« PreviousContinue »
which is the invariable consequence of this contiguity,—the mixed race which springs from the intercourse of whites and blacks and from their many-tinted progeny. Inheriting, as this does, some of the qualities of each ancestral stock, it plays an important part in the social and political history of every tropical colony. To the intelligence and often to the acquirements of the white race it unites the impulsive waywardness of the negro, and adds a sensitiveness of its own, which is a perpetual vexation to itself and every one else. Its peculiar characteristics qualify it to lead any movement of the disaffected negroes; for it participates in many of their sentiments, is affected by many of their prejudices, has an education superior to them, and regards itself as very ill-treated because it is not admitted to social equality with the white people. We are now speaking of the average mulatto class. There are a few others nominally belonging to it, and doubtless connected with it by blood, but whose complexion betrays hardly a vestige of colour, while their manners, acquirements, and general demeanour raise them to a level with the educated gentlemen of any country. Such men are not disposed to be the promoters or the leaders of negro disaffection. This work is left to the ordinary Mulatto, who undertakes it, not, generally, from any special liking for the negro, but from spite to the white man. A contiguity of these elements in an island, once subjected to the laws of slavery, is sure to bring about mischief sooner or later. It has done so in other islands, as, recently, in Antigua and St. Vincents, in both of which, however, the proportions of whites to blacks is greater than it is in Jamaica, and where other compensating influences mitigate the collision of the races. Such people as kept up any correspondence with Jamaica knew perfectly well that life was there disquieted by a want of amity and confidence between the different sections of the people, and that (except in certain localities blessed by a more genial and kindly spirit) the whites complained of the growing insolence and offensiveness of the negroes. But this was known only to a few. The vast majority of Englishmen have long been equally ignorant and indifferent about Jamaica ; and, out of political or commercial circles, the only persons who took any interest in its history were the friends of the missionaries. England, therefore, was smitten with amazement when in the November of last year the West India Mail brought news of a negro rising, accompanied by great atrocities, and suppressed with considerable carnage.
When sufficient time had been allowed to peruse and examine the successive accounts of this unexpected catastrophe,
the following circumstances gradually impressed themselves on the popular mind.
It appeared that, in the month of January, 1865, Mr. (or, as he is named in the Parliamentary papers, Dr.) Underhill, an official of the Baptist connexion, addressed a letter to the Secretary of State, in which he took advantage of the distress caused by a long drought in certain districts of Jamaica, to infer the existence of a general poverty and depression, and to attribute these to certain political grievances, which he specially described. We shall examine the details of this letter later. At present, we content ourselves with remarking that many of his assertions are highly exaggerated, some utterly untrue, while his conclusions are often illogical, and his suggestions impracticable. But at the same time we are bound to admit that even had the letter been originally published in Jamaica, and addressed to the colonists, instead of being addressed to the Secretary of State, it could not, consistently with the precedents of English law, have been brought within the provisions of any Act directed against treasonable or seditious publications. It was a foolish letter, inconsiderate and mischievous, calculated to foment discontent and disaffection amongst an unreflecting and untaught race; but it was not, technically speaking, a seditious letter. That it did lead to much mischief is true. That it should not be published or made known was desirable enough. But the difficulty of dealing rightly with such effusions is only a part of the general difficulty whicli besets the adaptation of English principles and modes of thought to nations and tribes which have an entirely different standard of ethics, and take an entirely different view of human affairs. Perhaps nothing in modern history so strongly illustrates the one-sidedness and imperfection of English legislation as the make-shifty and hap-hazard looseness with which some 800,000 black semi-barbarians were at one bound—without commensurate training or preparation-adinitted to the full civil rights of English citizens, and subjected to the ordinary routine of English administration. They were, in the first instance, wisely subjected, by the Emancipation Act prepared by Lord Derby, then Secretary for the Colonies
, to a seven years' apprenticeship; but the impatience of the philanthropists, represented by the late Sir E. Wilmot, vexed the Government with motions which led to their complete Emancipation from control ere four of the seven years had expired. Whatever difficulties or annoyances we may hereafter have with our tropical colonies, will be mainly due to the want of a governmental machinery adapted to the gradual transition
of African slaves to the condition of jurymen, municipal electors, voters for a colonial Parliament, and members of a colonial Parliament. The French have done very differently in their sugar colonies, where the newly enfranchised negro is hemmed in with restrictions that effectually prevent him from doing any harm to himself or others. But this is a wide subject, and we forbear to pursue it further. The letter of Mr. Underhill which gave rise to this digression was addressed to Mr. Secretary Cardwell in the month of January, 1865. Mr. Cardwell, in the same month, transmitted a copy of it to Governor Eyre. Governor Eyre then referred it for report to the Custodes of the different parishesofficers who are somewhat in the position of Lord Lieutenants of English counties—to the Judges, to the Bishop of Kingston, and to the heads or superintendents of the various religious denominations in the colony. In taking this course he acted perfectly in accordance with the dictates both of common sense and of prescription. There was no other course, equally frank and sensible, which the Governor could have taken. That a letter thus submitted for criticism and examination should long remain a secret, was wholly impossible. To suppose that a document officially addressed to the Secretary of State about the constitution of a colony, and animadverting strongly on the policy of its government, should be sent out to its governor, should be circulated among a dozen or two dozen persons in the colony, should be criticised and reported on by them, and then that these reports should be sent back to the Governor, without the knowledge or privity of any other persons, is a supposition inconsistent with the natural condition not only of any colony, but of any human society. That happened which might have been expected to happen. The whole affair got wind, and Mr. Underhill's letter found its way into the colonial papers. To accuse the Governor of breach of confidence or want of discretion is childish in the extreme. He could not have prevented the publication of the ill-omened letter, except at the risk of greater mischiefs than, in fact, it eventually did produce. Garbled portions, filled out with significant inuendoes, would have done more harm than the unmutilated whole. As it was, its effects were soon enough perceptible. A petition, evidently based upon its contents, was sent to England. The signers of this petition described themselves as poor labourers, and complained generally of the cost of subsistence, and the smallness of their earnings. Meanwhile the references made by Mr. Eyre to the local authori. ties had elicited numerous replies, the general tenor of which was to deny the truth of Mr. Underhill's allegations. These were forwarded to the Secretary of State, who, in July, directed Vol. 120.-No. 239.
Mr. Eyre to inform the subscribers that the prosperity of the labouring classes, as of all other classes, depends in Jamaica, and in all other countries, upon their working for wages, not uncertainly or capriciously, but steadily and continuously at the times when their labour is wanted, and for so long as it is wanted.' The purport of this despatch was communicated to
the custodes, justices, and ministers of religion in different parts I of the island
The Baptist ministers declined to further its circulation, and avowed their sympathy with the terms of the petition and Mr. Underhill's letter. Under their `auspices meetings were held of an inflammatory, if not actually a seditious nature. At the end of July Mr. Eyre received warning that a negro rising was contemplated on the 4th of August, and took measures of precaution accordingly. Among the appeals addressed at this date to the negroes was one from which we extract the following paragraph :
Poor people of St. Ann's. Starving people of St. Ann's. Naked people of St. Ann's. You who have no sugar estates to work on, nor can find other employment, we call on you to come forth; even if you be naked, come forth, and protest against the unjust representations made against you by Mr. Governor Eyre and his band of custodes. You don't require custodes to tell your woes; but you want men free of Government influence; you want honest men; you want men with a sense of right and wrong, and who can appreciate you. Call on your ministers to reveal your true condition, and then call on Heaven to witness, and have mercy.
People of St. Thomas-in-the-East you have been ground down too long already. Shake off your sloth, and speak like honourable and free men at your meeting. Let not a crafty, jesuitical Priesthood deceive you. Prepare for your duty. Remember the destitution in the midst of your families, and your forlorn condition. The Government have taxed you to defend your own rights against the enormities of an unscrupulous and oppressive foreigner-Mr. Custos Ketelhodt. You feel this. It is no wonder you do. You have been dared in this provoking act, and it is sufficient to extinguish your long patience. This is not the time when such deeds should be perpetrated; but as they have been, it is your duty to speak out, and to act, too! We advise you to be up and doing; and to maintain your cause, you must be united in your efforts. The causes of your distress are many, and now is your time to review them. Your custos, we learn, read at the last vestry the Despatch from Mr. Cardwell, which he seemed to think
But how can men with a sense of wrong in their bosoms be content to be quiet under such a reproachful Despatch ?'
It is clear that the letter was doing its work, that considerable excitement prevailed among the negroes, and that the majority of the Baptist ministers encouraged rather than allayed this excite
should quiet you.
ment. But although August and September passed over without any outbreak, October was not destined to enjoy a similar tranquillity.
The history of the outbreak we prefer to give in the words of the Official Report lately presented to Parliament:
• THE ORIGIN AND OUTBREAK OF THE DISTURBANCES. • The first resistance to lawful authority occurred on Saturday the 7th October, 1865.
On that day, which was also market day, a Court of Petty Sessions was held at Morant Bay.
"The business which came before the magistrates during the early part of the day was of an ordinary description, consisting principally of charges of assault, and of the use of abusive language by negroes towards persons of the same class.
* Among other cases of this description, there was a charge of assault, brought by a woman against a boy. He was found guilty by the magistrates, and sentenced to a fine of 48., and the payment of the costs, which amounted to 128. 6d.
. When the defendant was called upon to pay this amount, a person of the name of Geoghegan interfered, and told him to pay the amount of the fine only, and not to pay the costs.
This caused so much disturbance in the court that business was for a time suspended, and the magistrates ordered that Geoghegan, who was speaking very loud and causing the disturbance, should be brought before them. The constables laid hold of Geoghegan for that purpose, but he was rescued by bystanders, and left the Court House. He was followed by the police, who attempted to retake him; but a considerable number of persons having come to his assistance, the police were beaten, and compelled to retreat without effecting their object. When order was in some degree restored, a summons in which Lewis Miller was the defendant was called on for hearing. This case, from the interest which was felt in it, had caused a numerous attendance at the Court House on that day.
'It arose out of a dispute relating to an estate in the neighbourhood of Stony Gut, not far from Morant Bay, a portion of which had been leased out to small occupiers. Some years ago the occupiers had refused to pay rent for their holdings, on the ground that the land was free, and the estate belonged to the Queen.
• The question was then tried, and decided against the occupiers. During the last summer there seems to have been a disposition again to raise the same question, and a refusal to pay rent was accompanied by the statement that the land was free.
It was for a trespass on a part of this estate that Miller, who was one of the occupiers, was summoned.
“The case was heard and decided against him, and notice given of an appeal against the decision. On the following Monday, informations having been taken upon