Birmingham: E.C. Osborne, printer, Bennett’s Hill, .
Unbound. Very large broadside made up of two sheets, to be laid one above the other, total measurement when placed together is 3’ 7” x 4’ 7”. One sheet of the broadside has been professional conserved and lined with Japanese paper in order to repair a few tears at the folds.
A visually arresting two-piece broadside, large in all respects, including letters 9” tall at the top. Although freed by emancipation in 1834, the black populace of Jamaica, numbering almost 500,000 by 1865, was in dire straits, suffering drought, plagues of cholera and smallpox, poor economic conditions, almost no access to the vote, and were denied the right to own land. Under these conditions it didn’t take much for a spark to ignite, as it did on October 11, 1865 when what began as a protest march turned into riot and the Morant Bay Rebellion. The revolt was swiftly and brutally put down by troops under order of Governor Eyre, resulting in the deaths of approximately 450 black Jamaicans killed outright by soldiers, another 350-400 or more arrested and quickly executed, over 600 men and women severely flogged, and 1000 homes burnt to the ground.
Despite having very little to do with the rebellion, George William Gordon, a mixed-race Baptist Jamaican businessman and politician, literate and politically active, who had been critical of Governor Eyre and his policies, was arrested by Eyre, who suspected he was behind the rebellion. Eyre used the pretext of martial law to transfer Gordon to Morant Bay and have him tried by military court. Gordon was convicted in a speedy two-day trial, and hanged on October 23. The Morant Bay revolt has been called “a rebellion in Jamaica that shook the British Empire.”
Sentiment in Britain was divided into two camps, and fiercely contested on both sides, raising as it did constitutional issues about “whether British dependencies should be ruled under the government of law, or through military license.” Hailed as a hero by some, Eyre was denounced as a murderer by others. A Jamaica Committee was established by English liberals under John Stuart Mill, including Charles Darwin, John Bright, Thomas Huxley, Thomas Hughes, and Herbert Spencer, all of whom wanted Eyre tried for murder. They contended that his acts under martial law were in fact illegal. An opposing committee of Tories and Tory socialists, supporters of Eyre, was formed with notables such as Thomas Carlyle (who wrote "Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question" in his *Latter Day Pamphlets*), Charles Kingsley, Charles Dickens, and John Ruskin.
Ten years after the events, Swinburne savaged Carlyle’s position in his *Notes of an English Republican on the Muscovite Crusade* (1876). Mill was vilified for his attack on Eyre but in his *Autobiography* he sets out the justification for the actions he took. Eyre was twice charged with murder, but the cases never proceeded. Although not prosecuted, Eyre was recalled and not employed again.
This present enormous double broadside, with its huge black capitals, first quotes, and then denounces Eyre’s attempt to destroy the character of the man he had hanged. Cardwell, to whom Eyre’s report was addressed, was Colonial Secretary. The broadside is signed in print by 12 named men: attorneys, missionaries, politicians, priests, all resident in Jamaica except for one in Edinburgh, “And 116 other persons,” exhibiting striking proof of the local support for Gordon’s good reputation in Jamaica, and of the depth of feeling in England, particularly among members of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.
In the 20th Century, the Morant Bay Rebellion has been the subject of at least three novels, and a play entitled *George William Gordon,* all by Jamaican authors. James Michener included a chapter about it in his novel *Caribbean,* and it is the subject of the reggae song, "1865 (96° In The Shade).” In the wake of the rebellion the Jamaica Assembly renounced its charter, the planter’s parliament was dissolved, black Jamaicans acquired land rights as a birthright, and Jamaica became a Crown Colony. See Michael St. John Packe, *The Life of John Stuart Mill,* pp. 464-472.
A remarkable survival in nice near fine condition. *OCLC* records a single copy (British Library).