Legal Materials

Legal: For an introduction to Jamaican legal materials see The Jamaican Legal System and Guide to Legal Research by Jeanne Slowe and Claudette Solomon.

The Laws of Jamaica (Acts) are posted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, although a Disclaimer says the site may not be completely accurate or comprehensive. More Acts are available from the Ministry of Justice and through the Legislation Jamaica page of the World Law Guide.

The Supreme Court of Jamaica posts court rules, forms and Judgments (Opinions) back to 2003. For copies of opinions not available online, call the Supreme Court Library (876-922-8719).

For more legal resources, see “Caribbean” and “Foreign Laws” entries in this legal Encyclopedia.

Business: Companies doing business in Jamaica must register with the Office of the Registrar of Companies. You can search company and business names to see if they are active. You can retrieve business filings online if you register for an account.

General Information: For questions, you could try contacting the Embassy of Jamaica (202-452-0660) in Washington, D.C. or their Jamaica Information Service (202-986-0182).

Administration History

The island is divided into three counties, Surrey in the east, Middlesex in the centre, and Cornwall in the west, and each of these is subdivided into five parishes. The parish is the unit of local government, and has jurisdiction over roads, markets, sanitation, poor relief and waterworks. The management is vested in a parish board, the members of which are elected. The chairman or custos is appointed by the governor. The island is administered by a governor, who bears the old Spanish title of captain-general, assisted by a legislative council of five ex officio members, not more than ten nominated members, and fourteen members elected on a limited suffrage. There is also a privy council of three ex officio and not more than eight nominated members. There is an Imperial garrison of about 2000 officers and men, with headquarters at Newcastle, consisting of Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery, infantry and four companies of the West India Regiment. There is a naval station at Port Royal, and the entrance to its harbour is strongly fortified. In addition there is a militia of infantry and artillery, about 800 strong.

Previous to 1870 the Church of England was established in Jamaica, but in that year a disestablishment act was passed which provided for gradual disendowment. It is still the most numerous body, and is presided over by the bishop of Jamaica, who is also archbishop of the West Indies. The Baptists, 134 Wesleyans, Presbyterians, Moravians and Roman Catholics are all represented; there is a Jewish synagogue at Kingston, and the Salvation Army has a branch on the island. The Church of England maintains many schools, a theological college, a deaconessesÂ’ home and an orphanage. The Baptists have a theological college; and the Roman Catholics support a training college for teachers, two industrial schools and two orphanages.

Elementary education is in private hands, but fostered, since 1867, by government grants; it is free but not compulsory, although the governor has the right to compel the attendance of all children from 6 to 14 years of age in such towns and districts as he may designate. The teachers in these schools are for the most part trained in the government-aided training colleges of the various denominations. For higher education there are the University College and high school at Hope near Kingston, Potsdam School in St Elizabeth, the Mico School and WolmerÂ’s Free School in Kingston, founded (for boys and girls) in 1729, the Montego Bay secondary school, and numerous other endowed and self-supporting establishments. The Cambridge Local Examinations have been held regularly since 1882. (1)


Jamaica continued to be governed by military authority until 1661, when Colonel D’Oyley was appointed captain-general and governor-in-chief with an executive council, and a constitution was introduced resembling that of England. He was succeeded in the next year by Lord Windsor, under whom a legislative council was established. Jamaica soon became the chief resort of the buccaneers, who not infrequently united the characters of merchant or planter with that of pirate or privateer. By the Treaty of Madrid, 1670, the British title to the island was recognized, and the buccaneers were suppressed. The Royal African Company was formed in 1672 with a monopoly of the slave trade, and from this time Jamaica was one of the greatest slave marts in the world. The sugar-industry was introduced about this period, the first pot of sugar being sent to London in 1673. An attempt was made in 1678 to saddle the island with a yearly tribute to the Crown and to restrict the free legislature. The privileges of the legislative assembly, however, were restored in 1682; but not till 46 years later was the question of revenue settled by a compromise by which Jamaica undertook to settle £8000 (an amount afterwards commuted to £6000) per annum on the Crown, provided that English statute laws were made binding in Jamaica.

During these years of political struggle the colony was thrice afflicted by nature. A great earthquake occurred in 1692, when the chief part of the town of Port Royal, built on a shelving bank of sand, slipped into the sea. Two dreadful hurricanes devastated the island in 1712 and 1722, the second of which did so much damage that the seat of commerce had to be transferred from Port Royal to Kingston.

The only prominent event in the history of the island during the later years of the 18th century, was the threatened invasion by the French and Spanish in 1782, but Jamaica was saved (to England) by the victory of Rodney and Hood off Dominica. The last attempt at invasion was made in 1806, when the French were defeated by Admiral Duckworth. When the slave trade was abolished the island was at the zenith of its prosperity; sugar, coffee, cocoa, pimento, ginger and indigo were being produced in large quantities, and it was the dépôt of a very lucrative trade with the Spanish main. The anti-slavery agitation in Great Britain found its echo in the island, and in 1832 the negroes revolted, believing that emancipation had been granted. They killed a number of whites and destroyed a large amount of valuable property.

Two years later the Emancipation Act was passed, and, subject to a short term of apprenticeship, the slaves were free. Emancipation left the planters in a pitiable condition financially. The British government awarded them compensation at the rate of £19 per slave, the market value of slaves at the time being £35, but most of this compensation went into the hands of the planters’ creditors. They were left with over-worked estates, a poor market and a scarcity of labour. Nor was this the end of their misfortunes. During the slavery times the British government had protected the planter by imposing a heavy differential duty on foreign sugar; but on the introduction of free trade the price of sugar fell by one-half and reduced the profits of the already impoverished planter. Many estates, already heavily mortgaged, were abandoned, and the trade of the island was at a standstill. Differences between the executive, the legislature, and the home government, as to the means of retrenching the public expenditure, created much bitterness.

Although some slight improvement marked the administration of Sir Charles Metcalfe and the earl of Elgin, when coolie immigration was introduced to supply the scarcity and irregularity of labour and the railway was opened, the improvement was not permanent. In 1865 Edward John Eyre became governor. Financial affairs were at their lowest ebb and the colonial treasury showed a deficit of £80,000. To meet this difficulty new taxes were imposed and discontent was rife among the negroes. Dr Underhill, the secretary of a Baptist organization known as the British Union, wrote to the colonial secretary in London, pointing out the state of affairs. This letter became public in Jamaica, and in the opinion of the governor added in no small measure to the popular excitement. On the 11th of October 1865 the negroes rose at Morant Bay and murdered the custos and most of the white inhabitants. The slight encounter which followed filled the island with terror, and there is no doubt that many excesses were committed on both sides. The assembly passed an act by which martial law was proclaimed, and the legislature passed an act abrogating the constitution.

The action of Governor Eyre, though generally approved throughout the West Indies, caused much controversy in England, and he was recalled. A prosecution was instituted against him, resulting in an elaborate exposition of martial law by Chief Justice Cockburn, but the jury threw out the bill and Eyre was discharged. He was succeeded in the government of Jamaica by Sir Henry Storks, and under the crown colony system of government the state of the island made slow but steady progress. In 1868 the first fruit shipment took place from Port Antonio, the immigration of coolies was revived, and cinchona planting was introduced. The method of government was changed in 1884, when a new constitution, slightly modified in 1895, was granted to the island. (…)



See Also

  • International Organization
  • Foreign Relations
  • Intergovernmental Organization
  • Regional Organization
  • Regional Integration


Notes and References

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica (11th Edition)

See Also

Further Reading

Bryan Edwards, History of the West Indies (London, 1809, and appendix, 1819); P. H. Gosse, Journal of a Naturalist in Jamaica (London, 1851) and Birds of Jamaica (1847); Jamaica Handbook (London, annual); Bacon and Aaron, New Jamaica (1890); W. P. Livingstone, Black Jamaica (London, 1900), F. Cundall, Bibliotheca Jamaicensis. (Kingston, 1895), and Studies in Jamaica History (1900); W. J. Gardner, History of Jamaica (New York, 1909). For geology, see R. T. Hill, “The Geology and Physical Geography of Jamaica,” Bull. Mus. Com. Zool. Harvard, xxxiv. (1899).

Hierarchical Display of Jamaica

Geography > Economic geography > ACP countries


Concept of Jamaica

See the dictionary definition of Jamaica.

Characteristics of Jamaica

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Translation of Jamaica

Thesaurus of Jamaica

Geography > Economic geography > ACP countries > Jamaica

See also

  • Demographic indicator
  • Demographic statistics
  • Population size
  • Republic of Haiti
  • Cooperative Republic of Guyana