Campbell v. Hall

Campbell v. Hall

Campbell v Hall was a case decided in the Court of King's Bench in 1774. On its face it was an action for recovery of sums paid to a tax agent. The matter was first heard in the Mayor's and City of London Court, which court found a special verdict and remitted it to the Court of King's Bench, which then heard the claim on a matter of law.

The decision turned on the validity of a tax imposed in Grenada. This was the trigger for an examination of the constitutional position of Grenada and for a review of the position in all British territories.

The political situation at the time of the judgment was interesting too; this was the time of the tax rebellion in the American colonies (including the West Indies) and was indeed two years before the American Declaration of Independence. The judgment therefore had the potential to cause political trouble.

Lord Mansfield's judgment looked beyond the narrow facts of the case. He reviewed the law applicable to British colonies in general and laid down a series of important points of constitutional law applicable to British possessions.

The Facts

Grenada was conquered from the French (and formally ceded in 1763). A proclamation of 7 October 1763 commanded that all governors of the newly acquired colonies were instructed instructions "as soon as the state and circumstances of the said colonies will admit" to call a general assembly. On 9 April 1764, the King (George III) appointed a Governor, General Melville.

Finally, on 24 July 1764 (before Melville had set sail for Grenada) letters patent were issued to impose a four and an half per cent duty upon all goods and sugars exported from the island of Grenada, to equalise the duty across the Leeward Islands. Melville arrived in Grenada on 14 December 1764. In 1765 he summoned an assembly.

James Campbell bought a plantation on Grenada. William Hall was a collector of the four and a half per cent duty. Campbell brought a claim to recover from Hall the money he had paid as duty. Campbell claimed that 4½% duty had not been imposed by lawful or sufficient authority.

Campbell succeeded, the decision turning on important constitutional principles.

The judgment

The law decided

The points of law so decided were, in summary:

* A country conquered by the British arms becomes a dominion of the King in the right of the Crown; and, therefore, necessarily subject to Parliament.
* The conquered inhabitants once received under the King's protection, become subjects in all respects.
* The law of a colony equally affects all persons and all property there: a native-born Briton has no privilege distinct from local people.
* The King has power to make law for the conquered country without the concurrence of Parliament (except that this legislation is subordinate to his own authority in Parliament so that he cannot make any new change contrary to fundamental principles such as exempted an individual from the power of Parliament).
* Once the King has irrevocably granted a territory a representative assembly to concur in law making, he can no longer legislate by decree or impose taxation without them.

Review of the law of colonies

Most of the text of Lord Mansfield's judgment reaffirmed the authority of the king to make law and impose taxation upon a colony by his own authority. In addition to past judicial pronouncements (of which few were found) he examined historical sources. In particular he found that the sovereign ruled freely by charter and decree in Ireland until its own parliament was founded, Wales until its annexation, Berwick-upon-Tweed until the days of James I and in Calais until its loss, and that power remained unchallenged in other extant British colonies.

However in contrast Jamaica, which had a representative assembly it had been previously decided that a governor could not override a troublesome assembly. Just as in Great Britain the King was restrained by Parliament, the Governor had no power to force laws or taxes on a colony without the consent of its assembly. Only an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain could do that.

The ratio decidendi

Lord Mansfield recognised that the 4½% duty was fair and equitable, even desirable to avoid distorting trade between the Windward Islands. Nevertheless, he ruled it unlawful.

Notwithstanding the crown's wide authority, where a colony has a representative assembly, taxation cannot be imposed without its consent or by Act of Parliament.

In this case the letters patent of 24 July 1764 predated by some months the existence of the assembly. Nevertheless, Lord Mansfield held that the requirement to call the assembly was in the King's proclamation of 9 April 1764. Therefore the King's absolute authority ended on that date, notwithstanding that the assembly had not been called and indeed the governor who was to call it had not even left Britain.

"Through the inattention of the king's servants in inverting the order in which the instruments should have passed and been notoriously published, the last act is contradictory to and a violation of the first, and is, therefore, void."

Other cases citing "Campbell v. Hall"

Campbell v. Hall has been cited or referred to in several later cases in the British Empire. Most pointedly it was cited with approval in "West Rand Central Gold Mining Company, Limited v. The King", [Case citation#England| [1905] 2 K.B. 391] , a case which concerned the conquest of the Transvaal and the consequent the extinction of the vanquished state's obligations.

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