No. 12
22th May 1856
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Despatch No 5 of the 28th of February last with its enclosures.
It is I confess not without a feeling of dismay that I contemplate the nature and amount of labour and responsibility, which will be imposed upon me, in the process of carryingManuscript imagecarrying out the instructions, conveyed in your despatch. Possessing a very slender knowledge of legislation, without legal advice, or intelligent assistance of any kind, I approach the subject with diffidence; feeling however all the encouragement which the kindly promised assistance and support of Her Majesty's Government, is calculated to inspire.
Under those circumstances I beg to assure you that every exertion, on my part, shall be made, to give effect to your said instructions, at as early a period as possible.
I do not apprehend any restiveness on the part of the Free holders, as we have to legislate only for the best interests of the Colony, and have no party questions nor purposes to serve; but should they, contrary to my expectations, exhibit an untractable spirit, hazardous to the peace of the Colony, I shall not fail to exercise the special authority to prorogue the Assembly, and to conduct the executive businessManuscript imagebusiness of the Colony as heretofore given to me, in that case by Her Majesty's Government, in your Despatch marked "Confidential," also of the 28th of February last, and received at the same time with Despatch No 5.
I have not had time since the arrival of your Despatch, to consider the subjects treated therein as thoroughly as their importance requires, and therefore have not arrived at any definite conclusion, as to the precise plan for carrying your instructions into effect. I will however take the liberty of addressing you again on the subject. I observe that the terms of my commission only empower me to summon and call general assemblies of the inhabitants owning 20 or more acres of free hold land within the said Island, apparently restricting the elective franchise, to the holders of 20 acres of land and upwards, to the exclusion of holders ofManuscript imageof houses and other descriptions of town property, a class more numerous than the former. I am utterly averse to universal suffrage, or making population the basis of representation; but I think it expedient to extend the franchise to all persons holding a fixed property stake, whether houses or lands in the Colony; the whole of that class having interests to serve, and a distinct motive for seeking to improve the moral and material condition of the Colony.
With those remarks I would here take the liberty of enquiring, if it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government to restrict the elective franchise, to the holders of 20 acres of land or upwards or to give the representation a more extended basis.
The mail is on the point of leaving and I am therefore compelled to bring my remarks thus abruptlyManuscript imageabruptly to a close.
I have the honor to be Sir
Your most obedient humble Servant
James Douglas

The Right Honble Henry Labouchere Esqre
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Department.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
ABd 13 Augt
I think, instead of ourselves extending the franchise by a
supplementary Commission, the best course would be to tell the Governor that he must act under his Commission in the first instance, but that the Secy of State fully concurs in his views as to the proposed extension, & would recommend a measure for that purpose being brought before the Assembly when convoked?
HM Augt 13
HL 14
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Labouchere to Douglas, No. 16, 23 August 1856 (extensive revisions).