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´╗┐Title: An Account of Some of the Principal Slave Insurrections, - and Others, Which Have Occurred, or Been Attempted, in the - United States and Elsewhere, During the Last Two Centuries.
Author: Coffin, Joshua, 1792-1864
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Account of Some of the Principal Slave Insurrections, - and Others, Which Have Occurred, or Been Attempted, in the - United States and Elsewhere, During the Last Two Centuries." ***

of America online book collection





And others, which have occurred, or been attempted,

in the United States and elsewhere, during

the last two centuries.

With Various Remarks.

     *     *

Collected from various sources by

Joshua Coffin.

     *     *


Published by the American Anti-Slavery Society.


Republished by

Negro History Press -- P. O. Box 5129 -- Detroit, Michigan   48236


The subsequent collection of facts is presented to your notice, with
the hope that they will have that effect which facts always have on
every candid and ingenuous mind. They exhibit clearly the dangers to
which slaveholders are always liable, as well as the safety of
immediate emancipation. They furnish, in both cases, a rule which
admits of no exception, as it is always dangerous to do wrong, and
safe to do right. Please to examine carefully the _whole_ account of
the revolution in St. Domingo, beginning in March, 1790, and ending
in 1802. That exhibits a different picture from that presented in a
speech made at the Union-saving meeting lately held in Boston. A part
of the truth may be so told as to have all the effect of a deliberate


     *     *

   And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our
brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us,
and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.--Gen.

   Thus said the Lord my God, Feed the flock of the slaughter, whose
pastors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty; and they that sell
them say, Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich; and their own shepherds
pity them not.--Zech. 11:4, 5.

   He that stealeth a man, and _selleth him, or if he be found in
his hand,_ he shall surely be put to death.--Ex. 21:16.

The late invasion of Virginia by Capt. John Brown and his company
has, with all its concomitant circumstances, excited more attention
and aroused a more thorough spirit of inquiry on the subject of
slavery, than was ever before known. As this is pre-eminently a moral
question, and as there is no neutral ground in morals, all
intelligent men must ultimately take sides. Every such man must
either cherish and defend slavery, or oppose and condemn it, and his
vote, if he is an honest man, must accord with his belief. On a
question of so momentous importance, "Silence is crime." It demands
and will have a thorough investigation, and all attempts to stifle
discussion will only accelerate the triumph of the cause they were
designed to crush. Thus the denunciation in Congress of Mr. Helper's
book, which is in substance only an abstract of facts taken from the
last census of the United States, has operated as an extensive
advertisement, and will be the means of circulating thousands of
copies, where, without such denunciation, it would never have been
known. There is in the North, as well as the South, a class of men
who act, apparently, on the supposition that those who foresee and
foretell any calamity are as guilty as those who create it, and that
the only way to obviate any impending danger is not to see it. Such
persons not only refuse to see and hear themselves, but do what they
can to keep their neighbors in like ignorance.

It has been truly said that "the power of slavery lies in the
ignorance, the degradation, the servility of the slaves, and of the
non-slaveholding whites of the South, and of the corresponding
classes in the Free States. It is through this ignorance and servility
that the slaveholders manage to dictate to ecclesiastical bodies, to
have power to control pulpits, presses, Colleges, Theological
Seminaries, and Missionary and Tract Societies." To keep the blacks
and non-slaveholding whites in ignorance is, doubtless, the reason
why such pains are taken in Congress to prevent the circulation of
Helper's book at the South, which was compiled by a non-slaveholder
for the special benefit of the men of his class. The population of
the Free States is now about eighteen millions; of the Slave States,
eight millions. The slaves number about four millions, who are held
as property by only 347,545 persons, men, women and children. This
number, small as it is, constituting about one sixth part of the
United States, have thus far controlled the legislation of the
country. How this power has been acquired is easily understood when
we examine the false ideas respecting slavery which are everywhere
prevalent; such as the weakness of the public conscience, in the
absence of a practical and experimental knowledge of the truth of
God's word--in the atheistic notion, prevailing even in the Church
and in the ministry, that the unrighteous enactments of wicked me are
paramount in authority to the commandments of the Great Jehovah.
Hundreds of clergymen, in all parts of the Union, profess to believe
that the Bible sanctions American slavery,--a system which, of
necessity, cannot exist without a continual violation of every
commandment of the Decalogue.

If the Bible sanctions slavery, (as many profess to believe,) why
does not the God of the Bible sanction it? In other words, if slavery
is sanctioned by the revealed will of God, why are not the
dispensations of his providence in accordance with that will? Could
it be fairly proved that slavery is in accordance with the will of
God, it must necessarily follow that obedience to his will is not
only highly advantageous, but perfectly safe; for, surely, no
Christian can, for a moment, believe that the providence of God ever
militates against the precepts of his word. As, however, the
consequences of slavery have been, in all cases, when not averted by
timely repentance, disastrous in the extreme, it is therefore
undeniably evident that slavery is in direct opposition to the
revealed will of God, and, consequently, that those who so violently
oppose the abolition of slavery, for fear of supposed dangerous
consequences, may truly be said "to know not what they do." The truth
on this subject is so plain, and the facts so abundant, that he who
runs may read, and know to a certainty the entire safety of immediate
emancipation; and that danger arises from liberty withheld, and not
from liberty granted. The general opinion seems to be, that the
moment you proclaim "liberty to the captive," and make the slave a
freeman, be the conditions and restrictions what they may, that
moment you make him a vagabond, a thief, and a murderer, whom nothing
will satisfy but the blood of those who had been so "fanatical and
insane" as to treat him like a human being. Whence this opinion is
derived, no one can tell; for it is in direct opposition to reason,
common sense, the nature of the human mind, and is entirely
unsustained by facts. Indeed, so far as the evidence of facts is
concerned, the advocates of immediate abolition have a complete
monopoly. All experience proves two things, viz., the entire safety
of immediate emancipation, and that all danger has arisen from its
indefinite postponement; for this is really the true definition of
gradual emancipation.

We all know the results of slavery in Greece and Rome. Troy perished
by her slaves in a single night; and as like causes always produce
like effects, our obligations to our slaveholding brethren
imperiously demand that we should urge on them, in the most earnest
manner, the duty of immediately abolishing slavery as their only hope
of safety,--the only means by which they can escape the just
judgments of God. The safety of immediate emancipation has been
proved by Buenos Ayres in 1816, Colombia in 1821, Guatemala in 1824,
Peru and Chili in 1828, Mexico in 1829, and especially on the 1st of
August, 1834, when 800,000 slaves were set free in a single day in
the British West India Islands; and thus far, not a single life has
been lost, not a drop of blood shed, in consequence of that
beneficent and righteous act. The consequences of holding slaves in
bondage, and refusing to emancipate them, have always been
disastrous. In our present exemption from slavery in the Free States,
we have no cause of boasting, but rather of deep humiliation. We are
all involved in the guilt, and must share in the punishment, unless
timely and thorough repentance avert the impending blow. To do this
effectually, information must be spread, the spirit of inquiry
aroused, the temple of God be purified, and "the book of law be read
in the ears of all the people," that thus the gross mistakes and
misapprehensions which everywhere exist on the subject of slavery and
its abolition may be corrected.

Of these mistakes, no one is more prevalent or more dangerous than
the one just mentioned, that insurrection, rapine and bloodshed are
the necessary consequences of immediate emancipation; and that the
only way to avert the evils and the curse of slavery, is to continue
in the sin for the present, promise future repentance, and in the
meantime, whilst we are preparing to get ready to begin to repent, do
every thing that in us lies to extinguish every good feeling, and
cultivate and bring into action every bad feeling of the human heart.
That such is the belief, and consequent practice, to an alarming
extent, throughout our country, and that such a course is impolitic,
because it is wicked and dangerous, because it is unjust, facts
abundantly show.

Since the abolition of slavery in the British dominions, no trouble
has arisen, no danger been feared or apprehended. A thousand John
Browns, each with nineteen white men and five black men, could not
cause any tumult in any part of the British West Indies. Why is it,
then, that one John Brown and company have created so wide-spread an
alarm and consternation throughout the Slave States? The Governor of
South Carolina has sent a dispatch (Nov. 21) to Gov. Wise, tendering
any amount of _military aid to the defence of Virginia!_ Gov. Wise
had several companies of the military present on the day of the
execution of John Brown and others, and assured the Governor of South
Carolina that Virginia is able to defend herself. What causes all
this tumult and apprehension? SLAVERY! And yet, strange as it may
seem, the Virginians, with a stupidity and infatuation which no
language can describe, are seriously discussing the propriety of
enslaving the free negroes of that State. Such a proceeding would
resemble a physician who should order a dose of arsenic to cure a
patient who had taken strychnine, or attempt to extinguish a
conflagration by throwing oil on the flames.

How the consequences of abolishing slavery would be dreadful and
horrible, neither history nor experience informs us. Let us, then,
see what they tell us of the consequences of holding men in bondage.
In every instance which has fallen under my notice, insurrections
have always been projected and carried on by slaves, and never (with
the exception of Denmark Vesey in 1822, in Charleston, S. C.) by the
free blacks.

The contest between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, justice
and injustice, has always continued from the earliest ages to the
present moment. More especially is it true concerning American
slavery, that "sum of all villanies," a crime which involves the
continual violation of every one of the Ten Commandments. I propose,
therefore, to give, with other incidents, an abstract of some of the
attempts of the oppressed to throw off the yoke which held them, or
threatened to hold them, in bondage.

The first instance which has come to my knowledge in this country of
an insurrection on a small scale, occurred on Noddle's Island, now
East Boston, in 1638. In John Josselyn's account of his first voyage
to New England may be found the following. Having previously stated
that he was a guest of "Mr. Samuel Maverick, the only hospitable man
(as he says) in all the country, giving entertainment to all comers
gratis," he thus writes:--

"The second of October about 9 of the clock in the morning Mr.
Maverick's negro came to my chamber window, and in her own Countrey
language and tune sung very loud and shrill. Going out to her she
used a great deal of respect towards me, and willingly would have
expressed her grief in English, but I apprehended it by her
countenance and deportment, whereupon I repaired to my host to learn
of him the cause, and resolved to intreat him on her behalf for that
I understood before that she had been a Queen in her own Countrey,
and observed a very dutiful garb used toward her by another Negro who
was her main. Mr. Maverick was desirous to have a breed of Negroes,
and therefore seeing she would not yield by persuasion to company
with a Negro young man he had in his house, he commanded him, will'd
she, nill'd she, to go to bed with her, but she kickt him out again.
This she took in high disdain beyond her slavery, and this was the
cause of her grief."

From this statement it appears that Maverick had at least thee
slaves: but the number held in the Province, no record informs us. In
1641, the Massachusetts Colony passed the following law:--

"There shall never be any bond slaverie, villinage or captivitie
amongst us unless it be lawfull captives taken in just warres, and
such strangers as _willingly sell themselves._ And these shall have
all the liberties and christian usuages, which the law of God
established in Isreal concerning such persons doth morally require.
This exempts none from _servitude,_ who shall be judged thereto by

"He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if _he be found in his
hand,_ he shall surely be put to death."--Ex. 21:16.

In 1646, one James Smith, a member of Boston church, brought home
two negroes from the Coast of Guinea, and had been the means of
killing near a hundred more. In consequence of this conduct, the
General Court passed the following order:--

"The General Court conceiving themselves bound by the first
opportunity to bear witness against the heinous and crying sin of man-
stealing, as also to prescribe such timely redress for what is past
and such a law for the future, as may sufficiently deter all others
belonging to us to have to do in such vile and odious courses, justly
abhorred of all good and just men, do order that the negro
interpreter with others unlawfully taken, be by the first opportunity
at the charge of the country for the present, sent to his native
country (Guinea) and a letter with him of the indignation of the
Court thereabouts, and justice thereof desiring our honored Governor
would please put this order in execution."

From this time till about 1700, the number of slaves imported into
Massachusetts was not large. In 1680, Governor Simon Bradstreet, in
answer to inquiries from "the lords of his Majesties privy council,"
thus writes:--

"There had been no company of blacks or slaves brought into the
country since the beginning of this plantation, for the space of 50
years, only one small vessell about two yeares since after 20 month's
voyage to Madagasca brought hither betwixt 40 and 50 negros, most
women and children, sold for 10 pounds, 15 pounds and 20 pounds
apiece, which stood the merchants in near 40 pounds apiece one with
another: now and then two or three negros are brought hither from
Barbados and other of his majesties plantations, and sold her for
about 20 pounds apiece, so that there may bee within our government
about 100 or 120, and it may bee as many Scots brought hither and
sold for servants in the time of the war with Scotland, and most now
married and living here, and about halfe so many Irish brought hither
at several times as servants."

The number of slaves at this period in the middle and southern
colonies is not easily ascertained, as few books, and no newspapers,
were published in North America prior to 1704. In that year, the
_Weekly News Letter_ was commenced, and in the same year the "Society
for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts opened a
catechising school for the slaves at New York, in which city there
were then computed to be about 1500 negro and Indian slaves," a
sufficient number to furnish materials for the _"irrepressible
conflict,"_ which had long before begun. The catechist, whom the
Society employed, was "Mr. Elias Neau, by nation a Frenchman, who,
having made a confession of the Protestant religion in France, for
which he had been confined several years in prison, and seven years
in the gallies." Mr. Neau entered upon his office "with great
diligence, and his labors were very successful; but the negroes were
much discouraged from embracing the Christian religion upon account
of the very little regard showed them in any religious respect. Their
marriages were performed by mutual consent only, without the blessing
of the Church; they were buried by those of their own country and
complexion, in the common field, without any Christian office;
perhaps some ridiculous heathen rites were performed at the grave by
some of their own people. No notice was given of their being sick,
that they might be visited; on the contrary, frequent discourses were
made in conversation, that they had no souls, and perished as the
beasts," and "that they grew worse by being taught, and made

In 1711, May 15, Gov. Gibbes, of South Carolina, in his address to
the Legislature of that Province, thus speaks:--

"And, gentlemen, I desire you will consider the great _quantities_
of negroes that are daily brought into the government, and the small
_number_ of whites that comes amongst us: how insolent and
mischievous the negroes are become, and to consider the Negro Act
already made, doth not reach up to some of the crimes they have
lately been guilty of, therefore it might be convenient by some
additional clause of said Negro Act to appoint either by gibbets or
some such like way, that after executed, they may remain more
exemplary than any punishment that hath been inflicted on them."

In the next month, June, the Governor thus writes:--

"We further recommend unto you the repairs of the fortifications
about Charleston, and the amending of the Negro Act, _who are of late
grown to that height of impudence, that there is scarce a day passes
without some robbery or insolence, committed by them in one part or
other of this province."_

"In the year 1712," says the Rev. D. Humphreys, "a considerable
number of negroes of the Carmantee and Pappa Nations formed a plot to
destroy all the English, _in order to obtain their liberty;_ and kept
their conspiracy so secret, that there was no suspicion of it till it
came to the very execution. However, the plot was by God's Providence
happily defeated. The plot was this. The negroes sat fire to a house
in York city, and Sunday night in April, about the going down of the
moon. The fire alarmed the town, who from all parts ran to it; the
conspirators planted themselves in several streets and lanes leading
to the fire, and shot or stabbed the people as they were running to
it. Some of the wounded escaped, and acquainted the Government, and
presently by the firing of a great gun from the fort, the inhabitants
were called under arms and pretty easily scattered the negroes; they
had killed about 8 and wounded 12 more. In their flight some of them
shot themselves, others their wives, and then themselves; some
absconded a few days, and then killed themselves for fear of being
taken; but a great many were taken, and 18 of them suffered death.
This wicked conspiracy was at first apprehended to be general among
all the negroes, and opened the mouths of many to speak against
giving the negroes instruction. Mr. Neau durst hardly appear abroad
for some days; his school was blamed as the main occasion of this
barbarous plot. On examination, only two of all his school were so
much as charged with the plot, and on full trial the guilty negroes
were found to be such as never came to Mr. Neau's school; and what is
very observable, the persons, whose negroes were found to be most
guilty, were such as were the declared opposers of making them
Christians. However a great jealousy was now raised, and the common
cry very loud against instructing the negroes."

From the _Boston Weekly Journal,_ of April 8th, 1724, I make the
following extract:--

"Every reasonable man ought to remember their _first_ villanous
attempt at New York, and how many good innocent people were murdered
by tem, and had it not been for the garrison there, that city would
have been reduced to ashes, and the greatest part of the inhabitants

On the 6th of May, 1720, the negroes of South Carolina murdered Mr.
Benjamin Cattle, a white woman, and a negro boy. Forces were
immediately raised, and sent after them, twenty-three of whom were
taken, six convicted, three executed, and three escaped.

In October, 1722, about two hundred negroes near the mouth of the
Rappahannock river, Virginia, got together in a body, armed with an
intent to kill the people in church, but were discovered, and fled.

On the 13th of April, 1723, Gov. Dummer issued a proclamation with
the following preamble, viz.:--

"Whereas within some short time past, many fires have broke out
within the town of Boston, and divers buildings have thereby been
consumed: which fires have been designedly and industriously kindled
by some villanous and desperate Negroes, or other dissolute people,
as appears by the confession of some of them (who have been examined
by authority) and many concurring circumstances; and it being
vehemently suspected that they _have entered into a combination to
burn and destroy the town,_ I have therefore thought fit, with the
advice of his Majesty's Council, to issue forth this Proclamation,"

On the 18th of April, 1723, Rev. Joseph Sewall preached a discourse,
particularly occcasioned "by the late fires yt have broke out in
Boston, supposed to be purposely set by ye Negroes." [FN#1]

[FN#1]  Diary of Rev. Samuel Dexter.

On the next day, April 19th, the Selectmen of Boston made a report
to the town on the subject, consisting of nineteen articles, of which
the following is No. 9:--

"That if more than Two Indians, Negro or Molatto Servants or Slaves
be found in the Streets or Highways in or about the Town, idling or
lurking together unless in the service of their Master or Employer,
every one so found shall be punished at the House of Correction."

So great at that time were the alarm and danger in Boston,
occasioned by the slaves, that in addition to the common watch, a
military force was not only kept up, but at the breaking out of every
fire, a part of the militia were ordered out under arms to keep the
slaves in order!!

The report of nineteen articles, submitted to the town of Boston,
was finally embodied in a Negro Act of fifteen sections, of which the
15th was as follows:--

"That no Indian, negro or mullatto, upon the breaking out of fire
and the continuance thereof during the night season, shall depart
from his or her master's house, nor be found in the streets at or
near the place where the fire is, upon pain of being forthwith seized
and sent to the common gaol, and afterwards whipt, three days
following before dismist, &c."

From the _N. E. Courant,_ Nov. 1724, I take the following extract:--

"It is well known what loss the town of Boston sustained by fire not
long since, _when almost every night_ for a considerable time
together, some building or other and sometimes several in the same
night were either burned to the ground or some attempts made to do
it. It is likewise well known that those villanies were carried on by
Negro servants, the like whereof we never felt before from unruly
servants, nor ever heard of the like happening in any place attended
with the like circumstances."

Like causes produce like effects. Since the abolition of slavery in
Massachusetts, no one has felt alarmed at seeing "two or more colored
men lurking together" in Boston. Prior to the abolition of slavery in
the British West Indies, the militia were always called out under
arms on the Christmas holidays, in order to prevent any attempts at
insurrection among the slaves. Since that time, there has been no
apprehension of any disturbances, and, of course, no calling out of
the militia.

In 1728, an insurrection of slaves occurred in Savannah, Georgia,
who were fired on twice before they fled. They had formed a plot to
destroy all the whites, and nothing prevented them but a disagreement
about the mode. At that time, the population consisted of 3000 whites
and 2700 blacks.

In January, 1729, the slaves in Antigua conspired to destroy the
English, which was discovered two or three days before the intended
assault. Of the three conspirators, _two were burnt alive!! "'Twas
admirable,"_ says the account, _"to see how long they stood before
they died, the great wood not readily burning, and their cry was
water, water!"_

In August, 1730, an insurrection of blacks occurred in
Williamsburgh, Va., occasioned by a report, on Col. Spotswood's
arrival, that he had direction from his Majesty to free all baptized
persons. The negroes improved this to a great height. Five counties
were in arms pursuing them, with orders to kill them if they did not

In August, 1730, the slaves in South Carolina conspired to destroy
all the whites. This was the first open rebellion in that State,
where the negroes were actually armed and embodied, and took place on
the Sabbath.

In the same month, a negro man plundered and burned a house in
Malden, (Mass.) and gave this reason for his conduct, that his master
had sold him to a man in Salem, whom he did not like.

In 1731, Capt. George Scott, of R. I. was returning from Guinea with
a cargo of slaves, who rose upon the ship, murdered three of the
crew, all of whom soon after died, except the captain and boy.

In 1732, Capt. John Major, of Portsmouth, N. H., was murdered, with
all his crew, and the schooner and cargo seized by the slaves.

In December, 1734, Jamaica was under martial law, and two thousand
soldiers ordered out after the "rebellious negroes."

In the same year, an insurrection occurred in Burlington, (Pa.)
among the blacks, whom the account styles _"intestine and inhuman
enemies, who in some places have been too much indulged."_ Their
design was as soon as the season was advanced, so that they could lie
in the woods, on a certain night, agreed on by some hundreds of them,
and kept secret a long time, that every negro and negress should rise
at midnight, kill every master and his sons, sparing the women, kill
all the draught horses, set all their houses and barns on fire, and
secure all their saddle horses for flight towards the Indians in the
French interest.

In 1735, the slaves of the ship Dolphin, of London, on the coast of
Africa, rose upon the crew; but being overpowered, they got into the
powder room, and to be revenged, blew up themselves with the crew.

In 1739, there were three formidable insurrections of the slaves in
South Carolina--one in St. Paul's Parish, one in St. Johns, and one
in Charleston. In one of these, which occurred in September, they
killed in one night twenty-five whites, and burned six houses. They
were pursued, attacked, and fourteen killed. In two days, twenty more
were killed, and forty were taken, some of whom were shot, some
hanged, and some _gibbeted alive!_ This "more exemplary" punishment,
as Gov. Gibbes called it, failed of its intended effect, for the next
year there was another insurrection in South Carolina. There were
then above 40,000 slaves, and about twenty persons were killed before
it was quelled.

In 1741, there was a formidable insurrection among the slaves in New
York. At that time the population consisted of 12,000 whites and
2,000 blacks. Of the conspirators, thirteen were _burned alive,_
eighteen hung, and eighty transported.

Those who were transported were sent to the West India Islands. As a
specimen of the persons who were suitable for transportation, I give
the following from the _Boston Gazette,_ Aug. 17, 1761:--

"To be sold, a _parcel_ of likely young negroes, imported from
Africa, cheap for cash. Inquire of John Avery. Also, if any person
have any negro men, strong and hearty, _though not of the best moral
character, which are proper subjects for transportation, they may
have an exchange for small negroes."_

In 1747, the slaves on board of a Rhode Island ship commanded by
Capt. Beers, rose, when off Cape Coast Castle, and murdered the
captain and all the crew, except the two mates, who swam ashore.

In 1754, C. Croft, Esq., of Charleston, S. C., had his buildings
burned by his female negroes, _two of whom were burned alive!!_

In September, 1755, Mark and Phillis, slaves, were put to death at
Cambridge, (Mass.) for poisoning their master, Mr. John Codman of
Charlestown. Mark was hanged, and _Phillis burned alive!_ Having
ascertained that their master had, by his will, made them free at his
death, they poisoned him in order to obtain their liberty so much the

In August, 1759, another insurrection was contemplated in
Charleston, S. C.

In October, 1761, there was a rebellion among the slaves in
Kingston, Jamaica; and in the next December, the slaves in Bermuda
rebelled, and threatened to destroy all the whites. All were engaged
in the plot, which was accidentally discovered. _One was burned
alive,_ one hanged, and eleven condemned.

In the same year, Capt. Nichols, of Boston, lost forty of his slaves
by an insurrection, but saved his vessel.

In 1763, the Dutch settlement at Barbetias was surprised and
destroyed by the negroes.

In 1764, the slaves in Jamaica projected a rebellion, and intended
to destroy all the whites on the island.

In 1767, there was a rebellion among the slaves in Grenada.

In 1768, when Gen. Gage was in command of the British troops in
Massachusetts, one Capt. John Wilson, of the 59th regiment, made an
attempt to excite the few slaves in Boston (about 300) to rise
against their masters. He assured the slaves that the foreign troops
had come to procure their freedom, and that "with their assistance,
they would be able to drive the Liberty Boys to the devil." In
October, the Selectmen made a complaint against him; had him
arrested, and bound over for trial, but by the influence of British
officials, the indictment was quashed, and Wilson fled, satisfied
that Boston would not be a safe place for _him._

In 1765, symptoms of a rebellious and insurrectionary spirit were
manifested in various parts of the thirteen colonies, then nominally
at least subjects of King George. This spirit was aroused by the
passage, by the British Parliament, of the Stamp Act on the 22d of
March of that year. As the British government were unable to enforce
this Act, it was graciously repealed on the 22d of February, 1766,
but coupled with the declaratory Act, that "the Legislature of Great
Britain had authority to bind the colonies in all cases whatsoever."
On the 20th of November, 1767, the Act previously passed, imposing a
duty of three pence per pound on tea, was to take effect. From this
Act, with other causes combined, many commotions were excited anew
among the people. On the 5th of March, 1770, the Boston massacre
occurred. The skirmish at Lexington and Concord on the 19th of April,
and the battle on Breed's hill on the 17th of June, 1775, greatly
increased the excitement. About the middle of July, the year Lord
Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, ceased to exercise the
functions of his office, having with his wife and children, for fear
of the people, taken refuge on board the Fowey man of war. With the
hope that he should succeed in reducing the Virginians to subjection,
Lord Dunmore gave out that he should instigate the slaves, who were
extremely numerous, to revolt against their masters. The dread of the
consequences of such a revolt decided the Virginians to form a
convention, in which they placed great confidence. The governor
expected, but in vain, that the people would rise, and take arms in
favor of the king. Hoping, however, that with such force as he had,
and the frigates on that station, he should make some impression on
the surrounding country, he surprised the town of Hampton, situated
on the bay of the same name, and devoted it to the flames. He then
proclaimed martial law, "declared free all slaves or servants, black
or white, belonging to rebels, provided they would take up arms and
join the royal troops." The governor again came on shore at Norfolk,
where some hundreds of loyalists and negroes joined the governor.
With this motley force, aided by two hundred soldiers of the line, he
made an unsuccessful attack on the provincials on the 9th of
December. He again repaired on board of one of the ships, and on the
first of January, 1776, the frigate Liverpool, two corvettes and the
governor's armed sloop, opened a terrible fire on the city; and at
the same time, a detachment of marines landed, and set fire to the
houses. In this manner was destroyed on of the most opulent and
flourishing cities of Virginia.

On the 4th of July, 1776, after eleven years of unavailing
negotiation and some fighting, the delegates of the thirteen
Colonies, not believing the modern dogma that, however bad the laws
may be, they must be obeyed till they are repealed, raised the
standard of rebellion, and bade defiance to the colossal power of
Great Britain, declaring that they were, and of right ought to be,
free and independent, and making the following declaration, viz.:--

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness."

This was an insurrection on a great scale; and as the insurgents
were _white_ men, and were successful, they were, of course, right.
Says Jefferson, in 1814, "What an incomprehensible machine is man!
who can endure toil, famine, stripes, imprisonment, and death itself,
in vindication of his own liberty; and the next moment be deaf to all
those motives, whose power supported him through his trials, and
inflict on his fellow-man a bondage, _one hour of which is fraught
with more misery than ages of that which he rose in rebellion to

The insurrection of the people of France against their king, which
is generally called the French revolution, is with all its horrors
too well known to require notice.

The scenes of St. Domingo next claim our attention. The incidents
are given in the language of an author, whose name I do not recollect.

When the French Revolution, which decreed equality of rights to all
citizens, had taken place, the _free people of color_ of St. Domingo,
many of whom were persons of large property and liberal education,
petitioned the General Assembly that they might enjoy the same
political privileges as the whites. At length, in March, 1790, the
subject of the petition was discussed, when the Assembly adopted a
decree concerning it. The decree, however, was worded so ambiguously,
that the two parties in St. Domingo--the _whites_ and the _people of
color_--interpreted each in their own favor. This difference of
interpretation gave rise to animosities between them, which were
augmented by political party spirit, according as they were
royalists, or partisans of the French revolution, so that
disturbances took place, and blood was shed.

In the year 1791, the people of color petitioned the Assembly again,
but principally for an explanation of the decree in question.

On the 15th of May, the subject was taken into consideration, and
the result was another decree in more explicit terms, which
determined that the people of color in all the French islands were
entitled to all the rights of citizens, provided they were born of
_free parents on both sides._ The news of this decree no sooner
arrived at the Cape, than it produce an indignation almost amounting
to frenzy among the whites. They directly trampled under foot the
national cockade, and with difficulty were prevented from seizing all
the merchant ships in the roads. After this, the two parties armed
against each other. Even camps began to be formed. Horrible massacres
and conflagrations followed, the reports of which, when brought to
the mother country, were so terrible that the Assembly rescinded the
decree in favor of the people of color in the same year.

In 1792, the news of this new decree reached St. Domingo, and
produced as much irritation among the people of color, as the news of
the former had done among the whites; and hostilities were renewed on
both sides.

As soon as these events became known in France, the Conventional
Assembly, which had then succeeded the Legislature, seeing no hope of
reconciliation on either side, knew not what other course to take
than to do justice, whatever the consequences might be. They resolved
accordingly, in the month of April, that the decree of 1791, which
had been first made and reversed by the preceding Assembly, should be
made good; thus restoring to the people of color the privileges which
had been voted to them; and they appointed Santhonax, Polverel, and
another to repair as Commissioners to St. Domingo, with a large body
of troops, in order to enforce the decree, and to keep the peace.

In the year 1793, the same division and bloodshed continuing,
notwithstanding the arrival of the commissioners, a very trivial
matter, a quarrel between a mulatto and a white man, (an officer in
the French marines,) gave rise to new disasters. The quarrel took
place at Cape Francois on the 20th of June. On the same day, the
seamen left their ships in the roads, and came on shore, and made
common cause with the white inhabitants of the town. On the other
side were ranged the mulattoes and other people of color, and these
were afterwards joined by some insurgent blacks. The battle lasted
nearly two days. During this time, the arsenal was taken and
plundered, some thousands were killed in the streets, and more than
half of the town was burned. The commissioners, who were witnesses of
the horrible scene, and who had done all that they could to restore
peace, escaped unhurt; but they were left upon a heap of ruins, and
with little more power than the authority which their commission gave
them. They had only about a thousand troops left in the place. They
determined, therefore, under these circumstances, to call in the
slaves in their neighborhood to their assistance. They issued a
proclamation in consequence, by which they promised to give _freedom
to all the blacks who were willing to range themselves under the
banner of the republic._

This was the first proclamation made by public authority for
emancipating slaves in St. Domingo, and was usually called the
proclamation of Santhonax. The result of it was, that a considerable
number of slaves came in, and were enfranchised.

Soon after this transaction, Polverel left his colleague, Santhonax,
at the Cape, and went in his capacity of commissioner to Port au
Prince, the capital of the West. Here he found every thing quiet, and
cultivation in a flourishing state. From Port au Prince he visited
Aux Cayes, the capital of the South. He had not, however, been long
there, before he found that the minds of the slaves began to be in an
unsettled state. They had become acquainted with what had taken place
in the North; not only with the riots at the Cape, but the
proclamation of Santhonax. Polverel, therefore, seeing the impression
which it had begun to make on the minds of the slaves in these parts,
was convinced that emancipation could neither be prevented, nor even
retarded; and that it was absolutely necessary, for _the personal
safety of the white planters,_ that it should be extended to _the
whole island._ He was so convinced of the necessity of this, that in
September, 1793, _he drew up a proclamation without further delay to
that effect,_ and put it into circulation. He dated it from Aux
Cayes. He exhorted the planters to patronise it. He advised them, if
they wished to avoid the most serious calamities, to concur
themselves in the proposition of giving freedom to their slaves. He
then caused a registry to be opened at the government house, to
receive the signatures of those who should approve of his advice. It
was remarkable that all the proprietors in these parts inscribed
their names in this book. He then caused a similar registry to be
opened at Port au Prince for the West. Here the same disposition was
found to prevail. All the planters, except one, gave in their
signatures. They had become pretty generally convinced, by this time,
that their own personal safety was connected with the measure. We may
now add that, in the month of February, 1794, the Conventional
Assembly of France passed a decree for the abolition of slavery
_throughout the whole of the French Colonies._ Thus the government of
the mother country confirmed freedom to those, on whom it had been
bestowed by the commissioners. This decree, therefore, _put the
finishing stroke to the whole._ It completed the emancipation of _the
whole slave population of St. Domingo._

With regard to the conduct of those who were emancipated by
Santhonax in the North, I find nothing particular to communicate.
With respect to those emancipated in the South and West by Polverel,
we are enabled to give a pleasing account. Colonel Malenfant, who was
residing in the island at the time, has made us acquainted with their
general conduct and character. "After the public act of
emancipation," says he, (by Polverel,) "the _negroes remained quiet,
both in the South and in the West, and they continued to work on all
the plantations._ There were, indeed, estates which had neither
owners nor managers resident on them. Some of these had been put in
prison by Mount Brun; and others, fearing the same fate, had fled to
the quarter which had just been given up to the English. Yet on these
estates, though abandoned, _the negroes continued their labors,_
where there were any (even inferior) agents to guide them; and on
those estates where no white men were left to direct them, they
betook themselves to the planting of provisions; but on all the
plantations where the _whites resided,_ the _blacks continued to
labor as quietly as before."_

A little further on, in the same work, ridiculing the notion
entertained in France, that the negroes would not work without
compulsion, he takes occasion to allude to other negroes who had been
liberated by the same proclamation, but who were more immediately
under his own eye. "If," says he, "you will take care not to speak to
them of their return to slavery, but talk to them about their
liberty, you may, with this latter word, chain them down to labor.
How did Toussaint succeed? How did I succeed also, before his time,
in the plain of the Cul de Sac, and on the plantation Gouraud, more
than eight months after liberty had been granted (by Polverel) to the
slaves? Let those who knew me at the time, and even the blacks
themselves, be asked. They will all reply that _not a single negro_
on that plantation, consisting of more than 460 laborers, _refused to
work;_ and yet this plantation was thought to be under the worst
discipline, and the slaves the most idle in the plain. I, myself,
inspired the same activity into three other plantations, of which I
had the management."

The above account is far beyond any thing that could have been
reasonably expected; indeed, it is most gratifying. We find that the
liberated negroes, _both in the South and West,_ continued to work on
_their old plantations,_ and for _their old masters;_ so that there
was also a spirit of industry among them; for they are described as
continuing to work _as quietly as before._ Such was the conduct of
the negroes for the first nine months after their liberation, up to
the middle of 1794. Of the conduct of the negroes during the year
1795, and part of 1796, I find no account. Had there been any
outrages, they would have been mentioned. Let no one connect the
outrages, which assuredly took place in St. Domingo in 1791 and 1792,
_with the effects of the emancipation of the slaves._ The great
massacres and conflagrations which at that time made so frightful a
picture in the history of this unhappy island, occurred _in the days
of slavery,_ before the proclamation of Santhonax and Polverel, and
before the great conventional decree of the mother country was known.
They had been occasioned, too, _not originally by the slaves
themselves,_ but by quarrels between the _white_ and _colored_
planters, and between the _royalists_ and the _revolutionists,_ who,
for the purpose of wreaking their vengeance on each other, called in
the aid of their slaves; and as to the insurgent negroes of the
North, who filled that part of the colony in those years with terror
and dismay, they were originally put in motion, according to
Malenfant, _by the royalists themselves,_ to strengthen their own
cause, and to put down _the partisans of the French revolution._

When Jean Francois and Brasson commenced the insurrection, there
were many white royalists among them, and the negroes were made to
wear the white cockade.

I now come to the latter part of the year 1796, and we shall find
that there was no want of industry or of obedience in those who had
been emancipated. _"The colony,"_ says Malenfant, _"was flourishing
under Toussaint; the whites lived happily on their estates, and the
negroes continued to work for them."_ Now, Toussaint came into power,
being General-in-chief of the armies of St. Domingo, near the end of
the year 1796, and remained in power till the year 1802, or till the
invasion of the island by the French expedition by Bonaparte, under
Le Clerc. Malenfant, therefore, means to state that from 1796 to
1802, a period of six years, the planters and farmers kept possession
of their estates; that they lived on them peacefully, and without
interruption or disturbance; and that the negroes, though they had
all been set free, continued to be their laborers.

Gen. La Croix, who published his "Memoirs for a History of St.
Domingo" at Paris in 1819, informs us that when Santhonax returned to
the colony in 1796, _"he was astonished at the state in which he
found it on his return."_ This, says, La Croix, was owing to
Toussaint, who, while he had succeeded in establishing perfect order
and discipline among the black troops, had succeeded in making the
black laborer return to the plantation, there to resume the drudgery
of cultivation.

But the same author tells us that, in the next year, 1797, the most
wonderful progress had been made in agriculture. He uses these
remarkable words:--_"The colony marched as by enchantment to its
former splendor; cultivation prospered; every day produced
perceptible proofs of its progress. The city of the Cape and the
plantations of the North rose up again visibly to the eye."_ To
effect this wonderful improvement, many circumstances conspired, but
principally the fact that the negroes, being free, had a powerful
motive to be industrious and obedient.

The next witness is Gen. Vincent, who was a colonel, and afterwards
a general of brigade of artillery at St. Domingo, and was there
during the time of Santhonax and Toussaint. He was called to Paris by
Toussaint, when he arrived just at the moment of the peace of Amiens,
and found, to his inexpressible surprise and grief, that Bonaparte
was preparing an immense armament, to be commanded by Le Clerc, for
the purpose of _restoring slavery in St. Domingo!_ Against this
expedition, the General remonstrated with the First Consul, telling
him that, though the army destined for this purpose was composed of
the brilliant conquerors of Europe, it would do nothing in the
Antilles, and would assuredly be destroyed by the climate of St.
Domingo, if not destroyed by the blacks. He stated that every thing
was going on well in St. Domingo and therefore conjured him, in the
name of humanity, not to attempt to reverse this beautiful order of
things. His efforts were ineffectual. The armament sailed, and,
arriving on the shores of St. Domingo, a scene of blood and torture
followed, _such as history had seldom if ever before disclosed,_
which, though _planned and executed by whites,_ all the barbarities
said to have been perpetrated _by the insurgent blacks of the North_
amounted comparatively to nothing. At length, the survivors of that
vast army were driven from the island, with the loss of sixty
thousand lives. Till that time, the planters had retained their
estates; and then it was, and not till then, that they lost their
all. The question may be asked, why did the First Consul make this
frightful invasion? It was owing, not to the emancipated negroes, who
were _peaceful, industrious, and beyond example happy,_ but to the
prejudices of their former masters--prejudices common to almost all
slaveholders. Accustomed to the use of arbitrary power, they could
not brook the loss of their whips. Accustomed to look down on the
negroes as an inferior race of beings, as mere reptiles of the earth,
they could not bear, peaceably as these had conducted themselves, to
come into that familiar contact with them as free laborers, which the
change in their condition required. They considered them, too, as
property lost, and which was to be recovered. In an evil hour, they
prevailed on Bonaparte, by false representations and _promises of
pecuniary support,_ to undertake to restore things to their former
state; and the result is before the world as an example and a
warning. When will our slaveholding brethren learn that the advocates
of immediate emancipation are the only true friends of both
slaveholders and slaves, and that the only path of safety is the path
of duty, which demands the immediate repentance of all sin, and
especially that "sum of all villanies," slavery?

In the year 1800, the city of Richmond, Va., and indeed the whole
slaveholding country were thrown into a state of intense excitement,
consternation and alarm, by the discovery of an intended insurrection
among the slaves. The plot was laid by a slave named Gabriel, who was
claimed as the property of Mr. Thomas Prosser. A full and true
account of this General Gabriel, and of the proceedings consequent on
the discovery of the plot, has never yet been published. In 1831 a
short account, which is false in almost every particular, appeared in
the Albany _Evening Journal_ under the head of "Gabriel's Defeat." It
was the same year republished in the first volume of the _Liberator,_
and during the last year (1859) has been extensively republished in
many other papers. The following is the copy of a letter dated Sept.
21, 1800, written by a gentleman of Richmond, Va., and published in
the Boston _Gazette,_ Oct. 6th:--

   "By this time, you have no doubt heard of the conspiracy, formed
in this country by the negroes, which, but for the interposition of
Providence, would have put the metropolis of the State, and even the
State itself, into their possession. A dreadful storm with a deluge
of rain, which carried away the bridges and rendered the water
courses every where impassable, prevented the execution of their
plot. _It was extensive and vast in its design. Nothing could have
been better contrived. The conspirators were to have seized on the
magazine, the treasury, the mills, and the bridges across James
river._ They were to have entered the city of Richmond in three
places with fire and sword, to commence an indiscriminate slaughter,
the French only excepted. They were then to have called on their
fellow negroes and the friends of humanity throughout the continent,
by proclamation, to rally round their standard. The magazine, which
was defenceless, would have supplied them with arms for many thousand
men. The treasury would have given them money, the mills bread, and
the bridges would have enabled them to let in their friends, and keep
out their enemies. Never was there a more propitious season for the
accomplishment of their purpose. The country is covered with rich
harvests of Indian corn; flocks and herds are every where fat in the
fields; and the liberty and equality doctrine, nonsensical and wicked
as it is, (in this land of tyrants and slaves,) is for electioneering
purposes sounding and resounding through our valleys and mountains in
every direction. The city of Richmond and the circumjacent country
are in arms, and have been so for ten or twelve days past. The
patrollers are doubled through the State, and the Governor, impressed
with the magnitude of the danger, has appointed for himself three
Aids de Camp. A number of conspirators have been hung, _and a great
many more are yet to be hung._ The trials and executions are going on
day by day. Poor deluded wretches! _Their democratic deluders,
conscious of their own guilt, and fearful of the public vengeance,
are most active in bringing them to punishment. "Quicquid delirant
reges, plectuntur Achivi"!_ Two important facts have been established
by the witnesses on the different trials. First, that the plan of the
plot was drawn by two Frenchmen in Richmond, and by them given to the
negro General Gabriel, who is not yet caught; and secondly, that in
the meditated massacre, _not one Frenchman_ was to be touched. It is
moreover believed, though not positively known, that a great many of
our profligate and abandoned whites (who are distinguished by the
burlesque appellation of _democrats_) are implicated with the blacks,
and would have joined them if they had commenced their operations. The
particulars of this horrid affair you will probably see detailed in
Davis' paper from Richmond, but certainly in Stewart's paper in
Washington. The Jacobin printers and their friends are panic struck.
Never was terror more strongly depicted in the countenances of men.
They see, they feel, the fatal mischiefs that their preposterous
principles and ferocious party spirit have brought upon us."

The Virginia _Gazette_ of Sept. 12th thus writes:--"The public mind
has been much involved in dangerous apprehensions concerning an
insurrection of the negroes in several of the adjoining counties.
Such a thing has been in agitation by an ambitious and insidious
fellow named Gabriel, the property of Mr. Thomas Prossor.  *  *  *  *
Yesterday a Court was held at the Court House in this city, when six
of them were convicted, and condemned to be executed this day, Sept.

"On Thursday, Sept. 18th," says the New York _Spectator,_ "five more
were executed near the city of Richmond, who were concerned in the

These eleven negroes were executed before the apprehension of Gen.
Gabriel, for whose arrest Gov. Monroe offered a reward of $300. The
following is a copy of a letter dated Norfolk, Sept. 25th, 1800:--

   "Last Tuesday, on information being given that Gen. Gabriel was
on board the three-masted schooner Mary, Richardson Taylor skipper,
just arrived from Richmond, he was committed to prison in irons. It
appeared on his examination that he went on board on the 14th inst.,
four miles below Richmond, and remained on board eleven days; that
when he went first on board, he was armed with a bayonet and
bludgeon, both of which he threw into the river."

"On Saturday last," (Sept. 27th,) says a Richmond paper, "the noted
Gabriel arrived here by water, under guard from Norfolk, and was
committed to the Penitentiary for trial. We understand that when he
was apprehended, he manifested the greatest marks of firmness and
composure, showing not the least disposition to equivocate, or screen
himself from justice. He denied the charge of being the first in
exciting the insurrection, although he was to have had the chief
command, but that there were four or five persons more materially
concerned in the conspiracy, and said that he could mention several
in Norfolk; but being conscious of meeting with the fate of those
before him, he was determined to make no confession."

"It was stated," says a New York paper, "to be the best planned and
most matured of any before attempted." "Gabriel was condemned," says
another paper, "on the 3d of October, and executed on the 7th,
(having been respited from the 4th,) without making any _useful_
confession. On the 3d of October, ten more negroes were executed, and
on the 7th, fifteen more--viz.: five at the Brook, five at Four Mile
Creek, and four with Gabriel at the Richmond gallows."

These fifteen, as far as we have any account, were the last who were
either executed or tried. The Court, in their eager haste to
apprehend and punish the conspirators, of whom five, six, ten and
fifteen at a time were executed, and that only the day after trial,
of whom not one had committed any overt act, and against whom no
testimony appears to have been furnished by any white witness, found,
after the apprehension of General Gabriel, that they had made some
sad mistakes. This fact, with others, caused such a revulsion of
feeling, and excited so great a sympathy in behalf of the poor
creatures, that they were obliged, by a moral necessity, to pause in
their course.

Under date of Oct. 13th, the _Commercial Advertiser_ thus writes:--

"The trials of the negroes concerned in the late insurrection are
suspended until the opinion of the Legislature can be had on the
subject. _This measure is said to be owing to the immense numbers,
who are implicated in the plot, whose death, should they all be found
guilty and be executed, will nearly produce the annihilation of the
blacks in this part of the country."_

The next day, Oct. 14th, a correspondent from Richmond makes a
similar statement with this addition:--

"A conditional amnesty is perhaps expected. At the next session of
the Legislature of Virginia, they took into consideration the subject
referred to them, _in secret session, with closed doors._ The _whole_
result of their deliberations has never yet been made public, as the
injunction of secrecy has never been removed. To satisfy the Court,
the public, and themselves, they had a task so difficult to perform,
that it is not surprising that their deliberations were in secret."

From 1800 till 1816, nothing was divulged. In the spring of 1816,
the Hon. Charles Fenton Mercer, in a speech delivered by him in 1833,
says, "The intelligence broke in upon me, like a ray of light through
the profoundest gloom, and by a mere accident, which occurred in the
spring of 1816, that, upon two several occasions, the General
Assembly of Virginia had invited the United States to obtain a
territory beyond their limits, whereon to colonize _certain portions_
of our colored population. For the evidence of these facts, _then new
to me,_ I was referred to the Clerk of the Senate; and in the
_private records_ I found them verified."

On the 21st of December, 1800, the Virginia House of Delegates
passed, in _secret session,_ the following resolution:--

   "Resolved, That the Governor [Monroe] be requested to correspond
with the President of the United States, on the subject of purchasing
land without the limits of this State, _whither persons obnoxious to
the laws, or dangerous to the peace of society, may be removed."_

The General Assembly of Virginia, having through their agent, Mr.
Jefferson, failed in 1800, 1802 and 1804, to obtain a place of
_banishment_ for that portion of their colored population whom they
were afraid to hang, and unwilling to pardon, passed on Jan. 22,
1805, still in _secret session,_ the following resolution:--

   "Resolved, That the Senators of this State in the Congress of the
United States be instructed, and the Representatives be requested, to
exert their best efforts for the obtaining from the General
Government a competent portion of territory in the country of
Louisana, to be appropriated to the residence of _such people of
color as have been, or shall be, emancipated, or may hereafter become
dangerous to the public safety,"_ &c.--[See African Repository, June,
1832, and November, 1833.]

The Legislature of Virginia having failed in all their attempts to
find a suitable Botany Bay, to which the free people of color,
convicts, and other dangerous persons could be banished, passed in
1805 a law prohibiting emancipation, except on the condition that
the emancipated should leave the State; or, if remaining in the State
more than twelve months, should be sold by the overseers of the poor
for the benefit of the Literary Fund.

Here we see another consequence of the attempt of slaves to obtain
their freedom, viz., an increased persecution of the free people of
color, a law to prevent their increase, and a desire to banish all of
them from the State. The conspiracy of Gen. Gabriel and his
coadjutors was, therefore, the occasion, if not the cause, of the
formation, in 1817, of the Colonization Society, whose great object
was, by removing all disturbing causes, to make slavery secure,
lucrative, and perpetual. Another noticeable fact, made manifest by
the intended insurrection, is the state of fearful insecurity in
which the residents of a slaveholding community must feel that they
are living. The late assertion of Gov. Wise, that "We, the
Virginians, are in no danger from our slaves or the colored people,"--
or that of Senator Mason, "We can take care of ourselves,"--or that
of Miles, of South Carolina, "We are impregnable,"--betrays the depth
and extent of their fear by the very attempt to conceal it; like
timid boys "ejaculating through white lips and chattering teeth,"
_Who's afraid?_ In the wide-spread panic of 1800, the slaveholders
appear to have been excessively puzzled to ascertain what could have
induced their slaves to engage in such a conspiracy. They, of course,
could not have originated such a plot, and had been, in their
opinion, so well-treated that _they_ could have no motive to wish for
their freedom. It was at first rumored that Gabriel had in his
possession letters written by white men; then, that the conspiracy of
the negroes was "occasioned by the circulation of some artfully
written hand-bills, drawn up by the noted Callender in prison, and
circulated by two French people of color from Guadaloupe, aided by a
United Irish pretended Methodist preacher"; then, "that the
instigators of the diabolical plan wished thereby to insure the
elections of Adams and Pinckney, and that the blacks, as far as they
were capable, reasoned on the Jeffersonian principles of
emancipation." They were, at last, unwillingly compelled to believe
that the whole plot originated with slaves, and was confined to them
exclusively, and that, like all other human beings, deprived by
arbitrary power of all their just rights, they were determined to be

In a letter written in 1800, by Judge St. George Tucker, of
Virginia, and published in Baltimore, he thus speaks:--

   "The love of freedom is an inborn sentiment, which the God of
nature has planted deep in the heart. Long may it be kept under by
the arbitrary institutions of society; but, at the first favorable
moment, it springs forth with a power which defies all check. This
celestial spark, which fires the breast of the savage, which glows in
that of the philosopher, is not extinguished in the bosom of the
slave. It may be buried in the embers, but it _still lives,_ and the
breath of knowledge kindles it into a flame. Thus we find there never
have been slaves in any country, who have not seized the first
favorable opportunity to revolt. These, our hewers of wood and
drawers of water, possess the power of doing us mischief, and are
prompted to it by _motives which self-love dictates, which reason
justifies._ Our sole security, then, consists in their ignorance of
this power, and their means of using it--a security which we have
lately found is not to be relied on, and which, small as it is, every
day diminishes. Every year adds to the number of those who can read
and write; and _the increase of knowledge is the principal agent in
evolving the spirit we have to fear._  *  *  *  By way of marking the
prodigious change which a few years have made among that class of
men, compare the late conspiracy with the revolt under Lord Dunmore.
In the one case, a few solitary individuals flocked to that standard,
under which they were sure to find protection. In the other, they, in
a body, of their own accord, combine a plan for asserting their
freedom, and rest their safety on success alone. The difference is,
that then they sought freedom merely as a good; now they also claim
it as a right.  *  *  *  Ignorant and illiterate as they yet are,
they have maintained a correspondence, which, whether we consider its
extent or duration, is truly astonishing."

Thus far Judge Tucker.

Monday, Sept. 1st, was the day set by General Gabriel and his
associates to make the attack on Richmond with fire and sword. The
plot was, however, discovered only the day previous, and, as I have
been informed, was made known by a slave named Ben, who was unwilling
that his master (a Mr. W. who had been very kind to him) should lose
his life.

The incidents of this conspiracy were embodied in a song, and set to
a tune, both of which were composed by a colored man. The song is
still sung.

In the New York _Spectator,_ of Sept. 24th, 1800, is a letter dated
CHARLESTON, S. C., Sept. 13th, which says that "the negroes have rose
in arms against the whites in this country, and have killed several.
All the troops of light horse are ordered out by the Governor to
suppress the insurrection. Some reports state the number of
insurgents, who were embodied about thirty miles from the city, to be
about four or five thousand strong. Others decreased this number to
seven or eight hundred."

In June, 1816, a conspiracy was formed in Camden, South Carolina;
but information of the intent was given by a favorite and
confidential slave of Col. Chestnut.

On May 30th, 1822, a "faithful and confidential slave" disclosed to
the Intendant of Charleston, S. C., that, on Sunday evening, June
16th, the slaves had determined to rise in rebellion against the
whites, "set fire to the Governor's house, seize the Guard-house and
Arsenal, and sweep the town with fire and sword, not permitting a
white soul to escape." Of the supposed conspirators, one hundred and
thirty-one were committed to prison, thirty-five executed, and thirty-
seven banished. Of the six ringleaders, Ned Bennet, Peter Poyas,
Rolla, Batteau, Jesse, and Denmark Vesey, all were slaves, except
Vesey, who had been a slave thirty-eight years, a few man twenty-two
years, having in 1800 purchased his freedom.

On July 12th, two slaves were executed; July 26th, twenty-two; July
30th, four; and August 9th, one.

In 1826, the inhabitants of Newbern, Targorough and Hillsborough
were alarmed by insurrectionary movements among their slaves. The
people of Newbern, being informed that forty slaves were assembled in
a swamp, surrounded it, and killed the whole party!!

In August, 1831, there was an insurrection of slaves in Southampton,
Virginia, headed by a slave, who called himself Gen. Nat. Turner, who
declared to his associates that he was acting under inspired
directions, and that the singular appearance of the sun at that time
was the signal for them to commence the work of destruction; which
resulted in the murder of sixty-four white persons, and more than one
hundred slaves were killed. The excitement extended throughout
Virginia and the Carolinas. "Another such insurrection," says the
Richmond Whig, "will be followed by _putting the whole race to the
sword."_ In the same year, insurrections occurred in Martinique,
Antigua, St. Jago, Caraccas, and Tortola.

In January, 1832, James McDowell, Jr., in reply to a member who
called the Nat. Turner insurrection a "petty affair," thus spoke in
the Virginia House of Delegates:--

   "Now, sir, I ask you, I ask gentlemen, in conscience to say, was
that a 'petty affair' which startled the feelings of your whole
population; which threw a portion of it into alarm, a portion of it
into panic; which wrung out from an affrigthed people the thrilling
cry, day after day, conveyed to your executive, _'We are in peril of
our lives--send us an army for defence!'_ Was that a 'petty affair,'
which drove families from their homes; which assembled women and
children in crowds, without shelter, at places of common refuge, in
every condition of weakness and infirmity, under every suffering
which want and terror could inflict, yet willing to endure all,
willing to meet death from famine, death from climate, death from
hardships, preferring any thing rather than the horrors of meeting it
from a domestic assassin? Was that a 'petty affair,' which erected a
peaceful and confiding portion of the State into a military camp;
which _outlawed from pity the unfortunate beings whose brothers had
offended;_ which barred every door, penetrated every bosom with fear
or suspicion; which so banished every sense of security from every
man's dwelling, that, let but a hoof or horn break upon the silence
of the night, and an aching throb would be driven to the heart? The
husband would look to his weapon, and the mother would shudder, and
weep upon her cradle! Was it the fear of Nat. Turner and his deluded,
drunken handful of followers, which produced such effects? Was it
this that induced distant counties, where the very name of
Southampton was strange, to arm and equip for a struggle? No, sir, it
was the _suspicion eternally attached to the slave himself;_ the
suspicion that a Nat. Turner might be in every family--that the same
bloody deed might be acted over at any time, and in any place--that
the materials for it were spread through the land, and were always
ready for a like explosion. Nothing but the force of this withering
apprehension, nothing but the paralyzing and deadening weight with
which it falls upon and prostrates the heart of every man who has
helpless dependants to protect, nothing but this could have thrown a
brave people into consternation, or could have made any portion of
this powerful Commonwealth, for a single instant, to have quailed and

In the same year and month, Henry Berry, Esq., another delegate,
thus spoke:--

   "Sir, I believe that no cancer on the physical body was ever more
certain, steady and fatal in its progress, than this cancer on the
political body of Virginia. It is eating into her very vitals. And
shall we admit that the evil is past remedy? Shall we act the part of
a puny patient, suffering under the ravages of a fatal disease, who
would say the remedy is too painful? Pass as severe laws as you will
to keep these unfortunate creatures in ignorance, it is in vain,
unless you can extinguish that spark of intellect which God has given
them. Sir, we have, as far as possible, closed _every avenue by which
light might enter their minds._ We have only to go one step further--
to extinguish the capacity to see the light--and our work will be
completed. They would then be reduced to the level of the beasts of
the field, and we should be safe; and I am not certain that we would
not do it, if we could find out the necessary process, and that under
the plea of necessity. But, sir, this is impossible; and can man be
in the midst of freemen, and not know what freedom is? Can he feel
that he has the power to assert his liberty, and _will he not do it?_
Yes, sir, _with the certainty of Time's current, he will do it
whenever  he has the power._ The data are before us all, and every
man can work out the process for himself. Sir, a _death-struggle must
come between the two classes, [FN#2] in which one or the other will
be extinguished forever._ Who can contemplate such a catastrophe as
even possible, and be indifferent?"

[FN#2]  "Irrepressible Conflict."

In an essay written by Judge St. George Tucker, and published in
1796, he expresses similar sentiments, in language equally forcible,
and concludes by saying:--

   "I presume it is possible that an effectual remedy for the evils
of slavery may at length be discovered. Whenever that happens, _the
golden age of our country will begin._ Till then,
                    ----------"Non hospes a hospite tutus
                    Non Herus a Famulis, fratrum quoque gratia rara."

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his
justice cannot sleep forever," and "that the Almighty has no
attribute that can take sides with us in such a contest," viz., "an
exchange of situation" [with the slaves,] are the well-known words of

In 1832, a general insurrection of the slaves occurred in Jamaica,
when between two and three thousand slaves were killed, and a large
number of whites. The loss occasioned by the rebellion was estimated
at five millions of dollars, a part of which was occasioned by the
burning of one hundred and fifty plantations. _Now,_ the British West
Indies are forever exempted from all danger of insurrection, while
the danger of a servile war in America will, until slavery is
abolished, every year increase.

In the month of June, 1839, a vessel, called the Amistad, Ramon
Ferrer, Captain, sailed from Havana for Principe, about one hundred
leagues distant, with fifty-four negroes and two white passengers,
(Spaniards,) viz., Pedro Montez and Jose Ruiz, one of whom claimed to
be the owner of the negroes, who were all natives of Africa. While on
board, they "suffered much from hunger and thirst." In addition to
this, there was much whipping, and "the cook told them that, when
they reached land, they would all be eaten." This "made their hearts
burn." To avoid being eaten, and to escape the bad treatment, they
rose upon the crew with the design of returning to Africa. This was
on June 27th, four days after leaving Havana. After killing the
captain and the cook, and permitting the crew to escape, they under
command of Cinque, who compelled Montez to steer the ship for Africa,
which he did in the day time, because the negroes could tell his
course by the sun, but put the vessel about in the night. In this
manner, the vessel drifted about till August 26th, when she was taken
possession of by Capt. Gedney, U. S. N. After an interesting trial in
Connecticut, the negroes were set free, and, under the American
Missionary Association, were sent to their native country, Africa,
and of whom many are now receiving religious instruction by means of
missionaries who accompanied them to the Mendi country. It is in
relation to these blacks that President Buchanan, in his late
message, thus speaks:--"I again recommend that an appropriation be
made to be paid to the Spanish Government for the purpose of
distribution among the claimants in the Amistad case"!!

On the 27th of October, 1841, the Creole sailed from Richmond with
one hundred and thirty-five slaves, bound for New Orleans. On
November 7th, they rose on the crew, killed a passenger named Howell,
and on November 9th, arrived at Nassau, New Providence, where they
were all set free by the British authorities. The leader in this
successful attempt to secure their freedom was Madison Washington.
"The sagacity, bravery and humanity of this man," says the Hon.
William Jay, "do honor to his name, and, but for his complexion,
would excite universal admiration."

In 1846, the slaves in Santa Cruz rose in rebellion against their
masters, took possession of the island, and thus obtained their
freedom, but did no injury to any white person. This was remarkable,
as the whites numbered 3,000, and the blacks 25,000.

Now, what is the inference from this list of conspiracies and
insurrections, and scores of others which could be collected? Why,
(1,) that all danger arises from the continuance of slavery, and not
from its abolition. And, (2,) that if the Bible sanctions slavery,
the God of the Bible does not. The language of God's providence is
one and uniform, and too explicit to be misunderstood. It assures us,
and writes the assurance in lines of blood, that the way of the
transgressor is hard, and that though hand join in hand, the
violators of God's law shall not go unpunished. All history, ancient
and modern, is full of examples and warnings on this point. Shall we
slight these warnings, shut our eyes against the light, and madly
rush on our own destruction? Let us remember that slavery is an
unnatural state; that Nature, when her eternal principles are
violated, always struggles to restore them to her true estate; and
that the natural feelings accord with the sentiment of the poet,

          "If I'm designed yon lordling's slave,
               By Nature's laws designed,
           Why was an independent wish
               E'er planted in my mind?"

"If the Bible," says the Rev. Albert Barnes, "could be shown to
defend and countenance slavery as a good institution, it would make
thousands of infidels; for there are multitudes of minds that will
see more clearly that slavery is against all the laws which God has
written on the human soul, than they would see that a book,
sanctioning such a system, had evidence of divine origin."

Says Charles Alcott, of Medina, Ohio, in his very able lectures on
slavery:--"It is easy to show that slavery has, from first to last,
been supported directly and solely by crimes, and that the commission
of nearly every crime in the Bible calendar, and many crimes against
the common law, are absolutely necessary to support it, and give it
full effect. It is a fact equally curious and true, that crime of any
kind can only be supported by crime; and that, in order to persevere
in the commission of one crime, and prevent its detection and
punishment, it is necessary to commit still further crimes."

This being true, it follows conclusively that immediate repentance
of the sin of slavery is the duty of every master, and immediate
emancipation the right of every slave. Says Charles Alcott, "A man
cannot stir, or move, or begin to act, either in support of slavery,
or in opposition to its immediate abolition, without committing
crimes or sins of some sort or other." He cannot be neutral.
Therefore, gentle reader, in the _"irrepressible conflict"_ that is
now agitating the country, and will continue to agitate it till
slavery is abolished, which side have you chosen, or do you intend to
choose? Will you take the "higher law," which is in harmony with
God's providence and his word, or act in favor of the "lower law,"
which opposes both? If slavery is right, sustain, defend and justify
it; but if it is a crime, do all in your power, by moral means, to
overthrow the execrable system. If you are a professed Christian,
remember the words of Rev. Albert Barnes:--"There is not vital energy
enough, there is not power of numbers and influence enough, _out of
the Church,_ to sustain it. Let every religious denomination in the
land detach itself from all connection with slavery. All that is
needful is, for each Christian man, for every Christian church, to
stand up in the sacred majesty of such a solemn testimony, and to
free themselves from all connection with the evil, and utter a calm,
deliberate voice to the world, _and the work is done."_

          *          *          *

Published at the Office of the AMERICAN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY, No. 5
Beekman Street, New York.  Also, to be had at the Anti-Slavery
Offices, No. 21 Cornhill, Boston, and No. 107 North Fifth Street,

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Account of Some of the Principal Slave Insurrections, - and Others, Which Have Occurred, or Been Attempted, in the - United States and Elsewhere, During the Last Two Centuries." ***

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