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The Slave Experience: Responses to Enslavement
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Original Documents Responses to Enslavement

Testimony from the New York "Negro Plot Trials"
Cited in Daniel Horsmanden. The New-York Conspiracy, or a History of the Negro Plot, with the Journal of the Proceedings against the Conspirators at New-York in the Years 1741-41. (New York: Southwick and Peluse, 1810.)
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Document Description
The threat of black insurrection was often as troubling to whites as actual incidents of rebellion. When suspicious fires broke out in Fort George in March 1741, white New Yorkers became convinced that they were dealing with a massive slave uprising. Although largely hearsay, testimony from witnesses like Margaret Salingburgh, resulted in 34 death sentences and the removal of 72 other persons from New York.


Many hours were taken up in Peggy's examination yesterday and this day; which was committed to writing, as felloweth.

Examination taken before the judges. No. 1. Margaret Salingburgh, alias Kerry, saith,

1. "That some time last fall she took lodgings with one Frank, a free negro, fronting the new battery, within this city, about three or four doors from the house of John Romme, shoemaker, and continued there till the beginning of February last, during which time she employed the said Romme in making shoes for her; and on that account became acquainted with him and his wife, and used often to go backwards and forwards to and from the said house; by which means she had the opportunity of seeing many negroes there at several different times, who used to resort thither to drink drams, punch and other strong liquors, the said Romme keeping a public house ; and that often numbers of them have continued at the said Romme's house till two or three o'clock in the morning, to her knowledge, drinking, singing and playing at dice.

2. "That on or about the beginning of November last, on a Sunday evening, between the hours of 11 and 12, she (the examinant) being returning home to her said lodging, by the way of Whitehall, saw two negroes coming towards her with each of them a firkin [a small barrel] upon their shoulders, and saw them turn into Romme's gate; and that presently after the same two negroes returned from the said Romme's house, and went by the examinant (who stood under Hunt's shed) at some distance towards the water side; and returned again by her, with each of them one firkin more upon each of their shoulders, and went with them also in at the said Romme's gate, and returned by the examinant a second time, and went towards the water side; and in the same manner made as many turns, till the examinant counted that the said negroes had carried into the said Romme's gate, sixteen of the said firkins; and the reason of the examinant's staying under the said Hunt's shed to observe the motions of the said negroes was, because she suspected them to be stolen goods.

3. "That one evening, some time about Christmas last, about eight or nine o'clock, she was at the house of the said John Romme, where she saw in company, together with the said Romme and his wife, ten or eleven negroes, all in one room, and the said John Romme was observing to the negroes, how well the rich people at this place lived, and said, if they (meaning the negroes, as she understood) would be advised by him, they (including himself and the negroes as she understood) should have the money. To which Cuff (Mr. Philipse's negro) replied, how will you manage that? Well enough, said Romme, set them all a light fire; burn the houses of them that have the most money, and kill them all, as the negroes would have done their masters and mistresses formerly [Romme is referring to the slave uprising that took place in New York in 1712] That he (Romme) should be captain over them (meaning the negroes, as the examinant understood) till they could get all their money, and then he (Romme) would be governor. To which Cuff said, they could not do it. Yes, says Romme, we'll do well enough; we'll send into the country for the rest of the negroes to help, because he could write, and he knew several negroes in the country that could read. And he encouraged them, and said, he would stand by them, and that the sun would shine very bright by and by, and never fear, my lads: But that if it should happen that any thing should come out, he would make his escape, and go to North Carolina, Cape Fear, or somewhere thereabouts; or into the Mohawks country, where he had lived before; but besides, the D-l could not hurt him; for he had a great many friends in town, and the best in the place would stand by him; or the said Romme expressed himself in words to the effect before mentioned.

4. "That during all the discourse of the said Romme to the negroes as above mentioned, she did not observe any of the said number of ten or eleven, to make any answer to Romme's discourse aforesaid, excepting Cuffee (Phiiipse's) Curracoa Dick, Pintard's Caesar, Will (Weaver's, since dead) and Mr. Moore's Cato; but Cuffee spoke the most, and said, 'The Devil take the failer;' though the other four seemed to be as forward for the plot as Cuff.

5. "That the other negroes that were present at the above discourse, whose persons or names she now remembers, were Patrick (English's,) Jack (Breasted's,) and Brash (Mr. Jay's.)

6. "That, at the same meeting, there were several other negroes, which made up the number ten or eleven, whose names, or the names of their masters, she does not now remember; but believes she should remember their faces again if she should see them.

7. "That at the same meeting, the said John Romme proposed to the said negroes present, 'To burn the fort first, and afterwards the city; and then to steal and rob, and carry away all the money and goods they could procure;' and that they should be brought to Romme's house, and he would take care to hide them away.

8. "That Romme said further, that if the fire did not succeed, and they could not compass their ends that way; then he proposed to the negroes present, that they should steal all that they could from their masters; then he would carry them to a strange country, and give them their liberty, and set them free. After this, Romme asked them, if it would do? That is whether the negroes then present liked his proposals, (as she understood.) To which Cuff answered, 'There's great talking, and no cider;" and so they broke up: And the negroes remaining at that time all departed; some of them, to wit, Brash, Patrick, Jack, and the several other negroes (whose names the examinant cannot at all remember) having left the company about an hour before ; but Cuff, Curacoa Dick, Weaver's Will, Cato, and Pintard's Caesar staid till the last.

9. "That she well remembers, that Cuff, Curacoa Dick, Weaver's Will, Pintard's Caesar, and Mr. Moore's Cato; and also Auboyneau's Prince, and Vaarck's Caesar, used much to frequent that house in the evenings, and to stay often late in the night, drinking and playing at dice; but she never heard any discourse amongst them concerning burning the fort, or setting fire to the town, but the time above mentioned.

10. "That immediately after the negroes broke up the meeting before mentioned, the said John Romme insisted upon this exarninant's being sworn to secrecy, that she would not discover any thing that she knew had passed in his house, either relating to the butter, or the fire, or discourse at the said meeting, which she accordingly was and kissed a book; what book it was, knows not.

11. "That Romme's wife was by, all or most part of the time, during the meeting and discourse aforesaid; and Romme insisted that this examinant should be sworn as aforesaid, as well as his wife; for the said Romme declared, they were both sworn to secrecy, and all the negroes; but the examinant saith, that the said Romme's wife did not at all join in any of the discourse before mentioned."

Elizabeth Romme, wife of John Romme, was sent for and examined concerning what Peggy had, declared to have passed at her house.

Examination.-1. She denied, "That she knew any thing at all about the conspiracy for firing [burning] the fort and the town, and murdering the people.

2. "Denied there were ever such companies of negroes met at her house as Peggy declared.

3. "She confessed there had been some firkins of butter brought thither about the time mentioned by Peggy; but said that they were received by her husband, and she knew nothing of them.

4. "Denied she had ever heard or knew of any oath of secrecy imposed by her husband; or administered by him to her or Peggy, or any other person whatsoever, with regard to secrecy concerning the stolen butter, or any other goods, or concerning the conspiracy.

5. "Confessed, that a negro (the father of Mr. Philipse's Cuffee) kept gamefowls at their house, and used to come there to bring them victuals, but never used to stay long. Confessed that he was there about Christmas last. And

6. "That the last winter Cuff's father brought them sticks of wood now and then, and she believed he had them out of his master's yard.

7. "Confessed, that negroes used to come to their house to drink drams, but never used to stay; that Caesar (Vaarck's negro) used to come morning and evening often; Auboyneau's Prince sometimes; Mr. Moore's Cato once or twice, and not oftener, as she remembered; never saw Breasted, the hatter's negro, there at all; nor Mr. Jay's Brash; nor Patrick, (English's negro) but had seen Bastian (Vaarck's negro) there, and Mr. Pintard's Caesar; but never saw above three negroes at a time there, and that very seldom; and that when there were three, they were always Cuffee, (Philipse's) Caesar (Vaarck's) and Piince (Auboyneau's.)''

This afternoon orders were given for apprehending the several negroes mentioned by Peggy, to have been present at Romme's, at the time she said Romme and the negroes were talking of the conspiracy; those of them whom she knew by name, and were not before committed, were soon found and brought to jail.

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