JAMAICA AS A PRESIDENCY.
THE Legislative Assembly of Jamaica deserves some credit for its final act. If it has lived badly it has at least committed suicide at the right time and in the right way. It was clear from the moment of the outbreak that the old con- stitution of the colony, in practice an oligarchy tempered by corruption, could not continue to endure. It possessed neither the vigour of a despotic system nor the popular sympathy of a representative one, was despised by the leading whites and dreaded by all the blacks, lent no strength to the Governor which he did not possess already, and afforded no protection to the people by whom it was nominally elected. It was be- lieved in the island to be corrupt and known in the island to be inefficient, did not secure the prosperity which is the com- pensation for oppression, or the free progress which is the best result of lax and gentle government. The Assembly therefore, conscious that it was unsupported, accepted the Reform Bill brought in by Governor Eyre, a Bill so far honest that it would have changed an oligarchy in practice into an oligarchy confessed, but totally opposed to the wishes of the inhabitants, the interests of the island, and the administrative system of the Empire. There are at least six forms of government prevalent in the colonies, but a sovereign assembly composed half of nominees and half of the elected representatives of a caste is happily not among them. Terrified as the governing class had been by the e'meute in Morant Bay, the murmurs against this Act were deep, the local press found heart to remonstrate, and strong representations were made that England would not tolerate the conversion of a free Assembly into a mushroom House of Peers. Mr. Eyre hesitated, and a confidential letter arrived from Mr. Cardwell, informing the
Governor that, " Although for many years the disposition and practice of the Crown had been rather to devolve on colonial representative bodies the powers and responsibilities of Govern- ment, than either to keep the powers it possessed or to assume powers and responsibilities which had not hitherto belonged to it, yet in a case in which the Crown's deprivation of power is incompatible with the welfare and even the safety of the colony, there would be no hesitation on the part of her Majesty's Government to accept any amount of additional responsibility which circumstances might seem to require." Mr. Eyre therefore proposed an Act reforming his own "Re- form Bill," and transferring all legislative power absolutely to the Queen in Council, that is in fact authorizing a final surrender of the Island Charter. His proposal fell apparently upon willing ears. The Assembly had already consented to abolish themselves, and had therefore no personal interest in the matter, the leading whites were ready for any reform which would be fatal to. the old system, and the coloured population had a rooted confidence in the authority of the Queen. The proposal was therefore accepted almost by acclamation, and the absolute authority of the Crown and Parliament over Jamaica has been legally and voluntarily restored.
How is it to be used / There will be, we doubt not, some lamentations over the extinction of a Chamber which, because it was elective, is therefore supposed by those who believe that votes are the end instead of the means of liberal govern- ment to have been free. The measure will be denounced as precipitate and indicative of panic, and the Colonial Office urged to insist on further debate. But the immense majority of moderate men will, we believe, approve of Mr. Cardwell's hint and the Assembly's action, will believe that a distant and disinterested power has less temptation to govern one class for the benefit of another than a local and interested power, will admit that in a struggle of races the best arbiter is an authority so high that before it all races seem equally subject and possessed of equal claims. The trust will, we feel assured, be accepted by Parliament, and we have little doubt that after more or less discussion politicians will begin to refer to the one available precedent. We have in Jamaica this primary task, so to rule a population of which a minority is white and civilized and a majority dark and comparatively uncivilized that they shall live together if not in amity at least in peace, and shall be equally free to advance in any intellectual or social direction they may please. In India, under the same circumstances, and conditions at least as difficult, we do secure that result. No man in India out- side the Viceroy's Council-room has any vestige of political power, not even " the thirty-thousandth part of a right to appoint the five-hundredth portion of a national palaver," but probably no man in the world is more free than a native of India, no man quite so free as an Anglo-Indian. Neither can strike the other, or swindle the other, or insult the other, without immediate retribution. Each has justice at his doors. Each has a clear right in practice as well as theory to say what he likes, write what he likes, and print what he likes ; to teach any creed, to make proselytes to any faith, to open any place of worship without licence, or to engage in any avocation—except the manufacture of salt or opium—with- out official permission. If a European calls on the natives to protest against the income-tax the Viceroy usually does not read his summons, or if he does allows the assembly the use of a hall to talk in ; if a native denounces the conquerors, the Government sends no police to interrupt him. Everybody is free within the law, and the unfettered energy of the thou- sands and unimpeded industry of the millions consequently adds every day to the general well-being. The wealth of the Delta increased while the mutinies were raging. Yet there is not a doubt that natives can spring at white throats, for they have done it ; there is not a question that planters can be unfair, for they have tried to make a labourer's contract matter of police discipline, but a supreme government irresistible by physical means, and supported by administrators without local in- terests, enforces order and mutual class respect. The key to that Indian situation is government through a responsible despotism. Within India the Viceroy is in politics absolute, invested indeed with a legal power which transcends any pre- cedent of our system. Not only has he by custom an over- whelming influence in the nominee Council which passes the laws he himself only can initiate, but he has by statute the power of passing any Act which that Council disapprove on his own signature only, and such Act is valid for six months. But then outside India the Viceroy is responsible, directly re- sponsible, liable to ruin if he disobeys, or tyrannizes, or legislates for classes, or fails in any visible and egregious manner. He has to respect English opinion as much as a minister of the Crown, and his immense power is therefore very seldom misused, and is never exerted to promote class or sectional objects. His interest in fact is good government of that kind which is visible at a distance, and he lays himself out therefore for good Government of that limited sort. If his treasury is full, and trade uninterrupted, and his army orderly, and his subjects quiet, and physical improvement is going on, and justice is becoming more diffused, and locomotion is accelerated, and there is some little advance in education, and missionaries are let zealously alone, it does not matter much to him that he is unpopular with a class or even a population. There is order, and justice, and increasing wealth, and diminishing taxation ; and po- litical difficulties, the whole series of ideas, wise orfoolish, which govern. European legislation, must wait till society can receive them. This is what, as it seems to us, Jamaica now wants. Let the Colonial Office send out the ablest man it can obtain for reasonable pay, with powers like those of the Indian Vice- roy, and let him bid the conflict of races cease and the work of improvement begin. If he is really able, he will very soon see just and inexpensive Courts established —that is always possible if the judges are imported— all needless places abolished, taxation rearranged so as to permit the produce of the petite culture to be exported, the tenure remodelled so as not to create small freeholds but to admit the possibility of their growth, the road system re- organized on scientific principles, and a sharp and stern system of compulsory education fairly introduced, The difficulty of reconciling classes embittered by years of contest, of making planters believe that education can be good for " niggers," or inducing negroes to believe that planters can make just laws, would be over, and all parties be compelled to bow before a will intent before all things upon enriching them all. There was a tall, sunburnt man, with a suave voice, lecturing the Asiatic Society the other night, who under far more unfavourable conditions has secured all that Jamaica needs. Governing Jamaica may be difficult work, but we are mistaken if Colonel Phayre could be con- vinced-of the fact after his experience of Pegu, or if he or any other man of his kind and training would not in five years prove that a tropical estate of 6,400 square miles with the sea all round it, and 300,000 labourers upon it, can be so managed as to be a most profitable possession. Of course it might be necessary to give even an Indian Governor some sort of local council, some kind of right to command advice or information when he wants it—though in all but two of the Indian provinces there is no such thing—but power and responsibility should equally belong to Her Majesty's respon- sible Agent for Jamaica.
Indeed no other Government is for the time possible in the island. The British Government cannot replace the Assembly after-it has voted itself incompetent, it cannot do the local legislation in the Colonial Office, and it will not, we trust, build at first even a council like that of Ceylon. Such a• council is sure to consider caste questions first of all, to try to represent prejudices as well as interests, to bow more or less to the will of the caste among whom it must live and move. The Ceylon Council, as Mr. Cardwell is painfully aware, did not take a very statesmanlike view of the request to pay for their own troops, and nominee councils are very apt to seek in the adherence of a class the strength which the origin of their power fails to secure. Such a council, moreover, offers as fair a field for political contention as a small assembly, and Jamaica needs a cessation of the political contest. Let the talkee talkee stop for a while till some of the bitterness has evaporated, and some of the physical prosperity been established which is essential to the moderation of political strife. Till decent-folk can recover their guaranteed wages by a simple process, discussions on franchise are very useless, and the dis- tribution of power is a minor detail while each class when it obtains it is sure to turn it into money. A Caesar is sometimes useful even in Europe, and a Caesar responsible to London and not to 1Cmgaton, a Caesar who will remember the order, ".Du pain; a bas lee longs discours l" is at this moment the first necessity of the colony of Jamaica.