A Journal of the Proceedings in the Detection of the Conspiracy (1744):
Trials of Caesar and Prince (for larcency)
TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 1741
[The grand jury was called and sworn.]
Mr. Justice Philipse gave the charge to the grand jury, as followeth:
"Gentlemen of the grand jury,
is not without some concern, that I am obliged at this time to be more
particular in your charge, than for many preceding terms there hath
occasion. The many frights and terrors which the good people of this
of late been put into, by repeated and unusual fires, and burning of
give us too much room to suspect, that some of them at least, did not
from mere chance, or common accidents; but on the contrary, from the
premeditated malice and wicked pursuits of evil and designing persons;
therefore, it greatly behoves us to use our utmost diligence, by all
ways and means, to discover the contrivers and perpetrators of such
flagitious undertakings: that, upon conviction, they may receive
punishment. . . .
am told there are several prisoners now in
jail, who have been committed by the city magistrates, upon suspicion
been concerned in some of the late fires; and others, who under
assisting the unhappy sufferers, by saving their goods from the flames,
stealing, or receiving them. This indeed, is adding affliction to the
afflicted, and is a very great aggravation of such crime, and therefore
deserves a narrow inquiry: that so the exemplary punishment of the
any such should be so found) may deter others from committing the like
for this kind of stealing, I think, has not been often practiced among
or the malicious and voluntary burning,
not only a mansion house, but also any other house, and the out
barns, and stables adjoining thereto, by night or by day, is felony at
law; and if any part of the house be burned, the offender is guilty of
notwithstanding the fire afterwards be put out, or go out of itself.
crime is of so shocking a nature, that if
we have any in this city, who, having been guilty thereof, should
can say he is safe, or tell where it will end?
Thing which I cannot omit recommending
to your serious and diligent inquiry is to find out and present all
persons who sell rum and other strong liquor to negroes. It must be
obvious to everyone,
that there are too many of them in this city; who, under pretence of
what they call a penny dram to a negro, will sell to him as many quarts
gallons of rum, as he can steal money or goods to pay for.
"How this notion of its being lawful to sell a penny dram, or a pennyworth of rum to a slave, without the consent or direction of his master, has prevailed, I know not; but this I am sure of, that there is not only no such law, but that the doing of it is directly contrary to an act of the assembly now in force, for the better regulating of slaves. The many fatal consequences flowing from this prevailing and wicked practice, are so notorious, and so nearly concern us all, that one would be almost surprised, to think there should be a necessity for a court to recommend a suppressing of such pernicious houses: thus much in particular; now in general.
charge, gentlemen, further is, to present
all conspiracies, combinations, and other offences, from treasons down
trespasses; and in your inquiries, the oath you, and each of you have
taken will, I am persuaded, be your guide, and I pray God to direct and
you in the discharge of your duty."
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22
grand jury having been informed, that Mary Burton
could give them some account concerning the goods stolen from Mr.
for her this morning, and ordered she should be sworn; the constable
and acquainted them, that she said she would not be sworn, nor give
whereupon they ordered the constable to get a warrant from a
bring her before them. The constable was some time gone, but at length
returned, and brought her with him; and being asked why she would not
and give her evidence? she told the grand jury she would not be sworn;
seemed to be under some great uneasiness, or terrible apprehensions;
suspicion that she knew something concerning the fires that had lately
happened: and being asked a question to that purpose, she gave no
increased the jealousy that she was privy to them; and as it was
matter of the utmost concern, the grand jury was very importunate, and
many arguments with her, in public and private, to persuade her to
truth, and tell all she knew about it. To this end, the lieutenant
proclamation was read to her, promising indemnity and the reward of one
pounds to any person, confederate or not, who should make discovery,
seemed to despise it, nor could the grand jury by any means, either
promises, prevail upon her, though they assured her withal, that she
the protection of the magistrates, and her person be safe and secure
but hitherto all was in vain: therefore the grand jury desired alderman
to commit her; and the constable was charged with her accordingly; but
had got her to jail, she considered better of it, and resolved to be
give her evidence in the afternoon.
she being sworn, came before the grand
jury; but as they were proceeding to her examination, and before they
any questions, she told them she would acquaint them with what she knew
relating to the goods stolen from Mr. Hogg's, but would say nothing
expression thus, as it were providentially,
slipping from the evidence, much alarmed the grand jury; for, as they
concluded, it did by construction amount to an affirmative, that she
an account of the occasion of the several fires; and therefore, as it
became those gentlemen in the discharge of their trust, they determined
their utmost diligence to sift out the discovery, but still she
inflexible, till at length, having recourse to religious topics,
to her the heinousness of the crime which she would be guilty of, if
privy to, and could discover so wicked a design, as the firing houses
ears; whereby not only people's estates would be destroyed, but many
might lose their lives in the flames: this she would have to answer for
day of judgment, as much as any person immediately concerned, because
have prevented this destruction, and would not; so that a most damnable
would lie at her door; and what need she fear from her divulging it;
sure of the protection of the magistrates? or the grand jury expressed
themselves in words to the same purpose; which arguments at last
she gave the following evidence, which however, notwithstanding what
said, came from her, as if still under some terrible apprehensions or
Deposition, No. 1. - Mary Burton, being sworn, deposeth,
"That Prince and Caesar brought the things of
which they had robbed Mr. Hogg, to her master, John Hughson's house,
they were handed in through the window, Hughson, his wife, and Peggy
them, about two or three o'clock on a Sunday morning.
"That Caesar, Prince, and Mr. Philipse's
negro man (Cuffee) used to meet frequently at her master's house, and
had heard them (the negroes) talk frequently of burning the fort; and
would go down to the fly and burn the whole town; and that her master
mistress said, they would aid and assist them as much as they could.
"That in their common conversation they used
to say, that when all this was done, Caesar should be governor, and
her master, should be king.
"That Cuffee used to say, that a great many
people had too much, and others too little; that his old master had a
deal of money, but that, in a short time, he should have less, and that
should have more.
"That at the same time when the things of
which Mr. Hogg was robbed, were brought to her master's house, they
some indigo and bees wax, which was likewise received by her master and
"That at the meetings of the three aforesaid
negroes, Caesar, Prince, and Cuffee, at her master's house, they used
in their conversations, that when they set fire to the town, they would
in the night, and as the white people came to extinguish it, they would
and destroy them.
"That she has known at times, seven or eight
guns in her master's house, and some swords, and that she has seen
thirty negroes at one time in her master's house; and that at such
meetings, the three aforesaid negroes, Cuffee, Prince, and Caesar, were
generally present, and most active, and that they used to say, that the
negroes durst not refuse to do what they commanded them, and they were
that they had a number sufficient to stand by them.
"That Hughson (her master) and her mistress
used to threaten, that if she, the deponent, ever made mention of the
stolen from Mr. Hogg, they would poison her; and the negroes swore, if
published, or discovered the design of burning the town, they would
whenever they met her.
"That she never saw any white person in
company when they talked of burning the town, but her master, her
evidence of a conspiracy, not only to burn the city,
but also destroy and murder the people, was most astonishing to the
and that any white people should become so abandoned as to confederate
slaves in such an execrable and detestable purpose, could not but be
amazing to everyone that heard it; what could scarce be credited; but
several fires had been occasioned by some combination of villains, was,
time of them, naturally to be collected from the manner and
The grand jury therefore, as it was a matter of the utmost consequence, thought it necessary to inform the judges concerning it, in order that the most effectual measures might be concerted, for discovering the confederates; and the judges were acquainted with it accordingly.
THURSDAY, APRIL 23
was considered, that though there was an act of
the province for trying negroes, as in other colonies, for all manner
offences by the justices, etc. in a summary way; yet as this was a
scheme of villainy
in which white people were confederated with them, and most probably
first movers and seducers of the slaves; from the nature of such a
there was reason to apprehend there was a conspiracy of deeper design
dangerous contrivance than the slaves themselves were capable of; it
thought a matter that required great secrecy, as well as the
in the conduct of the inquiry concerning it: and upon the whole, it was
most advisable, as there was an absolute necessity that a matter of
and consequence should be fathomed as soon as possible. . . .
Kerry, commonly called Peggy, committed for
Hogg's Robbery, being impeached by Mary Burton, as one of the
judges examined her in prison in the evening; they exhorted her to make
ingenuous confession and discovery of what she knew of it, and gave her
of their recommendation to the governor for a pardon, if they could be
opinion that she deserved it, assuring her (as the case was) that they
honour's permission to give hopes of mercy to such criminals as should
their guilt, and they should think proper to recommend to him as fit
objects; but she withstood it, and positively denied that she knew any
the matter; and said, that if she should accuse any body of any such
must accuse innocent persons, and wrong her own soul She had this day
examined by the grand jury, and positively denied knowing any thing
FRIDAY, MAY 1
[Caesar and Prince were arraigned on charges of two robberies, one at Hoggs' and the other at Cohen's.]
To each of which indictments they pleaded, not guilty.
The prisoners upon their defence denied the charge against them.
the evidence being summed up,
which was very strong and full, and the jury charged, they withdrew;
returned, found them guilty of the indictments.
SUNDAY, MAY 3
Price, servant to captain Vincent Pearse, having
been committed, upon a charge of stealing out of his master's house
goods belonging to the lieutenant governor, which had been removed
safe custody from the fire at the fort; he informed the undersheriff,
had some discourse in the jail with Peggy, which he would communicate
magistrate: the under-sheriff acquainted one of the judges therewith,
examined Price in the evening, and the following deposition was taken.
Deposition, No. 1. -Arthur Price being duly sworn, saith,
1. "That about the beginning of last week, Peggy Carey, or Kerry,
in jail, came to the hole in the prison door, in
which he is confined, and told him, she was very much afraid of those
(meaning the negroes, as he understood) telling or discovering
her; but, said she, if they do, by God, I will hang them everyone; but
would not forswear herself,
unless they brought her in. Upon which the deponents asked her, Peggy,
yourself? To which she answered, there is fourteen sworn.
Upon which he
further asked her, what, is it about Mr. Hogg's goods? And she replied,
G-d, about the fire. Upon which the deponent said to her, what, Peggy,
a going to set the town on fire? And she made answer, she was not; but
G-d, since I knew of it, they made me swear. Upon which the deponent
was John and his wife in it? (meaning John Hughson and his wife.) And
answered, yes, by G-d; they were both sworn as well as the rest. Then
deponent asked her, if she was not afraid that the negroes would
And she said no; for Prince, Cuff and Caesar, and Forck's (Vaarck's)
were all true-hearted fellows. Then he asked her, if Caesar was not
negro? And she answered, no, by G-d, it was the other; but what other
he did not know.
2. "That yesterday in the afternoon the said Peggy came to him again, and told him, she had no stomach to eat her victuals; for that bitch (meaning Hughson's maid as he understood) has fetched me in, and made me as black as the rest, about the indigo, and Mr. Hogg's goods: but if they did hang the two poor fellows below (meaning Caesar and Prince, as understood) they (meaning the rest of the negroes) would be revenged on them yet; but if they sent them away, it was another case. Upon which this deponent said to Peggy, I don't doubt but they will endeavor to poison this girl that has sworn, (meaning Hughson's maid.) And Peggy replied, no, by G-d, I don't believe that; but they will be revenged on them some other ways: And she further said to the deponent, for your life and soul of you, you son of a b-h, don't speak a word of what I have told you."
WEDNESDAY, MAY 6
[John and Sarah Hughson
and Peggy Kerry were all
indicted for receiving stolen goods on March 3. All pled not
The conviction of Caesar and Prince read.
examination of Hughson
before the justices read.
the charge against them
being fully proved; the evidence summed upon; the arguments closed, and
jury charged, they withdrew; and being returned, found them all guilty.
Hughson, single woman, daughter of John Hughson
and Sarah his wife, was this morning committed as one of the
the conspiracy, being apprehended while the court was sitting.
(Sleydall's negro) was this day committed on
suspicion of putting fire to Mr. Murray's haystack.
THURSDAY, MAY 6Deposition taken before the judges – No. 2. Arthur Price being duly sworn, saith,
"That yesterday morning having discourse with
Sarah, the daughter of John Hughson, about the fires which have lately
in the town; she told him, that she had been with a fortune teller, who
that in less than five weeks time, she would come to trouble, if she
take good care of herself; but after that she would come to good
he inquired of her father's fortune; and she said, her father would be
and condemned, but not hanged; but was to go over the water.
"That then, after some other discourse, the
deponent told her, that some of' the negroes who were concerned in the
about the fires, had discovered; upon which she said, she did not know
plot; and thereupon he told her, that they that were sworn in the plot,
discovered, and brought them everyone in: upon which she coloured, and
bonnet back, and changed colour several times, and asked him if he knew
was and when he had heard it? and he told her, he had heard it by the
it was kept private: upon which she made a long stop; and then said, it
either Holt's negro, or Todd's; for, said she, we were always afraid of
and mistrusted them, though they were as bad as the rest, and were to
their own master's houses on fire; and then she said, I wish that Todd
his black dog away, or sold him, when he was going to do it.
"That then the deponent told her, sure you
had better tell every thing that you know; for that may be of some
your father; upon which she said no, for that they were doing all that
could to take his life away; and that she would sooner suffer death,
and be hanged
with her daddy (if he was to be hanged) than she would give them that
satisfaction of telling or discovering any thing to them; or words to
effect: that she was to have gone up into the country (like a fool that
that she did not go) but staid to see what would become of her mammy
but that now she would go up in the country, and that she would be
ever they should get her in York again; but if they (meaning the people
city, as he understood) had not better care of themselves, they would
great deal more damage and danger in York, than they were aware of; and
did hang her daddy, they had better do something else; and as to the
the fort, they did not set the saddle on the right horse.
"That on Monday last Peggy came to him, and
bid him not discover any thing for his life, that she had told him; for
did, by G-d she would cut his throat.
"The deponent further saith, that as to the
expression made use of by Sarah Hughson, viz., As to the fire at the
did not set the saddle on the right horse; the occasion of these words
deponents telling her, that they had been picking out of him what they
concerning the fire at the fort, and thought that he knew something of
he said to her, that he took God to be his judge, that he did not know
thing of it.
the information by this deposition,
The other negro was at this time gone with his master (Holt) a dancing master, to Jamaica, in the West Indies, who thought it proper to remove from hence soon after the fire at the fort.
FRIDAY, MAY 8
[Caesar and Prince, having been found guilty of larceny, were sentenced by Judge Philipse.]
before I proceed to sentence, I must tell you,
that you have been proceeded against in the same manner as any white
of your crimes, would have been. You had not only the liberty of
your witnesses; asking them such questions as you thought proper; but
making the best defence you could; and as you have been convicted by
honest men upon their oaths, so the just judgment of God has at length
have great reason to believe, that the crimes
you now stand convicted of, are not the least of those you have been
in; for by your general characters you have been very wicked fellows,
sinners, and ripe, as well as ready, for the most enormous and daring
especially you, Caesar: and as the time you have yet to live is to be
short, I earnestly advise and exhort both of you to employ it in the
and best manner you can, by confessing your sins, repenting sincerely
and praying God of his infinite goodness to have mercy on your souls:
God knows the secrets of your hearts, and cannot be cheated or imposed
you must shortly give an account to him, and answer for all your
depend upon it, if you do not truly repent before you die, there is a
punish the wicked eternally.
as it is not in your powers to make full
restitution for the many injuries you have done the public; so 1 advise
you to do all that in you is, to prevent further mischief’s, by
such persons as have been concerned with you, in designing or
burn this city, and to destroy its inhabitants. This 1 am fully
persuaded is in
your power to do if you will; if so, and you do not make such
assured God Almighty will punish you for it, though we do not:
advise you to consider this well, and 1 hope both of you will tell the
now, notl1mg further remains for me to say,
but that you Caesar, and you Prince, are to be taken hence to the place
whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution, and there
each of you, are to be hanged by the neck until you be dead. And I pray
Lord to have mercy on your souls."
that their execution be on Monday next, the
eleventh day of this instant, between the hours of nine and one of the
day. And further ordered that after the execution of the said sentence,
of Caesar be hung in chains.
MONDAY, MAY 11
and Prince were executed this day at the gallows,
according to sentence. They died very stubbornly, without confessing
about the conspiracy; and denied they knew any thing of it to the last.
body of Caesar was accordingly hung in chains.
These two negroes bore the characters of very wicked idle fellows; had before been detected in some robberies, for which they had been publicly chastised at the whipping-post, and were persons of most obstinate and untractable tempers; so that there was no expectation of drawing any thing from them which would make for the discovery of the conspiracy, though there seemed good reason to conclude, as well from their characters as what had been charged upon them by information from others, that they were two principal ringleaders in it amongst the blacks. It was thought proper to execute them for the robbery, and not wait for the bringing them to a trial for the conspiracy, though the proof against them was strong and clear concerning their guilt as to that also; and it was imagined, that as stealing and plundering was a principal part of the he1lish scheme in agitation, amongst the inferior sort of these infernal confederates, this earnest of example and punishment might break the knot, and induce some of them to unfold this mystery of iniquity, in hopes thereby to recommend themselves to mercy, and it is probable, that with some it had this effect.