THE JAMAICA INSURRECTION AND ITS SUPPRESSION.
THE rebellion in Jamaica, and its bloody suppression, at the cost of 200, or as some reports say, near 400 lives, some of them women's, taken with no further security for justice than court-martial trials,—which practically mean of course trials without any defence for the criminal,--must at least pro- duce that thorough investigation of our system of government in Jamaica which would have been deferred for years but for such an outbreak. Had the Fenian outbreak really occurred in Ireland, England would scarcely have tolerated the sum- 'inary infliction of capital punishment on hundreds of prisoners, without any conviction before a criminal tribunal, even if the outbreak had begun with atrocities such as were threat- ened in the letters of the Fenian conspirators, or such us have apparently been inflicted on some of the upper classes 'of Jamaica. In the present state of our knowledge of what has actually occurred, it would almost seem that there have been ten times as many executions of rebels as crimes of personal violence committed by them. That of course may be a false inference, due to the insufficiency of our news, and there may be excuses for violent measures of repression, which in Ireland we should not have, in the small -force at the disposal of the Governor when the outbreak first occurred. But whatever the truth may be, a rebellion which bas provoked—and still more, if it were possible to speak of it as a rebellion, which has justifled—the summary execution of hundreds of her Majesty's subjects, in an island whose whole population is not larger than that of a first-class manufactur- ing town, and this when the rebellion did not to all appearance even touch more than a tenth part of the population, cannot, after its suppression, be passed by without searching inquiry into causes and remedies. What has happened in Jamaica is probably equivalent to the reckless shooting or hanging by court-martial of upwards of 200, perhaps nearly 400, persons for insurrection in a population not larger than that of. Derby,— for it is pretty clear, that the rebellion had not extended to the west of Kingston, and has not affected anything like the whole population to the east of it. Some of the despatches of the officers charged with the suppression of the rebellion have, too, been written in a tone of vindictive and vulgar triumph over their bloody measures. Colonel J. Francis Hobb, of the 6th Reyals, writes in a style which, if it had been adopted by a Northern General in the late war, would have -been held up to public loathing. Thus :—" I have Paul Bogle's valet for my guide, a little fellow of extraordinary intelligence. A light, rope tied to the stirrups, and a revolver
now and then to his head, cause us thoroughly to understand each other ; and he knows every single rebel in the island by
-name and face, and has just been selecting the captains, colonels, and secretaries out of an immense gang of prisoners just come in here, whom I shall have shot to-morrow morning." Now either these bloody measures were due to a comparatively legitimate panic in which case the danger must have been fearful, and the -rebellion therefore one exciting universal enthusiasm among the black population, and then, we think, it will be pretty
clear that the system of government must be both improved and
strengthened ; or, as is pretty clear, they were beyond what the circumstances justified, and taken in the violent passion of caste- -hatred and revenge for the outrages committed by the negroes, and in that case there can be little doubt that justice demands a thorough investigation. The calamity is great in any case. But we may trust that it will force upon us the consideration of -measures not only likely to prevent its recurrence, but to remedy evils that have now for thirty years been chronic.
The imperfect information which we even now possess con- firms, so far as it goes, our view of last week, that the insurrection is due to no external source, but is, in the last instance at least, the result of a long drought, producing excessive poverty, -terribly aggravated by excessive taxation, and co-operating with a very bad administration of justice to inspire the large negro -population with a sense of wrong. No doubt, too, these com-
bustible elements were kindled into a a flame in the last instance by the publication of the Governer's inquiries for
remedial suggestions, and the general, refusal of the ruling class of the island to admit that any remedies beyond greater industry on the part of the negro labourers were needed or possible. But if this be the true account of the matter, as we fancy it will prove, the statement of our latest news, that the insurrection was one, not social or political, but of race,—of the pure negroes against whites and half-castes,— can scarcely be true. Indeed the statement contained in the summary of news itself, that men of influence had been travelling through the country for some time " addressing meetings on the subject of negro wrongs, telling them they were oppressed and ground down by taxes," and the further statement that " this excited the people, and they determined to seize the land from all the landowners, white and coloured," —which means, we take it, all the rich landowners as con- trasted with the small freeholders,—points clearly to a rebellion primarily due to poverty and supposed abuses in the laws of property, and only associated with prejudices of colour (if at all) so far as colour marks different strata of wealth and pro- prietary influence. It is true that the Colonial Standard of Kingston asserts boldly that the plot contemplated the murder of every white or half-caste man and child, in the island, but the preservation of the women for the service and pleasure of the negroes. Minutely examined, however, the very article which asserts this, contains matter inconsistent with such a design. In the first place it asserts " that Mr. George William Gordon," a black gentleman, a member of the Legislative Assembly, who, though he gave himself up, has been instantly hanged without a civil trial by the tribunal called court-martial, " and certain of the chiefs were, after the success of the rebellion, to proceed to England, to obtain the sanction of Her Majesty to the new state of things." The Colonial Standard speaks in the highest terms of Mr. Gordon's ability, and of him as "exercising in a supreme degree the unscrupulousness, cant, and peculiar tact [our colonial contemporary is not classical in its style] required to give unbounded influence upon the negro." Now would a man of such ability think of coming to England to gain the assent of Her Majesty and our Parliament to a rebellion which had began in wholesale massacres of men and children, and ended in reducing to servitude or prostituting to licentious pas- sions the English ladies of Jamaica ? The thing is absurd. If there is really, as is said, clear evidence that Mr. Gordon was to come as a delegate to England, we may be sure that the plan of the rebellion was not one of massacre, but only one of politi- cal revolution. Moreover, there is another passage in the same article which compels the same inference. The writer appears to argue from what the insurgents did not do, to the fearfully aggravated character of their intentions, as Miss Squeers inferred from her unconsciousness of external injuries inflicted by Nicho- las Nickleby that she must be suffering from the most fearful internal injuries hitherto unrevealed. We do not profess to be able to construe the latter sentences of the following charge against the rebels, but it seems clear that its tenor is to infer the dreadful character of the rebel designs from the great degree of restraint put by the leaders upon their passions :- " The manner in which the rebels conducted themselves bears out this plan thoroughly, and the coolness and system with which they proceeded prove the force=of the organization under which they acted. Even whilst their worst passions might have been aroused by the opportunity of gratifying personal animosities, and by the temptation of plunder, they kept in view the conditions of the programme set out for them, and exhibited enough self-restraint to respect the property of the Maroons, whose interference they feared to provoke. The leaders among them, and indeed none, except the rioters who followed their steps, took liquor, although the night before starting for bforaut Bay they had deliberately swallowed rum and gun- powder to fortify themselves for the bloody deeds of the morrow."
And on these poor wretches, who showed so deep a design by not murdering all the whites they met, the wild Maroons have been let loose and allowed to kill them and dance sublime war dances round them at their pleasure ! If we examine strictly the imperfect history we have received of the actual atrocities, the evi- dence seems to us to grow stronger that the rioters, though guilty of horrible and savage crimes, were not prosecuting a cru- sade against colour, but onlytaking brutal revenge on men whom they chose to consider their oppressors; nay, in the very heart of the most rebellious district, there were many cases of strong at- tachment on the part of negroes to their white superiors, and of great risks incurred to protect them. For example, on Hordley estate the negroes mustered in force to protect the party that had taken refuge there, against the rebels. Again, we are told that a crowd of rebels entered a Mr. Fitzherbert's house and seized him by the throat. Mr. Fitzherbert remonstrated, saying " that he had just come to the island, and done them no harm,,''—on which they agreed.to release him, only " call- ing.his attention to the warning which their proceedings con- veyed," and butchering his book-keeper, not anew corner, before his, eyes. In the same way a Mr. Da Costa's life was spared at the entreaty of his wife, on the ground that he was " only a poor clerk, and had nothing to do with the parish." These men, it is dear, were not prosecuting a crusade against the white race, but taking vengeance on persons whom they chose to think their political enemies. Even the massacre at Morant Bay, a sufficiently bloody affair, did not begin till after the mob had been. fired on from the court-house and blood so spilt by the besieged, and even then the two physicians' lives were spared, and many instancesof attempts on the part of the faithful negroes to save individual lives among the upper class are related, while no instances of outrages on women and children are given at all. The details we have at present would seem to show that the re- bellion was organized as a. political measure, and though carried out by men much more brutal and passionate than those who had planned and hoped to lead it, still without any race-hatred as such,—by men who butchered whites and mulattoes rather than negroes, only because they represented the wealth-aris- tocracy of the island.
When we recall the abominable legislation which, during a two years' drought, that pressed on the poor provision-grow- ers of Jamaica as heavily as two years' bad harvests would press on England if there were no large stores of capital to relieve the distress, kept up a general import duty of 12i per cent. ad valorem on all classes of imports, which taxes (as we believe, still,—certainly it was so within the last few years)—salt provisions, meat, fish, and farinaceous food, as high as 30 to 40 per cent., and levies on each poor provision- grower's cart 188. annually, while the great planters' carts, if used only on the estate and not traversing the roads, are not taxed at all ; which takes 10s. a head for horses, but leaves the planters' draft-stock, oxen, free ; which taxes the planters' exports at 3s. a hogshead, and the small settlers' sugar, ginger, coffee, arrow-root, at 2s. a barrel, which provides no education at all worth mention for the poor negro out of a very wasteful expenditure, and which has failed to supply any county courts in which the poor man can get sure and cheap justice,—when we recall all this, there seems to be no difficulty in accounting for this rebellion, and not much, as we hinted last week, in seeing the remedy, if only that remedy be practicable. We believe that the better planters are fully agreed with the friends of the negro labourers, in thinking the Legislative Assembly of Jamaica little better than a nuisance and obstruction,
offering the forms of liberty and the reality of the worst kind of oligarchy—a corrupt oligarchy. Thorough investigation we must have, but we have a strong, suspicion it will issue in
showing that by pressure of some kind, not difficult for the Im- perial Government to devise, the present legislative constitution
of Jamaica must be swept away, and a far stronger control given to the representative of Her Majesty. In the meantime all Eng- land will call for a searching investigation into the bloody measures adopted to suppress the rebellion.