Primary tabs

Humble Petition and Memorial of the Assembly of Jamaica


To the King' s Most Excellent Majesty in Council: The humble Petition and Memorial of the Assembly of JAMAICA; Voted in Assembly the 28th of DECEMBER, 1774:

Most Gracious Sovereign:

We, your Majesty' s dutiful and loyal subjects, the Assembly of Jamaica, having taken into consideration the present critical state of the Colonies, humbly approach the Throne, to assure your Majesty of our most dutiful regard to your royal person and family, and our attachment to, and reliance on, our fellow-subjects in Great Britain, founded on the most solid and durable basis, the continued enjoyment of our personal rights, and the security of our properties.

That weak and feeble as this Colony is, from its very small number of white inhabitants, and its peculiar situation from the incumbrance of more than two hundred thousand slaves, it cannot be supposed that we now intend, or ever could have intended, resistance to Great Britain.

That this Colony has never, by riots, or other violent measures, opposed or permitted an act of resistance against any law imposed on us by Great Britain, though always truly sensible of our just rights, and of the pernicious consequences, both to the parent and infant state, with which some of them must be attended; always relying, with the most implicit confidence, on the justice and paternal tenderness of your Majesty, even to the most feeble and distant of your subjects, and depending that when your Majesty and your Parliament should have naturally considered and deliberated on the claims of Great Britain and her Colonies, every cause of dissatisfaction would be removed.

That justly alarmed with the approaching horrours of an unnatural contest between Great Britain and her Colonies, in which the most dreadful calamities to this Island, and the inevitable destruction of the small Sugar Colonies are involved; and excited by these apprehensions, as well as by our affection for our fellow-subjects, both in Great Britain and the Colonies, we implore your Majesty' s favourable reception of this our humble Petition and Memorial, as well on behalf of ourselves and our constituents, the good people of this Island, as on behalf of all other your Majesty' s subjects, the Colonists of America; but especially those who labour at present under the heavy weight of your Majesty' s displeasure, for whom we entreat to be admitted as humble suitors; that we may not, at so important a crisis, be wanting to contribute our sincere and well meant, however small, endeavours, to heal those disorders which may otherwise terminate in the destruction of the Empire.

That as we conceive it necessary for this purpose to enter into the different claims of Great Britain and her Colonies, we beg leave to place it in the royal mind as the first established principle of the Constitution, that the people of England have a right to partake, and do partake, of the legislation of their country, and that no laws can affect them but such as receive their assent, given by themselves or their Representatives; and it follows, therefore, that no one part of your Majesty' s English subjects, either can or ever could legislate for any other part.

That the settlers of the first Colonies, but especially those of the elder Colonies of North America, as well as the conquerors of this Island, were a part of the English people, in every respect equal to them, and possessed of every right and privilege at the time of their emigration, which the people of England were possessed of, and irrefragably to that great right of consenting to the laws


which should bind them, in all cases whatsoever: and who emigrating at first in small numbers, when they might have been oppressed; such rights and privileges were constantly guarantied by the Crown to the emigrants and conquerors, to be held and enjoyed by them in the places to which they emigrated; and were confirmed by many repeated solemn engagements, made publick by proclamation, under the faith of which they did actually emigrate and conquer; that therefore the people of England had no rights, power, or privilege, to give to the emigrants, as these were, at the time of their emigration, possessed of all such rights equally with themselves.

That the Peers of England were possessed of very eminent and distinguished privileges in their own right as a branch of Legislation, a Court of Justice in the dernier resort for all appeals from the people, and in the first instance, for all causes instituted by the Representatives of the people; but that it does not appear that they ever considered themselves as acting in such capacities for the Colonies, the Peers having never to this day, heard or determined the causes of the Colonists in appeal, in which it ever was, and is their duty to serve the subjects within the Realm.

That from what has been said it appears that the emigrants could receive nothing from either the Peers or the people; the former being unable to communicate their privileges, and the latter on no more than an equal footing with themselves, but that with the King it was far otherwise; the royal prerogative, as now annexed to, and belonging to the Crown, being totally independent of the people, who cannot invade, add to, or diminish it, nor restrain or invalidate those legal grants which the prerogative hath a just right to give, and hath very liberally given for the encouragement, of colonization; to some Colonies it granted almost all the royal powers of Government, which they hold and enjoy at this day; but to none of them did it grant less than to the first conquerors of this Island, in whose favour it is declared by a Royal Proclamation, "that they shall have the same privileges to all intents and purposes as the free born subjects of England."

That to the use of name or authority of the people of the parent state, to take away, or render ineffectual, the legal grants of the Crown to the Colonists, is delusive, and destroys that confidence which the people have ever had and ought to have of the most solemn royal grants in their favour, and renders unstable and insecure those very rights and privileges which prompted their emigration.

That your Colonists and your Petitioners having the most implicit confidence in the royal faith pledged to them in the most solemn manner, by your predecessors, rested satisfied with their different portions of the royal grants, and having been bred from their infancy to venerate the name of Parliament, a word still dear to the heart of every Briton, and considered as the palladium of liberty, and the great source from whence their own is derived, receive the several Acts of Parliament of England and Great Britain, for the regulation of the trade of the Colonies, as the salutary precautions of a prudent father for the prosperity of a wide extended family; and that in this light we received them, without a thought of questioning the right, the whole tenor of our conduct, will demonstrate, for above one hundred years.

That though we received these regulations of trade from our fellow-subjects of England and Great Britain, so advantageous to us as Colonists, as Englishmen and Britons, we did not thereby confer on them a power of legislating for us, far less than of destroying us and our children by devesting us of all rights and property.

That with reluctance we have been drawn from the prosecution of our internal affairs, to behold with amazement a plan, almost carried into execution, for enslaving the Colonies, founded, as we conceive, on a claim of Parliament to bind the Colonies in all cases whatsoever.

Your humble Petitioners have for several years, with deep and silent sorrow, lamented this unrestrained exercise of legislative power, still hoping from the interposition of the Sovereign, to avert that last and greatest of calamities, that of being reduced to an abject state of slavery, by having an arbitrary Government established in the Colonies, for the very attempting of which a Minister of your predecessor was impeached by a House of Commons.


With like sorrow do we find the Popish Religion established by law, which by treaty was only to be tolerated.

That the most essential rights of the Colonists have been invaded, and their property given and granted to your Majesty by men not entitled to such a power.

That the murderer of the Colonists have been encouraged by another Act, dissolving and annulling their Trials by Juries of the vicinage, and that Fleets and Armies have been sent to enforce those dreadful laws.

We therefore, in this desperate extremity, most humbly beg leave to approach the Throne, to declare to your Majesty that our fellow-subjects in Great Britain, and consequently their Representatives, the House of Commons, have not a right, as we trust we have shown, to legislate for the Colonies, and that your Petitioners land the Colonists are not, nor ought to be, bound by any other laws than such as they have themselves assented to, and are not disallowed by your Majesty.

Your Petitioners do therefore make this claim and demand from their Sovereign, as guarantee of their just rights, on the faith and confidence of which they have settled and continue to reside in these distant parts of the Empire, that no laws shall be made and attempted to be forced upon them, injurious to their rights as Colonists, Englishmen, or Britons.

That your Petitioners fully sensible of the great advantages that have arisen from the regulations of trade in general, prior to the year 1760, as well to Great Britain and her Colonies, as to your Petitioners in particular, and being anxiously desirous of increasing the good effects pf these laws, as well as to remove an obstacle which is new in our Government, and could not have existed on the principles of our Constitution, as it hath arisen from colonization, we do declare, for ourselves and the good people of this Island, that we freely consent to the operation of all such Acts of the British Parliament, as are limited to the regulation of our external commerce only, and the sole object of which is the mutual advantage of Great Britain and her Colonies.

We, your Petitioners, do therefore beseech your Majesty that you will be pleased, as the common parent of your subjects, to become a mediator between your European and American subjects, and to consider the latter, however far removed from your royal presence, as equally entitled to your protection and the benefits of the English Constitution, the deprivation of which must dissolve"that dependence on the parent state, which it is our glory to acknowledge, whilst enjoying those rights under her protection; but should this bond of union be ever destroyed, and the Colonists reduced to consider themselves as tributaries to Britain, they must cease to venerate her as an affectionate parent.

We beseech your Majesty to believe that it is our earnest prayer to Almighty Providence to preserve your Majesty in all happiness, prosperity, and honour, and that there never may be wanting one of your illustrious line to transmit the blessings of our excellent Constitution, to the latest posterity, and to reign in the hearts of a loyal, grateful, and affectionate people.



* The following calculation, taken from a list of the Poll Tax for the year 1767, may give the reader an idea of the importance of the Island of Jamaica to the Kingdom of Great Britain.

68,160 hogsheads, 729 tierces and barrels Sugar. 12,149 puncheons of Rum. 10,545 packages of Pimento. 1,947 packages of Cotton. 5,031 bags and casks of Ginger. 15,328 planks of Mahogany. 3,212 tons of Fustick and Logwood. 190,914 Negroes. 135,773 Cattle. 369 Cattle", 235 Water, and 44 Wind, Mills. 647 Sugar Plantations.