Commerce, whether local, national or international, is today, the great motivating force controlling the actions, energies, and ambitions of the world. It is essential that there should be well-organized bodies to protect and watch over the interests of the industrial and commercial community in every country when Governments are continually proposing, or enacting legislation, which affects such interests.
So it was that two hundred and thirty-nine years ago a group of local business and professional men formed the Kingston Chamber of Commerce, with a view to improving the trade conditions, urging legislation beneficial to commerce and social welfare and most importantly, to encourage the growth and prosperity of their community.
Although Spanish Town was where the Government had its headquarters, as did the plantocracy, Kingston was the Commercial Centre. The majority of the merchants lived in or near Kingston. In “an Almanac and Register for the Year of our Lord 1779 adapted for Jamaica”, which has been preserved in the Institute of Jamaica, the “Office-Bearers” of the Kingston Chamber of Commerce is listed. Thomas Hibbert Jr. was the first President; Alexander Allardyce, Vice-President; Moses Benson, Treasurer; and John Hardware, Secretary.
Thomas Hibbert, Jr., the nephew of Thomas Hibbert, Speaker of the Assembly in 1756 was the Member of the Assembly for St. George in 1770-75. It was Thomas Hibbert, the Speaker who built Hibbert House on Duke Street, known to us as Headquarters House. This was the House of Parliament from 1872, when the capital moved from Spanish Town to Kingston, up until 1960.
Other illustrious personalities who were members of this first Chamber of Commerce included Hercules Rose, Naval Agent; Thomas Gray, member of the Assembly for Kingston in 1781; and Robert Milligan; who left Jamaica in 1779 to reside in London, and was later instrumental in forming the famous West Indian Docks, of which he was Chairman.