The Bahama Islands in 1791 was a flourishing British colony under the stewardship of the Assembly, its various administrators and the Governor, the 4th Earl of Dunmore. Under the surface however, not everything was going as smoothly as appearance offered. In the British news sheets, in particular the London Times of 1791, news from the far flung colonies were printed. This was all extremely valuable information to Europe at that time. Considerable numbers of the wealthy had investments in the profitable plantations in the colony. Many also had interests in the goings on in the colonies, as more and more were migrating there, to start a new life in the tropics.
From the West Indian islands, in September 1791, word arrived that the Secretary of the Bahama Islands, the indispensable administrator to Governor Dunmore, the Honourable Adam Chrystie, was on trial for extortion and malpractice. Chrystie was found guilty on all counts. In the sentencing phase, Chrystie, even though he had counsel (a lawyer) appeared before the court without one. There was some debate on the sentence to be imposed. One judge advocated imprisonment as well as a hefty fine. Another judge advocated only a hefty fine. In the end, a hefty fine was levied on Chrystie in which he refused to pay. He was remanded to the custody of the Provost Marshall. Rather than letting the justice of the court prevail, Governor Dunmore steps in. Despite the guilty verdict on the charges of extortion and malpractice in office, the Honourable Adam Chrystie kept his job.
FROM THE BAHAMA GAZETTE
NASSAU, SEPTEMBER 2, 1791
Yesterday came on to be tried in the General Court, the Cause of the King against the Hon. Adam Chrystie, Secretary of these Islands, on an information exhibited by the Clerk of the Crown, for extortion and mal-practice in his office.
The examination of witnesses and pleadings of Counsel is support of the prosecution, took up some time:- the defendant, in all the former stages of this long delayed business had Counsel, but at this trial he appeared himself without any.
The information contained nine counts and the Jury, after being out a few minutes, brought in their verdict – Guilty on the Whole.
We understand another information is filed against Mr. C. containing similar and additional charges to those in the former.
On the trial, it was groved that – after the prosecution was commenced – after the Court had given their opinion on Mr. C.’s conduct by making the rule for an Information – after shown, absolute, – he still had continued the same conduct in his office, until the trial.
SEPTEMBER 16, 1791
On Wednesday, being adjournment day, the General Court gave judgement in the cause the King v. the Hon. Adam Chrystie. His Honour the Chief Justice, after going very fully into the merits of the case said it was his opinion, that Mr. Chrystie should suffer one month’s imprisonment, and be fined the same of 500l currency. Mr Justice Martin gave as his, that Mr. Chrystie should be fined 200l currency, without imprisonment. This being acquiesed in my Mr. Justice Sterling, was declared to be the sentence of the Court. The fine not yet being paid, Mr. Chrystie remains in the custody of the Provost Marshall.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1791
The payment of the fine inflicted on Mr. Chrystie, by the General Court, has been suspended by his Excellency the Governor, until his Majesty’s pleasure shall be known.
SEPTEMBER 23, 1791
On Monday last, Mr. Collins brought a writ of habeas corpus for the Hon. Adam Chrystie before his Excellency the Governor and Council in Chancery. His Excellency and the honourable Board were pleased to order Mr. Chrystie remanded upon the ground, we are informed, that the Court had no jurisdiction of the subject matter, and that a habeas corpus might have been sued out of the Judges of the common law, which, to use the plain language of the Lord Chancellor Hardwick, “is the ready way.”
Mr Bradford, on the following day, issued out a writ of habeas corpus for Mr. Chrystie who was before his Honour Mr. Justice Sterling, at Chambers, and upon entering into security (as directed by the General Court) to appear at the ensuing November Term and answer to an information filed against him last term, he was discharged.