Posted by / Monday 5 December 2016 / No comments

The main features and limitations of the 1951 Arden Clarke Constitution of the Gold Coast

The 1951 constitution of the Gold Coast was introduced by Arden Clarke. The constitution was approved in 1950 but it came into effect on first January, 1951 which is why it is referred to as the 1951 constitution.

The Legislative Assembly
The new constitution made provision for a Legislative Assembly. The assembly was made up of 75 elected members. They represented the colony, Ashanti and the Northern territories. An additional nine were nominated, taking the total to 84.

Speaker of the Assembly
The constitution also made provision for a speaker of the Legislative Council. The Speaker could either be elected from among the members in the Assembly or could be elected from outside the Assembly.

The Executive Council
The constitution further made provision for an Executive Council. There were 11 members in this Council. Out of the 11 members, 3 were Europeans who were in charge of defense and external affairs, finance and then justice. The rest 8 were Africans, all with ministerial responsibility, one of whom was to serve as the Leader of Government business.

The Governor
The constitution, like previous ones before it, provided for the position of a Governor. He was in charge of the entire colony.

Enlarged Legislative Assembly
One of the advantages of the Arden Clarke constitution was that it enlarged the membership of the legislature. Previously, there were 31 members in the Legislative Council but with the new constitution, this was increased to 84.

African Majority in the Executive Council
Another good thing about the Arden Clarke constitution was that it introduced an African majority in the Executive Assembly. There were 8 Africans/Ghanaians, much more than the 3 Europeans.

Greater self-government
The constitution granted to the locals, more control over internal affairs of the colony. The position of the Leader of Government Business was akin to the position of a Prime Minister and he was responsible for the direct administration of the colony.

Governor’s veto power
The Governor continued to exercise his veto powers under the new constitution. The Governor was given the power to reject any Ordinance that was passed by the Legislative Council. The Governor also had the power of Certification where he could force a law to be passed even if the majority of the members of the Legislative Council thought otherwise.

Cabinet responsibility
Unlike the Parliamentary system of government practiced in Britain where the entire Cabinet was responsible to the British Parliament, under the Clarke constitution, the European members of the Executive Council were responsible to the Governor instead of the Legislative Assembly.

Power to dismiss African members of the Executive Council
The Arden Clarke constitution was criticized on the grounds that it empowered the Legislative Assembly to dismiss any of the 8 African members of the Executive Council but similar powers were granted it to dismiss the European members of the same Council.

Denial of the right to vote
There were 70 Africans who elected into the Legislative Assembly. However, they were not elected directly by the people. They were elected through an electoral college to represent the rural parts of the gold Coast.

Governor presiding over Cabinet
Another downside of the constitution was that the Governor continued to preside over the meetings of the Executive Council, thus limiting the powers of the leader of Government Business. The Governor also had complete control over external affairs and over the army and police.

It did not grant self-government
In spite of the achievements of the Arden Clarke constitution, it did not grant the power of self-rule to the people.

1. a. What were the features of the Arden Clarke constitution of 1951?
    b. Highlight four weaknesses of the Arden Clarke constitution.
2. Highlight three strengths and three weaknesses of the Arden Clarke constitution.

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