Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library
[Comments by the Jamaica Committee are in italics]
[Continued from Rebellion 04]
The subjoined extract from a leading article in the Daily News supplies some biographical particulars of importance in estimating Mr. Gordon's character:
From a statement published by the Rev. Dr. King, of this city, formerly of Jamaica, it appears that Mr. Gordon was the son of a much respected Jamaica planter by one of his slaves. Being a boy of good natural parts, he taught himself, with very little aid, to read, write, and cast accounts. By his diligence and intelligence he continued to gather money, with which he bought his freedom. Once freed himself, he gained enough to emancipate his sisters, and afterwards sent them to Europe for their education--first to London, and then to Paris. "Through the reverses of the Colony," says Dr. King, "the father, from being. very rich, came to lose all, and the coloured son bought his estate--not, however, to deprive him of it, but to leave him in occupancy, surrounded by the comforts he had been accustomed to enjoy. So acted the son of the bondwoman, when the feelings of his father's white wife and her children would not .allow him to enter the paternal abode. Yet he always spoke to me with deferential regard for his father, and never uttered a disrespectful word regarding Mrs. Gordon. He was tenderly sensitive. One day, as we were walking together, he became pensive and absorbed and after ceasing for a little to speak or listen, he requested me to step aside with him. He stopped before a slight elevation of the grass, and said to me with much emotion, 'My mother is buried there; she was a negro and a slave, but she was a kind mother to me, and I loved her dearly.' As he uttered these words his tears trickled down upon her grave. The efforts of the son could not make. the impoverished father happy in Jamaica, where he had long held a high position, and it was arranged that Mr. Gordon, senior, with his family, should leave for the mother country, chiefly or exclusively by the aid which George's filial munificence provided. When the day of departure was at hand the son said to me, 'You know that I am not permitted to give my father valedictory attentions. I have promised him that you will do so for me, and will accompany him and his white family to the ship.'"
All the facts that become known about Mr. Gordon are of the same complexion with this story. He was married to a white lady, who gave him her hand from respect of his noble character. All his tastes, habits, sympathies, and efforts attracted or impelled him towards the white race; all his hopes for the negroes he loved so well were based upon the support or friendship of white friends. And are we expected, without a word of evidence, to believe that this man was a prime mover of an insurrection having the extirpation of all the whites in Jamaica for its object?. A more unreasonable demand was never made upon the credulity of a nation.
MR. GORDON'S LETTER TO MR. CARDWELL ON THE STATE OF JAMAICA..
The political views of Mr. Gordon are shown in the following letter, which he addressed to Mr. Cardwell in March, 1865:
To the Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, M.P., Secretary of State for the Colonies, etc.
Jamaica, 24th March, 1865.
Sir, I have to bring to your notice, on behalf of the people of this country, the following facts, which are submitted as grievances:
The House of Assembly, as at present constituted, by reason of the restrictions in the election law (which has been amended only to a. very limited extent) cannot be said to be a fair representation of popular rights; therefore it becomes more needful for the mother Government to exercise that vigilance which in former times so greatly tended to the protection of the lately emancipated classes, and it is much to be regretted that such is not continued to be the case.
From gross mismanagement and for wasteful purposes, the taxation of the country is increased, without corresponding benefit to the general community. A flagrant illustration of this may be found in the history of the "Tramroad" affair, which, besides having involved the country in a heavy expenditure of money, creating additional taxation, has also, by interfering with the principal public road, caused serious loss of stock to the passengers, and irritated the minds generally of the people who traffic on this thoroughfare. We here find a sample of the ruinous consequences of misconducting public affairs; but ere this is got over, the Governor, in his opening speech, recommends a project for a "slip dock," which work, if at all necessary, is of a speculative nature, and such as a company may be encouraged by the Government to undertake, but certainly it is not for the public to adventure, nor one for which the people should be taxed! The island has no navy which requires such an undertaking, and therefore it can only be considered as a strictly commercial enterprise. But how, then are the people to be taxed for this purpose! As well may any other company, more necessary and likely of success, be taken up by the Government-- such as a "soap manufactory." a "sugar refinery," an "agricultural bank," or a "railroad to Old Harbour."
The great question is this, Is it constitutional to tax the people for speculative enterprises; and is the island prepared to undertake the duties of private companies, and to conduct a slip dock, with all its contingencies and doubtful results, in the face of absolute expenditure likely to involve not only a present but a future loss and increased taxation upon the people? It is a laid down principle that no Government is justified in acting in this manner. It is contrary to sound political economy, and its tendency is evil; yet we find that, even without detailed estimates or statements of annual expenditure and income, the Governor has sanctioned such a measure, which, having been opposed when first introduced into the Assembly, was withdrawn, and subsequently brought forward at the end of the session, when the quorum was reduced to nine--hardly that number being present--and passed, as it were, to the surprise of the good sense of the country. This is a measure which, if allowed. to take effect, will create new heart-burnings in the minds of the inhabitants generally, and is a great public wrong. A bill of a most objectionable nature was passed under circumstances similar to those above stated; it is to inflict corporal punishment for "petty offences." This is a measure unparalleled in the present history of British legislation, and is so degrading and wicked in its tendency as to create feelings of alarm. A public meeting has already been held against it in Kingston. A copy of the resolutions I shall send, and I believe other meetings or memorials are intended. The penal clauses of this bill. are confined to second convictions; but for what offence? Stealing a shrub, reed or plant, in an unenclosed or enclosed land, &c. It will not be hard in a country like this to find a second offence, which may be of a comparatively innocent nature, tortured for malignant purposes. While this is intended to operate for minor offences the greater evils of society, forgery, burglary, cattlestealing, &c., are all left out, so that this measure is strictly one aimed against the lower classes, who, just now are in a state of great destitution. And, honourable sir, if you could only behold them, I opine that your feelings of compassion would be aroused to mercy and relief, instead of the infliction of."corporal punishment, " which is death, or next to it; and I fear the indignation which may arise from this evil measure will be such as to have serious consequences. Representations, unfounded and uncharitable, may be wickedly made against the peasants of this country, but in good truth, they are as peaceable, civil, and well-disposed as any people can well be, and their character cannot justly be unfavourably compared with those of the labouring classes of Great Britain, the Continent of Europe, or America. What they require is what has been neglected-- attention to their sanitary improvement and education, parochial asylums for orphans and adults, and relief to some extent from the excessive taxation, on the necessary articles of food and clothing, which in its tendency produces that destitution which leads here, as in other countries (to a great extent), to petty larcenies. These are the points which should have been attended to, but which are lost sight of, for the debasing purposes of the whip, as if that. will instil principles of morality or supply the mental and bodily wants of a poor suffering community.
I do trust that after due reflection you may be led to consider the measure in its odious and injurious light. It seems to me an evil of the greatest magnitude, and shows to what extent inconsiderate feelings still exist in Jamaica.
But the manner in which the bill passed the Assembly is discreditable to the Government as may be seen by the division on the question, and by which you will perceive it did not pass with the feeling of the country. The members of the Government, after allowing it to remain on the table of the House for nearly three months did not give any intimation of its being taken up, but seized upon an opportunity, and in two hours passed about four bills of a most important nature, at the same time suspending all the rules of the House in order to put them through all their stages within this time: this did not seem to he a creditable proceeding. A bill was also passed on the same occasion, and under similar circumstances, to reestablish a district prison at Port Maria. This bill also provides that hard labour shall include the "treadmill," "shot drill," and "crank."
Immediately after the emancipation, the "treadmill" was introduced into use in this island, but soon it was discovered that its severities and tortures, as exercised here, were diabolical, and the Governor of the island, as well as the Colonial Secretary, determined that it should be abolished, and not one was allowed to be used, or even to remain. in the prison; yet we find, after a lapse of thirty years, when we had a right to expect better things, a British Government sanctioning such a thing. But this said "Port Maria" is really the grave of Jamaica. During cholera its population was nearly entirely swept away by that disease, and Dr. Milroy, the skilful medical inspector sent from England by the Government, condemned it above all other places in the island, as most unhealthy and death-like, and yet we find that the prison which was abolished is again to be re-established, with iron shackles to which the unfortunate prisoners have been consigned by the present Governor, with hard labour.
From the injurious atmosphere of Port Maria a transfer of patients had frequently to be made to the public hospital at Kingston. From the depreciated state of health to which the prisoners must be reduced at Port Maria, many of them will leave the prison for ever after to be worthless and a tax on society. When it is remembered that many are sent to prison for very minor offences, in many cases wrongfully, and under long sentences, by erring judgment and unlearned justices, it does seem that it is a most cruel proceeding. I feel it a bounden duty to bring these subjects to your notice. The consequences I cannot control, but I sincerely trust that, notwithstanding any explanation which will, no doubt, be tendered by the Governor on these remarks, that the facts only of the points may be considered. I have a conscientious assurance that I intend no undue reflections, and only write from the stern obligations of a sense of justice and common humanity. I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant
G. W. GORDON.
MR. GORDON'S POLITICAL POSITION.
Mr. Alfred. Bourne published in the Daily News a letter on. the "Causes of the so-called Jamaica Rebellion," in which many facts concerning Mr. Gordon are recapitulated. In February, 1862 it appears that a vacancy occurred in the representation of St. Thomas-in-the-East, and Mr. Gordon was the people's candidate out of those who came forward. He was a magistrate, and landed proprietor in the Parish. He was then defeated by the Conservatives.
About this time(says Mr. Bourne) he made a report to the Governor, of certain abuses at the lock-up at Morant Town, and accused the rector of inhumanity towards a pauper. A commission, consisting of seventeen neighbouring magistrates, contradicted some of Gordon's statements, and on the 19th July, Mr. Eyre removed Gordon from the magistracy of six parishes. By this deprivation he was excluded from the vestry, of which, as a magistrate, he had been an ex officio member. He at once sought to regain his place as an elected vestryman, but, was defeated on the 23rd of the same month. These defeats no doubt called forth the dormant energy of his party. At the following elections he was not only returned as a member of parliament, but sent to the vestry as churchwarden; the one on the 9th of March, the other on the 22nd July, 1863. This double success was more than the rector could endure patiently; henceforth there was war between them. Rector Cooke commenced with an application to the October Circuit Court to have the result of the Parish election set aside on the ground that Gordon had submitted to adult baptism, and thus excluded himself from the episcopal and established church. Judgment was not given at once, and Gordon took his seat at the next vestry. In November, Gordon gave notice (Colonial Standard, Dec. 3,1863) of motion in the House of Assembly, "that a committee be appointed to inquire into the expenditure of the funds paid to the rector of St. Thomas-in-the-East on his contract for repairs of the rectory in that parish." A Committee was subsequently appointed (Colonial Standard Dec. 24), with what result I cannot say.
During the following month, however, Gordon made a resolute stand against a measure which was passing through Parliament, sanctioning amongst other things, the presence of rectors and curates on building committees for the repairs of churches and chapels. In the course of his speech, he said:
"Rectors and curates have enough to do in attending to the care of souls, in attending to the sick and needy, and in instructing the ignorant and uneducated, in distributing to the necessities of the unfortunate. Some of these gentlemen are of doubtful character, and I have very little confidence in many of them. In some parishes rectors and curates are contractors, and instead of looking after spiritual matters are repairing parochial buildings."
He continued his speech till the house was counted out. When the measure was next brought in he threatened to speak for two hours if the obnoxious clause was retained.
On the 18th February Justice Cargill was holding a circuit court at Morant Bay when a written application was made by Rector Cooke "to remove George Gordon, Esq., from his office of churchwarden of the parish of St. Thomas-in-the-East, he not being a communicant of the Church of England." The decision of the case against Mr. Gordon was given by Mr. Cargill, and called forth a protest from Gordon.
When Mr. Gordon is accused of violence, fair play requires that the temper of his enemies should be displayed.; and the following passages are extracted from an article by the Rev. H. S. Cooke, rector of St. Thomas-in-the-East, published in the Gleaner, November 6th, 1865: "In seeking this office (that of churchwarden) in preference to that of Vestryman, Mr. Gordon was actuated. by two motives: first, to give me all the annoyance in his power; secondly, and not the least valuable, that, like a second Judas, he might have the bag. It was no small the advantage to have placed in his hands something better than £300 a year--an advantage he did not neglect ." After this unchristian slander of a dead man, the article goes on to say. "Whatever may have been the real objects of Mr. Gordon in working up dissatisfaction among an ignorant multitude, whether it was to make (by sympathy) his party strong against the Government, and so secure the certainty of his return at all elections by the popular voice of the parish, or whether there was really a deeper design within his breast, in bringing about this awful catastrophe which has arisen, it makes little matter now."
Considering that Mr.. Gordon was hanged on the 23rd. October, for having a "deeper design" than that of securing votes at elections, it is remarkable that any writer in Jamaica should say that the accusation "makes little matter now." From the peculiar way in which this article is got up, it is not plain whether the Rev. Mr. Cooke or the editor of the Gleaner is responsible for this expression of opinion.
Mr. Gordon met his fate in the religious spirit which his last letter to his wife shows.
On the 17 October Governor Eyre returned from his visit to Morant Bay back to Kingston, and issued a warrant for the apprehension of Mr. Gordon, who delivered himself up on hearing of it. The Governor's despatch continues the story, thus:-
Having placed Mr. Gordon on board the Wolverene, and having obtained a supply of arms and ammunition from General O'Connor for the use of the Maroons and others, I at once set off again in the Wolverine, about noon of the 17th October, on my return back to Morant Bay. On the morning of the 20th October, having landed Brigadier Nelson and the militia officers who aided as members of courts-martial, and having put on shore the prisoners, including G. W. Gordon, I again proceeded in the Wolverine, to Kingston, reaching that city about 2 p.m.
The correspondent of the Colonial Standard (Mr. Lake) gave at the time the following additional particulars:-
After William Gordon had been brought ashore he was taken to the station, and there the scene presented is hardly describable. From one blue jacket you would hear, "Which is that venerable Parson Gordon?" From another, "There he is," (pointing to him). From a third, " I'll set the bloody dogs at you, you rascal." From a: fourth, "I will tear you up myself." From the next, "What, is he a white man ?" From another, " By J___s he'll catch it. Would you like to have a taste of the cat, you?" "You won't be long here, we'll soon string you up;" and other exclamations which would hardly be the thing to put to paper. Under each of these epithets George William Gordon seemed at each moment to have been more depressed, and I doubt not that if the blue jackets had been left to exercise their own will he would have been torn to pieces alive. This picture, as I said before is indescribable. The Members of the court-martial which tried G. W. Gordon and others were Lieutenant and Commander Herbert Brand, commanding the gunboat Onyx, Lieutenant Errington, of the Wolverene, and Ensign Kelly, of the 4th West India Regiment. At two o'clock the same day (Saturday) the trial commenced. He was given a very patient trial, and was allowed to cross-examine all the witnesses through the president of the court, and above all, was permitted to enter into a lengthy defence. The trial lasted till past candle-light when the court was ordered to be cleared. The court sat in deliberation for nearly half-an-hour, the president then pronouncing only the words, "This court is dissolved." I have full notes taking of the trial, but am not permitted to forward them for publication until leave is given me to do so by the brigadier-general. The charges against George William Gordon were 1st, high treason and sedition against her Majesty the Queen 2nd, inciting to murder and rebellion.
The proceedings were transmitted by Brigadier Nelson to Governor Eyre on Sunday morning. The sequel is stated in the postscript to the Governor's despatch.
P.S. 23rd October. Having kept my despatch open, I am enabled to add that Mr. George William Gordon has been tried by court-martial at Morant Bay, and sentenced to be hung. The execution was to take place this morning, at eight p.m. I have seen the proceedings of the court, and concur both in the justice of the sentence and in the policy of carrying it into effect.
In a letter to the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, written in Kingston, on the 22nd December, after the reign of terror was over, and he could venture, without risking his life, to speak more freely, he says:
I hesitate not to say murder, foul murder, has been perpetrated in the face of open day; and I fear not to tell it, that Mr. George William Gordon has been cruelly slain by the authorities, not a tittle of legal evidence having been adduced to warrant even his being placed upon his trial. I have always understood that British justice demands that the accused and the accuser should be confronted. But (I regret to record the outrage) Mr. Gordon's accusers were seventy miles away from the court-martial. They sent up affidavits, which the court-martial received as evidence. That is one dark feature of the solemn farce. Mr. Gordon's fate had been determined long, long before he gave himself up. Again, Mr. Gordon stated to the court that Dr. Major, if sent for, would be able to testify as to the cause of his absence from the vestry on the day of the outbreak; a circumstance that has been dwelt upon very strongly as against him. This application was treated with contempt.
I could go into many points involved in the trial to show the entire innocence of the martyred man; but of that you and the public will be able to judge when you read the report of the trial sent by the present mail to the Anti-Slavery Society.
FURTHER DOCUMENTS ATTACHED TO PROCEEDINGS OF COURT-MARTIAL.
Letter seized by Gordon Ramsay at Chisholm's house, October. 16, 1865:
"Let enclosed be delivered." G. W. G.
Kingston, June 19,1865.
"Dear Chisholm, I shall be up, D.V., by the end of this week, and hope to find all right.
See enclosed. We must not lose heart, but persevere in the good. Best wishes. Yours very truly,
G. W. Gordon."
"Mr. W. Chisholm."
Statement of Elizabeth Jane Gough, widow, now staying in the city of Kingston being sworn, sayeth, "I am postmistress at Morant Bay. For some time past, since the appearance of Dr. Underhill's letter, Mr. G. W. Gordon has been carrying on a regular correspondence through my post-office with George McIntosh, William Chisholm, William Grant, and James McLaren. He wrote McLaren about two posts, I think before the breaking out last Wednesday at Morant Bay. I have also seen letters pass through the post-office from him to Paul Bogle, but not very often. The bag that arrived on Thursday night after the murders has not been issued. This bag is in the Islingston Post-office, so I think Mr. Boryer told me. The last one to James McLaren was very thick, not a single letter. From McLaren's last words I think there must have been letters in it for other persons. I have received a packet of printed papers addressed in Mr. Gordon's handwriting to Paul Bogle, and another to William Chisholm. They came by the same post shortly after the publication of the Queen's Letter. Paul Bogle has always been sending for letters, though he don't say from whom he expected them. McIntosh also the post before the outbreak was asking for letters. He did not say from whom. I have seen letters from him addressed to Mr. Gordon. These letters were posted by him; and, being late, he paid, for to forward them. I took one of the printed papers out of the packet addressed to Paul Bogle. I is gave it to Mr. Richard Cooke. I had one in the post-office at the time of the outbreak. I had it in the Z hole. The heading of it was "To the People of St. Ann and St. Thomas-in-the-East." It called on the people to be up and doing. It contradicted what was stated in the Queen's advice, but I can't exactly tell you the words. It was not signed but the wrappers on both packets to Bogle and Chisholm were in Mr. Gordon's handwriting. I know that Mr. Gordon and Bogle are intimate. Everyone in that district knows this."
"(Signed) E. J. GOUGH."
"Sworn before me this 17th day of October; 1865.
" (Signed) Lewis L. Bowerbank, Kingston, J.P."
My beloved Wife, General Nelson has just been kind enough to inform me that the court-martial on Saturday last has ordered me to be hung, and that the sentence is to be executed in an hour hence; so that I shall be gone from this world of sin and sorrow.
I regret that my worldly affairs are so deranged; but now it cannot be helped. I do not deserve this sentence, for I never advised or took part in any insurrection. All I ever did was to recommend the people who complained to seek redress in a legitimate way; and if in this I erred, or have been misrepresented, I do not think I deserve the extreme sentence. It is, however, the will of my Heavenly Father that I should thus suffer in obeying his command to relieve the poor and needy, and to protect, as far as I was able, the oppressed. And glory be to his name; and I thank him that I suffer in such a cause. Glory be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and I can say it is a great honour thus to suffer; for the servant cannot be greater than his Lord. I can now say with Paul, the aged, "The hour of my departure is at hand, and I am ready to be offered up. I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith, and henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge shall give me." Say to all friends, an affectionate farewell; and that they must not grieve for me, for I die innocently. Assure Mr. Airy and all others of the truth of this. Comfort your heart. I certainly little expected this. You must do the best you can, and the Lord will help you; and do not be ashamed of the death your poor husband will have suffered. The judges seemed against me, and from the rigid manner of the court I could not get in all the explanation I intended. The man Anderson made an unfounded statement and so did Gordon; but his testimony was different from the deposition. The judges took the former and erased the latter. It seemed that I was to be sacrificed. I know nothing of the man Bogle. I never advised him to the act or acts which have brought me to this end. Please write to Mr. Chamerozow, Lord Brougham and Messrs. Hencknell and Du Buisson.
I did not expect that not being a rebel, I should have been tried and disposed of in this way. I thought his Excellency the Governor would have allowed me a fair trial, if any charge of sedition or inflammatory language were partly [?fairly] attributable to me; but I have no power of control. May the Lord be merciful to him.
General Nelson, who has just come for me, has faithfully promised to let you have this. May the Lord bless him, and all the soldiers and sailors, and all men. Say farewell, to Mr. Phillipps, also Mr. Licard, Mr. Bell, Mr. Vinon, Mr. Henry Dulasse, and many others whom I do not now remember, but who have been true and faithful to me.
As the General has come, I must close. Remember me to Aunt Eliza in England, and tell her not to be ashamed of my death. Now, my dearest one, the most beloved and faithful, the Lord bless, help preserve, and keep you. A kiss for dear mamma, who will be kind to you, and Janet. Kiss also Annie and Jane. Say good-bye to dear Mr. Davison, and all others. I have only been allowed one hour, I wish more time had been allowed. Farewell also to Mr. Espet, who sent up my private letter to him. And now, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.
Your truly devoted and now nearly dying husband,
G. W. GORDON.
I asked leave to see Mr. Panther, but the General said I could not. I wish him farewell in Christ. Remember me to Auntie and father. Mr. Ramsey has for the last two days been very kind to me. I thank him.
THE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY.
In the London Gazette of 12th of December, 1865, the following Royal Commission appeared, suspending Governor Eyre and appointing Sir H. Storks to the functions and for the purposes specified:
Downing Street, Dec. 12.
At the Council held at Windsor on Monday, the 11th instant, her Majesty was pleased to approve of the draft of a commission for the temporary appointment of Sir Henry Knight Storks, G.C.B.; G.C.M.G., as Governor of the island of Jamaica during the prosecution of certain inquiries therein mentioned
Draft of a Commission to be passed under the Great Seal appointing Sir Henry Knight Storks, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., to be Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief in and over the Island of Jamaica and the Territories depending thereon.
Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith: To our trusty and well-beloved Sir Henry Knight Storks, Knight Grand Cross of Our Most Honourable
Order of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross of Our Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and. Saint George, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of our Island of Malta and its dependencies, a Major-General in our army, having the local rank of Lieutenant-general while in command of our troops in Malta and its dependencies, greeting,--
I. Whereas we did by our commission under the great seal of our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, bearing date at Westminster, the twenty-ninth day of July one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, in the twenty-eighth year of our reign; constitute and appoint our trusty and well-beloved Edward John Eyre, Esquire, to be our Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief in and over our island of Jamaica, etc. etc.
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