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Edward John Eyre

Eyre, Edward John (âr) [key], 1815–1901, British colonial administrator. In Australia (1833–45) he was a magistrate, explorer, and writer on Australian geography, and had a reputation for sympathy for the aborigines. After terms as lieutenant governor of New Zealand (1846–53) and governor of St. Vincent (1854–60), he became (1864) governor of Jamaica. He was recalled in 1866 after suppressing a black uprising the year before in which more than four hundred Jamaicans were executed. Eyre was accused of brutality and illegal acts, especially in the execution of George Gordon, a black member of the Jamaican legislature who had contravened the martial law imposed during the emergency. He was recalled in 1866. Several attempts, promoted by John Stuart Mill, Goldwin Smith, and Herbert Spencer, to try him for murder were forestalled by a committee of admirers, which included John Ruskin, Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle, and Charles Kingsley. An English grand jury declined to indict him, and a royal commission exonerated him, while criticizing his "unnecessary rigour." The episode contributed to the fall of the government of Lord John Russell in 1866.

See W. L. Mathieson, Sugar Colonies and Governor Eyre (1936).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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