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The Morant Bay Rebellion

Jamaica
1865
A short introduction.
The Morant Bay Rebellion started on October 7 1865 when Paul Bogle led a march with some
200 men whom were all armed with sticks, cutlasses and a few even possessed guns. They
marched down to the court house in St. Thomas in the east of Jamaica, to witness the trial of an
ex-slave. When the furious mob arrived at the courthouse they were met by a small militia but
the crowd began pelting the militia with rocks and sticks. However, the militia opened fire on the
group, killing seven blacks before they retreated. In succeeding days, rebellious blacks took to
different parts of the island. Panic swept the island, and Governor Eyre declared martial law in
the country.

Causes of the Rebellion


The cost of imported foodstuff and clothing rose from 30 to 100 per cent as a result of an
interruption in American trade during the Civil War
Ordinances or laws were implemented to prevent squatting on crown land and abandoned
plantations where many peasants were already established
Wages on estates were extremely low as a result of the fall of sugar prices on the market
Two years of drought in Jamaica in the early sixties damaged provision grounds and so
there was a demand for labour on the plantations in which they were unable to receive
Hunger and starvation prevailed during those years
Blacks felt that they were not being fairly represented in government; unjust treatment

Letters to the secretary of state


In January 1865, Dr. Edward Underhill after having received countless letters of lamentation
from his subordinates in Jamaica,, wrote a letter to the Secretary of State, describing the horrors
that the peasants in Jamaica faced. They were naked, starving, overtaxed and underemployed.

Underhill Meetings
In the island ex-slaves held meetings called Underhill meetings throughout the colony. In these
meetings they discussed possible solutions to relieve the poor of Jamaica of their distress. They
prepared letters to the Queen asking her to rent them crown lands at minimal rates. The Queens
advice was for ex-slaves to return to plantations.

Consequences of the rebellion


The most significant consequence of the Morant Bay Rebellion was that the
assembly in Jamaica was dissolved and Jamaica became a Crown Colony under
the direct rule of the mother country, Britain.
430 men and women were executed
600 women were flogged
1000 houses/ cottages were burnt and destroyed

Leaders of the Rebellion


Paul Bogle (black)
George Gordon (mulatto) (politician)

Sources:
The problem of Freedom, Race, Labor and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832- 1938written by Thomas C. Holt
British Slave Emancipation: written by William A. Green
Jamaica A Historical Portrait: written by Samuel J. and Edith F. Hurwits
Post Emancipation Protests in Jamaica (i)
The Morant Bay Rebellion 1865 by Gad Heuman(ii)
The Sources labelled (i) and (ii) were articles which were taken from the book: From Chattel
Slaves to Wage Slaves: book edited by Mary Turner

Group Members:
Arria Maximin
La Toya Joseph
Carolyn Joseph
Rai Joseph
Geoffery George