George William Gordon (Biographical details)

George William Gordon (politician/statesman; journalist/critic; Jamaican; Male; 1820 - 1865)

Also known as

Gordon, George William


George William Gordon was a Jamaican businessman and politician. On the centenary of his death, he was proclaimed a National Hero of Jamaica. Born to a white planter and a slave in 1820, Gordon became a businessman and a landowner in the parish of St Thomas-in-the-East.

As a member of the Jamaica Assembly, Gordon acquired a reputation as a critic of the colonial government, in particular, of Governor Edward John Eyre in the mid-1860s. He maintained a correspondence with English evangelical critics of colonial policy. He also established his own Native Baptist church, of which Paul Bogle was a deacon.

In October, 1865 following the Morant Bay Rebellion, Gordon was taken from Kingston, where martial law was not in force, to Morant Bay, where it had been imposed. He was tried by court martial, without due process of law, sentenced to death, and executed. Gordon's death and the brutality of Eyre's suppression of the revolt made the affair a cause celèbre in Britain. John Stuart Mill and other liberals sought unsuccessfully to have Eyre prosecuted.

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. In 1965, Gordon and Bogle were proclaimed National Heroes in a ceremony at Morant Bay. In 1969, when Jamaica decimalized its currency Gordon appeared on the ten dollar note (now a coin).