The Right Excellent George William Gordon National Hero of Jamaica
George William Gordon (1820-1865) was a Jamaican businessman and politician who was a leading critic of the policies of the governor of Jamaica Edward Eyre. On Eyre's orders, he was executed after the Morant Bay rebellion. Gordon's execution created huge controversy in Britain, and several attempts were made to charge Eyre with murder. On the centenary of his death, he was proclaimed a National Hero of Jamaica.
The Rt. Excellent George William Gordon was born near Mavis Bank, in 1820, the second of eight children of Joseph Gordon, a Scottish Planter and attorney to several sugar estates in Jamaica; and Ann Rattray, a mulatto woman.
George went to live with his godfather, James Daly, in Black River and completed his education there although he was mostly self educated. Within a year, Gordon began working in Daly's business.
He became a large land owner, shop keeper, produce dealer, preacher, politician, social worker and philanthropist.
He started out as an Anglican but later changed to Baptist. He was baptized to the Baptist Society by Rev. J.M. Phillippo, founder of Jamaica's first Free Village.
He later became a leader of the Native Baptist Movement and began buildingseveral churches at his own expense. He ordained Ministers and was an active evangelist.
In the face of attempts to crush the spirit of the freed people of Jamaica and again reduce them to slavery, Gordon entered politics. He faced severe odds, as the people whose interests he sought to serve did not qualify to vote.He subdivided his own lands, selling farm lots to the people as cheaply as possible, and organised a marketing system, through which they could sell their produce at fair prices.
In 1843, age 23, he was elected to the House of Assembly for St. Thomas. His public life began about 1844 when he entered politics as an advocate for the poverty-stricken Negro peasants.
In 1865, the economic condition in Jamaica had gotten worst. Gordon, spoke openly on behalf of the poor Negroes and with bitter criticism of Lieutenant Governor Edward Eyre.
During this period of oppression for the Negroes, Paul Bogle was very active in revolting against the system of government. On 11 October, Paul Bogle with about 300 men marched in Morant Bay, where the Town Councilwas in session.
There they raided a policestation for arms and the CourtHouse was set on fire. They killed the Custos, Baron von Ketelhodt and fifteen vestrymen. It from this incident that a warrant was done for Gordon's arrest.
Death and legacy
Gordon having heard that a summons was out for his arrest took himself in to Governor Eyre. He was illegally tried by Court Martial and, inspite of a lack of evidence, convicted and sentenced to death. He was executed on 23 October 1865.
In the aftermath of the labour rebellion of 1938, Gordon came to be seen as a precursor of Jamaican nationalism. This was helped by the play George William Gordon by Roger Mais, which compared Gordon's death to the sacrifice of Jesus.
On 27 October 1960, the Jamaican Parliament named the building in this building where the Parliament Meeting will be kept in his honour. It was named the George William Gordon House often called "Gordon House".
In 1965 Gordon was given the nation's highest honor, Order of National Hero. When Jamaica decimalized its currency in 1969, Gordon appeared on the ten-dollar note (now a coin).
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