THE GOVERNOR EYRE CONTROVERSY by Bernard Semmel

THE GOVERNOR EYRE CONTROVERSY

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

In October, 1865, an uprising of the Negro population took place on the island of Jamaica. The revolt was swiftly suppressed by the British Governor, Edward Eyre. During the month-long reign of terror, a thousand homes were burned, almost five hundred Negroes were killed and more than this number were flogged and tortured. The rebellion gave rise to one of the great controversies of the nineteenth century. Was Governor Eyre incompetent, a cruel, blood-thirsty murderer, or was he a hero who had saved the island along with the lives of the white men and women on it? Parliament debated the question, the press took sides, there were rioting and brawling in the streets by the populace and the intellectuals of the day took active positions in the controversy. The liberals included John Stuart Mill, Darwin, Huxley and John Bright, while the opposing group included Carlyle, Ruskin, Dickens, Kingsley and Tennyson. Whether the upkeep of a colonial empire--a strong imperial rule--is compatible with liberal democracy within the metropolis is the theme of this succinct accounting of Victorian attitudes toward a significant present-day problem. Intense.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin