Governor Invited To Grant Pardon to Rev Monk

June 22, 2018 | 15 Comments

The Governor has been invited to “consult the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy with a view to granting a full and free posthumous pardon” to Rev. Charles Vinton Monk, a journalist who was “imprisoned for simply reporting the truth” in the early 1900s.

This was announced by Premier David Burt in the House of Assembly today, with the Premier saying, “Journalists have a job to do and where they do it, no matter uncomfortable it may be, their work should be respected and a truly democratic society cannot be said to prosecute, persecute or move to silence the media.

“The Bermuda of the 20th century did not honour these ideals and I wish to remind some and inform others of a regrettable chapter in our history which saw a journalist arrested, charged, tried, convicted, fined and imprisoned for simply reporting the truth.

“Rev. Charles Vinton Monk was an American pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church assigned to pastor Allen Temple AME Church in Somerset. During his tenure, he witnessed harsh and terrible conditions imposed on Jamaican workers brought to Bermuda to work in the construction of the Royal Naval Dockyard.

“Rev. Monk took to writing about these conditions and exposed the company responsible for them in the hope that this would bring about a change to the benefit of the workers.

“Instead of accepting the truth of the obvious state of the workforce, the rampant disease and dangerous working conditions at the site, the principals of the company saw to it that Monk was arrested and charged with criminal libel.

“A review of the case indicates that the whole affair was laced with shocking bias,” the Premier said, explaining that Rev. Monk was unrepresented by counsel, as his counsel died the day before the original trial date “amid speculation of him having been poisoned.”

“The Crown called two witnesses while Rev. Monk called over one hundred witnesses in defence, who testified to the very conditions reported in Monk’s article and which were the subject of the criminal complaint.

The Premier said it is time “this historic wrong is made right,” so with the approval of the Cabinet and in concert with the AME Church in Bermuda, he has formally invited the “Governor to consult the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of mercy with a view to granting a full and free posthumous pardon to Rev. Charles Vinton Monk.”

“Some may say ‘why this and why now,” Premier Burt said. “To that, there is a simple answer…it is never too late to do the right thing”.

The Premier’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, who among us has not felt the sting of unwanted or even unwarranted media attention? With the choice of public service comes scrutiny and that can sometimes be uncomfortable. Very often we are aggrieved by what the media report and sometimes, what they don’t. In a democratic society, the media plays a critical role in ensuring accountability not just of public figures but also of any entity in authority.

Mr. Speaker, this responsibility to ‘speak truth to power’ is not one to be taken lightly and a society of thinkers, ordinary citizens, relies upon its media to sometimes be the conscience of a community. Reporting should be well sourced, balanced and courageous.

Mr. Speaker, the art of journalism is not always appreciated and more often than not we prefer to watch an exposé unfold rather than be the subject of one. However, Mr. Speaker, journalists have a job to do and where they do it, no matter uncomfortable it may be, their work should be respected and a truly democratic society cannot be said to prosecute, persecute or move to silence the media.

Mr. Speaker, the Bermuda of the 20th century did not honour these ideals and I wish to remind some and inform others of a regrettable chapter in our history which saw a journalist arrested, charged, tried, convicted, fined and imprisoned for simply reporting the truth.

Mr. Speaker, Rev. Charles Vinton Monk was an American pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church assigned to pastor Allen Temple AME Church in Somerset. During his tenure, he witnessed harsh and terrible conditions imposed on Jamaican workers brought to Bermuda to work in the construction of the Royal Naval Dockyard.

In keeping with the doctrine of the AME Church and its commitment to social justice. Rev. Monk took to writing about these conditions and exposed the company responsible for them in the hope that this would bring about a change to the benefit of the workers. Instead of accepting the truth of the obvious state of the workforce, the rampant disease and dangerous working conditions at the site, the principals of the company saw to it that Monk was arrested and charged with criminal libel.

Mr. Speaker, the activism of Rev. Monk in Bermuda and the subsequent trial is captured in detail in the book “Freedom Fighters: From Monk to Mazumbo” by the late Ira Philip.

Mr. Speaker, a review of the case indicates that the whole affair was laced with shocking bias. Rev. Monk was unrepresented by counsel, his King’s Counsel Mr. Henry Spencer-Joseph having died the day before the original trial date amid speculation of him having been poisoned. Mr. Speaker, the trial judge, Sir Brownlow Gray, was the father of the prosecutor, the Hon. Reginald Gray, then the Attorney General; and he was assisted on the bench by a first cousin the Hon. R.D. Darrell.

Mr. Speaker, the Crown called two witnesses while Rev. Monk called over one hundred witnesses in defence, who testified to the very conditions reported in Monk’s article and which were the subject of the criminal complaint. Mr. Speaker, the accepted history of Bermuda makes it highly unlikely that Rev. Monk could have been tried by a jury of his peers; and while I am not a learned Honourable Member, even I can appreciate that the eventual verdict of guilty was clearly against the weight of the evidence in the case.

Mr. Speaker, I have brought these facts to the attention of this Honourable House and the public because it is high time that this historic wrong is made right.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise this Honourable House that with the approval of the Cabinet, and in concert with the AME Church in Bermuda, pursuant to Section 22[1] of the Constitution, I have formally invited His Excellency the Governor to consult the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of mercy with a view to granting a full and free posthumous pardon to Rev. Charles Vinton Monk.

Mr. Speaker, some may say “why this and why now?”. To that, there is a simple answer, Mr. Speaker: “It is never too late to do the right thing”.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (15)

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  1. Joe Bloggs says:

    “A review of the case indicates that the whole affair was laced with shocking bias,” the Premier said”

    I was not aware that our Premier was a lawyer. My regard for him has improved

    • REPARATIONS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Joe Bloggs says:

        Reparations for what?

        • 300 years off FREE labour and countless amount of other atrocities against Africans and their decendants and ongoing biased practices and policies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
          If I think of anything else, I will inform you.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why bother with reparations? All you bies would do is give it all back to “the man” anyway.

        • If we do thats our problem, that does’nt negate the fact that its not owed.
          Our Forefathers gave their lives and your sarcastic steriotypic opinion dont mean a hill of beans to us who keep the legacy of justice alive for our ancestors who helped make some wealthy today through inheritance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • facts of the rock says:

        all you gettin is peas n rice bie and be thankful or I’l give it to de fish.

  2. Retro says:

    “ it’s never too late to do the right thing”
    This also applies to sensible economic policy Prem. Burt

  3. JohnBoy says:

    Stay home and watch Cup Match on tv but can you please excuse someone from 1900. Thank you.

    • Alan says:

      Perhaps at the same time HE The Governor can see his way clear to pardoning every young person ever caught width a spliffy over the last fifty years. This simple magnanimous gesture would go a long way towards apologizing for the petty and quite often not so petty Fascist UBP Police state that the Crown colluded in perpetuating to 1998.

  4. Stevie says:

    Just saw the news item on fake news. Church v state. Monk not a bermudian nor is Tweed. No no no for pardon.

  5. jt says:

    Pretty obvious what’s going on. Transparency at last.?

  6. Pot Calling Kettle Black says:

    Correct me if I forgot something, you want the governor to apologise for the mistreatment of foreign workers from the 1900′s while your party runs on mistreating foreign workers today?

    The Progressive Labour Party (PLP) seems to mirror south Africa’s black post apartheid political party, African National Congress (ANC)

    • Mitchell says:

      You make a good point. CF the treatment of the Windrush generation in the UK. Similarly, in Bermuda, 1000s of workers who came here to contribute to the economy and in very real, direct ways, help with education, health care, business and law enforcement are ostracised and made to feel like second class citizens. Often, holding the mirror up to your own behaviours makes for uncomfortable viewing.

  7. CAS says:

    My only point is to Please keep the church and i mean ANY and ALL churches out of politics.

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