TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE NEWS FROM JAMAICA.
THE readers of all newspapers except the leading journal have been pretty completely informed this week of the condition of affairs in Jamaica, during the month which inter- vened between the riot at Morant Bay and the assembling of the Jamaica Legislature on the 7th November. The Times, for the first time in our experience, while giving its own opinion in support of the colonial authorities, has totally sup- pressed the only evidence on which any opinion can be formed. While all the other daily papers were on Wednesday and Thureday full of the most minute accounts from the special correspondents of the Jamaica Standard and other colonial journals as to the process which went by the name of suppres- sion of the rebellion,'—the readers of the Times had the advan- tage only of perusing Governor Eyre's address to the Legisla- ture of Jamaica, and a few carefully culled extracts, the drift of which, taken thus alone, was to persuade the English public that, owing to the excessive moderation of the authorities, 'strong' measures had ceased even too early for the safety of the colony. Even Mr. Reuter's telegram reporting, and rejoicing in, the execu- tion of 2,000 negroes—more than 100 persons for every loyal man sacrificed in the riot, more than 50 for every loyal man killed or wounded in it—was deliberately excluded from its columns. As the Times is still probably the only daily paper seen by large numbers of the most influential people in the country, it becomes needful even for a weekly journal to give more attention to the details of the last news from Jamaica than would be usually necessary.
For precisely one whole lunar month it appears that the Governor deliberately delivered up the negroes of the eastern end of the island to the military, "for the destruction of the flesh,"—whether for the salvation of the spirit remains to be seen. The special correspondent of the Jamaica Standard at Morant Bay writes, for instance, on the 28th October :— " There is one continual scene of hanging day by day, and it becomes a matter for consideration whether the burial- of so many people (packed, as I heard a blue-jacket say, like sar- dines ') in the town is not likely to produce some serious epidemic here ; already the effluvia of the dead bodies com- mence to taint the atmosphere. Last night particularly dis- agreeable effluvia, arising from the graves in which these dead bodies are interred, pervaded the entire town, and it was not without difficulty that one could avoid getting nauseated. This ought to be looked after ; it is a matter of vital import- ance." And his minute records from day to day amply bear out the evidence which he gives. He adds on the same date,—a full nine days before he records with regret and misgiving that the Governor had proclaimed a rest from the duty of slaughter, and had looked upon the work of destruction to find it very good,—with praiseworthy modesty for a special correspondent, butt- a modesty evidently the result of a certain monotony which had begun to per- vade the work of hanging and shooting,—" it may not be altogether uninteresting to your readers to know that slightly over 1,050 rebels have been hanged or shot in the parish of St. Thomas-in-the-East up to date, and it is not at all un- likely that ere the different courts-martial close their sittings, there will be far over 2,000 who will have paid the penalty of their vile attempt to exterminate the white and coloured races of this island.' The same writer reports on the 7th Nov., the day that the Legislature met, that "there has been rather a general dulness in the movement this side with regard to the rebellion since my last,"—the writer's playful allusion is to the language of City articles, and he means to tell us that the 'inquiry' for executionershad not been so brisk, that Morant Bay gallows were 'dull and drooping,' and inferior rebels 'went off heavily,'—and he attributes it, quite rightly no doubt, to Governor Eyre's premature clemency.
The writer is a moderate man, and does not wish to be severe on Governor Eyre, but he evidently expressed the English public opinion of the island with regard to the too sanguine and merciful disposition of the ruler who had taken this dangerous step so soon :— .
" We are bound to acknowledge the motives of good which have prompted those in authority to relax the rigour of action hitherto pursued towards the rebels ; but really there is not an inhabitant of the parish who is not surprised at the extraordinary.clemeney thus shown. I for one, who live in the parish—who know the people more or less—who have seen the.riot and rescue of Saturday, the 7th—have witnessed the scenes of the llth and subsequent days— have watched with care the impression on those executed, those pardoned, and those who have not been arrested—say with perfect confidence that clemency has come too soon. This has not been a riot and massacre arising out of the hot blood of the moment, but it is only a part of a grand bloody drama, planned during nearly two years—hatched with all the venom that could be given to it during its incubation, and which can only be crushed out by exterminating on the gallows every active accomplice of the vile. plot."
All the details given indicate that the number of " rebels " killed is not exaggerated by the correspondent of the Jamaica Standard. Captain Porde, in command of an irregular troop of cavalry, in a despatch taken by some for bitter irony on the savage orders of his superiors—but we incline to think it bond fide sympathy with them—reporting that 160 negroes were shot in one short march from Port Antonio to Man- chioneal, seven shot in Manchioneal, and three beyond,— adds,—" This is a 'picture of martial law. The soldiers enjoy it, the inhabitants have to dread it. If they run on their approach, they are shot for running away." And this account is strictly confirmed by the reports of the other officers. For example, Lieutenant Adcock reports to Brigadier-General Nelson on the 25th October, "We came so suddenly upon these two villages [John's Town and Beckfotd] that the rebels had no time to retire with their plunder ; nearly 300 rushed down into a gully, but I could not get a single shot, the bushes being so thick ; we could all distinctly hear their voices in the wood all round, but after the first rush not a man was seen, and to follow them with any advantage was impossible." So the lieutenant contented himself with burning seven houses and one meeting-house in Beckford, and four houses in John's Town. The only vestige of any resistance on the part of " rebels " thus pursued is the story of some negroes pursued by the Maroons, who took refuge in trees and attempted unsuccessfully to pick off their pursuers with guns from their elevated position. In general there seem to have been two reasons recognized as adequate for killing negroes ;—(1) running away in numbers, as in the passage we have just seen ; (2) being alone, and not running away. Negroes in this last condition were considered "stragglers" and when not shot from an unfortunate deficiency in any one willing to assert their guilt, were " catted." Thus, the Provost-Marshal "fell in with a straggler who could give no satisfactory account of him- self. He was at once given in charge of the police, conducted to the station, and fifty lashes with the cat administered to him 'by, way of caution." This last phrase for the torture of persons who are not even accused of any crime, seems to be the invention of the "worthy Provost-Marshal" of Morant Bay ; the Jamaica Standard's special correspondent tells us that as unfortu- nately the prisons could not hold all who were suspected, "the only alternative is to scour their backs well, and let them go, in the hope that the severe castigation which they receive (to quote from the worthy Provost-Marshal) will be a caution to them,' and will make them wiser and better men.'" The record of this precautionary catting, administered to women no- less than men, is repeated again and again. In one case ninety- nine prisoners "of both sexes" were released with catting, the writer noting as an exceptional circumstance that he believes "they were not all flogged, some of them having been let down easily."
But we have quoted quite enough to show the sort of pro- ceedings which went on for twenty-eight days in so lively and "exciting a style, that when at last the occupation ceased, a sense of general "dulness" and ennui pervaded the scene of the execu- tions, and in spite of the seriously inconvenient effluvia of dead negroes the soldiers and planters would have willingly resumed their labours. Now, is there in addition to these minute and ex- tended records of the "suppression of the rebellion," any addi- tional newsby the last mail justifying the panic of the colony, and palliating what, whetherhe was guilty or innocent, must still, on account of the illegality of his trial, be called the judicial murder of Mr. Gordon, and the letting loose of the savage Maroons on thenegro population? Governor Eyre, in his address to the Jamaica Legislature deliberately calls the outbreak "a diaboli- cal conspiracy to murder the white and coloured inhabitants of this colony ;" he maintains that the colony is still standing on a volcano, and he aski the Legislature to abolish the Consti- tution, not in order to get a more impartial government, but one more capable of dealing suddenly and violently with sudden and violent dangers. What sort of evidence does he produce of these important and alarming assertions ? As yet, none. The Governor admits that there was absolutely no organization among the negroes. Not a casualty has occurred to our troops. Against Mr. Gordon, who has been treated as the mainspring of the rebellion, the only published evidence was a placard, issued nearly three months previously, summoning the miserable inhabitants of St. Thomas-in-the East to meet and protest against their grievances,—a placard full of loyalty to the Queen, and though denouncing the con- duct of Baron Kettelhodt and others as politically unjust and mischievous, yet so temperate in tone that in a Church-rate quarrel at Braintree it would have been thought faint-hearted, and Mr. Bright would assuredly have described it as the com- position of "some amiable but not robust politician." Whether this is the only evidence against Mr. Gordon of course we eatmot say. But it is allthat the Jamaica Government, who must know the advantage of justifying that extraordinary execution —and for a breach of law much less grave the governor of an African colony was hanged in 1801—have chosen to put forth. It is indeed asserted that an overseer of Mr. Gordon's called Lawrence, residing on an estate known as the Rhine Estate, advised Dr. Major not to go to Morant Bay on the 11th, and -told Mrs. Major later in the day that her husband would be quite safe, but that he was afraid Baron Kettelhodt and Mr. Herschell 'were doomed. Mr. Gordon, however, died solemnly asserting his absolute ignorance that any riot or rising whatever had been con- templated, and his accusers must be hard pressed for evidence against him if they rely on the presumption that because one of his subordinates in the neighbourhood of the rioters, though at a considerable distance from his master, expected violence and blood on the morning of the day of the riot, Mr. Gordon must %aye plotted and arranged it. We have no wish to prejudge matters, but we think the presumptive evidence grows stronger each mail that the judicial murder of Mr. Gordon was the murder of a morally innocent man, as well as a pure illegality. We shall be happy to know the contrary. But Governor Eyre is singularly infatuated if he withholds from the public the most effective apology for his own proceedings. The tone of his wild address to the Legislature, in which he ascribes the rising to "the misapprehensions and misrepresentations of pseudo- philanthropists in England," to the "personal, scurrilous, vin- dictive, and disloyal writings of a licentious and unscrupulous press," and to the "misguided counselof certain ministers of reli- gion sadly so miscalled, —remember he has arrested a few edi- tors and Baptist preachers, and hanged one of them,—again, the measures of confiscation which he proposes to the Legislature, taken together with his absolute silence on the grounds justify- ing his actions, seem to us to be the plainest possible evidence that he has been carried away by the panic around him, and is quite unfit for his post. One of his friends proposes, we see, "to regulate places of worship, meeting-houses, and services therein" by law, and "to embody the Maroons as a permanent auxiliary militia force ;"—indeed the state of feeling evidently prevalent in the island would quite war- rant "a Bill to legalize precautionary eatting," or "a Bill to punish the negro crime of straggling," and "to inflict summary penalties on all negroes guilty of being made prisoners without sufficient evidence of rebellion or other guilt."
We feel little doubt, when we consider Lord Russell's answer to the Manchester deputation the other day, given before the new mail had arrived, that the Government will take the same view of Governor Eyre's unfitness for the post which is taken by almost all impartial politicians who are not connected with the Government. These proceedings in Jamaica, if justified by the nation, should close our mouths for generations against such remonstrances as we addressed to Russia concerning her dealings in Warsaw, or to Austria for her government in Hungary after 1849. When reading some of the most popular English journals, we almost suspect that the national indignation expressed in England
-against these proceedings was mere Pharisaism, the attempt to pick a mote out of our brother's eye while retaining a
beam in our own eye. If indeed Englishmen have ceased to believe in the human nature of the negro just as Americans are beginning to believe in it, the matter would be explained. But in that case, let us at least be frank, — exchange our reform agitation for a movement to restore slavery in all our West Indian colonies, and invite the ruined planters of Mississippi and South Carolina to repay us for the 'sympathy we lavished on their fruitless war by undertaking to superintend our tuition in the re-enactment of Black Codes, and the abolition of the crude and dangerous laws founded on the assumption that negroes have any concern with justice. To export the masters instead of the slaves might suit the United States almost as well.