would take that opportunity to ask a question of the noble Lord opposite on the subject to which he had yesterday evening called the noble Lord's attention. It appeared that an unfortunate occurrence, in which several lives were lost, had taken place in Jamaica on Christmas-eve, or on the night of Christmas day last. He begged, therefore, to know from the noble Lord, whether he had received from Jamaica the particulars of that occurrence, and, it he had, whether he had any objection to lay the information so obtained on the Table.
said, it was proper that he should state to the House that information had been received by her Majesty's Government on the subject referred to, and he would explain to the House what the nature of that information was. It was quite true, that during the Christmas holydays, the event alluded to had occurred in Kingston, and unfortunately some lives were lost. The House were aware that the common practice had been for the negroes to have a sort of saturnalia at Christmas, in all the great towns in the 1003 West Indies. The planters approved of these amusements, and liked to see the negroes thus employed, because, while they were occupied in this manner, they were not likely to combine for improper purposes. These celebrations were, however, very noisy, and some of the inhabitants therefore objected to them. He here spoke of a period when slavery existed. Since slavery had ceased, however, it had been the earnest desire of the white inhabitants, and of the more respectable negroes themselves, to put a stop gradually to these noisy and troublesome demonstrations. In the year before last the mayor of Kingston, exercising his own discretion, without the consent of the rest of the corporation, and contrary to the advice of the Government, took strong measures to put an end to these proceedings. A disturbance broke out at last, and the rioters having overpowered the authorities, the district was kept in a state of disturbance for the space of three weeks. In the course of last year the mayor of Kingston, in spite of the remonstrances of the Government availing himself of a clause in an Act of Parliament (the construction of which was doubtful"), determined under the authority which he supposed that clause conferred on him, to put down those proceedings at Kingston by main force. The consequence was that a riot took place, the police were resisted in endeavouring to carry into effect those orders which they were bound to obey, and much confusion and alarm ensued. The mayor was struck on the face with a stone, he was knocked down and treated with very great violence. The riot at length reached so great a height, that the police, feeling themselves to be in the most imminent danger, fired on the people. Two individuals were killed on the spot, two had died since, and a considerable number were wounded. It then became necessary to call out the troops, of whom a considerable body occupied the town during several days. Considerable excitement prevailed, the guards were doubled, and every precaution adopted necessary to the preservation of the peace. He was happy to be able to add that nothing could be better or more moderate and forbearing than had been the conduct of every description of troops. It was a circumstance worthy of remark that the few troops engaged were exclusively blacks, and that nothing could be 1004 better than their conduct. Indeed, the military of all colours had acted with the greatest zeal and readiness, and at the same time with the greatest forbearance. Not a single shot was fired nor a single life lost after the first unfortunate firing took place. He had that morning seen Sir W. Gomm, who had stated to him that the governor Sir C. Metcalfe, in order to allay the excitement, had ordered that there should be an investigation before three magistrates, which investigation had commenced before Sir W. Gomm left, and further, that tranquillity had since been entirely restored. He hoped by the next packet to receive a full account of the inquiry that took place at that public investigation, and until he received that report he thought it would be much better for him not to lay any papers of a partial nature before the House. When he received the report he should be prepared to communicate its contents to the fullest extent.
under those circumstances would not, of course, press the noble Lord. He had understood the noble Lord to say, that the governor had been adverse on both occasions to the proceedings which took place; and he understood him also to say, that the persons conducting the inquiry had been appointed by the governor.
said, that the imprudence and indiscretion of the mayor had been disapproved of by the governor, and that the question of his independence of the authority of the governor had been, or was about to be, brought under the consideration of the legislature of the island.
§ Subject at an end.