Politics of Jamaica

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The political and economic history of Jamaica is based upon its foundation as a slave colony. From the beginning, the colony was under Spanish rule that relied upon native slave laboring in the sugar fields. The first law to be implemented upon the island under Spanish rule was the Repartimiento, introduced by Governor Esquivel, the first governor of Jamaica. The law enabled colonists to apply for and receive special permission to use the natives for a period of time; forcing them into labors such as planting and logging (Bennett 70). Francisco de Garay, who became governor in 1514, enacted an other set of regulations called the Requermiento (The Requirement) (Bennett 70). This system was implemented with the basis that the colonists had to convert the natives to Christianity; Garay was hopeful that in doing so, the natives would “be tractable, properly maintained and live and greatly multiply” (Sherlock 70).

The Jamaican natives and imported African slaves endured Spanish rule for 150 years until the invasion of the British in 1655. The fleet of Admiral Penn and the ground troops of General Venables were able to conquer the island fairly quickly; although there was several failed attempts by the Spanish to regain the land. A civil government was established in English Jamaica in 1663 which attracted settlers to the island (Bennett 84).

Lord Windsor, who succeeded D’Oyley as governor in December 1661, implemented a proclamation that defined the “status of the settlers” (Bennett 86). The proclamation allowed settlers to benefit from generous land grants in Jamaica. Governor Windsor was the administrator of the island along with a council of twelve men; a House of Assembly with 30 or more elected representatives; and a local council of justices in each parish (Bennett 86). The ‘council of twelve’ was nominated by the Colonial Office in England based upon recommendations by the governor (Sherlock 86). This council later became the Upper House of the Legislature. This new government had the power to pass laws; all of which had to be approved by the Crown within two years of being passed (Bennett 87). The introduction of a Crown colony government in 1865 was a central change for Jamaica, as the power shifted from a white minority to Parliament in England (Bennett 375).
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