The Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865 Theme: Popular protests and enfranchisement Topic: Labour Protest
Background to the Morant Bay Rebellion • Abolition August 1,1834. • End of apprenticeship August 1,1838. • Many ex-slaves were willing to continue working on plantations but often found planters were not willing to offer good wages and conditions . • Some sources described process as ‘the flight from the estates”
Douglas hall “ flight from the estate re-considered” … that the majority of ex-slaves wished to remove themselves from the estates on which they suffered so much in the days of bondage; that the ex-slaves were.apparently, with some reluctance , forced to leave the estates because of the harsh attitudes and demands of their masters, the ex-slave owners; and. In either case, that the movements clearly depended on availability of land.( Hall, 1978, p.8) Pull factors General desire for freedom Availability of land Long-standing antipathy to plantation due to past experience. Background cont’d
The movement of ex-slaves from the estates was not a flight from the horrors of slavery. It was a protest against the inequities of early freedom. It is possible that, had the ex-slaves been allowed to continue in the use of free gardens, houses and grounds, and to choose their employers without reference to that accommodation, there would have been very little movement of agricultural labour at all from the communities apparently established on the estate during slavery. ( Hall, 1978,p.23) Push factors Nature of employers’ labour recruitment. Labour retention policy. Insecurity of occupancy. Limited ability to influence price of labour (low wages) Exhorbitant rent. Background
Regional variation in labour situation Based on population density Land availability. 3 categories of colonies Old, small, heavily populated (barbados, Antigua, St. Kitts) Larger colonies, most fertile land already in cultivation, less valuable land still available, ( Jamaica) Fairly large, thinly populated territories, possibilities for smallhold settlement, (Guyana, Trinidad, Dominica) High, medium and low density colonies.(William Green) background
Woodville Marshall –the post-slavery labour problem revisited. (1990) • Abolition demanded the creation of a new labour system. • To classify the situation as a ‘problem’ signifies that persons had little or no experience in that area. • Problems which existed were not “labour problems” rather problem of labour relations. • There was variation in labour supply between the different territories. • In some territories, (Guyana, Trinidad, Dominica, St. Lucia) there were clear signs of labour shortage before emancipation. • In other territories, (Barbados, Antiqua, St. Kitts) high population density, small size and a monoculture suggested the potential for adequate labour. • Negroes faced possibility of low wages, limited opportunities for non-plantation employment, and consequently lower standard of living.
Marshall • Negroes’ reponse to labour situation: • Industrial action • Emigration • Squatting ( esp. Trinidad, Dominica) • Land ownership & formation of “proprietary villages”-assisted by non-conformist missionaries, planters, & land speculators
Policies tried first in Antigua ( full freedom 1834) Post slavery labour legislation Antigua Contract Act of 1835 Rationalisation in labour use-emancipation offered opportunity to trim labour force.Dispensed with aged, infirm, infants. Coercive policy based on conditional tenancy . Selective recruitment Marshall-Employers’ labour recruitment and retention policies
Ex-slaves Ex-slaves wanted continued access to provision grounds and accommodation Opportunity to sell a portion of their labour. Re-allocation of labour time to include own-account activity. Legal alienation of land. Planters Daily labour at stipulated wages. Conditional tenancy. Labour-rent. Marshall
Marshall- thesis • The existence of ‘pull’ factors can be posited, not on the remembered horrors of slavery but on those proto-peasant activities which are an element in the ‘push’ factors. In other words, while there is probably no simple linear progression from proto-peasant activity in slavery to full peasant existence in full emancipation, the possibility does exist that the desire for economic activity and life-style, free from constant hassle and conferring full choice over the allocation of labour timemay have impelled those who could afford to make conversion to do precisely that as soon as full emancipation provided options in residence and employment.(p12)
Impact of emancipation 1834 Early termination of apprenticehip 1838 Sugar duties equalisation act 1846 (Effective 1854) Deteriorating labour relations between ex-slaves and planters. Immigration. Deteriorating relationship between planters and governor/british government Town party vs. country party. Jamaica in the 1860’s
lack of land for small farmers. High unemployment. Low wages. Irregular wage payment / payment in kind rather than cash. Series of droughts. Religious revival Floods Effect of American civil war on commerce. Steep rise in price of foodstuff, esp. salt fish and grain. Increase in taxation. Increase in fees to use local markets. Conditions in Jamaica in 1865source: Black, C. V. (1983) History of Jamaica
Jamaica in 1865 • In Feb. Dr. Edward underhill, secretary of the baptist Missionary society of great britain wrote letter to colonial office, describing conditions in Jamaica, especially for the ex-slaves. • Governor, Edward John Eyre contradicted the charges when the letter was referred to him by the CO. • Eyre’s actions led to a series of protest meetings been organised . These were called “ Underhill meetings” • George William Gordon presided over a large gathering in Kingston.
Jamaica in 1865 • Some peasants in St. Ann drew up a petition to the queen complaining of their poverty which they claimed had increased due to the high unemployment and drought conditions. They asked for idle (crown) land to cultivate. • They sent the petition to governor Eyre who attached his own comments and forwarded the letter to Great Britain.
The Queen’s advice14 june 1865 • I have received Her Majesty’s command to inform them • ( the petitioners) that the prosperity of the labouring classes as well as other classes, depends inJamaica and in other countries, upon their working for wages, not uncertainly, or capriciously, but steadily and contnuously, at the times when their labour is wanted, and for as long as it is wanted; and that if they would use this industry and therfore render the plantations productive, they would enable the planters to pay them higher wages for the same hours of work than are received by the best field labourers in this country;
Queen’s Advice • And as the cost of the necessities of life is much less in Jamaica than it is here, they would be enabled, by adding prudence to industry, to lay by an ample provision for seasons of drought and dearth; and they may be assured, that it is from their own industry and prudence, in availing themselves of the means of prospering that are before them, and not from any such schemes as have been suggested to them, and they must look for an improvement in their condition; and that Her Majesty will regard with interest and satisfaction their advancement through their own merits and efforts.” • Source:Augier, F.R. Gordon, S.C. (1962) Sources of West Indian History. Longman caribbean (p178)
Responses to Queen’s advice • Governor Eyre felt triumphant. He printed and distributed 50 thousand copies of document all over jamaica. • The blacks felt that their last hope had died and that no one cared about their plight. • Others like George William Gordon realised that the reponse reflected Governor Eyre’s views more than that of the Queen. • Anger grew throughout Jamaica.
August 1865- after open air meeting in St. Thomas a group of persons including Paul Bogle was selected to travel to Spanish Town to bring their concerns to the attention of the governor After the delegation walked all the way to Spanish Town, Governor Eyre refused to see them. Bogle started to hold secret meetings and to train his men. Bogle secured assurances of assistance from some maroon groups. The road to Morant Bay
October 7, 1865-court case involving one of Bogles’s followers. Bogle and over 200 other spectators attended the trial. An assault case was tried first and the man was found quilty. A spectator shouted that the accused should pay the fine but not the costs. The police attempted to arrest the offender but he managed to escape with the assistance of Bogles’s. The case involving Bogle’s follower concluded without any interference. Upon his return home to Stony Gut, Bogle learnt that arrest warrants had been issued for the arrest of himself and 27 followers. The charges were rioting, rsisting arrest and assaulting the police. 3 days later members of the police arrived in Stony Gut to arrest these men. The police tried to hold Bogle but his cries brought 250 persons to his rescue. The crowd rescued Bogle, the police tied up and threatened with death unless they change their allegiance from “buckra” As soon as they were released they hurried back to Morant bay and reported what happened to the Custos- baron Von Ketlehodt The chronology of Morant Bay
The following day the custos got word that people of stony gut intended to air their concerns at a scheduled meeting of the vestry. Custos Von Ketelholdt called out the militia as a precaution. Wednesday, October 11 Bogle and his men went into Morant Bay, accompanied by men from neighbouring districts. They raided the police station and stole muskets with fixed bayonets. Later that afternoon Bogle and his followers went into the town square before the court house. The noise they made brought out the custos and other vestrymen out unto a porch. The Custos shouted to the crowd to keep back and asked them what they wanted, but they just shouted “ war! War!” Morant Bay
Upon the approach of the crowd, the magistrates encouraged the custos to read the “Riot Act”. Someone threw a soda bottle at the volunteer Captain and cut his head open. At this stage the order was given to the volunteers to open fire on the crowd. 7 rioters were killed immediately. Before the volunteers could reload their weapons, the crowd rushed among their ranks, killing and wounding a number of them The volunteer who kept the bag of ammunition was harpooned with a fish spear and the bag stolen. The court house and neighbouring buildings were attacked and later set on fire. 15 persons who fled from the court house were murdered. Custos Von Ketlehodt was among the persons murdered. Morant bay was overrun by rioters, violence and looting resulted.The jail was opened and prisoners released. Morant Bay
Paul Bogle returned to Stony Gut They had a prayer meeting to thank God for success so far. Rioting broke out throughout St. Thomas as plantations were plundered and some planters murdered. The rioters reached as far as Monklands coffee estate in the north-west and Elmwood , north of manchioneal. Martial law was declared in the county of surrey, except Kingston. Warships – Wolverine & Onyx were sent to morant bay. Troops were sent from Kingston and Newcastle. The maroons joined forces with the government , instead of Bogle. Governor Eyre immediately blamed George William Gordon for the riot. Morant Bay
Governor Eyre about George William Gordon • He….”.had not only been mixed up with the matter, but was himself through his misrepresentations and seditious language addressed to the ignorant black people, the chief cause and origin of the whole rebellion.”
Custos of Kingston Dr. Louis Bowerbank had Gordon’s office searched and when a map of kingston was found, marked with certain street names, he became convinced that Gordon was the mastermind behind a scheme to murder all white people in Kingston on Sunday October 15. The commanding officer for the troops, General O’Connor rejected this idea. Bowerbank convinced governor Eyre. Governor Eyre issued a warrant for Gordon’s arrest. Gordon turned himself in to the authorities in Kingston. Hw requested permission to say goodbye to his wife.This was granted. Governor Eyre had him tranferred to Morant bay where martial law was declared. Morant bay
Once in Morant Bay,Eyre instructed that Gordon be tried for treason and sedition and being associated with the rioters. Gordon was tried on Sunday, october 21, 1865 , found guilty and sentenced to be hanged on the following day. His request to be allowed to see a Weslyan minister at morant bay was denied. He was allowed to write to his wife. Gordon’s letter to his wife: “All I ever did was to recommend the people who complained to seek redress in a legitimate way. I did not expect that, not being a rebel, I should have been tried and disposed of in this way…….” Morant bay
Gordon was hanged along with 18 others outside the court house and their bodies later thrown into a trench at the back of the building. Bogle was caught by maroons as he came out of a canepiece near Stony Gut. He was later tried by martial law and hanged. The entire riot lasted about 3 days.and had been completely crushed within 1 week. Martial law continued for a long time after. Over 430 men and women were either shot ot executed. Over 600 persons, including women were flogged. More than 1000 houses and cottages destroyed. Few whites were killed or injured. Morant bay
Governor Eyre encouraged the Jamaican assembly to surrender the constitution and adopt a new system of government ( Crown Colony govt.). He cautioned that there were plans to make jamaica a second Haiti, ruled by blacks. In January 1866 the british govt. appointed a Royal Commission to investigate the truth about Morant bay. Aftermath of Morant Bay.
Aftermath of Morant Bay • Commission found:: • The disturbance originated in a planned resistance to lawful authority.. • Governor Eyre acted promptly and early to suppress the riot. • There was excessive severity on the part of the governor, especially with respect to the trial and hanging of George William Gordon. • As a result of commision’s report ; Governor Eyre was recalled to Britain and dismissed from the foreign service. • In August 1866, Governor Sir John Peter Grant arrived.
354 persons executed by court martial. 50 shot without trial. 25 shot by the maroons. 10 killed “otherwise”. 600 people flogged. 1000 homes and crops burnt. Commodore McClintock “ it is impossible even to ascertain the total loss of life as great numbers were shot down by the maroons in the woods: 1500 lives would perhaps be a modest compilation” Robotham, D “the notorious riot”:an estimate of damages (p11)
Involvement of women in Morant Bay-Report of Royal Commission 1866 • Evidence against Elizabeth Taylor • Carol Milne: I know Elizebeth; that her. I remember the night of the trouble. I was in my yard at Church corner. I saw people going into the Bay before 8 o’clock in the day/ I went to the bridge near the bay at the west end and I saw her beating Joseph Williams, a volunteer, with a stick about 3 o’clock in the day after the firing. She was alone. She asked if his mother was a black woman. He said yes. She asked him why he joined the volunteers to kill us, you should come to stony gut and join us.” • Elizebeth taylor-sentenced to 20 years penal servitude
Women in Morant Bay • Charlotte Carter – “ I know Elizebeth Faulkner and Roseanna Finlayson. I saw her come from the parade to Barnett’s piazza. She said they must go and get a fire stick and trash and set the school room on fire. She said the white people were locked up in the court house and if they set fire to the school room he whole people would be burnt up alive. • Elizebeth faulkner was beating at Bennett’s door and calling out for the people to take out the buckra in them and kill them. She had a stick.” • Elizebeth Faulkner and Rosanna Finlayson-sentenced to 20 years penal servitude
Women in Morant Bay • Against Nancy Murray” She said” we will kill all the buckra but we save Dr. Major, and he will come to see the wounded. At 2 o’clock in the morning when my houekeeper ( Mary Ann Thomas) asked if many were killed she said : Alexander Brown a volunteer, we rolled him down Fort Jill. We killed the Baron and rolled him down, the brain is dashed out. We kill Parson Herschell, we cut his neck, and we kill Inspector Alberga, Mr. McCormack and Mr. Hitchins, a captain of volunteers and Mr. McCook’s sons and Mr. Walton and parson Cook get away and Stephen Cook escaped, but if we could catch him, we would cut off his head.” • Nancy Murray sentenced to 20 years penal servitude
Interpretations of Morant bay • Augier, R. Before and after 1865 • IN Beckles, H & Shepherd, V. (1996)Caribbean Freedom: Economy and Society from Emancipation to the present If we interpret the events at Stony Gut and at the court house in Morant bay correctly as a statement, uttered in blood, about the unjust relations between men who belonged to different economic classes and also to different ethnic groups then the direct efffects of the riot must be sought in the subsequent attitudes of social groups towards one another. p170
Interpretations • Robotham, D. (1981) “ The Notorious Riot” • The socio-economic and political base of Paul Bogle’s Revolt • Thesis- Paul Bogle was a legitimate leader of the Morant Bay riot NOT “a minor player “ as described by Dutton in his biographical account of Edward Eyre. Dutton discusses George William Gordon at length but dismisses Bogle. • Douglas Hall in Free Jamaica (1959),wrote “ although he ( Bogle) certainly does not merit recognition as a leader • or lieutenant of organised rebellion, he showed himself to be a dangerous man who could command a large body of followeres, especially in a time of general hardship in a parish in which local officials were unpopular. (p.15, 253)
Hall, D, Free Jamaica(1959) • Hall describes the events in Morant Bay in 1865 as a series of “unhappy coincidences” including : • The Great religious revival of 1860-62 led to economic neglect. • The american Civil war resulted in increased prices for imported goods. • Fall in Sugar prices in Britain .
Hall-(a summary) • The Morant bay rebellion caused grave setback for Jamaica’s socio-political development when the Assembly was abandoned and Crown Colony government introduced. • Bogle and his associates fought to extend the rights in the Old representative system to the people and as such was as much to blame as Governor Eyre.
Series of local riots 1) against tollgate taxes in sav-la-mar 2)against land evctions of peasants in Trelawny. In general there was great pressure on the jamaican people. In St. Thomas workers moved from estate to estate in search of jobs. There was none to be had. Overseers sent workers with letters of recommendation from estate to estate to see if they could get work. Very few succeeded in getting employment. Planters limited their labour force and reduced wages. Workers were turned away from estates, many with tears in their eyes. Robotham- Period 1860-65 period of great hardship in Jamaica.
Robotham’s thesis • “The riots of the 1850’s , the struggle against eviction, the Revival and the events of 1865 really constitute a single chain of events whose source lay deep in the oppressive economic and political conditions of the people in the post-emancipation period.” (p.26a)
Land question –source of problem. Labour Reduction in wages. Increases in cost of living. Taxes. Question of political power. Question of justice. Post-emancipation Blacks desired lands which were rent free Blacks resented the existing labour-service system: Robatham –political and economic conditions which created crisis.
Labour-service system • Underhill, 1862: • “No labourer likes to live on the estates, nor will he do so unless necessity constrains it, for fear of being turned off when any dispute arises, and the whole of his provision grounds be forfeited. Service must be rendered to the planter on whose land he resides; and he dare not choose any other master. The rent paid for provision gounds is 20s. Per acre; land is rented only for provisions. The people plant their own land with sugar cane, or cultivated coffee upon it, or other exportable articles; for proprietors of estates will not lend land for those purposes.”
Robotham • “There can be little doubt that if the process of securing legal title had been simplified and an agrarian reform had been carried out, it would have resulted in greater economic prosperity and a more rapid rate of economic development in Jamaica in the 19th century.”
Robatham • “The people were freed in 1838 but the material basis of real freedom were denied them”(p39) • Legislation post – 1834 created landlessness and the labour-service system.
“It should also not be forgotten should that this question of land was closely related to the question of political power. In the period with which we are dealing, the right to vote was directly related to the possession of land. (p.41) Because they controlled both the central and local government systems, the planters were able to use their power not only to impose grave economic hardship on the people but also to take the burden of taxation off their own backs, off the backs most able to bear it and put it on the backs of the poor.” (p.46) Robotham
Between 1840-1865 Tax on clothes worn by people increased by 1,150% Tax on salt fish increased by 366% Tax on mackeral went up 433% Tax on herrings increased by 166% Tax on donkeys went up by 1,560% Tax on horses increased by 1,120% Boats and canoes were required to pay 20s each unless used for plantation purposes. Carts usedfor non-plantaion purposes were charged 18s each annually. Robatham
Robatham • In contrast: • Duties were removed from plantation supplies. • Wood and lumbar used on plantations had tax reduced by 52 % • Taxes on plantation horses and mules was reduced. • Tax on rice was reduced by 14 %. • Only roads leading to grat houses and plantations were repaired from tax revenue.-The Main Road Law. • Large amount of taxes used to import immigrants and to pay salaries of Anglican clergy.
Robatham-economic decline in 1860’s • Decline in sugar prices by 3s.5d. Per cwt. • Rum prices fell from 4s. Per gallon to about 3s. Per gallon. • Logwood and pimento prices declined steadily. • Coffee suffered a 20% drop in export. • By 1865 total earnings from sugar, coffee, rum, logwood and pimento decline by 22%. • Increase in number of children seeking employment “picanny gangs”
Robatham-other factors affecting Jamaican society in 1865 • American civil war caused sharp increase in wholesale prices.(e.g. cornmeal, flour,peas saltfish) • Flood followed by drought -1864-1865. • Decline in estates in production. ( from 600 after emancipation to 300 in 1865) • Population increase ( from 350,000 at emancipation to 450,000 in 1864) • Widespread job layoffs –irregular employment.
Robatham-the jamaican justice system in 1860’s • “Thus as the economic crisis deepened and the planters sought every means to preserve their income by the harshest exploitiation of the people, the judiciary became a vital link in the whole chain of oppression binding the people. Docking of wages, fines, trespass, larcency, evictions, became crucial issues and the planters made sure that state power was as fully mobilised as possible to enforce their economic extortions. Thus it was no accident that the issue which sparked the riot occurred at a court house, nor that this institution became the focus for the anger of the people.” • (p.67)
Increase in number of cases against peasants especially for larcency. & trespassing . Increase in prostitution. Rise in crimes committed by juveniles. Decline in church attendance. Rise in petty larcency, assault and abuse. Desturction of family life. Nakedness, starvation, malnutrition. Robatham
Robotham-summary • “Thus , the working people the entire post emancipation economy, the social and political system, remained bound to slavery, even in freedom….by the end of the first decade it was obvious that a profound crisis was accumulating……” • (p.98)