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virtually, to a certain extent, abrogated (forms and substance of law being so closely interwoven, that the first cannot be destroyed without affecting the last), he was deprived of the regular authorized legal adviser; and his own honour and his own conscience, to which Sir Ralph, who knew, them well, specifically referred, were, in fact, his principal guides, and he was assured, that in following them, he would meet with every indulgence and allowance from the British Ministers which his situation required. Whether he has experienced such indulgence, will be hereafter seen.
A question may possibly arise here (for after what we have seen, we consider every thing, in the way of accusation, as possible), whether or no Sir Ralph Abercromby was authorized to vest such powers in any Governor; whether there existed any right in the Sovereign to delegate such authority; whether, if he were not authorized, or, being authorized, the right of delegation did not exist; whether, in that case, we say, the Governor was justifiable in acting upon his instructions? We propose these questions for the consideration of his Majesty's Ministers, because they must be solved, before we can come to a right understanding of the immediate subject of discussion. We have no hesitation in stating, that if there existed no legal power in the Sovereign to confer such authority, Governor Picton cannot be justified, on legal grounds, for obeying his instructions. We will put a parallel case. The Secretary of State for the Home Department has been in the habit, during war, of giving instructions to magistrates, to send persons brought before them for trifling offences, on board the tender. The magistrates have, no doubt, acted upon such instructions; but it is perfectly clear, that if an action was to be brought in any such case, where a landsman had been so impressed, as it were, the orders of the Secretary of State would not be admitted as a legal justification of the act. We have said that these are parallel cases; but we must be understood, with some modification of the averment, for we mean to say, that they are parallel only as far as Governor Picton can be considered as acting in a purely civil capacity. Whether he did or did not so act, is a very different question. We have no hesitation in stating our opinion, that the King has unquestionably the right to delegate such authority as that which Sir Ralph Abercromby exercised on the present occasion, and that Governor Picton is fully justifiable for having acted upon the powers vested in him by Sir Ralph, in virtue of such authority. But let us conjure his Majesty's Ministers to reflect seriously upon the consequences which any doubts upon this subject (and doubts there have been, and still are, entertained by some) may produce. What insubordination in the army will inevitably follow? What injury to the service will of necessity accrue? But it is sufficient merely to hint at such consequences, to make the immense importance of them appreciated and felt.
The necessity of such instructions as he gave to the Governor, were unquestionably felt by the Commander in Chief. The Island was, in a great measure, peopled by a banditti, the very scum and outcast
of society, who had fled from merited punishment, either from the other islands, or from the Spanish Main. Not more than a month after Brigadier-general Picton had assumed the government of Trinidad, he was addressed by a large body of respectable inhabitants and proprietors, who gave the following picture of the place of their residence:
"Murders and robberies committed with impunity; widows and orphans despoiled, inheritances plundered, creditors and debtors equally ruined in affairs of the most simple nature; unfortunate colonists, scarcely arrived at the moment of enjoying the fruits of long and painful labours, which would have afforded the means of existence to their families, devoured without pity in the most trifling discussion, like a victim fattened till then only for that purpose."
Mr. Nihell himself, the very judge appointed by Sir Ralph Abercromby, was, on the 18th of May, 1796, the vear before the Island was taken, shot at in the streets, while in the actual exercise of magisterial duties. One negro, who was near him, received a mortal wound; a second negro was wounded; and a relation of Mr. Nihell's, who stood close to him at the time, received a ball in the skirts of his coat *.
In short, the island was in a lawless state; or, indeed, in a worse situation than if there had been no law; for the Spanish law seems only to have been administered for the purpose of extortion and injus tice. No wonder, then, that Sir Ralph Abercromby should perceive the danger of leaving the colony any longer in such a state; and, at the same time, the necessity of investing a Governor with arbitrary, and almost unlimited, powers, as the only means of remedying the enormous evils which prevailed there, and of restoring it from anarchy to order.
We have so far considered Governor Picton as being authorized to act without any attention to the Spanish laws; for certainly, in our conception, the powers vested in him extended so far. But, however, he found it expedient, and accordingly resolved, to let the Spanish law still continue to be the rule of decision in ordinary cases, subject to such alterations and modifications in form, and in the mode of proceeding, as were pointed out, or rather alluded to, in his instructions; especially as to expediting processes, and abridging the expence of them, as much as possible. Here, however, it may reasonably be asked, how a British officer, who had never been resident in Spain, and who was as ignorant of the Spanish law, as the Chief Justice of the
* Our readers are requested to observe, that whatever facts we relate, we state from authentic documents before us. This fact comes from Mr. Nihell's own authority, when examined upon oath before Governor Hislop in the Court of Session at Trinidad, on the 10th of June, 1805.
King's Bench himself may naturally be supposed, should be able to administer justice, in conformity with it? This difficulty had, no doubt, suggested itself to the penetrating mind of the Cominander in Chief, and had operated as one of the reasons for dictating his instructions to the Governor. But the latter was called upon to að immediately; he had no time, therefore, to study the law;-what then was he to do? He did that which an honourable and conscientious man, eager to do impartial justice, placed in such a situation, naturally would do. He trusted to the magistracy, to the judges, who had been long in the habit of acting upon the law, and who, of course, must have been supposed to understand it best, for a due and right interpretation of it. And, as to such new measures as would best promote the real welfare and interests of the colonists, he consulted such of the residents of all countries, as enjoyed the highest characters for integrity and knowledge; and this his acquaintance with the French and Spanish languages enabled him to do. Among others, he particularly consulted a Spanish gentleman, named DON CHRISTOVAL DE ROBLES, <who had lived more than half a century in Trinidad, and who was universally esteemed for his probity and his talents. This worthy Spaniard delivered his answer to the Governor's application in writing, and for the knowledge of this valuable document, we are indebted to Lieutenant-colonel Draper. The beginning of it we shall quote, in justification of our assertion respecting the inhabitants of Trinidad.
"The population is mostly composed of refugees and desperate characters, who have been implicated in the rebellions and massacres of all the neighbour. ing islands; their principles are incompatible with all regular governments, and their inveteracy to your nation is irreconcileable. The timidity of the former government suffered their crimes to pass unpunished; and at your arrival, they were actually masters of the island. You may judge of the numbers capable of bearing arms, by the application of the French Consul to the Governor, on the appearance of the British fleet, when he offered him the assistance of 3000 republicans, which (not being inclined to make any re. sistance) he thought proper to decline.”
We request the particular attention of our readers to this statement, because it directly contradicts the positive assertions of Mr. Fullarton ; and we desire them to reflect for a moment on the very critical circumstances in which Governor Picton was now placed. If, after he had received such instructions from his Commander in the first place, and such information as that of this Spanish gentleman in the second, he had acted with hesitation and timidity; if, by a rigid adherence to the form or letter of the Spanish, aye, or of the British law, he had given encouragement to the lawless band of murderous republicans which infested this devoted colony ;-would not his enemies, and friends too, have had ample grounds for accusing him of a gross and scandalous breach of duty? Unquestionably they would; and though, under the pretext of such rigid adherence, he might, possibly, have screened himself from punishment, he would infallibly have incurred the indig
nation of every loyal subject, and the contempt of the whole colony. True to his trust, however, his honour, and himself, he did not so act. He followed his instructions; he profited by the information which he had received; and the happiest consequences ensued to the island from the wisdom and vigour of his government. It appears, from the evidence, upon oath, of the most respectable inhabitants of Trinidad, that the Governor, by his measures, effected a total change in the island, restored it to pertect order, gave full security to the persons and properties of individuals, promoted the internal prosperity and the commerce of the colony, repressed the spirit and silenced the voice of disaffection, and received, as he most richly deserved, the heartfelt thanks of every description of persons. Thus he continued to act, and to produce these beneficial effects, under the vague and uncertain, though great and extensive, powers, which had been vested in him, until the month of September 1801, when he received his commission as Governor and Commander in Chief in and over the island of Trinidad, and with it, fresh instructions, which were dated the first of the preceding June.
Any act subsequent to the receipt of these instructions must, no doubt, be submitted to the test of the instructions themselves'; it is therefore necessary to know whether, in any and in what respect, they limit or abridge the powers before vested in the Governor by the Commander in Chief. For this purpose we shall extract the fifth clause, from the copy printed by Lieutenant-colonel Draper, who has the very great merit of making no assertion of importance, in the discussion of his subject, unsupported by proof.
"It is our will and pleasure, that for the present the temporary ad ministration of the Island should, as nearly as circumstances will permit, be exercised by you according to the terms of the capitulation hereunto annexed, in conformity to the ancient laws and institutions that subsisted within the same, previous to the surrender of the said Island to us, subject to such directions as you shall have, or hereafter receive from us under our signet or sign manual, or by our order in our Privy Council, or to such sudden or unforeseen emergencies as may render a departure therefrom absolutely necessary and unavoidable, and which you are immediately to represent to one of our principal Secretaries of State for our information; but it is. nevertheless our special command that all the powers of the executive government within the said Island, as well civil as military, shall be vested solely in you our Governor, or the person having the government of the said Island for the time being; and that such powers as were heretofore exercised by any person or persons separately, or in conjunction with the govern ment of the said Island, shall belong solely to you our Governor, or to the person having the government of the said Island for the time being; and iç is our will and pleasure, that all such public acts and judicial proceedings, which, before the surrender of the said Island to us, were in the name of his Catholic Majesty, shall henceforth be done, issued, and performed in our name."
It is evident from this paper, that though the Governor's powers were rather more clearly defined, they were not materially abridged.
He was bound, indeed, henceforth to do what he had formerly done, almost by choice-to follow the Spanish laws; but he was left in possession of great discretionary power; and was, beyond all doubt, entrusted with the same authority as had previously been vested in the supreme court of judicature under the Spanish government, which was the "royal audience" at the Caraccas. This the most superficial understanding must collect from the preceding document, and, indeed, it is written in such plain and legible characters, that it would be folly, or rather presumption, to point it out to our readers, had it not been rendered, by Mr. Fullarton, a subject not merely of doubt, but of litigation!
It was in the December following (1801), that Louisa Calderon, the mulatto girl, a perjured prostitute and thief, was picquetted, as an accomplice in a robbery committed in the house of the man who kept her. We merely notice the fact here, that our readers may keep the chain of circumstances unbroken in their memory; we shall hereafter recur to it, having some very ample comments to make on that most dark and most iniquitous transaction, the origin of which was marked by forgery, its progress stamped with perjury, and its conclu sion-but, thank Heaven, it is not yet concluded.
Governor Picton continued to act under his new commission, as he had acted before under his primitive instructions, to the perfect satisfaction not only of the respectable part of the Colony, but of his Majesty's Ministers, repeatedly expressed, until the 3d of January, 1803, when Mr. Fullarton arrived as First Commissioner. His Majesty's Ministers had, the preceding summer, deemed it expedient to alter the mode of governing this settlement; and had, in fact, determined to do, as is occasionally done with the Great Seal, to put it in commission. Three Commissioners were accordingly appointed; Mr. Fullarton was the first, Brigadier-genera! Picton the second (retaining, however, the exclusive command of the military), and Commodore Hood the third. How a scheme, so novel in its principle, and so strange in its nature, could have suggested itself to the very intelligent Nobleman who then presided over the colonial department, we cannot conceive. It enlarged, indeed, the sphere of patronage, but it cramped the energies of government, and laid the seeds of disunion and anarchy. Under the peculiar circumstances of Trinidad,' it was the most impolitic and imprudent plan that could have been adopted. A strong, firm, and vigorous Government was requisite; its necessity had been universally admitted, the admission had been acted upon, and experience had given the fullest sanction to its wisdom. There was no excuse, then, for the change; it was the substitution of a directorial for a monarchical form of government; and its consequences might, we think, have been easily foreseen. Besides, it was a very unseemly reward for the very important services which Brigadiergeneral Picton had rendered to the Island, to take from him the chief government, and to place him below Mr. Fullarton. The effect of this virtual degradation on the colonists themselves, could not fail to