On the morning of May 10, 1929, North American Govenor-General Henderson Dewey suffered a heart attack while sleeping, and was found dead in his bed. Half of the Grand Council's Liberal caucus was out of town, so there was nobody in a position of authority to choose a successor. On the afternoon of the 10th, Council Majority Leader John Jenckinson told the press a caucus would convene at nine o'clock the following morning, and not adjourn until a new governor-general had been selected.
Under the terms of the Second Britannic Design, adopted in 1842, the Viceroy was designated to serve as acting governor-general if the office was vacant, but this had evidently been superceded at some point, most likely by Ezra Gallivan in the late nineteenth century. The constitutional crisis created by Dewey's death led to the passage of the Reform Bill of 1936, which created the office of Council President to serve as acting governor-general in the event of the governor-general's death or incapacitation.
Dewey's friend Alton Gibbs later wrote, "In death as in life, Henderson moved quietly, so that it was all over before we realized it had begun."