By Russell Elliott, Esq., Commander of H. B. M. Sloop Fly, and Senior Officer at Pitcairn’s.
“REGULATIONS for the appointment of a magistrate at Pitcairn’s on the 1st day of January, every year. An elder or magistrate is to be elected by the free votes of every native born on the island, male or female, who shall have attained the age of eighteen years; or, of persons who have resided five years upon the island. And they shall assemble for such purpose in the school house the first day of every year, where the business shall be presided over by the magistrate of the preceding year, whose period of office does not expire until the swearing in of his successor. The greatest number of votes shall determine the election or re-election of the magistrate, whose duty it shall be to hold the chief authority on the island, and to settle all differences, with the advice of his council; which is to consist of two other natives, one to be named by the votes of the assembly, and the other by the magistrate himself; but his decision is final. It shall be the duty of the said magistrate, also, to keep a journal or register of all complaints made to him, and his decision on them; and if any grave offence, or serious crime, be committed, he is to secure the custody of the offender, until he has the opportunity of delivering him over to justice. He will submit his account of what has occurred to the captain of any British ship of war arriving; and hold himself responsible for the faithful and just fulfilment of the duties of his office. It will be incumbent on his countrymen, and the residents on the island, to respect his situation, and obey his authority, under pain of serious consequences, until he is superseded by the authority of Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain. No one shall be eligible for the situation of magistrate, but a native-born inhabitant of the island. The following shall be the form of oath to be administered:—‘I solemnly swear, that I will execute the duties of magistrate and chief ruler of Pitcairn’s Island, to which I am this day called on the election of the inhabitants, by dispensing justice and settling any differences that may arise, zealously, fearlessly, and impartially; and that I will keep a register of my proceedings, and hold myself accountable for the due exercise of my office to Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain, or her Representatives. So help me God.’
“Dated on board Her Majesty’s Sloop Fly,
“off Pitcairn’s Island, this thirtieth day of
“(Signed) R. ELLIOTT, Commander.”
“No. 1.—Laws and Regulations of Pitcairn’s Island.
“The magistrate, is to convene the public on occasions of complaints being made to him; and, on hearing both sides of the question, commit it to a jury. He is to see all fines levied, and all public works executed; and every one must treat him with respect. He is not to assume any power or authority on his own responsibility, or without the consent of the majority of the people. A public journal shall be kept by the magistrate, and shall from time to time be read; so that no one shall plead ignorance of the law for any crime he may commit. This journal shall be submitted to the inspection of those captains of British men-of-war, which occasionally touch at the island.
“No. 2.—Laws for Dogs.
“If any one’s dog is found chasing a goat, the owner of that dog shall pay a fine of one dollar and a half; one dollar to the owner of the goat or goats, and the other half to the informer. If a dog kills, or otherwise injures a goat, the owner of the dog so offending must pay the damage; but should suspicion rest on no particular dog, the owners of dogs generally must pay the damage. The foregoing law is of’ no effect when the goat or goats are upon cultivated ground. Persons who have fowls or hogs in the bush may take dogs to hunt them; but should the dogs commit damage during the hunt, the person taking the dogs to hunt must pay the damage.
“No. 3.—Laws for Cats.
“If any person under the age of ten years shall kill a cat, he or she shall receive corporal punishment. If any one, between the ages of ten and fifteen, kill a cat, he or she shall pay a fine of twenty-five dollars; half the fine to be given to the informer, the other half to the public. All masters of families convicted of killing a cat shall be fined fifty dollars; half the fine to be given to the informer, the other half to the public.
“N.B. Every person, from the age of fifteen and upwards, shall pay a fine similar to masters of families.
“No. 4.—Laws for Hogs.
“If a pig does any damage, the person who sustains the damage may take the pig so trespassing, no matter whether he see the pig committing damage, or another person see the pig committing damage. If any person or persons, see a pig, or pigs, committing damage, and neglect to inform the person sustaining the damage, the person guilty of such neglect must pay the damage.
“No. 5.—Laws regarding the School.
“There must be a school kept, to which all parents shall be obliged to send their children, who must previously be able to repeat the alphabet, and be of the age of from six to sixteen. Mr. Nobbs shall be placed at the head of the school, assisted by such persons as shall be named by the chief magistrate. The school-hours shall be from seven o’clock in the morning until noon, on all days, excepting Saturdays and Sundays, casualties and sickness excepted. One shilling, or an equivalent as marked below, shall be paid for each child per month, by the parents, whether the child attend school or not. In case Mr. Nobbs does not attend, the assistant appointed by the chief magistrate shall receive the salary in proportion to the time Mr. Nobbs is away.
“Equivalent for money:— s. d. One Barrel of Yams, valued at - 8 0 One Barrel of Sweet Potatoes, " - 8 0 One Barrel of Irish Potatoes, valued at 12 0 Three good Bunches of Plantains, 4 0 One day’s Labour, 2 0
“The chief magistrate is to see the labour well performed; and goods which may be given for money, shall be delivered, either at the market-place, or at the house of Mr. Nobbs, as he may direct.
“If any person wants to cultivate any lands, he is to give notice of it to the public; and any person wanting any wood is to go on the aforesaid land and get it. If any person cuts more wood than is sufficient to build his house, the wood that remains after his house is finished is to be given to the next person who may want it to build a house. This extends only to the mero and borou timber. Any person who may want any trees to break off the wind from his plantations or houses, is to make it known; and no one is allowed to cut them down, even if they be upon his own land. At any meeting which may take place, there shall be no bringing up things that are past to criminate others, with a view to prevent justice with the case before the magistrate. Any one doing so shall be punished by such a fine as a jury may think proper to award. The magistrate is to appoint churchwardens, four in number, beginning on the first of every month. Any person detected in shooting, or in any way killing white birds (unless it be for the sick), shall, for each bird that is killed, pay a dollar.
“No. 7.—Laws for Wood.
“If any person goes to cut logs, to enclose a piece of ground, or any other purpose, he is not to cut any fit for building a dwelling-house. The magistrate is to appoint four men to inspect the logs after they are brought home; and should any be found serviceable for building dwelling-houses, they are to be taken from him and given to the next person who builds a house. The third year from the time a person commences cutting wood for his house, he is to build it, and the second year he is to pick a share of thatch for covering dwelling-houses. If the wood is left longer than the time specified, it is to be taken front him and given to the next person who builds a house. Any person cutting logs, must not cut green ones until no more dry ones can be found. Any person without a pig-sty and wanting one, is allowed to cut green logs to make it with, if dry logs are not be found. No one is allowed to cut down any trees for logs on which there are young ones growing, which may become serviceable for building in future. Any person having a large enclosure round his pig-sty, cutting down any tree on which there is any good logs, is not allowed to take the logs, but he has to leave it for the benefit of those who have no enclosure. He is also bound to inform those who have no enclosure where the logs are to be found; but if they do not cut them at the end of two weeks, any one may be allowed to cut them, and keep them for such service as they please. No one may cut green logs to repair his large enclosure, save what he may find on trees which have been cut and left above two weeks.
“No. 8.—Laws respecting Landmarks.
“On the first day of January, after the magistrate is elected, he shall assemble all those who should be deemed necessary; and with them he is to visit all landmarks that are upon the island, and replace those that are lost. Should anything occur to prevent its accomplishment in the time specified (the 1st of January), the magistrate is bound to see it done the first opportunity.
“No. 9.—Laws for Trading with Ships.
“No person or persons shall be allowed to get spirits of any sort from any vessel, or sell it to strangers or any person upon the island. Any one found guilty of so doing shall be punished by fine, or such other punishment as a jury shall determine on. No intoxicating liquor whatever shall be allowed to be taken on shore, unless it be for medical purposes. Any person found guilty of transgressing this law, shall be severely punished by a jury. No females are allowed to go on board of a foreign vessel, of any size or description, without the permission of the magistrate; and in case the magistrate does not go on board himself; he is to appoint four men to look after the females.
“No. 10.—Law for the Public Anvil, &c.
“Any person taking the public anvil and public sledge-hammer from the blacksmith’s shop, is to take it back after he has done with it; and in case the anvil and sledge-hammer should get lost by his neglecting to take it back, he is to get another anvil and sledge hammer, and pay a fine of four shillings.”
Such as their code is, I give it word for word, although it will not be found very amusing; and the following, which have not been copied into the code, although in use upon the island:—
“If a fowl be seen trespassing in a garden, the proprietor of the garden is allowed to shoot and keep it, while the owner of the fowl is obliged to return the charge of powder and shot expended in killing the bird. This is the law; but the practice is to send back the dead fowl, and drop the claim for ammunition. If a pig be seen trespassing, no one is allowed to give information excepting to the owner of the land, that he may not be baulked in whatever course he may think to adopt.
“Squid (a glutinous fish, in shape not unlike a star fish) is not allowed to be taken for food from off the rocks at the north end of the island, excepting by the owner of the rocks; but any one may take it for bait, when going fishing.”
“Carving upon trees is forbidden.” It seems that the lads and maidens used to amuse themselves with carving true love-knots, which are considered by the elders, who had written their own long ago, as a practice fraught with danger. The trees generally used for the above purposes were the large banana and plantain, which are as easily written upon as paper, especially upon their leaves.