Jan. 10, 2023
January 10 is a national public holiday in the Bahamas called “Majority Rule Day”. It commemorates the day in 1967 when the black majority living in the Bahamas Islands finally won a national election and had their numbers fairly reflected in the way that parliament was constituted. Majority rule is a principle that means the decision-making power belongs to the group that has the most members. In politics, majority rule requires the deciding vote to have majority, that is, more than half the votes. It is the binary decision rule used most often in influential decision-making bodies, including many legislatures of democratic nations.
Originally inhabited by the Lucayan people, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taino people, the Bahamas were the site of Columbus’ first landfall in the New World in 1492. Although the Spanish never colonized the Bahamas, they shipped the native Lucayans to slavery in Hispaniola. The islands were mostly deserted from 1513 until 1648, when English colonists from Bermuda settled on the island of Eleuthera.
In 1670 King Charles II granted the islands to the lords proprietors of the Carolinas, who rented the islands from the king with rights of trading, tax, appointing governors, and administering the country. The Bahamas became a British crown colony in 1718, when the British clamped down on piracy.
A General Assembly was established in 1729; the first elections took place in September, and on September 29, 1729, twenty-four members representing the islands of New Providence, Eleuthera, and Harbour Island gathered together at the house of Samuel Lawford to form the assembly.
The Bahamas legislature has had a bicameral feature since its inception in 1729 as the Governor’s Council performed both executive and legislative functions. After the American War of Independence, thousands of American loyalists, taking their enslaved Africans, moved to the Bahamas, where the Americans set up a plantation economy. After Britain abolished the international slave trade in 1807, the Royal Navy resettled many free Africans liberated from illegal slave ships in the Bahamas during the 19th century. Slavery in the Bahamas was abolished in 1834.
In 1841 Governor Francis Cockburn divided Governors Council into two separate councils: The Executive Council to deal with executive functions and the Legislative Council to deal with legislative functions of the upper house. In 1841 the Bahamian legislature took on more structure, with the Legislative Council being the superior legislative body and the House of Assembly being the lesser. The Legislative Council eventually was renamed to the Senate in 1964 and became the weaker house while the House of Assembly became the superior legislative body. The Senate is however still known as the upper house and the House of Assembly still as the lower house.
In 1942, the Burma Road Riots occurred when laborers protested for equal pay for equal work regardless of color or nationality. Local workers had heard that Americans were being paid more for the same work at a construction site for an American Armed Forces airfield (the present-day site of Lynden Pindling Airport).
In 1953, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was organized out of a movement that embodied the hopes and aspirations of a generation of Bahamians who were demanding equal work, majority rule and the freedom to pursue whatever dreams they may have had. William Cartwright is generally credited with creating the PLP.
A suffrage movement began in 1957 which resulted in women being given the right to vote starting from June 30, 1962. Bahamians achieved self-government in 1964. In 1965 the PLP proposed two amendments designed to get a fairer idea of the number of voters and their distribution, but both were rejected. At this point Sir Lynden Pindling walked to the Speaker’s table and lifted the 165-year-old mace that symbolizes the Speaker’s authority and said “This is the symbol of authority, and authority on this island belongs to the people and the people are outside.”. With that he hurled the mace through the open window. This act of deviance on April 27, 1965, in pursuit of liberty and fairness was destined to go down in Bahamian history as Black Tuesday.
The black majority living in the Bahamas won a national election on January 10, 1967, finally achieving Majority Rule in the Parliament. Eighteen of the 38 members in the House of Assembly belonged to the PLP. The Majority Rule cabinet was formed when Randol Fawkes of the Labour Party and Sir Alvin Brayan of the Independent Party gave the PLP their support. After years of struggle by many freedom and justice loving people, Majority Rule allowed real democracy to come to the Bahamas, underpinned by equality, tolerance, and economic and social justice. It is a day that belongs to all Bahamians, a defining moment in our evolution as a people. It was the point of transition from minority government to Majority Rule and the birth of a modern democracy.
Full independence within the Commonwealth of Nations was granted on July 10, 1973, retaining Queen Elizabeth II as monarch. The Parliament as presently constituted was established by Chapter 5 of the Constitution of the Bahamas, which came into effect upon the country’s independence from the United Kingdom.
On January 10, 2023, four stamps were released by the Bahamas Postal Service marking the 56th anniversary of the achievement of Majority Rule in the Bahamas Parliament. The stamps are denominated at 15 Bahamian cents, 50c, 65c, and 70c and are perforated 13.25 x 13. Distribution is by Pobjoy Stamps.
- Design: Bee Design
- Printer: Cartor
- Process: Stochastic lithography
- Perforation: 13 ¼ x 13 per 2cms
- Stamp size: 38 x 30.6mm
- Sheet layout: 20 (2 x 10)
- Release date: 10 January, 2023
- Production Coordination: Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd
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