A Journal of the Proceedings in the Detection of the Conspiracy (1744):
The Trial of the Hughsons and Peggy Kerry
MONDAY, JUNE 1
About noon this day, the under-sheriff informed the recorder, that John Hughson wanted to speak to the judges, and (as he had said) to open his heart to them, and they should know more, and was very urgent that somebody should go to them to acquaint them therewith. Pursuant to Hughson's desire, the recorder did go up to the City-Hall in the afternoon, expecting he would make some material discovery, and having sent for him, he was asked, what it was that he wanted with the judges? Whereupon Hughson asked if there was a bible, and desired that he might be sworn. He was told that no oath would be administered to him; if he had any thing to say, he had free liberty to speak, but he wanted very much to be sworn. The recorder thereupon reproached him with his wicked life and practices, debauching and corrupting of negroes, and encouraging them to steal and pilfer from their masters and others, and for shewing his children so wicked an example, training them up in the highway to hell. He further observed to him, that he, his wife, and Peggy, then stood convicted of a felony for receiving stolen goods of negroes; and that now nothing remained but to pass sentence to death upon them, and to appoint a day for their execution for that fact; but that it was now determined, that he, his wife and daughter, and Peggy, should also be tried for being confederated in this most horrible conspiracy; that the evidence would appear so strong and clear against them in this particular, that there was little doubt of their being all convicted upon that head also; that it would appear undeniably that he was a principal, and head agent in this detestable scheme of villainy; the chief abettor, together with the rest of his family, of this execrable and monstrous contrivance for shedding the blood of his neighbours, and laying the whole city in ashes, upon the expectation of enriching himself by such an inhuman and execrable undertaking. He therefore admonished him, if he would entertain the least hopes of recommending himself to the mercy of God Almighty, before whose tribunal he must soon appear, that he would ingenuously tell the truth, and lay open the whole scene of this dark tragedy, which had been brooding at his house, and discover the several parties he knew to have been engaged in it; in doing which he would make some atonement for his past villainies, by preventing that slaughter, bloodshed and devastation, which he and his confederates had intended; or the recorder expressed himself in words to this purpose. But hereupon Hughson put on a soft smiling air of innocence upon his countenance, again desiring that he might be sworn, which was refused him, and he then declared, he knew nothing of all of any conspiracy, and called God to witness his protestations, that he was as innocent with respect to that charge as the child unborn, and also his wife, daughter and Peggy, for aught he knew.
Whereupon the Recorder remanded him to jail.
Whether the man was struck with a compunction, or flattered himself with making a merit by his discovery, and thereby recommended himself to mercy, and that he should so save his life; or whether he imagined that if he could be sworn, and then make the most solemn protestations with the sanction of an oath, that this would give such strong impressions of his innocence, as might make way for his escape; what his view was can only be guessed at; but several who were by him in the jail when he expressed his desire of having the opportunity of speaking with the judges, as above mentioned, concluded from his condition and behaviour at that instant, that he was then really in earnest to lay open this scene of villainy; but it was thought that in two or three hours afterwards, his wife or others had got the better of him, and prevailed with him to change his mind, and desist from his former resolution.
[On June 2, the Hughsons and Kerry were indicted on a charge of aiding and abetting the burning of the fort. They had previously pled not guilty to the charge of receiving stolen goods. On June 4, Kerry, and the Hughsons' daughter (Sarah) and her parents were indicted for aiding and abetting the burning of Philipse's storehouse.]
THURSDAY, JUNE 4
The King against John Hughson, Sarah his wife, Sarah their daughter, Margaret Sorubiero alias Kerry.
Clerk in court: Cryer, make proclamation.
Cryer: O yes! Our sovereign lord the king doth strictly charge and command all manner of persons to keep silence upon pain of imprisonment.
Cryer: If anyone can inform the king's justices or Attorney General for this province, or the inquest now to be taken on the behalf of our sovereign lord the king, of any treason, murder, felony, or any other misdemeanor committed or done by the prisoners at the bar, let them come forth, and they shall be heard, for the prisoners stand upon their deliverance.
Clerk: Cryer, make proclamation.
Cryer: 0 yes! You good men that are impanelled to inquire between our sovereign lord the king and John Hughson, Sarah his wife, Sarah Hughson the daughter, and Margaret Sorubiero alias Kerry, the prisoners at the bar, answer to your names, etc.
Clerk: John Hughson, Sarah the wife of John Hughson, Sarah the daughter of John Hughson, Margaret Sorubiero, alias Kerry, hold up your hands.
These good men that are now called and here appear, are those which are to pass between you and our sovereign lord the king, upon your lives or deaths, if you, or any, or either of you challenge any of them, you must speak as they come to the book to be sworn, and before they are sworn.
Court: You the prisoners at the bar, we must inform you that the law allows you the liberty of challenging peremptorily twenty of the jurors, if you have any dislike to them, and you need not give your reasons for so doing; and you may likewise challenge as many more as you can give sufficient reasons for; and you may either all join in your challenges, or make them separately.
The prisoners agreed that John Hughson should challenge for them all.
[At Hughson's challenging (among others) a young gentleman, merchant of the town, Peggy seemed out of humour, and intimated that he had challenged one of the best of them all; which occasioned some mirth to those within the hearing of it.]
Clerk: Cryer, make proclamation.
Cryer: O yes! Our sovereign lord the king doth strictly charge and command all manner of persons to keep silence, upon pain of imprisonment.
Clerk: You, gentlemen of the jury that are sworn, look upon the prisoners and hearken to their charge.
The Attorney General, after opening to the court and jury the charge against the prisoners, proceeded as followeth.
"I shall in the first place, on the trial of the prisoners upon these indictments, shew you, that the negroes Quack and Cuffee, mentioned in the second and third of them, have already been tried, found guilty, and executed for the felonies and burnings which these indictments charge them to have been guilty of: that they confessed the same at the place of their execution; and that the evidence which Mary Burton gave against them at their trial, was true, in every respect.
"In the next place, gentlemen, I am to shew you, what share each of the prisoners at the bar had in these most horrible felonies.
[The Attorney General opened by accusing the three women of being sworn members of the plot to destroy
"I shall now endeavour to represent to you the part which Hughson himself has acted in this tragedy.
"Gentlemen, it will appear to you in the course of the evidence for the king upon this trial, that John Hughson was the chief contriver, abetter and encourager of all this mystery of iniquity; that it was he who advised and procured secret and frequent meetings of the negroes, and the rest of the conspirators at his house, there to form and carryon these horrible conspiracies. That it was he that swore the negroes Quack and Cuffee, with many others, and himself too, into this direful plot. That it was he who devised firebrands, death and destruction to be sent among you. That it was he who received of negroes twelve pounds in money, stolen money, no doubt (and what he could not but know to be so) to buy arms and ammunition, to kill and destroy his neighbours: and that he in pursuance thereof, made a journey on purpose to buy, and did procure arms and ammunition, and hid them in his house, against such time as this unnatural and bloody scheme should be ripe for execution.
"Gentlemen, such a monster will this Hughson appear before you, that for the sake of the plunder he expected by setting in flames the king's house, and this whole city, and by the effusion of the blood of his neighbours, he, murderous and remorseless he! counselled and encouraged the committing of all these most astonishing deeds of darkness, cruelty and inhumanity.-Infamous Hughson!
"Gentlemen, This is that Hughson! whose name and most detestable conspiracies will no doubt be had in everlasting remembrance, to his eternal reproach';--and stand recorded to latest posterity. - This is the man!-this that grand incendiary!-that arch rebel against God, his king, and his country!-that devil incarnate, and chief agent of the old Abaddon of the infernal pit, and Geryon of darkness.
"Gentlemen, behold the author and abettor of all the late conflagrations, terrors, and devastation that have befallen this city. - Was not this Hughson sunk below the dignity of human nature! was he not abandoned to all sense of shame and remorse! to all sense of feeling and dreadful calamities he has brought on this city, and his own guilt, his monstrous guilt, be so confounded, as not able to look up, or stand without the greatest confusion of face, before this court and audience; but would openly confess his, and the rest of his wretched confederates' guilt, and humbly ask pardon of God, the king, and his injured country.
"Gentlemen, we shall now call, and examine the witnesses, who will prove the crimes charged upon each of the four criminals; and when we have so done, I doubt not but you will find all of them guilty."
Witnesses for the king.-Mr. George Joseph Moore, clerk in court, and Mr. John Roosevelt called and sworn.
Mr. Moore proved the arraignment and conviction of the two negroes, Quack and Cuffee, for burning the king's house in the fort, and Mr. Philipse's storehouse. Both witnesses proved the confessions of these two negroes, taken in writing at the stake, "that they declared, that Hughson was the first contriver and promoter of the plot, and urged them into it; and that they should never have thought of it, if he had not put it into their heads. That Quack said, the plot was to burn the houses."
Mr. Moore proved Cuffee's confession, more particularly taken in writing by him, "that, as Quack said, the plot was to burn the houses of the town; Cuffee said likewise, that the plot was, to kill the people; and that both of them declared, that what Mary Burton had given in evidence upon their trials, was true; and that she could name many more (persons) concerned: all which Mr. Roosevelt confirmed."*
Court to the prisoners: Have you any questions to ask these witnesses?
the prisoners answered, nothing.
Joseph North, Peter Lynch, and John Dunscomb, called and sworn.
North and Lynch proved, "that there was a cabal of negroes at Hughson's last Whitsuntide was twelve months, ten, twelve, or fourteen of them; which they having intelligence of went down thither in order to disperse them; and when they came there, they went into the room where the negroes were round a table, eating and drinking, for there was meat on the table, and knives and forks; and the negroes were calling for what they wanted; and at their appearance, the negroes were making off as fast as they could, and North laid his cane about them, and soon cleared the room of them: they said, they thought that Peggy was waiting upon them, and had a tumbler in her hand for them to drink in; that they saw the negro who was then hanged in gibbets at that time waiting at the door, in order to get in as they took it: that they had heard frequent complaints of Hughson's entertaining negroes there; they said, that John Hughson was at the door, and as they came away, they reproached him therewith; and he answered them, that he could not help it, it was his wife's fault."
Court to the prisoners: Have you any questions to ask these witnesses? - They had nothing to ask.
(While Mary Burton was delivering her evidence, Hughson and his wife were crying and bemoaning themselves, and embracing and kissing their daughter Sarah; and Hughson the father, intimated what care they had taken in catechizing her, and the rest of their children, and teaching them to read the bible, and breeding them up in the fear of the Lord. And in order (as may be supposed) to move compassion in the court and jury, Hughson's wife brought thither a sucking child at her breast, which was ordered to be taken away.) .
Mary Burton .rurther said, "that at such great meetings of negroes at Hughson's, Caesar (Vaarck's) and Prince (Auboyneau's) negroes (that were hanged) and Cuffee (Philipse's) were usually amongst them.
"That Hughson swore the negroes into the plot, and the Hughsons swore themselves and Peggy; that one of Hughson's daughters carried a bible up stairs, and the Hughsons carried the negroes into a private room; and when they came down again to the rest of the negroes, Hughson said they were all sworn; but the witness said, she did not see them sworn."
(Upon the witness saying, that a bible was carried up stairs, Hughson's wife interrupted and said to her, as if much surprised, now you are found out in a great lie, for we never had a bible in the world; which the audience, considering what her husband declared but a little before, were much diverted with.)
Mary Burton further said, "that she saw Vaarck's Caesar pay John Hughson twelve pounds in silver Spanish pieces of eight, to buy guns, swords and pistols; and that Hughson thereupon went up into the country; and when he returned, he brought with him seven or eight guns and swords, and that he hid them in the house; that she had seen a bag of shot and a barrel of gunpowder there; that the negroes were sworn to burn the fort first; and that they were to go down to the Fly, and so to burn the whole town; and the negroes were to cut their masters' and their mistresses' throats; and when all this was done, Hughson was to be king, and Caesar (Vaarck's) governor: that the negroes used to say to Hughson, when she (the witness) was in the room and heard them talking of burning the town and killing the people, that perhaps she (the witness) would tell; and Hughson said, no, that she dared not; and the negroes swore that if she did, they would burn or destroy her.
"That the Hughsons often tempted her to swear, and offered her silks and gold rings, in order to prevail with her, but she would not."
(The prisoners asked. the witnesses no material questions, such only as seemed rather to imply their guilt; but some of them threw up their hands, and cast up their eyes, as if astonished, and said, she was a very wicked creature, and protested all she said was false.)
Arthur Price called and sworn.
His evidence was the substance of his deposition, No.1, 2, 3, of the third, seventh and twelfth May, as to what passed in conversation in the jail between him and Peggy, Sarah Hughson the daughter, and Mr. Philipse's Cuffee separately; and therefore to avoid repetition, the reader is referred to them.
Court to the prisoners: If you have any questions to ask these witnesses, now is your time to propose them; or if you have any witnesses to produce to your characters, let them be called.
Witnesses for the prisoners. - Eleanor Ryan, Mr. Blanck and Peter Kirby called.
Eleanor Ryan * said, "that she and her husband lodged two months in Hughson's house last winter; that she saw no negroes there but Cuff (Philipse's) and the negro that was hung in gibbets, three or four times; that she never saw any entertainments there for negroes, but said that she lay sick in bed in the kitchen almost day and night all that time."
Mr. Blanck said, "he saw Hughson give a dram to a negro, but
that he thought him a civil man."
Peter Kirby said, "that he knew nothing of the character of Hughson's house, but he never saw no harm of him."
Francis Silvester called and sworn for the king. He said, "that when John Hughson lived next door to him upon the dock, he kept a very disorderly house, and sold liquor to, and entertained negroes there; he had often seen many of them there at a time, at nights as well as in the daytime: once in particular he remembers, in the evening, he saw a great many of them in a room, dancing to a fiddle, and Hughson's wife and daughter along with them. That he often reproached Hughson with keeping such a disorderly house, which very much offended his neighbours; and Hughson replied to him, that his wife persuaded him to leave the country, where he subsisted his family tolerably well by his trade* and his farm; but his wife said, they would live much better in town, though then he wished they had returned to the country again, for he found their gains were so small, and his family so large, that they soon run away with what they had got: that his wife was the chief cause of having the negroes at his house, and he was afJ.-aid some misfortune would happen to him, and that. he should come to some untimely end, or that Hughson expressed himself in words to that effect."
Court to the prisoners: Have you any more witnesses?
Prisoners: Yes sir; we desire that Adam King and Gerardus Comfort may be called.
Adam King and Gerardus Comfort called.
King said "that of late he took Hughson's house to be disorderly; for he saw whole companies of negroes playing at dice there, and that Wyncoop's negro once carried a silver spoon there that was hammered down; that he saw no harm of the man himself."
Attorney General (to Hughson): Have you any more such witnesses as this?
Comfort said "that he saw nothing amiss of him; his business was a cooper, and that he was often abroad, and went very seldom to his house."
Court: Mr. Comfort, you are a next door neighbour to Hughson: you live opposite to him, and surely you must have seen negroes go in and out there often, as the witnesses have testified, that there were frequent caballings with the negroes there; pray what have you observed of the house since Hughson came to live there?
Comfort: I have seen nothing amiss; I have seen no harm there.
Court [to the prisoners]: Have you any more witnesses?
Hughson: We have no more, sir.
Court: Then now is the time for you the prisoners, severally to offer
what you can in your own defence, that then the counsel for the king may sum up the evidence.
Then the prisoners severally spoke in their justification in their turns, protested their innocence, and declared that all the witnesses said against them was false, and called upon God to witness their asseverations.
[Prosecutor William Smith summed up the evidence of the prosecution. He described Hughson as the ''principal contriver" and urged the jury to find all four guilty.]
A constable being sworn to attend the jury, they withdrew, and being returned in a short time, found Hughson, his wife, and Kerry, guilty of all three indictments; and Sarah Hughson the daughter, guilty of the second and third.
MONDAY, JUNE 8
The King against John Hughson, Sarah his wife, Margaret Hughson (Sorubiero), alias Kerry, Sarah the daughter.
The prisoners being called up to judgment upon their conviction for the conspiracy, and placed at the bar, the second justice proceeded to pass sentence, as followeth.
"John Hughson, and you the rest of the prisoners at the bar.
''You are now brought before this court to receive that sentence
which the law has appointed for your offences; though I cannot say the punishment is adequate to the horrid crimes of which you stand convicted. The Roman commonwealth was established some hundred years before any law was made against parricide, they not thinking any person capable of so atrocious a crime; yours are indeed as singular, and unheard of before, they are such as one would scarce believe any man capable of committing, especially anyone who had heard of a God and a future state; for people who have been brought up and always lived in a Christian country, and also called themselves Christians, to be guilty not only of making negro slaves their equals, but even their superiors, by waiting upon, keeping with, and entertaining them with meat, drink and lodging, and what is much more amazing, to plot, conspire, consult, abet and encourage these black seed of Cain, to burn this city, and to kill and destroy us all. Good God! when I reflect on the disorders, confusion, desolation and havock, which the effect of your most wicked, most detestable and diabolical councils might have produced (had not the hand of our great and good God interposed) it shocks me! for you, who would have burnt and destroyed without mercy, ought to be served in like manner; and although each of you have with an uncommon assurance, denied the fact, and audaciously called upon God as a witness of your innocence; yet it hath pleased him, out of his unbounded goodness and mercy to us, to confound your devices, and cause your malicious and wicked machinations and intentions to be laid open and clear before us, not only to the satisfaction and conviction of the court, the grand and petty jury,  but likewise to everyone else that has heard the evidence against you: all are satisfied the just judgment of God has overtaken you, and that you justly merit a more severe death than is intended for you, having, in my opinion, been much worse than the negroes: however, though your crimes deserve it, yet we must not act contrary to law."
Ordered, That the said condemned prisoners be executed on Friday the twelfth day of June instant, between the hours of nine and one of the same day; and that the body of John Hughson be afterwards hung in chains.
[Six slaves were tried and found guilty; five were condemned to death by burning at the stake and the sixth to death by hanging.]
This evening captain Jack (Comfort's negro) condemned, amongst others [in a trial of June 6-8], to be executed to-morrow afternoon, had caused to be signified to the judges, that if his life might be spared, he would discover all that he knew of the conspiracy. From the course of the evidence, there was reason to conclude that he had been a most trusty and diligent agent for Hughson; he lived very near him, and his master was frequently absent from home for days and weeks together, which left him too much at liberty; and there was a well in his yard whereto many negroes resorted every day, morning and afternoon, to fetch tea water; and Hughson, no doubt, thought he had carried a great point when he had seduced captain Jack to his infamous schemes, for this gave him the greatest opportunities of corrupting his fellow slaves; and Jack was a crafty, subtle fellow, very well qualified for such an enterprize, and might be captivated with the fine promises and hopes given him of being not only a free, but a great man; a commander in this band of fools, of whom the greatest knaves perhaps (like fools too) projected to make a prey in the end. It was therefore thought proper, as this mystery of iniquity was yet but beginning to be unfolded, so far to accept Jack's offer as to respite his execution, till it was found how well he would deserve further favour.
Jack was examined before the judges this afternoon, and was under examination the next day, when his fellow criminals were carrying from the City-Hall to their execution. He was advised not to flatter himself with the hopes of life, without he would do the utmost in his power to deserve it, and that would be by telling freely all that he knew of the matter, and discovering all the parties concerned, to the best of his knowledge. He was told we were already let so far into this secret, as to persons and things, as to be able to give a good guess, whether he spoke the truth, and he would but deceive himself in the end if he told falsehoods. Jack looked very serious, and at length began to open, but his dialect was so perfectly negro and unintelligible, it was thought that it would be impossible to make any thing of him without the help of an interpreter. There were two young men, sons-in-law of Jack's master, who were aware Jack would not be understood without their aid, and they signified their desire of being by when he was examined, from a supposition that they might be of service in interpreting his meaning, as he had been used to them, having often worked in the same shop together at the cooper's trade, whereby he was so familiarized to them, they could make a shift to understand his language, and they thought they had such an influence over him, that they were persuaded, they could also prevail upon him to make an ingenuous confession; and to do them justice, they were very serviceable in both respects, and the event well answered the expectation they had given. But notwithstanding this assistance, his examination took up as much time of three successive days, morning and afternoon, as could conveniently be spared him from other business.
Several negroes concerned in the conspiracy,' having been discovered by Jack in this first sitting, were apprehended the next morning early, pursuant to orders then immediately given, but there was not time to commit his confession to writing this evening, yet it is thought proper to set the same forth as of this day. Jack desired he might be removed from the cell where his fellow criminals, condemned with him, were lodged, and his request was granted'
Examination and Confession of Jack (Comfort's) before one of the judges, No. 1.-He said,
1. "That a little after new year, on a Monday, about four in the afternoon, Ben Capt. Marshall's) came to Comfort's house to fetch tea water, where he left his keg in the shop, and went to Hughson's house (Hughson and his wife then gone into the country); Ben staid about two hours there, and then returned to Comfort's, and told Jack that he had met there six Spaniards, among whom were Anthony and Wan
(now in jail) and said to him, countryman, I have heard some good news: what news said Jack? Ben said there were Spanish negroes at Hughson's, who told him they had designs of taking this country against the wars came; what would they do with this country? said Jack, to which Ben answered, oh! you fool, those Spaniards know better than
2. "That the Sunday following Hughson and his wife came home, and brought a goose, a quarter of mutton, and a fowl home. That Ben came a little after church out, in the afternoon, to Comfort's, and told him; brother go to Hughson's, all our company is come down: he went with Ben thither, and went round the house and went in at the back door; when he came there they sat all round the table, and had a goose, a quarter of mutton, a fowl, and two loaves of bread: Hughson took a flask of rum out of a case and set it on the table, and two bowls of. punch were made; some drink dram; a cloth was laid:
"Quash (H. Rutgers's negro); Caesar (Koertrecht's); Powlus, a Spanish negro; Toby, or Cato (Provoost's); Cato (Shurmur's); Cook (Comfort's); John (Vaarck's); York and London (Marschalk's); Ticklepitcher (Carpenter's); Francis (Bosch's); Bastian, alias Tom Peal; Scipio (Mrs. Van Borsom's); Ben (captain Marshall's) were all present, and also six Spanish negroes, among whom were Wan and Anthony, and a negro lately belonging to John Marschalk, the three others he should know if he saw them; Hughson, and his wife, and daughter sat down on one side of the table, and the negroes on the other: two or three tables were put together to make it long; Hughson's daughter brought in the victuals, and just as he came in Sarah brought the cloth and laid it; Mary Burton did not come into the room, but Hughson said she was above making a bed; Peggy came down stairs and sat down by Hughson's wife at the table, and eat with them; when they were eating they began all to talk about setting the houses on fire, and Hughson asked Ben, who would be the head man or captain for to rise? Ben said yes, he would stand for that, and said he could find a gun, shot and powder, at his master's house, that his master did not watch him, he could go into every room: Ben asked Quash, what will you stand for? he said he did not care what he stood for, or should be, but he could kill three, four, five white men before night.
3. "That Quash said he could get two half dozen of knives inpapers, three or four swords; and that he would set his master's house on fire, and when he had done that, he would come abroad to fight.
4. "That Marschalk's
him, and he would kill her before he went out to fight.
to fight, he would set his master's house on fire.
6. "Scipio (Van Borsom's negro) said he would set his mistress's
house on fire before he would go out to fight.
7. "Cato (Shurmur's negro) said he would set his mistress's house on fire, and that as the houses stand all together, the fire would go more far.
8. "Cato alias Toby (John Provoost's negro) said he would get his
master's sword, and then set the house on fire, and go out to fight.
9. "The Spanish negroes he could not understand.
10. "Caesar (Kortrecht's negro) said he would set his master's bakehouse on fire.
11. "Ben said (when it was proposed to burn his master's house) no, if they conquered the place, he would keep that to live in himself.
12. "That Dick came in just as they had done eating, but victuals enough were left for him, and he sat down and eat: when Dick had done eating, he said everyone must stand to his word, and that he would get his master's gun, and after that would set his stable on fire.
13. "He (Jack) being asked to set his master's house on fire, said no, he would set his master's shingles on fire, and then go out to fight.
14. "Hughson said he would stand by what the Spanish and
15. "Hughson sat the negroes upon this discourse, and design, at the said meeting; on which the Spanish negroes agreed all to join with the
16. "That they all swore; some said d-n, some said by G-d, and other oaths; a Spanish negro swear by thunder; Hughson swore by G-d, if they would be true to him, he would take this country; and Jack swore big d for his part.
17. "That Peggy went away after they had done eating, before they
18. "Mary Burton took away the dishes and plates, and Sarah (Hughson's daughter) took away the cloth; Sarah (Hughson's wife) sat down by her husband, and continued there all the time. . . .
25. "Says, they agreed to wait a month and half for the Spaniards and French to come; and if they did not come then, they were to begin at Wenman's, next to Mr. DeLancey's, and so on down the Broadway.
26. "That they waited until this month and half was expired, and
then the fort was burnt.
27. "Says, that every negro then present was to do what they engaged to do, on one and the same Sunday, when church was gone in of the morning; and if all was not done in that one day, they were to go on the Saturday following; and so, if the Spaniards and French did not come, they were to do all themselves. . . .
29. "That same Sunday's Monday (the next day) about sun down,
all the same negroes came to Hughson's again; some brought money and gave to Hughson for drink and dram; Ben played on the fiddle; Hughson's wife and daughter danced together in one part of the room, and the negroes in another; staid there until about seven that night: that they came there that night to frolick and merry make, and did not talk about fires, for they had agreed upon that the day before. . . .
33. "This conversation began, and was most talked of before Sandy came in; Sandy came into the kitchen first, being called in by him (Jack) but was loth to come; Jack asked him to drink a dram, Sandy said no; Sarah (Burk's negro wench) who was then present, said he must drink, and made him drink; and having drunk the dram, Jack asked him if he would stand to, and help them burn houses, and kill the white people? Sandy seemed afraid, they all drank a dram round, and he (Jack) brought hi nine clasp knives in a paper; those that had not knives before, took knives from the paper; some went into the shop; and some came into the kitchen, and all the knives were distributed: being asked how he came by those knives, said he asked Powlus, a Spanish negro, about a week before this meeting, to give him a knife; Powlus said he would get some for him, and sell him; Powlus appointed him to meet him the Wednesday before this meeting, at the meal-market, about dusk; that Powlus came, and he gave him two shillings and six pence for them.
34. "When they saw Sandy afraid, they whetted their knives in order to frighten him to say yes, to stand by them; and Jack said, if he did not stand by them he would cut his head off; to which Sarah said, he deserves it if he don't say yes; then Sandy said yes."
THURSDAY JUNE 11
The king against Sarah Hughson, daughter of John Hughson.
As to this miserable creature under sentence of death, to be executed with her father and mother and Margaret Kerry tomorrow, the judges wished that she would have furnished them with some colour or pretence for recommending her as an object of mercy, but they waited for it hitherto in vain: she was a wretch stupified and hardened in wickedness, and seemed void of all sense of a future state; however it was thought proper to respite her execution to Friday, 19th June, which was ordered accordingly, in hopes that after her father and mother had suffered, she might be molified to a confession of her own guilt, and raise some merit by making a further discovery; or at least, configuring what had hitherto been unfolded concerning this accursed scheme.
FRIDAY, JUNE 12
This day John Hughson, Sarah his wife, and Margaret Kerry, were executed according to sentence.
The under-sheriff had often advised John Hughson, to make a confession about the conspiracy, but he always denied he knew any thing of the matter; said he had deserved death for receiving stolen goods. The wife was ever sullen; said little or nothing, but denied all.
The sheriffs observed John Hughson, when he was brought out of jail to be carried to execution, to have a red spot on each cheek, about the bigness of a shilling, which at that time thought very remarkable, for he was always pale of visage: these spots continued all along to the gallows. Amongst other discourse it seems he had said, he did not doubt but some remarkable sign would happen to him, to show his innocence; concerning which more will be observed upon hereafter. He stood up in the cart all the way, looking round about him as if expecting to be rescued, as was by many conjectured from the air he appeared in: one hand was lifted up as high as his pinion59 would admit of, and a finger pointing, as if intending to beckon.
At the gallows his wife stood like a lifeless trunk, with the rope about her neck, tied up to the tree; she said not a word, and had scarce any visible motion.
Peggy seemed much less resigned than the other two, or rather unwilling to encounter death; she was going to say something, but the old woman who hung next to her, gave her a shove with her hand, as was said by some, so Peggy was silent.
But they all died, having protested their innocence to the last, touching the conspiracy.
This old woman, as it has been generally reported, was bred a Papist; and Peggy was much suspected of the same persuasion, though perhaps it may seem to be of little significance what religion such vile wretches professed.
From the scanty room in the jail for the reception of so many prisoners, this miserable wretch, upon her conviction with the Hughsons for the conspiracy, was put in the same cell with them; which perhaps was an unfortunate incident; for though she had to the time of their trial screened them from the charge of the conspiracy; yet there was reason to expect, that upon the last pinch, when she found there was no hopes of saving her own life if she persisted, the truth as to this particular would have come out; and indeed it was upon this expectation, that she was brought upon trial for the conspiracy; for her several examinations before set forth, and what Arthur Price had sworn to have dropt from her in accidental talk in jail, had put it beyond doubt, that she was privy to many of the Hughsons' secrets concerning this detestable confederacy; but when she was admitted to the Hughsons, under the circumstances of conviction and condemnation for the conspiracy, they most probably prevailed with her to persevere in her obstinacy, to the end to cover their own guilt, since they were determined to confess nothing themselves; and they might drive her to desperation by subtle insinuations, that the judges she saw after they had picked all they could but of her, whatever expectations she might have raised from her confessions, or hopes she flattered herself with of saving her life upon the merit of them; yet after all, she was brought to trial and condemned for the conspiracy, as well as they; and why should she expect pardon any more than they: and by such like artifices it is probable they might stop her mouth, and prevent her making further discovery; and not only so, but then of course prevail with her to recant, as to what she had confessed already.
John Hughson's body was hung in chains according to sentence.