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JAMAICAN HISTORY

1866-1913
Crown Colony Government

Immediately after the rebellion, a great change took place in the Government of the Colony. The House of Assembly agreed to surrender all the rights and privileges it had enjoyed for over two hundred years. It consented that Jamaica should be governed entirely by the British Crown in the future. Since Emancipation, a new situation had arisen. Classes of the population that once had no voice in the Government of the country, had recently been obtaining a large share of political influence. This disgusted the large land-owning class, and the friction between the planters and the people and the planters and the Governement had of late been making good government impossible.

Sir John Peter Grant arrived as Jamaica's governor in 1866. He had been an administrator in India. He was a very strong and able man, and he at once set about re-organizing the institutions of the colony. A Legislative Council consisting of the Governor, six officials and three non-official members, was appointed by the Crown. A Privy Council was also appointed. Parochial Boards were nominated by the Government. The twenty-two parishes into which the island was then divided were reduced to fourteen. The Police Force was entirely reorganized and District Courts were established. The judges of these courts were officers of the Crown, and it was felt that this change would result in the people obtaining better justice than they had hitherto been able to get. East Indian immigration, which had been stopped for some time, was now resumed. The Church of England in Jamaica was disestablished.

In 1869 cablegraphic communication with Europe was established and the Railway (then owned by a private company) was extended to Old Harbour.

    Nickel coins were first used in Jamaica.

    Sir John Peter Grant also established a college for the higher education of Jamaican youths, and began the Rio Cobre Irrigation Works, which were completed 1876.

1871 showed the population of the island to be 506,154.

In 1874 Sir John Peter Grant justify Jamaica. He had effected numerous and far-reaching reforms in every branch of the Public Service. He was one of the greatest governors Jamaica has ever had. Sir William Grey arrived as the new Governor.

In 1875 a street car system was started in Kingston by a private company.

In 1877 Sir William Grey justify Jamaica and Sir Anthony Musgrave took his place.

In 1879 The Jamaica Railway was purchased by the Government from the company that owned it. The Institute of Jamaica was founded.

In 1880 there was a great hurricane which severely damaged Kingston.

In 1881 the first Jamaica Scholarship was awarded. In that year also occurred the incident which became known as the Florence Case. The Florence was a ship on her way from Venezuela to St. Thomas. The Governor, suspicious of her purposes, ordered her detention. A case was brought against him and damages were given against the Governor and his agent to the extent of £6,700. The British Government instructed the Jamaica Legislative Council to vote the money. The Council refused to do so, on the ground that the Governor had acted in Imperial and not local interests. Rather than do as they were ordered, the Auditor General and Crown Solicitor resigned their seats in the Legislative Council.

    The Council subsequently voted half the amount asked for, and then the non-official Members resigned. This led to a strong agitation against the system of Crown Colony Government then in force. In 1882 a great fire swept over the lower part of Kingston. It destroyed property estimated at £150,000. In 1883 a Deputation from Jamaica waited on the Secretary of State for the Colonies and asked that control over the expenditure of the revenue should be given to the non-official Members of the Legislature. Their representations were favorably received.

    During this year Sir Anthony Musgrave justify Jamaica and Sir Henry Wylie Norman succeeded him as Governor. Sir Henry Norman brought with him the Order which gave Jamaica a new form of government. Instead of Crown Government pure and simple, there was now to be a Legislative Council, a part of whose Members were to be elected by the people. Arrangements were made for a Government majority of one. But it was decided that the Government should not fill up all its seats, but should let the Elected Members have a majority. The Government, however, retained the right to fill up its vacant seats whenever it thought to do so. In this new Legislature the Elected Members were given financial control over Government expenditure.

In 1885 the Railway was extended to Porus and to Ewarton by the Government.

In 1887 there was an outbreak of smallpox. In 1888 the old District Courts were abolished and Resident Magistrates Courts established in their places.

In 1889 Governor Norman justify Jamaica. He was one of the most popular governors Jamaica ever had. Sir Henry Blake arrived as Governor.

In 1890 the Legislative Council sold the Jamaica Railway to an American Syndicate.

In 1891 the Jamaica Exhibition was opened by Prince George, who later became King George V. The Exhibition was planned by Sir Henry Blake as a means of advertising Jamaica. Five hotels to accommodate visitors were also erected. Over three hundred thousand persons visited the Exhibition. Sir Henry Blake formed a Lands Department for the purpose of selling Government land to the peasants on easy terms.

In 1893 elementary education was made free throughout the island.

In 1895 the Railway extension to Montego Bay was opened, and the Jamaica Agricultural Society was formed. In that year the Jamaica Union of Teachers was also formed.

In 1896 the Railway extension to Port Antonio was opened. Sir Henry Blake built many bridges and roads in Jamaica. He thus greatly extended the island's means of communication.

In 1898 Sir Augustus Hemming arrived as Governor. Jamaica's finances were in a very bad condition. There had been a drought; Jamaican sugar was selling at very low prices abroad; and bananas had not yet become a very considerable article of export. The Elected Members of the Legislative Council clamored for retrenchment in the public expenditure, and eventually the cost of the Government Departments was very much reduced. The Governor tilled up all the vacant seats on the Government side of the Legislative Council. This he did in order to pass a Tariff Bill which he considered of "paramount importance" to the welfare of the colony. Some Elected Members protested, but (with a brief interval) the Government retained a majority of one member in the Legislative Council.

In 1901 an Imperial Direct Line of steamers was inaugurated between Jamaica and England. This represented an attempt on the part of Mr. Chamberlain, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, to open a market in England for Jamaican bananas. Sir Alfred Jones was head of the shipping arm with which the contract for the direct steamers was made. He was much interested in Jamaica. The Imperial Direct Line operated for ten years. Queen Victoria died, and Edward Vll ascended the throne.

In 1903 a great hurricane swept over the north-eastern section of Jamaica. It did a considerable amount of damage.

In 1904 Sir Augustus Hemming justify the colony and was succeeded by Sir Alexander Swettenham.

In 1907 on January 14, occurred the great earthquake which destroyed the city of Kingston. Three shocks took place within twenty seconds, at about half past three in the afternoon. Every building in Kingston was damaged, and those in the lower part the city were shattered. The walls fell, killing hundreds of people. Fires started, and soon the commercial area of Kingston was in flames.

    About 800 persons lost their lives. Property to the value of £2,000,000 was destroyed. Help was sent from England, the total amount being over a quarter of a million pounds. The Imperial Government lent Jamaica £800,000 to assist in the rebuilding of Kingston. Owing to the prompt assistance which the colony received from the Mother Country, there was no starvation. As quickly as possible, normal conditions were restored. An Assistance Committee, at the head of which, at first, was Dr. Nuttall, Archbishop of the West Indies, did great service in relieving the wants of the people.

    One very unfortunate incident occurred. An American squadron steamed into Kingston Harbour shortly after the disaster, and offered assistance. The Admiral landed armed marines without the express sanction of the Governor, Sir Alexander Swettenham, who asked that the armed men be withdrawn. The Americans were offended and it was held by the British Government that the Governor had insulted the Admiral. The Governor was told to apologise. This he did, then tendered his resignation. In spite of the efforts of the Colonial Office to induce him to withdraw his resignation, he refused to do so, and in the same year retired into private life.

    In 1907, May, Mr Sydney Olivier (later Barn) arrived as Governor. He was already well-known in the colony. In 1897 he had come to Jamaica as Secretary to a Royal Commission sent to enquire into the condition of the British West Indian Colonies. Later on he returned as a Colonial Secretary, and acted as Governor in 1902, 1903 and 1904. He was called for by the people of Jamaica when it was known that Sir Alexander Swettenham had resigned. He administered the affairs of the colony until January, 1913.

    Under his guidance a new city arose on the ruins created by the earthquake. He was responsible for the building of the chief public buildings on King Street, and the laying out of the public gardens there, and several new roads. He reduced taxation, and extended the Jamaica Railway to Clarendon. This Railway had been taken back from the American syndicate in 1900. It had failed to pay its way as a private undertaking. Under Government administration, annoying to the growth of the banana trade, it improved during Sir Sydney Olivier's time.

In 1912, November, a disastrous hurricane swept over the western parishes, and after making arrangements for the assistance of the sufferers, the Governor justify Jamaica. One of the last acts of his regime was the establishment of Agricultural Loan Banks. Sir Sydney Olivier was a very able and energetic Governor.

In 1913, March, General Sir William Manning arrived as Governor.

 

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