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Forum Post: The Great Negro Plot: St. Patrick's Day Slave Revolt 1741 NYC

Posted 6 years ago on March 17, 2012, 12:47 a.m. EST by Pujete (160) from New York, NY
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Through the harsh winter of 1740-41, as food riots broke out all over Europe, a motley crew of workers met at John Hughson’s waterside tavern in the city of New York to plan a rising for St. Patrick’s Day. The conspirators included Irish, English, Hispanic, African, and Native American men and women; they spoke Gaelic, English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Latin, Greek, and undoubtedly several African and Indian languages. They were a mixture of mostly slaves and wage laborers, especially soldiers, sailors, and journeymen. During their deliberations, David Johnson, a journeyman hatter of British background, swore that “he would help to burn the town, and kill as many white people as he could.” John Corry, an Irish dancing-master, promised the same, as, apparently, did John Hughson himself and many others, a large number of African-Americans among them.

Eventually they put at least part of their plan into action, burning down Fort George, the Governor’s mansion, and the imperial armory, the symbols of Royal Majesty and civil authority, the havens and instruments of ruling-class power in New York. They did not succeed, as evidenced by the 13 burned at the stake, the 21 hanged, and the 77 transported out of the colony as slaves or servants. The corpses of two of the hanged dangled in an iron gibbet on the waterfront as a lesson to others. As the bodies decayed in the open air, observers noted a gruesome, yet instructive, transformation. The corpse of an Irishman turned black and his hair curly while the corpse of Caesar, the African, bleached white. It was accounted a “wondrous phemenonon.”1 One of the many remarkable things about this upheaval is the way in which it confounds much of contemporary historical understanding. Here we have a polyglot community of workers who by current wisdom should never have been able to conceive, much less execute, a joint rebellion. Here we have “white” Europeans pledging themselves to the destruction of “the white people” of New York, by which they obviously meant the rich people. Here we have, not a slave revolt or a “great Negro Plot” (as it has long been called), not a mutiny by soldiers and sailors nor a strike by wage laborers, but rather a many-sided rising by a diverse urban proletariat-red, white, and black, of many nations, races, ethnicities, and degrees of freedom.




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[-] 1 points by ShubeLMorgan2 (1088) from New York, NY 6 years ago

Thanks for this interesting piece of New York history.

[-] 0 points by Pujete (160) from New York, NY 6 years ago

Yer welcome,

Happy St. Patrick's Day!