George W. Williams.

History of the Negro Race in America From 1619 to 1880. Vol 1 Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens online

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LeRoux, Abraham Boelen, Peter Rutgers, Jacobus Roosevelt, John
Auboyneau, Stephen Van Courtlandt, jun., Abraham Lynsen, Gerardus
Duyckinck, John Provost, Henry Lane, jun., Henry Cuyler, John
Roosevelt, Abraham DePeyster, Edward Hicks, Joseph Ryall, Peter
Schuyler, and Peter Jay.[252]

Sarah Hughson had been pardoned. John Ury was brought into court, when
he challenged some of the jury. William Hammersley, Gerardus Beekman,
John Shurmur, Sidney Breese, Daniel Shatford, Thomas Behenna, Peter
Fresneau, Thomas Willett, John Breese, John Hastier, James Tucker, and
Brandt Schuyler were sworn to try him. Barring formalities, he was
arraigned upon the old indictment; viz., felony, in inciting and
exciting the Negro slave Quack to set fire to the governor's house.
The king's counsel were the attorney-general, Richard Bradley, and
Messrs. Murray, Alexander, Smith, and Chambers. Poor Ury had no
counsel, no sympathizers. The attorney-general, in an opening speech
to the jury, said that certain evidence was to be produced showing
that the prisoner at the bar was guilty as charged in the indictment;
that he had a letter that he desired to read to them, which had been
sent to Lieut.-Gov. Clark, written by Gen. Oglethorpe ("the visionary
Lycurgus of Georgia"), bearing date of the 16th of May. The following
is a choice passage from the letter referred to: -

"Some intelligence I had of a villanous design of a very
extraordinary nature, and if true very important, viz., that
the Spaniards had employed emissaries to burn all the
magazines and considerable towns in the English North
America, and thereby to prevent the subsisting of the great
expedition and fleet in the West Indies; and for this
purpose many priests were employed, who pretended to be
physicians, dancing-masters, and other such kinds of
occupations, and under that pretence to get admittance and
confidence in families."[253]

The burden of his effort was the wickedness of Popery and the
Roman-Catholic Church. The first witness called was the irrepressible
Mary Burton. She began by rehearsing the old story of setting fire to
the houses: but this time she varied it somewhat; it was not the fort
that was to be burnt first, but Croker's, near a coffee-house, by the
long bridge. She remembered the ring drawn with chalk, saw things in
it that looked like rats (the good Horsemanden throws a flood of light
upon this otherwise dark passage by telling his reader that it was the
Negroes' black toes!); that she peeped in once and saw a black thing
like a child, and Ury with a book in his hand, and at this moment she
let a silver spoon drop, and Ury chased her, and would have caught
her, had she not fallen into a bucket of water, and thus marvellously
escaped! But the rule was to send this curious Mary to bed when any
thing of an unusual nature was going on. Ury asked her some questions.

"_Prisoner_. - You say you have seen me several times at
Hughson's, what clothes did I usually wear?

"_Mary Burton_. - I cannot tell what clothes you wore

"_Prisoner._ - That is strange, and know me so well?"

She then says several kinds, but particularly, or chiefly, a
riding-coat, and often a brown coat, trimmed with black.

"_Prisoner_. - I never wore such a coat. What time of the day
did I used to come to Hughson's?

"_M. Burton_. - You used chiefly to come in the night-time,
and when I have been going to bed I have seen you undressing
in Peggy's room, as if you were to lie there; but I cannot
say that you did, for you were always gone before I was up
in the morning.

"_Prisoner_. - What room was I in when I called Mary, and you
came up, as you said?

"_M. Burton_. - In the great room, up stairs.

"_Prisoner_. - What answer did the Negroes make, when I
offered to forgive them their sins, as you said?

"_M. Burton_. - I don't remember."[254]

William Kane, the soldier, took the stand. He was very bold to answer
all of Ury's questions. He saw him baptize a child, could forgive
sins, and wanted to convert him! Sarah Hughson was next called, but
Ury objected to her because she had been convicted. The judge informed
him that she had been pardoned, and was, therefore, competent as a
witness. Judge Horsemanden was careful to produce newspaper scraps to
prove that the court of France had endeavored to create and excite
revolts and insurrections in the English colonies, and ended by
telling a pathetic story about an Irish schoolmaster in Ulster County
who drank the health of the king of Spain![255] This had great weight
with the jury, no doubt. Poor Ury, convicted upon the evidence of
three notorious liars, without counsel, was left to defend himself. He
addressed the jury in an earnest and intelligent manner. He showed
where the evidence clashed; that the charges were not in harmony with
his previous character, the silence of Quack and others already
executed. He showed that Mr. Campbell took possession of the house
that Hughson had occupied, on the 1st of May; that at that time
Hughson and his wife were in jail, and Sarah in the house; that Sarah
abused Campbell, and that he reproved her for the foul language she
used; and that this furnished her with an additional motive to accuse
him; that he never knew Hughson or any of the family. Mr. John Croker
testified that Ury never kept company with Negroes, nor did he receive
them at Croker's house up to the 1st of May, for all the plotting was
done before that date; that he was a quiet, pious preacher, and an
excellent schoolmaster; that he taught Webb's child, and always
declared himself a non-juring clergyman of the Church of England. But
the fatal revelation of this friend of Ury's was, that Webb made him a
desk; and the jury thought they saw in it an altar for a Catholic
priest! That was enough. The attorney-general told the jury that the
prisoner was a Romish priest, and then proceeded to prove the
exceeding sinfulness of that Church. Acknowledging the paucity of the
evidence intended to prove him a priest, the learned gentleman
hastened to dilate upon all the dark deeds of Rome, and thereby
poisoned the minds of the jury against the unfortunate Ury. He was
found guilty, and on the 29th of August, 1741, was hanged, professing
his innocence, and submitting cheerfully to a cruel and unjust death
as a servant of the Lord.[256]

The trials of the Negroes had continued, but were somewhat
overshadowed by that of the reputed Catholic priest. On the 18th of
July seven Negroes were hanged, including a Negro doctor named Harry.
On the 23d of July a number of white persons were fined for keeping
disorderly houses, - entertaining Negroes; while nine Negroes were, the
same day, released from jail on account of a lack of evidence! On the
15th of August a Spanish Negro was hanged. On the 31st of August,
Corry (the dancing-master), Ryan, Kelly, and Coffin - all white
persons - were dismissed because no one prosecuted; while the reader
must have observed that the evidence against them was quite as strong
as that offered against any of the persons executed, by the lying trio
Burton, Kane, and Sarah. But Mr. Smith the historian gives the correct
reason why these trials came to such a sudden end.

"The whole summer was spent in the prosecutions; every new
trial led to further accusations: a coincidence of slight
circumstances, was magnified by the general terror into
violent presumptions; tales collected without doors,
mingling with the proofs given at the bar, poisoned the
minds of the jurors; and the sanguinary spirit of the day
suffered no check till Mary, the capital informer,
bewildered by frequent examinations and suggestions, lost
her first impressions, and began to touch characters, which
malice itself did not dare to suspect."[257]

The 24th of September was solemnly set apart for public thanksgiving
for the escape of the citizens from destruction!

As we have already said, this "Negro plot" has but one parallel in the
history of civilization. It had its origin in a diseased public
conscience, inflamed by religious bigotry, accelerated by hired liars,
and consummated in the blind and bloody action of a court and jury who
imagined themselves sitting over a powder-magazine. That a robbery
took place, there was abundant evidence in the finding of some of the
articles, and the admissions of Hughson and others; but there was not
a syllable of competent evidence to show that there was an organized
plot. And the time came, after the city had gotten back to its
accustomed quietness, that the most sincere believers in the "Negro
plot" were converted to the opinion that the zeal of the magistrates
had not been "according to knowledge." For they could not have failed
to remember that the Negroes were considered heathen, and, therefore,
not sworn by the court; that they were not allowed counsel; that the
evidence was indirect, contradictory, and malicious, while the trials
were hasty and unfair. From the 11th of May to the 29th of August, one
hundred and fifty-four Negroes were cast into prison; fourteen of whom
were burnt, eighteen hanged, seventy-one transported, and the
remainder pardoned. During the same space of time twenty-four whites
were committed to prison; four of whom were executed, and the
remainder discharged. The number arrested was one hundred and
seventy-eight, thirty-six executed, and seventy-one transported! What
a terrible tragedy committed in the name of law and Christian
government! Mary Burton, the Judas Iscariot of the period, received
her hundred pounds as the price of the blood she had caused to be
shed; and the curtain fell upon one of the most tragic events in all
the history of New York or of the civilized world.[258]

The legislature turned its attention to additional legislation upon
the slavery question. Severe laws were passed against the Negroes.
Their personal rights were curtailed until their condition was but
little removed from that of the brute creation. We have gone over the
voluminous records of the Province of New York, and have not found a
single act calculated to ameliorate the condition of the slave.[259]
He was hated, mistrusted, and feared. Nothing was done, of a friendly
character, for the slave in the Province of New York, until
threatening dangers from without taught the colonists the importance
of husbanding all their resources. The war between the British
colonies in North America and the mother country gave the Negro an
opportunity to level, by desperate valor, a mountain of prejudice, and
wipe out with his blood the dark stain of 1741. History says he did


[215] Brodhead's History of New York, vol. i. p. 184.

[216] O'Callaghan's History of New Netherlands, pp. 384, 385.

[217] Brodhead, vol. i. p. 194.

[218] Ibid, vol. i. pp. 196, 197.

[219] Dunlap's History of New York, vol. i. p, 58.

[220] O'Callaghan, p. 385.

[221] Van Tienhoven.

[222] Hildreth, vol. i. p. 441; also Hol. Doc., III. p. 351.

[223] Annals of Albany, vol. ii. pp. 55-60.

[224] O'Callaghan, p. 353. N.Y. Col. Docs., vol. ii, pp. 368, 369.

[225] Brodhead, vol. i. p. 697.

[226] Brodhead, vol. i. p. 746.

[227] Ibid., vol. i. p. 748.

[228] Valentine's Manual for 1861, pp. 640-664.

[229] New York Hist. Coll., vol. i. pp. 322, 323.

[230] Journals of Legislative Council, vol. i. p xii.

[231] Bradford's Laws, p. 125.

[232] Journals, etc., N.Y., vol. i. p. xiii.

[233] Dunlap's Hist, of N.Y., vol. i. p. 260,

[234] Booth's Hist, of N.Y., vol. i. p, 270-272.

[235] On the 22nd of March, 1680, the following proclamation was
issued: "Whereas, several inhabitants within this city have and doe
dayly harbour, entertain and countenance Indian and neger slaves in
their houses, and to them sell and deliver wine, rum, and other strong
liquors, for which they receive money or goods which by the said
Indian and negro slaves is pilfered, purloyned, and stolen from their
several masters, by which the publick peace is broken, and the damage
of the master is produced, etc., therefore they are prohibited, etc.;
and if neger or Indian slave make application for these forbidden
articles, immediate information is to be given to his master or to the
mayor or oldest alderman." - DUNLAP, vol. ii. Appendix, p. cxxviii.

[236] Bradford Laws, p. 81.

[237] The ordinance referred to was re-enacted on the 22d of April,
1731, and reads as follows: "No Negro, Mulatto, or Indian slave, above
the age of fourteen, shall presume to appear in any of the streets, or
in any other place of this city on the south side of Fresh Water, in
the night time, above an hour after sunset, without a lanthorn and
candle in it (unless in company with his owner or some white belonging
to the family). Penalty, the watch-house that night; next day, prison,
until the owner pays 4_s_, and before discharge, the slave to be
whipped not exceeding forty lashes." - DUNLAP, vol. ii. Appendix, p.

[238] Booth, vol. i. p. 271.

[239] Hurd's Bondage and Freedom, vol. i. p. 281.

[240] Dunlap, vol. i. p. 323.

[241] Judge Daniel Horsemanden.

[242] Hume, vol. vi. pp. 171-212.

[243] Ibid., vol. vi. p. 171.

[244] Horsemanden's Negro Plot, p. 29.

[245] As far back as 1684 the following was passed against the
entertainment of slaves: "No person to countenance or entertain any
negro or Indian slave, or sell or deliver to them any strong liquor,
without liberty from his master, or receive from them any money or
goods; but, upon any offer made by a slave, to reveal the same to the
owner, or to the mayor, under penalty of £5." - DUNLAP, vol.
ii. Appendix, p. cxxxiii.

[246] Horsemanden's Negro Plot, p. 33.

[247] Bradford's Laws, pp. 141-144.

[248] Horsemanden's Negro Plot, p. 60.

[249] The city of Now York was divided into parts at that time, and
comprised two militia districts.

[250] Dunlap, vol. i. p. 344.

[251] Horsemanden's Negro Plot, p. 284.

[252] Horsemanden's Negro Plot, p. 286.

[253] Colonial Hist. of N.Y., vol. vi. p. 199.

[254] Horsemanden's Negro Plot, pp. 292, 293.

[255] Ibid., pp. 298, 299, note.

[256] Horsemanden's Negro Plot, pp. 221, 222.

[257] Smith's Hist. of N.Y., vol. ii. pp. 59, 60.

[258] "On the 6th of March, 1742, the following order was passed by
the Common Council: 'Ordered, that the indentures of Mary Burton be
delivered up to her, and that she be discharged from the remainder of
her servitude, and three pounds paid her, to provide necessary
clothing.' The Common Council had purchased her indentures from her
master, and had kept her and them, until this time." - DUNLAP,
vol. ii. Appendix, p. clxvii.

[259] "On the 17th of November, 1767, a bill was brought into the
House of Assembly "to prevent the unnatural and unwarrantable custom
of enslaving mankind, and the importation of slaves into this
province." It was changed into an act "for laying an impost on Negroes
imported." This could not pass the governor and council; and it was
afterward known that Benning I. Wentworth, the governor of New
Hampshire, had received instructions not to pass any law "imposing
duties on negroes imported into that province." Hutchinson of
Massachusetts had similar instructions. The governor and his Majesty's
council knew this at the time.





Had the men who gave the colony of Massachusetts its political being
and Revolutionary fame known that the Negro - so early introduced into
the colony as a slave - would have been in the future Republic for
years the insoluble problem, and at last the subject of so great and
grave economic and political concern, they would have committed to the
jealous keeping of the chroniclers of their times the records for
which the historian of the Negro seeks so vainly in this period.
Stolen as he was from his tropical home; consigned to a servitude at
war with man's intellectual and spiritual, as well as with his
physical, nature; the very lowest of God's creation, in the estimation
of the Roundheads of New England; a stranger in a strange land, - the
poor Negro of Massachusetts found no place in the sympathy or history
of the Puritan, - Christians whose deeds and memory have been embalmed
in song and story, and given to an immortality equalled only by the
indestructibility of the English language. The records of the most
remote period of colonial history have preserved a silence on the
question of Negro slavery as ominous as it is conspicuous. What data
there are concerning the introduction of slavery are fragmentary,
uncertain, and unsatisfactory, to say the least. There is but one work
bearing the luminous stamp of historical trustworthiness, and which
turns a flood of light on the dark records of the darker crime of
human slavery in Massachusetts. And we are sure it is as complete as
the ripe scholarship, patient research, and fair and fearless spirit
of its author, could make it.[260]

The earliest mention of the presence of Negroes in Massachusetts is in
connection with an account of some Indians who were frightened at a
Colored man who had lost his way in the tangled path of the forest.
The Indians, it seems, were "worse scared than hurt, who seeing a
blackamore in the top of a tree looking out for his way which he had
lost, surmised he was _Abamacho_, or the devil; deeming all devils
that are blacker than themselves: and being near to the plantation,
they posted to the English, and entreated their aid to conjure this
devil to his own place, who finding him to be a poor wandering
blackamore, conducted him to his master."[261] This was in 1633. It is
circumstantial evidence of a twofold nature; i.e., it proves that
there were Negroes in the colony at a date much earlier than can be
fixed by reliable data, and that the Negroes were slaves. It is a fair
presumption that this "wandering blackamore" who was conducted "to his
_master_" was not the only Negro slave in the colony. Slaves generally
come in large numbers, and consequently there must have been quite a
number at this time.

Negro slavery in Massachusetts was the safety-valve to the pent-up
vengeance of the Pequod Indians. Slavery would have been established
in Massachusetts, even if there had been no Indians to punish by war,
captivity, and duplicity. Encouraged by the British authorities,
avarice and gain would have quieted the consciences of Puritan
slave-holders. But the Pequod war was the early and urgent occasion
for the founding of slavery under the foster care of a _free church
and free government_! As the Pequod Indians would "not endure the
yoke," would not remain "as servants,"[262] they were sent to
Bermudas[263] and exchanged for Negroes,[264] with the hope that the
latter would "endure the yoke" more patiently. The first importation
of slaves from Barbados, secured in exchange for Indians, was made in
1637, the first year of the Pequod war, and was doubtless kept up for
many years.

But in the following year we have the most positive evidence that New
England had actually engaged in the slave-trade.

"Mr. Pierce, in the Salem ship, the Desire, returned from
the West Indies after seven months. He had been at
Providence, and brought some cotton, and tobacco, and
negroes, &c., from thence, and salt from Tertugos.... Dry
fish and strong liquors are the only commodities for those
parts. He met there two men-of-war, sent forth by the lords,
&c., of Providence with letters of mart, who had taken
divers prizes from the Spaniard and many negroes."[265]

"The Desire" was built at Marblehead in 1636;[266] was of one hundred
and twenty tons, and perhaps one of the first built in the colony.
There is no positive proof that "The Mayflower," after landing the
holy Pilgrim Fathers, was fitted out for a slave-cruise! But there is
no evidence to destroy the belief that "The Desire" was built for the
slave-trade. Within a few years from the time of the building of "The
Desire," there were quite a number of Negro slaves in Massachusetts.
"John Josselyn, Gen't" in his "Two Voyages to New England," made in
"1638, 1663," and printed for the first time in 1674,[267] gives an
account of an attempt to breed slaves in Massachusetts.

"The Second of _October_, (1639) about 9 of the clock in the
morning, Mr. _Maverick's_ Negro woman came to my chamber
window, and in her own Countrey language and tune sang very
loud and shril, 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 entreat him in her behalf,
for that I understood before, that she had been a Queen in
her own Countrey, and observed a very humble and dutiful
garb used towards her by another Negro who was her maid. Mr.
_Maverick_ was desirous to have a breed of Negroes, and
therefore seeing she would not yield by persuasions 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 to her,
which was no sooner done but she kickt him out again, this
she took in high disdain beyond her slavery, and this was
the cause of her grief."[268]

It would appear, at first blush, that slavery was an individual
speculation in the colony; but the voyage of the ship "Desire" was
evidently made with a view of securing Negro slaves for sale. Josselyn
says, in 1627, that the English colony on the Island of Barbados had
"in a short time increased to twenty thousand, besides Negroes."[269]
And in 1637 he says that the New Englanders "sent the male children of
Pequets to the Bermudus."[270] It is quite likely that many
individuals of large means and estates had a few Negro slaves quite
early, - perhaps earlier than we have any record; but as a public
enterprise in which the colony was interested, slavery began as early
as 1638. "It will be observed," says Dr. Moore, "that this first
entrance into the slave-trade was not a private, individual
speculation. It was the enterprise of the authorities of the colony.
And on the 13th of March, 1639, it was ordered by the General Court
"that 3_l_ 8_s_ should be paid Lieftenant Davenport for the present,
for charge disbursed for the slaves, which, when they have earned it,
hee is to repay it back againe." The marginal note is "Lieft.
Davenport to keep ye slaves." (Mass. Rec. i. 253.[271]) So there can
be no doubt as to the permanent establishment of the institution of
slavery as early as 1639, while before that date the institution
existed in a patriarchal condition. But there isn't the least fragment
of history to sustain the haphazard statement of Emory Washburn, that
slavery existed in Massachusetts "from the time Maverick was found
dwelling on Noddle's Island in 1630."[272] We are sure this assertion
lacks the authority of historical data. It is one thing for a
historian to think certain events happened at a particular time, but
it is quite another thing to be able to cite reliable authority in
proof of the assertion.[273] But no doubt Mr. Washburn relies upon Mr.
Palfrey, who refers his reader to Mr. Josselyn. Palfrey says, "Before
Winthrop's arrival, there were two negro slaves in Massachusetts, held
by Mr. Maverick, on Noddle's Island."[274] Josselyn gives the only
account we have of the slaves on Noddle's Island. The incident that
gave rise to this scrap of history occurred on the 2d of October,
1639. Winthrop was chosen governor in the year 1637.[275] It was in