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Jamaican Protest Poster for Sale at Bonhams Auction

An extremely rare poster protesting against the hanging of a prominent black Jamaican citizen and printed in Birmingham by E.C. Osborne of Bennett’s Hill as part of a campaign for a Royal Commission is being offered by Bonhams at its Manuscript, Maps and Books Sale at 101 New Bond Street on 23 March.

George Gordon, a magistrate and elected member of the island’s Assembly, was executed on trumped up charges following the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865. A long standing and effective spokesman for the landless black community, Gordon was loathed by the white plantation class who used the rebellion as an excuse to rid themselves of a thorn in their side. The Island’s acting Governor, Edward Eyre, – a celebrated explorer of Australia – put down the rebellion with savage force, arrested Gordon and had him hanged for sedition even though he had played no part in the unrest.

To cover his actions, Eyre proceeded to libel Gordon in his report to the British Government as, grossly immoral, an adulterer, a swindler and a liar. This provoked a backlash both in Jamaica and in the UK where the philosopher John Stuart Mill led a campaign for an official investigation. The poster (estimate £1,000 – 1,500) is a strongly worded rebuttal of Eyre’s accusations signed by over 100 leading members of the white community in Jamaica including clergymen, teachers and lawyers.

The campaign was successful and the subsequent Royal Commission effectively found Eyre guilty of Gordon’s murder. Although later prosecutions against him failed Eyre’s career was over and he was dismissed from the diplomatic service.

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