The Morant Bay Rebellion went through familiar roads in the Caribbean throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. A colony drops an exploitative institution and replaces it with another. It ignores the plights of people in the wake of the original institution and the rebellion starts to brew. Things were similar in late-19th century Morant Bay, Jamaica.
With British colonial rule still in effect, Black citizens—all now free—continued to fight for more liberties. While slavery was abolished, the Crown still kept a tight hold on the colony. This was accomplished by allowing Black people to pick their employer but making sure pay was kept low.
These jobs wouldn’t last long as a number of sugar companies went belly up. As far as the social climate, planters and their former slaves were bitter towards each other. There was also the belief among ex-slaves that slavery could be reinstated.
There were also the massive poll taxes implemented. This kept voting power in the hands of planters, landowners, and White elites in general. As a matter of fact, in the year prior under 2,000 Black men were able to vote out of the Black populace of 436,000.
THE LEAD UP
In the lead up to the Morant Bay Rebellion, the Baptist Missionary Society reached out to Britain to explain Jamaica’s condition and political climate. Governor John Eyre learned of the letter and stated that allegations made were false. The Black population learned of the letter and Eyre’s reply and began holding meetings before sending off a letter of their own.
For some reason, Governor Eyre got his hands on the letter and sent another response to Queen Victoria. It’s believed that his undercutting of the Saint Ann Parish letter resulted in the Queen’s response to the poor of Jamaica to work harder. Religious and political leaders in the Black community pushed for the peasants to continue making the voice heard and putting the pressure on the Jamaican government.
The pressure would be turned up higher as their concerns were dismissed by Governor Eyre.