THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No. 277.
1 De.scriplio of the Cabi/do. 'icli//'.s RIepfr. August, 180 1.
Soicr) :- Public Record Office. State Papers Colonial.
('.O. 2 c 8.
Published by the courtesy ofl the (la cter of Ihr Roll./ and the
Deputy A Ieefr oj the Piblic Records.
The Cab ildo is an Assembly of certain individuals
appointed to conduct the police and government of certain
cities and principal towns in tlie Spanish dominions.
Although the So\vreign l has tl( power of making laws and
appointing such Magisilatcs as he pleascs, nevertheless the
people retain certain rights which though tl( y are subordinate
to the King and his tribunals, it is Ithe (dutl of lie Cabildo to
support and represent.
This formerlxv sided in the Assembly of lihe v, hole body
of the people but it was lbund afterwards convenient to
confine it to a certain nllumbero called Cabildos who have now
the same pow ( s which the ,wliole body of people had formerly.
In eve (Cabildo as shall hereatcer be more fully explained,
there is a member whose special duty it is to attend particularly
to the right; ( t le Ieople and to prevent am thing being done
to its pl lucite.
The nunl:(er (,f nmenbers of each Cabildo is gicater or less
in proportion to the size of the ( ity or Town to which it
belongs. 1 he laws direct that the number of Regidors of the
(abildo of Cities or Principal Towns shall be 12 and shall not
exceed 6 in sn'alhr settlements. Of tlie members of the
CaHildo sowm are chosen annually but the others enjoy their
places under Commission from the King foc life.
In forming a Cabildo. twxo Magistrates are chosen to
preside in tie Courts of Justice. He who is first chosen is
called the Alcalde of First Election and he w ho is chosen next
is called the Alcalde of Second Election. Thtse two Alcaldes
ire the Judges whom the King and people in virtue of these
privileges entrust with the x hole administration of Justice in
the cities and towns in which they reside. They arc called
Alcaldes in Ordinary to distinguish them from other Alcaldes
who take their denomination from the various offices in
which they are employed.
At the end of the first year after forming a Cabildo and
so on at the end of every year afterwards, the Alcalde of'
First Election goes out of office and lie who was during that
year the Alcalde of Second Election, passes on without any
further election to fill his place. Anotlier Alcalde is chosen by
the Cabildo who is called the Alcalde of Second Election.
The reason which the law gives for retaining in office eveiy
year, an Alcalde of the foregoing carl is that there should
alwwavs le in the Tribunal of the Alcaldes one who is perfectly
infobrmcd of all 1pro) ~dings pending in the Cabildo.
Tihe ordinary y Alcaldes lhave full powers to judge and
determine all causes Wvhatevcr, Civil and Criminal, within
their jurisdiction. Neither of the Ordinarx Alcaldes can be
reflected after tie c:piration of their time till after three etais.
Each Alcalde lcirms a tribunal entirely distinct from that
of the other Alcalde and every individual of the community
is at full liberal to carry hiis case before which of' the tribunals
The (o\lcrnors in Spanish Alnm iica never\ interfere with
the decrees or sentences of either of the Alcaldes nor can they
order any proceedings to be laid before them which have
already been carried bel'oi e itlher ol the Alcaldes.
During the Spanish period, if a subject found himself
aggrieved, his icmedv w as an appeal to the Royal Audiencia
of the district. In the English period the appeal in Civil cases
if the sum exceeds !,/20o sterling is carried before the Governor
and if it exceeds (5(,00 s sterling to the King in council .
Ever Governor in Spanish America as Jucz Politico,
forms a distinct tibutnal xwith his Assessor lho is styled Auditor.
Before this tribunal, all (Ciil and (iiminal causes may be
tried in the same manner as before the tribunals of the Alcaldes
at the free option of tie plaintiffs in civil causes and the
prosecutor' in criminal.
During the former govmcincnt, all causes against planters
or other residents in the counux (except the (ity of St. Joseph)
were tried before the tribunal of the Govenor and his
Assessor. No other causes xerc carried before e te Alcaldes
but such as xwerce enterd lby residents in St. Joseph or this
Port against thlir l]low citizens in those places.
In all climhinal causes in which any capital or corporal
punishment was to Ibe infikted or such as aflixdcl infamy on
the guilty poisons, neiciihr Goxicior nor Alcaldes under the
former govcirnmcnlt could calny any such sentence into
execution without having ihe sentence first approved by the
Audiencia at Caracas. The Governor at present represents
and has within ihis jurisdiction all the rights and powers of'
tie Audiencia of Caracas.
The office of Syndic or Attorine -General of the Cabildo
is to prevent any proceedings in tle Cabildo by which the
people may in aly manner be aggrieved and to encourage
and piomote everything which can in any respect contribute
to the public good. He is allowed to speak in the Cabildo
and give his opinion but has no vote.
The two -Acaldcs and ihe S\ndic and tih two Alcaldes
del Monte i or of the count, y) are the only elected officers in
the Cabildo. The Alcaldes del Monte who are chosen at the
end of even\ ear, have seats occasionally in the Cabildo but
have no votes and (ery littl,- to say or do in it.
The othcr members of the Cabildo are the Regidors.
Their offices which are for life, lorm in Spanish America a
part of the Royal Patrimony of the Sovercign on whose account
thev are sold as often as tlh c Iecomle vacant. Of this class
are several in this Island which were purchased by the present
holders dum ing the Spanish Government. As His Majesty docs
not think proper to make use of his right to sell these offices,
the Governor has tlie right to nominate Regidors w\hen vacant.
The Laxw requires iltat Alcaldcs and Regidors shall be of
white race, of good character for probity, to be able to rcad
and write ; lose occupied in servile occupations and guilty
of crime are excluded. Merchaints and artificers may be
appointed but cannot follow their occupations while holding
the office of Alkalde or Regidor. All tlose elected must carry
out their duties and cannot be excused except by special
favour of the King.
During the Spanish tinw and still at present, the Regidors
i. T'le Alfercz Real. To car tlie Ro\al Standard on
2. The Alguaiil M.ia\or. The High Marshall or Chief
Constable. Present at all public executions of
criminals and is rcsponsible(bl seeing that the
decrees of the tribunals are executed.
3. The i iel Executor. He keeps the standard weights
and measures and sees that thlie public are not
.. 1)epositor General. He is responsible fo deposits put
into his hands; property of prisons intestate or
absent or fiom levies made by the Alguazil Mayor.
5. The Alcalde Provincial. Alo called the Alcalde dc
la Santa Hermandad. He ihas judicial powers in the
All the above arc called Regidorcs 1Dobles ; the following
are Rcgidores Llanos :
The Governor has the right to presidc in the (abildo
citherl himself o by the A ssesso r Au t itol. in the ablsenc
of both, the Alcaldt oif Firt or Second Election ,presides. In
the absence of all these, the chair is taken by tl ;. gi.idot \, ith
the oldest conmnission, the R(s.cidoi Decano oi the Dean
The (Gabildo cannot make la s Nie' tlle public. It can
only recommen- d to tle Governorm regulations or the police
and by law's 1for its o0wn lprocdlure. In Spalnish times these
would also acquire lthe approval of the King.
The mtemblers hiat\e certain privilXcs. Tlie\ arc excemipt
from Militia dutv. They ('anno1t be pl in jail except in the
Town Hall. 'Th'e\ (cannot be actedd 1(elbc at judc bhLt llhe
Escribano \\atls upon tlheli and take; a s.torn declaration in
their o,\n Iho ,sec. he\ I c p) erence in public lma-kets in
the choice of pirclia.-.cs.
The Alcaldes ofl a i ai e litIe kno\\ in i Si tlanisll Ai eritia.
As in Madrid and in other >lSpanish (ities. so in Trinidad tihe
are appointed to assist :dminisliration o( justice and lthe
preservation of p(a-e 'and order. T'e\ actl eitircl\ under
powers dclegat'ed b\ tihe Alcaldes in ()rdillar and1 alr limited
by certain bounds.
of justice; ithle sjl ies i- of d lt ficeIs of' lihe (abildo, the
salaries ol a i'Pl] siciant alnd a Sul. (oii to a tend to poor persons,
the salai\ ol a Schloohlmat( Ir 16he eik en f thle ptcr ; Ihe
rent (of a i 11(touse for l it' e i: tin gs of the ( abildo ol a jail
and in public calamities hl help to t('he poor.
T1li ReveC Ie t was obtained htom tlihe pr cen t. of imlprt
and cxporit dus lor a wharf, ioni a [ax (on arts to ktlp thi
pavement of street in 1 dor. Tll(i \was a (omnmittce of
Public Funds; a Junlta. Municipal cons" ling ol tlhe Alc ald of
First Election, T"',o R(ecid s is: and the( S1 dic. All ii s
proceedings canm under tlhe niro o diatic diw(lion and control
of the govs iimant, Int S;:i, i it iab canme under the
con(:,ol of tle .Jui ta Siet ,io e l-'aci(e-dt a now replaced b.
the Go\ 'c nor in (' u l IC, l c ite 'A .I c -e i\ to the Ch st ;
one kept 1;y l'e Alcaldc of i't Elcction, the second by the
lEscril)ano and third l ithe I)(sit(r (cne l. Anm surplus
was to 1be used for public works, in i(;()E a jail was erected
and a bcginnin, .ade no a. ho..pii;dl !or those:-.c found ill in
the str1 ets.
ThI' Audilor or Assessor was the Civil I icut. Governor.
He acted lbr Ihe Gooxernor in civil affairs 1 tut not in imilita \
which \\as done by the senior officer of the .airin. He wav, is
also Auditor de Guerra since tlhe proceedings of all G'i.iU
Martial required his approval.