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After a Royal Commission investigation of the rebellion and its aftermath, Eyre was removed from his post and recalled by the Colonial Office. Led by John Stuart Mill, the Jamaica Committee undertook three attempts between to prosecute Eyre for murder and abuse of power for his role in sanctioning the court martial and execution of George William Gordon, a former slave and Jamaican politician who was accused of fomenting the rebellion.
Repeatedly, English grand juries refused to indict Eyre or convict his subordinates. Download this page in PDF format Figure 1: Photograph of Governor Eyre by Henry Hering, circa In early Junethe Jamaica Committee, a coalition of Victorian politicians, scientists, writers, and abolitionists, failed in its final attempt to indict the ex-Governor of Jamaica, Edward John Eyre, for abuse of power and murder.
Thomas in the East Semmel The Jamaica Committee had been organized in December in response to the initial reports of the uprising.
Most prominent among the almost prisoners executed during martial law Heuman was George William Gordon, the son of a slave woman and a white plantation owner, the Scotsman Thomas Gordon.
Although he had suffered severe financial reversals in the years prior toGeorge William Gordon had been a successful businessman and landowner, as well as a vestryman and justice of the peace, and he was twice elected to the Jamaica House of Assembly.
In an important early study of the Governor Eyre controversy, Bernard Semmel argued that contemporaries also drew connections between the Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica and other significant conflicts involving revolt against British colonial rule or violent agitation for political rights, including the Indian Mutiny ofworking-class demonstrations in favor of electoral reform that culminated in the Second Reform Act ofand the raids by Irish republican Fenians in In sympathizing with Eyre, a member of the Victorian public may also have expressed a more general approval of the use of force against rebellious colonial subjects.
On 11 Octobera large group of several hundred Black Jamaican men and women, most of them armed with some kind of weapon, marched in formation into Morant Bay in eastern Jamaica. Thomas in the East. They first attacked the police station, where they obtained a few weapons after stabbing and beating but not killing three Black police officers.
They then proceeded toward the Morant Bay court house, where a meeting of the vestry was being held. The marching column was joined by a less organized crowd of Black peasants who had converged from separate directions. As the crowd approached, the head magistrate, or Custos, Baron von Ketelhodt, emerged on the balcony of the courthouse, which was protected by a group of volunteer militia.
The protesters retaliated with more violence, causing the remaining militia members and officials to take refuge inside the court house.
The protesters set the court house on fire, pursuing and killing many of those who tried to escape. Von Ketelhodt was killed along with seventeen others, and another thirty persons were injured. Several houses belonging to prominent figures associated with the vestry and town authorities Black and Colored, as well as whites were burned, although there was no significant looting of property.
When the Morant Bay events were followed over the next several days by attacks on several neighboring estates, the authorities reacted on the basis of the fear that the rebellion was likely to spread to the entire island. Governor Eyre received news of the rebellion on 11 October, and declared martial law in the county of Surrey, excluding the parish and city of Kingstonon the 13th.
The troops who arrived at Morant Bay on 12 October quelled the violence there after a few days, and in the rest of the district, after a week Kostal Intent on preventing a wider rebellion, Eyre then authorized extensive reprisals: The killings also included many executions after summary courts martial in the field.
Historian Gad Heuman details the killings of sick or elderly Black Jamaican men who were pulled from their homes, which were subsequently looted or destroyed, or shot while running away from the troops or Maroons In addition to Gordon, several other prominent political critics of Eyre, including Black politicians and ministers and a Jewish journalist, as well as political and professional associates of Gordon, were arrested either without charge or on charges of sedition and held in detention under harsh conditions during the period of martial law.
Some of these political prisoners were flogged before being released on writs of habeas corpus, and one was executed after a court martial Heuman Over persons were sentenced to prison terms, some as long as twelve years, without regular judicial procedures Heuman After martial law was lifted, the Jamaican legislature passed an Act of Indemnity exempting Eyre and the military officers and civilian officials under his authority of all legal liability for their actions.
There were many immediate causes of the Morant Bay rebellion, including a riot several days earlier over a set of court cases involving trespass by Black Jamaicans on land owned by whites and disputes over the collection of rents.Notice: Please be aware that all information (except your email address) that you submit on this form is subject to public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act.
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