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districts and in the south-west of the colony, are free from dense forest and are more in the nature of park country, and here the temperature is slightly higher than in forest regions, and the rainfall markedly less.

History and Constitution.

The coast line of the country between the Rivers Amazon and Orinoco was first traced by Spanish sailors in 1499 and 1500; and, during the 16th and early 17th centuries, the search for the fabulous city of Eldorado stimulated exploration of this region. The territory was first partially settled in 1616 by Dutch merchants, who erected a fort and depot at Fort Kykoveral in the present county of Essequibo. This colony subsequently came under the control of the Dutch West India Company, which was formed in 1621. In 1624 a settlement was founded on the Berbice by Van Peere, a Flushing merchant, and held by him under a licence from the Company. The first English attempt at settlement was made by Captain Charles Leigh on the O'apock river (now French Guiana) in 1604. The effort, though followed up by Robert Harcourt in 1613 and 1627, failed to establish a permanent settlement. Lord Willoughby, famous in the early history of Barbados, also turned his attention to Guiana, and founded a settlement in Surinam in 1650, which was captured by the Dutch in 1667, and ceded to them at the peace of Breda in exchange for New York. The Dutch retained their hold on the three colonies with more or less firmness, now yielding to England, now to France or Portugal, till 1796, when during the war of the French Revolution they were captured by a British Fleet from Barbados. The territory was restored to the Dutch in 1802, but in the following year retaken by Great Britain, and finally ceded to that Power in 1814.

In 1745 colonists from Essequibo settled on the Demerara River, and in 1773 Demerara was constituted a separate colony, but in 1784 it was reunited under one government with Essequibo, Berbice being under a separate government, an arrangement which continued in force under the British Administration down to the year 1831.

The constitution of the Colony of Berbice dates from the year 1732. Under it the Governor was nominated by the Directors of the Mercantile Body called the Berbice Association, and was assisted by a council of six. In 1826 an order of the King in Council was issued, dissolving the then Council of Government, appointing another, and thence. forward vesting the right of appointing to vacancies in the Governor as representing the Crown.

upon the basis of the scheme in question, which continued in operation notwithstanding the captures of the Colony by the British in 1796 and 1803, the Articles of Capitulation having stipulated that the laws, usages, and institutions of the Colony should be maintained as before.

The Council or Court of Policy consisted of 1st, The Director-General; 2, The Commander of Essequibo; 3, The Fiscal of Essequibo; 4, The Fiscal of Demerara; 5 and 6, two Colonists from Essequibo; 7 and 8, two Colonists from Demerara.

In the first instance, the unofficial portion of the Council was to be chosen from a double nomination by the Colleges of Kiezers or Electors, of which there were two, one for each County,* each consisting of seven Members elected by a majority of the votes of the inhabitants possessing not fewer than twenty-five slaves, such votes to be in writing and signed by the voter. The tenure of the office of Kiezer, as subsequently defined by Proclamation of Sir Benjamin d'Urban in 1831, was to be for life, unless the party resigned or ceased to be an inhabitant.



In 1795 it was deemed necessary, during a period of some confusion, to introduce four members commissioned by the Colleges of Electors of both Colonies to have, jointly with the Court of Policy, the administration of the public funds. In the following year, however, Governor Beaujon annulled this arrangement, and to secure to the inhabitants more ample control of taxation enacted that in lieu of the four above mentioned, there should be six inhabitants adjoined to the Governor and Court of Policy, three from each Colony, to be elected by the inhabitants qualified as in the case of Kiezers, and to serve for two years, but with powers strictly limited to raising Colony taxes, and assisting in the audit of the public accounts.

Beaujon's proclamation was materially modified, though without affecting the definition of the duties of the financial representatives, by a proclamation of Acting Governor Carmichael in 1812, consolidating the two Colleges of Kiezers and Financial Repre sentatives. This proclamation remained operative, though unconfirmed by the Crown, until, in 1831, when the three provinces were united, it was annulled by a Royal Instruction restoring the pre-existing arrangement, and extending the right of suffrage to the inhabitants of Berbice.

In the year 1855 under the administration of Sir Philip Wodehouse, an Ordinance was passed to alter and amend the Political Institutions of the Colony, but it was not approved by Her Majesty, and from that date till 1891 the only constitutional legislation was the passing of Ordinance No. 1 of 1864, a declaratory Act, defining the meaning of the term Colonist," as employed in the "Plan of Redress" above noticed; and Ordinance No. 16 of 1864, to remove some difficulties in the exercise of the functions of the College of Electors.

The Constitution, as it existed up to 1891, may be summed up very briefly. It consisted of a Governor, Court of Policy, and a Combined Court. The unofficial members of the Combined Court and Court of Policy were chosen by a College of Electors. The functions of an Executive and Legislative Council and House of Assembly were performed by the Governor and Court of Policy, except as regards taxation and finance, which were dealt with by the Combined Court, composed of the Governor and Members of the Court of Policy, combined with the six Financial Representatives. The Court of Policy passed all laws and ordinances, except the Annual Tax Ordinance, which was passed by the Combined Court.

The Court of Policy for Essequibo appears to have been established very early in the history of the Colony. Until 1773, Demerara was represented on it. In 1773 a separate Court of Policy was set up for the latter, but provision was made for representatives of the two Courts of Policy to form a Combined Council, and the two bodies were merged in 1789, when the two Colonies of Essequibo and Demerara were united. Disputes having arisen between the Colonists the local Government and the West India Company as to the right of appointing the colonial members of the Court of Policy, in the year 1787, a provisional "Plan of Redress," as it was termed (being in fact the draft of a new constitution) was framed by a Committee of the States-General, to whom had been referred sundry petitions of the Colonists. This being approved of, a commission was despatched by the States-General to the Colony, who on their arrival in 1789 dissolved the then existing Government and established a new one for the conjoined Colonies



• Demerara and Essequibo only are here alluded to. K

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During 1891 an Act was passed, which came into force in 1892, effecting a considerable change in the constitution. By this Act the administrative functions of the Court of Policy were transferred to an executive council, and the duties of the former became purely legislative.

The College of Electors was abolished, and the unofficial members have since been elected by the direct vote of the whole body of electors.

The Combined Court had the power of (1) imposing the Colonial taxes and auditing the public accounts; and (2) discussing freely and without reserve the items on the annual estimates prepared by the Governor in Executive Council; it could reduce or reject, but not increase, any item. The first of these powers was bestowed in 1796, when Governor Beaujon called the financial representatives into being, "with a right of voting only for the raising of colonial taxes and not further "; while the second was conferred! periodically by His Majesty's Order in Council after each renewal of the Civil List and was co-existent with the Civil List.

The Court of Policy consisted of the Governor, seven official members, and eight elected members. It could be prorogued or dissolved at any time by the Governor and in any case was dissolved at the end of five years, and a general election had to be

held within two months of the date of dissolution. The number of financial representatives, who with the Court of Policy formed the Combined Court, was 6.

In 1926, at the request of the Secretary of State, a commission consisting of Sir Roy Wilson and Mr. H. Snell, M.P., was sent to British Guiana to

report on the economic conditions. In its report (Cmd. 2841) the commission stated that one of the greatest impediments to development was the financial situation, and that it was essential that the Government should have power in the last resort to carry into effect measures which it considered essential, and that for this purpose an alteration in the constitution would be necessary. A local commission was appointed in 1927 to consider the steps to be taken to confer the necessary powers on the Governor and reported in favour of a change

in the constitution.

In 1928, by an Act of Parliament, it was enacted that it should be lawful for His Majesty in Council to create and constitute, in substitution for the existing Legislature, a Legislature for the Colony of British Guiana in such form and with such powers as His Majesty in Council might determine, and from time to time to alter and amend the constitution of the Legislature and any powers thereof; and that any such Order in Council might provide that, notwithstanding the powers conferred on the Legislature thereby, there should be reserved to or conferred on His Majesty full power by Order in Council from time to time to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Colony of British Guiana.


Pursuant to this Act, an Order of the King in Council providing for the Government of the Colony and for the constitution of a Legislative Council, was brought into operation on 18th July, 1928. The Court of Policy and Combined Court were thereby abolished and their powers given to the new Legislative Council. The new Council consists of the Governor as President, of ten Official Members and of nineteen Unofficial Members. The Colonial Secretary and Attorney. General are ex-officio members, and of the nineteen unofficial members, fourteen are elected and the remainder nominated by the Governor. The persons who were elected members of the Combined Court became under the Order in Council

the first Elected Members of the Legislative Council. It was also provided that any matter requiring a vote of enactment of the Council might be decided by the Governor in Executive Council notwithstanding that such decision might be contrary to the vote of a majority of the Legislative Council; but in such a case effect cannot be given to the decision until the facts have been reported to the Secretary of State and his approval obtained. The second General Election under the new Constitution was held in 1935.

An Amending Order of the King in Council was brought into force on 13th August, 1935. The order amends the Principal Order with respect to the qualifications of voters and makes additional provision to counteract corrupt and illegal practices committed in reference to elections.


The Roman-Dutch law was in force in the Colony until 1st January, 1917, at which date the Civil Law of British Guiana Ordinance came into force. This enactment, along with two others, was the outcome of a Common Law Commission and Statute Law Committee. The Criminal Law is based upon that of Great Britain and is administered in the same manner. Indictments are preferred by the Attorney-General.

Local Government.

In 1837 the first municipal body was incorporated. The principle has now been materially extended in its application.

The existing municipal authorities are:-Mayor and town council, Georgetown; and mayor and town council, New Amsterdam. Their revenue in 1937 was respectively 148,6521. and 21,4911., and their expenditure 143,5021. and 21,1291. There are also 25 village districts and 63 country districts whose revenue and expenditure in 1937 were respectively 32,480l. and 32,1611.

Communications-Internal and External.

The three rivers, Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice, are navigable for 90, 35, and 150 miles respectively. Beyond these distances, owing to the nature of the country, they abound in cataracts and waterfalls. There is a good network of roads, and there are small canals in connection with the Demerara River. There is a railway from Georgetown to Rosignol on the Berbice River, 60 miles in length, and one from Vreed-en-Hoop on the Demerara River to Parika on the Essequibo River, 18 miles in length, both lines having been constructed by the Demerara Railway Company at a total cost of 694,6211. 88. 1d. The Railways were acquired by the Colony from the Company in 1921 as from the 1st January, 1919, and are now operated by Government in conjunction with certain steamer services under the control of the Transport and Harbours Department. The steamers operate ferries across the Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo Rivers and services from Georgetown to Adventure on the Essequebo Coast to Bartica at the junction of the Mazaruni and Essequebo Rivers, to Morawhanna in the North-West District and to Pickersgill on the Pomeroon River and also from New Amsterdam to Paradise on the Berbice River. Launch services are also run by the Department on the Canje, and Pomeroon-Moruka Rivers.

Motor transport services are also operated from the steamer terminus at Bartica to Garraway Stream on the Potaro River, and to Issano on the Mazaruni River.

A steamer service is also operated from GeorgeSprostons Limited. town to Wismar on the Demerara River by Messrs.

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The principal tariffs are:-
To the United Kingdom

To Eastern Canada

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To Western Canada There are also cheap rates at half and one-third of the ordinary tariff, the latter being subject to a minimum charge.

The Pan American Airways operates a radio atation under Government licence in Georgetown for communication with aircraft and certain ground stations overseas.

18. 3d. per word.
1s. 3d.
18. 3d.

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There is an up-to-date Postal Telephone Service in the Colony with Exchanges in Georgetown, New Amsterdam and nine of the larger villages, including four semi-automatic exchanges.

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Two separate police exchanges are maintained, one in Georgetown and one in New Amsterdam. A full automatic exchange was opened at Georgetown on 29th June, 1928.

The following trails are passable to pedestrians, horses and pack animals.

The Rupununi Cattle Trail, 299 miles in length, from Takama on the Berbice River via Kurupukari to Dadanawa on the Rupununi River.

The Barima-Barama Trail, 29 miles in length

between Arakaka on the Barima River and Towakaima on the Barama River.

In addition to these trails there is a large mileage of forest trails suitable for foot traffic only serving sections of the mining areas and by-passing falls and rapids in the rivers. Examples of the latter are the portages at Amatuk Falls and Waratuk Falls, on the Potaro River, by which travel to the Kaieteur Fall is made possible.


The Georgetown wireless station, operated by To other postal union Cable and Wireless Ltd., is in communication with ships at sea and stations outside the Colony, and a direction finding station is also maintained. The Colony is in telegraph communication with Barbados, and through Barbados with the United Kingdom, Canada, North America and other parts of the world over cables maintained by Cable and Wireless (West Indies) Ltd. Communication with the British West Indies generally is maintained by Cable and Wireless (West Indies) Ltd. cable to Barbados and thence by wireless.

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German-Hamburg-American Horn Line.

Mails for North America are received and despatched fairly regularly by the following steamers :Canadian National Steamships, Ocean Dominion, Furness Bermuda Line, American Caribbean, and via Trinidad by Prince Munson Lines, and by the aeroplanes of the Pan American Airways, Incorporated

There is also an Air Mail Service with the United

Kingdom via Natal, Dakar and Paris. The approxi
London by this route is 6 days.
mate time of transmission from Georgetown to

To the British Empire

Within Colony

Rates of Postage.

To Canada

To U.S.A.

4 cents.
per 1 oz.
3 cents.
each addtl.
for 1 oz. 6
cents. and 3
cents, for

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every succeeding 1 oz. or part of 1 oz.

each letter not
exceeding 1 oz.
2 cents; over 1
oz, not over 2 oz.
3 cents: over 2
oz. not over 4 oz.
4 cents; each
additional 2 oz.
1 cent.

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For every 2 oz. 1 cent.

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29 " 22


$1.20 up to 15 lbs. 12 cents. per lb. over 15 lbs. up to

22 lbs. $2.00 .. up to 22 lbs. 12 cents. per lb.


24 cents.



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