Posted by / Sunday 4 December 2016 / No comments

The main features and shortcomings of the Allan Burns Constitution of the Gold Coast

The Burns constitution was the first to be introduced after the Second World War because the previous one was seen to have become outmoded.

Legislative Council
The 1946 constitution made provision for a Legislative Council. It consisted of thirty-one members. The Governor was the president of the council. Of the thirty-one, six of them were official members and twenty-four were unofficial members.
Of the twenty-four unofficial members, thirteen were chiefs, elected by the Joint Provincial Council. There were five elected persons representing Accra, Cape Coast and Sekondi-Takoradi.
There were also six nominated members representing the Chamber of Commerce, mining and banking. Three of the six were Gold Coasters.

The Burns constitution also made provision for an Executive Council. It was made up of eleven members. Eight of them were officials and the rest three were unofficial.

Extension of elective principle
One of the good things about the Burns constitution was the fact that it extended the elective principle. In the 1925 constitution, the elective principle covered only Accra, Cape Coast, Secnindi-Takoradi but the Burns constitution extended it to Kumasi.

African majority in the Legislative Council
For the first time in the history of the Gold Coast, there was an African majority in the Legislative Council. This gave the Africans some numbers to try to influence ordinances.

Territorial Council for the North
The constitution introduced a Territorial Council for the Northern areas thus bringing some inclusiveness to the people in the northern borders of the colony.

Weakness of the Legislative Council
Though the Legislative Council was now made up of an African majority, there still problems because the Council remained just an advisor to the governor. It could not compel the latter to take any action if he felt it was not in the interest of Metropolitan Britain.

The Executive Council
Another drawback of the Burns constitution was that the Africans in the Executive Council were still in the minority so they really not do much to influence policies and programmes. They were also not Heads of Departments so they could not contribute to policy formulation and implementation.

Exclusion of Northern Territories and Togoland  
There were no representatives from the Northern Territories and the British mandated Togoland in the Legislative Council. These areas continued to be ruled by laws other than those passed in the Legislative Council under the Burns constitution.

Exclusion of the educated elite
Another shortcoming of the Burns constitution was that it excluded the educated elite from participating in the governance of the colony. The traditional rulers were given more roles to play through the policy of Indirect Rule to the detriment of the educated elite.

Representation of the chiefs
By the introduction of the burns constitution, there were more chiefs in the legislative Council than ever before. However, it was thought that the chiefs were rather representing their own interests and not the interest of the people at large.

Did not grant self-rule
The new constitution did not grant independence to the Gold Coasters. The ultimate goal of the modern nationalists was to attain independence, therefore, once the new constitution did not grant that sort after independence, it was concluded that the constitution did not meet the aspirations of the people.

1. a. Explain the term ‘Nationalism’. [2 marks]
    b. Highlight five reasons why the Burns constitution did not meet the aspirations of the people. [10 marks]

Related Posts