rose to call attention to the concluding paragraph of the Report of the Royal Jamaica Commission, namely—That the punishments inflicted were excessive; that the punishment of death was unnecessarily frequent; that the floggings were reckless, and at Bath positively barbarous; that the burning of 1,000 houses was wanton and cruel;and to the further statement of the Commission that among the sufferers—There were many who were neither directly nor indirectly parties to the disturbances;and to move the following Resolutions:—He said: No one need fear that in supporting these Resolutions he would run any risk of hampering or increasing the responsibility of any Governor or other 1764 official who might have to deal with any insurrection that might arise on future occasions. He did not ask the House to express any opinion whatever upon anything that was done during the suppression of the disturbances. On the other hand, he wished it to be clearly understood that these Resolutions meant nothing else than a decisive and emphatic condemnation of the excessive severity with which the disturbances had been punished after they had been suppressed and authority had been completely restored; while, per contra, those who might vote against these Resolutions would in the first place be incidentally censuring the course taken by the late Government, but much more than that, they would, so far as in them lay, be expressing a deliberate approval on behalf of the British people of the excessive severity with which the disturbances had been punished. With regard to the proposal for compensation, of course the funds must be supplied by the mother country, as the acts were done by English officers under the authority of the Governor. Now, it had been officially proved that besides mill-houses and so forth, 1,000 dwellings had been destroyed by the troops. A great deal had been said about these houses being mere hovels of no value. But on this point he would read the description given of them by one of the gentlemen who took part in destroying them, and which appeared in the Army and Navy Gazette of December 16. The writer said—
- 1. "That this House deplores the excessive punishments which followed the suppression of the disturbances of October last in the parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica, and especially the unnecessary frequency with which the punishment of death was inflicted.
- 2. "That this House, while approving the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in dismissing Mr. Eyre from the Governorship of the Island, at the same time concurs in the view expressed by the late Secretary of the Colonies, that 'while any very minute endeavour to punish acts which may now be the subject of regret' would not be expedient, still, that great offences ought to be punished;' and that grave excesses of severity on the part of any Civil, Military, or Naval Officers ought not to be passed over with impunity.
- 3. "That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to award compensation to those whose property was wantonly and cruelly destroyed, and to the families of those who were put to death illegally.
- 4. "That, since considerably more than 1,000 persons are proved to have been executed or severely flogged on the charge of participating in these disturbances, all further punishment on account of them ought to be remitted."This morning found us again on the march for Somerset, a rebel settlement. I could have wished to sketch this extraordinary place. In Ross Island the rebels lived in comfort, at Mount Lebanus in affluence, but in Somerset it was downright luxury; boarded houses, cedar tables and chairs, quantities of beautiful glass and china, carved mahogany bedsteads, &c., display an amount of comfort unknown in England even, and when to this we add the horses mules, pigs, poultry, and extensive provision grounds, it makes it all the more remarkable that people like this should rebel. Whoever wants to see a crop of coffee let him go to Somerset and Mount Lebanus. Passing through this beautiful spot, and firing every house in it, except three, we then recrossed the river.The late Governor of Jamaica, Sir Henry Barkley, stated in one of his despatches that he was reminded by the negro settlements in the hills of the villages in Switzerland, and says—They have a decided air of progressive civilization and comfort about them," and speaks of "the thousands of well-cultivated settlements, with their tastefully arranged cottages and gardens, bespeaking the prosperity and comfort of 1765 the occupants, and presenting a cheering prospect of the future.Let him add that the suffering of the people from the destruction of their houses was shown to have been most severe. The misery of the women and children from hunger and cold in the mountains was actually mentioned by one officer in his despatch. With regard to the last Resolution there were at the moment when he was speaking, fifteen persons under sentence of penal servitude for life, eleven for twenty years, two for ten years, and another for two years' hard labour, on account of their connection with this so-called rebellion.
§ COLONEL NORTH
Can the hon. Member give a detailed account of the crimes for which those men were sentenced? [Cries of "Order!"]
said, he did not complain of the interruption of the hon, and gallant Gentleman. He would enter fully upon that part of the subject presently. Surely Her Majesty's Government might well be satisfied with the execution and flogging of nearly 1,100 persons, and the destruction of 1,000 homes belonging to the so-called rebels, and it would be only just and prudent to pardon those few unhappy wretches, the gleanings after the harvest of vengeance. He must now dismount, if he could, some of the pleas that had been advanced in defence of the authorities. The main plea that had been put forward was that the outbreak at Morant Bay had its origin in a deep, dark, widespread conspiracy to massacre the whole white population of Jamaica, to overthrow the authority of the Queen, and to establish a Republic after the model of that of Hayti. Perhaps it might suffice if he quoted the deliberate statement of the Royal Commission, that—The conclusion at which they had arrived was decisive as to the non-existence of any such widespread conspiracy.But lest anyone should dispute the dictum of the Commission, he felt it necessary to enter with some minuteness into this very important question. The outbreak at Morant Bay clearly arose from some violent local squabbles about the land on which the negroes had settled, and from which they were expelled. Their irritation was greatly increased by their feeling that justice was not to be got in the Courts, and the negroes, debarred from what they supposed to be their rights, were seized with a desire for vengeance against the indivi- 1766 duals by whom they conceived themselves to have been wronged. He should not be justified in concealing his belief that at any rate the leaders of the riot at Morant Bay meant mischief, perhaps even murder against Mr. Herschell and Baron Ketelholdt, who had taken an active part against them. A negro named Lawrence on the morning of that day advised Dr. Major not to go to the vestry meeting, and afterwards informed Mrs. Major that "there was a great disturbance, but that she need not be under any apprehension about the doctor." He had no doubt the aim of the rioters was to murder, or, at any rate, to illtreat those two individuals, and there was no reason whatever, except vague bits of talk reported afterwards by excited persons, for believing that they had any design of overthrowing the authority of the Queen or massacreing the white inhabitants. They came down a mere unorganized horde, as every witness but one or two described them, armed only with the hooks used in cutting canes and bushes, and sticks and stones, except the muskets which they snatched from the police-station on their road, and which had neither flints nor powder. When they advanced upon the Court House, finding the Volunteers drawn up in front of them, they flung stones, wounding some of the company, and among others its captain, who thereupon, quite justifiably, for the Riot Act had been read, gave the order to fire. According to Corporal Marks some twenty negroes fell killed or wounded. This maddened the mob, and, rushing upon the Volunteers before they could reload, they seized some of their rifles and drove them all inside the Court House. The Volunteers began firing from the windows, the negroes, in return, firing upon them; but it was a remarkable fact that those wounded in the Court House were shown in evidence to have been shot with gravel, not with bullets. The negroes at last set the Court House on fire, overpowered the whites, of whom eight civilians and seven Volunteers, making a total of fifteen, were killed, besides three old pauper negroes said to have perished in the ruins. Thirty-six or thirty-seven others escaped with their lives, though mostly more or less injured. During the whole of that night the town was in complete possession of the rioters; yet not a single other white person was touched. Did this square with the theory of a design of massacre? Moreover, Paul Bogle, the undoubted head 1767 of the movement, retired on the night of the 11th with a large body of rioters to Stony Gut, about six miles north-west of Morant Bay; and though he, if any one, knew what was meant, he had nothing to do with the two murders, these being committed by a mob without a leader, which started from Morant Bay, and traversed the eastern end of the island, plundering on their way several houses whose owners had fled. A book-keeper, said to have been a mulatto, was beaten and wounded while nobly defending his master's property, and died sixteen days afterwards. Some of the rioters turned aside to attack Amity Hall. The occupier, Mr. Hire, who had made himself exceedingly bated for the part he had taken in expelling the negroes from the back lands, was cruelly beaten and died the next morning. His son and two others were also wounded, but another Englishman, who was ill in bed, was unmolested. The next morning when some of the rioters returned and found Mr. Creighton severely wounded, they tended him with great care, and he recovered. They did not kill any other white or coloured persons, but went on along the east coast, plundering the houses which had been deserted on their approach, until on Sunday, the 15th, they reached Elmwood, about thirty miles from Morant Bay. On that day troops were landed at Port Antonio, twelve miles distant, and either owing to the news of the landing or to the movement having spent itself, the disturbances then entirely ceased. Between 100 and 200 English people were on these estates, and no doubt they were terribly frightened; but, although the negroes were in complete possession of the disturbed districts from Thursday morning to Sunday, the 15th, two, and only two, persons were killed, against one of whom they had special causes of irritation, and both these were killed on the first day after the outbreak. But what appeared to him absolutely to refute the surmise of an intended massacre was that though the Manchioneal district was in the very centre of the disturbances Mr. Fleming, a magistrate, and two Miss Flemings, the Rev, Alfred Bourne, two Master Bournes and a nurse, Miss Gibbs, and Mr. Dobell remained at Bettis Hope, and not one of them was so much as insulted, although their presence was well known to all the negroes of the district. In fact, Mr. and Miss Fleming intrusted themselves to the negroes for concealment during the first 1768 few hours of alarm. Judging the rioters by what they actually did, and not by a few wild cries or words, the irresistible conclusion was that a general massacre was no part of their design. At first, moreover, it was generally believed that they intended also to seize on the persons of white women; but, in fact, only one coloured woman, Mrs. Hutchins, was treated with much insolence, and that was all. The next plea by which the excessive punishments were justified was that the negroes had been guilty of such horrible cruelty to some of their victims as to demand the meting out to them of almost any amount of vengeance. On that point he did not think it possible for the warmest advocates of Governor Eyre to justify his conduct. In his despatch of October 20, nine days after the massacre, the Governor wrote officially to Mr. Cardwell—The most frightful atrocities were perpetrated. The Rev. V. Herschell is said to have had his tongue cut out whilst still alive, and an attempt is said to have been made to skin him. One person, Mr. Charles Price, was ripped open and his entrails taken out. One gentleman, Lieutenant Hall, is said to have been pushed into an out-building, which was then set on fire, and kept there until he was literally roasted alive. Many are said to have had their eyes scooped out. Heads were cleft open, and the brains taken out. The Baron's fingers were cut off, and carried away as trophies by the murderers;and then Mr. Eyre went on to attribute these atrocities to the women who were present. And now it was proved beyond all dispute before the Commission, by the medical men and others who examined the bodies, that the Rev. V. Herschell's tongue was not cut out, that no attempt had been made to skin him; that Mr. Price, the negro, was not ripped open, and that Lieutenant Hall was not roasted alive; that no eyes were scooped out, no brains taken out, nor, as some said, mixed with gunpowder and drunk; and the Baron's fingers, though chopped with the cutlass, were still hanging to his hand. How could the Governor of the Island be justified in not having taken the small trouble of inquiring from Dr. Major or Dr. Gerard whether these rumours were true? The result of his neglect was terrible. It was an actual fact that a girl—she was said to have been a fine-looking young woman—was tried by a court martial and sentenced to be hung, but recommended to mercy. Brigadier General Nelson officially informed General O'Connor that he hung her in spite of this recommendation to mercy. And these were his own almost incredible words. He said— 1769The atrocities perpetrated by women on the occasion of the massacre of Baron Von Kettleholdt communicated to me verbally by the custos, Mr. Georges, decided me to confirm the sentence, and ignore the recommendation for mercy.That is to say, General Nelson hung this woman, not because she had been proved to have perpetrated these atrocities, but because he was told by Georges — who would appear again in a most disgraceful aspect—that women had committed atrocities; whereas, ten minutes' inquiry would have shown that no atrocities had been committed at all. So much for that plea. A third plea had been loudly put forward by some of the more foolish advocates of the authorities—namely, that the hanging, shooting, and flogging of these 1,100 people was necessary, because, forsooth, the force at the disposal of the Governor was so small that had it not been, as it were, supplemented by measures calculated to strike terror into the disaffected population, the authority of the Queen, nay the very existence of the European population, would have been exposed to extreme danger. This view was expressed with great force and clearness by the hon. Member for Beverley (Sir H. Edwards) in addressing his constituents last winter. He said that but for these severities not a white person would have been left alive in the island. Now, had the Governor's force really been so slender and the enemy so powerful that it was the turn of a hair whether the European population was massacred and the colony lost or not, then he (Mr. Buxton) admitted that we could not find fault with almost anything that might be done in such a fearful emergency. But what were the real facts? The official return from Admiral Hope, of October 9, proved that at the time of the outbreak there were in Jamaica thirteen vessels of war, and just 1,700 men, whereof eight vessels and 1,135 men were available at short notice for active service about the island. In the Governor's very first despatch he referred to most of these vessels, and further mentioned two regiments of regular troops, while in a subsequent despatch he stated the number of these troops, at the time of the outbreak, at having been 1,000 men. Two additional battalions were immediately fetched from Barbadoes and Nassau, giving him 700 additional troops, so that he had 1,700 regular disciplined soldiers, in addition to the force of 1,135 men on board the various men-of-war. This amounted, therefore, to a regular force of nearly 3,000 men. More 1770 troops were ordered from Halifax, and two vessels of war were sent to his assistance from Cuba. But, again, in his very first despatch he speaks of the militia under Colonel Lewis, the Volunteers, who soon amounted to 700 men, the pensioners, the marines, the mounted police, the Royal Artillery, and a force of some 300 or 400 maroons, under an experienced colonel. At the head of this very considerable force was Major General O'Connor, Brigadier General Nelson, and Admiral Hope. What was this overwhelming enemy with which this force could not be expected to cope, and into whom, therefore, it was necessary to strike terror by measures of tremendous severity? Why, in the first place, the enemy had no existence. The Governor himself said that the so-called rebels had no organization. Their only arms were the hooks with which they cut the sugar canes, and some very few guns; and the only difficulty with which the troops had to contend was that of discovering the rebels, whose only object was to escape. In one of his despatches to General O'Connor, Governor Eyre said—Even in the districts where the rebellion actually broke out there was no attempt to resist the troops. An organized force of thirty-five men marched through the heart of the disturbed districts, from Port Morant to the Rhine beyond Bath.Before those severities, to which he should subsequently refer, were exercised, it had become evident that the movement in St. Thomas-in-the-East had not been followed by the faintest shadow of a shade of disturbance in any other part of the island. Silly people went on writing panic-stricken letters, but even what might have seemed at first the splendid success of the rioters, had not stirred a single negro in any other district to move a finger against the authorities. In fact, he was almost reminded of the old story of the skipper's reply to his terrified lady passenger, "Yes, ma'am, there's a great deal of fear, but there arn't no danger." Looking to these facts, he was utterly amazed that any one, who had any regard for the honour of England, dared to maintain that all this hanging, shooting, and flogging that went on for more than a month was necessary, because otherwise the negroes would have shaken off the Queen's authority, and driven the white inhabitants into the sea. Perhaps he had made too much of that despicable plea. He was sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite would scorn to put forward an argument at once 1771 so cowardly and so futile. Then, again, it had been said that Governor Eyre had shown such wisdom and coolness in refusing to put Kingston under martial law, when strongly urged to do so, that we ought to confide in his judgment with regard to the other measures taken by him. Why, did those who urged this, remember that Kingston was forty miles to the west of Morant Bay, while the rioters went away to the eastward; that Kingston was separated from the disturbed districts by a chain of mountains; that General O'Connor was there with a considerable force; that not the faintest semblance of disaffection was exhibited by the people in that district, and that the occasion on which the Governor was thus urged by some frightened people was on his return from Morant Bay, when, according to his own official statement, the rebellion was got under. Had he proclaimed martial law at Kingston, at that time, he could never have held up his head again; he would have lowered himself to the level of such panic-stricken cowards as Dr. Bowerbank. With regard to Brigadier General Nelson, a despatch of his had been quoted a hundred times, as showing his prudence and humanity. Why, that despatch was not written, until the whole thing was over, on November 3. Nay, it was not addressed to any of the columns that went after the rebels, but to an ensign who was sent with a company to occupy a permanent post on the mountains. So much for the pleas that had been put forward to justify the acts of the authorities. He now came to the question, what these acts really were—and he would at the outset make two concessions, which might almost seem to go to the verge of extravagance. But he did not desire to go an inch beyond what truth and justice required; and for fear of running the shadow of a risk of any possible exaggeration, he would in the first place resist the strong temptation to make any use of that vast mass of evidence, much of it of a most telling kind, which had been given before the Commission by the negroes or their friends; nor would he use the abundant narratives written by eye-witnesses, written at the time or afterwards; nor would he deal with any cases which had already drawn the attention of the public; he would not enter into the atrocities committed by Provost Marshal Ramsay, or the sufferings of Mr. Levien and Mr. Bruce, or on what, primâ facie, would certainly appear to be the murders committed by Ensign Cullen 1772 and Surgeon Morris; nor on the doings of Colonel Fife when hunting the fugitives with his Maroons, nor on the terrible case of Mr. Gordon, because he understood that it would be brought forward by far abler hands. He could not, however, refrain from expressing his deepest indignation at the way in which efforts were made to ruin the character of that man, who in his heart he believed to have been of a most generous, noble, and kindly nature—and especially his scorn for Dr. Bowerbank, not only for the active part he took in his prosecution, but for coming to this country for the express purpose of blackening his memory. Throwing aside all this vast amount of material he had mentioned, he would confine himself wholly to official statistics, returns, and despatches. Of course, that would preclude him from any attempt at eloquence; it would make his speech dry and dull. Nor could he hope to touch the feelings of the House; but he believed he should in reality attain best what he wanted—namely, the deliberate decision of the House of Commons on the case, by avoiding anything that could be thought sensational, and appealing to the calm judgment of the House alone. Again, he would make another still larger concession. As he had said at the outset, he would refrain from touching on the acts done while the disturbances lasted. For argument's sake he would admit the truth of what had been so often said, that it was not right for us, sitting at home at ease, to criticize the acts done by men in a great emergency. He would not, then, dwell upon what was done until the insurrection had become entirely extinct, and the moment of peril and alarm was completely passed. Well, then, the dates of the events became of great importance, and he begged the attention of the House to them. The Report of the Commission showed that on the following Sunday Paul Bogle's party at Stony Gut were panic-stricken at the rumoured approach of the troops, and fled; while the other mob of rioters who had gone along the east coast vanished, either on hearing of the landing of the troops twelve miles off at Port Antonio, or because the movement had spent its force. But in the Report of the Commissioners before them, there was no dispute as to the facts he had mentioned. The rebellion, disturbance, riot, or whatever they might call it, became extinct on Sunday, the 15th. [Mr. BUXTON proceeded to quote a large number of extracts from Governor Eyre's despatches and his address to the 1773 Legislature of Jamaica, and an official entry, the upshot of which was that the rebellion had been completely got under by Sunday, the 15th.] The hon. Gentleman proceeded to say that by that time it was known that the outbreak on the previous Wednesday had not produced the faintest disturbance in any other part of Jamaica beyond the parish of St. Thomas-in-the-East. He should not be acting at all unfairly towards the authorities, if he took Monday, October 16, as his starting-point. However, he wished to go to the furthest extreme of fairness. He would, therefore, concede that this was too short a time for the panic to have subsided. He would give the authorities a few days more for growing cool. He would jump on as far as the end of the week after that of the riot —until, in fact, the tenth day in the history of the affair. By that day, beyond all possibility of denial, everything like peril or panic, or what might be called an emergency, was over. The Government wrote officially to Mr. Cardwell, saying that on the 21st he refused the aid of two Spanish vessels of war, "because long before their arrival we had got the rebellion under." Everything, therefore, done after that Friday, the 20th of October, was done in deliberate cold blood, not as precaution but as punishment alone. Now, let them mark this. On that day, October 20, fifty-three persons were executed. On and after that day, exclusive of all who had perished before, considerably more than 300 persons were put to death. But now he would go into detail; and, first of all, he would take the proceedings of Lieutenant Adcock. Lieutenant Adcock, in his despatch, considered the state of the country quiet throughout the district. He expressly says, in his despatch, "I consider the state of the country perfectly quiet throughout this district;" but on and after Friday, the 20th, he burnt fourteen houses and a meeting-house, and executed thirteen persons in that perfectly quiet district, besides flogging a large number more. Captain Ford again, who commanded a troop of mounted Volunteers, at the very end of October, said—This morning we made a raid, and got back by 4 p.m.; then had a court martial. Several were flogged without court martial, on a simple examination. One man, a schoolmaster, got fifty lashes; one man 100; eight were condemned to be hanged or shot.But now they would turn to the district about Manchioneal, where that party of 1774 English had remained perfectly untouched in the house of the Rev. Alfred Bourne, thirty miles away from Morant Bay. He would make no complaint of the fact that seventy persons had been put to death before Friday, October 20, but he found that on that day seven persons were executed, eighteen more before the end of October, and in November nineteen in addition; and scarcely any of those were accused of anything worse than rebellion. James Henry, for example, was charged with riot and stealing; Thomas Miller, with plunder; Samuel Bailey, as a constable joining rebels. Nay, even so late as November 11, a month after the outbreak, Alexander Wilson was hung as having been a spy, and inciting to rebellion. One man was put to death for blowing a shell at Manchioneal, another man for being concerned in rebellion, and so forth. In addition to these executions we find that at Manchioneal Captain Hole condemned thirty men to 100 or 150 lashes each, and many to lesser amounts, not one of whom had committed any offence greater than that of being with the rioters, and stealing. One, for example, was condemned to 150 lashes for having in his possession a mustard pot belonging to some Mr. Jones. Seventy-three persons were condemned to tremendous corporal punishment, and he (Mr. Buxton) blushed to say that in the official list seventeen women were stated to have received thirty lashes each with the cat-o'-nine-tails, though only charged with stealing. But this was not all. Exclusive of the above, sixty-one persons were condemned to long terms of imprisonment by Captain Luke or Captain Hole, of these, ten received 100 lashes, but in addition were condemned, six of them to ten, and four of them to five years' hard labour, and this for no other offence whatever, except that of having used seditious language, which in the eye of English law is no crime at all. Nearly all the rest had received fifty lashes each for the same offence, and had in addition been condemned to hard labour or penal servitude. Exclusive of all these, Captain Luke and Captain Hole, so late as October 28, and going on to November 13, condemned twenty-nine women for various periods of imprisonment and hard labour, sixteen of them to five years' hard labour. Of all the atrocities—for he would not hesitate to call them so—committed by Captain Hole and Captain Luke, none was more painful than the fact that a man 1775 named Donaldson was actually put to death by Captain Hole simply because he would not betray his friend "who was believed" —those were the official words—" who was believed to be guilty of complicity in the murder of Mr. Hire." Without the deliberate assurance of the Commissioners to that effect, could the House have credited that an English officer put a man to death in cold blood because he would not betray his friend? Again, three of Captain Hole's soldiers straggled away, or rather went out on a little shooting expedition of their own, and reported on their return that they had shot ten rebels, three of them supposed to have been mixed up in the murder of Mr. Hire; and they brought with them two cartloads of plundered property, part of which had belonged to that gentleman. Captain Hole's idea of discipline was shown by his writing an official despatch to Brigadier General Nelson, in which he reported "that these three men had done good service." How completely the rebellion was extinct at this time was clear from a subsequent passage, in which he said—A great number of prisoners have been brought in, all of whom seem to vie with one another to make amends for their late delinquencies by capturing all the people concerned in the late rebellion.It was almost amusing to find this officer claiming to have rescued the Rev. Alfred Bourne and the party at Bettis Hope, who had not been in the smallest danger, and who only wished to remain quietly where they were. A black soldier, a deserter, shot ten persons without trial, and purely on his own hook; but not the slightest attempt was ever made by Captain Hole to identify or to punish him. Turning westwards towards Monkland, not a single act of slaughter, only one of plunder, was attributed to the rebels in the whole of this district. But here, again, on Friday, October 20th, no less than twenty-nine persons were executed by Colonel Hobbs, among them Arthur Wellington, whom he put up to be shot at, at 400 yards, and who was stated by the most trustworthy witness not to have been killed until the seventh shot. He did not complain of the leniency shown by the Commission to the authorities, but delicacy of feeling, perhaps, was carried to excess when they justified this transaction. After the melancholy end of Colonel Hobbs' career, he (Mr. Buxton) need not cast any blame upon him, but in truth the responsibility of his proceedings 1776 lay elsewhere. In his evidence before the Commission poor Colonel Hobbs, when required to do so by the Commission, produced a letter which he said was not a private letter. It came to him in an official envelope; it was signed by Colonel Elkington, with the addition of his initials as Deputy Adjutant General; and Colonel Hobbs swore that this letter it was that caused him to act as he had done. This letter was as follows; it was dated so late as October 18:—Dear Colonel,—I send you an order to push on at once to Stony Gut, but I trust you are there already. Hole is doing splendid service with his men all about Manchioneal, and shooting every black man who cannot account for himself (sixty on line of march.) Nelson at Port Antonio hanging like fun by court martial. I hope you will not send any black prisoners. Do punish the blackguards well.This letter was followed the next day by a formal despatch, in which the Adjutant General ordered Colonel Hobbs to make Monklands his head-quarters—Hunting out all the rebels you find, and the Major General hopes you will deal in a more summary manner with them, and on no account forward prisoners to this place.Unquestionably, after receipt of these despatches, it was not Colonel Hobbs, but his superiors, on whom the responsibility mainly rested of the executions that ensued. There was, however, one feature with regard to them which deserved some notice. It was officially stated by Colonel Hobbs that the twenty-seven persons put to death on the 20th of October were all executed on the testimony of one single witness; and it turned out that this witness had himself been sentenced to death, but his life had been spared on the express condition of his making himself useful to the authorities. Besides the seventy-seven persons put to death, Colonel Hobbs flogged a large number, who, he says, "were chiefly youths and had been arrested as fugitives in the woods," and, he added, "the writhing and intense agony of the lash is frightful to witness." He goes on—I adopted a plan which has struck immense terror into these wretched men; far more than death; that is, I caused them to hang each other. They entreat to be shot to avoid this, which appears to me to be a far more dreadful ordeal to them than death;and then added, "I fired all the houses from which the inhabitants had fled;" and he afterwards goes on, "Your letter of approval of my proceedings has encouraged us to fresh energies," and accordingly the next day he shot four more and 1777 flogged several who were "indirectly connected with the rebellion." Strangely enough for an official despatch, Colonel Hobbs proceeded to remark that what he had seen was "calculated to endear a man to the Established Church." So far (continued the hon. Gentleman) we have been dealing with the proceedings of subordinate officers who had had no instructions beyond those contained in letters and despatches such as those from Colonel Elkington. Now, let us turn to what took place under the direct superintendence of the authorities. What a relief it must be to pass from the sickening scenes at Manchioneal and Monklands, to the administration of justice under old and experienced soldiers like General O'Connor and Brigadier General Nelson, nay, under the very eye of the Governor himself. Here again, starting with Friday, October 20, we find that on that day, at Morant Bay alone, 19 persons were hung. The next day, Saturday, 18 were hung. On Monday, 19, including poor Mr. Gordon. On Tuesday, 14; Wednesday, 10; Thursday, 13; Friday, 13; Saturday, 11. On the following Monday, October 30, 18 days after the outbreak, 12; on the Tuesday, 14; on the Wednesday, 15; and still later 23 more persons were hanged. I say "persons," because I grieve to say that seven of those who were hanged were women. It would naturally be supposed that the 189 persons who, in batches, day after day, were consigned to the hangman at Morant Bay alone, had been guilty of aiding at least in the slaughter of Europeans. That was not so; for the official proceedings proved that of these 189 persons only twenty-five were even so much as accused of having been guilty of murder, or assisting in the commission of any murders, or even of any attempted murders; while all the rest were consigned to the gallows at this one place, by this one tribunal, upon no other charge except that of having been engaged in the so-called rebellion; and of these rebels three were women, Justinia Taylor, Mary Ann Francis, and Letitia Geoghegan. Nor were these 160 or more persons, men and women, even rebels taken red-handed in armed resistance to authority. But what made this case still more terrible was the reflection that the trial of these poor wretches at Morant Bay was conducted by a court martial, consisting of Lieutenant Brand, assisted by Lieutenant Errington, or Lieutenant Taylor, and Ensign Kelly, or Ensign Cole; and these young gentlemen com- 1778 menced their proceedings at eleven in the morning, finished them in the afternoon, and then, says Brand, in his flippant and shameful evidence, "he went off to his dinner," while the poor wretches whom he had been condemning were put to death, often under circumstances of shocking torture. Lieutenant Errington, who superintended 130 executions, says—Occasionally the sailors had to assist the poor wretches to death, pulling them by the neck, or pushing the knot down closer to the neck;and we are told elsewhere, though not officially, that sometimes large stones were put upon the necks of the sufferers to put an end to their fearful struggles. But now here is another frightful fact. On the 30th of October, Governor Eyre officially proclaimed—That the wicked rebellion lately existing in certain parts of the county of Surrey had been subdued.He adds—The chief instigators thereof and actors therein have been visited with the punishment due to their heinous offences; and I am certified that the inhabitants of the districts lately in rebellion are desirous of returning to their allegiance.Now, will it be believed that on and after the day of the publication of these words more than 100 negroes were executed, of whom sixty-four were executed at Morant Bay, with the express sanction and approval of Brigadier Nelson? It would be said, no doubt, that these men who were put to death after this solemn proclamation of the Governor must, of course, have been murderers. That was not so. Of the sixty-four men hung at Morant Bay after the publication of this amnesty, forty-six were charged with rebellion only, not with complicity in any murder. But, besides all these, 202 persons were flogged at Morant Bay alone, and great numbers were also condemned to long terms of imprisonment. Only in a very few cases had it been possible to discover what grounds the officers constituting the courts martial had for proving the guilt imputed to the prisoners. The Commissioners had discovered that three persons were hung merely for having taken a part in the petty local riot some time before the outbreak at Morant Bay, while three others were convicted, to use the words of the Commissioners, "upon affidavits made behind their backs by persons who, for anything that appeared to the contrary, might perfectly well have given their evidence in open court." Five persons were 1779 convicted at Port Antonio, on the unconfirmed testimony of a man who had himself just been sentenced to death as a spy; and actually, one of the persons thus convicted on the evidence of the condemned man had been one of the witnesses against him. He then adverted to the case of George Macintosh, who was hung because he had, as the witness deposed, attended a meeting in Gordon's house, and had been much opposed to the "respectability of the parish," although he had been seen attempting to dissuade the rioters from committing further mischief. This charge was made by a petty local officer. What a shocking crime! Opposed to the respectability of the parish! And this man was hung on the very day when Governor Eyre was writing his despatch, sending away the two ships of war from Cuba, because, in his own words, the rebellion had been got under long before. But now let him give a single specimen of Lieutenant Brand's administration of Justice. On the 3rd of November, some days after the proclamation of amnesty, Lieutenant Brand's court martial tried seven men, and hung them. Not a single one of the seven was so much as accused of any complicity in any murder, but only of rebellion, and one of them of treason. Let us select the case of this traitor: they had an official minute of his trial. The leading witness against him was Mr. Georges, and Mr. Georges himself mentioned, as part of his accusation, that the prisoner had used some insolent words of himself. Now, Mr. Georges had been convicted on several occasions of assaults and other offences against the negroes about him. However, his main charge against Samuel Clarke was, that in July, three months before this outbreak, at one of the so-called Underhill meetings, Clarke used some words of a seditious character. The reporter who was at the meeting also came forward to give evidence against Clarke, and gave an account of his speech, which also might have been regarded as indicating disaffection; but then the reporter and Mr. Georges gave a perfectly different account of what he had said. But then, in addition to this, Mr. Georges declared that when Mr. Cardwell's reply to the Underhill meetings was posted up, this man Clarke actually said of it, "It's a damned lie; neither the Queen nor Mr. Cardwell has ever seen the petition from the poor people of St. Anne's." Lieutenant Brand was forced by the Commissioners to admit that this proclamation was not 1780 signed by the Queen, but only by Edward Cardwell, so that in fact this poor fellow was hung for treason because he had accused the late Secretary of State for the Colonies of telling a "damned lie." The poor fellow appealed to Mr. Georges whether he was not an industrious man—a carpenter, who often brought the canes from his little freehold to be ground at Mr. Georges' mill; and he further pleaded, that at the time of the outbreak he was not living in the disturbed district at all, or anywhere near there, and that on hearing he was looked for by the police, he gave himself up, and had now been in prison for seventeen days. When he (Mr. Buxton) read the minutes of the proceedings in this case, he could hardly believe his eyes when he found that nothing else was charged against the prisoner, and that there was not so much as the faintest hint of his having been connected in any way with the recent riots, and yet that he was sentenced to be hanged for words used months before. What could add to the blackness of this black story? He blushed to say there was more. He was almost ashamed to tell what followed. It was proved before the Commission by four several witnesses that Samuel Clarke, this poor industrious carpenter, was one of a batch of prisoners who were flogged the day before his execution by Provost Marshal Ramsay, simply, as it would seem, as a kind of little gratification for that worthy after the labours of the day. After the flogging Ramsay thus addressed them:— "Damned brutes: Damned Baptist brutes! Damned political brutes, lie down;" and then they were marched as usual to the hanging-ground to see the dying agonies of their fellow prisoners. The Attorney General's clerk also swore before the Commission that he was present when General O'Connor said to him, "Oh, Clarke, is that you? Your brother was hung three days ago, and you will be hung on one of those trees." The witness added that the poor fellow on hearing it trembled fearfully. Could anything else be added to the blackness of this story? Yes; in tracking it through the blue book he found to his amazement a despatch of Governor Eyre, which shows that actually this man Clarke was one of a batch of prisoners whom he sent himself on October 31, the day after his own proclamation, from Kingston, an unproclaimed district, to be tried, or rather to be executed, at Morant Bay. He refused to join in the prosecution of 1781 Mr. Eyre for the wilful murder of Mr. Gordon, because he thought he really believed that Gordon was a conspirator; but he had in vain searched for any possible explanation of his conduct in putting Clarke to death, except that Clarke had made himself hated by Mr. Georges. If so, the act was neither more nor less than murder. Such is a specimen of the treatment of the 189 persons who were put to death at this one place. He could have wished to close his hateful task, but he should be accused of a want of candour if he did not mention the proceedings of the court martial at Uppark Camp, which is highly praised by the Commissioners for the great regularity of its proceedings, in contrast, of course, with those of the other courts martial. It must be remembered that Uppark Camp is close to Kingston, forty miles from the disturbed districts, and was under the immediate eye of General O'Connor and Governor Eyre. Well, but the Commissioners themselves tell us that this court martial, whose great regularity they praise, actually hung one man against whom, say the Commissioners, the only offence charged was the use of a few words said to be seditious while he was confined in gaol for some other offence. This order was executed on the 27th of October. This same court martial, so admirable as compared with the others, on the 9th of November, ten days after Governor Eyre's own proclamation, hung Alexander Hargate for rebellion alone, and for alleged treasonable language. This same court martial, so highly praised, condemned a long list of persons to most fearful punishments, not for anything they had done, but for words they were said to have said, which, as he said before, in the eye of the law of England, is no crime at all. In fact, when you have no overt act, nothing but somebody else's loose evidence of what somebody said, proof of the commission of the crime is absolutely impossible. Well, for this crime of talking. Richard Houghton was condemned to 100 lashes and ten years' hard labour; Richard Afflick to 50 lashes and five years; James Frazer to 100 lashes and five years; Joseph Scott to 100 lashes and ten years; William Donnan to the same; Robert Pike to the same; Richard Thompson and Philip Berry to the same; and many others to similar punishment on similar grounds as described in the appendix to the evidence taken before the Commission. He was almost sorry to have confined himself 1782 to official documents. How could he expect to rouse the feeling of the House with mere dry statistics like these? He wished it were possible for him to pause here, but he was bound to remind the House that, besides 439 persons who were put to death, the Report of the Commissioners stated that at the very least 600 persons were torn to pieces by the lash. He had already quoted Colonel Hobb's words, that the writhing and intense agony of the lash to the negroes was frightful to witness. Colonel Hobbs, however, only used the ordinary cat-o'-nine-tails. At Bath alone a multitude of men and women were flogged, "after a very slight investigations and frequently at the instance of book-keepers and others, smarting under a sense of recent injury." What, then, could be thought of the atrocious ruffian, Mr. Kirkland, who was not content with that intense agony? He must needs twist strong pianoforte wire with the cords, sometimes with twelve, sometimes with more lashes, and then tie them up in knots, so as to cause the utmost conceivable amount of agony, and with these infernal instruments some hundreds of persons were flogged until the ground was soaked with gore, some of them having received as much as 100 lashes each. All this was notorious at the time, yet not a finger did Mr. Eyre move to punish this ruffian? He was allowed by Mr. Eyre to continue as a magistrate, and as the holder of some petty office under the Crown; and the most painful thing is to learn that many of those who had thus been flogged were afterwards sent to Morant Bay and executed. But nothing appeared to him so utterly horrible as the fact, described with great feeling by some of the prisoners at Morant Bay, and not denied by Lieutenant Brand, that day after day the unhappy prisoners at Morant Bay were brought out to witness the agonies of that death to which they knew that, though still untried, they were already doomed. As he followed the ghastly story of those amazing freaks, he involuntarily exclaimed—Man, proud man! Dress'd in a little brief authority; … Like an angry ape, Plays such fantastic tricks before high Heaven, As makes the angels weep.He did not think he could better sum up this part of the case than in the words of a leading article in The Times on the 19th of March last. It would be remembered 1783 that for a long time the leading journal, in common with many persons, refused credence to the narratives that came from Jamaica, but with the evidence before it, that was given to the Commissioners at length, The Times said—There is no longer any reasonable doubt that cruelties, of which it is impossible to think without shuddering, were perpetrated in the suppression of the Jamaica insurrection. It is now certain that scores and, perhaps, hundreds of prisoners were flogged before being hung, and often before being tried. It is certain that some, though it is uncertain how many, were compelled to run the gauntlet after being flogged through a crowd of brutal spectators, who were allowed to insult them as they pleased. It is certain that several at least were shot or hung without even the pretence of a trial, at the caprice of an officer or subordinate. … It is probable, moreover, that men were bribed with the hope of life—a hope not always realized—to betray their accomplices; that persons accused of crimes were refused permission to call witnesses in their defence, and that some were executed, the only proof of whose guilt was their being found wounded. … These were acts not military, but judicial, done for the most part after armed resistance had ceased, and when there was nothing to prevent a deliberate separation of the innocent from the guilty.Upon the whole, exclusive of those who were put to death during what might be called the suppression of the disturbances, and exclusive of those who were shot or hung without trial, the number executed in cold blood, on and after Monday, October 15, when, by the Governor's official statement the rebellion was put down, amounted to 350 men and women. That number cannot but suggest an historical reminiscence. Many years ago a rebellion took place in one of the countries of Europe against its lawful Sovereign. It was the result of a deliberately planned conspiracy. Its object was to dethrone the legitimate dynasty. Nearly all the leading actors in it were deserters from the service of their master and king. They called in foreign aid to their designs; they kindled the flame of civil war, with all the bloodshed, rapine and misery that civil war engenders. They were overthrown, and the chief actors were tried for their lives; not, indeed, by a court martial of lieutenants and ensigns, but before the highest court of justice in the land, with every privilege—even with trial by juries of their own countrymen. 350 of them were executed — exactly the same number as in Jamaica. The page of history that presents so curious a parallel has not found great favour in the eyes of the English people. It goes by the 1784 name of "Judge Jeffrey's Bloody Assize." Now, is there indeed to be absolute impunity for all these butcheries? As to the young men, indeed, who formed the court martial at Morant Bay, their guilt is not to be compared for a single moment with that of their superiors, who for a whole month sanctioned and approved their doings. But, while admitting that the deepest guilt did not lie with them, I would a thousand times rather have followed a son of mine to the grave than have had him sit as a member of that court martial, and have shown himself so lost to every feeling not only of humanity, but of personal honour—so dead to every generous youthful impulse —as to have stooped to the utter degradation of being merely the executioner, the hangman, the base instrument used by the authorities for consigning those 400 trembling wretches to the whipping post and the gallows. But while our indignation against them is largely qualified by contempt, what shall we say of Brigadier General Nelson, who, day after day, wrote "approved and confirmed" against everyone of their proceedings? What shall we think of the tremendous responsibility incurred by the Governor of the Island in his cold indifference to the anguish of the people who had been intrusted to his protecting care? It is now the grave duty of this House to decide what course is dictated by justice and humanity. The broad question is, whether the people of England approve or condemn the deeds I have described. It is rumoured that the Government will neither have the courage to accept the Resolutions nor yet to meet them face to face, but that they hope to get rid of them by a side-wind, by urging some trumpery, technical difficulties about political etiquette, as if, forsooth, the people of England with these facts before them have no right to an opinion of their own, or to demand, and insist on the demand, that the conduct of the actors in those scenes shall be investigated. I am confident, however, that Her Majesty's Government will not condescend to take refuge in such a paltry line of argument. The whole country and the whole of Christendom, which has looked on with more interest at this matter than is perhaps generally known, will fully understand that the question on which we shall divide is simply as to whether England will or will not sanction these butcheries. I await that decision with the deepest anxiety. It would, indeed, be 1785 a blow to the cause of humanity, it would indeed be a dark stain on the character of the British people, should the House bestow its sanction upon such doings. I trust that the party to which I belong will refuse to identify itself with them. I earnestly appeal to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Liberal party in the House to come forward in our behalf, and clear us, at any rate, from any share or complicity in such degradation. But must I, indeed, look forward to a defeat, or even to resistance, from the party opposite? The chief of that party, Lord Derby, admired for his splendid powers, has endeared himself to the hearts of his countrymen by the part he took in mitigating the calamity that fell upon the North of England a few years ago. Upon the Treasury Bench, also, and on the Benches above and beside it, sit men whose lives are ennobled by their zeal in every cause of humanity. I ask them whether they in their hearts believe that the course taken by the authorities of Jamaica was one breathing wisdom and sound policy, or wild rage and vengeance? Do they regard it as an example to be followed by authorities elsewhere, or one to be repudiated and abhorred? Do they think that it threw a ray of glory over the name of England, or has it covered us with shame? Was it worthy of the professed servants of him whose name was Mercy? I implore them—I cannot believe that I shall implore in vain—to trample under foot mere prejudice and party feeling, and to ask themselves solemnly, whether, as the Government and representatives of the British people, they dare, in the face of the world and in the face of Heaven, to stamp the seal of their deliberate approval on these ruthless deeds.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House deplores the excessive punishments which followed the suppression of the disturbances of October last in the parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica, and especially the unnecessary frequency with which the punishment of death was inflicted."—(Mr. Buxton.)
§ MR. ADDERLEY
I certainly am very much surprised that the hon. Gentleman should ask whether the Government approve or not of the proceedings which have occurred in Jamaica. Does he suppose that there is a single man who approves of these occurrences? What right has he to consider himself the exclusive champion of the oppressed, and to consider every one else who is going to oppose 1786 these Resolutions as the champions of authority? I can hardly imagine a more gratuitous assumption. The hon. Gentleman appeals to parties in this House. Now, is this a question of party? Is there one party in this House who is going to uphold these proceedings, and another party who is going to condemn them? Does he appeal only to the Liberal party to support him, and point to those on the opposite side as likely to oppose him? On what grounds does he do this? The hon. Gentleman proposes to discuss the question upon the assumption that he is a philanthropist, and that all those who oppose him are the enemies of mankind. That is a very comfortable doctrine, but the hon. Gentleman misunderstands his own Resolutions. The staple of his speech is the discussion of the merits of the events and the investigation which have taken place in Jamaica. Nobody disputes them. They have been matters of trial by a properly constituted tribunal, and the evidence and Report of that tribunal are before the House and the country. [An hon. MEMBER: Do you mean the Commission?] What else should I mean? There is but one constituted tribunal. There is the evidence before us, there is the Report before us, and the Government accept them as the only authoritative decision. The hon. Gentleman is mistaken if he supposes that the House are going to re-open the case—to try it again. ["Oh, oh!"] I do not understand what that shout means. Was not the speech of the hon. Gentleman throughout an attempt to re-open the whole question and to try the case over again? The Government decline altogether to re-open the case. We have not the means to do so. We have not the witnesses. This House is no judicial tribunal. We must take the evidence and the Report as given to us. The question which the hon. Gentleman proposes is a very different one. The question is whether it is wise for this House to pass Resolutions founded upon that Report, and, if so, whether the Resolutions he proposes are those which we ought to adopt. It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to give the House his version of the state of things during the insurrection. He made very light of the insurrection. It was in his mind a very trifling affair. He said there was much fear, but little danger. Six months after the event, in his place in the House of Commons, some thousands of miles from 1787 the spot, he may think it a trifling affair, but I wonder if he would have taken the same views if he had had the charge of the Government of Jamaica at that time. But if the hon. Gentleman really thinks the rebellion was such a trifling affair, let me ask him why he first drafted his Resolution in such terms, as that—This House admits that credit is due to Governor Eyre for the skill, promptitude, and vigour which he manifested in the early stage of the insurrection?[Mr. BUXTON: These are the words of the Commissioners.] But you adopted them. Surely you will not draw that distinction. [Mr. BUXTON: No.] Then you should not have interrupted me. Last night the hon. Gentleman was ready to ask the House to praise Governor Eyre for the skill, promptitude, and vigour, manifested by him in the early stages of the insurrection, and to-night he is ready to call the rebellion a mere trifle, and say there was a great deal of fear and very little danger. So much for the consistency of the hon. Member's views, and so much for the firmness of conviction at which he has arrived after a long study of the case. Perhaps the House is not aware of the fact that there are threats at this moment of a renewal of disturbance, and that some authorities in Jamaica have within the last few hours asked for further precautions against renewed disturbances. I think we had better ask the hon. Member for Surrey to take charge of the island under such circumstances. The question really raised by the hon. Gentleman is whether, assuming the Report of the Commissioners and the evidence to be correct, it is advisable to pass Resolutions on that Report, and, if so, whether the Resolutions which he proposes are those which ought to be adopted? I must point out to the House the modifications which the hon. Gentleman has introduced into his Resolution since yesterday. I presume those modifications indicate some change of his opinions on the subject. As they were first drafted, he asked the House to concur in the last paragraph of the Commissioners' Report in condemning the excesses which took place in the suppressing of the Jamaica insurrection. He next proposed that the House should praise Governor Eyre for the promptitude and vigour with which he had suppressed it, and at the same time asked the House to approve of Her Majesty recalling Governor Eyre on grounds stated 1788 inaccurately and unfairly. Thirdly, he asked the House to advise Her Majesty to proceed against other officers who had been guilty of great excesses. In his second draft these two first Resolutions were blended into one, in which the praise of Governor Eyre was omitted, and the House was asked to take no notice of that portion of the Commissioners' Report, but merely to endorse their censure of Governor Eyre, to approve of Her Majesty recalling him, and asking the Government to proceed against the other officers. The fourth Resolution asked the House to request Her Majesty to empower the Governor of Jamaica to award compensation—it does not say whether out of the Colonial or Imperial revenue—to those who received damage from the excesses committed by Her Majesty's officers, or who had lost relations who were alleged to have been illegally put to death. Now, if these alterations have any significance, it is clear that what the hon. Member wants the House to do is to pick out of the Report of the Commissioners all that censures the authorities in Jamaica, and to omit all that praises their action or excuses in any way their excesses in suppressing the insurrection. Now, my opinion is that these Resolutions ought not to be adopted by the House. I believe that some of them are altogether inadmissible; for instance, the Resolution which asks the House to call upon Her Majesty to empower the Governor of Jamaica to award compensation to those who have received injuries in the suppression of the rebellion. I should also object to the last Resolution, in which the hon. Member proposes to ask Her Majesty to remit all punishments which are unexpired, and to take no further proceedings against those who were engaged in the rebellion. Others of the Resolutions, if admissible, I think it would be unwise, or at least unnecessary, for the House to adopt; and all the Resolutions from first to last are in a remarkable manner partial and one-sided. There is one fact which the hon. Member seems never to have had present to his mind, but it is one which covers the whole history of those transactions—namely, that all these events took place under the proclamation of martial law. The hon. Gentleman as much ignores the facts as did the hon. Member for Westminster, when he put a long category of questions, altogether unprecedented, upon the Notice paper of the House, throughout the whole of which 1789 he seemed to ignore the fact that all these events occurred under martial law. That martial law had not been called in question by any authority. On the contrary, it was the opinion of the Commissioners, and all the authorities who had been consulted on the matter, that martial law was fully and properly established, that it was fully justifiable, and proclaimed upon good reasons. If that were so, there can be nothing illegal, at all events, in the constitution of the tribunals, and the supposition of the hon. Gentleman to the contrary is opposed to the opinion of every authority on the subject. Nor can there have been anything illegally done by those who were bonâ fide engaged in the suppression of the insurrection. That very much narrowed the debate, because all that could be assigned in the Resolutions as faulty in the conduct of Governor Eyre and of those who acted under his authority was that which both the Report alleged against him and which the despatch of the late Government had endorsed—namely, that he was wrong in continuing martial law too long in full force up to the utmost period allowed by law—namely, thirty days. That continuance of martial law, and the excessive punishments under it, were all that could be alleged against Governor Eyre. Well, then, upon these two grounds of condemnation, the hon. Gentleman proposes to the House to endorse the decision to which the Commissioners came, and to approve the action which the Government has taken. With regard to the first Resolution, I do not say that it is inadmissible, but that it is unnecessary. We all deplore the excesses that have been described by the Commissioners, and which have been the ground of the recall of Governor Eyre, and of the further proceedings now in process. Her Majesty, at the opening of Parliament, informed us that an inquiry had been instituted, and promised that the Report of the Commissioners should be laid before us. We thanked Her Majesty for the information. We have received the Report, and we know what has been done by Her Majesty's Advisers in consequence of it. For what object, then, should we endorse the Report, and approve what the Government has already done in pursuance of it. It is a question whether the Legislature ever does well needlessly to step out of its usual functions, and take part either in the judicial or the Executive proceedings of the country. I suspect that the House will be ready to lay it down as a general proposi- 1790 tion that it is wiser for the Legislature not to go beyond its proper functions of legislation unless it is for the practical purpose of influencing the Executive to do what it is not doing, or to leave undone what it is doing, according to the wish of the House. But are they asked to do that now? No; precisely the reverse. Taking the hon. Gentleman's second Resolution, we find that it does not condemn but approve the conduct of the Executive in regard to the recall, or, as the hon. Member terms it, the dismissal of Mr. Eyre from the Governorship of the island, and in its proceedings against other officers. I must, in passing, take notice of the first branch of the Resolution, in which the hon. Gentleman states that Governor Eyre was recalled on account of the excessive severity with which the disturbances were suppressed. Now, the only source of information open to the hon. Gentleman on this point is the terms of the despatch in which the late Secretary for the Colonies recalled Mr. Eyre. The hon. Gentleman made a misquotation of the despatch in giving the excesses which took place as the only ground upon which Governor Eyre was recalled. On the contrary, there are several grounds alleged for his recall. The first of them was a ground of policy—namely, for the purpose of allaying animosities and irritation; and other grounds were—that the Governor had committed an error of judgment in continuing martial law in full force for the whole period allowed by the statute; that he had also been wanting in not giving sufficiently clear instructions for the regulation of the conduct of subordinate officers; and lastly, because of his having approved the trial and execution of Mr. Gordon. Therefore, up to last night the hon. Gentleman intended to ask them to approve the recall of Mr. Eyre upon a wholly mistaken recital of its grounds. At all events, I believe the House in common English fairness would have said, in respect to the first branch of the Resolution, that if they are to express an opinion on the conduct of Governor Eyre, they must not refuse to notice the praise which has been awarded to him while they endorsed the censure that had been cast upon him. But the hon. Member for East Surrey asked them simply to endorse the censure and to omit all mention of the praise. I conceive that this alone is a good and sufficient reason for the House refusing to accept this Resolution. It is all very well to say that we ought not to shut our eyes to 1791 the faults of officials, or to screen them from the consequences of their misconduct, I quite agree in that; I am in earnest in prosecuting those who have been guilty of excesses; but, on the other hand, why should not equal justice be dealt out to the Governors of colonies as well as to any other persons? Are there any class of servants of the Crown who have a more difficult task to perform than those who are placed at distant and often unhealthy stations, and confronted from time to time by most trying circumstances, in which they have to act upon their own judgment at a moment's notice, and have the most onerous and responsible duties imposed upon them? Are they, of all men, to be treated with the scantiest justice, and when the House of Commons came calmly and impartially to review their acts, is it to omit all that can be said in favourable construction of them, and carefully collect all that can be said against them? I appeal to the hon. Member for East Surrey himself as a man who has an interest in the Colonial Empire of England, and who also has the high principles and feelings of a gentleman about him, whether it is not the part of a generous mind, and likewise of the policy of a great Empire, to put the most favourable construction upon the conduct of a Colonial Governor, called to act upon his own judgment in a great and sudden emergency? The hon. Gentleman has spoken with levity of the amount of danger which Mr. Eyre had to encounter, but he will not dispute that the emergency was sudden, and that it is not very easy to see at one moment how far insurrection is likely to extend. Nothing but the fidelity of the Maroons prevented its horrors spreading over the whole Island. Even at this moment, they do not know whether it may not break out again. But the danger having arisen suddenly, and having primarily to consult for the safety of the colony intrusted to his charge, he felt this to be the paramount duty to his Sovereign. It was certainly also his duty to temper his measures with moderation and mercy. [Cheers from the Opposition.] The mention of the first of those duties hon. Gentlemen opposite received with silence, but the mention of the second they greeted with cheers. They are all for mercy to those who attack public order; but they are blind to the difficulties of those who have to maintain it. They may possibly find the Governor of a colony who, with 1792 insurrection springing up all around him, and with the knife of the assassin at his throat, has all the calmness and composure of mind needed for balancing with rigid exactness those two conflicting duties. But such men are rare. It is not every man who is able so to hold the scales of justice through the difficulties of a terrible crisis; and let me tell you that if you always expect these rare qualities to be displayed by every Governor, you will find it no easy matter to get men to undertake Colonial Governorships. I perfectly agree that we must look fairly on both sides. There may be too strong a feeling shown in favour of official authorities; but, on the other hand, there may be a blind sympathy with those who outrage public order. But this House, I think, will refuse to lend itself to the one side or the other. I did not see, till I came down to the House, the Amendment of which the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill) had given notice. Dissatisfied with the strength of the Resolutions on the paper, the hon. Gentleman asks the House to declare that nothing short of a trial of Governor Eyre for murder before a judicial tribunal will be satisfactory to it. I presume that the hon. Gentleman, taking that view of the case, will not mix himself up with the present discussion. It would be a monstrous thing in him to prejudge in debates here a case which he himself proposes to refer for decision to a judicial tribunal. I must, at the same time, confess that I distrust the judicial reserve of the hon. Gentleman in this case, because he has prominently mixed himself up with the proceedings of the Jamaica Committee, from which, I am happy to say, the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton) has thought it right to separate himself. The members of that Committee might, indeed, as well have taken the proceedings they have in view eight months ago as now. The hon. Member for Birmingham, one of their leading Members, did not think it at all necessary to wait for any investigation into the subject. Before any inquiry could take place into these events, the hon. Gentleman felt himself competent and ready to declare his opinion, in the presence of a large assemblage of his fellow. countrymen, in one of the Northern town halls, that Mr. Eyre was guilty of murder. It was clear that the hon. Gentleman wanted no inquiry, and that, as far as he and those who acted with him were concerned, the labours of the Commis- 1793 sioners were the idlest waste of time. They agreed to their verdict before they had heard the evidence, and pronounced the capital guilt of a man who had not then had any opportunity of answering any accusations brought against him. They saw but one side of the question; strong prepossessions, invincible prejudices incapacitated as well as disinclined them from seeing more than one side, but it is remarkable that they prefer to range themselves on the side of those who are the disturbers of order, rather than on the side of those who have upheld it. And I must say that by their manner of proceeding in this case these gentlemen have forfeited for ever any title to be beard on any question that demands judicial calmness and impartiality for its consideration. It is not a part of judicial proceedings, and in keeping with them, that they come here on this occasion to announce in the midst of condemnation their appeal to future judgment. Holding the opinions they do, they should surely have done their utmost to prevent this debate. Surely, if the hon. Member for Westminster is right in his Amendment, it is monstrous and contrary to every principle of justice that he should come here to prejudge the case and prejudice the decision, which he considers ought to be left in the hands of a jury, who would have to decide upon a question of life or death, and I think that, besides discouraging this debate, they might even have gone a step farther, and, when they met on Saturday in Committee, they might have abstained from such extravagant speeches, made to the prejudice of persons whom they were endeavouring to hand over for trial to the judicial power. With regard to the recall of Governor Eyre, I do not think the case against him is yet made out, even taking the facts as we can get them from the Report. The law of the case is by no means settled. The illegality of Gordon's trial is a question still undecided. He was violently arrested outside the province of martial law, which, however, might have been extended. You may get as high legal authorities on one side of the question as on the other, and it is a very nice question to deal with. The justice of Gordon's death appears to me, so far as I can read the minds of the Commissioners, to have been by no means out of dispute. There is much in this Report to show that the Commissioners were convinced of the guilt of Mr. Gordon. It would be a waste of time to read passages from the Report, but I think it 1794 is clear that it was the conviction of the Commissioners that there was a case on which no jury would have acquitted. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen express their feelings without having the facts of the case before them, but I will not weary the House by reading the passages. [Cries of "Read!"] At all events, I do not wish to press that point, but I may say that, although there is some question about the illegality of the arrest, and the sufficiency of evidence, there is less question about the practical justice of the result. The hon. Gentleman desires the house to ask Her Majesty to go on with the proceedings against officers who were concerned in excessive punishment, as she has already proceeded against Governor Eyre. That would be a Resolution on the part of the House of Commons to ask the Executive to do what they are doing—to do, in fact, what the House knows they have been doing from the first and are still doing. I therefore appeal to the sense of the House to know whether it is advisable to establish a precedent for passing Resolutions requesting the Executive to do that which they know the Executive is doing. The natural inference of passing such a Resolution is, that the House does not believe they are doing what they pretend and assert they are. You can approve, if you like, of what the Executive are doing. I have no objection to a Resolution of approval. I am speaking now as much in the name of the late Government as in the name of the present one, for the present Government has done no more than carry out the proceedings which were initiated by the late Government in whose administration these events occurred. All I take credit to the present Government for is, that they have vigorously carried out the measures of their predecessors and endorsed their instructions. The various offices—the Colonial, Admiralty, and War Offices—sent instructions to the heads of their Departments in the colony to proceed as recommended by the Royal Commissioners, and in all cases to proceed where there was any fair allegation of misconduct on the part of officers of those different Departments — Civil, Naval, and Military. Proceedings are going on. It is perfectly well known that Ramsay, the provost marshal, is at this moment indicted for wilful murder, and there are proceedings going on against Ensign Cullen and Dr. Morris which the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill) did not seem at all 1795 aware of the other night when he put his long list of Questions, and asked whether those men were to be brought to trial for putting certain people to death, assuming before the trial that they had put those people to death. If he had read the whole Report as carefully as be had read those parts which were favourable to his views, he would have known that the Commissioners stated that the evidence against those two men was perfectly contradictory—the evidence was as strong on one side as on the other—and that the Commissioners left the case for further inquiry. That further inquiry is now going on, and in other cases also proceedings are being taken. Only a short time ago, since the present Government came into office, they sent out the most express and emphatic instructions to the new Governor of the island (Sir John Grant) to proceed in this direction and to report immediately upon the measures which he took, in order that Her Majesty's Government might know what he was doing. Under the circumstances, I conceive the House will think it unnecessary, and if unnecessary unwise, to ask the Executive to do that which they know they are doing, for at least it expresses a doubt whether the Government are doing it or not. On the Resolution for compensation I must say a few words. In the new draft of Resolutions, which has been submitted to-day, it is proposed that compensation should be awarded to the sufferers from excessive or illegal punishments. The alterations in that draft, however, are not merely verbal. That Resolution, for instance, in its first form was that the House should call upon Her Majesty to empower the Government of Jamaica to award compensation; but as it now stands, it says that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to award compensation. Seeing the material alterations that have been made in the original draft, I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman what are his reasons for these changes made within the last few hours? Why was it proposed that compensation should be awarded out of the revenues of Jamaica, but to-day to charge the Imperial revenue with that compensation. It is not, moreover, clear to my mind whether that compensation is to be limited to those who were sufferers from punishments, or whether it is to include the damages done to the property of planters during the progress of the insurrection. That, of course, would 1796 make a very material difference, but the Resolutions are so carelessly worded that it is difficult to see what the effect of them would be. I can only say that the power already possessed by the Governor of Jamaica would not be made any greater by any Resolution passed by this House, nor by any power given him by the Queen; but this effect might result—an infinity of claims of all sorts would be raised in consequence of such a Resolution being adopted by the House of Commons. We know that the arrival of the Royal Commissioners, although their functions were strictly judicial — ["No, no!"] — then what were their functions, for I cannot understand the interruption? [Mr. BUXTON: They were sent out for the purpose of inquiry.] Just so; inquiry for the purpose of forming a judgment. ["No, no!"] At all events, what I meant was, and I think it comes to the same thing, that those who were sent out to inquire and report, and so far had judicial functions assigned to them, could not even discharge such duties without raising expectations and claims. I think the effect of this Resolution, if it were passed, would be to raise considerably higher and more extravagant expectations than those which are already rife there, and I think it would be an evil. At the same time, I am ready to say that such a proposition as this would be worthy to be discussed by this House—if it is shown that damage has been wantonly done by the agents of the Government, the Government should consider how far there were claims upon them for compensation. Claims on the Jamaica revenue the Jamaica Governor will deal with. I think the proposition of applying to the Government for compensation, although it does not diminish the objectionableness of the Resolution, as a Resolution of this House, yet certainly embodies a principle which the Government should entertain. As to the last Resolution, which is a new one altogether —that we should invite Her Majesty to remit all further punishment—that seems to me a very loose sort of proposition indeed. I presume it is a part of those changes which have come hastily and inconsiderately over the hon. Member's mind in the course of the last few hours. Though an amnesty would be a proper matter for Her Majesty to consider, yet I think that this would be the last mode of carrying it out that any reasonable Government would ever dream of entertaining, for it proposes 1797 that the injustice which has taken place on one set of men should be balanced by the abandonment of the justice which had been administered to others, and that the most atrocious scoundrels now being punished for the most bloody outrages should have their punishment remitted because others have been unjustly put to death. I can hardly see how the Government can for a moment entertain such a proposition as that. I have now discussed to the best of my power these Resolutions which have been proposed to the House, and I have given my opinion, as well as I can form a judgment, that it would be unwise for the House to pass at any rate more than one of them. Some of them are unnecessary, and therefore unwise, while some of them are wholly inadmissible. A Resolution embodying any general expression of our deep regret for what has taken place in Jamaica I should be glad to agree to. It would be impossible for me to refuse my vote to such a Resolution as that; but that, I suppose, would not meet the object of the hon. Gentleman who has brought the matter forward. I have no hesitation, however, in recommending, the House to reject all the rest of the Resolutions which are now before it. The hon. Gentleman says we have neither the courage to meet these Resolutions nor to reject them. I do not think it shows a want of courage not to meet them, because some of them undoubtedly express feelings which every Member of the House cordially entertains, but at the same time we deny the wisdom of them. As a matter of judgment, and not as a matter of courage, or the want of it, I should recommend that this House should not pass any of these Resolutions if they must all go together. I am not prepared to deny all that they contain, but I am prepared to maintain that it would be unwise for the House to adopt all of them, and I have, therefore, no alternative but to move the previous Question.
§ Whereupon Previous Question proposed, "That that Question be now put."—(Mr. Adderley.)
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
Those who seek to obtain an authoritative condemnation of the transactions in Jamaica, whether they take the milder view of my hon. Friend the Mover of the Resolutions, or the severer view of the body which has been alluded to in such disrespectful terms, the Jamaica Committee could have desired 1798 nothing better for their cause than that the speech which has just been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman should go forth to the country as the defence of the Government for not taking any measures to bring those events under the cognizance of a judicial tribunal. I should myself be well content to go to the country on my hon. Friend's speech, and that of the right hon. Gentleman, without any further discussion. But since nothing has been said in vindication of the view I take of the course proper to be pursued, which is different from that recommended by my hon. Friend, I shall state to the House what to my mind justifies that course. The hon. Mover of the Resolution has called upon the House to consider the proceedings of the civil and military authorities in Jamaica, which have been so deservedly but so mildly condemned by Her Majesty's Commissioners of inquiry, and has invited the House to express an opinion on those proceedings, to the same effect and nearly in the same language as the Commissioners. I, also, contend that the acts which have been committed demand the particular attention of the House, not however for the purpose of itself pronouncing any judgment on them, but for the purpose of requiring that they be referred to an authority more competent than this House—the only authority that is competent to pass a binding judgment on such acts—the authority of a judicial tribunal. According to the catalogue furnished by the Commissioners, 439 of Her Majesty's subjects, men and women, have been put to death, not in the field, not in armed resistance to the Government, but unarmed, after having fallen into the hands of the authorities, many after having voluntarily surrendered to them. Some of these were executed without any semblance of a trial; the remainder after what were called trials by what were called courts martial. In addition to those who were put to death, not fewer than 600 men and women were flogged, partly without trial, and partly by sentence of these same courts martial; and about 1,000 houses, besides other property, were destroyed by military violence. Now, if, after due investigation, the Government and the country generally had made up their minds that all these lives were justly and properly taken, and all these floggings and burnings justly and properly inflicted, there would have been no ground on which to require the Government to prosecute the agents and authors, though private individuals would be at liberty to do so if they 1799 pleased. The case, however, is far otherwise. Respecting the degree of culpability of these transactions there is a wide difference of opinion, but that there has been serious culpability no one now disputes. The events have undergone a minute inquiry, by Commissioners carefully selected and invested with full power to ascertain the facts, but not, I must remind the right hon. Gentleman, empowered to declare what is the character of those facts in the eye of the law. The Commissioners have emphatically condemned a large portion of the proceedings. They declare that many more persons have been put to death than ought to have been put to death; some of these on evidence which they declare to have been, so far as it appears on record, wholly insufficient to justify the findings, while in other cases, assuming the evidence to be unimpeachable, the sentences were not justified by the facts deposed to. The floggings they pronounce to have been reckless, and some of them positively barbarous: the flogging of women they reprobate under any circumstances, and in that I am sure the House will not differ from them. The burnings they pronounce wanton and cruel. There is no need to go one step beyond the verdict of the Commissioners. I am almost ashamed to speak of such acts with the calmness and in the moderate language which the circumstances require. The House has supped full of horrors throughout the speech of my hon. Friend. But we need not go beyond the dry facts of the Commissioners' summary. On their showing, the lives of subjects of Her Majesty have been wrongfully taken, the persons of others wrongfully maltreated; and I maintain that when such things have been done, there is a primâ facie demand for legal punishment, and that a court of criminal justice can alone determine whether such punishment has been merited, and if merited, what ought to be its amount. The taking of human lives without justification, which in this case is an admitted fact, cannot be condoned by anything short of a criminal tribunal. Neither the Government, nor this House, nor the whole English nation combined, can exercise a pardoning power without previous trial and sentence. I know not for what more important purpose Courts of Law exist than for the security of human life. Hitherto in this country the agents of the executive Government have had to answer for themselves in the same Courts of Law as the rest of Her 1800 Majesty's subjects. But if officers of the Government are to be allowed to take the lives of the Queen's subjects improperly—as has been confessedly done in this case—without being called to a judicial account, and having the excuses they make for it sifted and adjudicated by the tribunal in that case provided, we are giving up altogether the principle of government by law, and resigning ourselves to arbitrary power. Under these circumstances, it appears to me that the proper course to be adopted by Members of this House was to attempt to elicit from Her Majesty's Government, before the end of the Session, some statement of their intentions respecting what, to me and others, appears the solemn duty of bringing the authors of at least the most flagrant of these universally condemned acts before a criminal tribunal. The House knows that this attempt was made, and it knows what was the result. We obtained by it no direct, but a good deal of indirect, information. Since then I have redoubled my efforts to learn, or to divine, what reasons there are against the propriety of a criminal prosecution, and I have arrived at the conclusion that if those I have heard are the best, there will not be much difficulty in resisting any of them. I have been told, for instance (but by whom, or on what occasion, the rules of the House forbid me to recollect), that to warrant a criminal prosecution for homicide, it is necessary that the act should have been committed with malice prepense. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot make such a mistake as this; for if not a lawyer himself, he has able lawyers for his advisers, and one need not be a lawyer at all to know that there is such an offence as manslaughter, which I have hitherto in my ignorance believed to differ from murder precisely by the absence of malice prepense. The wonder which I felt at this singular specimen of legal knowledge would have been still greater than it was, if I had not just before been told by a very eminent person (but it could not be the right hon. Gentleman) that I was grossly inconsistent in assuming through nine questions that certain acts were unlawful, and asking in the tenth whether they were unlawful or not? Now, since what I asked was, whether they were offences under the criminal law, I must conclude that, in the opinion of this eminent person, no actions are unlawful but those which are offences under the criminal law. Did he ever hear, I 1801 wonder, of such a thing as an action for damages, which everybody knows will lie in many cases in which a criminal proceeding could not be sustained? And, again, is he not aware of cases in which the law imposes pecuniary penalties, but leaves them to be enforced by anybody who chooses to sue for them by a civil action? Now, as the authority to whom I allude said that no act that could not be the subject of a criminal prosecution is illegal, it follows that, in his opinion, the law awards penalties for lawful acts. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is just now absent from the House, but I trust that in the course of the evening he will utterly repudiate these peculiar views. I am ready to accept the right hon. Gentleman as an authority on some subjects, but I shall be quite unable to accept his guidance in any matter of criminal law, unless he entirely throws over that other great luminary to whom I have been referring. Then, again, it is asked, "How can we think of prosecuting anybody for putting people to death, when we cannot possibly suppose that those who did it believed them to be innocent?" Well, very probably they did not; though even this is by no means a thing which it is permissible to take for granted. But admitting the fact, it is an excuse that may be made for actions of still greater atrocity than I claim any right to attribute to these. Did the perpetrators of the massacre of St. Bartholomew think their victims innocent? On the contrary, did they not firmly believe them to be hateful to God and to all good men? Again, did the authors of the September massacres—did the French revolutionary tribunals, and the Terrorist Government, believe in the innocence of those whom they put to death? Were they not fully persuaded that they were traitors and enemies of their country? I do not want to compare Governor Eyre and his subordinates to Robespierre and Fouquier Tinville, though I confess that their modes of proceeding sometimes remind me very forcibly of some of the minor actors in that great tragedy: but the same sort of excuse may be made for Robespierre and Fouquier Tinville as for them. I dare say that if Gentlemen on the other side of the House, and I am afraid some on this side, had had the duty of sitting in judgment on those very vigorous rulers, they would have thought it quite enough to visit them with the penalty with which, for example, Governor Darling has been visited for following his 1802 constitutional advisers in an erroneous interpretation of the constitution of Victoria. We should perhaps have been told that the case as respects Robespierre was closed by dismissal from his office as a Member of the Committee of Public Safety. As for Fouquier Tinville, it probably would not have been thought advisable, after so many errors of judgment, to re-appoint him to the responsible situation of public prosecutor. We might have been told, in words with which the House is probably familiar, that it would be desirable "to intrust that arduous task to some other person, who may approach it free from all the difficulties inseparable from a participation in the questions raised by the recent troubles," and that by placing the office "in new hands" Government were "taking the course best calculated to allay animosities, to conciliate general confidence, and to establish on firm and solid grounds the future welfare of" France. Again we are told that in proposing to make the authors of those acts criminally responsible for them, we forget that those acts were done under martial law. Sir, we are not at all likely to forget that; we remember it but too well: and we shall remember as long, what it has been declared by the leading Member of the Government that martial law is—the total suspension of all law. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adderley) will admit that this is something worth remembering. Well; martial law, while it lasts, is the negation of all law; and therefore (such is the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman) it is the negation of all responsibility. Not only, as soon as martial law is proclaimed, the civil and military authorities and their agents may run amuck, if such is their pleasure—may do, as far as any legal restraint is concerned, anything they please—but if they please to do what is wrong, they cannot be made to account for it afterwards, except to their official superiors, nor to suffer any but the official penalties which those superiors can inflict. If that is Our condition, and if any Government or any local administrator that chooses to proclaim martial law, can place us under this regimen, we have gained little by our historical struggles, and the blood that has been shed for English liberties has been shed to little purpose. But it is not so, Sir; it is not so. I do not deny that there is good authority, legal as well as military, for saying that the proclamation of martial law suspends all law so long as it lasts; but I defy 1803 any one to produce any respectable authority for the doctrine that persons are not responsible to the laws of their country, both civil and criminal, after martial law has ceased, for acts done under it. The legal opinions, which the right hon. Gentleman misunderstands, affirm only this, that martial law is another word for the law of necessity, and that the justification of acts done under that law consists in their necessity. Well, then, we have a right to dispute the necessity. If the right hon. Gentleman will consult his legal advisers, he will find that the law is perfectly settled on this point. With the permission of the House I will read a short extract from a law opinion given specificially on the point by two gentlemen, both of them ornaments of their profession, and one of them a Member of this House—The officers of the Crown are justified in any exertion of physical force extending to the destruction of life and property to any extent, and in any manner that may be required for this purpose. They are not justified in the use of excessive or cruel means, but are liable civilly or criminally for such excess. They are not justified in inflicting punishment after resistance is suppressed, and after the ordinary courts of justice can be re-opened. The principle by which their responsibility is measured is well expressed in the case of Wright v. Fitzgerald. Mr. Wright was a French master, of Clonmel, who, after the suppression of the Irish rebellion in 1798, brought an action against Mr. Fitzgerald, the sheriff of Tipperary, for having cruelly flogged him without due inquiry. Martial law was in full force at that time, and an Act of Indemnity had been passed to excuse all breaches of the law committed in the suppression of the rebellion. In summing-up, Justice Chamberlain, with whom Lord Yelverton agreed, said:—'The jury were not to imagine that the Legislature, by enabling magistrates to justify under the Indemnity Bill, had released them from the feelings of humanity, or permitted them wantonly to exercise power, even though it were to put down rebellion. They expected that in all cases there should be a grave and serious examination into the conduct of the supposed criminal, and every act should show a mind intent to discover guilt, not to inflict torture. By examination or trial he did not mean that sort of examination and trial which they were now engaged in, but such examination and trial the best the nature of the case and existing circumstances would allow of. That this must have been the intention of the Legislature was manifest from the expression 'magistrates and all other persons,' which provides that as every man, whether magistrate or not, was authorized to suppress rebellion, and was to be justified by that law for his acts, it is required that he should not exceed the necessity which gave him the power, and that he should show in his justification that he had used every possible means to ascertain the guilt which he had punished; and above all, no deviation from the common principles of humanity 1804 should appear in his conduct.' Mr. Wright recovered £500 damages; and when Mr. Fitzgerald applied to the Irish Parliament for an indemnity he could not get one.In the year 1866, thirty-four years after the passing of the Reform Act, we have to re-affirm the principles of this judgment, and re-assert the responsibility of all officers of the Executive to the tribunals, in order that, in our regard for law and liberty, we may be on a level with the Orange Government and the Orange Parliament of Ireland in the most tyrannical period of modern Irish history, the rebellion of 1798. And great cause is there why we should assert this responsibility. If martial law indeed is what it is asserted to be, arbitrary power—the rule of force, subject to no legal limits—then, indeed, the legal responsibility of those who administer it, instead of being lightened, requires to be enormously aggravated. So long as the power of inflicting death is restricted by laws, by rules, by forms devised for the security of innocence, by settled usage, by a long series of precedents—these laws, these forms, these usages and precedents, are a protection to those who are judged; but they are also eminently a protection to those who judge. If a law is prescribed for their observance, and they observe the law, they are, in general, safe front further responsibility. The less we leave to their discretion, the less necessity is there, in the interest of the general safety, for making them personally accountable. But if men are let loose from all law, from all precedents, from all forms—are left to try people for their lives in any way they please, take evidence as they please, refuse evidence as they please, give facilities to the defence or withhold those facilities as they think fit, and after that pass any sentence they please, and irrevocably execute those sentences, with no bounds to their discretion but their own judgment of what is necessary for the suppression of a rebellion—a judgment which not only may be, but in a vast proportion of cases is sure to be, an exasperated man's judgment or a frightened man's judgment of necessity; when there is absolutely no guarantee against any extremity of tyrannical violence, but the responsibility which can be afterwards exacted from the tyrant—then, Sir, it is indeed indispensable that he who takes the lives of others under this discretion should know that he risks his own. I do not wonder that there are conscien- 1805 tious military men who shrink from so vast a responsibility, and prefer any view whatever of martial law to that which we are given to understand is the true one. I hold in my hand a letter written to me by a retired general officer, which, after saying that the intelligent officers of the army feel bewildered at the very idea of martial law, from the absence of all precise instructions on the subject, goes on to say—I had fully made up my mind how I should act if ever called upon to enforce martial law. I had resolved, as the only safe and prudent plan, to consider martial law as simply military law extended to civilians, feeling convinced that a fixed or written code was indispensable, and that what was sufficient to curb soldiers in war was surely sufficient to restrain civilians in revolt.He adds—Taken fighting with arms in their hands should alone justify the summary execution of rebels; whilst the composition and powers of the courts martial on rebels should follow the Articles of War, which are amply sufficient to cover all cases that could ever arise under martial law."We are now informed that neither the Articles of War nor the Mutiny Act are in force at all during the proclamation of martial law, and that the courts martial are not bound by their provisions; but the oath which is administered to the members of every court martial, and which was taken by all the members of the courts martial in Jamaica, begins with these words—You shall duly administer justice according to the rules and articles for the better government of Her Majesty's forces, and according to an Act now in force for the punishment of mutiny and desertion.This is what they swore to do: nobody pretends that they did it; and they are now justified by saying that they were not bound by their oath. Sir, I have stated to the House the principles on which I am acting, and on which those act with whom on this subject I am co-operating. We want to know—as the noble Lord the Secretary for India said on a not more important occasion—we want to know who are to be our masters: the Queen's Judges and a jury of our countrymen, administering the laws of England, or three military or naval officers, two of them boys, administering, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us, no law at all. This we want to know; and this, if it be humanly possible, we mean to know. It remains to be seen whether the people of England will support us in the attempt to assert the great principle of the responsibility of all agents of the Executive to the laws, civil and criminal, for 1806 taking human life without justification. This great public duty may be discharged without the help of the Government: without the help of the people it cannot. It is their cause; and we will not be wanting to them, if they are not wanting to us.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, this was a question on which he could not give a silent vote. It was his intention to vote for the first and second Resolutions of his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton); but he should like to say a few words on the third and fourth, because he could not vote for them if put in the words proposed by his hon. Friend, though in principle he concurred in the statements which they contained. He thought the least they could do was to award compensation to those whose property had been wantonly destroyed, and to the families of those who had been put to death illegally. That principle seemed to be admitted by his right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies. He trusted also that some answer would be given to the petition from Mrs. Gordon, presented by his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster. He confessed his right hon. Friend surprised him when he stated his belief that the Commissioners were fully convinced of Mr. Gordon's guilt. He certainly did not gather that from the Report on the evidence, and no doubt his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southampton (Mr. Russell Gurney) would state whether such was his impression. What the House had officially before them was, that Mr. Gordon, a member of the Assembly of Jamaica, had been illegally tried and unjustly convicted; and therefore he thought that the petition of Mrs. Gordon, the terms of which must commend itself to every one, ought to receive the attention of the House, and that, in compliance with its prayer, they ought to vindicate the memory of her husband. With regard to the fourth Resolution he did not think his hon. Friend ought to press it, because it was open to this objection—that however illegal some of the acts committed in Jamaica might have been, it did not follow that the persons under sentence inflicted by the Special Commission were undergoing unjust sentences. He thought that if his right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies read the evidence and came to the conclusion that the sentences were excessive, he would recommend the Government to interfere in the matter. In any case he would ask his right hon. Friend to do 1807 that which, no doubt, the late Government would have done—namely, to institute a strict inquiry into those cases, and consider whether the time would not shortly come—if it had not arrived already—when the persons undergoing sentences might not be recommended to the favourable consideration of the Crown. With regard to the statement in the second Resolution, he could not concur with his right hon. Friend in thinking that because a Commission had been sent out to inquire into the events which had occurred at Jamaica, the House of Commons ought not now to inquire into and give an opinion on those events. On the contrary, he thought that was the reason why the House of Commons should consider those sad occurrences. In the speech from the Throne at the beginning of the Session, Parliament was told that Her Majesty, regretting the deplorable events which had occurred at Jamaica, had determined to send out a Commission to inquire into them. That Commission had gone out, every one had the fullest confidence in the Commissioners, and as their Report was officially before the House of Commons, he thought that House was bound to give an opinion on the circumstances into which the Commission had inquired. Certainly, he did not see how they could allow the Session to close without giving some opinion on that occurrence, and stating what in their judgment ought to be their verdict. Only two opinions were possible. One was that expressed in the second Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey, which meant approval of the censure on the Governor of the colony for unnecessary severity, and stated that there were circumstances which afforded ground for further inquiry as to any steps which ought to be taken; the other opinion was that put forward by his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, who thought the House ought to take upon itself the office of public prosecutor, and declare that a public prosecution ought to be adopted. He would explain why he thought the hon. Member for East Surrey right in the course he had adopted, and afterwards he would state why he could not agree with the hon. Member for Westminster. He understood the right hon. Gentleman opposite to object to the Motion because he held it to be unnecessary to re-open the case, because the late Government had given an opinion on the conduct of the Governor, for whom great allowances should be made, and because 1808 it was unfair for the House to blame without at the same time praising. Now, it appeared to him that the altered Resolution of the hon. Member for East Surrey contained that censure of Governor Eyre which the House was bound to declare. He did not accuse Governor Eyre of any intentional cruelty, but what he had been the means of doing merited such deserved odium that when it was brought before the House of Commons he did not conceive that it could be passed unnoticed. The conclusion of the Report of the Commissioners condemned the unnecessary frequency of the executions. That expression when tested by the evidence meant the killing of hundreds of Her Majesty's subjects without need and without justice. The House could not refrain from expressing an opinion on that fact when it was brought to its notice. The object of martial law was not punishment, but suppression; but his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey had proved that after the outbreak was suppressed the greater number of these executions took place. Take Morant Bay: 186 executions took place there after the insurrection was suppressed; 180 after Captain De Horsey said the insurrection was over; 161 after Governor Eyre left Morant Bay and said the insurrection was suppressed. These executions were under the superintendence of General Nelson, who in October signed an order for the trial of the ringleaders. After issuing that, 124 persons were executed, three of them being women. Thirty were charged with attempts to murder—only five with being ringleaders — and eighty-two were charged merely with rebellion, or with rebellion, plunder, and riot. After the outbreak was entirely suppressed, from ten to fifteen per day were executed for days together. Such a case he did not think could be found in all their annals. Even if all of them had committed murder it would have been considered an outrageous thing to have executed them all. The murder of Mr. Hire was, no doubt, barbarous, but what would be said if for a murder in Ireland 130 persons were executed? But these persons in Jamaica were not charged with murder, but were mere rioters, and had joined in plundering when no troops were in possession of the country, and when they thought that they had an opportunity for plundering. How was it possible, then, not to take notice of their execution? The right hon. Gentleman asked where would they get 1809 a Governor if they judged with such severity, but he did not know any case in which a Governor had acted in the same way. In the outbreak in Cephalonia in 1859 there was much armed resistance, and the troops were under fire for four days. In Jamaica, on the other hand, only one shot was fired at the regular troops, and five or six shots at the Maroons. That was all the armed resistance. It must not be supposed that the outbreak at Cephalonia was not serious, for, as he had stated, the troops were under fire four days, and martial law lasted for more than a month. Yet only twenty persons were executed. The case of Ceylon in 1848 was something similar to the present case. A Motion was brought forward with regard to the suppression of the rebellion in that island, and it was thought that the measures of suppression had been too severe. A Select Committee inquired into the case and made a Report on it to the House. In May, 1857, the hon. Member for Inverness moved a Resolution which in its object was similar to the present, and called on the House to express an opinion that the punishment inflicted in suppressing the disturbances had been excessive and uncalled for. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire stated on that occasion—It is because I do not believe that the interests of true humanity were consulted, but because I believe the policy pursued has been a policy of panic—a policy under which measures have been adopted disproportioned to the emergency—it is because I feel what would be the consequence of encouraging such a policy—and we do encourage such a policy, if it is allowed to pass uncriticised and uncensured in this country —it is because I believe the consequence of such a policy would be perilous to the Empire, that I will support the Resolution of my hon. Friend."—[3 Hansard, cxvii. 242.]The case of Ceylon was far stronger than that of Jamaica. In the former case the British power was really in danger; the number of Natives supposed to have joined the rebellion was 60,000, and three actions were fought with them. It was said that an exterminating desire was entertained by the rebels, and martial law lasted for ten weeks. How many persons were executed? Only eighteen, though the disturbances were much more dangerous than the disturbance in Jamaica. He could find no precedent for the proceedings in the outbreak in Jamaica. It could not be compared to the previous outbreak at the time when the negroes were greatly excited. It was not too strong a word for 1810 him to use, to say that these 354 persons were legally massacred. Even Continental despotism, including the conduct of Russia to Poland and that of Austria to the Hungarians, did not exhibit any instance where there had been so great a number of executions with so little justification either on the ground of justice or military necessity. It was said that what had been done was in order to prevent the insurrection spreading to other parts of the island. If they were to apply that to Ireland, what would be said if 300 were executed in Tipperary for an insurrection that had broken out in Galway? The facts proved it could not be so; for Governor Eyre, while allowing the executions to proceed, would not, if he had been afraid of the insurrection extending, have taken on himself the responsibility of countermanding the troops from Halifax. But while he said this, he could not concur with his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster that a prosecution should be instituted against Governor Eyre. He was mainly responsible for these executions. He had the power of putting an end to martial law; but he could not go along with his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster in saying that a prosecution should be instituted against him for two reasons. First, because after all this was a mistake. The Governor thought, strange as it might appear, that he was acting for the best; he honestly believed he did. That alone would not be sufficient. There would be little security for life and property if no proceedings were ever to be taken against men in authority who by mistake, scarcely to be accounted for, had condemned so many persons to death. But there were particular circumstances connected with Governor Eyre's position under the Jamaica law which ought to plead very strongly against further proceedings. He believed he had acted for the best in his own discretion; and when they had placed a man in a very responsible position, although in fulfilling its duties he had made a most deplorable mistake, yet, having acted to the best of his ability, he did not see how they could institute proceedings against him. His position was such that he was tempted, almost forced, to declare martial law, and therefore obliged to use his discretion. His hon. Friend the Member for Westminster had left out of sight the way in which, the Jamaica Act staring him in the face, the Governor would be almost obliged to deplore martial law; and once 1811 martial law was declared there could be no doubt as to the suspension of the ordinary law. In the absence of any reason to suppose bad motives, he could not admit the propriety of instituting proceedings against him. Such being the case, it was the more necessary that the present Government should do what he had no doubt the late Government would have done, that was, most seriously to inquire into the state of the law in Jamaica, and in the rest of the West India colonies, with regard to the possibility of declaring martial law. He thought two facts were brought out very clearly by this sad story—first, it was not martial law which put down the outbreak, but the skilful conduct of the troops under General Nelson. The second lesson was this—that if they continued to subject the Governor to the responsibility of declaring martial law by having Acts of the Colonial Legislature unrepealed, they were bound to issue regulations exactly defining his position. He did not think it was possible to regulate it so as to prevent lose of life and cruelty, for martial law was truly said to be the devil let loose. This ought to be a warning to them to be much more careful for the future. Considering what a terrible evil it was and must be, involving as it did the suspension of all law, he thought martial law ought never to be proclaimed so long as the troops were able to act efficiently without it. They knew that in this case this condition of things did not exist, because the troops, in fact, put down the rebellion. He did not, however, blame Governor Eyre for declaring martial law, for seeing that that law had been on former occasions declared in Jamaica, and there being a law which almost told the Governor to declare it, under such circumstances he would naturally feel that he would be severely blamed if he did not declare it. His own opinion was that the Government should look very seriously into these Acts as to martial law, in order to see whether they could not be repealed, and the matter placed upon the same footing in the colony as it was in England. He believed he was right in saying that the meaning of the Jamaica law, as regards martial law, was this— that the Governor of Jamaica, with the assent of his Privy Council, could at any moment, at his discretion, suspend all law, and put any district of the colony, or the whole colony, under military authority, with as few safeguards and as little 1812 regulation as had taken place in the late disturbances. This was not the law in this country, and ought not to be in Jamaica. What he had said with regard to proceedings against Governor Eyre applied à fortiori to all who were under him. No proceedings should be taken against any of his subordinates unless there was reason to suspect them of bad motives. If there was primâ facie a case of cruelty or wilful recklessness —like Ramsay's case—the Government should institute an inquiry into it, and he had the fullest confidence in his right hon. Friend that he would undertake that inquiry as fully, fearlessly, and impartially as it would have been undertaken by his predecessor. He did not think it would be for the interest of the future Government of Jamaica that they should have more prosecutions than were absolutely necessary for the sake of justice. In giving Jamaica a fresh start, with all the lessons of many years, he did not think they would enable the future Government to be conducted with efficiency if there were more prosecutions than were absolutely necessary for the vindication of justice. He believed they were all ashamed of what had taken place, and the chief question which remained to be considered was how to prevent such things happening again. Now, how was it that Governor Eyre, whom he believed to be a humane and conscientious man, sanctioned proceedings of this kind, and how was it that British officers perpetrated atrocities from which they would have shrunk had the victims been white people? The reason was that they were not free, and he did not know that he himself or any Member of the House would have been free, from the race feeling—the feeling of contempt for what was regarded as an inferior race. This, however, only made it the more incumbent upon Parliament, able as it was to sit calmly in judgment upon these things, to affirm that there ought not to be one code of morality for one colour, and another code for another. Some persons, it was true, maintained that we could not afford to deal with other races on the principle of morality; but surely ferocity was as unwise towards black men as towards white; surely justice and mercy were as much an act of duty towards one class as towards another. It was because he felt that the fault was not so much that of an individual as of a feeling to which we were all tempted in dealing with 1813 weaker races that he wished the House to protest against the proceedings in Jamaica, and to condemn that misuse of strength to which there was always a temptation.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
was surprised that during this debate he had heard no sympathy expressed on the opposite Benches for the whites who were the first victims of this rebellion. And he must also say that it was with regret that he heard that the subject was to be discussed at all; because it could hardly be discussed without producing bitterness of feeling, and in the course of the discussion it was almost sure to be implied that Gentlemen on his side of the House had sympathy with acts which they regarded in much the same light as the hon. Member who brought forward the question. The hon. Member for Westminster had compared what had happened with the massacres of St. Bartholomew and of the French Revolution; but that was an exaggerated way of speaking that was scarcely worthy of a man of his philosophical temper. It should also be borne in mind that there were 500,000 of blacks in Jamaica and only 15,000 whites, and what would have been the position of Governor Eyre if he bad not used the most energetic measures, and if there had been a general massacre of the whites? It should not be overlooked that public opinion had been, he might almost say, manufactured upon this subject. It might have been supposed that there would have been the greatest sympathy for Governor Eyre and his officers; but instead of this, meetings were held in the opposite interest. One was at Exeter Hall; and at the door copies of Gordon's letter to his wife was printed on black-edged paper, and was distributed at the door, and at a meeting at Brighton a gentleman who said a word in favour of Governor Eyre was turned out. It was quite clear from the Report of the Commissioners that Gordon, although he might not have been cognizant of the rising, had made inflammatory speeches which created a general impression that he would approve such a proceeding. As to the cruelties practised by the rioters at Morant Bay, which had been denied by hon. Members opposite, private correspondence fully confirmed them. He held in his hand a letter written from Kingston, by Mr. Radcliffe, a minister of the Scotch Church, in which was the following passage:—It has come to light that the insurrection was a portion, and only a portion, of an intended mas- 1814 sacre of all the whites and respectable coloured people. The time was to be Christmas Day, the directors the members of a secret society which has existed in Kingston for some time, and the object the slaughter of the whites and the seizure of their property. Surely the people of England will at last have their eyes open to the character of the negro; they have been petting panthers, who, not satisfied with murdering their victims, mutilated them. We have been living on a mine, and we wish the people of England to know it. We were all to have been murdered on Christmas Day, and if the anti-slavery people do not know it, we do. There is not a respectable man in Jamaica will ever sleep again with the confidence he did before, and there is not one of that class who would not leave it to-morrow if he could.The truth was that a general insurrection was prepared, and nothing but the energy of the Governor saved the white population from extermination. That such a conspiracy existed was admitted even by the Colonial Standard, a paper strongly opposed to Mr. Eyre, and which actually condemned him for not having sooner credited the premeditated massacre. The blame, therefore, which the people of the colony attached to Governor Eyre was that he did not sufficiently believe in the general character of the insurrection. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had asked what was to be done now; but a more important question even than that was, what was the cause and origin of the outbreak? Now, Jamaica ought to be one of the most prosperous of all our colonies. It appeared from the most authentic documents that Jamaica was far more lightly taxed than Barbadoes, Trinidad, or our other West India colonies. Before the abolition of the slave trade Jamaica produced about four times more sugar than any of the other colonies, and since the passing of that measure, whilst the other colonies had progressed 50, 60, or 100 per cent, Jamaica had fallen off about 62 per cent. The reason for the retrograde position of Jamaica might be found in the following facts:—In Barbadoes the proportion of the blacks to the whites was nine to one, in Guiana eleven to one, in Trinidad eleven to one, but in Jamaica it was thirty to one. This disproportion between the two populations explained much that had occurred during the insurrection. Had Governor Eyre permitted the 500,000 of blacks to get the upper hand, how terrible the position of the 15,000 whites would have become! Were the feelings of those most interested in the matter—the white inhabitants of Jamaica —to be overlooked entirely? The white inhabitants poured into the Governor ad- 1815 dresses upon addresses, expressing their utmost sympathy with him and their approval of his conduct throughout those sad and disastrous events. The Bishop, Archdeacons, and the clergy of Jamaica, had sent the following letter to Governor Eyre:—We, the undersigned clergymen of this island, feel strongly called upon at the present crisis to express our deep sympathy with your Excellency, and our utter condemnation of the hasty and uncharitable judgment passed upon you. We feel the utmost indignation at the attacks made upon you by a portion of the British press, by persons who are incapable of appreciating the dangers and difficulties of our position, who, falling into the very error they would condemn, are clamouring for the punishment of persons whose crimes exist only in their imaginations. We fully share in the conviction, general in this island, that your promptness, decision, and energy have saved Jamaica from ruin. And we would hope that the time is not far distant when many of those who have been led to join in unfair attacks upon your Excellency will be convinced of their error, and will be forward to acknowledge that they have grievously wronged you. Those of us who have had the privilege of private intercourse with your Excellency are prepared to testify that never were charges of injustice and inhumanity more inappropriate than those with which your detractors have assailed you; but rather that decision, kindness, and humanity have uniformly characterized your conduct. The lasting gratitude of the colony will, we believe, follow your Excellency for your successful endeavours to bestow on us a form of Government calculated to insure peace and security, and to promote the welfare of all classes of the community, and our individual prayer will attend your Excellency, Mrs. Eyre, and your family. May the blessings of the Almighty grant you a happy issue out of all your difficulties, and a long future of successful administration as a Colonial Governor; and, whenever it may be needful, an honourable repose from the arduous toils of high office, heightened by the remembrance that, in the opinions of those best able to judge, you have faithfully done your duty.He contended, that it was the duty of every Government to support their officers who were placed in such a high and responsible position as that of Governor Eyre under such trying circumstances as had occurred in Jamaica. He (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) regretted that the late Secretary for the Colonies had resorted to the measure of suspending Governor Eyre before the inquiry. He considered that step of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to be one of an almost ungenerous character. He denied that it was incompatible with the proper conduct of that inquiry to continue Governor Eyre in his position. When the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) went to Corfu upon a special Commission, it was not deemed necessary 1816 to remove Sir John Young from his position of Governor. Governor Eyre had, however, suffered the punishment of deposition before the inquiry in Jamaica, and was treated in the most ignominious manner. He thought that the hon. Gentleman would have pursued a much wiser course if he had not brought this question forward, as he could not see how any practical result could arise from his Motion. Knowing what a humane and honourable man Governor Eyre was, he (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had the satisfaction of availing himself of this opportunity before the close of the Session of expressing the feeling with which he was impressed that the late Governor of Jamaica had acted in a most admirable manner in the difficult and dangerous position in which he was placed.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
I do not rise, Sir, for the purpose of entering into the consideration of the facts of this most painful case, neither do I intend to offer any opinion upon the points of law which have been adverted to in the speeches of some hon. Members who have addressed the House. I do not propose to enter into the facts of the case, because I feel I could add nothing to what has been already set forth in the Report of the distinguished and learned persons who have executed Her Majesty's Commission to inquire into this matter, although I am sure that no person can rise from a perusal of that Report without an intense feeling of pain, whilst feeling admiration for the temper and excellent manner in which the Commissioners have executed their difficult and important duties. I do not rise, I say, to enter into the legal questions involved, for this reason—that from what we have been told to-night, and considering the despatch of the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for the Colonies, I feel it is quite possible that legal proceedings may stillarise out of the transactions that have taken place, and I think, therefore, it would be in the highest degree improper for any one holding the position I have the honour to occupy, or even for this House, to arrive at any conclusion as to what ought to be the decision of those legal questions. But I rise simply to ask the House to consider the position in which it is placed with regard to the Resolutions to which it is asked to agree. I do not intend to say a word about the first Resolution of the hon. Gentleman, but I ask the attention of hon. Members to the second Resolution, which is in these words— 1817That this House, while approving the course taken by Her Majesty's Government in dismissing Mr. Eyre from the Governorship of the island, at the same time concurs in the view expressed by the late Secretary of the Colonies, that, 'while any very minute endeavour to punish acts which may now be the subject of regret' would not be expedient, still 'that great offences ought to be punished,' and that grave excesses of severity on the part of any civil, military, or naval officers ought not to be passed over with impunity.Now, I observe in passing that the answer to that would be that the late Secretary of the Colonies did not use the words "that grave excesses of severity on the part of any civil, military, or naval officer ought not to be passed over with impunity." In point of fact, we find that the late Secretary of the Colonies, in his despatch to Sir Henry Storks, says—I have communicated copies of your Report, with the appendix, to the Secretary of State for War, and to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who are the proper judges of the conduct of the military and naval officers engaged in these transactions. On my own part, I have to request that you will cause careful investigation to be made in those cases of civilians which appear to require it, with a view to such further proceeding as may be requisite and just. It will not be desirable to keep alive in the colony the heart-burnings connected with these lamentable occurrences by any very minute endeavour to punish every act which may now be the subject of regret. But great offences ought to be punished. I rely on your Government to accomplish this necessary object, and shall expect to receive a full report of the measures which have been taken with that view. You will, of course, be very careful not to give certificates under the Indemnity Act in any cases in which there is reasonable ground to question the propriety of giving them.Now, I ask whether the House does or does not agree with that statement contained in that despatch from the right hon. Gentleman. If the House does agree with it I should wish to know what is the object of passing a Resolution couched in the same words? The present Governor of Jamaica is acting upon the instructions contained in that despatch, and we see that they go to the extent of directing the prosecution of some of the persons connected with these unhappy transactions. It appears, then, to me that it would be superfluous for the House to affirm any of those instructions by embodying them in a Resolution of this House. If, however, the Resolution implied that something more is intended, then I think that we ought not to assent to it, as it would, in effect, amount to a prejudging the question as to the alleged commission of grave excesses of severity on the part of the authorities in the island, and as to whe- 1818 ther they ought to be punished. With regard to the other two Resolutions, I understand the third not to be supported by any hon. Member, and as to the mode in which compensation should be awarded, the hon. Member himself seemed to have a very vague idea of the principles on which it would be prudent to proceed, for when asked whether compensation out of the Imperial funds ought not to cover the losses of those planters who suffered injury at the first outbreak of the rebellion he said he did not in the least care, he would not object to their being included also. But I think this House will be slow to give its assent to an abstract Resolution in favour of some loose, vague principle of compensation to be awarded in a manner and to an extent which the Resolution leaves altogether unexplained. As to the fourth Resolution, I do not know how it is to be described. It asserts that because certain persons have been put to death without justification, and certain others have been punished with great severity, therefore persons now undergoing punishment—who, for all that the Resolution affirms, may be suffering with perfect propriety and according to their desert—ought to be released from that punishment, because, forsooth, some other persons were treated harshly. That is a system of compensation this House ought not to adopt, and I cannot think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Surrey intends to ask the House to affirm that Resolution. My right hon. Friend the late Under Secretary for the Colonies, looking on the four Resolutions as one, said they were not such as the House could be called upon to accept—though there were portions of those Resolutions to which individually he would not object; and accordingly he proposed to move the previous Question. My right hon. Friend, however, did not advert to the practice of the House which would lead to you, Sir, putting from the Chair the first of those Resolutions distinct from the other three, and, consequently, to the previous Question being moved to the first Resolution. Now, what does this first Resolution affirm?—That this House deplores the excessive punishments which followed the suppression of the disturbances of October last in the parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica, and especially the unnecessary frequency with which the punishment of death was inflicted.I have read that Resolution over and over again, and I must own that as I read it I do 1819 not think there is a man in this House who would not affirm that Resolution if it stood alone. It seems to me to steer clear of every objection that might be made to other Resolutions, because it uses the word "punishment" and does not assume, as has been done in other Resolutions to-night and on former occasions, that particular acts committed in the island were illegal. On the contrary, by employing the word "punishment" it assumes the legality and necessity of the acts of authority at the time when these were committed. But I want to know can there be a doubt that every one of us must deplore in our hearts, and in a manner which, I fear, no words of a Resolution can adequately express, that such acts should have taken place, that such excessive punishments should have been inflicted, and, above all, that the punishment of death should have been imposed with such unnecessary frequency? I give those who directed these measures full credit for rectitude of purpose; I do not desire to say one word against their motives, but I deplore what I believe was an error of judgment of a most serious kind. For my part, I trust that if the previous Question is to be moved, the first Resolution may be put separately, that we may have the opportunity of voting upon it apart from the other three Resolutions which have been proposed.
§ MR. CARDWELL
It is but natural, even at this late hour, that I should wish to address the House upon this subject. And without troubling you at any great length, I hope I shall be able to express the views I entertain with reference to these Resolutions. It would not have been natural for the Session to terminate without a discussion in this House upon a subject which more than any other in recent times has stirred the feelings of the community, and, as I can testify, has given to those intrusted with the responsibilities of power the deepest anxiety and pain. And if it was natural that the question should be discussed, from every consideration, personal and hereditary, it was natural that my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey should be the man to bring the question before the House of Commons, especially when we wish to deplore the severities exercised towards the black subjects of Her Majesty in Jamaica by those of the white race. I listened to the speech of my hon. Friend, and I must say, as far as spirit and intention were concerned, that I did not see in it those qualities of unfairness which, were so severely 1820 censured by my right hon. Friend opposite. No one who knows my hon. Friend, and no one who listened to his statement, could for a moment believe that every word which fell from him did not fall from the convictions of his head and the feelings of his heart. But my hon. Friend did nevertheless convey to the House, I think, a different impression with regard to the complaints contained in the ponderous book which the Commissioners have prepared than that conveyed by the Royal Commissioners themselves—a difference not in character, but in degree, and in a question of this kind degree is all important. I hope I shall be excused by my hon. Friend if I say that upon a question of this gravity to the character and interests of this country, and to the feelings of all who are dealt with when the House of Commons entertains such a question, I must prefer the deliberate and careful finding of the Royal Commissioners, who heard and saw the witnesses, to the comments of any Gentleman who takes his view from reading the documents accompanying their Report. I must say that in reading this volume I was myself impressed with a more intense feeling of regret for all that has occurred in Jamaica than any previously acquired knowledge, or than even the Report of the Commissioners had conveyed to my mind. It is the invariable effect of detail to influence the imagination and the feelings. But, I must say, that having gone through, as was my duty, the contents of this ghastly volume, the feeling left on my mind was one of the deepest sorrow and regret. My hon. Friend spoke very strongly of those who were the subject of alarm at the first outbreak of those disturbances, that they had acted as cowards, and as if there was much less danger than it appears to me there really was. He negatived many of the atrocities which were at first reported to me in the despatch of Governor Eyre, many of which certainly do not appear to have occurred precisely as Governor Eyre at first represented. But let anyone read in the evidence the records of those atrocities, and he will not only be deeply shocked, but will feel that those who had to deal with them in the first pressure of the emergency were not likely to view the details with that calm impartiality and dispassionate judgment that we are now able to bring to the consideration of the subject. In dealing with Governor Eyre we ought, I think, to remember the state of things at that time among the 1821 black population of the Southern States of America; that a civil war was going on in the neighbouring island of Hayti; and that he was suddenly called on to face an emergency which arose in a manner as much unexpected by him as by anybody else; entertaining what proved to be an erroneous consciousness of safety, he had permitted nearly the whole squadron to leave the island, and at the moment the force of troops at his disposal was not sufficient to secure the permanent restoration of order. Surrounded by the tears of those who had lost their relatives in these dreadful atrocities, and by the fears of those who wrote to him, sometimes truly, often in exaggerated terms, from all parts of the island, you must bear in mind the difficulties of the position in which he was placed. You ought not to forget that there was a man who, among all these anxieties and alarms, did retain some portion of his self-possession and natural courage, and that man was Governor Eyre. When a proposal was made to apply for aid to Cuba, he was the person to set his face against it; when a proposal was made to put Kingston under martial law, he was the person to refuse; and still later, I think as late as November, when the suggestion was made by a brave and experienced soldier, whose recommendation was endorsed by the Major General, that four other parishes should be put under martial law, Governor Eyre was the man who opposed the project. It was our duty not to forget these considerations; and we did, therefore, cordially agree with the Commissioners in giving Governor Eyre credit for the vigour and promptitude with which he repressed the insurrection. We were told to-night that no great danger ever existed. But such is not the language of the Commissioners. In one of their resolutions they spoke of an apparently formidable insurrection. Do we not know that forty miles of country were for days in the possession of the insurgents, that houses were gutted and in flames, that loyal inhabitants of the district had been killed, that the Court House was burnt down, the Custos and inspector of police were murdered, and that magistrates with their families were flying from the locality? In one of the resolutions the Commissioners say—That though the original design for the overthrow of constituted authority was confined to a small portion of the parish of St. Thomas-in-the-East, yet that the disorder in fact spread with singular rapidity over an extensive tract of country, and that such was the state of excitement prevailing in other parts of the island, that had 1822 more than a momentary success been obtained by the insurgents, their ultimate overthrow would have been attended with a still more fearful loss of life and property.Now, that is what I call the solemn decision of the Commissioners, arrived at after a most careful and anxious study of this painful subject. They were of opinion that the prompt repression of the disturbances was a measure of mercy, as well as a measure of justice—A little fire is quickly trodden out Which, being suffered, rivers cannot quench.Feeling the justice of this judgment of the Commissioners, we felt it our duty to give the credit due to Governor Eyre. But when I come to speak of the measures which were afterwards adopted, a very different duty devolves upon me. I see my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Russell Gurney) who, at great sacrifice to himself, undertook, with Sir Henry Storks and Mr. Maule, this responsible, difficult, and painful duty, and if I say anything at all at variance with the facts he will be able to correct me. The continuance of martial law for so long a period of time, and the execution, and the flogging of so large a number of our fellow-subjects in pursuance of the sentence of martial law, were proceedings which it is certainly impossible to do other than in the strongest way to deplore and condemn. It was a grievous fault; and, by the censure it has entailed, it has been answered grievously. I have reason to know that the punishment which has fallen upon Governor Eyre has been deeply felt. I have not the honour of his acquaintance, but I believe him to be a man of courage and also of humanity. I do not palliate his errors; I deeply deplore them; but I am, nevertheless, convinced that he acted with the real belief that he was discharging his duty. The House is aware that, from the reign of Charles II. to the present time, statutes passed by the Legislature of Jamaica, and sanctioned by the Crown, have authorized, under certain circumstances, and with certain limitations, the proclamation of martial law. The statute now in force limits to one month the duration of any such proclamation. For the existence of these statutes Governor Eyre was not responsible. If they ought to have been repealed, which is not the question we are now considering, the blame may rest upon successive Governments, which have permitted them to continue. But it appears to me that Governor Eyre 1823 fell into the mistake of considering that because a month was the extreme period limited by the statute for the duration of martial law when once proclaimed, therefore its continuance for a month was justifiable and regular, irrespectively of any continuing necessity. The Commissioners and Her Majesty's late Government agreed in their conclusion, approved the original proclamation, but disapproved and condemned its continuance. Then, the question has been raised whether Mr. Eyre ought to be brought to trial before a jury of his countrymen. Her Majesty's late Government were not of opinion that he ought so to be put upon his trial. I do not think my words were correctly quoted in the early part of the evening. The despatch will show that the first reason given for not replacing him in his position as Governor was our disapproval of his conduct created by the Report of the Commission; but we did not think that it was consistent with our duty to expose him, as my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster suggested, to trial before a jury of his countrymen. On the contrary, we agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey who left the chair of the Jamaica Committee rather than be party to a prosecution. I do not think that any one who has due regard to the truth can deny that Mr. Eyre really shared in the belief, universal at the moment among all the white and coloured men of the island, that a conspiracy for their destruction had existed, and that Mr. Gordon was to a great extent guilty of promoting it. We were of opinion, for the reasons stated by my hon. Friend, that it was not a case for a criminal prosecution, but was properly dealt with by the removal of Governor Eyre from his office. With regard to martial law itself I shall say nothing, for the reasons stated by the hon. Gentleman who last spoke. I will only observe that what we have done in respect to Governor Eyre was founded upon principles that are laid down by the greatest authorities that have adorned the literature of this country. In one of them I find—When law is silenced by the noise of arms, the rulers of the armed force must punish as equitably as they can those crimes which threaten their own safety and that of society. Every moment beyond is usurpation. As soon as the law can act, every other mode of punishing supposed crime is itself an enormous crime.Upon that principle we have acted throughout. So much with regard to Mr. Eyre: 1824 with regard to those who have acted under him, I gave the following instructions:—I have communicated copies of your report, with the appendix, to the Secretary of State for War, and to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who are the proper judges of the conduct of the military and naval officers engaged in these transactions. On my own part, I have to request that you will cause careful investigation to be made in those cases of civilians which appear to require it, with a view to such further proceedings as may be requisite and just. It will not be desirable to keep alive in the colony the heart-burnings connected with these lamentable occurrences by any very minute endeavour to punish every act which may now be the subject of regret. But great offences ought to be punished. I rely on your Government to accomplish this necessary object, and shall expect to receive a full report of the measures which have been taken with that view.Now, I understand from the speeches of my hon. and learned Friend and of my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies that the present Government will adhere to those instructions, and that the Governor of the colony is carrying them into effect. Ramsay is being tried for his life, and Ensign Cullen and Dr. Morris have also been arraigned, while further proceedings are in progress. I now come to examine the Resolutions proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey. I am quite sure that he has no other object in view than to promote the ends of justice and humanity; and that he has introduced the subject in order that it may be considered by the House of Commons with a view to furthering the ends of justice and promoting the interests of the colony. Looking at it, then, in that light, it appears to me that it is impossible that any Member of this House can differ from the opinion expressed in the first of those Resolutions. With regard to the other three, I will frankly say that I sympathize with the spirit which has dictated them. As to the second, it would be strange if I did not agree with it, since I believe the sentiments it contains have been largely taken from the despatch I had the honour to lay upon the table. With regard to the next, which deals with compensation, I should undoubtedly have pursued, had I remained in office, the policy which I doubt not will be pursued by those who have succeeded me. I should have communicated with the new Governor of Jamaica, and requested him to consider how far it was expedient to make compensation to those who have sustained unmerited injuries in the 1825 course of the disturbances in the island. Neither should I have confined it to one side, but have required investigation into the claims not only of the poor people who had suffered from the severities we all deplore; but also into the claims of those magistrates, landed proprietors and others, whose property was destroyed in the original disturbances. Then as to the amnesty. My hon. and learned Friend was very satirical upon the logical absurdity of remitting sentences that might have been justly passed, while other sentences that were too severe, or altogether unjust, were not touched: and it must be borne in mind that the severities of martial law lied already terminated, when martial law itself had ceased; amnesty could now have no effect on them. The only sentences which could now be affected by an amnesty would be sentences which had been passed by the constituted tribunals of the island in the regular course of law. I will now state to my hon. Friend what appears to me to be sufficient reason for net pressing this matter upon the House. First, I do not think it has been the practice of this House—the ultimate Court of Appeal, which is always ready to redress the grievance of every subject of Her Majesty—to interpose its high authority while proceedings of a judicial character are actually in progress. Ramsay is being tried for his life, while serious charges against others are being investigated by the constituted authorities. It seems to me more natural and desirable that the House should reserve its decision until those proceedings are over; it will then be competent to form an opinion upon them. Then, as to compensation my hon. Friend seems to think it should conic from the revenues of this country; but I feel sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be so ready to express such an opinion. As it is, we have two regiments supported at the public expense for the protection of Jamaica, and my impression is that, if any compensation for these disturbances were granted, it would be out of the revenues of the colony itself; and if that be so, it would be unusual for the House of Commons to pass a Resolution upon the subject. Another most powerful reason for declining to come to the Resolutions offered for our acceptance is to be found in the arrangements made for the future government of the colony. A most able man has just been appointed Governor of Jamaica. You have been most fortunate in securing the services of Sir 1826 Henry Storks, and of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Russell Gurney), and lastly, of Mr. J. B. Maule, upon the Commission. You have also been most fortunate in having for your first Governor, under the new constitution, such an able and experienced public servant as Sir John Grant. What will be Sir John Grant's first object in beginning his new Government? He will endeavour to secure the confidence of all classes in Jamaica—to assure them by his acts that he is not the representative or partizan of the white or black, but the servant of the Queen—come to give equal justice to all. That I am sure is his desire, and it will also, I hope, accurately describe his conduct. But if we fetter him with the Resolutions proposed, the second of which tells him to deal with severity towards the white, and the last to give amnesty to the black, while the third proposes to give compensation only to the black to the exclusion of the white proprietor who has suffered—my belief is that Sir John Grant will not be placed in very advantageous circumstances for commencing his new Government. It seems to me that it would be far better to leave cases where compensation and amnesty are prayed to be decided in the natural course by consultations between the Government of Jamaica and the Secretary of State at home. I say this without objecting to the spirit of the Resolutions; I entirely concur with the proposals to grant both amnesty and compensation, and also to administer punishment when deserved; but I believe, from the reasons I have given, that it would be unwise for the House to express that opinion by a formal Resolution. Before I sit down I wish to allude to another subject which has not been mentioned in the course of this debate, but which I should not pass by unnoticed. It will be remembered that in the first despatch, in which Governor Eyre spoke of the principal causes of the disturbances, he alluded to a letter which had been addressed to me by Dr. Underhill, and he attributed to that letter in great part the origin of the disturbances. As it was in consequence of my having communicated the letter to Governor Eyre that it obtained publicity, I feel bound to express an opinion upon that part of the case. The letter, which was brought to me I believe by the hon. Member for Bristol, was perfectly bonâ fide, and addressed to me for the purpose of obtaining practical inquiry into the subject. I accor- 1827 dingly sent it to the Governor for that purpose. If the consequences which have been said since to have resulted from that letter could have been reasonably expected by the Government of Jamaica, I think it was not necessary to give the letter publicity; and that the publishers of the letter, and not its writer, must be held responsible. I will further say, in regard to the persons connected with that letter, that when the despatch was published in the London Gazette, nothing could have been more reasonable and moderate than the course they pursued; and of all the deputations which came to me in that period of excitement, there was none more temperate and cairn in dealing with the subject than a deputation of Baptists which came from different parts of the country in company with the hon. Member for Bristol (Sir Morton Peto). In conclusion, Sir, I hope my hon. Friend will agree with me, that we should not be justified in dividing upon the Motions which have been submitted to the House. He must see that even among his own friends there is not a perfect concurrence of opinion. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Westminster would vote with him, but he has given notice of an Amendment which asks us to declare that the recent transactions in Jamaica require investigations of a character which can be satisfactorily met by a judicial tribunal only. I trust, then, we shall not divide upon the question, and I sincerely hope that these disturbances, the last of a long series of troubles which have afflicted Jamaica, will be succeeded by a period of prosperity such as the colony has never before known. It is in itself one of the most fertile in Her Majesty's dominions, and is blessed with a splendid climate. It was called by Lord Rodney, when by his splendid victory he had saved it, the first gem in the diadem of England, and without going as far as Rodney in his enthusiasm went, I think it reasonable to hope that, under her future Government, the island, which has hitherto been a warning to our other possessions in the West Indies, may enjoy such prosperity as to make it an example to the surrounding colonies.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES,
in supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Westminster, said, he found himself in the category of those who, according to the dictum which they heard earlier in the evening from the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies, had for- 1828 feited for ever all title to be heard on this question in this House. He wished, however, to impress upon the House that if they now allowed the deeds which had been done in Jamaica to pass without being dealt with by any judicial tribunal, they would be the first generation of Englishmen who had shirked the duty of seeing that the honour of England did not come to disgrace in the hands of persons who represented us in the colonies, and who bore our honour and our authority on their shoulders. He would not go far back, but he would give two or three instances of what had been done in this country with regard to Colonial Governors within the last 100 years. He did not intend to say a word with regard to Governor Eyre and the case of Mr. Gordon, for he quite agreed with the Attorney General that, as these matters might come before a judicial tribunal—and he certainly hoped they would—this was not the place to speak of them. The first case to which he would refer was that of Governor Sabine, the Governor of Gibraltar, just 100 years ago. A military train started from Gibraltar, and connected with the artillery train was a carpenter who was tried by court martial and flogged. The sentence passed upon the man was simply affirmed by Governor Sabine, and for that he was tried in this country and found guilty of trespass. The case was mentioned shortly by Lord Mansfield, but the amount of damages was not stated. The next case was that of Governor Mostyn, of Minorca, in 1773. At that time the island was in at least as troubled a state as Jamaica in 1865, and there was a certain wine grower, named Fabricas, who was very troublesome to the Government, who was in the habit of perpetually getting up petitions in favour of free trade in wine, and at last he threatened to come with 200 wine growers behind him. The Governor called a council of field officers in the island, and consulted three of the Judges, and with the consent of that body so formed he seized upon Mr. Fabricas, imprisoned him for a week, and then sent him away to Carthagena, his own country, for a year's banishment. Mr. Fabricas prosecuted the Government in this country for that conduct. It was an action brought before a civil judicial tribunal, because the offence charged was not of a nature to be heard before a criminal tribunal. The defence was that the island was almost in a state of insurrection, and that in three cases former Governments had done exactly the 1829 same thing. The Lord Chief Justice De Grey, who tried the action, laid it down that the defendant had acted with a great deal of caution, judgment, and prudence—he might almost say with impartiality—but yet a verdict was found for the plaintiff with £3,000 damages. A new trial was moved for and refused, and upon a writ of error being brought, it was contended for the Governor that he was only accountable to the King in Council. Lord Mansfield, before whom the case then went, laid it down that in an English Court of Justice such monstrous propositions as that a Governor acting by virtue of letters patent under the Great Seal could do what he pleased, and was accountable to God and his own conscience, formed a doctrine which could not possibly be maintained, because if he was not accountable in that court he was not accountable anywhere. He added that the King in Council had no jurisdiction in the matter, not being able to give damages, reparation, or punishment. The judgment was, therefore, affirmed. The last case was that of General Picton, who became Governor of Trinidad after it was taken by Sir Ralph Abercromby, and who had received written instructions from Sir Ralph that no sentence was to be executed in criminal matters without his (General Picton's) approbation. Everything in the island at the time was disturbed, and no man's property was safe. A robbery was committed in the colony at the house of a person named Peter Roez, and suspicion fell on a mulatto girl named Louisa Calderon. The Judge referred the matter to General Picton, and the mulatto girl was subjected to torture, with a view to extract from her a confession of her guilt. She was tied by the right hand, and the left foot rested on a spike, and there she was kept till she fainted. It happened that a Commission was sent at the time to advise as to the state and government of the colony, and that Commission brought home news of what had taken place, and a public prosecution was instituted, and a defence was set up which seemed to answer the objection of the hon. Member for Bradford as to any judicial proceeding in the present case. The defence was that under the law of Spain torture of this kind was allowable, and that the Governor was within the law when he ordered the girl to be tortured. General Picton was found guilty of having violated the law. A motion was then made for a new trial, and the charge continued to hang over 1830 General Picton throughout the whole of the time he had so gloriously led the fighting brigade in the Peninsular war. The men of that day felt that such a course as that pursued by Picton ought not to be allowed to remain unpunished; and he (Mr. Hughes) contended that at the present moment the conduct of Governor Eyre ought not to be condoned without the intervention of a trial before a legal tribunal. He had no hesitation in declaring that if he found himself placed in the position at present occupied by Governor Eyre be would ask for such a trial as the only mode of duly consulting the honour and interest of England which had been committed to his charge; and he earnestly hoped that that was the mode in which that question would yet be determined.
§ COLONEL NORTH
said, he would not have troubled the House with any observations except for one or two of the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member for East Surrey. That hon. Member had thought fit to apply the epithet "cowardly" to Dr. Bowerbank, a friend of his; but he had not explained in what way the conduct of that gentleman was cowardly. As the Custos of Kingston, it was Dr. Bowerbank's duty to arrest Mr. Gordon, and that duty he performed in as unobjectionable a manner as possible. The term "cowardly" could not well be applied in this country by one gentleman to another with impunity; and, as Dr. Bowerbank had been in England for several months, it would have been better if the hon. Member had applied it to him during that period. [Laughter.] He quite understood that laugh, but English gentlemen usually refrained from using epithets of that kind towards each other. The hon. Member had also stated that Governor Eyre had a force of 2,000 men at his disposal, but that number was only arrived at by mixing up with the regular troops sailors, marines, mounted police, and persons of that description. Governor Eyre had only a weak battalion of the 6th Regiment and a black regiment, and remembering what occurred in India in the case of the Native army, and bearing also in mind that no one knew beforehand what course the Maroons would take, it was obvious that Governor Eyre could safely rely only on the 6th Regiment. The flippancy which individual officers had exhibited had been animadverted upon, and any such spirit was certainly much to be regretted; for he believed that, if there was 1831 one feeling more conspicuously displayed than another by English officers generally, whether belonging to the army or the navy, it was that of extreme humanity, and nothing could be more painful to a British officer than to be called upon to perform anything like an act of cruelty. But it should be recollected that those acts were done during a time of insurrection, when there were but a few thousands of white people whom a handful of troops had to protect from the mass of the population of the island. Some hon. Gentlemen appeared to think that every negro who was killed during these unhappy transactions was murdered, while every white man who was butchered only got what he deserved.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
Sir, I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes; but I am anxious briefly to state the view which I take of the Resolutions now before us, and also to notice some of the points that have been raised in this discussion. As to the Resolutions, there is not a word from which I dissent, either in the first or the second of them; and, from what I have gathered in the course of the debate, I think the House generally is disposed to place upon record its affirmance of the first Resolution. But, as to the second Resolution, the reason why I do not wish to see it placed upon record as a Resolution of this House is because I approve of the substance of it, and because the course which it recommends is the course which the Government have already taken, and which they are continuing to take. If the Government were not adopting the course which the House thought ought to be adopted — if they appeared to be remiss and inattentive to the necessity of dealing with serious abuses committed in the course of the insurrection, then, no doubt, it would be most competent and might be proper and perhaps also necessary for the House to express its opinion in order to compel the Government to do their duty. But I believe it to be a proceeding most unusual, and I think not convenient, certainly unnecessary—if the Government are already pursuing the course which the House deems to be right, and which has for its purpose and object the execution of justice against any persons who may be inculpated by these transactions—for the House under those circumstances to pass a Resolution which, if it could have any effect at all, could only have the effect of infusing a political ele- 1832 ment into what ought to be a strictly judicial proceeding. And here I must repeat that I give my entire and cordial assent to the substance of these Resolutions, and, with little exception, to the substance of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey, so far as I can recall it, in his able speech. But I cannot agree with what he said at the conclusion of his speech, when he seemed to put the case in this way—that the House must either approve and endorse the occurrences to which he referred, or it must adopt these Resolutions. Now, I do not think that the House is put into any such dilemma. The House may approve the sentiments expressed in the Resolutions, and while it does approve them may feel it to be unnecessary and inexpedient to interfere either with the due course of justice or with inquiry. Before sitting down I should not like to omit saying that I dissent from any observations which may be made for the purpose of extenuating these excesses. There can be no doubt of the general truth of that which the hon. Member (Mr. Stuart Mill) has ably stated, that exactly in the degree in which those who administer martial law are removed from the responsibilities attending the ordinary administration of justice, in that very degree is it the duty of those who are in charge over them to watch, and severely repress all excesses and abuses which may be committed in the operation of martial law. And when we look to the numbers of those who have suffered death in these unhappy transactions, even without drawing the limit of time, and seeing how large a proportion of these persons were put to death after the practical suppression of the insurrection, it is impossible not to conclude that errors, not to say crimes, of a deplorable character have been committed. Now, a few words only with regard to the observations of my hon. Friend (Mr. Thomas Hughes) upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Westminster, which he supports. Every word which my hon. Friend said to show how necessary was that Motion seemed to me to show how unnecessary it was. He cited several cases in which actions for damages had been brought against Governors of colonies by persons who had illegally suffered wrong at the hands of those Governors. Well, that is a remedy which belongs to the person aggrieved. He wants no Resolution of this House to enable him to bring his action. My hon. Friend mentioned the proceedings 1833 taken against Governor Picton for permitting the administration of torture to an individual in an illegal manner. If anything of that sort can be proved against the Governor, a public prosecution will also lie here. No Resolution of this House is needed for the institution of a criminal prosecution. And, further, I collect that in the opinion of some persons there is a case of this kind, and that it is their intention to bring it to the test of law. They can do so if they please, but that is no reason for passing a Resolution, especially one couched in a vague form, not showing what particular kind of judicial investigation is to be instituted, or by what authority, but simply stating that the recent transactions in Jamaica require investigation of a character which can be only satisfactorily made by a judicial tribunal. Now, we know perfectly well that a judicial tribunal cannot investigate these transactions generally; they can only be brought before such a tribunal by means of a definite charge against an individual, and then of course it will be for the Court to say whether the charge is or is not made out upon the evidence. No vote of the House is necessary for the purpose; and, therefore, all the reasons which have been given in support of that proposition are in truth reasons for confining ourselves at present to that general expression of opinion which will be given if we assent to the first Resolution of my hon. Friend.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
I have been exceedingly unwilling to take any part in this debate, believing that the proposition which I had the honour of holding precluded me from entering into many of the topics which have been discussed this evening, and feeling, also, that in the position I at present fill I may possibly have to pronounce judicially upon other points which have been raised in the course of the debate. Upon some of the questions touched on this evening, therefore, I feel myself debarred from saying a single word: and I do not think I should have been induced to break the silence I had imposed upon myself had it not been for some observations which fell from my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Adderley), and also for the challenge given by my hon. Friend the late Under Secretary. I was called upon by him to state whether, in point of fact, I had changed the opinion expressed in the Report to which I was party—namely, that Gordon 1834 in our opinion was not shown to have been guilty of the offence attributed to him, or of any complicity in the conspiracy. I certainly have not changed that opinion. I entertain it as fully now as before. I am perfectly satisfied that the evidence on which Gordon was convicted was wholly insufficient to justify the conviction, and I am also satisfied, having carefully examined all the evidence adduced before us in the course of our inquiry, that, in the words of the Report—Although it appears exceedingly probable that Mr. Gordon, by his words and writings, produced a material effect on the minds of Bogle and his followers, and did much to produce that state of excitement and discontent in different parts of the island which rendered the spread of the insurrection exceedingly probable, yet we cannot see, in the evidence which has been adduced, any sufficient proof either of his complicity in the outbreak at Morant Bay or of his having been a party to a general conspiracy against the Government.Of course I do not shrink from what is stated in the Report—that we were of opinion that there had been very questionable speeches and writings on the part of Gordon—matters that might possibly have subjected him to an indictment for sedition—but that was a wholly different thing from the crime for which he was convicted, and it would not justify the sentence passed upon him, and, unfortunately, carried into execution. I do not know whether I ought to go further; but I cannot help saying a few words respecting the description of the original outbreak given by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton). I cannot conceive how he could have looked at the Report, or at the evidence on which it is based, without coming to the conclusion that the outbreak had in it something far more serious than that which he has suggested. The hon. Member told us that candour compelled him to state that at the time of the outbreak considerable irritation existed among the black population, in consequence of their being driven from lands which they thought they were entitled to possess. But that was not the origin of the outbreak. Those who originated it were not persons who had been driven from lands to which they believed themselves entitled. They were persons who, to a very great extent, were settled upon their own freeholds. No doubt they availed themselves of the general desire on the part of the black population not, indeed, to retain possession of lands on which they had settled with a questionable title, but to become possessed of lands which had never been 1835 occupied by them, and to which they had no title whatever. There was a general idea among the black population that all "the back lands," as they were called, had been originally the property of the Queen, and that the Queen by some grant, which had been concealed from them by the manœuvres of the white population, had made these "back lands" over to the negroes. That was the notion which existed among the blacks about the land, and the originators of the outbreak took advantage of the excitement upon that subject in order to produce the "disaffection" which undoubtedly prevailed to a large extent in the island. But the hon. Gentleman altogether ignores the planned rising among the negroes, proved by witness after witness who came before us, and upon which I cannot understand that there can be any question—the actual drillings which went on among the people, their formation into different companies, with colonels and captains appointed over them, and the speeches addressed to them, in which they were told that the time would come when the effect of their drilling would be seen, and they would obtain the advantages promised them by those who originated the outbreak. We find from what occurred afterwards that there was a great deal more in the outbreak than a dispute about land. Throughout the few days that the outbreak lasted, the war cry and watchword of the negro was "Colour for colour!" "Buckra country for us," they said, "buckra" being the negro term for the whites. Then a perfectly different course was pursued from that which was followed in other insurrections. Formerly the regular course has been to set fire to the planters' houses and burn down the estate buildings. In this case, however, every plantation, with the trash-houses, where the sugar is manufactured, and the estate buildings, remained untouched — the cry being, "No touch trash-houses; we want them for us." At another place the plan was distinctly announced that in the following week, after the negroes had possessed themselves of the whole country, they would come down and take up the crops, because the white population would then be driven away, and would be no more seen in the island. Now, in dwelling upon the severities employed, which I deplore and condemn as strongly as anybody can, and which I think we have condemned pretty strongly in our Report, it is not quite right to ignore all this and to forget the real state of the island, 1836 the danger which had to be encountered by the whole white population, and the difficulties which beset those in authority at the time of the outbreak. I join most cordially in almost everything which has been said by my hon. Friend the late Under Secretary for the Colonies; and the anxiety which I felt, and which all the Commisioners felt, was that something should be done in order to prevent the recurrence of events similar to those which took place in Jamaica. I do trust that we shall not allow this occasion to pass away, without doing something in order to insure that if martial law is again resorted to in that island, steps shall be taken to point out how it is to be enforced. That the practice of proclaiming martial law has existed for centuries in Jamaica there can be no doubt. That every Governor has gone out with the belief that he had that power in his hands, and could exercise it when the occasion required, there is also no doubt. One of the misfortunes of Mr. Eyre was the nature of the advice which was offered all around him, and the utter want of any assistance from any persons with whom be was brought into contact. I do trust that the suggestions made by my hon. Friend will not be allowed to drop. Not only has martial law existed for centuries in Jamaica, but very recently power to declare martial law where it did not exist before has been given in other parts of the West Indies; and these laws have been sanctioned by the Home Government. The time has, therefore, really come when, seeing what has been the result of the declaration of martial law in this instance, and what disgrace has rested upon this country in consequence, we should not content ourselves with condemning those who were placed in such difficult circumstances, but should see whether some steps cannot be taken to lay down what these powers are, and in what mode, and with what safeguards, they may best be exercised.
in reply, withdrew the expression "cowardly," as applied to Dr. Bowerbank, and said he had candidly admitted that the rioters who went to Morant Bay intended mischief, and perhaps murder, and that expressions were used which seemed to indicate an intention to massacre the whites, but he had shown from what occurred that such a design could have been entertained by only a few negroes. The first Resolution had been accepted by the House, and he was glad 1837 of it; but the House should clearly understand that in accepting it they were passing a most decisive and emphatic condemnation upon excessive severity, which had been employed after the disturbances had been put down.
§ Previous Question, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that if it were accepted in the sense stated by the Mover, the House would commit the injustice it denounced by condemning persons whose conduct had not been inquired into, and who had not been heard in their own defence; and it would be a most extraordinary thing for such persons to be sent before a legal tribunal with the weight of an emphatic vote of condemnation by the House of Commons hanging over them. Either these persons had been guilty of a most serious offence, or they were innocent. If guilty, they ought in some way to be brought to justice; and he could not conceive that the House would evade legal proceedings by "deploring" something which had happened. He regretted to hear it contended that there was any difficulty about bringing to justice persons who had unnecessarily put the Queen's subjects to death by hundreds. We had a precedent in what happened in the case of an insurrection in India thirty years ago. It had to be grappled with by a small military force, and a Civil officer sent a young military officer into the field with an ambiguous commission to put down the insurrection, and not to embarrass himself with prisoners. The insurgents as a body fled; some surrendered and sought the protection of the military officer, who had them hanged by his troops, whose courage was sustained by music. He was properly tried by court martial, for inter arma silent leges. He was dismissed the army; and although on account of his youth there was a great disposition to restore him, the Duke of Wellington firmly insisted that he should not be restored, because he had carried on warlike operations with cruelty. If officers of the army and navy, in carrying on military operations, put people to death unnecessarily, it was the bounden duty of the Government to have them brought to trial, like that officer, and judged by courts martial. The proclamation issued in Jamaica authorized Her Majesty's troops to exercise all the rights of belligerents; and during the four year's civil war in America every attempt to put to death any who 1838 were taken prisoners with arms in their hands was deprecated in this country with the odium it deserved. Should it be said that in one of our colonies a military force, putting down insurrection, unnecessarily put hundreds to death, and that the House of Commons did nothing but deplore the unfortunate circumstances. Obviously for such excesses both military officers and civilians must be held responsible in the only way they could be. When it had been proclaimed that the law was suspended, and that the civil tribunals had no cognizance of what had occurred, there was but one tribunal to which any man could be held responsible, and that was the tribunal of Parliament. The House was bound to inquire into this matter, and to ascertain who was responsible for the acts which had been committed. If this Resolution were passed it could only lead to further proceedings. This was a question of misconduct in the discharge of a great public duty, and the man who had misconducted himself must be brought to justice in that Assembly. He maintained, therefore, that the House ought not to pass this Resolution. The hon. Member for Westminster ought to be allowed to bring forward this subject again on the reassembling of Parliament, when he trusted that the House would vindicate its authority.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
If Governor Eyre is to be brought to justice in Parliament it must be by process of impeachment, and it is for the hon. Gentleman and those who act with him to consider whether they have grounds for so grave an act. But what I want to call the attention of the House to is that this Resolution, if it be passed, could never be the foundation of an impeachment, because it is based throughout on the assumption that everything which was done was legal. The expression here, "that this House deplores the excessive punishments which followed the suppression of the disturbances," of course implies that those acts were legal, because the use of the term "punishment" is an acknowledgment that it was the result of a legal act. It would not, therefore, be possible to take this Resolution as the groundwork of an impeachment of Governor Eyre. In passing the Resolution the House would only express what the words expressed, and not the interpretation put upon them by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton); for, indeed, I must protest against that interpretation. The Resolution deplores what took place 1839 in Jamaica, and I suppose there is no one in this House who does not deplore that which, whatever may be the result, all must look upon as a great shame and calamity to this country. But, at the same time, the Resolution assumes throughout that all which was done was done legally; and while it regrets everything that occurred, it does not leave in doubt its opinion that the action of the authorities was perfectly legal. Nor is there any allusion in this Resolution to any individuals. The hon. Gentleman, it is true, said that there was au allusion to the conduct of individuals who ought to be proceeded against; but, on the contrary, expressions of that kind are entirely avoided throughout the Resolution. It says—We deplore the punishments which followed the suppression of the rebellion, and especially the unnecessary frequency with which the punishment of death was inflicted.The very phrase "punishment of death" implies a legal act, and therefore there will be no ground whatever, in the event of the Resolution being passed, for the assumption that we are necessarily called upon to act against individuals. The result of passing the Resolution will, in fact, be quite contrary to that course which the hon. Gentleman seems to imply will be the logical consequence. I think that this is a Resolution very proper to pass, and one in which all can join. I trust, therefore, that the House will adopt it.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution 2.
wished to know, whether the Government intended that the conduct of the officers should be inquired into with a view to their punishment; because, if so, he should have no occasion to trouble the House with a division upon the second Resolution?
§ MR. ADDERLEY
repeated that the instructions given in the despatch of the late Government to the Governor of Jamaica had only been more imperatively insisted on by the present Government, and proceedings were now taking place.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
stated that the instructions had been sent out from the Colonial Office to proceed against civilians, and similar instructions had gone from the Admiralty and the War Office with reference to the naval and military officers.
§ Resolution, by leave, withdrawn.1840
§ Resolution 3.
said, with regard to the third Resolution, that he understood it was under the consideration of the Government whether it might not be desirable to give compensation to those whose property had been wantonly and cruelly destroyed, and therefore he would not press the Resolution.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
What he had said was that this Resolution was differently worded from the one which was on the paper yesterday, when the proposition was that compensation should be charged upon the Imperial revenue. He thought that the question of compensation was one that should be left to the consideration of the Government of Jamaica.
said, that all he wished was that compensation should be given, and it was a matter of indifference to him whether it came from this country or from Jamaica. What he wished was that compensation should be given to the sufferers, and if he understood that the Government contemplated such a proceeding he would not press his Resolution.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
considered that it should be left to the Governor of Jamaica, he having full power to deal with it.
§ Resolution, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Resolution 4.
said, that notwithstanding what had been stated by the Attorney General, he could not conceive why they should not remit punishment because a certain number of individuals had been already punished. Every rebellion was followed by an amnesty, and a remission of punishment; and he would most certainly divide on the fourth Resolution, unless he understood from the right hon. Gentleman that it was the real desire of the Government to remit further punishment wherever possible.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, that he must object to the looseness of the wording of the proposition in the Resolution; but there would be a revision of sentences. Some days ago instructions were sent out to Sir John Grant calling for the Judge's note in each case, and for a report as to which cases there might be ground for remitting any part of the punishments in,
§ Resolution, by leave, withdrawn.