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president) of the most opulent and respectable of the inhabitants, and is appointed by the gover
It acts as a privy council to him, and has besides a voice as an independent branch of the legislature; so that it has a sort of double function to perform. Add to this its function with the governor as a president, as a court of appeal upon errors. The assembly consists of the representatives (two for each parish) who are elected by the freeholders. Like the imperial house of commons, they have the originating of all bills relative to the finances and economy of the country, and furnishing the supplies. Indeed, all bills may be said to originate with them, as the council has seldom more to do than giving its voice in the passing of them. The persons of the members are sacred from arrest, the same as the British representatives.
The assembly of Jamaica has the character of being an independent and public spirited body of men; at least, this is the character which they have on former occasions merited, having often stedfastly and meritoriously supported, with a becoming spirit and dignity, the rights of the country and their own privileges. It is seldom that much senatorial eloquence is displayed within the walls of the assembly-house here. Since the time that Mr. Brian Edwards, of ingenious and historic memory, occupied a seat in it, few attempts have been made to mould and
electrify by oratorial flourishes. The talents that are most in request, are such as are rather solid than brilliant ;-commercial and financial knowledge, joined to a respectable fund of local and general information, engrafted on a strong un. derstanding, and penetrating comprehensive mind. Yet it is to be remarked, that lately this assembly drew up a memorial to government on the subject of their grievances, which, for manly eloquence and masterly accurate statement, would have done credit even to a committee of the house of commons. The office of secretary is. here a very lucrative one indeed, perhaps second to none but that of the governor bimself. The fees attached to it are very considerable : every patent commission, and other instrument, has its stated price, and even the records of office can only be opened with a golden key. It is pretty shrewdly tu be suspected, that the price of sinecure or nominal appointments is rather arbitrary than specific. It is by no means unusual to offer from an hundred to five hundred pounds currency for these nominal appointments : they are eagerly sought for as soon as vacant, by people who can afford the money, either for the honour of the thing, or in order to be exempted from militia duty ; for as there is little or no duty to perform, neither is there any emolument accruing. This sale of nominal appointments is indeed often carried to a most reprehensible length.
The secretary under a late governor, on the eve of the latter's departure from his government, eager to reap the golden harvest while the sun in which he basked had not yet sunk below the horizon, made, it is said, a pretty active use of this privilege, and not always with a very scrupulous attention as to recommendations, &c. So sensible was the succeeding chief magistrate of the impropriety of many of those appointments, that he for some time hesitated whether he would confirm them: and his predecessor no doubt must have felt that he had sometimes too implicitly given the sanction of his name on these occasions. This species of traffic, to say the least of it, is an indiscriminating way of giving ease and honour, if honour it may be called. By this unjust distribution, able-bodied men are improperly exempted from that duty, in a military capacity, which they owe to their country, as well as others; and situations which should be the reward of merit, the mead of talent, or the repose of age, are thus scattered fortuitously among those who can afford the most alluring price. But where, it may be asked, is the country where preferment, or honour, or whatever else we may call it, is not bought and sold ? We do not live in such times as were those of Aristides or Lycurgus, when nought but honour and reverence was attached to public functions, and nought but merit and patriotism was competent to fill them,
The laws of Jamaica are precisely those of the mother country, only with such slight variation, în matters of property and others, as the nature of the country requires. Over and above the civil and criminal law of Great Britain, there is, of course, a code of laws in this and the other islands, which must be peculiar to the West Indies, and may be called colonial. These chiefly relate to negroes and negro property. Those laws and regulations which have, from time to time, been enacted for the protection of the slaves, and amelioration of their condition, go under the general epithet of “ Consolidated Slave Laws.” It will, however, be proper to defer touching on these laws till treating of the
Besides the assize, or county courts, there is here what is called the “grand court,” in which the chief judge presides; there are here also what are called quarter sessions courts in each parish, for the třial of petty actions. In these the oldest magistrate of the parish presides, and the attornies at law (who also practise as such in the assize courts) perform the part of advocates, The chief judge is one who has been a barrister of some standing and repute in the island; but the judges who sit in the assize courts are usually gentlemen who are magistrates of the county ; these, seldom being bred to the law, cannot be supposed to be very competenț to decide in com, plex and intricate cases, where many nice points of law are involved. It is therefore to be wished, that, besides the chief judge, who never sits out of his own court, there were two or three puisne judges to go the circuits of the assize courts. This was in the contemplation of the legislature some years ago, and it is rather unaccountable that it was laid aside. As for the barristers, they are men who have received a regular legal education in Great Britain; and are in general men of ability and information, though they do not often lay claim to that Demosthenian eloquence which " takes captive the reason.” The situation of clerk of the court is a patent office of great value, supposed worth about 6,0001. currency per annum : this and other patent offices may either be sold or rented, the real holder, in this latter case, perhaps residing in Great Britain. The office of provost marshal is also held by patent. This office is somewhat equivalent to that of sheriff in Great Britain. He has a deputy in every parish in the island, who has the custody and issuing of all writs, the serving subpænas, and other legal summonses, the care and custody of the jails and prisoners, &c. &c.