[Before its many attacks upon those urging the criminal prosecution of Governor Eyre and his underlings for atrocities committed while putting down the Morant uprising, Punch reminded its audience that “we have ever advocated Justice to men of all colours, and have done so at time. when universal philanthropy was not the fashion, and was not exactly rewarded with ovations.” That may certainly have been true, but soon enough it descended, repeatedly, to racist invective. The text below was created using ABBYY FineReader software from the Hathi Digital Library Trust page images of a copy of the periodical in the University of Michigan Library. The engravibg of Exeter Hall comes from the 1844 Illustrated London News. Click on it for more information. — George P. Landow]
There has been fearful business in Jamaica. Blacks rioted, were ﬁred upon, and the riot became madness. The blacks slew many whites, and the massacre was attended by incidents too revolting to be described in pages usually devoted to pleasantness. It must, however, be stated that a young clergyman was hewn in pieces, and that the blacks enacted hideous orgies, devouring the brains of their, victims. A terrible vengeance descended upon the savages, and shot, steel, and cord came into stern use. A great slaughter was made.
All this is painful to tell, but it must be told, because it is right to show the spirit in which the story is treated by those who claim to be exponents of the feelings of the people of England but who by a perverse instinct set themselves, on all occasions, in opposition to those feelings. Those who found excuses for the Indian mutineers, those who advocate peace at any price, and hold honour not worth counting, are now loud in behalf of the Jamaica blacks. Nothing is said for a small white population, eight times outnumbered by the negroes, and suddenly confronted by the foulest horrors of savage warfare. Nothing is said of its natural terror for its wives and little children. All we hear is a howl about the severity exercised upon the poor dear blacks.
The Reverend DR. BURNS is a shining light among the advocates of the blacks. We dare say that he is a good man, atall events he uses many words out of the good Book. He addresses a long letter to MR. BRIGHT’s organ, and thus he begins: —
“I have read with feelings of indescribable horror the details of the late sanguinsry doings in Jamaica. I am sure, as those deeds are unfolded, and the whole truth shall be published in this country, that an unparalleled feeling of intensiﬁed indignation will be produced. I enter upon no justiﬂcatlon of riots or of rebellion on the part of the misguided coloured people, but I do protest in the name of our common humanity against the precipitate destruction to which so many of our fellow creatures have been devoted.
This Christian minister reserves, it will be seen, his justification of riots or rebellion, that he may at once relieve his mind by abusing those who defended themselves against raging savages. He has not a word of regret for his brother Christian minister who was chopped to pieces by the blacks. All he desires is to intimate that he sends up to Heaven an "outcry, night and day,” in company with the other "elect,” he says (apparently meaning Dissenters of a certain sect), and though he does not state what he cries, we must gather that he means a protest against the whites who fought for their lives, wives, and babies. MR. BRIGHT’s organ, of course, echoes this minister, and at a safe distance from anything blacker than its own misused ink, ridicules the terrors of white men who found themselves surrounded by a furious crowd, notoriously inﬂamed by belief — evidently not discouraged by certain religious teachers — that the negroes were the victims of tyranny.
It is strange that fanaticism blinds men, not otherwise foolish, to the truth, and makes them unaware of the feeling of the great mass of their countrymen. It is less strange, such blindness and obtusity granted, that fanatics should believe themselves exponents of the popular mind, and should write. as was written in Tooley Street of old, “We, the people,” Yet they have had some lessons at hustings and elsewhere, and have now some lessons at hustings and elsewhere, and have now a lesson before them in the fact that an English Premier will not shock the heart of England by admitting one of their party to ofﬁce, loudly as they clamour for it.
The whole history of the Jamaica trouble will of course be the subject of a Parliamentary inquiry, and if injustice has been done, it will appear, and no Englishman will defend it. We may appeal to work done before the anti-English party arose, in proof that we have ever advocated Justice to men of all colours, and have done so at time. when universal philanthropy was not the fashion, and was not exactly rewarded with ovations. But we cannot allow men to describe themselves as “we, the people,” and then to outrage the feelings of all decent Englishmen, without pointing out that “we, the people,” means a foolish handful of noisy quacks.
Other Punch interventions in the Eyre Affair
- “Last case of Colour-Blindness” (2 December 1865)
- “An Awful Warning” (17 November 1866)
- “The Jamaica Committee” (26 January 1867)
- “Exeter Hall Spite” (27 January 1866)
- “The Bold Governor Eyre and the Bulls of Exeter Hall” (10 February 1866)
- “Free as Eyre” (6 April 1867)
Last modified 28 January 2016