April 7, 1756, CO 137/29, f. 112.
[89. ]See ______ to Earl of Holdernesse, February 16, 1756, and Samuel Dicker to Holdernesse, February 19, 1756, Egerton Manuscripts 3490, ff. 38–41.
[90. ]Knowles to John Gregory, June 30, 1756; John Gregory to Charles Knowles, July 2, 1756; and John Gregory to Stephen Fuller, July 7, 1756, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3.
[91. ]Delap to Ferdinand J. Paris, February 4, April 19, 1756, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, Nos. 12A, 12B.
[92. ]John Gordon to Rose Fuller, June 15, 1756, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3.
[93. ]William Nedham to Rose Fuller, July 24, 1756; Francis Delap to Ferdinand J. Paris, July 8, 1756; and Charles White to Rose Fuller, July 30, 1756, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3.
[94. ]Francis Delap to Ferdinand J. Paris, July 8, 1756, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3; Moore to Holdernesse, June 29, July 9, July 26, 1756, Egerton Manuscripts 3490, ff. 42–47.
[95. ]Thomas Pinnock to ______, June 26, 1756, Miscellaneous Manuscripts, 490, National Library of Jamaica.
[96. ]Assembly Journals, August 17, 19, September 3, 1756; 5:572–75, 575–76, 586–87.
[97. ]Moore to Holdernesse, September 1, October 3, 1756, Egerton Manuscripts 3490, ff. 48–49, 54–55; Assembly Journals, September 7, 28, 1756, 4:589, 607–9.
[98. ]Assembly Journals, September 7, 22, 25, 29–30, October 2, 7, 9, 20, 29, November 3, 6, 10, 13, 1756, 4:590, 599, 603–5, 610–13, 616–33, 641, 661–66, 669–77, 683–86, 689–715, 717–20; Moore to Board of Trade, November 4, 1756, CO 137/29; Moore to Lord Granville, November 4, 27, 1756, Privy Council Papers 1/58/3; Moore to Holdernesse, November 27, 1756, Egerton Manuscripts 3490, ff. 58–59; Zachary Bayly to Rose Fuller, January 20, 1757, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3.
[99. ]Brief on the Charge against Charles Knowles Esqr. Late Governor of Jamaica, to be heard before the Committee of the whole House, 22 February 1757, Buccleuch Muniments, SRO/GD/224/299/4, Dalkeith, Scotland; Proposed resolutions against Knowles, n.d., Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 20, No. 14. A preliminary version of the brief, dated February 27, 1757, may be found in Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 18, No. 7f.
[100. ]Historical Account, 4, 71.
[101. ]See Journals of the House of Commons, February 1, 7, 22–24, March 1, 28, 31, April 4–6, 25, 27, 29, May 4, 10, 12, 17, 18, 20, 23, 1757, 18:674, 683, 725–27, 733, 743, 800–21, 825, 833, 836–39, 854–55, 858, 864, 883, 889, 898, 900, 902–3, 910–11. The resolutions are on pp. 910–11. See also Pitt to Board of Trade, February 17, 19, March 21, April 4, 20, 1757, CO 137/29, ff. 235–52; List of Papers laid before House of Commons, April 5, May 9, 1757, CO 138/20, pp. 200–3, 207. The Board of Trade’s original report of October 15, 1754, may be found in CO 138/20, pp. 41–79. See also, Metcalf, Royal Government, 135–36.
[102. ]Assembly Journals, November 8, 1757, 5:28–29.
[103. ]Lewis to Rose Fuller, January 17, 1758, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3.
[104. ]Delap to Charles Price, Sr., April 21, 25, 1757, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 18, No. 12c; Delap to Stephen Fuller, October 8, 1758, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3.
[105. ]Paris to Stephen Fuller, November 16, 1756, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 1, emphasis added.
[106. ]Henry Moore to Holdernesse, February 27, March 20, 1757, Egerton Manuscripts 3490, ff. 77–78, 85–86; Edmund Hyde to Rose Fuller, May 2, 1757; William Gale to Rose Fuller, May 3, 1757; James Prevost to Rose Fuller, May 4, 1757; Samuel Whitehorne to Rose Fuller, May 7, 1757; John Venn to Ferdinand J. Paris, May 21, 1757; John Morse to Rose Fuller, June 5, 1757; William Lewis to Rose Fuller, June 6, 1757; Thomas Frearon to Rose Fuller, June 25, 1757; William Wynter to Rose Fuller, June 25, 1757; and William B. Ellis to Rose Fuller, August 28, 1757, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3.
[107. ]Stephen Fuller to Charles Price, Thomas Frearon, and John Ellis, February 9, 1757, and Stephen Fuller to Gentlemen of Jamaica, February 9, 1757, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3; Account of Proceedings before the Council on Removal of the Seat of Government in Jamaica, n.d., Privy Council Papers PC, 1/50/45; Henley and Yorke to Board of Trade, CO 137/30, ff. 1–3; Board of Trade to Privy Council, May 25, 1757, CO 138/20, pp. 205–25.
[108. ]Moore to Holdernesse, January 18, June 29, October 31, 1757, February 12, 1758, Egerton Manuscripts, 3490, ff. 67–68, 99–100, 103–4, 107–8.
[109. ]Zachary Bayly to Rose Fuller, January 20, 1757; John Venn to Rose Fuller, May 22, 1757; William Lewis to Rose Fuller, June 6, 1757, and January 17, 1758; Charles White to Rose Fuller, March 19, 1757; William Gale to Rose Fuller, May 3, 1757, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3. See also Assembly Journals, September 27 and 30, 1757, 5:1–2, 5.
[110. ]Moore to Holdernesse, April 27, 1757, Egerton Manuscripts 3490, ff. 87–88; Frearon to Rose Fuller, June 25, 1757; James Prevost to Rose Fuller, May 4, 1757; William Wynter to Rose Fuller, June 25, 1757; William Lewis to Rose Fuller, January 17, 1758, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3.
[111. ]Account of Proceedings before the Council on Removal of Seat of Government in Jamaica, n.d., Privy Council Papers 1/50/45; Board of Trade to Privy Council, December 8, 1757, CO 138/20, pp. 228–36; Privy Council Minutes, June 28 and 29, 1758, Privy Council Papers, 2/106, pp. 179–83, 186–90; Board of Trade to Henry Moore, July 5, 1758, CO 138/20, pp. 408–9. See also Ferdinand J. Paris to Rose Fuller, December 2, 1758, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 2.
[112. ]Assembly Journals, October 3–4, 18, 1758, 5:68–70, 78; Moore to Board of Trade, October 3, November 12, 1758, CO 137/20, ff. 135, 145.
[113. ]Haldane to Board of Trade, April 23, May 11, July 20, 1759, CO 137/30, ff. 183–84, 191–93, 233–34; Haldane to Newcastle, April 23, May 20, 1759, Newcastle Papers, Additional Manuscripts 32890, ff. 280–81, 32891, ff. 202–3; Moore to Newcastle, July 29, 1759, Egerton Manuscripts 3490, ff. 133–34; John Venn to Rose Fuller, July 18, 1759, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 19, No. 3; Edward Clarke to Rose Fuller, April 10, 1759, Fuller Family Papers, Bundle 20, No. 3; Assembly Journals, May 1, 3, 5, 1759; 5:115, 118, 120–21.
[114. ]See Metcalf, Royal Government, 150–52; Assembly Journals, December 15, 1760, 5:244.
[115. ]Assembly Journals, October 2, 1762, 5:346–50.
[116. ]Assembly Journals, October 6–7, 1762, 5:351–52; Lyttelton to Board of Trade, October 13, 1762, CO 137/32, ff. 207–11.
[117. ]Assembly Journals, October 8–9, 12, 1762, 5:352–54.
[118. ]Assembly Journals, October 22, 1762, 5:359–60; Lyttelton to Board of Trade, October 13 and 24, 1762, CO 137/32, ff. 207–17.
[119. ]Jamaica Council Minutes, October 23, 1762, CO 138/22, ff. 232–33.
[120. ]Lyttelton, “State of the Constitution of Jamaica,” n.d., Additional Manuscripts, 12409, f. 25; Lyttelton to Board of Trade, October 24, 1762, CO 137/32, ff. 212–15; “Hints Respecting the Civil Establishment in Our American Colonies,” , Shelburne Papers, 48:503, William L. Clements Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
[122. ]Ibid; Lyttelton to Board of Trade, October 13, 1762, CO 137/32, ff. 207–11.
[123. ]Lyttelton to Board of Trade, October 13, 1762, CO 137/32, ff. 207–11.
[124. ]Ibid; Lyttelton to Board of Trade, October 24, 1762, CO 137/32, ff. 212–15.
[125. ]Lyttelton to Grenville, January 11, 1763, Stowe Papers, Box 22 (64), Huntington Library, San Marino, California; Stanhope to Lyttelton, February 23, 1763, Lyttelton Papers, 12 (i), Worcester Record Office, Worcester, England; Board of Trade to Privy Council, February 17, 1763, CO 138/22, ff. 261–62; Privy Council Minutes, March 3, 1763, Privy Council Papers 2/109; Munro and Grant, Acts of the Privy Council, March 3, 1763–December 14, 1764, 4:520–21.
[126. ]See Jack P. Greene, “The Jamaica Privilege Controversy, 1764–66: An Episode in the Process of Constitutional Definition in the Early Modern British Empire,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 22 (1994): 16–53.
[127. ]Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner, The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (1776; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), 2:585.
[128. ]An elaboration of this point can be found in Jack P. Greene, Peripheries and Center: Constitutional Development in the Extended Polities of the British Empire and the United States 1607–1788 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986), 1–150.