The Public Meeting and the Superintendent, pre-1854

Belize Table of Contents

The ambiguous status of British loggers who settled in Spanish territory hindered the early development of government institutions in the area. Informal meetings to address common security concerns, however, evolved into a rudimentary form of administration, the Public Meeting. Participation in the Public Meetings depended on race, wealth, and length of residency. In 1765 Rear Admiral Sir William Burnaby, commander in chief of Jamaica, compiled the settlement's common law in the Ancient Usages and Customs of the Settlement, or, "Burnaby's Code." Burnaby also recommended to the British government that a superintendent be appointed to oversee the settlement. Opposition from the settlers prevented the office of superintendent from being permanently established until 1796. The changing political, economic, and social climate of Central America and the Caribbean, including the emancipation of slaves throughout the British empire in the 1830s, contributed to a desire to regularize the status of the settlement. As early as 1840, British law displaced Burnaby's Code as the settlement's basic law, and in 1854, a Public Meeting and the British Parliament adopted a new constitution, which created institutions more like those of other British possessions. The Public Meeting thus ceased to operate.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress