Close this window to return to the main menu

Previous Chapter        Next Chapter

Immediately after the British took possession of Essequibo-Demerara and Berbice in 1803, they began to implement changes in the administration of the colonies with the aim of removing the strong Dutch influence which was present.

Meanwhile, in 1806 the slave trade was abolished in the two colonies, as well as in Trinidad; final abolition occurred in other British territories during the following year. Regulations were put in place to prevent transfer of slaves from one colony to another, but this did not prevent trafficking in slaves from the Caribbean islands to Berbice and Essequibo-Demerara.

Some planters sold their plantations in Barbados and bought new ones in the two Guyana colonies and used a loophole in the regulations to transfer their slaves from Barbados to their new plantations. In this way, it was easier to move slaves from Barbados to Berbice and Essequibo-Demerara than between the two Guyana colonies since purchases of plantations by Berbice planters in Essequibo-Demerara and vice versa were not common.

Governor Carmichael, in 1812, had abolished the College of Keizers without the consent of the British Government because it was packed with Dutch planters who opposed his administration. He had transferred their powers to the Financial Representatives (in the Court of Policy), but this plan backfired because the Financial Representatives soon acquired more powers over financial matters than was originally planned. They were even in a position to oppose the Governor's budget estimates.

But soon after the unification of the colonies in 1831, Governor Benjamin D'Urban brought an end to this state of affairs by re-establishing the College of Keizers and setting up a separate College of Financial Representatives, both of which now also had representatives from Berbice. Both of these Colleges functioned as parts of the united Court of Policy headquartered in Georgetown. At the same time, the constitution under which Berbice was governed up to 1831 was abolished, and the united British Guiana was administered under the constitution that previously governed Essequibo-Demerara.

As a result of the unification, there was also now only one Court of Justice which comprised of three judges. For civil cases, and cases of lesser importance, the Governor, on the advice of the Court of Policy, established Inferior Courts which later became known as magistrate courts.