Teachers Economic and
Cultural Association, Ltd.
PEOPLE'S EDUCATION MOVEMENT
CONSTITUTION REFORM IN TRINIDAD
Wl 722 c,
PUBLf 6I AIRS PAMPHLETS No. 2
PRC 24 CENTS-
*A F B CIC Lt -. RE
Given under the auspices of
THE PEOPLE'S EDUCATION MOVEMENT
OF THE T.E.C.A., LTD.
in Woodford Square, Port-of-Spain,
JULY 19, 1955
and repeated at
Auzonville Savannah, Tunapuna,
JULY 21, 1955
The Car Park, Couva,
JULY 22, 1955
Frisco Junction, Point Fortin,
JULY 23, 1955
Casbah Club, Fyzabad,
JULY 24, 1955
The Race Stand, Arima,
JULY 25, 1955
Harris Promenade, San Fernando,
JULY 26, 1955
St. Andrew's High School, Sangre Grande,
AUGUST 2, 1955
FIRST PUBLISHED, AUGUST 6, 1955
All Rights Reserved
MR. CHAIRMAN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
I am very happy indeed to see, from the large audience here tonight,
the importance attached to constitution reform in Trinidad and Tobago.
It is further confirmation of a fact more and more people are beginning
to recognise-the great desire for knowledge and education, especially
political education, on the part of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
A few persons resent this. One recent critic of mine has said that the
audience at my lectures is an "uncultured mob "; I hope the doctors,
lawyers, dentists, civil servants, housewives and workers in the audience
have noted this. Only on Sunday another one grumbled that it is hardly
possible that improvement will come from the quantity rather than the
quality of the audiences I seem now to be courting. Isn't that silly ?
What on earth is wrong with trying to give political education to the
people ? All these critics have had a century and a half to pursue their
own policy of working on the few rather than the many. Look at the
mess they have bequeathed to us.
A third critic got very angry at the fact that I do not keep my dis-
cussions to university circles. He is quite wrong. I do. Where he and
I differ is in our conception of the university. He thinks of a narrow
aristocratic group wearing caps and gowns and trying hard to look
learned. I think rather of the broad masses of the people in working
or casual clothes trying hard to understand their difficulties and sensing
instinctively that education can help them to do this. The age of exclu-
siveness in university education is gone forever, though our West Indian
University College perversely refuses to recognize this. Somebody
once said that all that was needed for a university was a book and the
branch of a tree ; someone else went further and said that a university
should be a university in overalls. With a bandstand, a microphone,
a large audience in slacks and hot shirts, a topical subject for discussion,
the open air and a beautiful tropical night, we have all the essentials
of a university. Now that I have resigned my position at Howard Uni-
versity in the U.S.A., the only university in which I shall lecture in future
is the University of Woodford Square and its several branches throughout
the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago.
Our subject tonight, constitution reform in Trinidad and Tobago,
is eminently suited to university discussion. It is in this spirit that I
propose to approach it-to examine the history of constitution reform
in the light of reason and experience and to attempt the drafting of a
constitution consonant with the needs of Trinidad and Tobago and har-
monising with the aspirations of its inhabitants.
It is a commonplace today of Caribbean politics that Trinidad and
Tobago is at the bottom of the political ladder. There is nothing new
in this. Trinidad-though not Tobago-has been at the bottom of the
British West Indian political ladder ever since its capture by Great
Britain in 1797.
In considering the type of constitution to be granted to Trinidad,
the British Government had before it two precedents-the old West
Indian colonies, like Barbados, Jamaica and the Leeward Islands,
governed by a Legislature which comprised the Governor, a nominated
Council and an elected Assembly; and conquered colonies like Quebec
in Canada, governed by the Governor and a nominated Council, without
an elected Assembly.
Trinidad, unlike Quebec, but like Barbados and Jamaica, was a
colony in which slaves constituted the majority of the population.
Trinidad, however, differed from the older British West Indian colonies
in the fact that people of colour rather than whites constituted the ma-
jority of the free people. If Trinidad, therefore, was given an elected
assembly like that of Barbados or Jamaica, the people of colour would
have had a preponderance; to exclude them from the vote would have
constituted a serious injustice. Moreover, the white people of Trinidad,
unlike the white people of Jamaica and Barbados, consisted of a mixture
of people of all nations, ignorant of the British Constitution and un-
accustomed to its operation.
Jamaica, too, was a conquered colony. But Trinidad differed in
yet another important respect from Jamaica. Jamaica had been annexed
by Britain in 1655, before the development of the slave system ; Trinidad
was annexed in the midst of the agitation over the slave trade which
was abolished in 1807. The British Government was not only anxious
to supervise the slave trade legislation; it was also about to embark
on a policy of the gradual abolition of slavery from above, by pres-
cribing regulations for improving the condition of the slaves which
could not be resisted, as in Barbados and Jamaica, by a planter-dominated
Assembly. The argument was well stated in 1811 by a Member of Par-
liament, George Canning, a future Prime Minister:
It seemed to have been the design of the British govern-
ment to make a new experiment in Trinidad, and to inquire,
previous to the happy abolition of the slave trade, into the prac-
ticability of preserving it free from the pollution, in order to
furnish the means of a practical examination of the advantages
of the plan. The colony was, therefore, an exception to all the
principles on which the constitution of the other islands was
founded ... He felt in the highest degree averse to add Trinidad
to the number of those islands where the introduction of every
plan for ameliorating the condition of the slaves was uniformly
Those people in Trinidad and Tobago, therefore, who are so anxious
for me to let slave history rest are the type of people who would
want to discuss the British Constitution today but omit all reference
to the seventeenth century revolution against the absolute monarchy,
the cradle of the developments from which the British Constitution of
today has emerged.
For these three reasons-slavery, the preponderance of the people
of colour, and the majority of white aliens-the British Government
therefore concluded that Trinidad should not be granted an elected
assembly but that the Governor should be assisted by a purely advisory
nominated council whose opinion he was not bound to follow. The
decision, as communicated by the Secretary of State for the Colonies
to the Governor of Trinidad on November 27, 1810, reads as follows:
"... you may consider it as a point determined, that it is
not advisable to establish, within the island of Trinidad, any
independent internal Legislature.
In reserving to Himself the power of legislation, His Majesty
will, in some degree, delegate that power, as far as local considera-
tions may render it necessary or expedient, to the Governor,
as His representative, whose acts will be always subject to be
revised, altered or revoked, by His Majesty Himself.
In exercising this power for local purposes, His Majesty
feels the advantage which may arise from a council selected by
the Governor from the most respectable of the inhabitants of
the island ; but such a council must be considered as a council
of advice, and not of control.
The determination of the Governor, even if it should be
contrary to the opinion of such a council, must be considered
as obligatory till such time as His Majesty's pleasure shall be
known, though the members of the council may in such cases be
allowed to transmit their opinions, together with their reasons,
for His Majesty's consideration."
Thus did Trinidad become a crown colony, with a constitution
inferior to those of Barbados, Jamaica and the Leeward Islands. One
was entitled to expect that, with the abolition of slavery in 1833, with
the increase of the British element in the population, and with the steady
assimilation of both the people of colour and the foreign white element
to British institutions, the reason for Trinidad's inferior constitution,
however valid in 1810, would become increasingly invalid.
This, however, was not the case. This was due, to some extent,
to the record of the self-governing assembly in Jamaica after emanci-
pation. The planters bitterly resented the abolition of slavery and the
abolition of protection in the British market, persecuted the emanci-
pated slaves, and in every conceivable way refused to cooperate, going
so far in their intransigence as to decline to vote supplies fortthe conduct
of the government. The famous Baptist missionary, William Knibb,
thus described the situation five years after emancipation:
"I feel confident that, by proper and consistent efforts, a few
years will obtain for us laws by which the upright shall be pro-
tected, in the enjoyment of his rights, and the unworthy or ished
for the evil that he doeth. But this must come from England.
The pandemonium at Spanish Town, called the House of Assem-
bly, have neither the will nor the sense to bring about so desirable
a change. Most of them are wedded to oppression. They cannot
breathe any other air. When grapes grow on brambles, then
may the people of England expect that the Jamaica slave-tyrants
will frame laws for the protection of that liberty which has des-
troyed all their long-cherished hopes. To entrust any longer
the cause of the poor people to them, will be an infatuation un-
equalled in the annals of political expediency. If peace is to be
the portion of Jamaica, they must be deprived of their power."
This was a virtual demand for crown colony government in Jamaica.
It was echoed in the Colonial Office by the Permanent Under Secretary,
James Stephen, a man of pronounced abolitionist views, who hinted,
just as broadly as Knibb, at the abolition of the Jamaica Assembly.
Stephen wrote in 1841 i
Popular Franchises in the hands of the Masters of a great
Body of Slaves were the worst instruments of tyranny which
were ever yet forged for the oppression of mankind. What the
Southern States of America are Jamaica was. If no Assembly
had even been established in the Island I doubt whether any
wise man would create such an institution even now, when Slavery
is extinct. For still there survive indelible natural distinctions
and recollections which divide Society into Castes, and which
must make the, legislation of the European more or less unjust
and oppressive towards the African Race."
The Governor of Jamaica, .Lord Elgin, one of the most talented
of British colonial administrators, who later became Governor-General
of Canada, vainly tried to stem the tide of passion and to make the
voice of reason heard. He wrote to the Secretary of State for the Colonies
in 1844 :
"I think that a popular representative system is, perhaps,
the best expeident that can be devised for blending into one
harmonious whole a community composed of diverse races and
colours ... In colonies which have no assemblies, it would appear
that aspiring intellects have not the same opportunity of finding
their level, and pent up ambitions lack a vent."
The Colonial Office, however, :ejected th's view. All that was
needed was a Governor who opposed representative government as
firmly as Elgin advocated it, and for the planters themselves to be con-
vinced. The opportunity came in 1865 when a serious rebellion broke
out in Jamaica, the issue being chiefly a question of landownership by
landless agricultural workers. The Governor took the opportunity to
propose the abolition of the elected Assembly; the planters, fearful
of the rising coloured middle class, agreed. Both the Secretary of State
for the Colonies and the Governor of Jamaica hoped to achieve a purely
nominated single chamber legislature; failing that, they were ready
to agree to a council with a majority of nominated members. Listen
to the Secretary of State for thejColonies in a despatch to the Governor
onDecember 1, 1865 : '
"Where there is no wide basis for constituent and repre-
sentative power and responsibility to rest upon, there is no
eligible alternative but to vest power and responsibility substan-
tially in the Crown. This is done in Trinidad, where the Council
consists of six official and six unofficial members, with a casting
vote in the Governor. The control which the colonists possess
over the proceedings of the Governor and his officers consists
in the free exposition of adverse views in debate, and the right
of recording protests which the Governor is bound to transmit
to the Secretary of State. The ultimate control over the Local
and Home Government alike is to be found in the power of ap-
pealing to Parliament, which is at all times ready to listen to
complaints of an undue exercise of authority on the part of the
Ministers of the Crown."
Thus, instead of raising Trinidad up to the level of Jamaica and
Barbados, Jamaica was reduced to the level of Trinidad. The crown
colony system, begun in Trinidad in orde- to protect the slaves from
the planters, ended up in Jamaica by protecting the planters from the
emancipated slaves. Ten years later, a similar attempt was made to
suspend the elected Assembly in Barbados, the issue being the federation
of some of the British West Indian territories. But the Barbados planters,
ably led by a coloured lawyer, Conrad Reeves, refused to agree to the
abolition of the ancient constitution of the iealm, and the British Gov-
ernment had to acknowledge defeat.
This Colonial Office policy was fully approved by the British intel-
lectuals of the day. I shall cite three examples-Thomas Carlyle, the
eminent man of letters, Anthony Trollope, the distinguished novelist,
and James Anthony Froude, Professor of Modern History at Oxford.
Trollope visited the West Indies in 1859, Froude in 1884; Carlyle knew
nothing of them, which naturally allowed him to speak with greater auth-
ority. All these three distinguished scholars had one thing in common-to
use a saying made famous at our race meetings, the more they looked,
the less they saw. They saw, in fact, only one thing-colour.
Carlyle, opposed to democracy in Britain itself, quite naturally
opposed it in the West Indies. Demanding even in Britain a system of
government based upon a leader and an aristocracy, he quite naturally
demanded the crown colony system in the West Indies. His philosophy,
stated in 1849 in the most offensive terms which I shall not here repro-
duce, was that adult suffrage meant that the vote of a Demerara Negro
was as good as that of a Shakespeare. He was particularly severe on
Dominica, which he considered to be an island capable of tremendous
development, but retarded by its government, which he described as
a piebald Parliament of eleven, headed by a Negro Demosthenes, gov-
erning a population consisting of a hundred whites and an unknown
number of rattlesnakes, profligate Negroes and mulattoes. Carlyle
dreamed longingly of what the King of Prussia might be able to make
of the island, and he ended with a sneer at the island's liberty to tax itself:
"Is not Self-government a sublime thing, in Colonial Islands
and some others ?"
Trollope opposed the old two-chamber legislature of Jamaica;
for which anyone who paid taxes or rent was entitled to vote. There
were 300,000 Negroes, 70,000 people of colour, 15,000 whites. It could
therefore easily be seen, said Trollope, in what hands the power of
electing must rest. For the same reason, he expressed satisfaction with
the system in Barbados ; all freeholders could vote, but then, Trollope
pointed out, care was taken that no coloured person or Negro should
own freeholds. Trollope stressed that the majority of the planters of
Jamaica would vote for the abolition of the elected assembly and for
the substitution of crown colony government. He himself supported this.
He wrote :
... in Trinidad and Guiana they have no House of Com-
mons, with Mr. Speaker, three readings, motions for adjournment.
and unlimited powers of speech ... With all the love that an
Englishman should have for a popular parliamentary representa-
tion, I cannot think it adapted to a small colony, even were that
colony not from circumstances so peculiarly ill fitted for it as
in Jamaica. In Canada and Australia it is no doubt very well :
the spirit of a fresh and energetic people struggling on into the
world's eminence will produce men fit for debating, men who
can stand on their own legs without making a house of legis-
lature ridiculous. But what could Lords and Commons do in
Malta, or Jersey? What would they do in the Scilly Islands?
What have they been doing in the Ionian Islands ? And, alas !
what have they done in Jamaica."
A quarter of a century later Froude visited Trinidad and found the
island in a state of excitement fairly frequent in its history-excitement
over constitution reform. As with Carlyle and Trollope, Froude's prin-
cipal concern was the question of colour. Should Trinidad or Jamaica
or all the West Indian islands govern themselves like Tasmania or New
Zealand ? Froude replied :
"The relative numbers of the two races being what they
ale, responsible government in Trinidad means government by
a black parliament and a black ministry ... If the Antilles are
ever to thrive, each of them should have some trained and skilful
man at its head, unembarrassed by local elected assemblies."
What, then, of a self-governing West Indian Federation?
Froude replied :
"A West Indian self-governed 'Dominion is possible only
with a full negro vote. If the whites are to combine, so will the
blacks. It will be a rule by the blacks and for the blacks. Let
a generation or two pass by and carry away with them the old
traditions, and an English governor-general will be found pre-
siding over a black council delivering the speeches made for
him by a black prime minister ; and how long could this endure ?
No English gentleman would consent to occupy so absurd a
So there we are, Ladies and Gentlemen, three of Britain's most
distinguished intellectuals were prepared to accept representative or
responsible government only for white people. That explains why Bar-
bados has always had an all-elected Assembly, why Trinidad has not
had one up to today, and why Jamaica lost hers in 1865.
Pardon me now if L stop a while for a pause that refreshes to address
a few questions, in the best university manner, to a gentleman, who
may possibly be a member of the audience. The gentleman's name is
H. Neal Fahey, O.B.E. A few weeks ago he accused me in the press of
creating "class and colour hatreds from end to end of this island ",
of being influenced by racial and colour prejudice ", and of rushing
into print with a deluge of personalities having absolutely no bearing
on the subject matter." I just wish to ask you tonight, Mr. Fahey,
whether you have ever told the people of Trinidad and Tobago that
Carlyle, Trollope and Froude, men much greater than I can ever hope
to be, have created class and colour hatreds from end to end of this
island and have been influenced by racial and colour prejudice. If you
have not done so, Mr. Fahey, will you tell us why ? Are we to under-
stand that, if you have not done so, it is because they are a deluge of
personalities having no bearing on the subject matter ? Or could it be
that you have not heard of Carlyle, Trollope and Froude, just as you
never heard of Clarkson until, by your own. public confession, I brought
him to your attention ?
It is against this background of intellectual prejudice and Colonial
Office contempt for local opinion and ability that the agitation for con-
stitution reform developed in Trinidad in the past hundred years. If
the movement in Jamaica was away from self-government to crown
colony inferiority, the demand for the abolition of crown colony status
in Trinidad was so much breath and time wasted.
The first advocate of reform was the Governor, Lord Harris, who,
between 1850 and 1851, made three separate proposals, all involving
the introduction of an elected element into the nominated council, to
the extent of either 50%, or 40%, or 33-1/3 % of the total membership.
Lord Harris' principal concern was to guard against two evils, which
he described as follows :
"Either by restricting the franchise too much, legislation
may be delivered over to an oligarchy in the shape of a mer-
cantile plutocracy, or on the other hand by not having sufficient
checks it may be commanded by a half civilised and uneducated
populace liable to the sudden excitements and fluctuations of
such masses in which the antipathies of class would be increased"
by those of colour."
Lord Harris therefore proposed a franchise based in the counties
on a ward rate of 20/- a year and open to all burgesses who possessed
a vote in the towns. The Governor was to have the right of veto on all
acts of the Council and power to withhold his assent pending the
decision of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
These proposals were very progressive a hundred years ago. They
involved giving the vote to over 7,000 ratepayers in the island whose
property was valued at nearly $4 millions, a large sum in those days.
The Colonial Office, however, said no, and there matters remained
for thirty-six years, until a popular movement for reform developed,
as a result of which a petition was signed by 5,000 people in Trinidad
in July 1887, which reads :
"That the system of Government which now obtains in
this Colony is no longer adapted to the requirements and aspira-
tions of its inhabitants ..
That the material and intellectual progress of the Colony
since 1850 entitles the taxpayers to have a voice in its legislation
and some control over its taxation and expenditure ..."
The British Government thereupon appointed a Royal Commission
to consider the possibility of extending the franchise in Trinidad to those
capable of exercising it with intelliges:.i a l of electing half of the mem-
bership of the Council. The big qla-es.jn was whether the Indians,
living for the most part in a state of half-freedom, half-slavery, as in-
dentured workers, should be eligible for the vote. -The evidence pre-
sented to the Commission reveals a highly developed liberalism in
Trinidad far ahead of the reactionary outlook which permeated the
Colonial Office. West Indians and English residents, all colours, races
and religions combined in an unprecedented demonstration for con-
stitution reform, which completely disproves Froude's slander four
Let us consider the West Indians first. Take, for example, the evi-
dence of Mr. Philip Rostant, editor of a newspaper, Public Opinion.
Mr. Rostant was asked whether a low franchise would not mean, in
years to come, a very considerable preponderance of the Indian vote
(a much more offensive word was used, but I prefer not to wound the
susceptibilities of any member of my audience). Mr. Rostant, who
favoured the imposition of an educational test, replied : "it does not
matter much who has the preponderance provided they are intelligent
and educated people."
Then there was Mr. Charles Fabien, a cocoa merchant, who was
utterly opposed to any educational test. He said:
I do not understand by education that education necessarily
includes reading and writing. Education is the whole of a man's
bringing up, and a man may educate himself and become a very
good proprietor of land and perform all his duties to society
without having been able to read and write ... that man should
not, in my opinion, be deprived of a vote because he cannot read
and write ... If you had any educational test here you would
refuse the best men of the country a vote."
Ladies and Gentlemen, this was 1888. Even in 1946 there were
many Trinidadians who could not achieve this degree of liberalism.
Mr. Eugene Lange, a former Mayor of Port-of-Spain, advocated
an educational test, but in the voter's language. He argued:
"The voters may read and write in their own language. It
is very difficult to say that education is the only test of intelligence.
The education test is merely formal and will tend to greater pro-
gress for the future."
Mr. Louis Wharton. a young barrister of twenty-six, wanted no
educational test whatsoever. He was convinced from his knowledge of
the people that they were sufficiently intelligent, industrious and shrewd
to exercise the franchise.
Mr. Felix Lazare, 32 years of age, a Trinidadian born of French
parents, was not prepared to insist on more than ability to write one's
name in English as an educational test; he was particularly emphatic
that Indians should have the right to vote.
Henry Alcazar, a young barrister of 27, later to become one of
Trinidad's great men, was all for reform. Did he think it dangerous
to lower the franchise ? He replied:
"I do not think it is dangerous ; I think they are sufficiently
educated to be admitted to the franchise, though at the same
time I admit that they are not as educated as they might have
been if they had had the advantages which most other com-
munities have of educating themselves ; but still I say that this
is not an argument which should be used against them-it comes
ill in the mouth of those who are against reform, because they
are the very persons who prevented them from attaining that
standard of education which they should have."
Then there was Mr. Joseph Crichlow of Arima, a Barbadian im-
migrant who said proudly that his interests had become identical with
Trinidad and that he stood or fell by Trinidad. He submitted a written
statement to the Commission in which he advocated that Indo-
Trinidadians as he called them, people born in Trinidad of Indian parents,
should be on the same footing as any other British subject, while Asiatics,
indentured immigrants from India, should be allowed to vote also after
ten years' residence. Asked whether this should be conceded to them
despite the fact that they could claim repatriation by the government,
Mr. Crichlow replied : "I do not see that we should necessarily take
that into consideration."
One Indian, Mr. Juppy, who had been in' Trinidad for thirty-four
years, gave evidence before the Commission. His speech was most
amusing, but there could be no denying the political sagacity behind
the pidgin English. Listen to the exchange of views :
"Chairman: Mr. Juppy, do you wish yourself, and do you think
your countrymen wish to be choosing a gentleman to go
and make laws ?-Me-self can't choose-um me-self. Some
like-um this man; some no like-um this man. All man no
got-um same opinion. Some againstt one another.
Mr. Wilson : Now the Queen appoint-um. You like better that
all the people all round choose-um, instead of Queen
Witness : No ; more better for people here point-um ....
Chairman: ... Better the people 'point-um than the Queen?
Witness : Yes, because they people the gentleman live here and
appoint higher people make-um law. Because me-self can't
go see Queen. Me know all-you sabbey point it out.
Dr. de Verteuil: He means he cannot see the Queen but he can
see the people here.
Mr. Garcia: He means he cannot advise the Queen who to
nominate because he cannot get to her, but if he is asked to
nominate he knows whom to nominate."
It was not only the West Indians who advocated constitution
Reform and supported the extension of the franchise even to Indians.
Take the case of Mr. George Goodwille, a Scotch merchant who had
been in the colony for twenty years. Mr. Goodwille was quite prepared
to give the vote to the Indians. He said : "I think the Indian children
are quite as capable of development to high perfection as any other
that we have here." He was asked whether the Indians should be given
the vote even though they had the right to claim a return passage to
India after ten years. He replied that they were no different from English
people who came to stay for a time and then went away.
Edgar Tripp, a merchant who had lived in Trinidad for sixteen
years, described the island as "naturally one of the richest places in
the world, otherwise it would long ago have been ruined by adverse
influences." How right he was Think of the adverse influences in the
last five years alone Mr. Conrad Stollmeyer, who had been in Trinidad
for over forty years, and who has given the island one of its most honour-
able families, echoed Mr. Tripp's sentiments. He was asked how he
could reconcile his statement that the public interest had been neglected
with the fact that Trinidad was one of the most flourishing of the West
Indian colonies. Mr. Stollmeyer replied:
Because it is the most blessed by Providence. It has every-
thing that is great and good and only wants a little activity to
be developed. Trinidad is so great that it cannot retrograde,
no matter how badly it is governed."
Take now the evidence of Father Browne, the Principal of St. Mary's
College, who had resided in Trinidad for twenty-four years. The Sec-
retary of State had particularly insisted that the clergy of all denomi-
nations should be invited to speak as to the general intelligence of the
community, insofar as they had had it under observation. Listen to
Father Browne :
"I must agree with a great deal of wha' Mr. Fabien said,
that there are a great many intelligent men who are n educated
and who are yet very good managers of estates, th&: is to say,
about Caroni and those places. I have met many of the-, ntel-
ligent in their way, yet I think that with regard to reading and
writing they know very little, although they are sufficiently well
able to understand the interests of an estate, thoroughly. But
I would not know where to draw a line with regard to education
or to intelligence."
Here, then, was a schoolmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen, who didn't
know where to draw the line. He was not singular in this. For another
schoolmaster could not-Rev. K. J. Grant, the bearer, like Stollmeyer,
of another famous name in the commercial and sporting history of
Trinidad, head of the Canadian Mission to the Indians for over seventeen
years. The Rev. Mr. Grant was emphatic that the Indians were a shrewd
class of people, who took an intelligent interest in politics, and were
conversant with all that had transpired before the Commission. Rev.
Grant thought that there was no reason for making any distinction
between Indians and others.
Another witness before the Commission was an Englishman,
Horatio Edwin Rapsey, who had lived in Trinidad for 42 years. Mr.
Rapsey's evidence was an out-and-out indictment of Colonial Office
rule. He wanted votes for women, the secret ballot, a franchise based
on a monthly income of $40 or possession of a house or land worth
$96 or payment of $9.60 a year in taxes, and payment of elected members
of the Council at the rate of ten dollars a sitting. Mr. Rapsey favoured
an educational test in English for all persons under forty-he would
not penalise those over forty, he said:
"Because unfortunately the British Government did not
do their duty ... I would not exclude the unfortunate people
that the neglect of the British Government brought up in
He was quite prepared to have officials on the Council but wished
to leave it to the Governor in his discretion to select them. He explained
it this way :
"We may get a nincompoop, some cast-off of some rich
family sent out here to fill some office, saddled upon us ... I am
sorry to say we have had some very ricketty people as officials
here sent out from home-very ricketty people."
When reminded that the Secretary of State for the Colonies had
set a possible maximum for the elected members of half the membership
of the Council, Rapsey replied :
But only represent to the Secretary of State that you are
to have more, and that is all. You need not confine yourself to
the Secretary of State's Despatch. What does he know about
the Colony? He only gets what he knows from the Governor.
That is all he knows about the Colony ... I do not wish this
slight modicum to be considered a finality. This is only a stepping-
stone. Up to this time we have been nursed in the arms of the
Colonial Office, and I have had forty-two years of it. We have
never been put down even to creep, leaving out of the question
to try to walk..."
Mr. Rapsey wanted elections held every three years, so that, as
he put it, if the people's representatives make any of their humbug,
they will be kicked out." It is a good thing for those who are making
their humbug and are not even satisfied with five years that Rapsey is
not alive today. Rapsey was reminded that the Secretary of State for
the Colonies wished to guard against the danger of giving power to a
single class. He replied :
There is no power to any class. What class ? If a man has
a stake in the country, what class ? Is he not going to work for
the welfare of his country ? "
And, finally, Robert Guppy, Mayor of San Fernando, himself a
member of the Royal Commission. Froude talked of white and black.
Listen to Guppy:
I do not think there is any reason to inquire about the
status of Venezuelans, or Indians, or Chinese, or contractors,
or any other race or class into which the community of men
may be divided as men, but only as to the qualifications which
apply to all races and classes alike."
Guppy submitted a long memorandum on the whole subject which
is one of the most important single documents in the history of Trinidad.
He attacked the treatment of the emancipated slaves and the indentured
immigrants; denounced the crown colony system for paying attention
solely to the sugar industry, thus encouraging its technological back-
wardness; condemned the system of housing the indentured Indians;
advocated free and compulsory primary education ; demanded a thorough
revision of the labour laws and their assimilation to the laws of England
where feasible; criticised the blunders associated with the railway and
its operation only in the interest of the sugar planters; and urged con-
stitution reform. I know of no more trenchant criticism of crown colony
government than this paragraph from Guppy's memorandum:
"... the chief object of the Local Legislature has been by
every conceivable device to force down artificially the price of
labour and to confine it to the cultivation of the sugar cane;
by importing labourers at the public expense to be indentured
to plantations : by taxing the necessary food of the labourer;
and, until the time of Governor Gordon, refusing to grant Crown
lands to small settlers; by inequitable labour laws; by en-
couraging the unjust administration of the laws by Magistrates
devoted to the wishes of the sugar planters ; by refusal of practi-
cable roads other than those required to convey the sugar planters'
produce to the shipping place, and minor means tending to the
same end. During all this time no men could be more grandiloquent
about their intention, in all they proposed to do, being the de-
velopment of the resources of the island ; no men could be more
determined, as shewn by their measures, to do no other thing
than bolster up the more or less nominal owners of sugar
Pardon me, Ladies and Gentlemen, if I digress again to inquire
whether there is in my audience tonight a certain high school principal,
named Mr. Broome, who accused me recently of working for the good
of the Indians and of trying to set up a heathen empire in the Western
Hemisphere ? Doesn't he want to attack the Rostants and the Stollmeyers,
the Alcazars and the Guppys, the Whartons and the Lazares, the Langes
and the Fabiens, as well as the Roman Catholic Church, for demanding
the vote for the Indians ? More and more people will come to recognize,
from the unabashed racialism of men like Mr. Broome, and the similar
racialism held by people like him in other camps, that the only salvation
for our divided community is West Indian nationalism working for'the
good of West Indians, all and sundry, whatever their racial origin, what-
ever their colour, whatever their religion, whatever their previous con-
dition of servitude.
This demand for constitution reform in 1888 was no demand for
abstract rights. It was based on something far more simple and yet
far more profound-a conviction that only by some form of representa-
tive government could the people of Trinidad and Tobago exercise any
control over an irresponsible legislature nominated by the Secretary
of State for the Colonies. In language almost identical with that of the
past five years, the government of 1888 pleaded the necessity of stability
and the fear of alienating investors. The people of Trinidad and Tobago
brushed this aside. Listen to Guppy:
"Our legislators pretend on every occasion, opportune or
inopportune, that we must do everything in our power to attract
capital: they profess to fear that, if their power is diminished,
something will be done 'to scare away capital', and the like in
The iteration has not yet ended, even in 1955 If capital has not
been scared away between 1888 and 1955, it will never be scared away !
Crichlow emphasised that the people wanted constitution reform
because they had no power to curb the constantly increasing expenditure.
Rostant went further still-there was nothing to show for the increased
expenditure. Rostant complained :
"They would like to see less taxes, and they would like to
see that when school-houses are said to be built, that they are
built, and that when bridges are said to be built, that they are
built, and when roads are said to be made, that they are made ...
Sometimes it was reported in the Blue Book that a bridge had
been built or certain schools had been completed, and we after-
wards found out that there were no such schools in existence
at all, not even the site chosen."
As the French proverb goes, the more things change, the more they
remain the same. In 1888 the government of Trinidad and Tobago spent
money on roads which were not built, just as in our time we spent money
on Caura for water which we have not received. Sixty years ago money
was spent on schools which were not built just as a few years ago we
spent money on machinery which went into the Laventille Swamp.
The bridges on which money was spent were not built just as we spent
money on a slipway which is defective. Crown Colony government
meant "buball" government. The case for its modification, even in
1888, was overwhelming.
The Colonial Office, however, was adamant in its refusal to concede
the slightest particle of representative government to Trinidad. The
Chairman of the Commission, the Attorney General of Trinidad, an
Englishman. submitted a minority report opposing the representative
principle. This is what he wrote :
"... in the present circumstances of Trinidad an electorate
to consist of persons qualified by knowledge and education and
at the same time representing all interests in the Island cannot
be found. An electorate based upon the qualifications of know-
ledge and education would not be representative of all interests
in the Island while an electorate based upon the representation
of all interests would necessarily include a very large number
of ignorant and illiterate persons ... I cannot imagine anything
more fatal to the interests of this prosperous Colony than to
attempt to rouse its peculiarly heterogeneous population to a
desire to exercise political privileges, and to take a share in the
Government before the spontaneous wish to do so, the result
of a more advanced state of education and civilization, has arisen."
The Secretary of State for the Colonies agreed with the English
minority report rather than with the West Indian majority report. The
only concession he made was to appoint the unofficial members for a
limited period and to accept a proposal that the municipal councils
should each recommend three names frcm which he would select one
for their respective districts. He justified this on the following ground :
"It is not possible to feel equally confident that after the
introduction of the elective principle into the Constitution the
quiet and efficient working of the legislative machine could be
maintained. It might be difficult to resist demands fostered by
unscrupulous politicians for the extension of the limited franchise
which would be established in the first instance; and it is un-
questionable that the uneducated condition of the bulk of the
people and their ignorance of public affairs, would render it
dangerous to place the franchise in their hands."
I am sure, Ladies and Gentlemen, that you fully appreciate the
significance of the Secretary of State's description of Sir Henry Alcazar,
the Langes, the Rostants, the Stollmeyers, the Rapseys, the Guppys,
the Whartons and the Lazares as unscrupulous politicians.
Is Mr. Broome still here? Or has he already left? Does he still
blame me for setting, as he says, the Negro against the Englishman?
Would Mr. Broome still say that only the Englishman can help the
Negro ? Mr. Rapsey did, all honour to him. I would take that help.
But the imperialism of the Attorney General and the Secretary of State
for the Colonies I reject and will continue to oppose as I have opposed
it in the past. If, as I think we can, we take Mr. Broome as the symbol
of that help in the past, then we don't have too far to look for the cause
of many of our present difficulties in Trinidad. Possibly, however,
Mr. Broome is just another West Indian looking for nomination-a
broom looking for a broomstick. If I may give him some friendly advice,
it is that there is more than one use for a broomstick.
So there Trinidad and Tobago remained at the dawn of the twentieth
century-a community in which the only form of election was election
to the San Fernando Borough Council, for the Municipality of Port-
of-Spain had by then been taken away and Port-of-Spain's affairs were
being managed by a Town Board nominated by the Governor. The
Governor was everything in one-the Sovereign's representative, the
head of the administration, the speaker of the Legislative Council. The
Legislative Council comprised all principal officials ex officio-the
Colonial Secretary, the Attorney General, the Auditor General, the
Inspector General of Constabulary, the Director of Public Works, the
Solicitor General, the Surgeon General, the Protector of Immigrants,
the Receiver General and the Collector of Customs. What special com-
petence a policeman or.a customs officer had for the task of legislation
is beyond me. In addition the Council comprised unofficial members ;
some represented the principal economic activities, sugar, cocoa, com-
merce; others were outstanding public men, such as Sir Henry Alcazar,
Mr. J. D. Hobson, Mr. Prudhomme David, Dr. S. M. Lawrence, Dr.
Prada, and others. Take these five names alone. They would have been
a credit to any legislature in the world. But in Trinidad they had to be
nominated by the Governor with the approval of the Secretary bf State
for the Colonies.
They were absolutely powerless before their two masters-the
Governor, locally; the Secretary of State for the Colonies, abroad. The
Governor was required to withhold his assent from specified bills, and
could do so of his own accord in the case of all others ; the former were
reserved for His Majesty's pleasure, the latter were simply inoperative.
The Secretary of State frequently prescribed the action to be taken by
the Legislative Council, which was convened to take the necessary local
steps to implement his decisions. The oil ordinances passed in 1911,
for example, embodied practically the instructions of the Secretary of
State. The Legislative. Council recommended expenditures and sources
of revenue for the approval of the Secretary of State. If the unofficial
members proved recalcitrant, the Governor simply used his official
bloc to carry the measure; for example, when an unofficial member
'moved the deletion from one of the oil ordinances of a clause seeking
to restrain operators from closing down refineries, the Governor indi-
cated that he was acting on the orders of the Secretary of State which
he was bound to carry out, and instruc' ..: his officials to vote against
the amendment. To make assurance _oubly sure, the Governor was
entrusted with a dual vote-an or;,"-,al deliberative vote as a member
of the Council, and a casting vote .s President in case of a tie.
The nominated unofficial m 'hers were reduced to stultification
in this set-up. Year after year i '. 'hommcn David constituted himself
a minority of one to oppose India-- indentured immigration at public
expense for the benefit of the sugar ;::diustry ; but he was overruled year
after year. In 1896 a government cliort to prevent the waste of water,
instal meters and charge increased rates had to be withdrawn in the face
of popular opposition. In 1902 the unofficial members indicated that
they would again vote against any such policy. Yet in the following
year the government introduced precisely such a bill, without any attempt
to educate public opinion, and without any effort to consult the unofficial
members. The result was the Water Riots. In 1911 Sir Henry Alcazar
angrily suggested that the Legislative Council should be abolished and
legislation left to the Governor in Executive Council; the occasion
for the outburst was an amendment to an ordinance relating to house
rates in Port-of-Spain which had passed the Council but which the
Attorney General subsequently advised the Governor to disallow. An
expert appointed by the government to consider the early leases granted
to the oil industry condemned the leases as extravagantly long in time
and the royalty rates as too favourable to the industry and far more
lenient than the rates in Burma, the other principal source of Empire
oil. The explanation was the British Government's interest in Trinidad
oil, which was openly stressed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith,
on the occasion of a dinner given by the West Indian Club in London
during the Coronation festivities of King George V in 1911. The
Port-of-Spain Gazette stressed Mr. Asquith's family connections with
the leading absentee sugar interests in Trinidad.
The rejection in 1889 of the claim for the introduction of an elected
element into the Legislative Council necessarily meant that the nomi-
nated system took firmer root in the community. Since the British
Government refused to base membership in the legislature on the con-
fidence of the people, aspirants to political power had to seek the con-
fidence of the Governor. The change was clearly marked in 1921 when
Major Wood, later Lord Halifax, visited the -West Indies to consider
the question of constitution reform.
Major Wood encountered strong support for the nominated system
from the Indians, whose first nominated member was appointed in 1912.
The Indians claimed that the complete substitution of election for nomi-
nation-might operate to their disadvantage. Some of them, calling them-
selves the East Indian National Congress, even went so far as to advocate
communal representation. The leading opponents of the principle
of election, however, were the Chamber of Commerce, who looked
upon the demand for constitution reform as largely inspired by move-
ments external to Trinidad (a reference to the activities of Mr. Marryshow
of Grenada), and pointed to the prosperity of Trinidad under its existing
form of government, which, in their view, afforded adequate repre-
sentation. Thus you see the result of the Colonial Office's denial of
the claim for constitution reform in 1888. Constitution reform was then
advocated by leading'merchants who opposed it in 1921. The East
Indians,wwhose claim to the franchise was almost universally advocated
in 1888, opposed the grant of the franchise in 1921.
But times had changed and it was impossible to withhold a privilege
which had just been granted to Grenada and which was advocated by
a very vocal section of middle class and working class opinion led by
Captain Cipriani. Major Wood opposed communal representation,
stressed that there would be no logical reason for withholding it from
persons of French, Spanish or Chinese descent, and advised the Indians
not to stand aside from the main current of political life but instead to
share in it and assist to guide its course in the direction of a homogeneous
So Trinidad at last received its first instalment of democracy which
it was made to buy on the hire purchase plan. A few elected members
were introduced into the Council on a franchise so restricted that in
1938 only 6% of the population of Trinidad and Tobago enjoyed the
right to vote. The change is imperishably associated with the name
of Captain Cipriani and is immortalized in a famous calypso of the
old days-" Who you voting for? Cipriani."
Then followed all the agitation stimulated by the war for democracy,
the Atlantic Charter, the Four Freedoms and the United Nations, and
Trinidad and Tobago's constitution was steadily modified to permit
universal suffrage; an elected majority, first in the Legislative Council
and then in the Executive Council; the removal of the Governor from
the Legislative Council: the reduction of the official and nominated
elements; and the Ministerial system. But the Legislative Council of
today-differs in degree and not in kind from the system first imposed
in 1810-whatever the modifications which have been introduced, it still
retains the two essential elements of the colonial legislature : (a) it is
unicameral; (b) it is controlled by the Secretary of State for the Colonies
through the official and nominated members. Make no mistake about
it, that is what the system of nominated and official members achieves
and is designed to achieve-control by the Secretary of State for the
Colonies. As the Secretary of State for the Colonies emphasised in
1868, the new unicameral colonial legislatures had "one feature in
common-that the power of the Crown in the Legislature, if pressed
to its extreme limit, would avail to overcome every resistance that could
be made to it."
Now in 1955, once more, after all these years, constitution reform,
like our pavement sleepers, is still with us. A majority of the Consti-
tutional Reform Committee has submitted one report, and there are
a number of minority reports. All the reports agree on certain points :
(1) the retention of the unicameral legislature (one minority report
opposes this); (2) the increase in number of elected members and Minis-
ters ; according to the majority report, by one-third in the case of elected
members, double in the case of Ministers ; (3) the election of Ministers
by the Council, one of them to be Chief Minister ;'(4) an elected Speaker.
The majority report proposes the retention of the official and nomi-
nated members, and thus the maintenance of control by the Secretary of
State for the Colonies; the minority reports (except one advocating
a bicameral legislature) oppose this and advocate an all-elected single
chamber, which they defend as responsible government.
In an editorial last Sunday, the Trinidad Guardian hailed the majority
report as a step forward ". It justified this on two grounds, as follows :
(1) "a unicameral Chamber has characterized Trinidad Con-
stitutional life throughout its existence, and it would seem
a little pointless, on the eve of Federation, to introduce
a bicameral Chamber as an imported complication; "
(2) "if 24 Elected Members cannot decide their destiny in the
presence of five Nominated and two Ex-Officio Members,
it is difficult to see how they might reasonably belexpected
to do so on their own."
The Trinidad Guardian defends the proposal for ten Ministers as
"an excellent proposition in principle ", but draws attention to the
difficulty of filling these posts. The Guardian writes:
"Trinidad is not rich in men of the high degree of adminis-
trative ability which these duties demand. If one of our existing
Ministers should fall by the wayside, it is difficult to know how
he could be replaced-how ten Ministries are to be filled is a
problem that will prove most difficult of solution."
What both majority and minority, as well as the Trinidad Guardian,
have entirely omitted from their calculations is the nature of democracy
and the development of the theory and practice of democracy outside
of Trinidad and Tobago. As so. often in Trinidad[and Tobago, the[argu-
ment is conducted for all the world as if it is peculiar to us and as if
there is no outside experience to draw upon. The fundamental mistake
made in Trinidad and Tobago for the past century and a half is[this
deliberate flouting of and contempt for world experience. I propose
tonight to consider the present proposals for constitution reform in the
light of that world experience. On that basis I shall destroy the founda-
tion of constitutional forms in Trinidad, which is downright colonialism
in both spirit and content, and propose a new foundation based on de-
mocracy in both spirit and content.
The history of constitution reform in the world is the story of free-
dom, as a British poet says, broadening slowly down from precedent
to precedent. The development has proceeded principally in two
directions-(a) the increased participation of more and more people
in the conduct of their affairs; (b) the subordination of the executive
to a legislature controlled by the people.
First, the slow broadening down from precedent to precedent of
the concept of the people ". Historically, democracy has been asso-
ciated with the exclusion of four principal groups-(a) slaves, (b) workers,
(c) women, (d) illiterates. However as the democratic theory emerged
in the struggle against the absolute monarchy, certain basic principles
of democratic government became firmly established. As enunciated by
such democratic philosophers as John Locke in England, Jean-Jacques
Rousseau in France, and Thomas Jefferson in the United States, these
basic principles can be summarised as follows :
1. The end of government is the good of mankind.
2. Government can be based only on the consent of the people,
on the general will.
3. The legislature elected by the people is the supreme power in
the state and the executive is subordinate to it.
4. If the legislature or executive abuses its trust, the people have
the right to revolt and set up a new government.
Let me note here, however, that as constitutional government was
introduced and the people obtained the freedom to change their repre-
sentatives peacefully, the right of revolt is less necessary today. If the
people are fed up to the teeth with their government, they can show
their dissatisfaction in no uncertain way, by giving the candidates so
few votes that they forfeit their deposits. Thus the people can recover
some small part of their expenditure on their government during its
term of office.
In accordance with these general principles, and as society became
more and more industrialized, thus facilitating the organisation of the
workers brought together in large factories, all the four groups of out-
casts have been brought within the democratic process. The workers
now have their own political parties in Europe whereas the Greeks
looked down on manual labour and mechanical occupations, two hundred
years ago Voltaire had said that he preferred to be ruled by one fine lion
than by two hundred rats of his own species, and one of his contemporaries
had warned that everything would be lost once the worker knew that he
had a mind. Illiteracy is no longer a reason for exclusion from the
franchise. Women were subordinated to men ever since the Greek
society and restricted to the home, possibly on the ground stated by one
poet, that women will be the last thing to be civilised by man. But as
they were drawn into the factory system, they developed a sense of
independence exemplified in the larger countries by a room of their own
and their own latchkey, They too have now been given the right to vote.
The abolition of slavery was immediately followed in the French West
Indies and in the Northern States of the United States by the grant of all
political rights, and especially the right of adult suffrage, to the slaves.
The French Republic took the view that it could not discriminate between
men on grounds of colour or race, that its slogan "liberty, equality,
fraternity" embraced all men, and that one group of Frenchmen could
not be regarded and treated as half or quarter citizens. The privilege
granted to the former slaves in Martinique and Guadeloupe in 1848 was
extended to the British West Indies only after the people had exercised
the right of revolution which Locke and Jefferson had stressed-first
in 1944, when the Jamaica Constitution was reformed to permit adult
suffrage, followed in 1946 by Trinidad and Tobago.
The grant of adult suffrage to the British West Indies means that
the right to vote has now been extended to all people-whether' former
slaves or former indentured immigrants, men and women, workers as
well as capitalists, irrespective of their illiteracy or lack of education.
To this extent, therefore, the British West Indies have, since 1944, been
introduced into the democratic fold.
The story, however, is completely different when it comes to the
question of the development of the second cardinal feature of modem
democracy, the growth of a popularly controlled legislature to which the
executive is subordinate and responsible.
The earliest form of democratic organisation and procedure was
simplicity itself. The Greek city state, being small and with a limited
number of citizens, selected its officers either by lot or by rotation ; either
the names were put in a hat or each citizen took his turn at some office.
The ideal was that each citizen should hold some office during his lifetime.
As the community was remarkably homogeneous, without any marked
difference in education or wealth, this was not a difficult system to operate.
Much the same system still prevails in parts of Switzerland today. In
other words, the Greeks developed a system of direct rather than repre-
sentative democracy. But the representative system became inevitable
with the growth of the nation state, large in size, with a huge population.
In a country of some 100 million people like the United States, where
it takes a week to drive from New York to California, direct democra-y
is an absurdity.
The system of representation, as begun in Europe about the thirteenth
century, was based originally on the organisation of a Parliament advisory
to the King consisting of representatives of the two principal classes or
" estates as they were called-the landlords and the clergy. In England
the King, in his strugglejwith the landlords, found it useful to lean on a
third rising group, the merchants and industrialists in the town, whose
wealth, incidentally, was an obvious source of taxation which could be
tapped. Taking the view that what touches all must be approved by
all ", the King of England included representatives of what we might
loosely describe as the middle class in his Parliament, which came to be
divided into two houses, the middle class in the House of Commons, the
landlords and clergy in the House of Lords. The middle classes thus
emerged as the proteges, the servants of the royal power, very unwilling
servants-five, hundred years ago there is a famous case on record of two
middle class people running off to the woods to hide when they learned
that they had been elected to Parliament. You see how things have
changed today ; tell someone in Trinidad that he has been elected to the
Legislative Council and he is likely to board a stratocruiser with some
advisers and rush off to England as the leader of a delegation on some
subject or other. Sometimes, I gather, you can't even locate them in
The question then arose as to which of the two Houses was superior.
In the French Revolution, when the three Estates met after a period of
175 years, it was eventually decided that voting was to be by head and
not by class. This was a victory for the middle class or Third Estate,
as it was called; for they exceeded in number the landlords and clergy
combined, whereas voting by class would have put them in a minority.
The situation developed over the next century to the point where, after
a tremendous agitation in England over the powers of the House of Lords,
a compromise was reached whereby the House of Lords was given a
delaying power of twelve months, after which a bill passed by the House
of Commons became law ; this applied to all bills except finance bills,
where the House of Commons was undisputed master, whether or not
the House of Lords opposed.
This controversy in Britain clearly established the case for a second
chamber in a democratic constitution, even when the second chamber
is so clearly opposed to the equality implicitlin democracy as the House
of Lords is. The intellectual justification of the second chamber was most
unequivocally stated in 1787 when the Federal Constitution of the United
States was being drawn up. This justification applies to any second
chamber, however constituted, and has particular relevance for a country
like Trinidad and Tobago emerging from the leading strings of colonial
status. Not the least important feature of the justification is that it was
written by a man born in the West Indies, Alexander Hamilton. I shall
quote from it at some length, as it is stated in The Federalist, the medium
through which all the pros and cons of federation were argued. This
is what Hamilton wrote about the second chamber in the United States;
"... there is reason to expect that this branch will generally
be composed with peculiar care and judgment; that these circum-
stances promise greater knowledge and more extensive information
in the national councils, and that they will be less apt to be tainted
by the spirit of faction, and more out of the reach of those
occasional ill-humours, or temporary prejudices and propensities,
which, in smaller societies, frequently contaminate the public
councils, beget injustice and oppression of a part of the
community, and engender schemes which, though they gratify a
momentary inclination or desire, terminate in general distress,
dissatisfaction, and disgust... it will be necessary to review the
inconveniences which a republic must suffer from the want of
such an institution.
First. It is a misfortune incident to republican government,
though in a less degree than to other governments, that those who
administer it may forget their obligations to their constituents,
and prove unfaithful to their important trust. In this point of
view, a senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly,
distinct from, and dividing the power with a first, must be in all
cases a salutary check on the government.
Secondly. The necessity of a senate is not less indicated by
the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to
the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced
by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions.
Thirdly. Another defect to be supplied by a senate lies in
a want of due acquaintance with the objects and principles of
legislation. It is not possible that an assembly of men called for
the most part from pursuits of a private nature, continued in
appointment for a short time, and led by no permanent motive to
devote the intervals of public occupation to a study of the laws,
the affairs, and the comprehensive interests of their country,
should, if left wholly to themselves, escape a variety of important
errors in the exercise of their legislative trust. It may be affirmed,
on the best grounds, that no small share of the present embarrass-
ments of America is to be charged on the blunders of our govern-
ments ; and that these have proceeded from the heads rather than
the hearts of most of the authors of them. What indeed are all
the repealing, explaining, and amending laws, which fill and
disgrace our voluminous codes, but so many monuments of
deficient wisdom; so many impeachments exhibited by each
succeeding against each preceding session; so many admonitions
to the people, of the value of those aids which may be expected
from a well-constituted senate?...
'As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in
all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ulti-
mately prevail over the views of its rulers ; so there are particular
moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some
irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful
misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which
they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and
condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the
interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens,
in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow
meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice,
and truth can regain their authority over the public mind ?...
The people can never wilfully betray their own interests; but
they may possibly be betrayed by the representatives of the people ;
and the danger will be evidently greater where the whole legislative
trust is lodged in the hands of one body of men, than where the
concurrence of separate and dissimilar bodies is required in every
But we don't really need to go to the United States and as far back
as 1787 to find the justification of a second chamber. We need only
go to British Guiana, four years ago. In 1951 the two university members
of the three-member British Guiana Constitutional Commission, one
of whom supervised my doctor's thesis at Oxford, recommended the
establishment of a bicameral legislature for British Guiana. What they
had loIsay is of direct concern to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
They summarised the advantages of the bicameral system as follows :
"(a) The removal of the nominated element from the elective
chamber enables the popular will to express itself, and
provides the necessary elbow room for the effective alignment
of groups or parties.
b) In place of the irritant of a nominated bloc, a normal consti-
tutional check is provided by the delaying powers of an upper
(c) An elective lower house provides the requisite basis for the
exercise of real responsibility on the part of ministers and of
(d) Similarly, scope is provided for the gradual development from
individual to collective ministerial responsibility, based, as
the latter must be, on a firm party system.
(e) The provision of two chambers and a potential cabinet
comprises a form of government which can be readily adapted
to the further evolution of democratic self-government without
disturbing the framework of the constitution."
They concluded :
British Guiana has reached a stage in this evolutionary
process at which the device of a nominated minority in a uni-
cameral legislature, representing as it does the surviving remnant
of a passing system, can only be retained if it can be regarded as
an acceptable constitutional check having examined the
political situation in British Guiana, we are convinced that the
time for making the change is now, and that an attempt to postpone
the substitution of an upper house for a check in a unicameral
legislature, which (for the reasons already set out) would have
become utterly discredited, would g-avely prejudice, if it did not
ruin, the acceptability of a bicameral system in the mind of the
public. The check of a bicameral system has been tested, and
its value proved ; it can stand on its own merits. Its operation in
British Guiana, therefore, ought not to be prejudiced by being
introduced under circumstances which would be represented,
however unfairly, as a Macchiavellian manoeuvre on the part of
The Secretary of State for the Colonies accepted this recommendation.
He wrote to the Governor of British Guiana:
"While it does not follow that nominated members in a new
single-chamber constitution would lose the independence which
they enjoy in the present Legislative Council, I fear that their very
presence would, in view of the state of public opinion on this
subject disclosed by the Commission's Report, create doubts as
to whether the new constitution would, in practice, represent any
great advance on the old, and thus prejudice the chance of obtain-
ing that degree of public confidence and co-operation in the intro-
duction of the changes, which is so essential to their success. On
the other hand, there can be little doubt that a second chamber
provides a valuable opportunity for revision and for further
reflection on contentious legislation. On the whole I consider
that the bicameral system, with a second chamber as an integral
and enduring part of the constitution, should be adopted in
British Guiana, and I therefore accept, in principle, the proposal
for such a legislature."
The Secretary of State for the Colonies, however, added this rider
to his decision:
"To avoid any misunderstanding, I should like to make it
clear that my conclusion in favour of a bicameral legislature for
British Guiana does not imply that I consider that this is necessarily
the right type of constitution for other territories. The best type
of constitution for a particular territory must clearly depend on
many factors, some of which will inevitably be peculiar to that
territory, and there can be no suggestion of uniformity in this
This is precisely the trouble in the British Caribbean-that progress
has been made on an ad hoc and piecemeal basis, and that one has to
fight, in territory after territory, for the acceptance of a principle well
tried and firmly established elsewhere. The idea that the circumstances
of Trinidad and Tobago may be so different from those of British Guiana
as to render the bicameral system unsuited here is the purest sophistry.
The Trinidad Guardian argues that the bicameral system is not
necessary because of the impending Federation. I just cannot understand
this. The bicameral system is necessary precisely because of the impend-
ing Federation, to bring Trinidad in line not only with its future associates;
but with the Federation itself.
The Rance Constitution, drawn up and signed by one of the present
elected Ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, states this :
"We reject the idea of adding nominated members to the
elective chamber, since the expedient of mixing nominated and
elected members in a single legislative body is not viewed with
favour, and is on the whole on the way out."
This development of the power of the popularly elected House of
Commons in England was associated with the growth of the party system
and cabinet government. The British practice developed over the years
to the point where the leader of the majority party in the House of
Commons is called upon by the Sovereign to form a Government. He
is the Prime Minister of the cabinet and selects his own colleagues.
He and his cabinet retain office so long as they enjoy the confidence of
the House of Commons-that is to say, so long as they can keep their
party together-or until their defeat in a subsequent election. The
Sovereign is constitutionally bound to follow the advice of the Prime
Minister. The supremacy of the cabinet is the outstanding charact :ristic
of the omnipotence of the British Parliament, which is exemplified oj the
familiar saying, that Parliament can do everything except change a man
into a woman. In the light of modern progress in the field of surgery,
it is doubtful today whether even this limitation on the power of Parlia-
ment can be acknowledged.
The United States system of democracy has diverged fro:n the
British. Whilst it retained the fundamental feature of a bicameral
legislature, it deliberately introduced a complicated system of checks and
balances designed to make it impossible for any one party to control
all the principal organs of the government. The United States set up
five such organs : the President, the Supreme Court, the House of
Representatives, the Senate, and the individual State governments
empowered to legislate on all matters not specifically reserved to the
Federal Government. Each of the four parts of the Federal Government
has specific responsibilities, holds office for varying terms, and was
originally selected in a different way-the President, selected by an
electoral college, holds office for four years; the Supreme Court,
appointed by the President with the approval of the Senate, holds office
for life ; the House of Representatives, elected by adult suffrage, holds
office for two years ; the Senate, now elected by the people but before
1918 by the States, holds office for nine years, one-third of its number
retiring every three years. The President, elected on a Republican ticket,
may have to work with a Republican Senate elected two years previously
and a Democratic House of Representatives elected two years after he
assumes office, with the majority of the Governors and Congresses of
the States Democratic.
The French system, too, has peculiarities of its own. But it may be
said that all the democratic systems agree in three respects, whatever the
difference in their mechanics :. (a) a legislature of two houses, with the
lower house clearly supreme in the European system, and the second
chamber enjoying more prestige in the United States; (b) a strong party
system with strict party discipline, with a sharp and clear cut division in
Britain between Conservatives and Labour, with a multiplicity of parties
in France leading to coalition government, and two parties in the United
States differing so imperceptibly in aims and objectives that the voters
have a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee and will continue
to be so limited unless and until the most obvious aspect of America's
political backwardness is corrected, the absence of a powerful labour
party ; (c) the control of the executive by the people's representatives,
either through the Prime Minister and his cabinet in Britain, or through
the President in the United States.
In this framework of world experience, to compare western democracy
with Trinidadian democracy is like comparing a palatial residence on
the hill we call Lady Chancellor Road with a pitiful shack on the hill we
call John John. But even a comparison with other Caribbean territories
reveals the backwardness of Trinidad and Tobago in all its nakedness.
Puerto Rico today is fully self-governing, with a two chamber legislature
based on a party system copied from the United States; its chief
executive, the Governor, is elected and is the leader of the majority
party. Surinam has just achieved equality with the metropolitan country,
Holland ; fully self-governing, except in external affairs, its organisation
follows the Dutch pattern, even to the point of drawing its Ministers
from outside of the members of the Legislature, but on condition that
they retain office only so long as they retain the confidence of the Legis-
lature. Jamaica and Barbados have a strong party system, with a two-
chamber legislature, the lower house entirely elected, the upper chamber
entirely nominated ; a Chief Minister and a Premier, respectively, with
a cabinet selected by each; and a government moving steadily closer
and closer to the goal of full responsible government, with the Governor
restricted more and more to the position of the Sovereign in' Britain,
acting only on the advice of her popularly elected Ministers.
We are now in a position to consider the proposals of the Consti-
tutional Reform Committee. The Committee found Trinidad and
Tobago the outside child of world democracy ; its reform proposals do
nothing to make the child legitimate. With all the world experience
before them, with the British Guiana example only four years away, and
with self-government in the Caribbean broadening slowly down from
precedent to precedent, the Committee, our representatives, hit us blow
after blow below the belt. Let us consider the monstrous reforms"
it wishes to inflict on us.
1. Perpetuation of the single chamber legislature, instead of substi-
tuting the two chamber legislature of world democracy. The single
chamber legislature is undemocratic. To say that it is colonial is, in
fact, to say all that is necessary. Instead of sending legislators to take
courses in parliamentary procedure, we ought to get someone to give
them a good course, on parliament.
The Trinidad Guardian justifies the Committee's proposal on the
ground that a unicameral chamber has characterized Trinidad's consti-
tutional life tl roughout its existence, and that a bicameral system would
be an imported complication. That is tantamount to saying that an
Iliegitimate child must herself be the mother of illegitimate children and
that marriage would be an imported complication. The Guardian's
statement completely misses the point of the history of Trinidad's
Constitution. The Council introduced in 1810 was the counterpart of
the upper house in the Jamaica legislature. It was the lower house which
the Secretary of State for the Colonies refused to concede. That was
the imported complication. We have fooled about with it for a century
and a half, modifying the upper house and refusing to introduce the
lower. Let the Constitutional Reform Committee continue to tinker
with it as much as it pleases, to patch it up as it will; it is sufficient to
say that the Committee, majority report or minority reports, advocates
the retention of the single chamber legislature for us to understand that
Trinidad and Tobago will remain democracy's bastard.
2. Retention of nominated and official members in the single
chamber legislature. In world democracy the lower chamber is entirely
elected; a sharp distinction is drawn between administration and legis-
lation ; to administer and to legislate are distinct offices and of opposed
natures. Expanding British democracy in the eighteenth century made
it mandatory for the person holding an office of emolument under the
Crown to vacate his seat in the House of Commons ; arrested Trinidadian
democracy made it mandatory for the person holding an office of emolu-
ment under the Crown to retain his seat in the Legislative Council.
Tinker with the Trinidad system as much as you please; patch it up as
you will; take out a patch there to reduce the number of nominated
members ; put in a patch of a different colour to denote the introduction
of the elected element ; increase the number of such patches to indicate
an elected majority ; put in a bigger patch to suggest a Minister. When
you have spent all this time and energy for a century and a half to patch
up your tattered bedspread, do you. really believe that you have done
anything to conceal the bed of boards on which you sleep ? Of course
you haven't. You have got only what you set out to do -a patched
bedspread. The Trinidad Guardian now tells us that if twenty-four
elected members cannot decide their destiny in the presence of five
nominated members and two exofficio members, it is difficult to see
how they might reasonably be expected to do so on their own. How
shortsighted It is the presence of the nominated and the official
members which prevents the elected members from deciding their destiny.
As the British Guiana Constitutional Commission recognized:
The inherent weakness in the device of a nominated group
is that their voting power limits the responsibility of the elected
representatives. It does so in two ways. In the first place it
strongly tends to contract this sense of public responsibility to a
compass narrower than that of the well-being of the whole
community. Elected representatives cannot reasonably be
expected to develop a sense of obligation and service on behalf
of the whole, if it can be asserted with any plausibility that the
interest of one particular section-say that of European capital-
is being protected by a device which can be used to thwart the
will of the electorate in general. Secondly, elected representatives
are directly encouraged under this system to indulge in irres-
ponsible behaviour. All too easily can their failure be attributed
to the hostility of the nominated members; and there will be a
constant temptation to make extravagant electoral promises
knowing that they will be opposed by a sufficient nominated
vote against them to absolve them from the responsibility of
matching their promises by their performance."
3. Continuation of the travesty which we now call the ministerial
system. The ministerial system involves a Prime Minister, the majority
leader who selects his cabinet; he is responsible to the lower house and
is secure so long as he retains its confidence. The system introduced
into Trinidad in 1950, which the Committee proposes to perpetuate, is
based on the right of the Governor to ignore and bypass the leader of
the largest party and on election of the Ministers by majority vote of the
Legislative Council, which can remove them only by a two-thirds vote.
What you get is merely five people, who behave like five people. It
inevitably produces a system such as the one on which Edmund Burke
poured eloquent scorn in 1780 before the emergence of the modern party
system in Britain :
He made an administration, so checkered and speckled;
he put together a piece of joinery, so crossly indented and whim-
sically dove-tailed ; a cabinet so variously inlaid ; such a piece of
diversified mosaic ; such a tesselated pavement without cement;
here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white ; patriots and
courtiers; king's friends and republicans; Whigs and Tories;
treacherous friends and open enemies ;-that it was, indeed, a
very curious show; but utterly unsafe to touch, and unsure to
A system more absurd than the Ministerial system in Trinidad in
the past five years cannot be found. Take one recent example. One
Minister introduces a bill to jail motorists who exceed the speed limit.
He goes away. His place is filled temporarily by another Minister who
opposes the jail clause. Minister No. 1 then returns to tell us that the
bill was not approved by the Executive Council in the first instance.
What sort of monkey business is this ? The farce on the Government
benches is paralleled only by the farce on the Opposition benches. There
is no Opposition like the Trinidad Opposition anywhere in the world.
The Legislative Council of Trinidad and Tobago is unique in the world.
It consists of two clearly defined parties "-the Ins and the Outs. The
Ins don't want to get out; the Outs only want to get in. What is going
to be the power of a Chief Minister in such a situation ? He cannot
choose his colleagues; the Legislative Council chooses them. He cannot
remove his colleagues; he must get a two-thirds vote of the Council.
Since there is no party programme, he cannot even take them before the
Council and advocate removal, for his case would have to be based on
proceedings in the Executive Council which are secret.
The alibi is that Trinidad and Tobago lacks an effective party system.
Of course it does. And it will continue to do so unless and until a
sensible constitution is introduced which will encourage responsible
people to join responsible parties to form a responsible government.
Organised parties do not precede a sensible constitution. They did not
in Jamaica or Barbados or Puerto Rico or Great Britain. So long as
the travesty of the ministerial system is permitted, encouraging indi-
vidualism, so long as the Government can depend on a block of official
and nominated votes, for so long will the party system in Trinidad and
Tobago remain a hollow mockery. As the British Guiana Constitutional
Commission recognized, "the presence of a nominated bloc inevitably
impedes and may stultify the growth of cohesive political parties."
4. In exchange for this perpetuation of the single chamber legislature,
retention in it of the official and nominated members, and the continued
travesty of what we call the ministerial system, the Constitutional Reform
Committee offers us an increase of one-third the number of elected
members and double the number of Ministers-more members to put
up standpipes, with water, water, everywhere, except in the standpipe,;
more Ministers to run around opening gas stations, giving luncheons,
and crowning beauty queens.
For the Committee's proposal is the proverbial last straw that will
break the camel's back. I have already condemned the extravagant cost
of our legislature. The Committee's proposal will cost the people of
Trinidad and Tobago at least $122,000 a year more over and above the
$165,000 the elected system now costs us in salaries, travel and chauffeurs'
allowances. We can get three primary schools a year for $122,000.
Over and above that there will be more airconditioned offices, the extra
office staff for more Ministers, and the extra trips abroad to lead more
delegations, attend more conferences, take more courses, and hold more
conversations. The Chief Minister, I suppose, must get more than a
Minister., And with Federation coming, how much are we going to
have to pay a Federal Minister, and how many of them are we going
to have to carry ?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I protest to high heaven against this brass-
faced imposition on a suffering people. Even Crown colony government
would not have dared to do this. Not only can't we afford it, it is not
necessary. To increase the number of elected members to 24 will give
Trinidad and Tobago one legislator for every 30,000 inhabitants, as
compared with one for every 40,000 as at present, one for every 50,000
in Jamaica, and one for every 80,000 in Great Britain. To double the
number of Ministers will mean two Ministers out of every five legislators
-a fantastic proportion. We already have too great an abuse of the
title Honourable" in our midst. We do need to provide jobs in
Trinidad and Tobago, but, as I have previously insisted, they must be
But the only criticism the Trinidad Guardian can offer is that we shall
have difficulty in finding the men to fill these additional ministerial posts !
To add insult to injury, the Guardian proceeds to warn us of the danger
of one of our present crop of Ministers falling by the wayside And
here we were hoping that the entire crop would soon fall by the wayside !
The Guardian is still telling us in so many words that we must keep the
ship of state on an even keel As if you can do anything with a leaking
ship in a storm in mid-ocean and heavily loaded down below the Plimsoll
line The only thing you can do in such a situation is to toss the excess
And it is for all this, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is for all this that we
are asked to postpone the elections The mountain is in labour, and
what do we get? A ridiculous mouse.
It is thus clear, from the experience of the world at large and from
current developments in other parts of the Caribbean, that the only
possible road of constitution reform before the people of Trinidad and
Tobago is a completely new road, macadamized, breaking radically away
from the donkey track of crown colony government whi .h, with all its
repairs, we have inherited from the past. What is needed in Trinidad
and Tobago is a constitution which will bring our island in line with world
democracy and which will, at the same time, provide a framework for
the proper development of a party system and around which all classes,
colours, races and religions can rally, as they did in 1888, for the con-
structive and uphill task of reorganising the economy to provide jobs
for the population. With that in mind, I wish, in all humility, to propose
a constitution which, if generally acceptable, might be expected to achieve
this end. You will appreciate, Ladies and Genlemen, that it was
impossible for me to do this before now. The responsibility of which
I have recently been relieved prohibited me from taking any direct part
in politics, and as no member of the Constitutional Reform Committee
asked me even informally for my views, I necessarily had to remain
silent. That restriction no longer applies.
My proposal, Ladies and Gentlemen, is simplicity itself. Mr. Uriah
Butler said some time ago in the Legislative Council, when the proposal
was being discussed for the appointment of the Constitutional Reform
Committee, that the Colonial Office had a number of second-hand
constitutions from which it could select one for Trinidad and Tobago.
There is considerable merit in the idea, through which Mr. Butler
attempted to convey the view that a reform committee was not necessary.
But I wondered at the time why Mr. Butler did not go even further than
he did. The Colonial Office does not need to examine its second-hand
colonial constitutions. ,It has a constitution at hand which it can apply
immediately to Trinidad and Tobago. That is the British Constitution.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I suggest to you that the time has come when
the British Constitution, suitably modified, can be applied to Trinidad
and Tobago. After all, if the British Constitution is good enough for Great
Britain, it should be good enough for Trinidad and Tobago. As Lord
Halifax wrote in 1921 when he recommended the introduction of an
elected element into the Trinidad Constitution:
The whole history of the African population of the West
Indies inevitably drives them towards representative institutions
fashioned after the British model... We shall be wise if we avoid
the mistake of endeavouring to withhold a concession ultimately
inevitable until it has been robbed by delay of most of its usefulness
and of all its grace."
Four principal consequences will follow from this constitutional
revolution. I propose to state and examine them in some detail.
1. Abolition of the single chamber Legislative Council and the sub-
stitunon of a bicameral legislature.
That is automatic. No defence of this is needed. The single
chamber legislature is colonialism, in conception, in form and in operation.
If you want to get out of the rut of colonialism, you can do so only by
abolishing the single chamber legislature. If you want to get into the
stream of democracy, you can do so only by substituting a legislature of
two houses. There is no argument whatsoever. We have had our
period of transition. You can't run with the hare and hunt with the
hounds. The single chamber legislature must go or it must stay. If it
stays, you must stop talking about ending colonialism. If you wish to
have self-government, it must go.
2. A lower house of elected members.
That also is automatic, if you are to have democracy. The presence
of official and nominated members in the lower house of a bicameral
legislature simply cannot be defended. As regards the number of
members, the present number is quite sufficient. The lower house should
be empowered to elect a Speaker who need.not be one of its members.
3. A second chamber of nominated members.
The second chamber in the United States system is elected. But
Trinidad and Tobago are British, not American, by heritage. In addition,
we have difficulty in getting sufficient competent men of integrity to fill
a single house. We cannot possibly find enough men of the desired
,calibre to fill by election two houses, especially when the impending
Federation will place a severe strain on our limited resources in this field..
The second chamber in Great Britain is hereditary, a survival of
the traditional British system of the peerage. A hereditary chamber in
Trinidad and Tobago is out of the question.
The second chamber in Canada is nominated.
The second chamber in the proposed British Caribbean Federation
is to be nominated.
Thus the case for a nominated second chamber in the legislature of
Trinidad and Tobago cannot be disputed. What is wrong with the
Constitution is not the principle of the nominated system, but its practical
operation. The nominated system is so essential that, if it did not exist,
it would be necessary to invent it.
Read over the debates of the Legislative Council during the past
five years, as I have been doing recently ; you will find that the soundest
and best speeches have come from the nominated members. Some of
you will not like to hear this ; please, I beg you, don't write to the news-
papers about me for saying so. I say it in all honesty and sincerity, but
I am obviously not to be blamed for the fact. But whether their speeches
are good or bad, the fact remains that these special interests have a stake
in the colony. If the 20,000 people employed in the oil industry have the
right to their say in the running of the country, through their votes, how
can you deny the right of the industry itself, which employs the 20,000
workers, which accounts for 75 % of our export trade, which pays out
annually $60 millions in wages, salaries and local purchases, and which
contributes 40 % of our revenues? The employers have no chance of
being elected ; why should they for that reason be denied a say as to
how their contribution to the island's development is to be spent ? They
are, in fact, very competent to do so; how long, do you think, the oil
industry could survive a spendthrift policy of delegations, courses,
conferences and trips abroad? They can ,help us to run the country.
Like Wordworth's perfect woman, nobly planned, they can warn and
comfort, so long as, unlike that estimable lady, they are not to command.
That is the first defect, Ladies and Gentlemen, of the present
nominated system. It is in the wrong place. Take the nominated
members out of the single chamber legislature where they can determine
what we do, either by being in a majority, or by assisting Ministers to
get a majority. Put them in a second chamber, in a position of dignity
and responsibility, to warn and comfort, but not to command. We can
then draw infinite assistance from a system which is now condemned
by all except those who stand to profit by it.
The second defect of the nominated system today is that it is not
used as extensively as it should be. It is not that there are too many
nominated members; it is that there are too few. Too many for a
lower house, they are too few for a second chamber.
Who are the nominated members today? Oil, sugar, commerce,
and two public figures. Establish a second chamber, and it is at once
feasible to expand the nominated system so that the best possible, advice
can be afforded by it to our developing democracy. There are three
principal directions in which the system can be expanded, it being under-
stood that expansion must be based on representation of special interests
and not on a geographical basis, which would duplicate the lower house.
These three directions are as follows:
(a) Other important economic interests. The first of these is cocoa,
which employs one out of every three acres in crops, which accounts for
$5 out of every $100 of our exports, which, fifty years ago, was our
principal economic staple, and which has throughout its history been a
West Indian. industry as compared with the absentee interests which have
dominated the sugar industry. A second important economic interest is
shipping, absolutely vital to our economy, which may or may not be
adequately covered by representation of commerce. A third is our local
industries, the development of which, as I have already indicated, is
absolutely essential if Trinidad and Tobago is to survive. The special
interest of the industrialist, who may be producing for the local market
a commodity now imported, is often quite at variance with the special
interest of the merchant, who depends on imports.
These three important economic interests-cocoa, shipping and *
local industries-must be included in the second chamber.
(b) The religious denominations. I have never been able to under-
stand why greater use has not been made of the religious denominations
in our public affairs. I have no hesitation in saying that if the clergy
had been allowed to take that active part in public affairs in the years
after emancipation, the record of their liberal outlook and social vision
which has come down to us suggests conclusively that British West Indian
social and economic development would have been infinitely more rapid
and more healthy than it in fact has been. The clergy participate in the
public life of Britain and sit in the House of Lords ; the proper consti-
tutional designation of Parliament is Lords Spiritual, Lords Temporal
and Commons." The churches have consistently taken a firm stan.t on
such questions as just wages, the right of workers to organise, and, aowve
all, the necessity of not divorcing morality from politics. If there is one
lesson which must constantly be dinned in the ears of the people of
Trinidad and Tobago, it is this-that morality must not be divorced from
politics. The churches have taken the lead in many countries in tae
establishment of co-operatives and credit unions, in the encourag:,nent
of self-help, and in social welfare work. They have been given respon-
sibilities in our society for education. They are the guardians of morality,
and, as such, are subsidized by the Government. At one level or another,
they touch the people more than any other agency. Their collaboration in
such a field as housing in Trinidad and Tobago would be very valuable.
Finally, by giving representation to both Christians and non-Christian
denominations and entrusting them with some formal responsibility for
our development, a very important step will be taken towards fostering
and encouraging unit in the community.
(c) The Judiciary. The highest members of the legal fraternity in
Great Britain sit in the House of Lords, and the Chief Justice was a
member of the Legislative Council in Trinidad until 1866.
The third defect of the present nominated system is that nomination
is made by the Governor with the approval of the Secretary of State
for the Colonies. -This inevitably gives rise to charges that the nominated
member is the Governor's stooge.
All the special interests I have mentioned enjoy one great advantage.
They are independent of the Governor and the government. This
independence must be explicitly provided for. These special interests
must themselves choose their representatives in the second chamber, or
they must be included in it ex officio. The second chamber must not
be dominated by the Governor, by the Secretary of State for the Colonies
or by the party in power.
In such a chamber it will be easy to add men or women of distinction
in public life, who would either not be elected or who would not care to
stand for election. These individuals, however, must be nominated on
the recommendation of the Chief Minister. West Indians must learn to
appreciate that their political position depends on the confidence of the
people, and not on the confidence ofjthe Governor. We must put a
stop to the nonsense represented by what one of the present Ministers
told me before the 1950 election : "Well, boy, we have a new consti-
tution. Ministers Anyhow it is always possible to be nominated by
the Governor if one fails to be elected by the people."
Finally, in the present circumstances of Trinidad and Tobago, where
there is a paucity of talent outside of specific professions, and where
there is an urgent necessity for reducing the cost of government, two
of the officials who are at present members of the Legislative Council,
need to be retained-the Colonial Secretary, to deal with home and foreign
affairs ; and the Attorney General, as the head of the legal division of
the civil service.
A member to represent one special interest has recently been recom-
mended-the trade unions. I must confess that I see no justification for
this and every possible objection to it. The trade union element in any
society is the bulwark of democracy. It represents the principle of
election, not the principle of nomination. A trade unionist might indeed
qualify, as a man of distinction in public life, for nomination. But to
nominate a trade unionist as trade unionist to represent trade unions
in a second chamber is indefensible, especially where the nomination
is to be made by the Governor. The only people whose confidence the
trade unionist needs to enjoy is the workers whom he represents. The
place for the trade unionist, his rightful place, is as an elected member
in the lower house.
I am now in a position therefore to recommend specifically the
composition of the second chamber. It should be a chamber of sixteen
(a) Six members representing special economic interests, chosen by
those interests themselves : (1) oil ; (2) sugar ; (3) commerce ; (4) cocoa;
(5) shipping; (6) local industries.
(b) Five members representing the religious denominations:-
(1) His Grace the Archbishop of Port-of-Spain (2) His Lordship the
Bishop of Trinidad; (3) The Head Pundit of the Hindu Faith; (4) The
Moulvi of the Moslem Faith ; (5) One representative selected by agree-
ment among all the other religious denominations.
(c) Three ex officio members : (1) His Lordship the Chief Justice;
(2) the Colonial Secretary; (3) the Attorney General.
(d) Two men or women of distinction in public life, appointed by the
Governor on the recommendation of the Chief Minister.
His Lordship the Chief Justice should preside over the second
A second chamber constituted along the lines I have recommended
would provide all the checks and balances necessary in a democratic
society. Such checks and balances are doubly necessary when, as is
always possible, one party might sweep the polls and find itself without
effective opposition in the elected house, as has happened with Bradshaw
in St. Kitts, Bird in Antigua, Gairy in Grenada, Nkrumah in the Gold
Coast, and Munoz Marin in Puerto Rico. To make assurance doubly
sure, the delaying power of twelve months enjoyed by the House of Lords
in Britain should be extended to twenty-four months in Trinidad, as the
system is new and as we have only a limited experience of the democratic
process. That experience dates back only thirty-two years, a short time
in the life of a man, an insignificant period in the life of a country. The
second chamber should be empowered to initiate legislation, except
money bills, which are reserved exclusively for the lower chamber.
In such a chamber as I have recommended, there would be today at
least eleven West Indians. The appointment of West Indians in increas-
ing number to the senior staff in the oil industry, the increasing number of
West Indians among the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian clergy, the
attention being paid to the appointment of West Indians among the
Anglican clergy-all suggest that West Indian interests will be paramount.
4. Appointment by the Governor of the majority leader in the House as
Five Ministers, one a Minister of Finance, selected by the Chief
Minister to form a government, must be ratified by the elected house, and
must automatically resign once he ceases to enjoy the confidence of the
elected house. The Governor will then endeavour to form a new
government by calling either on the Leader of the Opposition or on some-
other party leader or some other member, before dissolving the House.
5. An Executive Council consisting of the Governor, as President with
a casting vote only, the Chief Minister, the five other Ministers, the Coloniat
Secretary, and the Attorney General.
6. Exercise by the Governor of his reserve powers on the advice of
the Executive Council, or of the Secretary of State for the Colonies in
matters involving international obligations.
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the constitution I propose for
Trinidad and Tobago. I claim, Ladies and Gentlemen, without fear of
being contradicted, that it will eliminate the taint of colonialism and
place Trinidad and Tobago in the bosom of the world's democratic family.
I claim, further, that it will place Trinidad and Tobago, today the most
backward territory in the Caribbean, in the vanguard of constitutional
progress in the area. I claim, still further, that in my effort to reconcile
all conflicting interests and points of view, I havw provided common ground
for the widest possible measure of co-operation between all classes, races,
colours, and religions for the constructive work ahead of us in the field
of economic and social development. And I claim, finally, that in doing
this I have not added to the cost of government. The members of the
House of Lords in Britain are not paid. There is no necessity to pay
members of the nominated chamber. They are well taken care of by
their respective constituents. Some honorarium might be given to
them, leaving out the officials who are paid salaries by the government.
But this will be principally to let the people know that they must not
hope to get something for nothing. The nominated members may turn
the honorarium over to charity if they wish. But allow $1,000 a year
by way of honorarium; the thirteen members will co4t us $13,000 a
year-much less than the salary, local travel and chauffeurs' allowance
(not to mention the cost of trips abroad) of one of the five additional
Ministers with whom the Constitutional Reform Committee wishes to
Ladies and Gentlem,!i, I am convinced that the constitution which
I hav- proposed, in all sincerity and aiming only at the piblie welfare
and taking the question of constitution reform out of the arena of agita-
tion, will provide the framework for constructive development in the
years ahead. But in suAh matters one man's view is of little importance.
What matters is the extent and the quality of the support his view
commands. I have decided, therefore, to prepare my proposal in the
form of a memorial which I shall request His Excellency the Governor,
at an interview I propose to seek with him, to forward to th: Secretary
of State for the Colonies. I .m now asking those of you here tonight as
well as those absent, if you support my proposal, to sign the memorial
which I have prepared, but to do so only if you are 21 years of age and
over and sincerely believe that my proposal has merit. To indicate the
nature of the support for the proposal, I have prepared forms on which I
request each of you to be good enough to write your name, address,
occupation and religion, so that the memorial miy commend itself to
the authorities by virtue not only of the number of those supporting it,
but also of the diversity of professional, racial, and religious affiliations.
I shall follow this procedure in other parts of the country.
The constitution which I have proposed will encourage the essential
prerequisite for tie future-a good party in Trinidad and Tobago. The
constitution is a framework, the door which must be opened if the
dynamic energies of our people, now confined, are to be released. The
key to that door is needed. That key is a good party.
About my own intentions, with respect to which there is so much
speculation, I can only say this. Without in any way wishing to be
either patronising or disparaging, I see no existing party as that key.
I have therefore decided, if I do enter the political field, not to accept
any of the invitations extended to me to join one of the existing parties,
but to enter on the basis of a new party designed to offer the people of
Trinidad and Tobago, whatever their race, class, colour or religion, for
their acceptance or rejection, the key which they have not yet found and
for which they are so desperately searching.
THE HUMBLE MEMORIAL OF THE PEOPLE GF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE SECRETARY
OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
We, the People of Trinidad and Tobago, standing on the threshold of a British
Caribbean Federation through which we aspire, in the shortest practicable time,
to Dominion Status and all the rights, privileges, responsibilities and obligations
pertaining thereto, find ourselves at the crossroads of our constitutional history.
Behind us lies the donkey track of colonialism which we have travelled for one hundred
and fifty years. Ahead of us lies the road of responsible government which we feel
ourselves mature and courageous enough to negotiate at this stage of our destiny.
Basing ourselves on world experience, on the theory and practice of democracy
as it has been tested and not found wanting in the more developed countries, as well
as on current developments in communities no better than we are, such as Jamaica,
Puerto Rico and Surinam, we hold these truths to be self-evident:
1. That the single chamber Legislature, first imposed on us in 1810, is colonial-
ism, in conception, form and operation.
2. That the presence of official and nominated members in the single chamber
Legislature is indefensible in principle, is an ineffective check and balance
in practice, tends to limit the responsibility of the elected members, and is
an obstacle to the effective use of a device which, in a second chamber,
can be suitably expanded and converted into a potent instrument of good
3. That the ministerial system is distorted into a travesty by the present prac-
tice whereby the Ministers are elected by the Legislature and can be re-
moved only by a two-thirds vote, thus hindering the development of an
effective party system.
4. That any attempt to patch up the existing system by increasing the number
of elected members and Ministers, within the framework of a unicameral
Legislature in which nominated and official members sit, Will constitute
an indefensible addition to the already fantastic cost of our Legislature.
We, the People of Trinidad and Tobago, respectfully request, therefore, that
our constitution be reformed to provide:
1. Substitution for the single chamber Legislature of a bicameral Legislature
(1) An elected lower house of 18, empowered to elect a Speaker who need
not be one of its members.
(2) A nominated second chamber of 16, to consist of
(i) six representatives of special economic interests, viz: (a) oil;
(b) sugar; (c) commerce; (d) cocoa; (e) shipping; (f) local indus-
tries-these representatives to be selected by the interests themselves;
(i) five representatives of the religious denominations, viz:
(a) His Grace the Archbishop of Port-of-Spain;
(b) His Lordship the Bishop of Trinidad;
(c) the Head Pundit of the Hindu Faith;
(d) the Moulvi of the Moslem Faith;
(e) one representative selected by agreement among all th other
(iii) threat ex officio members, viz: (a) His Lordship the Chief Justice,
as President of the chamber; (b) the Colonial Secretary; (c) the
(iv) two men or women of distinction in public life, appointed by the
Governor on the recommendation of the Chief Minister recoin-
(3) The right of both chambers to initiate, legislation, subject to the reser-
(i) money bills must originate only in the lower house, whose decision
would be final;
(ii) on all other matters except money bills, the second chamber must
have a delaying power of two years.
II. Appointment by the Governor of the majority leader in the lower house
as Chief Minister, with power to select five additional Ministers--of whom
one shall be Minister of Finance-and whose appointment must be ratified
by the lower house and who mu3t resign when he ceases to enjoy its con-
IIl. An Executive Council consisting of the Governor as President with a
casting vote only, the Chief Minister, the five other Ministers, the Colonial
Secretary and the Attorney General.
IV. Exercise by the Governor of his reserve powers on the advice of the Executive
Council, or of the Se:cetary of State for the Colonies in matters involving
We express the unshakable conviction that this constitutio-, reform would pro-
vide the framework for the f-ru:rfal aii harmonious collaboration of all significant
sections of our community in t'le hilll task ahead of us of mobilising all our resources
to take decent care of our ercpandiig population, woull aThrd a stimulus to respon-
sib!e people to join respo-sible parties to form a responsible govemrn-nt, and would
remove the taint of colonialism which continues to brand us as a helot population
unfit for responsibilities entrusted to our neighbours.
Printed by the "Port.of.Spain Gazette'' for the publisher
Dr. Eric Williams of 17 Lady Chancellor Road, Port.oLSpain,