EVENTS LEADING TO THE MORANT BAY REBELLION OF 1865
Emancipation on August 1, 1838 was followed by years of hardship for the ex-slaves and financial struggles for the plantation owners due mainly to poor estate management. Also, the decline in the price of sugar made production unprofitable, so some planters sold their estates and many who worked on the sugar plantations lost their jobs.
In 1864, Edward Eyre was made Governor of Jamaica. He was unsympathetic towards the poor who were constantly being arrested for petty offences, and planters and ex-slave owners were cruel to them.
HOW NATIONAL HEROES GEORGE WILLIAM GORDON AND PAUL BOGLE PLAYED THEIR ROLES IN THE REBELLION
George William Gordon was a Justice of the Peace in St. Thomas who showed interest in and sympathy for the poor. He was educated and a very rich businessman. He realised that the people needed justice in the courts and doctors to care for them, so he reported the matter to Governor Eyre who did nothing to resolve the plight of the poor but rather removed Gordon as Justice of the Peace. However, Gordon still maintained his goal to help the poor, and he ran in an election and won a seat in the House of Assembly.
Paul Bogle, a farmer and deacon in the Native Baptist Church, was also concerned about the hardships experienced by the people. He, along with sympathisers of the Native Baptist movement, supported Gordon in his campaign to win his seat in the Assembly.
As leader of a group in Stony Gut, St. Thomas, Bogle wanted to air the grievances of the poor to Governor Eyre, but was refused an airing. He decided to take matters in hand and began to train persons for combat, and led a riot on October 11, 1865 that resulted in the Custos of the parish being killed and the Morant Bay Courthouse being burnt to the ground.
Governor Eyre sent government troops to hunt down the poorly armed rebels and the Maroons captured Bogle and brought him back to Morant Bay for trial. The troops met with no organised resistance, but regardless, they killed Blacks indiscriminately, most of whom had not been involved in the riot or rebellion. In the end, 439 Black Jamaicans were killed directly by soldiers, and 354 more (including Bogle and Gordon) were arrested and later executed, some without proper trials.
George William Gordon and Paul Bogle gave their lives for the betterment of the poor in Jamaica. In 1977 they were awarded the title of National Hero.
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