It is well known in the Cayman Islands that something important happened in 1962. A popular idea of what happened then is that the Cayman Islands ceased being dependent upon Jamaica and became directly a Dependency of the Crown of Great Britain. This is the impression given by countless popular articles; but impressions can be misleading.

Less well known is that something important happened in 1959: a new constitution for the Islands, the first in the modern era, came into effect (on the 4th July of that year). A popular idea is that this was to prepare the Islands for what was to happen in 1962. But this idea is wrong.

Why these ideas are wrong we shall see very shortly. It is worth taking a minute, however, to reflect on what the implications would be of our being misled about apparently well-known things occurring only some thirty years ago, with much written and said about them. If by the repetitive printing of inaccurate ideas the strands of the historical thread have become damaged in thirty years, it is not hard to imagine the result of such a process over a whole century or more. Let us, then, with care and sensitivity, begin our undertaking to repair the strands.

We will begin with 1959, which was a more truly definitive year for the Cayman Islands than 1962. In early 1959 the Cayman Islands were a Dependency of Jamaica, and along with Jamaica the Cayman Islands were one of the several components of the political association of British Caribbean territories known as the West Indies Federation. (At that time the Cayman Islands answered to no fewer than four providers of government, namely Cayman's own Vestry, the Jamaican Government, the Government of the West Indies Federation and the British Crown and Parliament.) All the components of the Federation were British dependencies. The Federal idea was the hope and intention that in a few years' time a new nation would be formed from these components, a self-governing Dominion of the West Indies within the British Commonwealth. At the same time however, the larger of the components, most notably Jamaica, were moving rapidly towards responsible self-government. On the 4th July, 1959 the new constitution for Jamaica came into effect there, providing for a Premier (in place of the recent provision of a Chief Minister) and a Cabinet (in place of the Legislative Council). The veto powers of the Governor were to be exercised only on the advice of the Cabinet, and only bills relating to defence and international relations were to be reserved for the special assent of the Queen. However, the West Indies Federal Government was already in place consisting of a Governor-General appointed by the Crown and assisted by a Council of State, and a two-House Legislature.1.1 It is not surprising that the beginnings of a "war of laws" should come about between a Jamaican Government that provided a high level of internal responsibility and the Federal Government, whose powers seemed to encroach upon that responsibility.

Prior to the date of the new Jamaican constitution, the 4th July 1959, the constitution of the Cayman Islands was provided for by British sources, namely by the Cayman Islands Act, 18631.2 and by the Jamaica (Constitution) Order in Council 1944. The Jamaica (Constitution) Order in Council included provision for the Cayman Islands, on account of those Islands being a Dependency of the larger territory. But in 1958 the Imperial Parliament enacted the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Act 1958 which repealed the Cayman Islands Act, 1863, providing also for the continued operation of all the laws that applied by virtue of that Act. The reason for the 1958 enactment, which conferred power upon the Queen in Council to make provision for the constitution of the Cayman Islands and of the Turks and Caicos Islands was clearly set out at the time by the following statement:

"It is proposed that there should be a separate Order in Council for each Dependency to provide for a constitution which would follow the pattern of other small territories in the West Indies. The link in future will be with the Governor, rather than the Government of Jamaica [my italics]. At present the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands come within the terms of the Jamaica (Constitution) Order in Council, 1944 and amendments thereto, but these Orders in Council will cease to have effect when the final Jamaican Constitution1.3, which will make no provision for the government of the Cayman Islands, comes into operation. It is desirable that the new Constitutions for the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands should be brought into operation at the same time as the new Constitution of Jamaica...."1.4

This statement makes it clear that the 4th July 1959 constitutions for Jamaica, for the Cayman Islands and for the Turks and Caicos Islands were created to be independent of one another. This date, the 4th July 1959, marked the end of the era of dependency upon Jamaica. The first Constitution Order in Council specifically for the Cayman Islands was issued and a distinct Government for the Islands was thereby established, taking its place with the other distinct Governments of the members of the West Indies Federation. Under this Constitution Order, the former Legislative Assembly of Justices and Vestrymen was replaced by a smaller Legislative Assembly and an Executive Council. It must also be said that the new constitution for the Cayman Islands conferred certain powers on the Jamaican legislature to continue to legislate for the Islands, and the Jamaican legislature did so by amending the Cayman Islands Government Law, which had been enacted in 1893 in Jamaica, to reduce its scope, and by repealing what remained of other unwanted legislation. The new Constitution for the Cayman Islands, effective from the 4th July, was created by Order in Council on the 13th May 1959. The 4th July 1959 is one of the defining dates of Caymanian history, and it is rightly commemorated in the Cayman Islands every year by the Public Holiday "Constitution Day".

"The link in future will be with the Governor, rather than the Government of Jamaica." These are important words, not only in respect of what was to lie ahead, but also to gain a more accurate interpretation of much of the history of the Islands up to this time. For the time being from the 4th July 1959, the Governor of Jamaica was also and equally to be the Governor of the Cayman Islands. But this was not by virtue of any Jamaican law or any enactment for Jamaica. It was provided for by the Constitution for the Cayman Islands. To have the Governor of Jamaica as the Governor of the Cayman Islands does not by itself necessitate or imply a state of dependency of the Cayman Islands upon Jamaica. This is a fact that must be born in mind when the earlier history of the Islands is considered.

The events of 1962 are well known and do not need any detailed consideration here, though some interpretation of them is in order. Evidently they were not caused by a decision by Cayman Islanders to sever a constitutionally dependent connection with Jamaica; for such a connection had already been severed. They occurred, first, because the West Indies Federation was collapsing following the withdrawal first of Jamaica and then of Trinidad, and secondly, because the Independence Constitution being negotiated by the United Kingdom for Jamaica excluded the centuries-old role of a British Governor, a Governor who could also be Governor for the Cayman Islands. On the 31st May, 1962 the Federation formally went out of existence. Jamaica had already withdrawn as a result of its September referendum in 1961, formally seceding in early 1962. Following extensive consultations the final form of Jamaica's Independence Constitution (which like previous Constitutions was provided by the United Kingdom in the form of an Order in Council) became known, and the date for the Independence of Jamaica was agreed to be the 6th August 1962. Meanwhile in the Cayman Islands there was debate over whether the Cayman Islands should request to be transferred back constitutionally to Jamaica from the disintegrating Federation, a course of action that would require the disposal of British sovereignty after the 6th August, or whether the Islands should retain British sovereignty. The result was a new Constitution Order for the Cayman Islands coming into operation on the 6th August 1962. Under this Constitution, all the powers formerly exercised by the Governor of Jamaica as Governor of the Cayman Islands were conferred upon an Administrator appointed by the Crown upon the advice of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Applying an ecclesiastical analogy, it is as if in 1962 the Cayman Islands were confirmed in the state into which they were baptised in 1959.