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INSURRECTION IN JAMAICA. CONTINENTAL CHANGES.
AFFAIRS AT HOME. THE ABYSSINIAN WAR.
THE Cabinet changes caused by Lord Palmerston's death
were unimportant. Lord Russell became Prime Minister, and Lord Clarendon, Foreign Secretary. It was in the House of Commons that the revolution took place. Mr. Gladstone became the leader of the Liberal party; the old Whigs as well as more recent recruits were still hesitating on the border of radicalism; Lord John Russell, raised to the peerage in July, 1861, had been thus withdrawn from all rivalry in the House of Commons with Mr. Gladstone, and henceforth the latter was to stand face to face with Mr. Disraeli, as his great opponent both in oratory and in statesmanship. All return towards the Conservatives was now cut off for Mr. Gladstone; the University of Oxford, so long faithful to him, had returned Mr. Gathorne Hardy at the last election, and . Mr. Gladstone now represented South Lancashire. That which he soon after said, speaking of the Cabinet: “ The Rubicon is passed; the ships have been burned; the bridges have been broken down,” was yet more true of himself. Mr. Gladstone was destined henceforth to march at the head of the boldest reformers, without permitting himself to be deterred either by the memory of his past career, or by the astonished indignation of his former friends.
Earl Russell had not yet relinquished, however, the leadership of his party upon the question which had been the guiding star of his life, amidst the almost regular alternations of the parliamentary tide which had so many times swept him into or out of power. The Reform Bill of 1832 had been his first tiiumph; he aspired to crown his parliamentary career by a nev Reform, demanded, in his judgment, by the progress of liberal ideas, as well as by the development of popular prosperity and enlightenment. The moment, however, was not propitious for a measure of importance; the House had just met, after the expenses and excitement of the general elections, and men were not disposed to undergo at once the shocks which a Reform Bill might involve. Lord Russell did not regard these secondary considerations; he counted upon the decisive action of all the supporters of Reform in Parliament and in the country. He was occupied in the preparation of a bill when the news of insubordination in Jamaica, and of the measures taken to repress it, came suddenly, absorbing the attention of all, and turning away all thoughts from the theoretic question of an electoral law. In an English colony, where the mothercountry had of her own will broken the yoke of slavery, negro insurrection had been suppressed with a severity at which all men stood appalled. To the first reports of the disturbances were soon added details of the vindictive pursuit which had followed the first legitimate and justifiable measures of repression. Letters of officers stationed in Jamaica depicted without reserve the rigid enforcement of martial law. “I vis. ited,” wrote an officer to his superior, “several estates and villages. I burnt seven houses in all, but did not even see a rebel. On returning to Golden Grove in the evening, sixtyseven prisoners had been sent in by the Maroons. I disposed of as many as possible, but was too tired to continue after dark. On the morning of the 24th, I started for Morant Bay, having first flogged four and hung six rebels. I beg to state that I did not meet a single man upon the road up to Keith Hall; there were a few prisoners here, all of whom I flogged, and then proceeded to Johnstown and Beckford. At the latter
place I burnt seven houses and one meeting-house; in the former four houses." Another writes: 6. We made a raid with thirty men, flogging nine men and burning their negro houses. We held a court-martial on the prisoners, who amounted to about fifty or sixty. Several were flogged without court-martial, from a simple examination. This is a picture of martial law. The soldiers enjoy it; the inhabitants here dread it. If they run on their approach, they are shot for running away.”
A colored man named George William Gordon, a member of the Colonial Assembly, a Baptist, and a person of some influence with the negro population, had been accused of stirring up sedition. He surrendered himself to the governor at Kingston, and was placed on board a government vessel and carried to Morant Bay, where martial law had been proclaimed. He had a summary trial, was found guilty, and was immediately hanged. There were no more rebels, but the punishments continued. The public voice was raised in indignation against the governor, and the colonial secretary sent out a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the matter.
The abolition of slavery in Jamaica had left the colony in a condition both enfeebled and agitated. The troubles of 1839 recurred over and over again ; the colored population, naturally on bad terms with their former masters, could always depend upon the support of the officers of the crown, of the government and council ; the interests of the planters were represented by the elective assembly. The bad condition of many estates left uncultivated after the cessation of slave labor, had caused a cession to the blacks of a considerable extent of territory, which they had been authorized to cultivate on condition of paying the arrears of quit-rent due to the crown. In one or more cases, however, the actual owner had endeavored to repossess himself of his lands; the negroes had resisted, and the case had been brought before a legal