|Morant Bay rebellion|
|Location||Morant Bay, Jamaica|
The Morant Bay rebellion (11 October 1865) began with a protest march to the courthouse by hundreds of people led by preacher Paul Bogle in Morant Bay, Jamaica. Some were armed with sticks and stones. After seven men were shot and killed by the volunteer militia, the protesters attacked and burned the court house and nearby buildings. A total of 25 people died. Over the next two days, peasants rose up across St. Thomas-in-the-East parish and controlled most of the area.
The Jamaicans were protesting injustice and widespread poverty. Most freedmen were prevented from voting by high poll taxes, and their living conditions had worsened following crop damage by floods, cholera and smallpox epidemics, and a long drought. A few days before, when police tried to arrest a man for disrupting a trial, a fight broke out against them by spectators. Officials had issued a warrant for the arrest of preacher Bogle.
Governor Edward John Eyre declared martial law in the area, ordering in troops to hunt down the rebels. They killed many innocent black individuals, including women and children, with an initial death toll of more than 400. Troops arrested more than 300 persons, including Bogle. Many of these were also innocent but were quickly tried and executed under martial law; both men and women were punished by whipping and long sentences. This was the most severe suppression of unrest in the history of the British West Indies.The governor had George William Gordon, a mixed-race representative of the parish in the Assembly, arrested in Kingston and brought back to Morant Bay, where he tried the politician under martial law. Gordon was quickly convicted and executed.
The violent suppression and numerous executions generated a fierce debate in England, with some protesting about the unconstitutional actions of the governor John Eyre, and others praising him for his response to a crisis. The rebellion and its suppression remain controversial, and it is frequently debated by specialists in black and colonial studies.
This article needs additional citations for verification . (October 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Slavery ended in Jamaica on 1 August 1834, with the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 which, after four years of "apprenticeship," would lead to full emancipation on 1 August 1838. This was the date on which former slaves became free to choose their employment and employer. On paper, former slaves gained the right to vote. However, most blacks remained desperately poor, and requirements to pay a high poll tax effectively excluded them from enfranchisement.
During the election of 1864, fewer than 2,000 black Jamaican men were eligible to vote (no women could vote at the time) out of a total population of more than 436,000, in which blacks outnumbered whites by a ratio of 32:1. Prior to the rebellion, conditions in Jamaica had been worsening for freedmen. In 1864 there were several floods which ruined many crops, whilst 1865 marked the end of a decade in which the island had been overwhelmed by plagues of cholera and smallpox. A two-year drought preceding 1865 made economic conditions worse for much of the population of former slaves and their descendants. Several bankruptcies were declared in the sugar industry, causing a loss of jobs and widening the economic void.Consequently, tensions between white farmers and ex-slaves increased, and rumours began circulating among the freedmen that white planters intended to restore slavery.
In 1865, Dr. Edward Underhill, Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society of Great Britain, wrote a letter to the Colonial Office in London in order to describe Jamaica's poor state of affairs for the mass of people. This letter was later shown to Jamaica's Governor John Eyre, who immediately tried to deny the truth of its statements. Jamaica's poor blacks learned of the letter and began organizing in "Underhill Meetings." Peasants in Saint Ann parish sent a petition to Queen Victoria asking for Crown lands to cultivate, saying they could not find land for themselves.The petition was sent to Eyre first, and he enclosed a letter with his own comments.
The Queen's reply was made known, and many of the poor believed that Eyre had influenced her opinion: she encouraged the poor to work harder, rather than offering any help. George William Gordon, a wealthy mixed-race politician who was one of two representatives from parish of St. Thomas-in-the-East, began encouraging the people in his parish to find ways to make their grievances known.
One of his followers was a black Baptist deacon named Paul Bogle. In 1865 Bogle led a deputation of peasants from St. Thomas-in-the-East to the capital, Spanish Town, hoping to meet with the governor, John Eyre to discuss issues. But the governor refused to receive them.
The British population in Jamaica, like Europeans in other Caribbean colonies, remembered the widespread massacres and violence against the French that accompanied the Haitian Revolution. The slaves achieved independence in 1804. The British were often fearful that the mass of black Jamaicans, ex-slaves and poor, would also rise up in violence against the European elite.
On 7 October 1865, a black man was put on trial, convicted and imprisoned for trespassing on a long-abandoned sugar plantation, a charge and sentence that angered black Jamaicans. During the proceedings, James Geoghegon, a black spectator, disrupted the trial in Morant Bay. In the police's attempts to seize him and remove him from the courthouse, a fight broke out between the police and other spectators. While pursuing Geoghegon, the two policemen were beaten with sticks and stones from the crowd.The following Monday the court issued arrest warrants for several men for rioting, resisting arrest, and assaulting the police. Among those with warrants out was preacher Paul Bogle.
A few days later on 11 October, Bogle marched with hundreds of Jamaican peasant-labourers to Morant Bay. They had taken oaths before marching, to "cleave to the black and leave the white," a sign that they were preparing for insurrection. Gad Heuman argues shows that oath taking in African tradition was a way to bring the group together and prepare for war.When the group arrived at the court house in Morant Bay, they were met by local officials and a small and inexperienced volunteer militia, gathered from personnel from the plantations. The crowd began pelting the militia with rocks and sticks, and the militia opened fire on the protesters. More than 25 people were killed on both sides, before the militia retreated. For the next two days, the mass of rebellious black peasants took over the parish of St. Thomas-in-the-East.
In response, Governor John Eyre sent government troops, under Brigadier-General Alexander Nelson,to hunt down the poorly armed rebels and bring Bogle back to Morant Bay for trial. The troops met with no organized resistance, but they killed blacks indiscriminately, most of whom had not been involved in either the riot at the courthouse or the later rebellion. Heuman has described it as a reign of terror. The Jamaican Maroons of Moore Town, under the command of former Charles Town superintendent Alexander Fyfe, committed a number of atrocities and extrajudicial murders before they captured and arrested Bogle, and delivered him to the colonial authorities.
Believing that the blacks could not have planned such events themselves (as he shared the widespread white assumption of the time that they were not capable of it),Governor John Eyre had representative George William Gordon arrested. The mixed-race Jamaican businessman and politician was wealthy and well-known; he was openly critical of the governor and his policies. Eyre believed that Gordon had been behind the rebellion. Despite having very little to do with it, Gordon was quickly convicted and executed. Though he was arrested in Kingston, where martial law had not been declared, Eyre had him transferred to Morant Bay, where he could be tried under martial law.
The trial and execution of Gordon via martial law, following the excesses of suppressing the rebellion, added to the outrage felt by many in Britain. They felt there were serious constitutional issues by Eyre's bringing Gordon under martial law. They were concerned about whether British dependencies should be ruled under the government of law, or through military license.With a speedy trial, Gordon was convicted quickly and hanged on 23 October, just two days after his trial had begun.
According to one soldier, "we slaughtered all before us… man or woman or child". In the end, the soldiers killed 439 black Jamaicans directly, and they arrested 354 more (including Paul Bogle), who were later executed, many without proper trials. Bogle was executed "either the same evening he was tried or the next morning."On October 25, Bogle was hanged alongside 14 others, including his brother Moses.
Other punishments included flogging of more than 600 men and women (including some pregnant women), and long prison sentences. The soldiers burned thousands of homes belonging to black Jamaicans without any justifiable reason, leaving families homeless throughout the parish. This was the most severe suppression of unrest in the history of the British West Indies, exceeding incidents during slavery years.
When news of the Jamaican government's response to the rebellion broke in Britain, with hundreds killed and hundreds more arrested and being executed, it generated fierce debate. Public figures of different political affiliations lined up to support or oppose Governor Eyre's actions. Part of the controversy related to whether observers believed that blacks had planned the uprising on their own, or whether George Willian Gordon and possibly whites had led them.
Opponents of Eyre established the Jamaica Committee in 1866, which called for Eyre to be tried for mass murder. More radical members of the Committee wanted him tried for the murder of British subjects, such as George William Gordon, under the rule of law, stating that Eyre's actions taken under the aegis of martial law were illegal. The Committee included English liberals, such as John Bright, Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Henry Huxley, Thomas Hughes and Herbert Spencer. Other notable members included Leslie Stephen, James Fitzjames Stephen, Frederic Harrison, Charles Buxton, Goldwin Smith, Charles Lyell, Edmond Beales, Frederick Chesson, Edward Frankland, Thomas Hill Green and Henry Fawcett.
Governor Eyre Defense and Aid Committee, in support of Eyre, was set up by Thomas Carlyle. It included Alfred Tennyson, Charles Kingsley, Charles Dickens, John Ruskin and John Tyndall. When Eyre returned to Britain in August 1866, his supporters held a banquet in his honour, while opponents at a protest meeting the same evening condemned him as a murderer. Twice Eyre was charged with murder, but the cases never proceeded to trial.
Eyre was replaced as governor by John Peter Grant who arrived in August 1866.
Since the 1830s free people of color, like Gordon, Edward Jordon, and Robert Osborn (Jamaica), had been elected to the Jamaican House of Assembly in increasing numbers, and that alarmed the colonial authorities. In the wake of the Morant Bay Rebellion, Eyre, with the support of the Colonial Office, persuaded the Assembly to renounce its charter, thus ending two centuries of elected representation in the Colony of Jamaica. While white planters who were ointed out deprived the black majority of a voice in the colony's government. Jamaica became a Crown Colony, under direct rule from London.
In 1969 Paul Bogle and George William Gordon were among several men who were named as Jamaican National Heroes, the highest honour in the nation.
Several Jamaicans in the first half of the 20th century wrote about the Rebellion:
Non-Jamaican authors have also treated the Morant Bay Rebellion. It is the subject of a chapter of the novel Caribbean (1989) by American James Michener.
The rebellion has been featured in music as well. Reggae artists Third World featured the title track "1865 (96° In The Shade)" on their second album in 1977; the song described the events of the Morant Bay rebellion from the point of view of Paul Bogle and George William Gordon:
You caught me on the loose, fighting to be free, now you show me a noose on a cotton tree, entertainment for you, martyrdom for me...Some may suffer and some may burn, but I know that one day my people will learn, as sure as the sun shines, way up in the sky, today I stand here a victim--the truth is I'll never die.
The Caribbean island of Jamaica was inhabited by the Arawak tribes prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1494. Early inhabitants of Jamaica named the land "Xaymaca", meaning "Land of wood,water and god". The Spanish enslaved the Arawak, who were so ravaged by their conflict with the Europeans and by foreign diseases that nearly the entire native population was extinct by 1600. The Spanish also transported hundreds of West African slaves to the island.
The parishes of Jamaica are the main units of local government in Jamaica. They were created following the English Invasion of Jamaica in 1655. This administrative structure for the Colony of Jamaica developed slowly. However, since 1 May 1867 Jamaica has been divided into the current fourteen parishes. These were retained after independence in 1962. They are grouped into three historic counties, which no longer have any administrative relevance. Every parish has a coast; none are landlocked.
Paul Bogle was a Jamaican Baptist deacon and activist. He is a National Hero of Jamaica. He was a leader of the 1865 Morant Bay protesters, who marched for justice and fair treatment for all the people in Jamaica. After leading the Morant Bay rebellion, Bogle was captured by government troops, tried and convicted by British authorities under martial law, and hanged on 24 October 1865 in the Morant Bay court house.
Edward John Eyre was an English land explorer of the Australian continent, colonial administrator, and a controversial Governor of Jamaica.
The Baptist War, also known as the Christmas Rebellion, the Christmas Uprising and the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1831–32, was an eleven-day rebellion that started on 25 December 1831 and involved up to 60,000 of the 300,000 slaves in Jamaica. The uprising was led by a black Baptist preacher, Samuel Sharpe and waged largely by his followers.
Samuel Sharpe, or Sharp, also known as Sam Sharpe, was an enslaved Jamaican man who was the leader of the widespread 1832 Baptist War slave rebellion in Jamaica.
Saint Thomas, once known as Saint Thomas in the East, is a suburban parish situated at the south eastern end of Jamaica, within the county of Surrey. It is the birthplace of the Right Honourable Paul Bogle, designated in 1969 as one of Jamaica's seven National Heroes. Morant Bay, its chief town and capital, is the site of the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865, of which Bogle was a leader.
George William Gordon was a wealthy mixed-race Jamaican businessman, magistrate and politician, one of two representatives to the Assembly from St. Thomas-in-the-East Parish. He was a leading critic of the colonial government and the policies of Jamaican Governor Edward Eyre.
The Jamaica Committee was a group set up in Great Britain in 1865, which called for Edward Eyre, Governor of Jamaica, to be tried for his excesses in suppressing the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865. More radical members of the Committee wanted him tried for the murder of British subjects, under the rule of law. The Committee included English liberals, such as John Bright, John Stuart Mill, Charles Darwin, Thomas Henry Huxley, Thomas Hughes, Herbert Spencer and A. V. Dicey, the last of whom would eventually become known for his scholarship on the Conflict of Laws.
Morant Bay is a town in southeastern Jamaica and the capital of the parish of St. Thomas, located about 25 miles east of Kingston, the capital. The parish has a population of 94,410.
The First Maroon War was a conflict between the Jamaican Maroons and the colonial British authorities that started around 1728 and continued until the peace treaties of 1739 and 1740. It was followed about half a century later by the Second Maroon War.
Phillips v Eyre (1870) LR 6 QB 1 is a famous English decision on the conflict of laws in tort. The Court developed a two limbed test for determining whether a tort occurring outside of the court's jurisdiction can be actionable. In time this came to be referred to as the "dual-actionability test".
New Day is a 1949 book by Jamaican author V. S. Reid. It was Reid's first novel. New Day deals with the political history of Jamaica as told by a character named Campbell, who is a boy at the time of the Morant Bay Rebellion and an old man during its final chapters. It may have been the first novel to use Jamaican vernacular as its language of narration.
Jamaican Maroons descend from maroons, Africans who escaped from slavery onto the island of Jamaica and established free communities in the mountainous interior, primarily in the eastern parishes. Escaped Africans who were enslaved during Spanish rule over Jamaica (1493–1656) may have been the first to develop such refugee communities.
Moore Town is a Maroon settlement located in the Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains of Portland, Jamaica, accessible by road from Port Antonio. The easternmost Maroon town, Moore Town is located in the eastern end of the parish. Formerly known as New Nanny Town, Moore Town was founded in 1740 when the Peace Treaty was signed between the British colonial authorities and the Windward Maroons. This treaty allotted the Moore Town Maroons 1000 acres, but Moore Town only received 500. In 1781 the initial 500 acres was augmented with another 500-1270 acres.
Jamaica was an English colony from 1655 or 1670, and a British Colony from 1707 until 1962, when it became independent. Jamaica became a Crown colony in 1866.
The House of Assembly was the legislature of the British colony of Jamaica. It held its first meeting on 20 January 1664 at Spanish Town.
Human rights in Jamaica is an ongoing process of development that has to consider the realities of high poverty levels, high violence, fluctuating economic conditions, and poor representation for citizens. Jamaica is a constitutional parliamentary democracy. The context of Jamaica’s history must be considered to understand the political factors that help shape its government and economy.
Robert Osborn (1800–1878) was a Jamaican newspaper editor and campaigner for equal rights for free people of color.
Saint David Parish was one of the historic parishes of Jamaica created following colonisation of the island by the British. It was in the east of the island in Surrey County