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CURIOSITIES IN THE PAST CRIMINAL JURISPRUDENCE OF
JAMAICA. BY DR. FRED, TOMKINS, BARRISTER-AT-LAW. We find in the Appendix () of a work' entitled “Lights and Shadows of Jamaica History," by the Hon. Richard 'Hill, Member of Her Majesty's Privy Council for Jamaica, and published by Ford and Gall, in Kingston, in 1859, many facts recorded which have a painful interest at the present time. The evil spirit that prompted the atrocities recorded by Mr. Hill is not to be exorcised from any community in an age, as the recent outrages in Jamaica painfully demonstrate.
The following illustrations of injustice and cruelty were extracted by the late Advocate General Boswell Middleton, from the Session Book of St. Thomas-inthe-East. There is not a parochial record which would not furnish similar examples of judicial severity, L,
“ Extracts from the Trial Book kept at the Vestry Office, Morant Bay, Jamaica. Page 35. Year 1766:
“ Jack, for being a runaway, sentenced to be immediately carried to the place of execu. tion, and there to be hanged by the neck until he is dead, and his head to be cut off in the most public place on said estate.
“ Neptune, for being a runaway, to have his right ear cut off.
“ Brown, for the same offence, sentenced to receive 39 lashes under the gallows' while Warwick is executed. " Jack, for killing a calf, to have both
h his ears cut off immediately. “Emma, for running away, to receive 39 lashes every Monday morning for a month, to be chained during that time and branded on both checks.
“ Poor Nancy, ditto.
“Bacchus, for running away and being in rebellion, and Daniel, for assault and robbery [we know what this inéant in Jamaicaj both to be hung, beheaded and their bodies burnt to ashes.
“ London, for stealing some rum, sentenced to have his right ear immediately cut off close to his head, and, after being soaked in rum, to be nailed upon the door of the store.
“Winter, convicted of practicing "obeah, was sentenced to transportation.—Evidence: Deponent on searching prisoner's house found sundry matters such as egg-shells tied up in plantation trash, fowls' feet, fish-bones, feathers and sundry other matters, in a basket; also a coney skin or some such thing, stuffed in a bottle, which those who practice.obeah' com. monly make use of, &c.
Richard, charged with the crime of having fresh meat found upon him, sentenced to be worked in chains along with another negro for four weeks, and to receive 39 lashes every Monday morning."
• Plato" did not escape so easily, for he was for the same offence sentenced to have “ both his ears cut off close to his head, to be worked in chains for twelve months, and to be brought down to Yallahs Bay the first Monday in every month and receive 39 lashes with a cat-o'-nine-tails on his bare back each time. Listen to poor “ Mercury's” sentence for having 10 lbs of fresh veal in his possession : “to have his right ear cut off close to his head, then to receive 50 lashes, and to be worked in chains on Mount Ida plantation till the workhouse [i.e. the prison] be established, and then to be delivered to the said workhouse for six calendar months from this date, and to receive 30 lashes twice a month during that time."
Let us turn to page 22 of the next year for a piece of refinement of cruelty practised upon “Quaco” and “ Thunder” for running away, the former having ventured to defend himself against his pursuers. Poor “Quaco” was sentenced “ to have both his ears cut off close to his head, and also the great tendon, commonly known by the name of Tendo Achilles, of his left leg to be separated or cut asunder in such a manner as it may not re-unite.” The prisoner “ Thunder" was sentenced “ to have his right leg cut off below the knee, by a surgeon, at the proprietor's expense, within ten days from the date hereof : Witness our hands and seals this, &c., Robert Warren, Fran. Fourracres, Richard Barham, John Frone ; Richard Wansborough, Clk. Peace. Poor “ Jackson,” who had made tracks, probably under some galling injustice, was sentenced “to have his right ear cut off close to his head-it must be close to the head-his nose slit, and to be branded in each cheek with the plantation mark: 5th July, 1780." But enough of these heart-sickening recitals, since that entire generation has passed away. Now, at least the slave has found rest from the oppressions and tortures of his white tyrant. The master and the slave of those days, no longer hostile, lie side by side under the ever green sod of the quiet Jamaica valley, or are buried beneath the sunny hill sides and fertile slopes of its mountains.
The authority for the perpetration of these crimes, was found in the 8th William III, c. 2., passed in 1695—6 and entitled, “ An Act for the better order and government of slaves." This statute among other things enacted
“That if any slave shall offer any violence, by striking or otherwise, to any white person, such slave shall be punished at the discretion of two justices and three freeholders, who may inflict death, or any other punishment according to their discretion.
“Every master, mistress, &c., shall cause all their slaves' houses to be diligently and effectually searched once every fourteen days, for clubs, wooden swords, or other mischievous weapons, and finding them shall take them away and cause them to be burnt.
“Any slave in whose custody stolen goods shall be found shall suffer death, transportation, dismembering, or other punishment, at the discretion of two justices and three freeholders, or the major part of them, one of whom to be a justice."
There is a bill of Mr. Nixon's, the Clerk of the Peace at St Thomas-in-theEast, p. 490 in the Vestry book, from which it appears that £1 8s. 9d. was the charge for cutting off an ear, or a foot, or a leg, or for hanging, or for burning ; the charge is made for burning a poor slave named “ Buckingham.” Mr. Nixon, however, only charged a like sum in one case for cutting off an ear, and slitting the nose of a black man named “ London.” Cruelties unfit to be mentioned are recorded, and when some of the more humane inhabitants of Kingston and of St. Iago de la Vega petitioned to be heard by themselves or counsel in relation to the same, it is stated in the journals that on debate and motion to hear these petitioners, the application was negatived.
Not only were the Negroes themselves cruelly maltreated, but their friends and instructors were not allowed to escape. An Act was passed “ to prevent the preaching of ill-disposed, illiterate, or ignorant enthusiasts, whereby not only the minds of the hearers are perverted with fanatical notions, but opportunity is afforded them of concerting schemes of much private and public mischief.” This act was interpreted as limiting religious ministration to the Established Church. The offender was to be deemed a rogue and a vagabond, and for the first offence was to be committed to the workhouse. What was called the “workhouse was the house of correction for slaves. A sentence to it was a committal to “filth and vermin."-Squalor carceris. The offender for the second offence was to receive a public flogging not exceeding thirty-nine lashes, or such punishment in cases that were deemed heinous as the court should see fit to inflict, not extending to life.” This act was passed so recently as the 18th Dec., 1802, without any discussion, and immediately the Methodist Missionary, the Rev. D. Campbell, was imprisonel and the chapel in Kingston closed. A Mr. Frisk was also prohibited preaching; and the Rev. Mr. Reid, the Scotch Missionary, and Mr. Swingle, the Baptist Minister, were silenced. At that unfortunate locality, Morant Bay, these persecutions were commenced, whilst the Rector of the parish was on leave of absence in England, so that that large district was left without any christian minister. It wis somewhere about this time, that a profane and infidel Club, which continued in existence for years, was got up at Morant Bay called the “ HELL-FIRE C'LUB."
We have called public attention to these atrocities of the men of a bygone generation, because it is the same spirit in Jamaica that has given rise to the cruelties and public scandal of the present hour. In 1827 that great man, George Canning, told the colonists that " as the governing part of society they might win to themselves by indulgence and conciliation these poor people, whom it would be absolute madness and the most incredible folly with their eyes open not to conciliate." Mr. Canning goes on to say, "he would leave to the colonies the means of attaining his object as fast as they could by a conquest of prejudice; but he would exact from them the removal of positive evil. In DUE'TIME, IF THEY DID NOT REMOVE IT THEMSELVES, IT MUST BE REMOVED FOR THEM.” (See Hansard's Parl. Deb., vol. 17, N. S.) To these words we call the attention of our government, and in the name of humanity and justice we ask that they may be verified. Government has acted hitherto with promptness and impartiality. The colonists in Jamaica have failed_grievously and shamefully failed to do their duty. The cause of the outraged and the too-long-neglected Negroes of Jamaica is now committed to ministers whom we clesire to trust. Let Earl Russell and Mr. Gladstone, let Mr. Cardwell and Mr. Forster resolve, come what may, to redeem Jamaica from oppression and to declare that this day the words of the immortal Canning shall be fulfilled.
JAMAICA REPORT. The long expected report of the “Jamaica Royal Commission " has been presented to Parliament with the voluminous evidence on which it is based. The more closely the evidence is examined, we believe the more difficult it will be found to reconcile the narrative of the Royal Commissioners as to the origin and course of the outbreak, with the statements of the witnesses taken in their completeness. The more flagitious cases of outrage and cruelty on the part of the military are suppressed in a manner so palpable that it cannot fail to call forth the indignant comments of a vigilant press. Eventually the truth will be brought out with greater distinctness. The contrast between the treatment of the case of Mr. Gordon and that of those who are known to have committed the greatest outrage is too striking to escape the attention of the most cursory reader of the documents. With wearisome prolixity the Royal Commissioners recite the minutest particulars that may tend to lower the character or position of Mr. Gordon. Jocular observations in off-hand conversation are repeated as the avowal of deliberate purpose; documents respecting his commercial transactions and other papers, equally irrelevant, are given with a manifest bias, and yet the conclusion after all is inevitable, recorded in the words of Mr. Cardwell, that “the evidence, oral and documentary, appears to be wholly insufficient to establish the charge upon which the prisoner took his trial.” “His trial by Court Martial and his execution by virtue of the sentence of that court, are events which Her Majesty's Government cannot but coNDEMN and DEPLORE.” The annals of illegal violence surely contain no record more condemnatory of its authors than the reports of the Court Martial in reference to cases on which the Royal Commissioners preserve a silence that compromises their moral dignity far more than reflections that can be made upon
their course. Take a single example—that of McKINTOSH. A comparison of the evidence given by Rev. Stephen Cook, Mr. Stephen Cook, Clerk of the Peace, and Henry Clyne shows unmistakeably that on the day of the riot he was standing by the Clerk of the Peace in the Court House, the rioters were about to enter the place
anil McKintosh was urged to meet them and persuade them to go back. With some reluctance he went out and tried to check the rioters. As he raised his hand for the purpose the volunteers fired and McKintosh was wounded in the back. He did not return, for he was taken to the hospital. In this condition he was summoned to appear before the Court Martial, and sentenced to death by hanging. Nothing is more clearly proved than his self-sacrificing attempt to prevent the entrance of the mob into the Court House, yet his life was wantonly sacrificed, and not a word is said by the Commissioners in the case. The absence of all moral sensibility in the matter is most astounding.
Judicial delicacy is shown nevertheless in the case of Provost Marshal, Mr. Ramsay. The pre-eminence of this barbarous official in acts of atrocity is unquestioned ; his name is covered with infamy in every part of the civilized globe. In his letter to Captain Luke he said, " I hope I may not be thought seeking for pecuniary benefit alone in claiming the rewards for information against G. W. Gordon." It will be believed by all that he had a satisfaction in his horrible work beyond that of the “ price of blood.” His services have had full recognition, and in consideration of them, though charged with murder, he enjoys at this time the advantage of bail.
In allusion to his case, the Royal Commissioners say: “It will be observed that a great deal of evidence laid before us with a view of proving the use of undue severity of martial law has reference to the conduct of Mr. Gordon Ramsay, the Provost Marshal. As he is now about to take his trial on a charge of wilful murder for an act done by him while he filled that office, it was not thought right by any of the parties concerned in the enquiry that he should be asked any questions, the answers to which, or a refusal to answer which might prejudice him on his trial. It will be obvious that for the same reason it would not be right for us to make any remarks upon his conduct.”
The consideration of the Royal Commissioners is admirable, but for their own credit it would have been well if it had been shown equally on the side of the oppressed.
There is not a word in the report, so far as we can trace, to indicate that those who conducted this momentous inquiry were possessed of either moral sensibility or manly courage, to characterize distinctly the evils brought to light. Credit for diligence, patience and care in the investigation will be freely given, but a more conscienceless document, under all the circumstances, could hardly be produced. Wanton outrage indeed is condemned, but we look in vain for the brand on those by whom it was individually perpetrated, except, in the case of the “uneducated peasantry.” The report closes in the following ternis : “Lastly, that the punishments inflicted were excessive.
“1. That the punishment of death was unnecessarily frequent.