1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eyre, Edward John

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EYRE, EDWARD JOHN (1815–1901), British colonial governor, the son of a Yorkshire clergyman, was born on the 5th of August 1815. He was intended for the army, but delays having arisen in producing a commission, he went out to New South Wales, where he engaged in the difficult but very necessary undertaking of transporting stock westward to the new colony of South Australia, then in great distress, and where he became magistrate and protector of the aborigines, whose interests he warmly advocated. Already experienced as an Australian traveller, he undertook the most extensive and difficult journeys in the desert country north and west of Adelaide, and after encountering the greatest hardships, proved the possibility of land communication between South and West Australia. In 1845 he returned to England and published the narrative of his travels. In 1846 he was appointed lieutenant-governor of New Zealand, where he served under Sir George Grey. After successively governing St Vincent and Antigua, he was in 1862 appointed acting-governor of Jamaica and in 1864 governor. In October 1865 a negro insurrection broke out and was repressed with laudable vigour, but the unquestionable severity and alleged illegality of Eyre’s subsequent proceedings raised a storm at home which induced the government to suspend him and to despatch a special commission of investigation, the effect of whose inquiries, declared by his successor, Sir John Peter Grant, to have been “admirably conducted,” was that he should not be reinstated in his office. The government, nevertheless, saw nothing in Eyre’s conduct to justify legal proceedings; indictments preferred by amateur prosecutors at home against him and military officers who had acted under his direction, resulted in failure, and he retired upon the pension of a colonial governor. As an explorer Eyre must be classed in the highest rank, but opinions are always likely to differ as to his action in the Jamaica rebellion. He died on the 30th of November 1901.