Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library







Published by the Jamaica Committee, 65 Fleet Street, 1866


Compiled from a multiplicity of documents



The island of Jamaica is nearly oval in shape, 150 miles long and about 41 miles broad. The Blue Mountains run through the island, rising in some places to upwards of' 7,200 feet in height.

The island is divided into three counties: Middlesex in the centre, Surrey in the east, and Cornwall in the west. These are subdivided into 22 parishes. Spanish Town is the seat of government, but Kingston is the largest town and real capital.


The Daily News thus describes the locality of the late disturbances:-

"The eastern end of the island forms the county of Surrey. This is nearly a parallelogram, about 40 miles long from east to west, and 20 broad from north to south. The parish of St. Thomas-in-the-East lies at the eastern extremity of the county, and is about 20 miles long and 10 broad. Kingston and Port Royal lie on the southern coast, near the western extremity of the county. Morant Bay the scene of the outbreak is about 20 miles east from Kingston. Morant Point, 10 miles further east, forms the extreme point in the island. Due north from Morant Bay, and on the north coast, is Port Antonio. It was within the area formed between a line drawn from Morant Bay on the south to Port Antonio on the north and the eastern shores of the island, that Governor Eyre considered the rebellion confined. This includes a space of about 20 miles from north to south, by 10 or 12 from east to west. Actually however, the limits of the disturbed district were much, more circumscribed. Parallel to the north coast, about 10 miles inland, there runs the great ridge of the Blue Mountains. At their foot the Plantain Garden River flows in an easterly direction, falling into the sea near Morant Point. A mile or two above its debouchure are situated Amity Hall and Hordley, the scenes of attack by the negroes. They are 12 miles from Morant Bay. Stoney Gut is a low range of hills parallel to the Blue Mountains."


Governor Eyre's despatch to Mr. Cardwell, dated King's House, Jamaica, Aug. 12, 1864, gives the following information. The expenditure of the island for 1863 was augmented to the extent of £9,800, "most of which," says Mr. Eyre, "is due to an increase of crime and pauperism, additional expenses of lunatic asylum, repairs of buildings, etc." [Reports of Colonial Possessions for 1863, Vol. I, p. 11]

In another despatch from Governor Eyre to Mr. Cardwell, dated Dec. 19th 1864, and transmitting a return of the then last election of members of the Assembly, the following passage occurs:- "The present return shows that the number of persons qualified to vote at elections of Members of Assembly were 1,903, whilst the actual number of voters who returned the 47 Members of Assembly of the last elections only amounted to 1,457; that is, 1,457 selected the representatives who constitute the House of Assembly, whilst 436,807 had no voice or influence at all in such election, and yet Jamaica is said to possess representative institutions."

The population of Jamaica, according to the census, of 1861 (cited in Governor Eyre's despatch of Aug. 12th, 1864), consisted of 213,521 males and 227,743 females. The white population at the same time was 13,816, or in the proportion of one white to 32 black or coloured.

The very limited franchise alluded to by Governor Eyre is an important element which must be considered in any attempt to account for the existence of wide-spread political discontent.

The voting power is restricted as follows. By the election law of 1858, a voter must have a freehold of £6, or pay a rent of £20, or have a salary of £50, or pay taxes to the amount of 20s. in the year, or have a deposit of £100 in a bank for a year, and every franchise was required to be registered at the cost of 10s. a year. By Vict. 28, cap. 11, Laws of Jamaica (1864), this duty of 10s. was removed in two specified cases. The franchise was not lowered by this law, but, on the contrary, the £6 freeholder was required to have paid 20s. taxes in order to be exempt from the 10s. stamp; and while the 20s. tax-payer remained subject to the stamp, the 30s. taxpayer was relieved from it. Dr. Underhill's book gives the number of voters as 2,500, of whom 700 were freeholders, 1,300 tax-payers, and 400 having salaries of the required amount. Thus we see that the number of persons possessing the suffrage has largely decreased since he wrote.

In Governor Eyre's despatch in the Blue Book already quoted under the head "Political Franchise," we read as follows: "Remains unaltered, and consists first, of a clear annual income (after paying all debts) of £150 from lands held by voter or voter's wife; second, a clear annual income of £200, arising partly from lands as aforesaid, and partly from an income from office or business (deducting all charges or expenses of such office or business); third, a clear annual income of £300, arising from office or business as aforesaid; fourth, the payment annually of taxes to the value of £10." This has been taken to describe the qualifications necessary for a voter, and from its phraseology no other meaning could very well be assigned to it; but it relates to the qualifications for a seat in the House of Assembly.

The view taken by the Duke of Newcastle of the duty of Her Majesty's Government to protect the unrepresented part of the community, will appear from the following extract:-

Despatch of Duke of Newcastle to Lieut.-Governor Eyre

"Downing Street, 26th January, 1864.

"Her Majesty's Government are most desirous to exercise no unnecessary interference with the action of the Colonial Legislature; but they are bound to bear in mind that the bulk of the population of Jamaica are not represented in its Assembly, the population being 441,264 in number, and the electors exercising the franchise only 1,798."


The Blue Book for 1863, already cited, does not give (as it ought to do) any details of ecclesiastical expenditure, but it supplies the following statistics which throw light upon certain incidents connected with the discontent:-


Church of England: 48,824 & 36,300

Baptist 33,846 & 26,126

Wesleyan 41,495 & 36,730

Presbyterian, 12,675 & 9, 457

Moravian Mission 11,000 & 9,500

London Missionary Society 8,050 & 6,780

Roman Catholics 3,220 & 1,800

American Mission 1,350 & 860

Hebrew 1,300 & 170

Church of Scotland 900 & 400

Total accommodation 162,660, attendance 128,063




127 Established Church {Church of England, Anglican, JFS} 8,552

47 Moravian 3,578

66 Jamaica Baptist Union 3,456

42 Wesleyan Methodist 2,530

43 United Presbyterians 3,126

19 London Missionary Society 1,108

26 Endowed Schools 2,592

8 United Methodist Free Church 502

9 American Mission 388

5 Roman Catholic 215

1 Church of Scotland 120

Total 26,167 scholars


The following comments on the ecclesiastical state of Jamaica were made by the Hon. E. L. Stanley, in a speech delivered in December last:-

"The established church, which was the church of the white planters and a very insignificant minority of the negroes, actually spent nearly £30,000 a year. This small island maintained not many schoolmasters, but it maintained about three archdeacons, and rectors in all the parishes.

He should like to have a little more done for education, in which all the negroes would have benefited, and a little less for the established church, which the majority of the negroes shrank from."*


*The Baptist ministers in their letter replying to Governor Eyre's circular, enclosing Dr. Underhill's letter, say:- "We have not been able to ascertain, on official data, the exact amount of the present annual grants of the House of Assembly for ecclesiastical purposes, but on the authority of an Island newspaper, the proprietor of which is a member of the Honourable House, we believe the expenditure amounts to £45,000 per annum. With humble submission to your Excellency, we venture to express our opinion that this is a burden too great for the country, in its present prostrate condition, to bear, and especially for the support of a religious establishment, the adherents of which cannot, we think, be numbered at more than one-eighth of the population." Cited by Mr. Underhill. A Letter, etc., Arthur Miall, Bouverie Street, E.C.



Dr. Underhill's Letter to Mr. Cardwell is dated Jan. 25, 1865, and calls Mr. Cardwell's attention to the distressed condition of the island. He quotes a letter from Jamaica to the effect that "crime has fearfully increased. The number of prisoners in the penitentiary and gaols is considerably more than double the average, and nearly all for one crime - larceny. Summonses for petty debts disclose an amount of pecuniary difficulty never before experienced; and applications for parochial and private relief prove that multitudes are suffering from want, little removed from starvation."

This severe state of distress is partly accounted for by Dr. Underhill, by "the drought of the last two years," augmenting previous distress ; and he speaks of the naked condition of vast numbers of the people." "They cannot purchase clothing, partly from its greatly increased cost, which is unduly enhanced by the duty (said to be 38 per cent. by the Hon. Mr. Whitelock) which it now pays, and partly from the want of employment, and the consequent absence of wages." The absence of sufficient remunerative employment, and the pressure of a taxation too heavy for the island's present resources, are the grievances specially mentioned by Dr. Underhill; and he adds, "I shall say nothing of the course taken by the Jamaican legislature; of their abortive Immigration Bills; of their unjust taxation of the coloured population; of their refusal of just tribunals. . . . ."



. . . Men are viewing with alarm and indignation the acts of a Governor, whom the Colonial Minister of the day sent here for no other purpose, as it would seem, but to insult our understandings and tyrannize over us-a Governor who indemnifies himself for the contempt with which the triumphs over law and public opinion, by abandoning the duties of his station, isolating himself in his mountain home, and refusing to extend that hospitality to strangers, which his position requires of him, all for the better savings of his salary, which was given him to support the dignity of the Queen's Representative. Politically the Governor has been a failure, but a far greater failure has he proved in the social obligations of his office." Morning Journal, July 8th, 1865.


In the absence of regular trial of any of the persons concerned in the outbreak at Morant Bay, no well-sifted testimony exists as to the precise character of the incidents that actually did occur. Some matters of importance are not explained at all in any statement that has appeared, and on other points the narratives are conflicting.

The following account is furnished by the Colonial Standard, 21st Oct., with the exception of the passage in brackets, which is extracted from a letter written to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and vouched for by that body as from a correspondent they can "vouch for"-- "a gentleman of Jamaica, in authority there."

On Saturday the 7th October, 1865, a court of PETTY SESSIONS was held at Morant Bay. A man made a noise in the court, and was ordered to be brought before the justices. He was captured by the police outside, but immediately rescued by one Paul Bogle and several other persons, who had large bludgeons in their hands, and taken into the market-square, where some one hundred and fifty more persons joined them, also with sticks; the police were severely beaten. On Monday, the court again meeting, a man named Lewis Dick was tried for a trespass on Middlleton Plantation, adjoining Stony Gut. It may here be mentioned that the people at Middleton have been for many years past under the impression that the place belonged to nobody, and that no one had any right to it but themselves. [The Colonial Standard goes on to state that Middleton belongs to W. M. Anderson, Esq. The correspondent of the British Anti-Slavery Society says: "Middleton is an abandoned plantation, and is claimed by Mr. W. M. Anderson, the present Immigration Agent of Jamaica, but his title is disputed by the settlers of Stony Gut, as they have been for years under the impressions that no one had a right to it but themselves. Hence their appearance at the court and their interest in the case." As soon as the case of trespass was called, some one hundred and fifty persons, the same who rescued Geohegan, entered the courthouse with sticks. The magistrates convicted Lewis Dick on his own plea of guilty. Paul Bogle immediately came forward and told the man not to pay any fine, but to appeal, which he did, an entered into the necessary recognizance. On Monday, the 9th, warrants were issued against Paul Bogle and twenty-seven others, for riot and assault on the Saturday. On the police going to Paul Bogle's house, and attempting to arrest him, a horn sounded, and about three hundred persons, armed with deadly weapons, made their appearance from Paul Bogle's chapel and a cane-piece near to his house. The police were seized, and threatened that unless they took am oath to forsake the white and brown people and join their assailants they would be immediately put to death. Fearing that the threats would be carried out, they took the oath administered by Paul Bogle; the police did not return until the following day, Tuesday.

What had taken place a the execution of the warrants was communicated to his honour the custos, who had just returned to the parish. The police further stated that the people were gathering in great numbers at Stony Gut, and that when they left there were over six hundred persons under arms; that shells were blowing in every direction; and that they were informed the people intended coming to Morant Bay on the following day, Wednesday. On Wednesday the vestry met, and proceeded with their business. About four o'clock, p.m., drums were heard, and after this the rebels made their appearance. The volunteers were drawn up in line before the Court-house, eighteen in number. The custos, who stood on the steps, exhorted the people, some six hundred armed with deadly weapons, not to enter the square, and stated that if they had any grievance to complain of, to say so, and it should receive redress. They, however, persisted in coming into the square, upon which the custos read the Riot Act. By this time the mob had come within a few yards of the volunteers, firing a volley of stones at the volunteers. Captain Hitching then gave orders to fire. The most murderous attacks were then made on every one coming within reach of the rebels. The volunteers, being overpowered, took, refuge in the Court-house where the custos, magistracy, clergy, and other gentlemen were. Finding that these parties had taken shelter, they smashed the windows to atoms, firing continually into the Court-house, when the volunteers returned their fire doing good service. About half-past five o'clock the Court-house was fired. The custos then put out a flag of truce by advice of the clerk of the peace. The rioters asked what it meant, and were answered peace. They said they did not want peace, they wanted war. A second flag of truce was put out, with no better effect, the rebels crying out "War, war." On the roof of the Courthouse falling in, through the fire that had been set to the premises, the custos and other gentlemen burst open the doors and ran down the steps, the rebels attacking them in every direction. The custos was armed with a sword which he took up. Each endeavoured to save himself. The mob cried, "Now we have the Baron; kill him," and loud shouts announced that the deed had been done. Doctor Gerard was then called to come out, the mob protesting that they would save him. The unfortunate victims were then killed in detail, under circumstances of great atrocity.

After Mr. Alberga was butchered, the mob were about to murder his already wounded child, when some women interfered and saved the poor innocent. Mr. C.A. Price was murdered almost at the same time with Mr. Alberga, notwithstanding the efforts made by one William Donaldson to save him. This man, we must observe, deserves the greatest praise for the superhuman but unfortunately unavailing exertions which he used to save the lives of the victims. Dr. Gerard owed his safety, in a great measure, to this man's interference. After a series of most eccentric acts, stealing nearly everything in the way of valuables and money from some houses, and sparing others, taking the watches and money, of the murdered persons, and saving some and despoiling others, the mob retired from the town a little before the Wolverene hove in sight. Mr. Herschel's tongue was cut out, and the fingers of the baron's hand were cut off, the murderers observing that they would write no more lies to the Queen. The mob abstained from liquor, but was well ascertained that they partook of a mixture of rum and gunpowder the day previous to their butchery. The mob came from an eastward direction, having gone a circuit apparently to surprise and capture the police station with the arms and ammunition in it This manoeuvre proved successful. They took possession of the arms, and holding them aloft and throwing them up frantically in exultation at the capture, they advanced towards the Court-house. Six volunteers and eight civilians were killed, six volunteers and seventeen civilians wounded.


The correspondent of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society already cited remarks upon the above incidents. "The matter of trespass over which (the Petty Sessions Court) assumed jurisdiction, involving the question of Mr. Anderson's title, ought to have been tried by a judge and jury, and the legality of the twenty-eight warrants against Bogle and others for riot and assault are very questionable, while the imprudence of issuing such a number at once is very clear. Again, these men had a right to come and surrender to their warrants on the return day, and bring their respective friends to be ready to bail them, in the event of their being bound over to answer the charges at the forthcoming assize. Consequently it appeared premature in the Custos to refuse to allow the parties to approach the Court-house on pain of reading the Riot Act. If the magistrates had well-grounded fears of the mob, common prudence required that they should have adjourned the meeting, which they might have done previously to four o'clock, the hour at which the mob appeared. Technically speaking, it comes to a question whether the order of the volunteers to fire was not an illegal act. If it was illegal, the rebellion is a fiction. They only savagely resisted illegal force; and although the barbarity of their subsequent acts cannot be too strongly reprobated, surely the Civil Courts of Jamaica were sufficient to deal with such felonies as occurred, and where the accused would have had fair trials. The Governor had the power to order special sessions of the Criminal Courts, and they might have despatched the business with nearly equal celerity as a Court-martial, with this advantage, that the cases would have been presided over by judges learned in the law, instead of prejudiced military officers and subalterns in a regiment of the line."

The Daily News summary from Jamaica papers gives the subsequent events of this riot:

"On Thursday, the 12th, the rioters occupied and plundered the small town of Bath, eight miles from Morant Bay, and on the Plantain-garden River. They then proceeded down the line of the Plantain-garden River a few miles to Hordley. On the way they were met by a detachment of special constables, consisting of eight men with a double-barrelled gun among them. "The villains attempted to stop the constables, who boldly charged them, shooting two of their number, and eventually cutting their way with cutlasses through them."

At seven p.m. the mob attacked and plundered Duckenfield House. No one was hurt. They next made for Amity-hall, the residence of Mr. Hire, attorney or agent for the estate. This gentleman was beaten to death, and his son and two other persons severely wounded, but a doctor who was present was spared. They next made for Hordley-house, where many ladies and children had taken refuge, but here they were met by fifty of the black labourers on the Hordley estate, who refused to allow them to approach. While parleying the rest of the Hordley negroes took the ladies and children out of the house, and hid them in a place of safety. Next day they escorted them to the protection of the troops. The house was sacked and gutted by the mob after their departure.

On the 13th a different band attacked Bowden, a mile or two to the south and plundered it; but the Onyx steaming up Port Morant at the time, dispersed them with a few shells and made some prisoners.

No trace of violence, of plundering, or of fighting, is to be discovered, from the despatches or from the newspaper accounts, as having occurred after this day. We hear of crowds at various places armed with "cutlasses" (the hooks used for cutting the canes), but they invariably fled on the approach of troops. The Governor states, "No ladies or children had been injured."

The preceding accounts give the outbreak the character of a local riot resulting out of local circumstances, which included a dispute concerning the title to an estate. In his despatch to Mr. Cardwell (Nov. 18, 1865), Governor Eyre, after describing the murders and mutilations committed by the rioters, adds that, "as far as they could learn, no ladies or children had as yet been injured." The Jamaica papers of dates preceding the riots show that strong party feelings existed in various district, and that Baron Ketelholdt and the Rev. Mr. Herschell were both much disliked and distrusted by the blacks. The great questions concerning the riots in Jamaica and the measures adopted by the authorities ought not to be confused by discussions relating to the characters of individuals; and the statements here made with reference to the position in which Baron Ketelholdt and the Rev. Mr. Herschell stood towards the blacks are introduced, not as offering any judgment on either individual, but merely because, when taken in conjunction with other facts they throw light upon the motives which led to the murders, and give them the appearance of revenge.


Volunteers killed: Captain Hitchings, 1st Lieutenant Hall, 2nd Lieutenant Reid, Corporal Harrison, Corporal Filfoy. Many others killed or burnt, names unknown.

Volunteers Wounded: Sergeant Harrison, severely; Private Rutty, since dead; Private Conri, since dead; Private Good, Private Ross, Private McContie, Private Williams.

Civilians killed: Baron Ketelhodt (Custos of St. Thomas-in-the-East), Rev. Victor Herschell, Mr. Walton, J.P., Mr. Arthur Cook, J.P., Mr. A. B. Cooke, Mr. McCormack (aged man and cripple), Mr. C. Price, Mr. A. Brown; police inspector Alberga, Augustus Hire, Mark Douglas (reported).

Civilians wounded: The Honourable W. P. Georges, J.P., and Custos of St. David; Dr. MacPherson, coroner (since dead); Arthur Warmington, J.P. (sword cut); Brookes Cooke her Majesty's Customs; Mr. Grey (vestryman), William McIntosh, Mr. Bowen, J.P., William Mitchell, James Williams, Mr. MacPherson (since dead), Mr. A. Lewis, C. Alberga, Mr. J. W. Jackson.

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