BHS logo Welcome to the Bahamas Historical Society

Vol. 1/1979
Vol. 2/1980
Vol. 3/1981
Vol. 4/1982
Vol. 5/1983
Vol. 6/1984
Vol. 7/1985
Vol. 8/1986
Vol. 9/1987
Vol. 10/1988
Vol. 11/1989
Vol. 12/1990
Vol. 13/1991
Vol. 14/1992
Vol. 15/1993
Vol. 16/1994
Vol. 17/1995
Vol. 18/1996
Vol. 19/1997
Vol. 20/1998
Vol. 21/1999
Vol. 22/2000
Vol. 23/2001
Vol. 24/2002
Vol. 25/2003
Vol. 26/2004
Vol. 27/2005
Vol. 28/2006
Vol. 29/2007
Vol. 30/2008
Vol. 31/2009
Vol. 32/2010
Vol. 33/2011
Vol. 34/2012
Vol. 35/2013
Vol. 36/2014
Vol. 37/2015

News & Events
Research Aids
Show Your Support

Journal of the Bahamas Historical Society, Volume 5 (October 1983)

by Tracey Lynn Thompson

Bahamian historiography has not explained in detail how the Constitution of 1728-1964 divided authority among the four branches of the Legislature although that distribution shaped the Colony's economic, social, and political development for more than two hundred years. Philip Cash's "Colonial Policies and Outside Influences: A Study of Bahamian History 1919-1947" (1980), drawn largely from Colonial Office documents, seems to be the only attempt to more than sketch what rights and privileges each branch of government held, or claimed, during this period.

The scholar curious about constitutional affairs in this century must turn to Colonial Office documents, to successive editions of the Manual of Procedure in the Business of the General Assembly, and to minutes and proceedings of the Legislature in order to uncover who claimed responsibility for what activity. Those sources, together with Philip Cash's a analysis, have informed the following study, which probes the institutional weaknesses of the local Governor during the seven months of the legislative session 1946-47. It looks closely at money legis-tlation, that catalyst of administrative action: at what it was and who controlled it. It discloses how one branch of the Legislature, the Assembly, was ableto overwhelm the others.

The local Legislature embraced four separate institutions; a Govenror whom the Crown in the United Kingdom appointed;1 a Governor-in-Council, comprising the Governor together with three members appointed by the Crown who held their seats ex officio and at most six unofficial members whom the Governor could appoint, all otherwise known as the Executive Council;2 a Legislative Council of not more than nine members, all of whom the Governor could appoint;3 and a House of Assembly of twenty-nine members, all elected, representing fifteen districts.4

The Governor, holding executive authority, was responsible for administering the Colony. The Executive Council advised the Governor5 and compelled him. The Legislative Council initiated and amended legislation, except money legislation.6 The Assembly initiated and amended legislation of all kinds.7


If you are interested in the full text of the article, you may order this issue of our Journal for B$5.00 plus s&h by contacting the society.


  1. "Letters Patent dated 8 September 1909", Clauses I, III, in Statute Law of the Bahama Islands 1799-1957, rev. ed, 6 vols. (Toronto, Canada: Government of the Colony of the Bahama Islands, 1957) vol. I
  2. "Letters Patent dated 8 September 1909", Clause IV; "Royal Instructions dated 8 September 1909", Clause II, in Statute Law 1799-1957, vol. I
  3. "Letters Patent dated 8 September 1909", Clause V; "Royal Instructions dated 8 September 1909", Clause XIV; "Letters Patent dated 12th January 1841 establishing separate Executive and Legislative Councils for the Bahamas" in Statute Law 1799-1957, vol. I
  4. Great Britain, Colonial Office, Annual Report on the Bahama Islands for the Year 1946 (London: H.M.S.O., 1947), 42.
  5. "Letters Patent dated 8 September 1909", Clause IV, in Statute Law 1799-1957, vol. I.
  6. Harcourt Malcolm, ed., Manual of Procedure in the Business of the General Assembly, 2nd ed. (Nassau: The House of Assembly, 1934) 113-124; "Letters Patent dated 8 September 1909", Clause VIII, in Statute Law 1799-1957, vol. I.
  7. Ibid.