Page images
PDF
EPUB

upon those unfortunate niggers,' as they would if white men had suffered in a similar manner. He regarded every life among those men—before the law and before the sovereign authority of the Queen—as important as any life in this country or in the House, and it was idle to tell him that when he stood on a platform before thousands of his countrymen, he was to consider, because they were black, the lives of 2,000 subjects of the Queen as nothing in comparison with the feelings of Governor Eyre and his accomplices. But the Government had appointed a Commission, and he would leave the matter to the thorough investigation of such Commission. 'I say, Sir,' Mr. Bright continued, “that the right hon. gentleman has allowed, it may be, an official sympathy for Governor Eyre to weigh with him in this matter, and he has thought it necessary to give me notice that he would come down to the House and pronounce a solemn censure upon my conduct. I tell him that in all the public speeches I have ever made—and they are not a few, as the House knows—there are no passages those speeches to which I will to my last hour more firmly adhere than to those which the right hon. gentleman has commented upon. There is nothing in them that I have to condemn myself for—there is nothing in them that I retract; and if the same circumstances happened again, I would repeat those passages, and, if it were possible, with a more burning indignation would I condemn atrocities which have cast a foul blot upon the character of English governors.'

When the report of the Commissioners was published, it was found that the view taken by the opponents of Governor Eyre had been perfectly substantiated and justified. The Commissioners reported that 439 persons had suffered by martial law; that about 1,000 dwellings had been burnt; that about 600 persons (including aged matrons, young boys, and women in expectation of confinement) had been flogged, in many cases with a new instrument of torture made of piano-wire; that the punishments inflicted were excessive, the executions unnecessarily frequent, the burning of houses wanton; and that they saw no proof of Gordon's complicity in the outbreak, or in an organized conspiracy against Government.

The home Government having declined to prosecute Governor Eyre, the 'Jamaica Committee' was formed for this purpose, with Mr. John Stuart Mill for chairman. This was followed by the formation of the 'Eyre Defence and Aid Fund,' which had for its president the Earl of Shrewsbury, and for its vice-presidents Thomas Carlyle and Sir Roderick Murchison. Amongst other defenders of Mr. Eyre, either actively or by subscription, were Mr. Ruskin, Mr. Tennyson, Prof. Tyndall, the Rev. Charles Kingsley, and Sir Thomas Gladstone, besides several noblemen whose names were not of much weight or moment. But against these, and for the vindication of law and justice, are to be set the names of Mr. J. Stuart Mill, Mr. Bright, Prof. Fawcett, Mr. Joseph Cowen, M.P., Mr. Herbert Spencer, Professors Thorold Rogers, Cairnes, F. W. Newman, Beesly, and Goldwin Smith, and many members of Parliament and others. The proceedings against Governor Eyre and his associates proved abortive, the bills against them being thrown out; but there fortunately remains in the annals of our jurisprudence the irrefragable charge of Lord Chief Justice Cockburn-one of the finest charges ever delivered by an English judge, and one which at the same time leaves not a shadow of a doubt as to the substantial guilt of Governor Eyre. Efforts were subsequently made to restore the discredited Governor to the public service, but, naturally and justly, these were unsuccessful.

On a dispassionate view of the case, few will be prepared to deny now that Mr. Bright was on the side of truth and humanity in regard to this important question. It is monstrous to suppose that Governor Eyre will be acquitted at the bar of history for deeds which were only worthy of the Dark Ages. We may, in fact, be doing the Dark Ages an injustice in this matter. Mr. Carlyle, carrying out the doctrines of his ‘Discourse on the Nigger Question,' defended Mr. Eyre, but the language in which he did so caused the great bulk of his warmest admirers keen regret. Despotism and strength were his maxims of government, and the strong' man-even were he entirely destitute of the divine sentiments of justice and humanity-won his admiration. With such principles, it is not surprising that Mr. Carlyle became the vindicator of Governor Eyre. Posterity will turn over, with averted eyes, this page in the history of the philosopher of Chelsea.

The closest and most intimate of Mr. Bright's personal and political friendships was severed by death on the 2nd of April, 1865. On that day, Richard Cobden, one of the finest and best of Englishmen, passed away. Not a month before, Mr. Bright had visited his friend at Midhurst; and as they strolled through the lovely Sussex scenery together, Mr. Cobden, pointing to a little church in the distance, said, 'My poor boy lies there, and I shall soon be with him.' Mr. Bright says he little thought how soon, when a few days afterwards he went up to London. Mr. Cobden was anxious to take part in the discussion on the Canadian fortifications, and the proposed heavy expenditure of public money, which he severely condemned. The March of 1865 was a bitter month, and he was stricken by the cold, and fatally stricken. Ten days later his complaint became greatly aggravated, and on the 2nd of April he died. Mr. Bright observed many years afterwards, 'It was a circumstance somewhat singular and very affecting to my mind, that on the very day when President Lincoln and the Northern forces entered the city of Richmond, and when, in point of fact, the slave confederacy was vanquished and at an end,-on that very day, on that very Sunday, that 2nd of April in the year 1865, the spirit of

my friend left its earthly tenement, and took its way to another, and to him, doubtless, a brighter world.'

Richard Cobden—whose death was deeply mourned both in this country and in France-came of an old family of Sussex yeomen, and was born at the farmhouse of Dunford, near Midhurst, June 3, 1804. Educated at the grammar school of Midhurst, on the death of his father he was sent to London, where he served an apprenticeship in a Manchester warehouse, afterwards becoming a traveller for the firm. In 1830 he entered into partnership with a firm of Lancashire calico printers, and his successful management of the concern brought large profits. He visited the Continent in 1834, and the United States in the following year. On his return he contributed, as remarked in a previous chapter, letters on political and economical topics to the Manchester Times, and also published a pamphlet entitled, 'England, Ireland, and America, by a Manchester Manufacturer.' He wrote on behalf of peace, retrenchment, non-intervention, and free trade, and followed up his earlier efforts by another pamphlet on 'Russia,' in which he forcibly stated his views on the Eastern Question. Shortly afterwards began the Anti-Corn-Law campaign, which we have already described at length. Mr. Cobden first sat for Stockport in 1841, and afterwards for the West Riding of Yorkshire, and at a later period for Rochdale. When Lord Palmerston came into office, he offered Mr. Cobden the Presidency of the Board of Trade, with a seat in the Cabinet, but the offer was declined. In

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »