No. 51
25th September 1864
I would very respectfully beg to call your attention to the eighth Clause of the Instructions under date of the 11th of January 1864, with which I have been honored by Her Majesty. That Clause commands me to bring every matter of importance under the consideration of the Executive CouncilunlessManuscript image unless Her Majesty's Service "would sustain material prejudice by consulting the said Council thereon." This command it appears to me tends to diminish the unity of the Government more than you may probably consider desirable. In urgent cases where he has to act at once, the Governor's position in regard to the Council is still more embarrassing as he must "at the earliest practicable period, communicate to the said Executive Council the measures" the Governor "may have so adopted, with the reasons thereof," thus inviting the criticism of his own public officers on the Governor's Acts.
2. InManuscript image
2. In the ninth Clause it is ordered that nothing shall be taken into consideration in the Council unless proposed by the Governor, "Provided, that if any Member shall, by application in writing, request you so to propose any question, it shall be competent for any such member to record upon the said minutes such his written application together with the answer which may be returned by you to the same." The fourth Clause commands me
With a qualification.
to communicate the Instructions which I receive to the Executive Council.
3. The Executive Council of this Colony, being, with the exception oftheManuscript image the Colonial Secretary, new to business have taken these Instructions as giving them a right to interfere even in questions of patronage, and to bring forward for discussion matters which I choose to reserve from them. I am perfectly willing to place on the Minutes their applications and my reasons for declining to comply with them, but my officers shrink from this apparent antagonism with the local head of the Government.
4. I apprehend no difficulty from the Gentleman to whom this despatch refers but I have thought it proper to mention to you, that I propose, unless ordered to the contrarybyManuscript image by you to give a wide interpretation to the command to reserve from the Council matters the consideration of which with that body would "materially prejudice" Her Majesty's Service. I am of opinion that until more liberal Legislative Institutions are given, the Officer Administering should in most cases act with promptitude, on his own responsibility, and that it would "materially prejudice" Her Majesty's Service, were he on the contrary, to bring forward every matter of moment for discussion.
5. I may mention in support of this view, that I received severaldespatchesManuscript image despatches in Honduras directing me in matters of importance, such as the deporting persons on suspicion, under a law peculiar to that Colony, not to consult the Council but to act alone.
6. In each of the cases to which I allude the Colonial Secretary concurred with me that it was not a proper one to bring before the Council.
I have the honor to be
Your most obedient
humble Servant
Frederick Seymour
Minutes by CO staff
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VJ 29 Novr
TFE 29/11
Sir F. Rogers
See separate Minute.
GG 2 Decr
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Sir F. Rogers
It appears to me that Mr Seymour is raising a difficulty where none really exists.
By the 8 Clause of his Instructions, he, like other Governors, is directed to consult his Executive Council in all cases excepting when 1. The matters in question shall be of such a nature, that, in his judgement the Queen's service would suffer material prejudice from such consultation or 2. Shall be too unimportantManuscript image to require their advice or 3. Too urgent to admit of such advice being asked for from the Council before the time within which it may be necessary to act in such matter: in which latter case the Govr is, at the earliest practicable period, to communicate to the Council the measures which he may have adopted with the reasons thereof.
To these provisions Mr Seymour objects that the first direction "tends to diminish the unity ofManuscript image the Government," and that the 3rd invites "the criticism of his own Public Officers on the Governor's Acts." What he means by the destruction of the Unity of his Government is perhaps not very plain; but the chief object in establishing an Executive Council, the Members of which are sworn to advise the Governor faithfully, was, that in all important matters he should be aided, but not governed, by their advice. He is allowedManuscript image a free discretion as to those subjects which he may consider too unimportant to require their advice.
No question is to be brought before the Council for their advice (Clause 9) or decision excepting those only which may be proposed by the Governor himself for that purpose, and he may even then act in opposition (Clause 10) to their opinions by reporting to the Secretary of State the grounds for so doing. A member may, as the Governor points out, request him (Clause 9) by writing to propose any questionManuscript image for debate and such application and the answer thereto are to be recorded in the Minutes.
The Governor is instructed by Clause 4 to communicate to the Council the B. Instructions themselves, and likewise such others, from time to time, in the execution of which their consent and concurrence are requisite, "and which you shall find convenient for Our Service to be imparted to them."
He could hardly be directed to do less, butManuscript image Mr Seymour appears to take exception at that provision.
These provisions form a part of the general Instructions to every Governor who has to act with an established Executive Council. I have never before known such exceptions taken, and it appears to me that if the Council is to be anything more than a mere formality the Members could not have less freedom of action.
GG 2 Decr
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I agree with Mr Gairdner that this is an unnecessary difficulty, and I shd be inclined to let Mr Seymour see by the tone of the ansr that Mr Cardwell thought it so.
Ackne observe that the Instructions leave it to the Govr to judge for himself when the advantage of the public service requires him to act witht consulting his Exe Council and that it is impossible for Mr C. witht reference to a particular case to say whether Mr S. will be right or wrong in giving a large interpretation to theManuscript image Instructions, add however that it is undoubtless intended that the necessity of communicating his proceedings to his Council should have the effect of rendering him circumspect in those proceedings but that this necessity has not been found to be productive of difficulty or inconvenience in any other Colony.
FR 2/12
EC 5
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Cardwell to Seymour, Separate, 12 December 1864, assuring Seymour that the clause has not been productive of any inconvenience in other Colonies.