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"TO BE BURNED AT THE STAKE . . . UNTILL HE IS DEAD, AND AFTER THAT TO ASHES" (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) Trial account of an enslaved New York man for arson, with the order to burn him at the stake. 3 manuscript pages, 12 3/4 x 8 inches, on 2 leaves, the last leaf with the signatures and seals of twelve officials; folds and minor wear. Kingston, NY, 28 and 29 August 1730
Arson was one of the most extreme forms of resistance available to slaves, and figured prominently in the New York slave insurrections of 1712 and 1741. As a deterrent, punishments were harsh. This trial took place in Ulster County along the Hudson River between Albany and New York City. The first of these two documents is the minutes of a meeting of the county's seven Justices of the Peace to hear the case of "a Negro man of Capt. Albert Pawling, called Jack, being accused of fellony for burning of the barn and barels, severall sheep, oats, pease &c of Richard Broadhead at Marbletown." Jack testified that he came from the nearby town of Wawarsing and "went into the cook room of Richard Brodhead and fetched fire and tryed to sett the barn afire but he missed. . . . The second time he went to Daniel Broadhead's house and took a brand end of fire there and then he set the barn in fire." The next morning, the prisoner was brought before the bar, was tried according to the evidence, confessed a second time to the crime, and was sentenced to be "burned untill he is dead and after that to ashes." The second document is an order to the Ulster County constables to "deliver the prisoner Jack now in custody to the executioner London, negro man of Johannis Low, to be burned at the stake forthwith untill he is dead, and after that to ashes." It is signed by the seven justices and by "five of the principall freeholders of said county," most of them from the old Dutch settler families who predominated in Ulster Country at the time. These documents were in the possession of Ulster County historian Jonathan W. Hasbrouck, and were published after his death in 1918 (Hoes, Old Court Houses of Ulster County, page 7). We have traced no other mention in the historical record of this disturbing incident.