BEFORE AND AFTER 1865

Eyre was able to insert himself a second time into the legislative machine through his use of a despatch which the Colonial Secretary had written before he received the first amending act. This despatch he sent to the House in an abbreviated version, suppressing those passages which did not support his plans.

He explained to the House that since it passed the first amending act, a despatch had arrived from the Colonial Office which laid down the conditions on which the British Government would accept responsibility for Jamaica, that is protect whites against blacks. He had informed them of these conditions by excerpts from the despatch because it was confidential, and so they could not see it all. In the process, he made the Colonial Secretary say clearly, what in his despatch, could at most, be only doubtfully inferred. That is, he made it look as if the first amending act was certain to be rejected. This was enough to tempt those dissatisfied, for whatever reason, with the first act. Here was the opportunity to get the form of constitution they preferred.

Eyre did not realise that what was clever politics was illegal. The English Attorney General informed the Secretary of State that the second amending act was ultra vires. The Assembly could amend the constitution hut it could not abolish it and leave to the Crown the making of a new constitution. It matters here, that the Secretary of State had decided before the riots, that he would accept changes in the West Indian constitutions. The task of his staff was now only to find a way around the Attorney General’s opinion. The only answer was an act of the Imperial Parliament. The Colonial Office staff was not sure that they could depend on the House of Commons. But the choice was between the Commons and the Assembly. The Assembly was certain to reject a third amending act. The Colonial Office chose to use the House of Commons. There, the act to give the Crown authority to make a constitution for Jamaica passed quickly enough. Thus was the old constitution abolished.