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The Great New York Conspiracy of 1741: Slavery, Crime, and Colonial Law
     

The Great New York Conspiracy of 1741: Slavery, Crime, and Colonial Law

by Peter Charles Hoffer
 
Three and a half decades before the city of New York witnessed the first great battle waged by the new United States of America for its independence, rumors of a massive conspiracy among the city's slaves spread panic throughout the colony. On the testimony of frightened bondsmen and a handful of whites, over seventy slaves were convicted and a third of these were

Overview

Three and a half decades before the city of New York witnessed the first great battle waged by the new United States of America for its independence, rumors of a massive conspiracy among the city's slaves spread panic throughout the colony. On the testimony of frightened bondsmen and a handful of whites, over seventy slaves were convicted and a third of these were executed.

The suspected conspiracy in New York prompted one of the most extensive slave trials in colonial history and some of the most grisly punishments ever meted out to individuals. Peter Hoffer now retells the dramatic story of those landmark trials, setting the events in their legal and historical contexts and offering a revealing glimpse of slavery in colonial cities and of the way that the law defined and policed the institution.

Among other things, Hoffer reveals how conspiracy became a central feature of the law of slavery at the same time as it reflected the white belief that slaves were always conspiring against their masters. He draws on uniquely revealing firsthand accounts of the trials to both retell a gripping story and open a window on colonial American justice. He leads readers through a chain of events involving robbery and arson that culminated in the trials of a group of white men suspected of inciting the slaves to revolt.

The episode, so vital to our understanding of a time when slavery was an entrenched institution and the law made even the angry muttering of slaves into a criminal act, has much to tell us about current affairs as well. African slaves in colonial times were viewed by authorities and citizens much as some foreigners are today: inherently dangerous, easily identifiable, and constantly conspiring.

This book is part of the Landmark Law Cases and American Society series.


About the Author:
Peter Charles Hoffer is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Georgia and coeditor of the series Landmark Law Cases and American Society. Among his other books are The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History, The Law's Conscience: Constitutionalism in America, and Roe v. Wade: The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History, coauthored with N. E. H. Hull.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Did slaves and poor whites conspire to destroy New York in the summer of 1741? If you thought the case is closed, think again. Hoffer’s meticulous reconsideration of the record builds convincingly toward a conclusion that is both sensible and original. A landmark study by one of our top legal historians.”--Edwin G. Burrows, coauthor of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 “With sensitivity to deadly conspiracy heightened by 9/11, Hoffer deftly wraps the events of 1741 in a context packed with the tension of producing swift and sensible justice in a society bedeviled by racial and religious bigotry and by unreliable rules of evidence and procedure. . . . Provides teachers, students, and general readers quick entry to still troubling issues in American history.”--Thomas J. Davis, author of A Rumor of Revolt: The “Great Negro Plot” in Colonial New York

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700612451
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
05/08/2003
Series:
Landmark Law Cases and American Society Ser.
Pages:
200
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)

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