1 An investigation of an alehouse keeper, John Hughson, and his wife Sarah, for receiving and selling stolen goods implicated two black men, Caesar (Vaarck's) and Prince (Auboyneau's) and produced evidence which indicated that the fires and robberies were the result of concerted activity, raising the suspicion of conspiracy and
insurrection. The investigation led to the prosecution and trial of more than one hundred fifty Africans and twenty Europeans. As a result, thirteen blacks were burned at the stake, sixteen blacks and four whites were hung and more than seventy blacks and seven whites were banished.
2 After the riot just noted the white population of the City were in constant dread of a negro outbreak, but none happened or was suspected until 1741. In the Winter of that year a Spanish vessel arrived with a cargo of negroes, who were sold for slaves. These wild Africans were very turbulent and doubtless disaffected the native slaves. Early in the Spring fires began to break out, and the negroes were suspected of incendiaries. No real
testimony could be got, though the authorities offered pardon and a reward of
£100 to any one who would turn State's evidence. But among many arrests the Judges got an ignorant servant, one Mary Burton, who, to save herself from going to jail, implicated three or four negroes in an evidently false story of a threat to burn the City.
The Judges, one of whom was the notorious Horsmanden,
then tormented a wretched woman of the town, an Irish girl known as Peggy, the Newfoundland Beauty, until she satisfied them with a long story implicating many other negroes. Twenty days afterward though there had been no riot nor any serious fires, the execution of negroes began. Caesar and Prince, implicated by Mary Burton, were executed, not for arson but for theft. The next thing in order was a day of fasting and
prayer, not only in view of impending calamity, but because of the declaration of war by England against Spain.
After praying the executions went on. One Hughson, the keeper of a low negro groggery, was hanged in chains and left to rot. But such punishment was thought too lenient, and the insane and cowardly Judges began to sentence negroes to be burned alive. Cuffee and Quacko, negroes, were brought out to be burned, but the sight of the stake horrified them, and
they made a pretended confession in hope to save their lives; but now the crowd insisted upon seeing the poor wretches roasted, and the sheriff lacked the power or the will to refuse. They were burned, amid the
howling of a mob whose hearts were, for the moment, blacker then the skins of the victims.
The fright and the persecution continued from March until August. More than 150 negroes and a number of whites were imprisoned. For three months the sentences to punishment of various degrees averaged one a day. There was not a lawyer in the City manly enough to undertake the defense of the victims, but every limb of the law hastened to volunteer for their
persecution. Among the last of the victims was a schoolmaster named John Ury who was accused of being or having been a Catholic priest. This allegation was worked upon by the Attorney General, who dragged up the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and so dwell upon Romanist persecution that the charge of conspiracy was forgotten, and Ury was found guilty because he was presumed to be a Catholic. He was duly murdered by Horsmanden and an obsequious court
of frightened fools and bigots.
At last there came a sudden change. The miserable and abandoned woman Mary Burton, whose manifestly lying testimony had kept the gallows and the stake busy for two months, began to imagine herself a heroine, and did not hesitate to strike at higher game. She unblushingly accused a number of white citizens whose characters were beyond suspicion. This was too much, and the murder of negroes under the form of law came to an end. The whole business from first to last was a disgraceful fright and unjustifiable persecution, with hardly more foundation than there was for the persecution of witches in
Massachusetts 100 years earlier.
For further information on the New York Conspiracy, please review additional links.
The Negro Plot Trial
The Trial of Caesar
(VARCK's) & Prince (AUBOYNEAU
The Trial of John HUGHSON Sara
His Wife & Sarah His Daughter