Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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EYRE, Edward John, British diplomatist, born in England in August 1815. Failing to secure a commission in the army, he went to Australia in 1833, where he engaged in sheep farming, was appointed magistrate of his district and protector of the aborigines, and became distinguished as an explorer. After serving for some time as governor of New Zealand, he was appointed lieutenant governor of the Island of St. Vincent in 1854, and in 1859'60 was in the Island of Antigua, acting as administrator of the Leeward islands during the absence of the governor. In 1860 he returned to England to recruit his health, which had become impaired by long residence in tropical climates, and in 1862 he was chosen to administer the government of Jamaica and its dependencies during the absence of Governor Darling. He found this a matter of difficulty, as the inhabitants were disaffected and on the point of rebellion. The colored population, constituting 97 per cent of the inhabitants of the island, suffered from agricultural depression and loss of trade, and attributed their destitution to the misgovernment of their white legislators, who had recently increased the taxes and voted money for public works of a speculative character.
They were further incensed by new laws prescribing flogging for petty offences, and introducing cruel punishments in the prisons. In 1864 Mr. Eyre was appointed captain general, governor, and vice-admiral of the Island of Jamaica, and in October 1865, suppressed an insurrection. The means that he adopted in accomplishing this were censured by many in Great Britain, especially his condemnation to death of a rich mulatto, George William Gordon. A commission of inquiry was dispatched to Jamaica, and Sir Henry Storks superseded Governor Eyre temporarily. Though the report of the commission, published in June 1866, disproved the charges brought against Eyre, he was nevertheless recalled, and on his arrival in England was prosecuted by the "Jamaica Committee" for his action in suppressing the revolt; but this and other prosecutions, extending over four years, costing him £10,000, failed to substantiate the charges against him.
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