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1639 – 1641 – Setting the foundation for the future of Barbados

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1639 – 1641 – Setting the foundation for the future of Barbados

In 1639, Henry Hawley had established the first House of Assembly, in a desperate effort to win the support of the people that he had suppressed for so long.

However, despite setting up the House of Assembly, Hawley had left it too late to appease the owners of Barbados, the trustees and the Earl of Carlisle, who were discontent with the way that Hawley had almost let the island fall into a state of rebellion.

The Earl of Carlisle and the trustees opted to dismiss Hawley and Henry Huncks was appointed to take his place as Governor of Barbados. Finally, it seemed that with a government made up of elected people and a new Governor, Barbados was moving forward away from the punishing conditions that had beset it.

However, Hawley was not a man to give up that easily. On receiving the commands to step down, he travelled back to England and met with the King of England, Charles 1. How he managed to win the favour of King Charles is unknown, but Hawley was able to return to Barbados with a Commission from the King that bore him the title of the Governor of Barbados.

Hawley was able to return to Barbados before his successor, Huncks, arrived. Carrying his Commission that contained the King’s signature, Hawley successfully convinced the Barbadians of his rightful place as Governor and quickly re-established himself.

He filled all the offices with his own supporters and released any prisoners who had been arrested for committing crimes against the stand-in parliament in his absence. He then established a parliament that contained a ruling Council and a notional House of Representatives that contained a number of citizens.

By the time Huncks arrived to take his position as Governor, Hawley had fully entwined himself into the Government of Barbados. He was a man in full control, enjoying full support of the ruling party. Huncks tried in vain to convince the parliament of his rightful position as appointed Governor from the Trustees and the Earl of Carlisle, but how could he compete with an appointment from the King?

Huncks soon realised that there was nothing he could do, and Hawley let him leave the island peacefully.

1640 – The departure of Hawley

However, this time Huncks was not to be defeated. He returned to England, and the Earl of Carlisle held court with the King. The King agreed that Huncks should be the rightful Governor and sent a new Commission to Barbados. This time, Hawley was out-manoeuvred. With the Commission from the Trustees and now a new Commission coming directly from the King, Huncks convinced the islanders to accept him as Governor.

Huncks tried to fill the shoes of Hawley, by maintaining the current system of a ruling Council. However, the islanders, who now numbered over 10,000, saw their time for change. Many of them had originally left England to seek liberty and land, and had been subject to pain and struggle under the rule of the Council. They quickly rallied against Huncks. The Earl of Carlisle, aware of the turning tide on the island, replaced Huncks with Phillip Bell the next year.

1641 – The formation of the 11 parishes

The new Governor, Phillip Bell, quickly moved to appease the islanders and replaced the ruling Council with a new system. Firstly, he re-organised the six parishes into eleven, which are the same eleven that exist today.

He then organised it that each Parish would send two Representatives to a real House of Representatives. The ruling Council system succeeded its ruling power to the House of Representatives, enabling the latter to create laws.

So in 1641, Bell set the map for the Barbados that exists today, releasing the original white settlers from the almost feudal governance of the previous twelve years, and laying the bedrock for a system of governance that has carried through to this day.

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