The Jamaica rebellion of 1865: Its causes, course, and consequences

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The Jamaica rebellion of 1865: Its causes, course, and consequences

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A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School The University of Southern California

in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts

by John Francis Danby August.


UMI Number: EP59624

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T his thesis, w ritten by

John Francis Danby under the guidance of

F a c u lty Co m m ittee,

and app ro ved by a l l its members, has been presented to and accepted by the C o u n c il on G ra duate Study and Research in p a r t ia l f u l f i l l ­ ment of the requirements f o r the degree of

Master of Arts

Faculty Committee



EMANCIPATION ................................ APPRENTICESHIP, 1834-1838


1 20

PLEASURES OP F R E E D O M .........................



THE RISING AT MORANT B A Y ....................



THE S U P P R E S S I O N ............................



SEQUELS IN J A M A I C A ..........................



THE REACTION IN E N G L A N D ....................



E P I L O G U E .......................................... BIBLIOGRAPHY


119 123

CHAPTER I EMANCIPATION On the fifteenth of May, 1823* Fowell Buxton, political heir of the aging Wilberforee, arose in the House of Commons and fired the first shot in the campaign to abolish slavery In the British Empire.

Mr. Buxton was

not at all sanguine that the cause he espoused would im­ mediately triumph, and, indeed, he only proposed that all children born after a given date be emancipated, and that the conditions of those remaining in bondage be amelior­ ated.1

His speech was long, earnest, and circumstantial,

shot through with nholy anger and pious grief," and his shocked description of the hapless negro field worker laboring apprehensively under the threat of the overseer’s whip did not fail to move the parliament which, a year later, was to defeat a motion to mitigate army court2 martial sentences of twelve hundred lashes. Mr. Canning noted with highest approval the nobil­ ity and humanity of his honorable friend’s eloquent ad­ dress, but countered his motion with another to the effect 1.

Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 9 (NS), pp. 257ff2 Ibid., Vol. 10, pp. 1031ff.

2 that ”. . . it is expedient to adopt effectual and decisive measures for ameliorating the conditions of the 3 slave population in His Majesty’s colonies.” This mo­ tion passed the division, and on the twenty-fourth of May a circular was issued from the Colonial Office call­ ing upon the West Indian governors to carry into effect the resolutions agreed to in Parliament, and citing the particulars in which reform was expected.

These parti­

culars included the cessation of the practice of carrying a whip in the field, and the exemption of women from 4 corporal punishment. The furious wrath of Achilles as described by Homer was hardly so terrible as that of the Jamaica Assembly when the governor (the Duke of Manchester) sented to it the mandates of Parliament.


The matter was

referred to a committee, which at once drew up an outraged address to the king.

Surprise and regret were

expressed that His Majesty’s ministers had sanctioned ”. . . the principles laid down by enemies in the mother

3 Ibid., Vol. 9, PP. 275ff. 4 o W. J. Gardner, History of Jamaica, p. 258. 5 Otherwise a very popular man— a hard drinker, rider, gambler, and whoremaster, he begot ”a numerous brown-skinned progeny.” (Lord Olivier, Jamaica, p. 91.)


Most of the text is given in Gardner, o£. cit.,

3 country,” and had dedicated themselves to a course of action which could lead only to total emancipation.


refused to alter the slave code (it was the new, or re* vised, one of 1799), as it was nas complete in all its enactments, as the nature of the circumstances would admit, to render the slave population as happy and com­ fortable, in every respect, as the laboring classes in any part of the world.11 They refused to submit to the dictates of*the British Parliament, to which they had never taken an oath of allegiance, or to "the degradation of having their internal affairs regulated by a body whose power in Great Britain was not greater than their own in Jamaica.”

They pointed out the horrible consequences of

emancipation in Haiti, and they predicted utter ruin should emancipation arrive in Jamaica.

Ending on a sar­

castic note, the petitioners begged His Majesty to:


your Royal Parliament become the lawful owner of our pro­ perty by purchase, and we will retire from the island, and leave it a free field for modern philanthropy to work upon.” Thus did the legislature of Jamaica receive the orders, not to emancipate, but merely to ameliorate the conditions of negro servitude, and to further directives from the Colonial Office it remained contemptuously aloof

4 or bitterly obstructive.

Such a course of action could

have but one result, that is, to strengthen immeasurably the arguments and the determination of the British abol­ itionists, and to make their sworn goal so much more cer­ tain of rapid attainment.

It was the tragedy of the

Jamaica planters that they could not realize this.


headstrong and infatuated folk, they struck savagely and heedlessly at any and all who would imperil the prosper­ ity of the only life they knew, and the only life they cared to lead.

Politically and spiritually they remained

a part of the eighteenth century, and they paid the in­ evitable penalty.

The mighty forces of the nineteenth

century, liberalism, philanthropy, and free trade, backed by steam and iron and new invention, rolled over them and remorselessly crushed them.

But, like the old order

everywhere, they fought on as long as they could, for they had a great deal worth fighting for. When, in 1798, William Pitt proposed his new in­ come tax, he calculated that, of the incomes enjoyed in Great Britain, those derived from the West Indies very much surpassed those derived from all the rest of the world/outside the British Isles.


Jamaica, its rich

pp. 2 5 8 ff. 7 G. m . Trevelyan, British History in the Nine teenth Century, p. 88.

5 soil being worked by some 300,000 slaves, was enjoying a phenomenal prosperity.

With around eleven hundred sugar

plantations and more than eight hundred coffee plantations under cultivation, export of these crops was increasing 8 year by year as war-time prices rose ever higher. Some years before, Dr. Johnson, with customary aptness, had described Jamaica as w . . . a place of great wealth and dreadful wickedness . . . a den of tyrants and a dungeon I, Q of slaves. And by the turn of the century the descrip­ tion was still more apt.

At this period the wealth of

the sugar planters was fabulous.

William Beckford, Lord

Mayor of London, had made over one million pounds from his Jamaica e s t a t e s S i r William Codrington received L 30,000 a year from his. plantations, and Lord Howard de Waldon £>20,000 from his.^1 Prices and profits continued to rise during the early years of the nineteenth century.

The abolition of

the slave trade (l March, 1808), vehemently objected to Q Lord Olivier, o p . cit., p. 18. ^ James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, p. 15^• But Johnson was prejudiced against all colonials, parti­ cularly Americans. ^

Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 2, p. 80.


A. E. Aspinali, British West Indies, p. l6l.

6 by the planters,


did not noticeably affect the pros­

perity of the island.

Exports of sugar, which had aver­

aged 9 0 ,0 0 0 hogsheads per year during the 1790*s, increased to 123#000 during the first fifteen years of the new cen­ tury.


Coffee, which until 1811 had paid a heavy Brit­

ish import duty, almost rivalled sugar in export value when the duty was lifted.

In 1814 a record crop of 14 3^,000,000 pounds was shipped from Jamaica. The Vienna settlement of 1815 and the subsequent

re-intercourse of peaceful and trading nations was the first blow suffered by the fantastically prosperous Jam­ aicans.

Prom this year, indeed, may be dated that pro­

gressive decline in the island's fortunes which was to extend well past the chronological scope of this paper. Palling prices were, of course, the principal cause. 1815 sugar sold for ninety-seven shillings per


weight, and in the following year fetched no more than 1 forty-two shillings; whilst coffee in the same twoyear period declined from one hundred twenty shillings 16 per hundredweight to seventy-seven shillings. And 12

Sir Harry H. Johnston, The Negro in the New World, p. 251. 13 Ibid., p. 2 5 3 .


Gardner, op. cit., p. 244.

15 Ibid., p. 319.


there were other reasons.

Bridges1 Annals of Jamaica

(182T) is full of loud lamentations over the increasingly distressful plight of the planters.

The abolition of the

slave trade impoverished many of the smaller planters, for they could not replace wastage.

Pew slaves were of­

fered for sale, and the prices rose.

As their slaves

diminished, the small planters sold the remainder to the larger planters.

A gradual decline of sugar production

set in, due partly to the reduced supply of slave labor, partly to droughts and hurricanes, and partly to increas­ ing inefficiency in management through the absenteeism of proprietors and the reckless over-cultivation of worn out soils . ^ Absentee ownership was a serious factor in the impending ruin of Jamaican prosperity.

"In the early

years of the nineteenth century well informed writers constantly speak of absentee ownership as covering nineteen twentieths of the number of working estates."


Estates under the management of overseers and attorneys were admittedly run in an extravagant and wasteful man­ ner.

A special commission appointed by the Jamaican

16 Ibid., p. 321.


G. W. Bridges, Annals of Jamaica, 2 Vols., Vol.

2, p. 234.


Olivier, o£. cit., p. 6 7 .

Assembly to examine the effects of widespread absenteeism reported th the House that estate attorneys absorbed nearly £1,000,000 a year of the value of the islandfs production; and they did not disguise their opinion that 19 such a state of affairs was one of mortal disease. In fact, the island's social and economic constitution was being preyed upon by a swarm of parasites. And it was in this harassing time of falling prices and decreasing markets that the worried planters suddenly found themselves exposed to the impassioned onslaught of William Wilberforce and his ’’Clapham Sect,” and of the dissenters, sectarians, and ”radicals” who thronged under his standard.

To the attacks of evangelical Christ­

ianity the planters were exquisitely vulnerable.


they had an Established Church, the Church of England,


but that was about as much as anyone cared to say or do about it. Like all other professional gentlemen In Jamaica, the few clergymen


were excellently paid, their incomes

ranging from £1,000 to £3>000 per annum.

But their

Ibid., p. 72.

20 21 ministers.

Established with sixteen parishes in 1681. In 1832 there were forty-five Church of England (Gardner, 0 £. cit., p. 336.)

9 livings were sinecures, and by 1800 the church establish*-* ment became increasingly to be regarded as ”. . .


more than a ceremonial complement to the State, the sur­ vival of a respectable metropolitan institution which would have ceased to be tolerated had it shown any signs of energy or activity."


For twenty years, from 1808 to

1828, the rakehelly Duke of Manchester pursued with gusto the low moral life of the island, and gave to it a social eclat unknown to his less highly born predecessors.


their silence, or by participation, the clergy readily acquiesced in the joyously pagan existence.

There is no

lack of contemporary authority on a point on which sub24 sequent writers seem to agree. Edward Long writes: The clergy of this Island . . . have been detest­ able for their addiction to lewdness, drinking, gambling, and iniquity. Some laborers, in the L o r d ’s vineyard have at times been sent who were much bet­ ter qualified to be retailers of salt fish, or boat­ swains to privateers than ministers of the Gospel. 25 Lord Olivier states: A contemporary author wrote publicly of the clergy as being ’of a character so vile that I do not care to mention it; for except for a few they are generally the most finished of all de­ bauchees. 1 22

Olivier, o£. cit., p. 8 7 •

2*3 J Johnston, 0 £. cit., p. 275* gives the illegit­ imate birth rate in Jamaica in 1906 as 65 percent of the whole. According to Olivier, the same figure was valid in the 1 9 3 0 *s.

10 There seems, in fact, to be little doubt but that the planters had, as a body, ceased to profess Christian~ ity, and that the clergy was practically as secular as the planters.

Lord Olivier, a Fabian Socialist, and an

enthusiastic negrophile, continues on this point:


They ^the clerg^7 were penkeepers ^stock-raisers/, planters, and managing attorneys for absentee pro** prietors. In private life they conformed to the current social morality, drinking, gambling, and cohabiting openly with black and colored women. Perhaps the blacks were fortunate in that they were relatively protected from any but the most perfunctory contact with these clergy, for the law did not compel religious instruction of slaves.

Indeed, until 1832,

it was forbidden to teach them to read or write.


But if the clergy of the Established Church were unwilling to force the comforts of Christianity upon their hapless colored brethren, the same could not be said for the earnest sectarian missionaries who, from the year 1800 onwards, swooped down upon Jamaica as so


Edward Long, History of Jamaica, 3 Vols., London, 177^* Vol. 3* pp. Jb^&TT OR

Olivier, o£. cit., p. 88. Ibid., p. 8 9 . ^

Johnston, op. cit., p. 270.

11 many famished eagles upon a flock of lambs.


Wesleyans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists found in Jamaica the richest possible field for their labors, and wrote home so glowingly of their fabulous triumphs that, as Mr. Gardner, himself a Congregationalist minister, somewhat wryly comments, "If the numbers reported as having been baptised could be accepted, then the success of missionary effort in Jamaica is unsurpassed by anything that has ever been


recorded since apostolic times.u

To this invasion of their neglected preserves, the clergy (and the plantoeracy) reacted with character­ istic fury.

Any and all nonconformists had long been

recognised as the arch-enemies of the West Indian way of l i f e , ^ and that they should now appear in numbers in Jamaica was more than could be borne.

In 1802, a bill

to prevent unlicensed persons from preaching passed the

Gardner, 0£. cit., p. 340. 29

Wesley and the Quakers initiated the attack upon slavery in the mid-eighteenth century, and non-conformists were the backbone of the agitation. In 1832 Wilberforce wrote, "It cannot be denied that the Church clergy have been shamefully lukewarm in the cause of abolition.11 (Trevelyan, ££. cit., p. 53*)

12 Assembly.

Fortunately for the missionaries, it was

disallowed by the Crown, for the penalty to be imposed upon a convicted white person was "such punishment as the court should see fit to inflict, not extending to life.”^0

Balked at law, the planters did all else in

their power to obstruct the labors of the missionaries, from destroying their chapels, to punishing such slaves 31 as attended their meetings. This course of action also failed, and the results were calamitous for the planters and the negro alike. Opposed by such tactics, the missionaries, quite understandably, returned the hatred of the planters with all that cordial enmity which Christian righteousness can with such facility invoke.

They were poor men, of

no social position, uneducated and despised, and they knew nothing of the character of the negroes.

But they

hated slavery and high living, and the primitive Christ** ianity which they taught emphasized the equality of mankind.


Such a doctrine was scarcely calculated to

make the slave more pleased with his lot, or more amen« able to the discipline under which he labored. 30 31

Gardner, op. cit., p. 347* A. Wyatt Tilby, Britain in the Tropics, Vol. 4,

p. 1 3 2 . 32 Ibid., pp. 131 - 3 ^.

13 Too, the slaves became aware that it was the raissionaries who were working for their emancipation, and that their masters by no means represented the majority of public opinion in England.

They knew it was the mis­

sionaries who reported to the headquarters of the great Christian missions in London every outrage and abuse committed by the planters upon their slaves, and so sup­ plied lurid "copy" for the abolitionist orators at West­ minster.

And if such tales lost nothing in the telling,

and if the missionaries drew the long bow more than a little, it must be reflected that their cause was humane, and that they, like other people, had to justify their position. From 1825 onwards considerable excitement had 33 been observed amongst the slaves. The debates in the British Parliament, the denunciations of their masters by the abolitionists, and the sympathy and encouragement of the missionaries, all combined to give the slaves the impression that freedom was a boon already conferred upon them by Parliament, but withheld from them by the planters. In mid-year of 1831* rumors of impending insurrection were rife throughout the colony and, on the twenty-eighth of


Gardner, o p . cit., pp. 271ff.

14 December of that year, rebellion broke out in three counties.

It was an unconcerted affair of scattered

bands, for the Jamaica blacks, like other half-civilised people, gave no indication of ability for extended org­ anization.

Still, scattered bands can do a great deal

of harm, and in this instance twelve white men were killed, and property was burned or otherwise destroyed to the value of £1,154,000.


Martial law was at once proclaimed,

and within two weeks order was energetically restored. Perhaps one hundred negroes were killed in the fighting, and of those captured some three hundred were hanged or shot and as many others liberally visited with the cat35 of-nine-tails. To the planters, the cause of this outbreak was quite painfully obvious.

A Special Committee of the House 36 of Assembly apportioned the blame in this manner: 1. The '’unnecessary and unconstitutional in­ terference of His Majesty’s ministers,” and "the intemperate expressions of individuals in the Commons.” 2. The "false and wicked reports of the AntiSlavery Society."

34 J


Ibid., p. 286.

^ These figures are from Gardner. Other author­ ities differ widely. Lord Olivier sets the figure of "victims" at 1 5 0 0 . 36 Olivier, o£. cit., pp. 59-60.

15 3. The "preaching of religious sects called Baptists, Wesleyans, Methodists, and Moravians which had the effect of producing in the minds of the slaves a belief that they could not serve both a spiritual and a temporal master, thereby occa­ sioning them to resist the lawful authority of their temporal masters under the delusion of rend­ ering themselves more acceptable to a spiritual master.” And on the strength of this report the authorities ar­ rested a dozen or so missionaries, whilst the indignant 37 militia destroyed as many chapels. The Legislature debated wildly upon the perpetual exclusion of all mis­ sionaries from the island. When the full reports of these occurrences reached England there arose a mighty wind of righteous indigna­ tion, swelling to the full the ample sails of the abol­ ition movement.

On the fifteenth of April, 1832, three

successive Colonial Secretaries had sought to induce the Jamaica Legislature to adopt the orders in council for the amelioration of the slave laws, but their remon­ strances had proved in vain. he asserted, had now run out.

The time for expostulation, 38


Gardner, o£. cit., pp. 278-80. One Moravian minister was actually condemned to death, and only es­ caped by the greatest good fortune.

38 I438ff.

Hansard, op. cit., Third Series, Vol. 3, pp.

16 And indeed it had.

Public opinion in England would

no longer tolerate slavery, nor the obstructionary and contumacious Jamaica Assembly.

In vain did the West

Indian lobby at Westminster reiterate that abolition would 39 utterly destroy the economy of the 'Islands. Britain did not care.

The relative importance of West Indian

sugar had decreased enormously since the end of the Na~ poleonic wars, and the possibilities of beet sugar were 40 now being demonstrated. In vain did the Assembly frantically declare that Jamaica was not represented in the British Parliament, and so was not subject to its decrees.41

In vain did the planters rave and plead such

hoary shibboleths as the common rights of free Englishmen and the liberties of the colonies.

The abolitionists

answered that negroes were also British subjects, and had equally valid rights which must, at long last, be secured to them.

In May, 1832, petitions for immediate abolition


There was a West Indian Party in London, supplied by the planters with "tens of thousands of pounds." (Olivier, o£. cit., p. 103.) 40 The industry was revived and established in Prance by government subsidy in 1 8 2 9 . (Aspinall, op. cit., p. 162.) ^ p. 287.)

Motion of October, 1 8 3 2 .

(Gardner, op. cit., ---

IT signed by over three hundred thousand persons were pre42 sented to the House of Lords. There is every reason to believe that, had the planters been strong enough, Jamaica would have proclaimed its independence from the Crown in 1832.

Few arguments

used by the Southern States in the defense of slavery in the l8 5 0 !s were not anticipated by the planters; as, at the same time, the old tags of the American revolution were used afresh to demonstrate the tyrrany and the perfidy of the Imperial authorities.

It Is, Indeed, very

easy to justify the emancipation of the slaves on grounds of humanity and philanthropy, but in the purely constitutional aspect of the question there was scarcely more justification for the intervention of the imperial Parliament in the internal affairs of the West Indies in 1834 than for their intervention in the affairs of Mass­ achusetts and Virginia in 1 7 6 6 .

The planters were keenly

aware of this, but, unlike the Americans, they totally lacked any power to implement their wild talk of seces­ sion.

And the fate they could not physically combat they

were compelled, with very bad grace, to accept.

lip ^ Ibid., p. 286.

18 On May 14, 1833*

Edward Stanley, the Colonial Sec­

retary, stated in Parliament that recommendation, advice, and exhortation had all failed to impress the minds of the infatuated slave-holders, and that the British nation must now, through its representatives, suppress the evil 43 of slavery. The Emancipation Bill, as finally passed, declared that from 1 August, 1834, all children under six years of age should be completely free; all other slaves were to work for their masters as partially paid appren­ tices for a period of twelve years, and then receive ab­ solute freedom.

The sum of twenty millions sterling

was to be paid as compensation to the slave holders of 44 the British Empire. Of the indemnity Jamaica received over six million pounds, the larger part of which went to absentee owners 45 in England, and benefitted the island in no way. On the first of August, 1834, some 320,000 slaves became qualified freemen, and on the thirty-first of July, on


Hansard1s Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 18, pp. 1193ff. 44 Trevelyan, op. cit., p. 254. Jamaica received 1*6,162,000 on a slave popula­ tion of 309*338This works out as slightly more than fcl9 per head, whereas the average value of a slave was computed, at that time, at 1*35* (Article, “Jamaica,” in Encyclopedia Britannica, 9th edition, 1881, Vol. 13* p. 131-)

19 "the very eve of emancipation, some foolish, vindictive 46 men inflicted corporal punishment on their slaves." The Assembly continued to protest furiously to the very last.

46 47

Gardner, op. cit., p. 294. A. Wyatt Tilby, op* cit., p. 131.


1834-1838 The apprenticeship system, which now took the place of slavery, was a curious compromise between bond­ age and freedom.'*'

It was the intention of Parliament

that both planter and slave should benefit by a sort of breathing space between legal emancipation and outright freedom.

For the planter, the apprenticeship system

would guarantee labor to work his estates; the slave would benefit by being introduced gradually to the heady wine of freedom and to the independence conferred by wage labor.

Like many compromises, it left both sides

dissatisfied. By law, the apprenticeship system was to last seven years, during which time the ci-devant slaves were to labor forty-five and one-half hours a week in return for food, shelter, and clothing.

To this they were com­

pelled under legal threat of corporal punishment which,

Only the broad scheme is outlined in the Eman­ cipation Act of August, 1 8 3 3 . A great deal of latitude was allowed to the colonial legislatures in applying this scheme to their various circumstances. In #ntigua and Trinidad the apprenticeship period was entirely dispensed with, full freedom being granted to the slaves in 1833. (Johnson, op. cit., p. 343*)

21 however, could no longer be inflicted at the caprice of the master, but could be Imposed only by the sentence of a special magistrate.

Outside of his required labor, the

negro had to be paid if his services were desired.


"All parties were determined that the apprenticeship system should be a failure.”^

The planter, very

naturally, loathed it, for not only did It destroy a great deal of his power over his former slaves, but it seriously diminished the output of his plantation.


three-quarters of the work formerly done was now accom­ plished ;4

and this was enough to force the abandonment

of some estates which had flourished under slavery but which, owing to unfavorable soil or climate, became los5 ing concerns under the apprenticeship system. Confronted with these difficulties, the behavior of the estate managers was oppressive and tyrannical, and, on the face of it, suicidal.

Former privileges enjoyed under slavery were

curtailed or denied to apprentices, and their slightest objections were treated as disobedience or contumacy, and

2 Ibid., p. 342. q

Article, "Jamaica," Encyclopedia Brltannlca, 8th edition. li Testimony of a committee of the Jamaica Assembly, I8 3 5 . Given in Gardner, ojd. cit., p. 304. 5 Ibid.. p. 309.

as sufficient reason to hale them before the magistrates. Consignment to a workhouse generally followed.


The hated and despised missionaries lost little time in reporting to their parent bodies in England the great abuses under which the apprentices suffered, and, in their turn, the missionary societies commenced an agitation for the instant and complete manumission of apprentices.

Public support was not wanting, for the

anti-slavery agitation was far from being set at rest by the Abolition Bill.

The Annual Register for 1838

points out that " . . .

this is not to be wondered at;

there exists a powerful body of humane and active-minded people to whom the contemplations of the sufferings of the negro population has become habitual, and who require little inducement to recur to so exciting a theme.”


unfortunately for the Jamaica planters, some of these "humane11 people occupied important positions in Parlia­ ment and in the Ministry.

Chief among them were the

waspish Henry Brougham and the somewhat futile Lord

Olivier, oj>. cit., p. 1Q9» Annual Register, 1 8 3 8 , p. 8 7 *


Trevelyan, op. cit., p. 257- Lord Glenelg's father was a prominent’ member of the Clapham Sect, and vice-president of the Church Missionary Society. Glenelg was responsible for the great Boer Trek, and for the

23 Glenelg, certainly the most unfortunate Colonial Secretary since Lord George Germaine.


Glenelg was an enthusiastic evangelical and abolitionist, and during his tenure of office (1 8 3 5 - 1 8 3 9 ) ”• . . a

section of the missionaries and their patrons

were almost the only source of information that the Colonial Office possessed."^

Under these circumstances, it

was inevitable that the reactionary Jamaica Assembly and the planters should come in for some hard knocks. In December, 1837 * Brougham, in the House of Lords, directed a withering phillipic against the Gov­ ernment of Jamaica.

He charged that the terms of the

Abolition Act were not being carried out, that oppression of the negroes was worse under apprenticeship than under slavery, and that, in direct violation of an imperial statute , women were still being subjected to corporal punishment.

He stated that in the first eight months

of 1 8 3 6 , twenty-seven thousand punishments were inflicted upon apprentices for no more serious offences than neg­ lect of duty, disobedience, and insolence.

He demanded

resignation of Lord Durham in Canada. In 1839* Lord John Russell forced his removal on the grounds of incompetency. (Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 8 , pp. 3 8 0 - 8 1 .)


Trevelyan, ojd. cit., p. 257*

24 immediate and absolute abolition of apprenticeship.10 In February, 1 8 3 8 , Brougham again reviewed the crimes and cruelties of the Jamaica planters, and Lord Glenelg supplemented the mournful story with a long and circumstantial indictment of the irreliiion, the ingrat­ itude, the obstructionism, and the perverseness of the Assembly, and of the arrogance of the Irreclaimable 11 planters. Only seven peers supported these championsy of humanity, bpt the wide publicity given to the debate had an effect which was shown in the following month. On the twenty-ninth of March, Sir George Strickland presented a resolution to the House of Commons for the abolition of apprenticeship, backed up by the petitions of over one million people.


The crimes of the Jamaicans

were again excoriated, the miseries of the negroes again luridly described.

Their food was insufficient, as was .

their clothing and their housing.

Their punishments were

excessive, and their treatment in workhouses barbarous. Pregnant women were worked till their babies dropped from them; old people were forced to labor until they

Hansard, Vol. 39, pp. 1151ff. 11 Ibid., Vol. 40, pp. 1292ff. 12

Gardner, op. cit., p. 312.

25 collapsed from exhaustion.

Medical care was not avail-

able to apprentices, and religious comfort was denied to them.

The Assembly had abused the confidence of the

people of England, and the planters had forfeited the remaining years of apprenticeship by having totally 13 failed in their share of the engagement. Owing to an able speech by the young William Ewart Gladstone the motion lost upon division by fiftyfour votes.

All that was immediately gained was the

issuance of an imperial statute forbidding use of the whip upon apprentices and the working of women upon treadmills.

But the temper of the country was plain,

and the Government recommended to the colonial legis­ latures that they themselves take steps to abolish ap~ 14 prenticeship. This message was communicated to the Jamaica Assembly by an unsympathetic new governor, Sir Lionel Smith, on June fifth, 1 8 3 8 .

He recommended with brutal

candor that the suggestion be heeded, since the ministry, although anxious to keep faith with the provisions of the Abolition Act, could not much longer resist the popular

^ 14

Hansard, Vol. 42, pp. 42ff.

Annual Register, 1838, p. 96.

26 will.1'*

And the Assembly accepted this ’’Hobson's choice”

and passed a bill to terminate apprenticeship on August first, 1 8 3 8 ,

They did this in a savage and resentful

mood, and to the bill itself they attached a rider preg­ nant with all the fury and bitterness induced by the helplessness of their position. Amongst the Jamaican Assembly there were not want­ ing those who clearly perceived an absence of logic in the position of the British abolitionists.

The evangel­

ical humanitarians who sighed so righteously over the wrongs of their black brethren, and who were so keenly sensitive to every crack of the slave-driver’s whip, were as heedless and as callous as the landlords and manufact­ urers to the conditions of the English poor under the havoc wrought by the industrial revolution.


Wilberforce, who ". . . urged upon the willing Pitt the


duty of passing the Combination laws . . .”


believed, at least for Englishmen, that inequalities of fortune did not matter in this world because they would assuredly be redressed in the next.

He even endeavored

to persuade the starving laborers that it was a spiritual advantage for them to be abjectly poor, provided they

15 J Gardner, o£. cit., p. 31^* 1^

Trevelyan, op. cit., p. 55.

27 were submissive to their superiors*



That a British

soldier should be flogged to death could excite little _ 18 comment even in the mid-loSO’s, but that a negro should receive his legal limit of thirty-nine lashes was a crime before mankind that Parliament was constrained to abolish* The same House which decreed the emancipation erected by statute the inhuman workhouse system in Great Britain with the avowed principle that

. . the inmates therein

shall live at a lower level than the lowest paid worker in the kingdom.



Of such anomalies the Jamaica Assembly took cog­ nisance.

Acutely aware that their island would now be­

come, at best, a poverty-stricken and ruined appendancy of the mother country— at worst, a second Haiti— the legislators expressed themselves in eloquent and futile protest.

The rider to their abolition bill set forth in

glowing terras the constitutional history of the colony, the greatness of its resources, and the liberality of its legislators.

It protested vehemently against interfer­

ence in its internal affairs by the British Government,

17 Ibid., p. 5 6 .


See report on inquest of Private Thomas Ramsby. (Annual Register, 1835, P« 1 6 9 .} 19 Hansard, Vol. 25, pp. 211ff.

28 and asserted that its legislation would bear favorable comparison with that of the mother country.

Its laws

were not resisted as theirs were in Ireland; no bands prowled by night to destroy machines, or burn rick and barn.

Workers1 combinations were unknown; burking was

no Island crime; mothers did not destroy their new-born, nor fathers their families to save them from starvation, or worse, the workhouse.

The House of Commons was ac­

cused of lies and perjury— a worthless and mock assembly. And after more such abuse, this characteristic document concluded with a stirring protest on behalf of the As­ sembly and the people of Jamaica, before God and man, against the wholly illegal and unconstitutional Act of Abolition.


It may be doubted if this wild cry benefitted anybody in Jamaica.

Indeed, it would seem that the only

effect was to cause the legislators of Westminster to avoid for the future all but absolutely necessary inter­ ference in the affairs of the colony.

After 1838 the

topic of Jamaica becomes increasingly difficult to find in subsequent volumes of Parliamentary debates.


faire, laissez aller . . . slavery was abolished, and

20 A™ 1*3-1 Register, 1 8 3 8 , p. 3 4 7 .

29 Jamaica must now work out its destiny for itself.


majority of the emancipators in England were of the Lib­ eral persuasion, merchants and manufacturers, adherents of the Riecardian school of economic philosophy.

It was

assumed that the slaves would by necessity become free workers, and that the planting Industry would even bene­ fit by the substitution of wage labor for slave labor. It was with such ideas in mind that Lord Glenelg had blandly adjured the planters to sell no land to the ne­ groes— they were to work for wages, and to become an industrious, thriving, and contented peasantry.

21 Hansard, Vol. 40, p. 1337*


CHAPTER III PLEASURES OF FREEDOM And now the negro was a free man, a British citizen, protected by the law, and as equal before the law as the greatest or the meanest of Queen Victoria's subjects.


he would occupy this enviable and honorable freedom with hard and cheerful labor on the sugar estates was taken for granted by the British emancipationists.

It was not gen~

erally realized in England that the free blacks were JLn a totally different position from the free wage workers at home.

Under slavery the estates neither supplied them

with food, nor provided them with cash to buy it.


grew it for themselves in the amazingly fertile ground and, after emancipation,

”. . .

provided they could occupy

an acre or two of the land they already used they did not need to work for wages to feed themselves. If they were not permitted to cultivate land on the estates there remained to the freed negro an even more delightful alternative, as the Marquis of Sligo (Governor of Jamaica from 183^ to 1833) pointed out:

1 Olivier, 0£. cit., p. 108.

31 Jamaica has thousands of acres of waste and unreclaimed land, and every acre which is not aetually kept in tillage is soon covered with bush, impenetrable to all except the negro. Into these places, where food can be procured at the least possible expenditure of labor; where, as has been demonstrated, a man can provide a year's food for a reasonable family by twelve days * labor at his plantain ground— where, from the heat of the clim­ ate, no more clothes are necessary than what are required by decency: where the quantity of un­ claimed wood, and of the thatch palm, enables the negro to erect a hut in a few, hours— into these places will he probably retire, and there lazily pass his life. Under these circumstances, no con­ tinued labor is to be expected of him. And there was another circumstance which contributed to the negroes1 reluctance to accept regular work on the estates.

The treatment they had experienced under slav­

ery and emancipation was so rigorous as to induce 11. . . a great many not to work for wages at all, under any condition, if they could possibly avoid so doing.' There were, however, many who were willing to stay on at their old plantations and work for wages; and some of these laborers were well content with their lot. Others found a grinding oppression which differed but little from slavery, and which "embittered their minds, and taught them that they could not be sure of a home 4 unless they obtained freeholds of their own."

^ Hansard, Vol. 42, p. 104. March 29*


Olivier, 0£. cit., p. 109.

Speech of Sir G. Grey,

32 And> as the negroes abandoned work on the estates, cash crops, which had declined seriously under apprentice ship, began now to diminish at headlong speed.

For the

four years before emancipation exports of sugar had aver­ aged 91,000 hogsheads per year.

During apprenticeship

the figure stood at 69> 0 00 hogsheads; whilst from 1 83 9 to 1842 the produce fell to some 42,000 hogsheads per 5 annum. Fourteen years later, in 1 8 5 6 , but 20,000 hogs6 heads were exported. Other staple exports— coffee, ginger, and pimento— showed a similar catastrophic fall­ ing-off, especially coffee.

In l8l4, thirty-four million

pounds were exported; in the period from 1834 to 1844 the export averaged slightly over six and a half million pounds.

Within fifteen years of emancipation some five 7 hundred coffee plantations had been abandoned. It must foe admitted that the planters did not, or could not, adjust themselves to the new pattern of life

which had been forced upon them.

Their attitude towards

the negro was bleakly repressive; educational, economic,


Gardner, op. cit., p. 397*

5 Ibid., p. 418. £ Encyclopedia Britannica, 8th edition. 7

Olivier, op. cit., p. 138.

33 political, and social opportunity were alike denied to him; nor could the clergy of the Established Church bring themselves to minister their dignified religion amongst those upon whom the bouquet d 1Afrique still lingered.


attitude was comprehensible only to those observers who reflected that sixteen thousand whites might conceivably find themselves in an invidious position were the highways to absolute equality thrown open to the four hundred and 8 forty-eight thousand blacks of the colony. Always did the whites recall the fearful example of close-by Haiti, and an examination of the appalling conditions in that un­ happy island was, to many, an overwhelming argument for the complete subordination of the negro to the white man in all the daily affairs of life.

Even the missionaries,

who labored earnestly to improve the moral and religious conditions of the erstwhile slaves did not urge the intel­ lectual equality of the negro and the white, nor agitate q

for common suffrage. And amidst these difficult social problems, in the mid-l840fs, whilst the prosperity of Jamaica was fast melting away and the whole economy reeling and staggering,

Encyclopedia Britannica, op. cit., census of 1844.

^ Johnston, o£. cit., p. 246.

34 the British Government stepped in an administered the paralysing coup de grace. In the year 1846 Lord John Russell1s ministry equalized the import duties on sugar.

The British market,

formerly the preserve of the colonial empire, was at once flooded by slave-grown sugar from Cuba, the United States, and Brazil.10 For once, the abolitionists could unite with the West Indian planters to protest against imperial inter­ ference.

But it was pointed out by the Ministry that if

it were wrong to admit slave-grown sugar into England then It was equally indefensible to admit slave-grown cotton; and were the latter prohibited what would become of the enormous industries of Lancashire?11

This neat

logic was sufficient to secure passage and maintenance of the measure. The Jamaica Assembly reacted with all the vehement fury to which it had become addicted.

In an address to

Queen Victoria all.the evils which had befallen the is­ land because of imperial legislation were recounted and reiterated.

The change in sugar duties was declared to

Gardner, op. cit., p. 425. 11 Hansard, Vol. 88, p. 157-

35 be

. . a flagrant violation of national faith, con­

sistency, and honor,”

Compensation was demanded for the

loss entailed upon the colony by the recent legislation of the ministry.


And, like other protests of the Jam­

aica Assembly, it was to no avail. If ever a community can be appropriately said to be ruined, the white Jamaica community was ruined in 1 8 5 0 . In the previous year a committee of the Assembly revealed that one hundred and forty sugar estates and four hundred 13 and sixty-five coffee plantations had been abandoned. A visitor of that day vividly describes the scenes he witnessed:^ Within the Island it ispainful to hear of little except ruin, and tofind the circumstances and spirits of the colonists equally prostrate. In many districts the marks of decay abound. Neg­ lected fields, crumbling houses, fragmentary fences, silent machinery— these are common sights, and they soon become familiar to observation. I sometimes rode for miles In succession over fertile ground which used to be cultivated and which is now lying waste. In England, Thomas Carlyle, who preached the gospel of hard work, from Jamaica.


was disgusted by the reports which arrived To him, at any rate, the cause was simple

Gardner, 0 £. cit., p. A 2 7 . 3 Ibid., p. 11-31.

Prom Account of Jamaica, 1854. Olivier, op. cit., p. l¥5*

Quoted by

36 and indisputable.


The negro would not work, and until he

could be made to do so no good could be expected of the colony. West Indian affairs, as we all know, and as some of us know to our cost, are in a rather troublous condition this good while. In regard to West Indian affairs, however, Lord John Russell is able to com­ fort us with one fact, indisputable where many are dubious, that the Negroes are all very happy and doing well. A fact very comfortable indeed. West Indian whites, it is admitted, are far enough from happy: West Indian colonies not unlike sinking wholly into ruin; at home too, the British whites are rather badly off; several millions of them hanging on the verge of continual famine. But, thank heavens, our interesting black populationequalling in number of heads one of the ridings of Yorkshire, and in worth (in quantity of intellect, faculty, docility, energy, valor, and valuej_ per­ haps one of the streets of Seven Dials— are all doing remarkably well . . . The West Indies, it appears, are short of labor; as, indeed, it is very conceivable under the circumstances. Where a black man, by working half an hour a day (such is the computation) can supply himself by the aid of sun and soil with as much vegetables as will suffice, he is likely to be a little stiff to raise into hard work. And under the existing conditions all Mr. Carlyle could foresee for Jamaica was ”. . . black anarchy and social 15 hr death.11 To avoid this he prescribed that the negro should be deprived of all access to land except on condition of working on the plantations at fixed wages;

Thomas Carlyle, in Critical Essays, 1849*

nThe Nigger Question," contained

and if this should prove ineffectual, restoration of forced labor not unlike the apprentice system.


Such a scheme, although there was ample common sense in it, was the mere vision of the literary man; in any event, it was too late for such heroic measures. Missionary societies, particularly the Moravians, Bap­ tists, and Presbyterians had been buying abandoned land and settling negroes in small holdings thereon.


influence was ever at work in aiding the estate workers to secure independence on some remote plot of land far 16 from the supervision of the whites. The anonymous author of the article, "Jamaica,” in the eighth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1 8 5 8 ), a man obviously acquainted at first hand with the colony, gives a picture of the conditions of this period which, had he seen it, must have shocked Carlyle to the very depth of his rugged soul:

17 1

The negro, on whom the cultivation of the Island depends, has gradually retired from labor and retrograded in the social scale. This does not arise from any hostile feeling towards the whites, with whom he usually lives on the most amicable terms; it is the natural result of re­ moving all restraint from a people low in civil­ ization, and consequently with few artificial wants, in a country where land is superabundant. -j/T Olivier, o£* cit., p. 1 3 8 .

^ Encyclopedia Britannica, 8th edition, Vol. 12 pp. 672-831

38 The Jamaica negro can earn enough in a sugar plant­ ation in a few weeks to buy a small patch of freeheld land. The wood upon it forms his cottage; the vegetables, which grow almost spontaneously, support him in tolerable comfort. When the little property does not require his care, he works from time to time for hire; but as plantation after plantation is abandoned, and the country returns to its prim­ eval forest, he is confined more and more to the society of his own race, and though not addicted to crime, is rapidly receding into a savage state. Not feeling the want of education, he does not seek it for his children; neither churches nor schools are wanted in Jamaica. We can scarcely blame the negro for following the bent of his inclination; but it is evident under these circumstances, unless there is a large and immediate supply of immigrants, society will come to a speedy end, and the island become a second Haiti. Already the enormous depre­ ciation of property has caused the ruin of so many, that the name of Jamaica proprietor, once used proverbially to indicate wealth, is now associated with poverty and distress. Much to the anger and disgust of the missionaries and of the humanitarian travellers who visited the island, the Jamaica legislature did what it could to compel the laborers to remain on the estates.

The legislators were,

of course, white men, representatives of the old slave interests and their dependents, and their natural dis­ position was to keep their former slaves as near to their old conditions as possible.

Their laws were, accordingly,

no light burden to the negro, at the same time as they were the cause of an ever-growing resentment.

The well

known American abolitionist, Benjamin P. Hunt, recounts with much indignation some of the laws which restricted

39 the economic freedom of the negro:


Very soon after the system of apprenticeship came to an end, the House of Assembly passed the Ejectment Act, which gave the planter the right to turn out the people at a w e e k ’s notice from their homes on his estate, root up their provision grounds, cut down their fruit trees, and arrest them for trespass if they were found on the ground one hour after they had been served with notice to quit. This was done in order that the peas-* antry might be compelled to work on the planter’s own terms. In times of slavery when corn meal was provided by the planter, the import duty on it was three pence per barrel; it was now raised to three shillings. On rice, salt fish, and pork, the duty was raised from two hundred to three hundred per cent. When driven from his plantation cabin, the free laborer had to build a shelter for himself. At once the duty on shingles was more than doubled. When the new house was built it was assessed so high in certain parishes as to compel abandonment. To check the cultivation of sugar and coffee by the small landholders, lest they should cease to be day laborers for hire, an excise duty of one penny per pound for sugar and twopence per pound on coffee was imposed. To sett sugar and coffee by retail, a costly license was required. Plantation carts and wagons not used on public roads pay no taxes. Small settlers use carts chiefly for the market, and these pay a tax of eighteen shillings each. Hogsheads, used by the planters pay three shillings each. Barrels used by the small settlers pay two shillings each; that is, the small landholder pays nearly seven times more of his proportion of a tax intended solely for the planter’s benefit. Nor could the negro acquire all the land he wanted.


planters might be bankrupt, but they were extremely reluct­ ant to sell their land, or to see it broken up Into small

Benjamin P. Hunt, "Jamaica," Pennsylvania Freed­ m a n ’s Bulletin, August, 1 8 6 5 , reprinted in Littel’s Living Age, No. 1124, 16 December, 1 9 6 5 * p

40 holdings, since, of course, every plot of land so acquired reduced the labor potential.

In 1 8 6 5 * more than

half the island was owned in estates averaging one thousand acres, ” . . .

only a small part of which had ever

been cultivated or even used for cattle.


The paralysis of the estate system increased year by year during the fifties and early sixties, and with it the discontent of all classes, though generally for different reasons, kept a commensurate pace. indeed wretched years for Jamaica.

These were

In I8 5 O cholera struck

the island, and some forty thousand persons were carried 20 ^ 2 1 off. Serious drought ruined crops in 1852 and 1857* 22 and a hurricane caused widespread havoc in 1 8 5 9 . And in this same unhappy period the political con­ ditions of the colony became chaotic almost to the point of burlesque.

The Assembly of forty-eight members, elected 23 by a franchise of some twenty^five hundred people, « „24 . . . singularly arbitrary and corrupt, waged inces­ sant warfare with the governor, as personifying the im­ perial authorities at Westminster to whom the Assembly



Olivier, 0 £. cit., p. 140. Gardner, o£. cit., p. 439. Ibid., p. 418.

22 Ibid., p. 420.

3 Encyclopedia Britannica, 8 th edition, p. 680.

41 ascribed all the misfortunes under which the condition of Jamaica was becoming desperate.

In 1 852 the Assembly

refused absolutely to do any business with the governor or the council, or to pass any revenue bills whereby the current public charges might be maintained.

Import du­

ties expired, and ships arrived in Kingston harbor and dumped their cargoes duty free.

It was six months be­

fore the quarrel was settled, and in that time some two hundred and fifty thousand sterling in revenue had been 25 lost. Such a state of affairs seems to justify the author of the article on "Jamaica” in the Encyclopedia Britannica, previously referred to, when he states:


It may be doubted whether Jamaica is not daily becoming more unfitted for popular government. It is generally agreed that it would have been better to have suspended the constitution at the period of emancipation, and have entrusted the government to a prudent and able governor. Wealth and intelli­ gence are leaving the country. Even now it is im­ possible to fill up the number of the legislative council with persons competent to execute so great a task. In l86l, whilst there was no alleviation of the economic and political rot, a remarkable religious revival

Johnston, o£. cit., p. 255* 25

Gardner, op. cit., p. 444.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 8 th edication, Vol. 1 2 , p. 682 :

42 swept over the colored populaiion of the colony,

^t did not,

quite naturally, affect the Established Church, for that institution catered almost exclusively to the whites, and the Bishop of Jamaica had been an absentee for nearly a 27 quarter of a century. But the revival, starting with the Wesleyans and the Moravians, ignited the native Baptist communities to a remarkable extent, and gave to certain negroes the small amount of courage and encouragement that was necessary to incite them to violence four years later. The native Baptist Church of Jamaica was founded by George Lisle, the Virginia-born slave of an American loyal­ ist who sought refuge in Jamaica in 1733-

Given his free­

dom, Lisle began to preach in Kingston, and eventually opened a small chapel there. up.

Later on this community split

One part joined the Baptist Association of England,

and accepted the discipline and dogmas of that body.


second part remained independent and highly unorthodox. To the teachings of the Scriptures were added the super­ stitions and practices of Africa, and the religious ser­ vices ”. . .

tended to degenerate into a mixture of hyst-

erical revivalism and African witchcraft.


The Reverend W. J. Gardner, a Congregationalist

27 28

Gardner, o p . cit., p. 466.

Olivier, 0£. cit., p. 99*

minister, took a poor view of this organ!zation:

43 29 30

The best of their members were attracted by the superior teaching and more scriptural discipline of the missionaries, and their withdrawal left the superstitious and often grossly immoral men, who had assumed office as teachers and leaders, to pursue their course with less restraint. With few exceptions Native Baptist churches became associations of men and women who, in too many cases, mingled the belief and even practice of Mialism with religious observances, and who per** verted and corrupted what they retained of these; among them sensuality was almost entirely unrestrained. Their leaders, or "daddies,” as a class were overbearing, tyrannical, and las­ civious, and united the authority of the slave driver with the darkest forms of spiritual des­ potism. Of scriptural teaching there was lit­ tle. Simple facts were so perverted that they would have been ridiculous had they not been blasphemous. That some of these "daddies” were active in the rebellion of 1831 is unquestionable, and the instigator of the out­ break of 1865 was a district leader of this peculiar com­ munity.

The revival of 1861 caused an increased activity

in the native Baptist Churches, and occasioned a great deal of "wild extravagance and blasphemous fanaticism."


The existence and activity of this characteristically native organization lends grave significance to these


Gardner, 0£. cit., p. 357*


The "Mialism" referred to is, according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, Myalism: a kind of sorcery practised by natives in the West Indies, practised by

Gardner, op. cit., p. 465.


words of Benjamin P. Hunt, penned early in 1 8 6 5 :

For some years past they /the negroes7 have habitually called the whites "foreigners.” As is the wont of their race in matters which eoncern its own interest they have jumped to the conclusion that the land is for them, that they are the people, and the whites but so­ journers, soon to pass away. In the spring of 1862 the incumbent governor of Jamaica obtained leave to visit England, and Mr. Edward John Eyre, then governor of the small island of Antigua, was transferred to Jamaica to fill the office of lieut­ enant-governor.

A curious man, this Eyre.

If he was

not a typical Englishman of his day he had, at any rate, a great many of those qualities which nineteenth, century Englishmen considered indigenous to their island, and which they thought to be at once the source of their mighty empire, their greatness, and their wealth.

A man

without any notable sense of humor, Eyre was capable, honorable, fantastically courageous, and possessed of an iron strength of purpose.

In 1840-41 he had under­

taken the job of walking a thousand miles round the Australian Bight " . . .

with no end in view beyond that

of demonstrating his'own confidence and reasonable pre­ diction that no good could come of the route he followed.

B. P. Hunt, Jamaica, o p . cit. 33 The Spectator, London, 25 November, 1 8 6 5 .

45 It was gorgeously English.

In a long article, Mr. Henry

Kingsley has told the fantastic story with admirable ef-

This, the most awful part of the earth's crust, a thousand miles in length, has been crossed once, and once only. Not by a well appointed expedition with camels, horses, and supplies, but by a solit­ ary man on foot. A man irritated by disappointment; nigh worn out by six months dread battle with na­ ture in her cruelest form; a man who, having been commissioned to do something in the way of explor­ ation, would not return home without results. To such a man has been reserved the task of walking a thousand miles round/the A&stralian Bight. Was there ever such a walk yet? And now

this unique pedestrian, who had gained a 35 high reputation as protector of the Australian blacks, was sent to preside over the government of Jamaica at a period when the island was rapidly approaching a point of dissension and misery beyond which it would seem exist­ ing conditions could not well continue. at Whitehall that a most desirable

If it was assumed

limitless patience was the quality*

in a Jamaica governor, thenEyre was an

obvious choice; but he was rapidly to discover that it would require more than patience to maintain a modus vivendi with the oligarchical and hypersensitive Assembly.

34 35

Macmillans Magazine, October and November, 1 8 6 5 .

Ibid. t1He knew more about the aboriginal tribes, their habits, language, and so on, than any man before or since.H

46 He was at an immediate disadvantage in that his appoint­ ment of one y e a r ’s duration, and this circumstance ser­ iously hampered his decisions, and prevented the initia­ tion of long-term p l a n n i n g . 3^

And the Assembly, or at

least, certain members of it, took advantage of the sit­ uation to assume an even more than customary truculence. Matters came to a head in February, 1864, when, with only seventeen members present, the House passed a resolution "to conduct no further business with Lieutenant-Governor 37 Eyre." The reasons were flippant and insubstantial, and sixteen of the members who had been absent on the occasion protested against the resolution, and united in an address to the Colonial Office approving of Mr. E y r e ’s official conduct.

As a result, Eyre was gazetted full 38 governor and Captain-General of Jamaica.


Hansard, op. cit., Vol. 182, p. 128. Reference E y r e ’s Report for 1803 to the Colonial Secretary. 37 Gardner, o£. cit., p. 4 5 6 . Loc. cit.

CHAPTER IV THE RISING AT MORANT BAY In 1863 and 1864 so serious a drought had stricken Jamaica that large numbers of negro small-holders were re­ duced to a condition of near-starvation.

With little work

to be found on the ever-decreasing number of estates, the negro laborers were M . . ♦ in places actually without food or c l o t h i n g , a n d ,

in the absence of anything resembling

a poor law, were dependent for survival upon private char­ ity.

The Baptist Missionary Society of Great Britain, in


". . . sent a considerable sum of money to relieve

the famine and distress amongst the negroes of Jamaica, and received from the pastors of its churches in that island a detailed description of the misery of the black populace. It was under these circumstances that Dr. Edward B. Underhill, the secretary of the society, sent a formal address to the Secretary of State for the Colonies calling his attention to the variety of evils under which the

^ The Spectator, 11 November, 1 8 6 5 . ^ Johnston, o£. clt., p. 257.

48 colony was suffering, and suggesting certain plans which 3 might prove remedial. Perhaps the gravest charge con­ tained in the letter was that the negroes were denied simple Justice by the local magistrates; and the chief remedy suggested for the economic collapse of the colony was that the government aid and control agriculture. The Colonial Secretary, Mr. Edward Cardwell, re­ garded the letter as sufficiently important to be for­ warded to Governor Eyre, along with a request for his comments upon it; and Eyre, taking a similar view as to its importance, caused the letter to be printed, and sent copies to the magistrates and the more important clergy­ men requesting information on the points raised by Dr. Underhill.


in Jamaica.

In this manner the letter became public It was reprinted in the newspapers, and

warmly discussed by black and white alike.

A negro

association, known as the "Underhill Convention" was formed to agitate for the reforms indicated by Dr. Under6 hill. The result was an extraordinary ferment amongst the negroes and mulattoes; a ferment countenanced and aided by certain white members of the Assembly


Most of the text of the letter is given in Olivier, 0£. cit., p. 1 6 5 . h Gardner, 0 £. cit., p. 472.


Johnston, op. cit., p. 257-

49 and magistrates, who for political reasons, or from honest conviction, believed that reform was-neces­ sary to the well-being of the Island. In April, 1 8 6 5 , the negroes of the parish of St. Anne drew up a petition and forwarded it, through chan­ nels, to Queen Victoria.

Citing the disastrous droughts

of the previous two years, they begged relief of their destitute state, and from the heavy taxation which en­ cumbered their land and their produce.

The petition

was answered by Mr. Cardwell in a letter quite chillingly unsympathetic, the substance of it being " . . .

the answer

which Pharaoh gave to the children of Israel, "Ye are Idle, ye are idle.1"

And Mr. Eyre also had this letter

printed and distributed about the colony.

It occasioned

Q much indignation amongst the native Baptist communities. Shortly before this, Mr. Eyre had reported to Mr. Cardwell on Dr. Underhill’s letter.

He admitted that

certain evils existed in the colony, namely:

"The low

rate of wages, the irregular nature of employment, the high price of food and clothing, the non-payment of wages where work is done, the existence of the truck system, the failure of the provision crops, and the idleness, improv­ idence, and vice of the people."

Of all these reasons,

c Loc. cit.


The Spectator, 11 November, 1 8 6 5 .

o Olivier, 0£. cit., p. 170.

50 he believed the last three to be the true cause of the a disaffection. By July, public meetings were being held all over the island, where the letters of Underhill and Cardwell were the theme of indignant debates.

ffIt was no secret

that there were persons who indulged in open threats against the government, and declared their intention of going from parish to parish telling the people that they ,t10 were unjustly oppressed. Towards the end of July the agitation had become sufficiently alarming to induce Governor Eyre to dispatch vessels of war to various port towns ". . . t o intimidate malcontents and prevent an expected uprising."^ It would have been as well had a warship been sent to the small town of Morant Bay in the parish of St. Thomas in the East.

Conditions here were in a highly

Inflammable state, for the political unrest which had spread all over the island was in St. Thomas aggravated by land disputes, and by a serious feud between the As­ semblyman of the district, the mulatto George William Gordon, and the Custos (chief magistrate) of the parish, Baron von Ketelhodt.

Mr. Gordon and his activities must

now be formally noticed.

^ Ibid., p. 169*

51 George William Gordon was the natural son of a 12 wealthy white planter and a negro woman. He had in­ herited a fair sum of money and had invested largely in landed property, which, in the current depression, had become a serious liability to him. 13debt to the extent of 3*35^000.

In 1 865 he was in

In his dealings with the laborers and others in his employ, his conduct was often called Into ques­ tion, and most certainly it was not of such a char­ acter as to justify the position he assumed as friend of the people.1^Friend of the people, nevertheless, he set out to be, and as he was a leading official in the Native Baptist Church, an Assemblyman, and, until recently, a magistrate, he was much in the public eye.

In the Assembly he was

n. . . a staunch and unfailing advocate of the interests of the negro, and often an opponent of government mea15 sures." Governor Eyre has described him as ”. . . the most consistent and tireless obstructor of public business in the House of Assembly.“


Gardner, 0 £. cit., p. 473-


Dispatch of Governor Eyre, in Annual Register, 1 8 6 5 > p* 284. 12 Gardner, o£. cit., p. 473* 13 Johnston, o p . cit., p. 257*

14 ^

Gardner, o£. cit., p. 474.

Johnston, op. cit., p. 257*

52 In the parish of St. Thomas his influence was large.

Eyre had removed him from the position of magis­

trate in consequence of charges which he had levelled against his brother magistrates, and which, it was felt, he must have known to be untrue.

This action of the 17 Governor was approved by the Colonial Secretary. Gordon had also been elected to fill the office of church­ warden for the parish, but since he was a Native Baptist the Custos, Baron Ketelhodt, had him removed from the vestry.

This led Gordon to bring an action at law against

Ketelhodt, and the case, dragging throughout 1 8 6 5 , caused great ill-feeling among the Native Baptists, and much irritation throughout the parish.


All in all, Mr. Gordon,

in the autumn of 1 8 6 5 , may be described as a thoroughly frustrated man; and he gave vent to his frustration, pri­ vately and publicly, In an unrestrained and bombastic manner, with many Invocations to the Diety, and vehement aspirations that a special Divine vengeance would overtake all the oppressors of the colored people in general, and of himself in particular.


Dispatch of Governor Eyre, October 20, 1 8 6 5 , in Annual Register, 1 8 6 5 , P« 277. 17 Johnston, op. cit., p. 257. 18 Report of the Royal Commission, April 9 , 18 6 6 , given in full in the Annual Register, 1866, pp. 273-305.

53 On the twelfth of August, Mr. Gordon presided at a public meeting at Morant Bay, to which the people had been summoned by notices he had had printed and posted. In these notices Ketelhodt was stigmatised as

. . an

unscrupulous and oppressive foreigner," and the people were advised „20 your cause.

. . to be up and doing and to maintain In the course of the meeting, Mr. Card­

well's injudicious letter was bitterly criticised, and a resolution was drawn up to the effect that

. . the

general arbitrary, illegal, and Inconsistent conduct of the Custos is destructive to the peace and prosperity of 21 the affairs of the parish." This resolution was taken to Mr. Eyre by a committee headed by a certain Paul Bogle, an old friend of Gordon's whom he had ordained a few months previously as a deacon of the Native Baptist Church. Paul Bogle cultivated a few acres of land at Stony Gut, a hamlet about four miles from Morant Bay, and here he had erected a chapel of which he acted as minister. The land about Stony Gut was claimed by several whites, but the negroes in the vicinity declared it was Crown

19 Ibid., p. 29J. 20 L o c . cit.

21 Ibid., p. 298.

5^ land, and that they were at liberty to squat upon it. Bogle himself was a squatter, and when at this time legal actions were being prepared to evict the squatters he as­ sumed a very truculent tone in his communications with the authorities.


In September, Mr. Gordon spoke publicly again, this time at Vere, and on this occasion he advised his audience

O'* to ". . . d o what Haiti has done."

This was putting it

rather strongly, so much so that a friend of Gordon’s, the editor of the local newspaper, wrote an editorial of explanation and defense, telling Gordon that he did so to shield him from the "charge of anarchy and tumult which in a short time must follow these fearful demon-

fru­ strations . Tumult and anarchy were, indeed, fast approaching. By mid-September secret meetings at which oaths were ad­ ministered were being held around Morant Bay, and in the first week of October men were being drilled at Stony Gut under Paul Bogle’s supervision by "officers" styling themoc selves "captains" and "colonels."

Johnston, op. cit., p. 259* 23


Report of Royal Commission, o£. cit., p. 297. L o c . cit.

25 Ibid., p. 278.

55 On Saturday, the seventh of .October, a Court of Petty Sessions was held at Morant Bay at which a negro lad charged with assulting a negro woman was fined four shillings and costs.

A spectator called out to him to

pay the fine but not the costs, which interruption oc­ casioned "so much disturbance in the court that business was for a time suspended."


The spectator was ordered

into custody, and was seized by some constables, only to be rescued by a large mob of bystanders who then pro­ ceeded to beat the constables. Two days later, on Monday, the ninth,

". . . in­

formation having been taken upon oath, warrants were is­ sued for the apprehension of two persons of the name of Bogle, and of twenty-six others who were stated to have 27 taken an active part in the riot.y Paul Bogle was found .at his house at Stony Gut, four miles from Morant Bay, but when the eight constables attempted to arrest him a signal was given, and ". . . a body of men, estimated at from 300 to 5 0 0 , armed with cutlasses, sticks, and spikes, rushed out from the chapel where Bogle was in the habit of preaching, and attacked the policemen.



Ibid., p. 276.

27 Ibid., p. 2 7 7 .

2® Loc. cit.


The police were over-

56 powered and beaten, and three of them were held prisoner for some hours, being released only after they had sworn upon a bible that henceforth they would ". . . Join their 29 color and cleave to the black." In front of these police Paul Bogle stated that he was coming to Morant Bay on the morrow,

"to kill all the white men and all the black men „30 who would not Join him. Tuesday, the tenth, seems to have been devoted to letter writing. complaining of:

Bogle sent an address to Governor Eyre 31

. . . an outrageous assuit committed upon us by the policemen of this parish, by order of the Justices, which occasion /sic7 an outbreaking for which warrants have been issued against inno­ cent person, of which we were compelled to resist. We, therefore, call upon your excellency for pro­ tection, which protection, if refused to, will be compelled to put our shoulders to the wheel, as we have been imposed on for a period of twentyeight years. Whilst this manifesto was on its way to the governor, Baron Ketelhodt was also informing Eyre by letter of the ominous situation.

He stated that he could assemble but 32 forty men to oppose the rioters and that:

29 30 31 32

L o c . cit. L o c . cit. L o c . cit.

Quoted in a dispatch from Governor Eyre to the Colonial Secretary, 20 October, 1 8 6 5 , in Annual Register, 1 8 6 5 , p. 2 8 6 .

57 ”1 cannot hesitate, under these circumstances, to submit that it is very probable that without some military aid the force at the disposal of the auth­ orities will, in the event of the people carrying out their threats, be insufficient to uphold the ‘ law, and, in that case, the worst consequences must be anticipated. I am of the opinion that no time ought to be lost in dispatching a sufficient mili­ tary force.”

Eyre received this message, and also that of Bogle, on the morning of the eleventh, and at once gave orders for a man-of-war to run down the coast to Morant Bay with one hundred soldiers.

The embarkation did not take place

until evening, and this being accomplished, the vessel anchored for the night at Port Royal.


By nine o'clock

on the morning of the twelfth, the little expedition reached Morant Bay.

It was some twelve hours too late.

Baron Ketelhodt and seventeen men had been murdered on the previous evening. Whilst the troops had been preparing to embark, a meeting of the vestry was being held at Morant Bay. Towards four in the afternoon word was brought that a crowd of armed men was approaching.

Ketelhodt arrayed

eighteen militiamen in front of the court-house, and 3^ himself awaited the crowd on the court-house steps. When the mob was within hailing distance, the baron

Ibid., p. 278.


Report of Royal Commission, p. 277*

called to them, asking what they wanted; the shouted 35 answer was, "War1 11 Ketelhodt now commenced to read the Riot Act, and during the reading the crowd began to pelt the militia with stones.

The captain, having his

forehead split open by a hurled bottle, begged the Custos to give the order to fire.

This was given, and

a ragged volley tore through the mob, killing and wound36 ing some twenty negroes. The rioters were pressing close upon the militia, and now they rushed them before they could re-load, beating them down with cutlasses and clubs.

Six of the militia were killed and others badly 37 injured. All who could, fled for refuge in the court­ house, and several escaped from the back before the build­ ing was surrounded.

For oyer an hour intermittent snip­

ing was carried on between beseigers and beseiged, when Paul Bogle gave orders for the court-house and adjacent 38 buildings to be fired. This being effected, the Custos came out with a flag of truce, but was attacked and driven back into the house.

With the roof of the

court-house about to fall in, the inmates were compelled


kQ C « cit.

Report of Militia Corporal Marks, in Hansard, Vol. 184, p. 1766.

37 38

Report of Royal Commission, p. 278. liOc. c i t .

59 to leave the building; and, it now being dark, they sought to conceal themselves in different places in the vicinity.

Some remained undiscovered throughout the

night, but others were dragged from their hiding-places and hacked or clubbed to death. The Custos was cut down 39 by Bogle himself. On this day the insurgents killed eighteen men and wounded thirty-one.^ And now, after the gaol was attacked and the prisoners liberated, and after the shops of the little town had been thoroughly looted, Bogle led the main body of rioters back to Stony Gut, where he held a service in his chapel, and ”. . .

returned thanks to God that he

went to this work, and that God had succeeded him in „4l this work. Other insurgents fanned out through the parish of St. Thomas, looting the plantations, killing two more white men, and wounding perhaps a dozen others. That casualties were so few may be attributed to the celerity with which the white residents took to the woods. There was, indeed, little else they could do, for in the entire parish there were but two hundred eighty-two white

39 Olivier, op. cit., p. 176. 40

Report of Royal Commission, p. 278.

Ibid., p. 280.

60 persons compared with 23>230 blacks.


Only a fraction

of these negroes participated in the uprising.

So far

as the Royal Commission could ascertain, two thousand seems to have been the very limit of the number of armed insurgents, and it would appear that fifteen hundred was 43 a more accurate figure. Not more than one hundred of these men had muskets or fowling pieces. Bogle remained at Stony Gut during the next day, drilling and haranguing his men.

"The country," he told

them, "had long been theirs.

It would now belong to them, 44 and they must keep it wholly in their possession." On the thirteenth of October, at the head of some two hund­ red armed men, Bogle started in the general direction of Kingston.

He moved very slowly, and when it was learned

that troops were approaching his command, the men, who certainly did not possess the arms to oppose them, be45 came panic stricken, and fled. Other bodies of insur­ gents were marching in different directions in the parish. Elmwood, thirty miles to the east, was the furthest point

Gardner, op. cit., p. 480. 43 44

Report of Royal Commission, p. 281. Ibid., p. 282.

Ibid., p. 283.

6l of penetration by the insurgents.

The crops were left

uninjured, and most of the buildings preserved, but looting was unrestrained.

"The intention of taking the lives

of the whites was openly avowed, and diligent search was 46 made for particular individuals.“ But the whites had already fled to safety, upwards of two hundred refugees pouring into Kingston. By the evening of October 15* sufficient forces were concentrating about Morant Bay to make resistance impossible on the part of the completely unorganised rabble.

The rebellion, such as it was, dispersed prac­

tically of its own accord.

There was no organization

to direct the men, no plan for them to carry out, and no arms to lend the hope of success to any enterprise. The rebels scattered and fled for their lives with no thought of unity or resistance.

We are left to consider

only their pursuit, and what manner of vengeance was to be wreaked upon them by the infuriated whites.


Loc. cit.

CHAPTER V THE SUPPRESSION On the eleventh of October, Governor Eyre, in response to the urgent appeal of Baron Ketelhodt, had dispatched to Morant Bay one hundred soldiers aboard a gun~boat.

On the afternoon of the twelfth, the news

of the massacre reached Kingston, and rumors also to the effect that the insurgents were marching in the direction of the city.

In consequence of this startling informa~

tion, and wholly ignorant of the geographical extent of the rising, Eyre dispatched another two hundred regular soldiers to Morant Bay on a second gun-boat, and issued orders for all navy, army, and militia forces in the colony to concentrate upon Kingston.

In addition, troops

were ordered from Bahamas, Barbadoes, and Canada.


island Council was summoned by the Governor to meet on the morning of October thirteenth, and Its first action was to place the county of Surry (wherein lay the parish of St. Thomas~in~the«East) under martial law.

At the

express Instance of Eyre, the city and parish of Kingston were exempted from this order . 1

1 Dispatch of Governor Eyre, in Annual Register, 1 8 6 5 , p. 278.

Command of the troops in the field was vested in Brigadier General Nelson, serving under Major General O'Connor, the nominal commander-in-chief, who remained in Kingston.

All in all, some three thousand men were

assembled, including 'twelve hundred regulars, seven hundred militia, and four hundred Maroons.


Such a force

was utterly overwhelming, but this was not at first known to the authorities, and uprisings which never materialized were hourly expected to break out in other parts of, the island.

The plan of campaign decided upon was to occupy

the coastal towns in the vicinity of Morant Bay, to allow the Maroons to operate in the mountains, and to march a strong column inland from Kingston to Morant Bay so as to form a sort of triangular trap to close upon Stony Gut. One vessel of war remained at Kingston with its guns trained along the principal street, and two more gun-boats made the tour of the island, putting in at all harbors 4 to "show the flag.”

Estimate given in a speech before the House of Commons by Mr. Charles Buxton (Hansard, Vol. 184, p. 1 7 6 9 ). Exact figures are, perhaps, impossible to find, but these seem to be reasonable. The Maroons were negroes, the des­ cendants of Spanish slaves who had escaped to the moun­ tains when Jamaica was captured by Penn and Venables in 1654. They had remained free men, and, under formal treaty, were available for use as slave-catchers and ir­ regular militia. To this day they have a separate iden­ tity from other negroes, whom they affect to despise.

(See Olivier, 0£. cit., p. 73-)

64 In the total absence of any opposition, the plan worked without a hitch.

In only one spot was there any­

thing which resembled skirmishing, and this consisted of no more than a few shots being fired from ambush (at Torrington) which wounded a single militia soldier. Otherwise, the military operations encompassed only the rounding up and bringing in of any and all negroes sus­ pected of complicity in the outbreak.

Eyre, who had per­

sonally established the military beachheads around Morant Bay was now able to report that, "All of our most import­ ant work being thus done, and the troops comfortably est­ ablished in their barracks, we had for the first time a night of quiet and rest on the night of Sunday, the 1 5 th of October. On the following morning a court-martial was con­ vened to try the first group of prisoners brought into Morant Bay; twenty-seven men were found guilty of rebel-

Ci lion and summarily hanged.

Leaving the work of further

vengeance to his punitive columns, Eyre now returned to


Dispatches of Governor Eyre, 0£. cit., p. 2 8 3 .

^ Ibid., p. 280. 5 Ibid., p. 281.

£ Loc. cit.

65 Kingston where, as he reported to the Colonial Office:


"Having obtained a deposition upon oath that certain seditious printed notices had been sent through the post-office directed in Mr. George William Gordon’s handwriting, to parties who have been leaders in the rebellion, I at once called upon the Custos to issue a warrant and capture him.” Gordon, having been informed of the issuance of the warrant, surrendered himself to General 0 1Connor and was, by E y r e ’s orders, placed on board a gun-boat and conveyed to Morant Bay to face trial before the court-martial there assembled. On October twentieth, two courts-martial were sit­ ting, and before that one composed of three young officers, Lieutenant Brand, R.N., Lieutenant Errington, R.N., and Ensign Kelly, 4th West India Regiment, Mr. Gordon was form­ ally charged with ”. . .

furthering the massacre at Morant

Bay and, at divers periods previously, inciting and advis­ ing with certain insurgents and thereby, by his influence, 8 tending to cause a riot." Five witnesses were examined for the prosecution.

The most damaging evidence against

Gordon seems to have been that he failed to attend, or at­ tempt to attend, the vestry meeting at Morant Bay on

7 Ibid., p. 283.


Report of Royal Commission, p. 301*

66 October eleventh, and that he was the author and distrib­ utor of the notices referred to previously.

Only one

witness could be found for the defense, and this man testified that illness had caused Gordon’s absence from Morant Bay on the eleventh.

After a trial lasting six

hours, Gordon was found guilty and sentenced to death. The sentence was approved by Brigadier Nelson, and sub9 mitted to the Governor. Eyre replied: "Your report of the trial of George William Gordon has just reached me through the General ^/0’Connor7> and I quite concur in the justice of the sentence, and the necessity of carrying it into effect." Gordon, being informed of his sentence an hour before it was to be executed, wrote a pathetic last letter to his wife, and was hanged at daybreak on the twentythird of October.

By this time the daily sessions of the

courts-martial were producing an astonishing number of death sentences, and the end was not in sight.

The sent­

ences seem all to have been approved, and the executions 10 at Morant Bay may be tabulated in this order:

9 Ibid., p. 3 0 2 . 10

Speech of Charles Buxton, M.P., in Hansard', Vol. 184, p. 1777-

67 Monday, October 16

27 executed

Friday, October 20

19 executed

Saturday, October 21

18 executed

Sunday, October 22

(Lord’s Day observance)

Monday, October 23

19 (including Gordon)

Tuesday, October 24

■14 executed

Wednesday, October 25

10 executed

Thursday, October 26

13 executed

Friday, October 27

13 executed

Saturday, October 28

11 executed

Sunday, October 29

(Lord’s Day observance)

Monday, October 30

12 executed

Tuesday, October 31

24 executed

Wednesday, November 1

15 executed

November 2 to 15

23 executed


208 executed

Of the number executed, twenty-■five were accused of murder, or assisting in the commission of murder, and the remainder were charged with participation in rebellion. 11 Seven of those hanged were women. A very large number of prisoners were charged with simple looting and with seditious talk, and these, if not given the death sentence,

11 Ibid., p. 1778.

68 were condemned to imprisonment and the cat-of-nine-tails. Sentences seem generally to have been five years and fifty lashes, or ten years and one hundred lashes. In all, two 12 hundred and two persons were flogged. Only one woman was so sentenced, but Brigadier Nelson withheld confirma13 tion. Some of those executed at Morant Bay were flogged before being hanged, and it seems to have been customary to have compelled those awaiting trial to witness the 14 daily executions of their unfortunate confreres. Of the troops operating in the interior as inde­ pendent commands, that of Colonel Hobbs marched from Kingston to Stoney Gut without encountering any opposition. Hobbs reported to Major-General O ’Connor on October six­ teenth that a large number of rebels had thrown away their arms and surrendered to him, and he desired to know the 15 general's wishes concerning them. On the nineteenth he received a dispatch from the major-general expressing the hope that the colonel ”. . .

would deal in a more

summary manner with the rebels, and on no account to 16 forward prisoners to Kingston.” Colonel Hobbs, a

12 Ibid., p. 1 7 8 2 . 13 Report of Royal Commission, p. 2 8 7 . 14 Hansard, Vol. 1 8 5 , P* 178.0. 15 Report of Royal Commission, p. 2 8 7 .

69 Crimea Warr veteran, and a deeply religious man, took these orders at face value.

On the very same day that

he received them he had eleven prisoners shot, and on the following day twenty-three more were executed in a 17 similar manner. On October twentieth he had twentynine persons shot, and twenty-seven of them, it would appear, owed their fate to the testimony of a single wit18 ness. The total number of people put to death by Colonel Hobbs seems to have been seventy-seven, whilst a large and unspecified number were liberally visited with the cat-of-nine-tails. General O'Connor, ”. . .

These, the colonel reported to were chiefly youths, and had been

arrested as fugitives in the woods;” and, he added,


writhing and intense agony of the lash is frightful to 19 witness." In addition, the colonel destroyed the ham­ let of Stony Gut, and burned about five hundred dwell-




Loc. cit.

^ Loc. cit. 18 This witness was Faul Bogle's "valet.” Hansard, Vol. 185, p. 1780.)



Dispatches of Governor Eyre, op. cit., p. 2 8 9 .


Report of Royal Commission, p. 288.

On October fifteenth, a force consisting of forty men of the Sixth Regiment, and sixty men of the First West India Regiment, commanded by Captain Hole, was dispatched to Manehioneal, a village about twenty miles eastward from Port Antonio.

Hole was instructed to ,f. . . engage and

make examples of any insurgents he met,” to take no pris­ oners except leaders, and to shoot all those found under arms.


The men under Captain Hole were, evidently, an

unruly lot; numbers of black soldiers of the West India Regiment straggled from his columns, and these, without any authorization, shot twenty-five people.

One negro

soldier, a deserter, shot ten men himself, ” . . .


conditions of great barbarity.,f


At Manehioneal and

Port Antonio, Captain Hole established courts-martial which, in the period from the seventeenth of October to the third of November caused eighty-nine prisoners to be executed, and ninety-three to be flogged.

Of the latter,

some twenty were women who had been convicted of looting; 23 they received twenty to thirty lashes apiece. A third body of troops, consisting of about one hundred Maroons commanded by Colonel Fyfe, marched through

21 22 23

Ibid., p. 289. L o c . cit.

Ibid., p. 290.

Stony Gut to a town named Bath.

About twenty-five negroes

were killed during the march, and upwards of two hundred 24 houses burned. At Bath, a local magistrate, Mr. Kirtland, presided over the punishment of the prisoners brought in.

The more serious cases were removed for trial to Port

Morant, and Mr. Kirtland issued sentences of flogging only. A large number of prisoners were so treated.


fifty were flogged on one day, of whom twenty were women, and it is stated that between thirty and forty were flogged .,25 on other days. At first an ordinary cat was used, but later, for men, piano wire was twisted into the cords, and with this instrument some sufferers received one hundred lashes.

The members of the Royal Commission, who saw the

whip, stated that, 11. . . it is painful to think that any man should have used such an instrument for the torturing of his fellow creatures. ,,26 Paul Bogle was captured by the Maroons, and sent for trial to Port Morant.

Upon conviction, he was hanged 27 from the yard-arm of the gun-boat, ’’Wolverene." All in all, three hundred and fifty-four persons

L o c . cit. 25 26


Report of Royal Commission, p. 291. _

L o c . cit.

Olivier, op. cit., p. 177*

were executed by sentence of courts-martial, and eightyfive were killed under other circumstances.

At least six

hundred persons were flogged, and over one thousand huts and houses were burned.


Martial law remained in effect

until the thirteenth of November.

Report of Royal Commission, p. 291.

CHAPTER VI SEQUELS IN JAMAICA On the twenty-fourth of October, Governor Eyre forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Edward Cardwell, the first official report of the Morant Bay rebellion.

The report was " . . .


drawn up at sea, in such intervals as I could obtain from other avocations," and Eyre begged "indulgence for any imperfections and omissions."

And well he might, for

the report, though in many respects able and exhaustive, was, in its total effect, ominously obscure.

The chief

factors contributing to give this impression were the description of the arrest, trial, and execution of Gordon, the failure to cite any concrete evidence which would justify it, and the military reports of Colonel Hobbs and Captain Hole, which were included as appendices. These latter dispatches were phrased in so laconic a manner as to give an impression of extreme callousness, if not downright cruelty, on the part of the writers. Eyre fully described the steps by which he had so rapidly concentrated his forces upon Morant Bay, and in this manner "headed the insurrectionary movement, and prevented the further spread of the rebellion."

That it

74 might have spread over the whole colony he had not the slightest doubt: It is my duty to state most unequivocally my opinion that Jamaica has been, and to a certain extent still is, in the greatest jeopardy. I be­ lieve that the promptitude and vigor of action, which has at once grappled with and punished the rebellion, has been the saving of Jamaica. The whole colony has been upon a mine, which required but a spark to ignite it. Disaffection and dis­ loyalty still exist In nearly all the parishes of the island, and had there been the least hes­ itation or delay I confidently believe that the insurrection would have been universal through­ out the entire island, and that either the col­ ony would have been lost to the mother country, or an almost interminable war and an unknown expense would have had to be incurred in sup­ pressing it. I trust, Sir, that you will bear these circumstances fully in mind, and that, in doing so, you will not regard the just severity which has been exercised otherwise than as a merciful substitute for the very much larger measure of punishment which would have had to be executed had the rebellion been allowed time to gather head and extend itself. Having mentioned that 11. . . a large number of rebels have been shot with arms In their hands , 11 and that 11. . . a great many prisoners have been tried and hung, shot or flogged,” Eyre added:"** M.

No stand has ever been made against the troops; and although we are not only in complete military occupation of, but have traversed with troops, all the disturbed districts, not a single casualty has befallen any of our soldiers or sailors. If no further outbreak occurs, I hope to be able, in a

1 Annual

Register, 1865, pp. 279ff.

short time, to proclaim a general amnesty, except to actual murderers, upon the rebel’s coming in and submitting to the Queen’s authority. Mr. Edward Cardwell, Secretary of State for the Colonies, received this dispatch on November sixteenth, 2 and replied to it on the following day: I have to convey to you my high approval of the spirit, energy, and judgment with which you have acted in your measures for repressing and preventing the spread of the insurrection. However: You will, no doubt, have much further intelli­ gence to communicate to me hereafter on the sub­ ject of the measures of severity to which you have felt it necessary to have recourse. If you had time in forwarding these enclosures ^dispatches of Colonel Hobbs and Captain Hole7 to make your­ self acquainted with all their contents, it will have been evident to you that they contain many passages which will require to be explained as soon as there shall be sufficient leisure for the writers to explain fully the proceedings to which they' relate. I entirely agree with you that measures of severity, when dictated by necessity and justice, are in reality measures of mercy, and I do not doubt it will appear that you have arrested the course of punishment as soon as you were able to do so, and have exerted yourself to confine it meanwhile to ascertained offenders, and to cases of aggravated guilt. A week later, having received no further inforraa tion, Mr. Cardwell wrote again to Governor Eyre, eviden cing the lively apprehension of the government that the

2 Ibid., p. 287.

76 retribution inflicted upon the insurgents had been ex­ cessive:^ I rely on the assurances conveyed to me in your dispatch, and do not doubt that no time will have been lost in checking at the earliest possible moment those measures of instant sever­ ity which only an overwhelming sense of public danger Justifies. I have to request that you will furnish me with copies of the proceedings of the courtsmartial, and of the evidence taken in the sev­ eral cases. It is a matter of obvious remark that Gordon was arrested at Kingston, to which martial law did not extend, and taken to Morant Bay for trial under martial law. Her Majesty’s Govern­ ment await with much anxiety your explanation on this subject. Eyre replied to this disquieting note on the eighth of December, in a manner so vague and airy as to convey an impression that he considered the rebellion over and done with, and scarcely a fit topic for further discussion.

He said that he had given no more than a

"hurried glance” at the dispatches of Hobbs and Hole, since it was ”. . . impossible for me to scrutinize or investigate carefully the details of the enormous mass of papers which were continually coming before me.”


made no mention whatever of the case of Gordon, and seemed to suggest that the punishments had been within the

3 Ibid., p. 290.

77 exclusive province of the military, and that:


. . . The high rank and character of the officers is, I think, a full guarantee that nothing improper or unjust took place with their knowledge or sanc­ tion; and I do nofci doubt but that they will be able and ready to afford full explanation and just­ ification upon any points which may at present seem to you unsatisfactory. It is very probable that some occurrences may have taken place which cannot be justified during the prevalence of martial law, and where so much was necessarily left to the discretion of subord­ inate authorities, differing greatly in character, ability, temper, experience, and judgment. Such cases can only be sincerely deplored. It would have been impossible, under the excitement and urgency of the circumstances attending the outbreak, to have either guarded against or pre­ vented their taking place. It may be easily imagined that this was the least successful letter that Eyre ever wrote during the entire course of his official life. Mr. Cardwell was electric. this dispatch, he replied:

Certainly Its effect upon Within a day of receiving


I have now to state to you that Her Majesty’s Government, after taking the case, so far as they are at present acquainted with it, into their ma­ ture consideration, have determined that . . . it is right to institute in the island a full and in­ dependent inquiry. The supreme authority in the colony, military as well as civil, must, for the time being, be invested in the officer who is to preside over the commission.


Annual Register, 1 8 6 5 , p. 291.

5 Ibid., p. 292.

78 And on the same day he issued a commission to Sir Henry K. Storks; Governor and Coramander-in-Chief of Malta, appointing him temporary governor of Jamaica, and presi­ dent of a Royal Commission to be composed of Mr. Russell Gurney, M.P., the Recorder of London, and Mr. J. B. Maule, 6 the Recorder of Leeds. In the meantime, events of great significance had taken place in Jamaica.

On November eighth, Governor

Eyre convened the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly.

In his opening speech he commended, in the most

eulogistic terms, those officers who had engaged in the 7 suppression of the outbreak. Within three days from the first intelligence of the rebellion reaching Kingston it was headed, checked, and hemmed in; within a week it was fairly crushed, and arrangements made to capture and pun­ ish the guilty who had not yet met their just doom. One moment’s hesitation, one single reverse, might have lit the torch which would have blazed in re­ bellion from one end of the island to the other; and who can say how many of us would have lived to see it extinguished? The island, he continued, was still threatened by im­ minent danger.

"There are those whose intention has

been, and still is, to make Jamaica into a second Haiti."

Q Under these circumstances it behooved the House:

Ibid., p. 293. ' Ibid., p. 270. Q

Ibid., p. 271.

79 . . . to take such measures as, under God's bless­ ing, may avert such a calamity. These measures may be summed up in a few words— create a strong gov­ ernment, and then, under a strong hand to guide and direct, much may be accomplished. In order to ob­ tain a strong government, there is but one course open to you— that of abolishing the existing form of the Constitution, (compensating those officers whose offices are abolished) and establishing one better adapted to the present state and requirement of the colony. I invite you, then, gentlemen, to make a great and generous sacrifice for the sake of your country, and in imolating on the altar of patriotism the two branches of the legislature, of which you yourselves are the consituent parts, to hand down to posterity a noble example of selfdenial and heroism. This speech had a profound effect upon the thor­ oughly shaken legislators, and, almost unanimously, they passed a bill to abolish the existing form of government and to appoint ”a legislative council whose members should 9 be nominated by the Crown, and hold office for life." When this proposal, slightly amended, was submitted to the Colonial Office, Mr. Cardwell pointed out that, since Jamaica was now to be a Crown Colony, the form of its government would have to be submitted to the judgment of Parliament.1^

Accordingly, on the fourteenth of Dec­

ember, the Assembly passed its last bill, abolishing the constitution of Jamaica, and giving the Crown power to Q

Gardner, op. cit., p. 491.

10 Hansard, Vol. l8 l, p. 5 8 1 .


substitute whatever kind of government it thought fit.


Before doing this, however, it passed an Act of Indemnity to protect Governor Eyre against any consequences which might arise from his actions in suppressing the rebellion. It may seem surprising that a government, so reck­ lessly independent and self-willed as that of Jamaice, should thus tamely commit political suicide; but the As­ sembly was aware that 11. . . if it was allowed to exist any longer, it could exist only with the broad admission „13 of the negro vote. And rather than permit this, it pronounced the dissolution of a constitution which had endured since 1663*

This was also the interpretation

which Earl Grey placed upon the action of the Assembly. Speaking in the House of Lords upon the occasion of the second reading of the Jamaica Government Bill, he said:

11 i 2£*



12 ..

A striking feature of colonial legislation is the great number of Acts of indemnity passed after dif­ ferent rebellions. Instances of such acts occur, in the legislation of Canada, New Zealand, St. Vincent, and Jam­ aica. The most important in the history of law is the Jamaica Act, which indemnified Governor Eyre for any acts done during the suppression of the rising in I 8 6 5 . It was held by the Exchequer Chamber, In 1870, that this Act protected Mr. Eyre from being successfully sued In Eng­ land on a cause of action arising out of his acts during the outbreak . 11 (T. P. Taswell-Langraead, English Constitutlonal History, p . 328.) j.

p. 202.


. Froude, The English in the West Indies,


81 I regard as the single wise political measure that has ever emanated from the Jamaica Legislature, the Act by which they have committed political suicide, and on which the Bill now before us is founded. The negroes, by slow degrees, have acquired property and a corresponding amount of political influence; and it has lately become clear that in a short time the political ascendancy would have passed out of the hands of the whites into those of the negroes, had the existing constitution been allowed to re­ main in force. This fact explains the readiness of the Jamaica Assembly to commit political sui­ cide. There was no desire in Parliament to obstruct the wishes of the Jamaica Legislature.

The nAct to Make Pro­

vision for the Government of Jamaica” passed both Houses without opposition, and on June eleventh, 1866, an Order in Council established the new administration.

It was

similar to the government of Trinidad, consisting of a governor and an appointed legislative council composed of the chief officials, civil and military, of the col15 ony. In the meantime, on the sixth of January, 1866, Sir Henry Storks arrived in Jamaica, and Eyre was temp­ orarily relieved of the governorship.

The Royal Commis­

sion began work on the twenty-third of January, and two and one-half months later completed their report.

Hansard, Vol. 182, p. 131. 5 Ibid., Vol. 181, p. 581.


82 town and village in the parish of St. Thomas-in-the-East was visited, and fifty-one days were spent In examining sworn witnesses.

i ft

In all, the statements of seven hund­

red thirty persons were sifted and examined, and the re­ port, when presented to the anxiously awaiting Parliament, was commonly considered to be both able and impartial, In 17 fact, a very model of its kind. The commissioners conclusively demonstrated that the initial rising at Morant Bay was a planned affair, but they were unable to connect the local revolt to any island-wide conspiracy.

Their considered conclusions 18 on the whole affair were as follows; 1. That the disturbances In St. Thomas-In-theEast had their immediate origin in a planned re­ sistance to lawful authority. 2. That the causes leading to the determination to offer that resistance were manifold: a. That a principal object of the disturbers of order was the obtaining of land free from the payment of rent. b. That an additional Incentive to the viol­ ation of law arose from the want of confidence generally felt by the laboring classes in the tribunals before which most of the disputes af­ fecting their Interests were carried for adjud­ ication.

Tft ^ p. 1895-


Report of the Royal Commission, p. 276. Speech by Earl Russell, in Hansard, Vol. 184,

Report of Royal Commission, p. 305.

«3 c. That some, moreover, were animated by feelings of hostility towards political and per­ sonal opponents, while not a few contemplated the attainment of their ends by the death or expulsion of the white population of the Island. 3. That though the original design for the over­ throw of constituted authority was confined to a small portion of the parish of St. Thomas-in-theEast, yet that the disorders in fact spread with singular rapidity over an extensive tract of country, and that such was the state of excitement prevailing in other parts of the Island, that had more than a momentary success been obtained by the Insurgents, their ultimate overthrow would have been attended by a still more fearful loss of life and property. 4. That praise is due to Governor Eyre for the skill, promptitude, and vigor which he manifested during the early stages of the insurrection; to the exercise of which qualities its speedy termination is in a great degree to be attributed. 5 . That the military and naval operations appear to us to have been prompt and judicious.

6. That b y ,the continuation of martial law in its full force, to the extreme limit of its statu­ tory operation, the people were deprived for a longer than necessary period of the great consti­ tutional privileges by which the security of life and property is provided for, LASTLY: excessive:

That the punishments inflicted were

a. That the punishment of death was unneces­ sarily frequent. b. That the floggings were reckless, and at Bath positively barbarous. c. That the burning of a thousand homes was wanton and cruel. As regards the courts-martial, the Commissioners said that 11. . . in the great majority of cases, the evid-

m ence seems unobjectionable in character, and quite suffim19 cient to justify the findings of the court. Exception, however, was made of about a dozen eases, particularly that of Mr. Gordon, to whose case several pages of ex­ haustive analysis were devoted.

"Further enquiry" was

recommended into the behavior of Ensign Cullen and Sur­ geon Morris, concerning the shooting of persons without trial.


The alleged cruelty of Gordon Ramsay, the pro-

vost-marshall at Fort Morant, was noted but not commented upon, for Ramsay was about to be charged with murder in consequence of an act done whilst filling that office. The case of Gordon was exceedingly baffling to the Commissioners.

"At an early period of the Inquiry

we came to a conclusion that if a conspiracy had in fact existed, Mr. Gordon must have been a party to it. n21 And, after weeks of the most searching and minute inquiry, ". . . the conclusion at which we arrived m

his case is

decisive as to the non-existence of such a conspiracy.


And yet, there was much to have made Gordon sus­ pect.

He was "an intimate friend and correspondent of


20 21 2

Ibod., p. 292. Loc. cit. Ibid., p. 294. Ibid., p. 303.

85 Paul Bogle," and he owned an estate adjacent to Paul 23 Bogle's land at Stony Gut. A Mr. Lawrence, overseer of some property belonging to Gordon lying sixteen miles from Morant Bay, unquestionably knew of the imminence of the rising, and on the very afternoon spoke of the deaths of Ketelhodt and others some hours before they 24 occurred. Gordon himself, by reason of his intemper­ ate political opposition to the government, had "con­ vinced both friends and enemies of his being a party to the rising.

In Kingston, where he carried on a busi­

ness, this was the general belief as soon as the news of 25 the outbreak had been received." It was fully believed, also, by those engaged m

the outbreak.

Paul Bogle did

not hesitate to speak of himself as acting in concert with him*

And there was the curious fact that Mrs. Gordon

testified that her husband had informed her of the outbreak on the evening of the eleventh of October.


As the outbreak took place at a distance of more than thirty miles, late on the afternoon of the 11th, and was not known in Kingston till the middle of the following day, it was suggested to Mrs. Gordon thatsprobably it was on Thursday the 12th, that Mr. Gordon first spoke to her on this subject. Upon this she replied, "Wednesday evening he brought the news."

Ibid., p. 294.


Report of Royal Commission, p. 299*

5 Ibid., p. 302.


But this was all the damaging evidence that could be as­ sembled against Gordon, for his political speeches, though certainly inflammatory and provocative, could scarcely be twisted into an appeal to arms.

The Commission was con27 strained to sum up the matter by saying: The evidence, oral and documentary, appears to us to be wholly insufficient to establish the charge upon which the prisoner took: his trial. Although it appears exceedingly probable that Mr. Gordon, by his words and writings, produced an effect on the minds of Bogle and his associ­ ates, and did much to produce that state of ex­ citement and discontent in different parts of the island, which rendered the spread of the insurrection exceedingly probable, yet we cannot see, in the evidence which has been adduced, any sufficient proof either of his complicity in the outbreak at Morant Bay or of his having been a party to a general conspiracy against the gov­ ernment . Eyre was not directly blamed for the death of Gordon, nor for any of the other flagrant excesses.


ever, the Commission pointed out that on the thirtieth of October, at the very latest, M. . . directions might and ought to have been given that courts-martial should discontinue their sittings, and the prisoners in custody should have been handed over for trial by the ordinary ,,28 tribunals.


I£id. > P* 299.

27 Ibid., p. 3 0 3 . 28

Ibid., p. 304.

a7 Colonel Hobbs, whose military dispatches had had a curious tone of levity about them, was summoned to testify before the Commission.

He received an indirect

rebuke in the report, and this, and other criticisms, so affected him that his mind became unsound, and he committed 29 suicide by drowning. The Report reached London in June, and Mr. Cardwell replied on behalf of the ministry.

He agreed with the

conclusions of the Commission, and stated that, ffHer Majesty’s Government, whilst giving Mr. Eyre full credit for those portions of his conduct to which credit is justly due, feel compelled by the result of the enquiry to disapprove other portions of that conduct.


in consequence, was not restored to the governorship, and Sir Henry Storks continued to rule the colony for a few months until replaced by an experienced Indian administra­ tor, Sir John P. Grant. Eyre left Jamaica in late June, and his departure seems to have been genuinely regretted, at least by the white residents.

The Church of England clergy sped him

on his way with a glowing testimonial, and altogether, he received addresses signed by about five thousand men

29 3

Annual Register, 1866, p. 41. Hansard, Vol. 184, p. 1820.

bb and three thousand five hundred women.


The voyage

can hardly have been pleasant for Mr. Eyre; he must have known that In England there had been formed a large and powerful organization, headed by Mr. John Stuart Mill, M.P., whose sole object it was to bring him before an English court on a charge of murder.


Gardner, op. cit., p. 493.

CHAPTER VII THE REACTION IN ENGLAND The news of the Jamaica rebellion first reached England from America, via the new Atlantic telegraph, and caused no little surprise and bewilderment to a people who for many years past had forgotten or Ignored the ex­ istence of the colony.

’’The vast majority of Englishmen

have long been Ignorant and Indifferent about Jamaica; and, out of political or commercial circles, the only people who took any interest In Its history were the friends of the missionaries.”"*’ Over the course of the next year Englishmen were going to make amends for this neglect.

The topic of the Jamaica Rebellion was about

to convulse Great Britain from L and1s End to John o' Groats, and was destined to become a controversy so acrimonious that to find a parallel It is necessary to go back to the trial of Warren Hastings. obvious reasons for this.

There were

Political passions in the

country had been roused by the proposed Reform Bill of Mr. Gladstone, and by the Fenian outrages In Ireland; and there were not wanting a variety of persons who

^ Unsigned article, 11Jamaica and Its Prospects,” Quarterly Review, London, July, lb 6 6 , p. 223•

90 wished that something a little similar to E y y e ’s drastic measures might be applied to political agitators in Great Britain*

This feeling was heightened in 1866, a year

which saw vast public meetings clamoring for parliamentary reform, and the degeneration of some of the meetings into riots, notably at Hyde Park on the twenty-third of July. Under these conditions it was inevitable that conservatives (of both political parties) would tend to find some sym­ pathy for Governor Eyre, whilst the ’’radicals" would re­ gard his actions with peculiar loathing. The first tidings to arrive from Jamaica told of the slaughter of the whites by negroes, instigated by revolutionary refugees from Haiti.


This rumor was in­

dignantly denied by The Spectator on November eleventh. The editor, having evidently studied Dr. Underhill’s celebrated letter with great care and implicit credence, wrote:^ We are still without precise intelligence from Jamaica, but enough is known of the condition of the island to justify us in a blank denial of the assertions that the negroes said to be in insur­ rection are influenced by Haitian agitators, and are themselves only too well off. They are badly off; so badly off that the island has been for months a perplexity to the Colonial Office, and

Ibid., p. 239. 3 The Spectator, London, November 11, 1 8 6 5 .

91 that for seven weeks at least the Secretary of State has expected news of an attempted insur­ rection. Precise intelligence followed in the next few days. On November sixteenth the West India mail steamer arrived m

the port of London bearing Eyre's bulky dispatches to

the Colonial Secretary, the Jamaica newspapers, and re­ ports from contributors to the British press.

And now

there was no lack of horrors to be feasted upon.


staid Illustrated London News reported that the murdered Baron Ketelhodt's brains were "mixed with rum and drunk by his killers,” whilst another victim was "held on his feet whilst the women cut out his bowels and strewed them 1). on the street,” and so on. It was reported that two hundred negroes had executed by sentences of courts-martial and this, cried the Spectator, "means of course trials 5 without any defence for the criminals.” The Economist found a "striking analogy between the insurrection in Jamaica and the Fenian movement,” but regretted that the judicious measures applied m ized in Jamaica.

Ireland had not been util­

"The officials on the spot appear to

have acted with a good deal of energy and a very great deal of severity; more energy than we should have expected,

4 r

Illustrated London News, 11 November, lb65*

^ The Spectator, London, lb November, Ibo5*

92 6

and more severity than we wulte like to believe.”


The Spectator, The Economist deplored the dispatches of Colonel Hobbs as written

. . m

a style which, if it

had been adopted by a Northern general m

the late war,

would have been held up to public loathing."^

Both mag­

azines demanded that a Royal Commission be dispatched to investigate the repression of the rising, and both de­ manded that the Jamaica Assembly be abolished, and the island transformed Into a Crown colony. Not everyone, however, was thus early to find fault with the authorities in Jamaica, and on the twentyfifth of November, The Spectator felt compelled to re. a port:

It Is but natural that the proceedings in Jamaica should excite violent party feeling m this country, nor do we complain that the crit­ icisms we have passed upon the proceedings taken to suppress the rebellion have been somewhat vehemently criticized m their turn. And feeling was certainly beginning to run high. Eyre was already under fire, and even his Australian ex9 plorations did not escape ridicule:

The Economist, London, lb November, lb65« 7 & 9

L o c . cit. The Spectator, 25 November, 1665.

Loc. cit.

93 There never was a less justifiable sacrifice and risk incurred In all the noble records of perilous discovery . . . These men of iron pur­ pose, with inadequate judgment in selecting their purpose, are the most dangerous of rulers. During this time, reports of excesses and brut­ ality continued to arrive in England, many of them fant­ astically exaggerated. wrote:

A correspondent to the Daily News

,TIt may not be altogether uninteresting to your

readers to know that slightly over 1050 rebels have been „1 hanged and shot In the parish of St. Thomas up to date. The same issue of this newspaper reports: Of how many ^negroes/ were shot down in the bush, or slain on the ashes of their homes, no account can ever be given; only we know that rivers are described as foul with the pollution of dead bodies . . , that whole districts are described as impenetrable from the stench of corpses. Flogging is going on from morning till night. Many women and children detected as rob­ bers are catted and let go dally. The greater criminals are sent on to Morant Bay to be hanged or shot. Details are furnished of the jests of the sailors on the sufferings of the miserable wretches on whom they are performing this hideous office. Nay, with the last refinement of cruelty, the lash is applied before trial to those who are set apart for trial, and who are afterwards hanged. But we cannot pollute our columns with more of such appalling details . . . This awful business must be stopped if we would not have all civili­ zation rise to execrate the name of Englishmen. The effect upon public opinion of such hysterical articles need not be enlarged upon, though the letters


London Daily News, 30 November, I0 6 5 .

94 and reports from officers engaged in putting down the rising were as damaging as any exaggerations of the 11 press. The thoroughly conservative, and pro-Eyre, Quarterly Review admitted this much:


To us nothing in the whole affair is so painful and revolting as the tone in which some British Officers thought fit to write regarding the shoot­ ing and punishing of the negroes. A letter of a certain Captain Ford, in the Jamaica Morning Journal of October thirtieth., was particularly offensive.

The Captain reported of his men:


They shot about 160 people on their march from Port Antonio to Manchioneal, hanged seven in Manchioneal, and shot three on their way here. This is a picture of martial law. The soldiers love it; the inhabitants have to dread it. And, at the same time as this pleasant dispatch, there arrived in England the pathetic last letter of Mr. Gordon 14 to his wife, written in the hour before his execution:

Probably more so, for some of the newspaper re­ ports were utterly ridiculous. A good example of exag­ geration is a sensational article in the Atlantic Monthly for April, 1666. The author, G. Reynolds, states that, ’’The estimate is that 550 negroes were hung by order of drum-head courts-martial, 500 destroyed by the Maroons, 2 0 0 0 shot by the soldiery, 300 women catted, and how many men, nobody even presumes to guess.” 12 Quarterly Review, July, 1666, p. 242. 13 Illustrated London News, 2 December, IB 6 5 . 14


Loc. cit.

95 "My beloved Wife, General Nelson has Just been kind enough to inform me that the court-martial on Saturday last has ordered me to be hung, and that the sentence is to be executed in an hour hence; so that I shall soon be gone from this world of sin and sorrow. I regret that my worldly affairs are so deranged but now it cannot be helped. I do not deserve this sentence, for I never advised nor took part in any insurrection. All I ever did was to recommend the people who complained to seek redress in a legitimate manner; and if in this I erred, or have been misrepresented, I do not think I deserve the extreme sentence. It is, however, the will of my Heavenly Father that I should thus suffer in obeying His Command to relieve the poor and needy, and to protect as far as I was able the oppressed . . . It seems that I am to be sacrificed. I know nothing of the man Bogle. I never advised him to the act or acts that have brought me to this end . . . " The effect of such news releases was inevitable and in­ stantaneous.

"If Captain Ford escapes hanging," thund­

ered the conservative Saturday Review, "except on full proof that he Is a shameless liar, there Is no justice 15 in Jamaica." In Manchester, on November twenty-ninth, the venerable John Bright demanded at a public meeting that Eyre be prosecuted.

"The blood of Gordon," he

cried, "and of many less known men, cries to Heaven for vengeance."



In December, 1865* a "Jamaica Committee,"

Saturday Review, 2 December, I 8 6 5 , p. 6 8 7 .

G. W. Trevelyan, Life of John Bright, p. 3^7.

96 under the presidency of Mr. Charles Buxton, M.P., was formed in London, with the avowed purpose of forcing a thorough investigation of the insurrection, and the recall of Governor Eyre. to this party.


There was no lack of recruits

The executive committee included Thomas

Henry Huxley, Frederic Harrison, Thomas Hughes, M.P., (Tom Brown1s Schooldays), Herbert Spencer, and John Bright. In addition, such men as Charles Darwin, Alfred Russell Wallace, Leslie Stephen, John Morley, Sir Charles Lyell, and Fitzjames Stephen lent their names and gave subscrip1B tions to the Committee. Mr. John Stuart Mill, abroad when the Committee was founded, assumed leadership when he returned to Eng­ land.

The author of the celebrated "Essay on Liberty11

was convinced that,


There was much more at stake than only justice to the negroes . . . The question was, whether British dependencies, and eventually, perhaps Great Britain itself, were to live under the gov­ ernment of law, or of military licence; whether the lives and persons of British subjects are at the mercy of any two or three officers, however raw or inexperienced or reckless and brutal, whom a panic stricken governor may assume the right to constitute into a so-called court-martial.

17 Id


W. L. Courtney, Life of John Stuart Mill, p. 150. Emery Neff, Carlyle and Mill, p. 4d. John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, p. 252.

97 The question could only be decided by an appeal to the tribunals; and such an appeal the Committee was determined to make. Their determination led to a change m the chairmanship of the Committee, as Mr. Charles Buxton thought it, not unjust, in­ deed, but inexpedient to prosecute Governor Eyre in a criminal court. I was, quite unexpectedly on my ©wn part, proposed and elected chairman. The Committee, accordingly, now devoted itself to the task of prosecuting Eyre on a charge of murder. now m


his first and only term as member of Parliament,

was not nearly so good a politician as .Charles Buxton, who had thus dextrously declined to go tilting at wind­ mills.

The capacity for righteous indignation is, per­

haps fortunately, not granted to everybody in equal mea­ sure, and in this instance a majority of the people felt 20 that: . . . John Stuart Mill and his Committee . . . were allowing their indignation to swamp their sense of fair play. Governor Eyre appeared to be a victim of persecution instead of a criminal, and there was, although Mill could not see it, a generous element m the feeling that some allowance should be made to a man placed m a terribly critical position. Nobody felt this sentiment more keenly than did Thomas Carlyle.

His intense sense of law and order, of

duty and hard work, was shocked by the threats against 21 Eyre. It was as if, he said:


Sir Leslie Stephen, The English Utilitarians, Vol. 3, p. 67*

. . . a ship had been on fire: the captain, by immediate and bold exertion, had put the fire out, and had been called to account for having flung a bucket or two m the hold beyond what was neeessary. He had damaged some of the cargo, perhaps, but he had saved the ship. As the leading Conservative writer, he was m s t r u mental in forming the "Eyre Defence Committee," and he 22 became its first chairman. The purpose of the Commit­ tee was to raise £10,000 as a defense fund for Eyre, and to stimulate public opinion to protest against his pros­ ecution. And Carlyle’s executive committee was just as daz z l m g as that of John Stuart Mill.

It included John

R u s k m , Charles Kingsley, Henry Kingsley, John Tyndall, and Sir Roderick Murchison, president of the Royal Geo­ graphical Society.

Not on the Committee, but giving

active support to it, were Charles Dickens, Alfred Ten23 nyson, and J. A. Proude. Battle was soon joined be­ tween the rival groups, and was actively carried on in 24 the newspapers.

^ Q u o t e d m Neff, op. cit., p. 4722 J. A. Proude, Carlyle’s Life m London, Vol. 2 p. 352.

Neff, o£. cit., p. 4b. pk

Loc. cit.

99 For the sake of chronology, heed must now be paid to the fortunes of the "Eyre Affair," as it was beginning to be called, m

the halls of Parliament.

Earl Russell’s

doomed Parliament was opened on February sixth, l8b6, by Queen Victoria who, in the Speech from the Throne, men­ tioned that her "able and learned Commissloners" were making a thorough examination of the recent insurrection m

Jamaica. 2 5 In seconding the Address m

answer to the Speech,

the Earl of Morley begged Parliament not to decide or debate in judgment of the affair until the report had 20 been received from the Royal Commission. Lord Derby agreed, for the Opposition, to observe neutrality upon the subject, but he intimated that there was a great deal to be said in favor of Governor Eyre.

He regretted es­

pecially that ". . . a portion of the press of this country has taken it upon itself to prejudge the question 27 on very imperfect and inadequate information." By tacit agreement, the matter was not introduced into debate, even during the readings of the Jamaica Government Bill.

It was understood, however, that a

25 Hansard, Vol. lbl, p. 23. 25 Ibid., p. 39. 27 Ibid., p. 91.

100 formal debate would follow the reception of the Com­ mission's report, and it ultimately took place on the thirty-first of July, 1566.

It must have been eagerly

awaited by tens of thousands of people, for there were recognisable political overtones influencing the support­ ers and the traducers of Governor Eyre.

The warmest

partisans of political reform were to find themselves, on the Eyre Affair, opposed by the staunchest believers m

limited democracy.

However, the Government and Oppo­

sition leaders, Mr. Disraeli and Mr. Gladstone, respect­ ively, were far too shrewd to permit a colonial n o t , nine months past and done with, to assume undue propor­ tions.

Neither would participate m

the discussion, and

it would seem that Lord Derby, at any rate, was anxious to strip so controversial a subject of any party impli26 cations. Mr. Charles Buxton opened the debate.

Calling the

attention of the House to the most damaging evidence fur­ nished by the Report, he catalogued the more extreme sev­ erities which had been Inflicted upon the Insurgents.


dwelt upon the floggings and he lingered by the hangings; he pictured the uprising as a simple and unpremeditated


Hansard, Vol. 164, p. 1766, speech of Under Secretary for the Colonies.

101 riot, amply avenged within a week of its occurrence. 29 What then followed was the true crime: On and after Monday, October 15* when, by the Governorfs official statement, the rebellion was totally put down, 350 men and women were exe­ cuted in cold blood. That number cannot but sug­ gest an historical reminiscence . . . It goes by the name of Judge Jeffey's Bloody Assizes, when 350 rebels were executed— exactly the same number as in Jamaica. Accordingly, Mr. Buxton moved that the following Resolu30 tion be adopted by the House of Commons: 1. That this House deplores the excessive punishments which followed the suppression of the disturbances . . . and especially the un­ necessary frequency with which the punishment of death was inflicted. 2. That this House, while approving the dismissal of Mr. Eyre from the Governorship . . . concurs in the view . . . that grave excesses of severity on the part of any Civil, Military, or Naval officers, ought not to be passed over with impunity. 3. That . . . it is the duty of Her Majesty’s Government to award compensation to those whose property was wantonly and cruelly destroyed, and to the families of those who were put to death Illegally. 4. That, since more than 1000 persons are proved to have been executed or severely flogged on the charge of participating in these disturb­ ances, all further punishment on account of them ought to be remitted.

29 Ibid., p. 17«3. 30 Ibid., p. 1 7 6 3 .


That the Liberal Party would support him, Mr. Buxton had no doubt, but:


nMust I, indeed look forward to defeat, or even resistance, from the-Party opposite? I Implore them to trample underfoot mere prejudice and party feeling, and to ask themselves solemnly, whether, as the Government and representatives of the Brit­ ish people, they dare, in the face of the world, and in the face of Heaven, to stamp the seal of their deliberate approval on these ruthless deeds.” Mr. C. B. Adderley, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, answered for the Government with con­ siderable asperity.

By what right did Mr. Buxton con­

sider himself the exclusive champion of the oppressed? By what right did he assume that he and the Liberal Party were humanitarians and philanthropists, and that the Con­ servatives were the enemies of mankind?

This matter had

nothing whatever to do with party loyalty, for he was sure that every member of the House sincerely deplored the tragic excesses committed in Jamaica.

However, the

Report of the Commission had been accepted on all sides, and the Government declined to re-open the case and try it all over again.

The only question was whether the

Resolutions should be approved.

To this he was opposed,

for they emphasized only the censures on the Jamaica officials contained in the Report, and omitted all the


Ibid., p. 1785.

103 approval of their conduct. 32 Mill would not:

He hoped th&£ Mr. John Stuart

. . . mix himself up with the present discussion. It would be a monstrous thing in him to prejudge in debates here a case which he himself proposes to refer for decision to a judicial tribunal. Holding the opinion that he does, he- should surely have done his utmost to prevent this debate. Sure­ ly, if the Hon. Member for Westminster /Mill/ is right in his amendment, it is monstrous and con­ trary to every principle of Justice that he should come here to prejudge the case and prejudice the decision, which he considers ought to be left in the hands of a jury, who would have to decide upon a question of life and death. Mr. John Stuart Mill, however, was by no means of this opinion.

He wished, he said, to justify to the House

the course of action he proposed, namely, to bring Eyre and other officers before a judicial tribunal.

The Report,

which "so mildly condemned" the excesses of the civil and military authorities, furnished ample justification for such a procedure.

It might well be true that Mr. Eyre

and his associates believed that those they put to death were guilty, but had not also the perpetrators of the St. Bartholomew and the September massacres so believed?^ I do not want to compare Governor Eyre and his subordinates to Robespierre and Fouquier~Tinville, though I confess their modes of proceeding remind me very forcibly of some of the minor actors in that great tragedy; but exactly the same sort of excuses may be made for Governor Eyre as for

32 Hansard, Vol. 1«4, p. 1793. 33 Ibid,' p. 1 S 0 3 .

104 Robespierre and Fouqier-Tmville. I dare say that if the gentlemen on the other side of the House, and I am afraid some on this side, had had the duty of sitting in judgment on those very vigorous rulers, they would have thought it quite enough to visit them with dismissal from office. We should, perhaps, have been told that the case as respects Robespierre was closed by dismissal from his office as Member for the Committee of Public Safety. As for FouqulerTlnville, it would’ probably not have been thought advisable, after so many errors of judgment, to re­ appoint him to the responsible situation of public prosecutor. 34 Under the circumstances, then: We want to know who are to be our masters: the Queen’s judges, and a jury of our countrymen, ad­ ministering the laws of England, or three military or naval officers, perhaps boys, administering no law at all. Mill believed this to be "the best of my speeches in Parliament,"


but it is doubtful if the impression his

grim sarcasm made upon the House was very profound.


everyone could so easily associate Eyre, the heroic ex­ plorer, the colonial governor with a record of over twenty y e ars’ meritorious service, with the cold and deadly Robespierre, or the coarse and ferocious FouquierTinville. Mr. W. E. Foster, Under Secretary of State for the Colonies in the late Liberal government of Earl


Ibod., p. 1 0 0 5 .

John Stuart Mill, op. cit., p. 253-

105 Russell, and future author of the great Education Act of 1 8 7 0 , reflected this feeling.

He was willing, he

said, to vote for the first two resolutions, but not for the others.

The responsibility for the late deplorable

events had not rested solely with Governor Eyre, a hu­ mane and conscientious man who, in good faith, had com­ mitted a hideous mistake.

An equally serious fault was

attributable to the nature of martial law.

He did not,

however:^ . . . blame Governor Eyre for declaring martial law, seeing that there existed m Jamaica a law which, under the circumstances, practically told the governor that he must declare it. My opinion is that the Government should look very seriously into the Colonial Acts purporting to martial law, and compel the Colonies to conform to English pro­ cedures . Mr. Baillie Cochrane, Conservative, said that, 11. . . h e was surprised that during the debate he had heard no sym­ pathy expressed on the opposite Benches for the whites who were the first victims of this rebellion.H

It was

all very well for Mr. Mill to talk about St. Bartholomew 37 and the French Revolution, but that w a s : . . . an exaggerated way of speaking that was scarcely worthy of a man of his philosophical temper. There are 500,000 blacks in Jamaica

36 Hansard, Vol. l84, pp. I80b-l8l3.


Ibid., pp. 1813-1816.

10b and but 1 5 ,0 0 0 whites, and what would have been the position of Governor Eyre if he had not used the most energetic measures, and if there had been a general massacre of the whites? Mr. Eyre, he asserted, deserved the praise and not the censure of the House.


Mr. Cardwell, late Liberal Secretary of State for the Colonies, felt that Mr. Buxton and Mr. Mill were guilty, through generous emotion, of some slight exaggerations. For his part, he thought that:


. . . the deliberate and careful findings of the Royal Commission are to be preferred to the com­ ments of any gentleman who takes his view through reading the Report and its accompanying documents. . . . The continuation of martial law for so long a period of time was a deplorable and grievous fault; and by the censure it has entailed it has been answered grievously. 1 have reason to know that the punishment which has fallen upon Governor Eyre h a s .been deeply felt. 1 have not the honor of his acquaintance, but 1 believe him to be a man of courage and also of humanity. 1 do not palliate his errors: 1 deeply deplore them; but 1 am, nev­ ertheless, convinced that he acted with the real belief that he was discharging his duty. I do not think that anyone who has due regard f o r .the truth can say that Mr. Eyre really shared in the belief, universal at the moment among all the white and colored ^mulatto/ nien of the colony, that a con­ spiracy for their destruction existed, and that Mr. Gordon was to a great extent guilty of pro­ moting it. He did not, he concluded, believe that the House should divide on the Resolutions.

30 Ibid., pp. iai9-1027-

This speech, following

107 upon that of Mr. Poster, was a damaging, xf not deadly, blow to the plans of Buxton and Mill. were a great deal more important m

Foster and Cardwell

the councils of the

Liberal Party than Messrs. Buxton and Mill; and against their opposition, and lacking the support of Mr. Gladstone, the two latter gentlemen could scarcely hope for success. Mr. Thomas Hughes, who now continued the debate, demanded the prosecution of Eyre before a judicial tribunal.

39 He wished:

. . . to impress upon the House that, if they now allowed the deeds which had been done in Jamaica to pass without being dealt with by any Judicial tribunal, jthey would be the first generation of Englishmen:, who had shirked the duty of seeing that the honor of England did not come to disgrace in the hands of persons who represented us in the colonies, and who bore our honor and authority upon their shoulders. Colonel J. S. North, Conservative, loyally seized the opportunity to point out that the officers in the service he had the honor to represent, ". . . were men of extreme humanity . . . Some Hon. Gentlemen appeared to think that every negro who was killed during these unhappy transactions was murdered, whilst every white man who was butchered only got what he richly deserved.

39 Ibid., p. 1828. lf0 Ibid., p. 1831.

108 Mr. Russell Gurney, the member of the Royal Com­ mission, now interposed the weight of his ample authority to restore objectivity to the debate.

He rebuked Mr.

Buxton for claiming that the uprising had been a mere 41 unorganised local riot: I cannot conceive how he could have looked at the Report, or at the evidence upon which it is based, without coming to the conclusion that the outbreak had in it something far more serious than that which he suggested. The Hon. Gentleman altogether ignores the planned rising among the negroes, proved by witness after witness who came before us, and upon which I cannot understand that there can be any question— the actual drillings which went on among the people, their formation into different companies, with colonels and cap­ tains appointed over them, and speeches addressed to them, in which they were told that the time would come when the effect of their drilling would be seen, and they would obtain the advantages promised to them by those who originated the out­ break. Throughout the few days that the outbreak lasted, the war-cry and watchword of the negro was, "Color for color." It is not quite right to ignore all this and to forget the real state of the Island; the dan­ ger which had to be encountered by the whole white population, and the difficulties which beset those in authority at the time of the out­ break . . . One of the misfortunes of Mr. Eyre was the nature of the advice which was offered all around him and the utter want of assistance from any persons with whom he was brought into contact. It would seem that these reasoned words, coming from that member who, of the whole House, had the most


Ibid., pp. 1833-1636.

109 knowledge of the matter, produced a tangible effect. At any rate, only one more member rose to assail Mr. Eyre.

Mr. A. S. Ayrton, Liberal, contended that Mr.

Buxton’s Resolutions were inadequate, and should not be passed by the House; Governor Eyre, himself, should be brought to justice before the assembled Parliament.


By this time, matters had evidently gone far enough for the Conservative leader of the House.

Mr. Benjamin

Disraeli, Chancellor of the Exchequer, decided to finish off the debate.

Pass the first Resolution, he counselled,

and have done with it.

The only way that Eyre could be

brought before Parliament was by process of impeachment, and Mr. Buxton could do that later if he thought he had sufficient grounds for so grave a step.

In the meantime,

passage of the first Resolution could not be made the foundation of an impeachment, as it assumed that every43 thing done In Jamaica was done legally. "In passing the first Resolution, the House would only express what the words expressed, and not the interpretation put upon them by Mr. Buxton. I think that this is a Resolution very proper to pass, and one in which all can join. I trust, therefore, that the House will adopt i t ."

Ibid., pp. 1837-1838. Ibid., pp. I 8 3 8 -I 8 3 9 .

110 And the House of Commons proceeded to dispose of the Jamaica affair by passing the first Resolution, which merely and simply "deplored” the whole business. than that the Commons would not go.


The second, third,

and fourth Resolutions were withdrawn, after protest by Mr. Buxton, and after the Colonial Under Secretary, Mr. Adderley, had given assurances that investigations of the conduct of certain officers was in process and would 44 be continued. Two days later, on August second, the matter of Jamaica came up for discussion in the Lords, and was very quickly disposed of.

Replying to a question, the Earl of

Carnarvon, Secretary of State for the Colonies, stated the position taken by the Cabinet, and the course of action determined upon.

In the first place, a court-martial of

senior officers was to be sent to Jamaica to investigate those officers (Cullen and Morris) of whose conduct the Commission had recommended further investigation.


Admiralty was to investigate the conduct of the naval officers who took part in the suppression of the rebellion. Sir J. P. Grant, the new governor of Jamaica, had been instructed to investigate certain civilians, and to re­ view all prison sentences imposed by the courts-martial.


Ibid., p. 1*840.

Ill Already, Provost Marshall Ramsay was standing trial on a charge of murder.

Against Mr. Eyre, who had shown him­

self incapable of "rising above the panic and apprehension of the moment,” the Government did not contemplate further action.

"There can be no doubt that he acted in the most

complete good faith,” and the proposal to indict him for murder was "preposterous.”

"Whatever offense Mr. Eyre

has committed, murder is certainly not the offense that can be charged against him, and I believe such a charge 45 would be repugnant to the common sense of Englishmen." The titular head of the Liberal Party, and the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, the Right Honorable Earl Russell, concurred in the views of the Colonial Secretary.

He believed Mr. Eyre deserved praise for his

energy, and blame for his excessive severity.

"I quite

agree with the noble Earl ^Carnarvon/ that there are not grounds for accusing Mr. Eyre of murder. H46 And such were the views of Parliament.

It must

have now been evident to any impartial observer that there was no possible chance of convicting Eyre on a charge of murder.

The great majority of the middle and upper classes

quite independent of political affiliation, believed that


° Ibid., p. 1894.


Ibid.. p. 1895.

112 Eyre was a man who had done what had seemed to him to he his duty, and that, m

a situation of great danger and

difficulty, he had erred in little more than perception and judgment.

The political leaders of the country were

unanimous on this point, and the matter, so far as gov­ ernment was concerned, was officially closed. After investigation, the Admiralty censured the conduct of some of its officers, hut found no basis for prosecution.


The War Office sent a body of officers

to Jamaica, including the Deputy Judge Advocate, to hold a court-martial upon the alleged excesses of Ensign Cullen and Surgeon Morris.

The trial lasted for two months, from

October to December, 1866, and both men were acquitted. Excesses were shown to have been committed, but by whose 48 orders could not be proved. In the civilian sphere, Provost Marshal Ramsay, a V. C. veteran of the Crimea War, was indicted for murder, but the bill was thrown out by the Kingston Grand Jury.

A magistrate, Woodrow,

was also tried for flagrant misconduct concerning the flogging of women, and was acquitted by the same court.


These cases ended the official investigations of the con­ duct of officers.

47 48

Ibid., Vol. 186, p. 277 s speech of Mr. Adderley.

Ibid., p. 276.

113 The results of the Parliamentary debate were an undoubted set-back for John Stuart Mill and the Jamaica Committee.

They, nevertheless, went ahead with their

sworn object of forcing the prosecution of Eyre on a charge of murder.

Public opinion was preponderantly

against the Committee, and Mill began to receive anony­ mous letters grading in violence from threats of assas50 sinatlon to vulgar caricatures. The Eyre Defense and Aid Committee was also active; over the course of the next two years some 5*13,000 was subscribed by the public to defray the legal expenses of the former governor.


And Eyre had need of it. On March twenty-fifth, 1667, Mr. FitzJames Stephen, on behalf of the Jamaica Committee, applied to the magis~ trates of the County Court of Market Drayton, m


county of Shropshire, for a warrant against Mr. Eyre, of the same county, on the charge of having been accessory before the fact to the murder of Mr. George William Gordon. The warrant was duly issued, and Eyre appeared before the magistrates on the twenty-seventh.

Mr. Peter Taylor, M.P.,

for Leicester, acted as prosecutor, and Mr. Walter Gifford appeared for the defense.

49 50

Interesting testimony was offered

Ibid., p. 276.

John Stuart Mill, op. cit., p. 253*

114 by an American, a certain Captain Edenborough, former captain of a Confederate vessel of war. m

He deposed that,

Kingston Harbor, a man had come to him with a proposal

to buy his vessel and armament, and to bring over Haitians to raise a rebellion in Jamaica.

Afterwards, from photo­

graphs, Captain Edenborough identified this man as George 52 William Gordon. The speech for the defense occupied six hours in delivery, after which the magistrates retired for con­ sultation.

They returned with the unanimous decision

that the evidence dxd not raise a strong or probable presumption of guilt; and that upon such evidence a jury must inevitably acquit.

Mr. Eyre was, accordingly, dis-

charged.^ The Jamaica Committee failed again m

the follow­

ing month to secure the trial of General Nelson and Lieutenant Brand on a charge of murder.

On April tenth,

at the Central Criminal Court, the London Grand Jury threw out two bills against these officers. 51

The occasion

Hansard, o p . cit., Vol. 212, p. d07, speech of Mr. Bowring, July b, 1B72. 52 Ibid., Vol. p. 1442, speech of Earl of Shrewsbury, August 13, 1B67.

53 Annual Register, ld67, p. 3b.

was notable m

that Lord Chief Justice Cockburn presided

at the hearing, and delivered a Charge to the Jury, five hours in length, which contained a classic analysis of martial law, and was highly unfavorable to the defendants. ’The fact that the Lord Chief Justice apparently believed that Nelson and Brand should have been committed for trial, encouraged Mill and his Committee to attempt a'new prosecution of Mr. Eyre in London.

At Bow Street

police court, on February twenty-seventh, 186b, the Chief Magistrate, Sir Thomas Henry, was applied to for a war­ rant of arrest.

After a great deal of pleading, the 55 magistrates declined to grant the warrant. Later on in the same year, the Jamaica Committee succeeded in bringing Eyre before the Grand Jury.

Again the presiding

judge, this time Mr. Justice Blackburn, delivered a leng­ thy Charge to the Jury, containing a luminous analysis of martial law, in tenor highly favorable to Eyre. 56 Grand Jury returned a No true Bill.


All in all, Eyre appeared at least eight times

54 "A more unjust, unfair, and partial charge was never before delivered by any judge from the Bench.” (Viscount Melville, July 19> 1 8 6 7 , in Hansard, op. cit., Vol. 188, p. 1718.) 55 Annual Register, 1868, p. 1 9 . 56 Ibid., pp. 206-217.

116 57

before the courts between 1866 and 1 8 7 0 .

All attempts

to convict him, or to find a verdict against him, failed, and it at length became obvious to the Jamaica Committee that nothing could be gained by pressing further charges. 58 Mill could write later with much truth: Although we failed in every point, we had re­ deemed, so far as lay in us, the character of our country, by showing that there was at any rate a body of persons determined to use all the means which the law afforded to obtain Justice for the injured. We had elicited from the highest crim­ inal Judge in the nation an authoritative declar­ ation that the law was what we maintained it to be; and we had given an emphatic warning to those who might be tempted to similar guilt hereafter that, though they might escape the actual sentence of a criminal tribunal, they were not safe against being put to some trouble and expense in order to avoid it. Colonial governors and other persons in authority will have a considerable motive to stop short of such extremities in future. At least there was no doubt about the expenses incurred by Mr. Eyre.

Legal charges had pressed so

^ Hansard, Vol. 212, p. 820, speech of Colonel North, July d, TB72. This list may, possibly, not be complete: 1866 1867



1. Civil action in the Exchequer Court. 2. Second and similar action. 3* Criminal charge at Market Drayton. 4. Civil action at Court of QueenTs Bench 5- Criminal charge before Bow Street magistrates. 6. Criminal indictment before London Grand Jury. 7« "Various steps in civil actions." 8. Civil action before Chief Justice Cockburn. 9« Civil action in Exchequer Court.

117 heavily upon him that he petitioned Parliament, in 1872, for relief.

In this course he had undoubtedly been en59 couraged by previous Colonial Secretaries; and, on July eighth, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Right

Honorable Robert Lowe, introduced a Bill before Parlia­ ment granting to ex-Governor Eyre the sum of i4,133 "to defray the charges of the various criminal prosecu60 tions instituted against him.n The Bill touched off another, and final, fullscale Parliamentary debate on the origin and nature of the Jamaica Rebellion, and on the praise or blame to be attached to Governor Eyre for his actions in suppressing It.

The whole sordid story.was retold in terms of the

bias of the various Members.

The debate lacked sparkle,

for Buxton was already dead, and Mill, no longer a Member of the House, was stricken with mortal sickness. Adderley (now Sir Charles) spoke again on behalf of Eyre, as did another old champion, Colonel North. Thomas Hughes and Mr. Peter Taylor again bitterly excor­ iated the ex-governor.

Again Mr. Russell Gurney was ap­

pealed to, and for a second time did Mr. Gurney clarify

58 59


John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, p. 253. Hansard, Vol. 212, p. 798* speech of Mr. Lowe.

Loc. cit.

118 the famous Report for the benefit of heated Members. This time, the Prime Minister took the necessary steps to halt the dispute.

The Right Honorable W. E. Gladstone

declared that his government ought to assume the costs of Mr. Eyre's litigation, not merely to honor the obli­ gations of a former (and Conservative) Government, but 6l also n. . . as a matter of honor towards Mr. Eyre.” Upon division, the Bill was passed by 243 to 130. In 18759 the pension of a retired colonial gover­ nor was granted to Mr. Eyre, and this act was protested 62 mildly by only one Member of the House. Eyre lived on to enjoy his pension until 1901.

The occasion of

his death recalled the bitter controversy of 1 8 6 6 , and 63 t h e ,London Times commented most aptly: Its passions have long since died away; its issues have never been finally decided. Perhaps they never will be as long as man­ kind are divided into two types represented by Mill and Carlyle respectively.

61 62

Ibid., p. 8 5 0 . Hansard, o p . cit., Vol. 225, P- 819.

^3 London Times, December 6 , 1901, p. 788.

EPILOGUE As in India after the great Sepoy Mutiny, so In Jamaica the rebellion was followed by a long period of material improvement and quiet paternal government, with few striking events of any sort.

Sir John P. Grant,

E y r e fs permanent successor, arrived in the colony m August of 1866, when the negro population was still restless, and the whites still fearful of new disturb* ances.

Grant, an extremely capable Indian administrator,

possessed under the new constitution practically auto­ cratic powers, and he used his power to reform the machinery of government, to sweep away many of the offices which had caused friction between white and negro, and to establish a new and efficient state org­ anization of a type best calculated to create internal stability. As though to herald in the new order, a succes­ sion of favorable seasons set m

after 1565* and an

abundance of food soon took the place of want.


people, sobered by the great events of the rebellion, accepted gladly, as a necessity, the reforms initiated by Grant, and with their co-operation tranquility de­ scended upon Jamaica for the first time in a generation.

120 One of the first of Grant’s reforms was the abolition of Parochial Vestries, and the creation of nominated Municipal Boards.

This was followed by the

establishment of District Courts (similar to Quarter Sessions m

England), and the exchange of stipendary

resident magistrates for the old system of local mag­ nates serving as justices of the peace.

The whole

financial machinery of the island was revised and tightened; a semi-military constabulary was initiated; the Anglican Church was dis-established; and an Educa­ tion Department was created, along with an Island Med­ ical Department.

Prisons were reformed, hospitals

were built, and Government Savings Banks were estab­ lished m

all municipalities.

Abandoned estates were

transferred to negro smallholders by public sales. These worthy measures achieved a rapid success. ing m


1672, but six years after Grant's arrival, the

Reverend W. J. Gardner, a contemporary witness, was 1 able to report: The discontent which formerly characterized so many is now rarely witnessed. Taxes are more cheerfully paid because it is known that they will be faithfully expended for legitimate purposes. Education Is extending, and Christian

1 W. J. Gardner, History of Jamaica, p. 496.

121 Churches are flourishing. Crime Is under con­ trol. Industrious habits are stimulated by the prospects of success, while commercial and agricultural conditions of the Island alike in­ dicate steady but real progress. So much could, In a short time, be accomplished by an efficient governor unimpeded by a corrupt and unobstructive legislature.

In all fairness, it must be

admitted that Eyre had anticipated this result from the constitutional reform he had initiated. The economic prosperity witnessed during these years was, however, more comparative than genuine.


was still poverty in the island, widespread and dire; there was still a marginal type of existence for tens of thousands of hapless and illiterate negroes.


by year the white population continued to decrease, and fresh capital, highly sensitive to static conditions of decay, avoided Jamaica as if it were m second Haiti.

truth a

But a cash crop for native smallholders

had been found, and this was a guarantee that economic conditions would not revert to the starvation level of the early sixties.

In 1B67 a certain Captain Baker,

rather than return to the United States with empty holds, loaded a cargo of bananas at Kingston and dis­ covered an inexhaustible market for them m City.

New York

This fortunate voyage enriched Jamaica m


122 best possible way, that Is, it provided a market wherein all tillers of the soil, large estate owners and negro bush squatters, could alike participate with profit. And now Jamaica sank back, perhaps gratefully, into that sleepy obscurity from which she had emerged upon the wor l d ’s stage for a brief moment of time during the tragic days of the rebellion. fierce civil strife" died swiftly m

"Domestic fury and that hot tropical

sunshine, and if racial hatred still remained within the island it did not manifest its presence by outward sign.

In lbo4, limited participation in government was

again returned to the Jamaicans, and eleven years later the constitution which substantially exists today was initiated.

By the turn of the century the memory of

the Morant Bay rebellion seems to have faded into merciful oblivion.




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