THE JAMAICA PAPERS.
111HE Jamaica-papers, coolly considered, impress.us more pow- .", erfully with the mischiefs of intellectual weakness in menin authority, than even with the barbarities and physical horrors with which our imaginations have chiefly been filled. in con- nection - with this unhappy island. The (most likely over- coloured) pictures of cruelty, both negro and white, which .the colonial, papers have reproduced for us are .not so prominent in the blue-book,- while the general feebleness of judgment that has pervaded almost all these transactions, combined- times with very great pertinacity and strength of will, as in Mr., Eyre, and -sometimes with very great strength of pre- judiee..and passion, as in many of ths.military actors in the drama., and sometimes with a sort of amiable desire to dis- please.nobody, as in Mr. Cardwell, impresses one at every tarn. We see that some of our -contemporaries who have gone mach further than we did in arraigning the conduct of the Government, now retract ,all they -have said against the Secre- tary of State, and pronounce him guilty only of injustice to himself. In this view we are unable to concur. We never uttered a -word, against Mr. Cardwell's conduct in .the matter tilL:his own speech. at Oxford,.on. New-Year's Day, asserted what' was ridieulously inconsistent with the facts of the ease, -indeed the - one proposition of which nobody was convinced, that " coraparative.safety was-speedily restored to all persons, of whatever race or.-colour,--who desired to divein peace and orderly- submiesion to the law." We. now frankly admit that Cardwell,couldwat have believed what he inadvertently, andprobably by a mere slip of the tongae, said, for -we find him ring some preoiselysimilar words, with a very different drift, .to-Sir.11."JI. Storks, a fortnight before the: date of this .unfor- timate.speech. Mr. Cardwell states that in entrusting .him withhis new duties, the first anxiety of Her Majesty's Govern- :ment ;Ass heen "that "security- should be restored to all, of whatever :.sate or colour, who desire to .live in peace and orderly submission to the law," and it is obvious enough
that Mr. Cardwell -could -not be anxious to restore, through the agency iof Sir H. K. Storks, to those respectable.-per- sons with aspirations for peaceful and orderly submission to the law, what had already been " restored " to them, at -least with " comparative " efficiency, by the measures of. Mr, Eyre. But then, though we freely admit that Mr. Cardwell made a mere slip at Oxfordin using words inconsistent with-his-own despatches, we .cannot forget that the-motive which swayed him-for the moment into the mood of sympathy with. Mr. Eyre was sot any attack.upon that gentleman, but, on the contrary, Captain Pane's coarse and almost brutal attack upon all who sympathized with the wretched.negroes,—in other words, -that Mr. Cardwell was anxious to conciliate as much. as, .possible .a. -speaker whom it would have been only proper in him to rebuke.. And •the same feeble bias towards, agreeing as much--as pos- sible- with.all parties seams to us to appear very diatinctlyin his published despatches. The first despatch of thisseries, in which. he acknowledges-the receipt of-Mr. Eyre's long account of his own first stringent measures, contains, it is true,. an im- plied censure-on the disgraceful military despatches of -Colonel Hobbs and others, which were inclosed without criticism-or comment by Mr. Eyre. But this applies only to the officers. Mr. Cardwell, • while unreservedly approving Mr. Eyre's per- sonal -zeal and "judgment," makes no exception, no men-- tiow even, of ,his conduct, detailed in the-same despatelyand_ so keenly criticized .in - England, in ordering the transfer. of Mr. Gordon from Xingston, afterhis voluntary surrender to the civil power, to the region under martial law,rand approvingor his trial and execution by the.Morant Bay tribunal. "I have to -convey to you," he-writes, on the 17th November, "my high ap-- proval of the spirit, energy, and-judgment with which you have
ted_in your measures for repressing and preventing the spread of the-insurrection." Nor is therein this despatch, a word of reservation -of , any sort or :kind as to Mr., Eyre's personal conduct, though' the • whole -responsibility of the proceedings with respect to Mr. Gordon was candidly .and courageously accepted by Mr. Eyre, in the despatch to which this. As. an answer. A few days later, in a despatch dated the- 23rd November, when the outcry about Mr. Gordon's case had become unpleasantly audible, Mr. Cardwell writes- to demand an explanation of 'that 'proceeding, as well as special reports on the- circumstances of Colonel' -Hobbs' and Captain: ole's and Captain Ford's campaigns. But assuredly no despatch approving absolutely of Mr.. Eyre's own indivi- dual proceedings ought- ever to- have gone out without at once- demanding a • justification of that strange proceeding for which_ Mr.. Eyre, with his usual gallantry, had unreservedly accepted_ all the responsibility. It was not a point to escape the eye of any reader. Everyone who read that strange despatch of Mr. Eyre's_ immediately fixed upon that single conspicuous. fact as more obviously, though perhaps not more really, needing justification than any other. But Mr. Cardwell.was then in sympathy with-Mr. Eyre. The Gordon case .fell on the punctton ccecunt of his optic nerve,. and he felt unwilling- to be grudging of his praise. The sharp public comments. soon restored him to the critical mood, and on the 23rd November his comments are distinct enough, and-on the 1st December his demands for explanation came up to the full exigency of -the occasion. The despatch of the let. December should guide all the investigations of the Commission, and if the- answers to the questions there put can be obtained at all, we shall really have the means of forming a sound judgment on these unhappy transactions. But it is to us astonishing how a Minister who could write such a despatch on the let De- cember, could speak as he did on the 1st January. It seems. to us that Mr. Cardwell's mind on the matter could be bestsle-- .stnibed as Newton described the phenomena known as New-- ton's rings. They were due, he said, to " fits of easy reflec- tion and transmission" in the medium. Mr. Cardwell's mind on Jamaica :has been subject to " fits of easy reflection and transmission." First he reflected Mr. Eyre's feelings, then he- transmitted the feelings of the English public ; then, he reflected Captain- Fane's feelings at Oxford, and soon Ino- doubt he will transmit the conviction of the House of Com- mons. " Coleridge," it -is ,said, " never could fix which side: of the , garden walk.•would suit him best, but continually shifted in corkscrew fashion, and kept trying both." That seems to us the clearest representation of Mr. Cardwell's mind .on Jamaica.
In Mr. Eyre' we .have an illustration of a different form of feebleness,—feebleness of intellect engrafted on great per- tinacity of will in an otherwise high-minded-and verytgal- lant man These papers teem with illustrations of Mr. Eyre's political feebleness and his keenness of purpose on any track once struck. Thus he takes to waylaying letters from respectable 'Baptists in England to Baptists in Jamaica, and in his enthu- -siasm 'almost dreams of persuading Mr. Cardwell to get an order -in Council prohibiting Baptists in England from writing on politics at all to Baptists in Jamaica. At least that is the general impression produced upon us by the following passage in one of his despatches. After quoting the following sentence out of a letter written by Dr. Underhill,-two months before Eng- -land had heard of `the insurrection, to a person in Jamaica,—a sentence that we should call tame in the month of Mr. Bright or Mr. 'Fernand,—" in Jamaica the people seem• to be over- whelmed with discouragement, and I fear they are giving up in despair their long struggle with injustice and fraud,"—Mr. Eyre -writes, "If nothing can be done to stop at home the pernicious -writings such as I refer to, andif Jamaica is to be retained at all, it will be necessary to pass a law in the colony authorizing the deportation of all persons who, leaving their proper sphere of action as ministers of religion, become political demagogues and dangerous agitators." And something equivalent-Mr. Eyre afterwards actually did attempt in the wonderful Chapels Bill. Even Mr:Cardwell, unassisted by public criticism, with diffi- culty suppresses an official smile in the despatch in which he -replies to Mr. Eyre. Dr. 17nderhill's letters, he says, or -indeed- any other man's, are not to be intercepted again, " unless in any -instance you have the strongest reasons for believing that serious mischief would follow. However reasonable may be the apprehension you express as to the general effect of injudicious and inflammatory language upon an excitable and imperfectly instructed people, it is not easy to see what steps can be taken for the prevention of the evil. 'The measure which you suggest is not one to which I should wish you to have recourse." And Mr. Cardwell does not take the hint about an order in Council to establish inspectors of-.English Baptists' Jamaica correspondence, with power to slaughter infectious letters at the place of export. But this is only a single specimen of the weakness of conception that marks Mr. Eyre's despatches. In some of his several quarrels with General O'Connor we think Mr. 'Eyre has- the advantage,—for General O'Connor, like all the principal actors .-in-'this unfortunate drama (Colonel 'Nelson perhaps excepted),-seems to be truly "a weak vessel." -But nothing can be more ludicrous than one of the causes of quarrel,—the -private letter from Colonel Whitfield to-Governor Eyre, sent down by the latter to the Assembly expressly to prove the justice of his and 'their fears of a general negro in- surrection, which Colonel Whitfield did by cursory examina- tion of the physiognomy of the negroes whom he met in his rides, reporting that " about one-half the negroes look happy and contented, the remainder as if they would take much pleasure in cutting our throats." This very important document produced the third breach between the Governor and the G-eneral,—the latter maintaining that it was contrary to military discipline and etiquette for the reports of military officers to-be transmitted direct to the Government without passing through the hands of -their commander, which the Governor was compelled to admit. But poor Mr. Eyre was so hard up for a proper verification of his suspicions of organized insurrection, that he risked inflaming the sensitive jealousy of the General in order to arm himself, with some equivalent for the evidence requested by the Assembly. Colonel Whitfield's physiognomical observations were certainly not worth a skir- mish even with General O'Connor.
And even the subordinate military officers, Colonel Hobbs, Captain Hole, and Colonel Fyfe, appear to us to have acted and written as they did, rather from that feebleness of judgment which falls helplessly into a single attitude, and cannot keep its head above water, as it were, than from any natural cruelty. They write atrocious letters, •but they write like men possessed with an overruling panic. Colonel Hobbs reports,' for instance, that "it is 'my duty further to inform your Excellency that the class of people who are employed in this rebellion are not the poor,• but a- class of small landowners who are in every sense of the word -freeholders,"—from which he argues, first, that • it is his duty to destroy "-the entire of the vacated houses," and next, that it is his duty to shoot all groups that he sees " at extraordinary long distances, on the hill side and in trees,"—no doubt conceiving that all persons "at extraordinary -long distances " must belong to the small class of well-to-do freeholders. His letters, and Colonel Fyfe's letters, actually accusing the Anti-Slavery party in -England of " supporting the negro 'in his desire to exter- minate the white race," are the letters of weak fanatics really believing that they were doing a holy work in random slaughter. A stranger drama acted by a group of weak men doing violence to sense and humanity in. the name of a fanatical patriotism, it has not often been our lot to see.
It is to be hoped that the Commission will really make an adequate reply to the admirable and searching questions put in the great despatch of the 1st December. We are happy to -see that Colonel Fyfe thinks that his Maroons did not kill more than twenty-five negroes in the bush. But as he admits that the Maroon parties were numerous, while he himself of course was present only with one, his testimony is worth—more in- deed than the opposite conjecture of others—but not, much more. The despatches demonstrate the. absolute necessity of the Commission so strongly, that we doubt if even the Tories will be able to shut their eyes to the nature of the obliga- tion.