THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No 470.
Instructions given by Don Josef Maria Chacon, Governor of
Trinidad, to the Commissaries of Population in that Island. 1787.
Source:-Parliamentary Papers. London. 1826-27. XXIII.
Port of Spain in the Island of
Trinidad de Barlovento.
3rd January 1787.
His Excellency Don Josef Maria Chacon,
Colonel of His Majesty's Troops, Gover-
nor, Commandant General, Inspector of
the Garrison, Subdelegate Intendant,
Judge of the Royal Lands, Protector of
Ports and Royal Messengers, Royal Vice
Patron, etc, etc,
That of all the circumstances which render this
country valuable, its great fertility and extent of land
are undoubtedly the most considerable. Thereby a
flourishing agriculture may be established to serve as
the basis of an active commerce. These would main-
tain a numerous population and produce immense riches
for the State.
Without this, notwithstanding its excellent posi-
tion, the Island would become a heavy charge to the
Crown: the fortifications which must be erected to de-
fend its position and the sums necessary for its par-
ticular encumbrances, would only be a burden to the
other already surcharged dominions of His Majesty.
Therefore the advantages which Nature has given
to this Island should be husbanded and should give with
great regularity the full profits from their use and that
the good which Our Sovereign has intended, shall re-
sult; and the purpose for which they were created,
shall be accomplished.
They are a treasure from which the losses, fat-
igues and risks of emigration, are to be re-imbursed.
They are the foundation of a prospective fortune which
every settler expects to realise, for himself and his
Therefore there is no one who has not some right,
more or less extensive, according to the state of his
family, to this patrimony which Our August Sovereign
has promised and gives to every individual, in absol-
ute proprietorship to him and his successors, so that
he shall never be interrupted or disturbed in the use
And, although this subject has most particularly
occupied my attention since I have assumed this Gov-
ernment, I have not yet been able to satisfy my desire
personally to remedy the disputes and ruinous suits
which I have found existing, due to want of knowledge
order and method with which lands should have former-
ly been given and received.
Since therefore, my care ought to be extended to
all parts and being unable to examine personally into
the nmrit or the correctness of information given ab-
out disputed lands, I have frequently found the decis-
ion and conclusion of suits, impossible.
I have for these reasons and in order to fulfil my
obligations, represented to His Majesty that it was
necessary to create at least three Officers as Commis-
saries of Population, whose duties should only be to
attend to the distribution of lands and matters thereto
belonging: and His Majesty having been graciously
pleased to attend to the urgency of my prayer and or-
dered the appointment of three Commissaries, whose
functions and employment should be such as I might de-
termine under the circumstances.
With this object and bearing in mind the existing
situation of the Colony, I have for the present deter-
mined what is contained in the following Articles of
this Decree, of which the Escribano will draw out five
copies formally attested; three for the respective Com-
missaries, one to be deposited in the Archives of the
Cabildo and the other to remain in the Secretariat of
Josef Maria Chacon.
And thus it was decreed and ordered by His
Excellency, the Governor, to which I certify
Before me Luis Centeno.
Articles which specify the Employment of
the Commissaries and point out the
Extent of their Duties.
1. The Island will be divided into three Divis-
ions, each of which is in charge of one Commissary.
The First is to consist of the Quarters of Las Cuevas,
Salibia, Guanapo, Tacarigua, Cimeronero, Ventilla,
Santa Ana, Mucurapo, Tragarete, Maraval, Diego Mar-
tin and Carenero. The Second is to consist of the
Quarters of Naparima, Galiota, Cocal and Guatero.
The Third is to consist of the Quarters of Guapo, Los
Gallos and Guayaguayare.
2. The principal charge of the Commissaries is
that of obtaining with the greatest exactitude,a know-
ledge of the lands in these three Divisions; to know
those lands which have been granted and those which
remain to be granted; to know the estate of each in-
habitant and the cultivation which each carries on; to
examine the navigable rivers therein and the roads
which have already been opened and those which ought
to be made to facilitate the transport of produce; also
whatsoever can further conduce to the agriculture, the
commerce and population of these Divisions,the police
and the happiness of the inhabitants. And these ser-
vices shall be rewarded proportionably to the merits
and worth of each and to the good results therefrom.
3. In order to obtain this knowledge, they shall
begin their work in their Divisions by a general visit
to all estates, finishing in each whatever proceedings
may be necessary to enable the Government to decide
any case and give to the rightful possessor, a regular
title in order that no dispute whatever may arise res-
pecting the possession of that land.
4. For this purpose the Commissaries shall begin
to verify the persons of whom his family consists, the
slaves he owns, those which he proposed to bring, what
time has elapsed since this was promised, how long he
has been here and the titles by which he holds these
lands. After the whole has been verified, the Commis-
saries will cite the neighbours of his boundaries, to
state any exceptions they may wish to take and then
advise the Government of the result by a clear and
5. These whole proceedings they will prepare be-
fore and with witnesses for the purpose of verification
there being, meanwhile, no Royal Escribano available
to execute a sworn statement and thereby authorisation
and adequate jurisdiction given,as the Law requires.
6. Every Plantation shall be measured and sur-
veyed before the title is given because, without this,
every possession is liable to dispute. With this in view
the Commissaries are instructed to order, in the course
of their visits, the admeasurement of such estates as
are not yet surveyed and in the case where any alrea-
dy measured should be doubted,the surveyor shall ver-
ify the same afresh, doing this with all possible cir-
cumspection not to cause expense to the parties.
7. All surveyors will be at the command of the
Commissaries for the admeasurements necessary, for
which purpose the Government will give the appropri-
ate orders. They shall also study from the plans, what
has previously been done in the respective Divisions.
8. The Commissaries shall be obliged to give an
official notice to the Commandants of the Quarters
where they are going to work, so that they may be ab-
le to acquaint those who can assist, whereof-the re-
quisite orders have already been given.
9. The Commissaries are to hear the parties who
wish to claim rights respecting matters of land and to
settle the same amicably whenever it is possible. In
case of necessity, they will open litigation and ver-
ify the process, so as to have the same prepared for
judgement; when it should be transmitted to the Gov-
ernment to decide as may be proper.
10. As in future no grants will be made without
their knowledge, they are required, with the greatest
zeal and propriety, to obtain personal knowledge. The
excuse of relying upon the reports of others, will not
be accepted as they must abide by their own inspect-
ion and be responsible for the information supplied.
11. As it is impossible with new appointments to
provide for all possibilities, the Commissaries are re-
quired to use their judgement and discretion in cases
unprovided for, reporting to the Government what they
judge, most appropriate, in the circumstances. After
consideration of such reports, the particular merits of
each case will be presented for His Majesty's consid-
Josef Maria Chacon.
Port of Spain. Luis Centeno.
3rd January 1787. Escribano.
Instructions added on the 12th March 1787.
The Commissaries will keep in mind that all lands
granted to the inhabitants, are granted on condition
that they occupy, cultivate and make them productive.
Therefore, in all concessions hitherto given, a time
limit has been particularly specified and in others it
is assumed. All those who have not complied with this
essential condition, remain without any right whatever
to the lands granted to them and they will be availab-
le for any other applicant who will cultivate them.
The Commissaries will bear this in mind and pro-
ceed accordingly in all cases which come before them.
Josef Maria Chacon.
Port of Spain.
12th March 1787.
Instructions added on the 28th October 1788.
The population of this new country requires a dai-
ly augmentation of vigilance because of the increase
of immigrants. As it is not practicable to augment in
the same degree, those who have care of their preser-
vation and who watch over and maintain good order, on
account of the great charges which the State has to
bear and of the considerable expense incurred for this
I have determined that the duties of the Commis-
saries of Population, hitherto confined to the distrib-
ution and disposition of lands, shall be extended to
various branches of settlement, agriculture, the order
and development of the country and to the conservation
and government of slaves and labourers. These duties,
I expect them to undertake as zealously and efficiently
as they have hitherto acted, regulating themselves by
the instructions given by me and keeping in mind that
His Majesty, to whom I shall report their merits, will
recompense their labours, and proportionably reward
1. The two Sub Commissaries will be under the
direction of the First Commissary and in case of sick-
ness, they will relieve in routine duties.
2. The First Commissary shall keep an exact Reg-
ister of all families already established in the Island.
Those of each Quarter will be entered in a separate
book showing the classes,nations and countries whence
they came, the numbers of individuals composing the
same, distinguishing the free from the slaves, any aug-
mentations or diminutions since their arrival in the Is-
land and the occupations they follow.
3. There shall be added to this Register daily,
those who arrive to settle. Respecting them, the same
details shall be entered, so as to be prepared to give
the Government any necessary information, whenever
4. In order to complete this Register, all inhab-
itants are required to notify the Commissary whenever
they change their estate in order that they may be reg-
istered in the Quarter to which they move and be noted
in that from which they have gone.
5. The Commissary shall present to the Govern-
ment every year, a list of the actual population in the
month of December, noting the births and deaths in the
course of the year.
6. In order to complete this census, each inhab-
itant shall present to the Commissary a list of his fam-
ily. As regards slaves, he shall declare all runaways,
deaths and those purchased. The Commissary shall take
special care to note the condition of these unfortunate
beings and advise the Government of whatever is nec.
essary for their preservation.
To make this Regulation effective, whether the
population augment or decrease, the First Commissary
shall, every year in January, call a meeting (at which
he will preside) of his sub officers and the Command.
ants of all the Quarters, at which all the records will
be considered and recommendations made for the imp-
rovement and welfare of the Colony.
7. It will be the duty of the First Commissary to
inform himself of the mortality in each Quarter, to com-
pare this with the others, and when found extraordin-
ary, (especially in slaves), he should endeavour to
learn the cause, and if possible, prevent and correct
Articles which relate to the Development
8. The plantations shall be registered in the sa-
me book wherein the inhabitants of each Quarter are
registered; at the same time placing therein, the plans
of the shape and extent of the lands possessed and the
boundaries which separate it from the neighbours.
9. In order to verify the same accurately, the
First Commissary will cause all the lands which are
occupied and those which are not yet so, to be ad-
measured and cause boundary marks to be placed upon
the dividing lines so that each may know his limits
and the frequency of disputes be avoided.
10. Adequate jurisdiction is hereby given,to ver-
ify all litigation already existing and that which may
arise anew, respecting the proprietorship of lands, un-
til they can be brought to a state for decision; in wh-
ich case they :ill be passed to the Government accom-
panied by his opinion.
11. The First Commissary will reduce and correct
the pretensions of all those who have appropriated to
themselves,more land than belongs to them. In the dis-
tribution of these lands to be newly granted, he will
be governed by the orders and instructions, already
given to him.
12. Every inhabitant must keep open the boundary
lines of his lands and preserve the land marks. When-
ever this is neglected the First Commissary shall cau-
se a resurvey, as from this default arise the greatest
number of suits.
13. No inhabitant shall alienate,sell or renounce
the proprietorship of his lands in favour of another,
entirely or in part, without notice to the First Com-
missary who is to record whatever alterations are ne-
cessary in the Registration Book of the Quarter. With-
out this formality, all contracts are void.
14. The First Commissary, every year, shall vis-
it the plantations of all the inhabitants at the same
time as the return is made. In the return should be re-
corded the quantity of land cleared, that which is cul-
tivated, the nature of the cultivation, what the har-
vest might yield, whether the land be proper for the
cultivation adoptendand all such further observations
as may complete this valuable record.
15. The First Commissary shall record the amount
of provisions planted by each inhabitant for the main-
tenance of his negroes, including their quality. He
should report to me in this respect, such regulations
as may be deemed conducive to hinder the grievances
and abuses committed through inconsiderate avarice of
16. The First Commissary should inform himself
as to the methods by which each inhabitant increases
his crops, the labour he employs to reap them, the ma-
chinery each has to save time and labour. Upon every
particular, he will make such recommendation as will
lead to the development of the most useful and simple
17. The First Commissary should present in every
year at the meeting to be held in the month of January,
a statement of his observations on all these particul-
ars together with his conclusions, so as to determine
what should be done for the advancement of the Col-
ony, the improvement of its lands and the increase of
Articles which relate to the Development
18. The making of Royal Roads and their lay out,
will be the duty of the First Commissary. He will de-
termine, with the advice of the Commandant of each
Quarter together with the principal inhabitants, and
lay before me, plans of the course, estimates of the
cost, means to be employed, quality of the ground and
report why one situation is preferable to another and
any other matter which may be pertinent.
19. The First Commissary will take care that all
inhabitants enclose that part of their estates which
border a public road with lime trees, campeachy wood
or other useful trees;that these be trimmed every year
with a hedge kept growing, interspersed here and there
with orange or other useful fruit trees,so as to delight
the eye and temper the heat of the sun for the relief
of travellers; thus procuring uniformity as much as
possible and inducing inhabitants to make their houses
as near to the road as possible.
20. The greater part of the Island roads can, and
ought to, be carriage roads and all must have the same
breadth from ditch to ditch and be of sufficient width
21. Henceforth, and in proportion as lands shall
be given, all necessary adjustments for roads shall be
made so as to avoid the heavy suits and difficult dis-
cussions which might hereafter arise. Moreover the
roads of communication which may be made from one
place to another, shall be narrower than the Royal
Roads, provided they be sufficiently wide for wheel
carriages and commodious enough to transport the pro-
duce, with ditches and watercourses to run off winter
22. These roads of communication shall likewise
have hedges which the inhabitants are obliged to make
and maintain so as to avoid thefts or damage by anim-
als,with consequent complaints. These occur frequent-
ly and are a continual embarrassment to the Govern-
23. As with roads, so also with respect to rivers.
Those who make settlements on the banks, should keep
clear the navigation and keep the river free from ob-
structions. Fruit trees should be planted at distances
which will preserve coolness. The banks should always
be kept open and clear so that boats may be towed by
horses or other means, and so facilitate navigation.
24. The lesser and not navigable rivers are also
to be kept clear and free from obstructions so as to
prevent inundations during the heavy showers and to
maintain a free waterway.
25. The First Commissary will bear in mind the
bridges which may be necessary to facilitate commun-
ication and will report on materials, costs, and means
26. The First Commissary will, twice or oftener
in the year,arrange for the clearing and repairs of the
roads in each Quarter, distributing the work according
to the number of slaves belonging to each inhabitant,
the quantity of land in his estates and the frontage on
each road, as he shall think equitable and proper.
27. The First Commissary shall present to the An-
nual Meeting in January of each year, a statement of
what he has done and proposes to do in each Quarter,
so that any necessary Resolution may be determined
with the affected parties present.
Articles relating to the Organisation
of Safety and Order.
28. The policing of the Island is entrusted to the
three Commissaries. The First Commissary is entrusted
with its direction and he should submit to me, such ru-
les as he may deem necessary to maintain order and se-
curity for the inhabitants whose protection is most par-
ticularly committed to him.
29. All the three Commissaries will have ordinary
jurisdiction in the country and shall be considered as
Alcaldes, taking cognisance of all robberies, quarrels
and disorders which may happen, prosecuting and ap.
prehending vagabonds, as well as those who seduce the
slaves of others and hide fugitives, finding work for
them on their estates.
30. Every inhabitant is required to give notice to
the Commandant of the Quarter immediately a slave ab-
sconds and he should do the same to the First Commis-
sary if the slave does not appear within a month.
31. Knowing the record of all runaway slaves,the
First Commissary shall take steps to ascertain the sit-
uation of their retreat. When this is known, he shall
report to me the forces necessary to be sent and meas-
ures to be taken, so that I may decide. He should be
specially vigilant in this respect and spare the Colony
as far as possible, from this kind of warfare.
32. The First Commissary will report to me, what
new parishes should be made as the population increa-
ses so that country people may have the necessary sp.
iritual guardianship. He should report the condition of
the people and the number of people proposed for the
parish, their families, the property possessed, the
lands cultivated, the situation and advantages of the
district and all such further matters as may be essen-
tial to a decision whether a new parish or village be
Articles relating to the Preservation
and Government of Slaves.
33. The First Commissary is charged with the
preservation and government, of all slaves in the Is-
land, it being his duty to report to me such regulations
as he considers will be most conducive to the one and
34. The First Commissary will carefully examine
and give particular attention to the conduct of owners
so as to prevent inhumanity and ill treatment whereby
the slaves might be destroyed. He should report to me
whatever he notices in this respect,without taking any
action unless the matter be very urgent.
35. The First Commissary will ensure that every
one plants the provisions requisite and adequate for
the maintenance of his slaves, indicating the quantity
of land necessary for each kind of provision,according
to the number of slaves. In this respect the First Com-
missary is to be firm and unyielding in his decision.
36. The First Commissary is to take cognisance
of any offence between slave and master or free man.
If the matter be criminal, he shall pass it to the Tri-
bunal of the Government to be proved, accompanied by
Articles relating to the Arrangement
of the Annual Meeting.
37. This meeting is to be held every year in the
beginning of January and shall continue, more days or
less, according to the matters laid before it. It shall
be called "The Meeting of Economics, Agriculture,
Commerce and Settlement."
38. This Meeting shall for the present, consist of
the three Commissaries of Population, the Commandants
of Quarters and the most notable inhabitants whose op-
inions may be necessary, for the determination of the
39. The Governor shall be President of the Meet-
ing. In his absence,the Lieutenant Governor shall pre-
side and in the absence of both, the First Commissary
40. The Second Commissary shall be its Secret-
ary and in his absence, the Third Commissary.
41. In addition to the duty of the First Commis-
sary to lay before the Annual Meeting, the state of the
population, of agriculture and of the communications of
the Island, the actual crops and the state of order, ac-
companied with such conclusions as the experience of
his office justifies. It will be his duty and the partic-
ular object of each of the members, to secure a full
discussion of each subject and a considered decision.
42. Whatever is discussed at these Meetings, sh.
would be recorded by the Secretary in a book kept for
that purpose and all Memorials presented in writing,
should be entered in the Archives of the Commissaries
for the Government.
43. Every year will add to the duties prescribed
for the First Commissary and his assistants. Their ex-
perience will decide what is necessary to preserve and
augment the settlement of the Colony, improve its ag-
riculture and increase its communications.
44. The Commissaries will, with great tact, sec-
ure the peaceful settlement of new inhabitants who, al-
though subjects of His Majesty by the oath they have
taken, yet keep the language, customs and principles
of their separate nations when they come; and ensure
that they adapt and conform themselves, so far as is
necessary, to our Government and our Laws.
Josef Maria Chacon.
And thus it was decreed and ordered by
His Excellency, the Governor,
to which I certify
Before me Luis Centeno.
Port of Spain.
28th October 1788.