WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24
A Journal of the Proceedings in the Detection of the Conspiracy (1744):
The Trial of John Ury
by Justice Daniel Horsmanden
In a city where suspicions of Catholics ran high, authorities came to focus on John Ury, an itenerant Catholic teacher, as the mastermind of the alleged plot involving the Spanish government and New York City's African-Americans.
Intimation having been given for some time past, that there had of late been Popish priests lurking about the town, diligent inquiry had been made for discovering them, but without effect; at length information was given, that one Dry alias Jury, who had lately come into this city, and entered into partnership with Campbell, a school-master, pretending to teach Greek and Latin, was suspected to be one, and that he kept a private conventicle;63 he was taken into custody this day, and not giving a satisfactory account of himself, was committed to the city jail.
THURSDAY, JUNE 25
Deposition of Mary Burton, taken before one of the judges. No. 4-Mary
1. That the person yesterday shown to her in prison, lately taken into custody on suspicion of being a Roman Catholic priest, is the same person she has often seen at the house of John Hughson; that to the best of her recollection she saw him there first, some time about Christmas last, and that then for a fortnight together he used to come there almost every night, and sometimes used to lie there, but was always gone in the morning before she the deponent got up, but she well remembers he used to go by different names, but whether by the name of Jury or Dry, or Doyle, she cannot now depose positively, but to the best of her remembrance, some of his names consisted only of one syllable, and believes she heard him called by all the said three names....
9. That one day at Hughson's, some of the negroes had behaved rudely towards her, and being in a passion, she was provoked to swear at them, in the presence of Jury alias Dry, above mentioned, and upon recollecting herself she said, God forgive me; whereupon the said Jury answered her, that was a small matter; he could forgive her a great deal more sins than that; that was nothing.
10. That at another time when the negroes had provoked her, she wished those black toads at the devil; oh, said Jury, let them be black, or what they will, the devil has nothing to do with them; I can forgive them their sins, and you yours too.
FRIDAY, JUNE 26
Examination and confession of Jack, Mr. Murray's negro, before one of the judges. - He said,
1. That soon after new-year holidays he went to Comfort's to fetch tea-water, and as he was coming from thence he saw Vaarck's Caesar standing at Hughson's door, who called to him to come thither, and when he came to the house he saw John Hughson in the entry, who asked him to come in, and he went in, and Caesar followed him; and Hughson asked him to set his keg of tea-water down and stay there a little, but he (Jack) said that he could not stay; Hughson then told him that he had better carry his keg of tea-water home, and then return again and bring a gun and powder and bullets, and some negro with him, and then asked him to drink some punch, and he drank a small draught and was then going, but Hughson made him promise to come back, and said when he returned they would talk about a plot, and so he went away: there were present in the room at this time, Hughson, his wife and daughter, and Peggy, Vaarck's Caesar, Walter's Quack, Pintard's Caesar, old Mr. Jay's Ben, Auboyneau's Prince, Philipse's Cuffee, and the Chief justice's Othello, and three Spanish negroes.
2. That as he was going home with the tea-water he met Adam, his fellow servant by old Mr. Delancey's house, and he told Adam where he had been and what had been talked of, and what company was at Hughson's, as before mentioned; Adam thereupon ordered him to set his keg down, which he did, and gave it in charge to one of Mr. Delancey's negro wenches, and said they would go down there and drink some punch, and they went accordingly.
3. When they came to Hughson's, they found the same company Jack had left, and the cloth was laid and the supper getting: he heard them talking when he came into the entry, of burning the houses and killing the white people, and of taking all the gentlewomen for their wives.
4. That when Adam and he came into the room, Hughson asked them whether they would do as they were going to do; which he said was to set the town on fire and to kill the white men and to keep the white women for their wives, to get all their master's guns and swords and pistols, and when their masters came to put out the fires to kill them all? Adam answered he would do the same, and he (Jack) said he would do the same: then Hughson carried Adam and him up stairs, and brought a book to swear them, but he (Jack) would not swear by the book, but kissed his hand and said he would stand to it, but Adam put his hand upon the book and kissed it, and said he would stand to it; then Hughson produced a paper, and said it was an agreement of the blacks to kill the white folks, and he put his (Jack's) and Adam's names down in it, as he (Jack) understood him.
5. That after this they went down stairs again to the rest of the company, and there they found two negro men a fiddling to them, before whom Hughson and the blacks talked of the like discourse: one fiddler belonged to Holt, named Joe, the other Kiersted's Braveboy; the negroes shook hands with Adam and him, and wished them joy, and Hughson did the like to them up· stairs; and they all said they must keep every thing secret and stand to their words.
6. They said they expected the French and Spaniards here, and then they would fire and plunder the houses and carryall to Hughson's, who was to carry them off into another country, and make them a free people, but they were to stay about two months before they began to set fire, and then all of them were to begin at once.
7. That he (Jack) and Adam staid and eat some supper and drank some punch, and as soon as they had supped went home together, and left the rest of the company behind: this meeting was of a Sunday evening.
8. That he (Jack) went afterwards to Hughson's several times as he went to fetch tea-water, and was there twice afterwards with Adam; that they always talked with Hughson and the negroes present about the plot, and when was the time to begin.
9. That Jay's Brash carried him (Jack) once to Hughson's, and another time Pintard's Caesar; and that it was usual for them at such by-meetings to swear without book, that they all stand to their words and keep all secret.
10. That on Easter Sunday he (Jack) and Adam went down to Hughson's after church in the afternoon; he (Jack) was to go to Comfort's for tea-water; Adam went in before, and he (Jack) went to Comfort's and left his keg there, and soon followed him thither after he had filled his keg; and there they met with Walter's Quack, Pintard's Caesar, Ward's Bill, Jay's Ben, Philipse's Cuffee, Auboyneau's Prince, Brash, Vaarck's Caesar, Mrs. Sim's Billy, Albany, Othello, Hughson, his wife and daughter Sarah; and then John Hughson proposed to all the negroes last mentioned, and to him (Jack) and Adam, that they should meet at Mr. Murray's house that night, that he (Jack) was to be in the kitchen, and to open the back gate whereat all those negroes were to come in, and Adam and he were to come down stairs to them, and they were to proceed to set fire to the house, murder his master and mistress, and the white people in the house, but he was interrupted by Mrs. Dimmock's accidentally coming down into the kitchen and sending him up to bed.
11. That after Mrs. Dimmock discovered him in the kitchen and sent him up to bed, a second time he came down again, went into the yard and opened the back gate, and staid in the yard half an hour, expecting the aforesaid negroes coming according to the appointment aforesaid; and they not coming after his waiting so long time, he (Jack) went up to Mr. Cruger's (the Mayor's) corner, and there saw Quack (Walter's) and the other negroes who had engaged to come to his master's house as before mentioned, but they said they could not come then, for they must go down to Hughson's; and he (Jack) returned home and went in at the kitchen window and there slept, and staid till the first cock-crowing, and then opened the kitchen door and fetched in wood to make the fire, intending thereby to make the family believe that he got up early and came down stairs to make it.
12. That Hughson at the same meeting proposed to the said Negroes, that they should destroy Mr. Murray, Mrs. Murray and all the family with knives, and Hughson asked them all if they had got knives? and they all said they had, and pulled them out of their pockets; and Adam pulled out a long knife, and all the rest had long knives; but he (Jack) had a short one, which he calls a pen-knife, a c1aspedknife which he eats his victuals with; he had seen Adam's before, he was whetting it one day upon the broad stones in the yard, and made it very sharp, and eat meat with it in his master's kitchen before all the servants; but he observed he generally kept it in his chest, and it was the same knife which was found upon the general search for stolen goods.
13. That when the snow was upon the ground, about Christmas last, he was at Hughson's, having been at Comfort's for tea-water, and Caesar (Vaarck's) standing at Hughson's door, called him in to drink; Prince (Auboyneau's), Cuffee (Philipse's), Quack (Walter's), and Bill (Sims') were in the entry; Hughson called him (Jack) aside, and told him, after he (Jack) and Adam had murdered the whole family, that he (Jack) should steal the plate out of the beaufets, the kitchen furniture, wearing apparel, linen, guns, swords, and every thing that was of value, and bring them to his (Hughson's) house; that the aforesaid negroes should assist him to bring them, and that they should bury them under ground; Hughson and his wife were both together with him (Jack) when he received these directions. Jack was unwilling at first, but at length consented to undertake it.
14. That Adam was to kill his master and mistress, Mrs. Dimmock and her daughter; and that he (Jack) was to kill Caesar, Congo and Dido and after that they were to take the above mentioned goods and carry them to the place appointed, after which they were to return to the house and set fire to it, then go down again to Hughson's and make ready for the general attack.
15. That this proposal last above said was made by Hughson, before that of the Easter Sunday before mentioned, and that Adam was not present.
SATURDAY, JUNE 27
[Adam, another slave in Murray's family, was brought to the magistrates.]
It was observed by several in Mr. Murray's family, some time before Adam's commitment, that his behavior was such as betokened strong symptoms of guilt, he appeared very uneasy and disturbed in his mind, and much more so when Jack his fellow servant was taken up as one concerned in the conspiracy, for the next morning he came several times into the clerk's office, with a seeming intention to disclose some secret; the young gentlemen at last took notice of it, and shutting the door too, asked him, whether he knew any thing concerning the plot? he denied he did, but said he was afraid some dog or another would owe him a spite, and bring him in, for that people talked a great deal of him.
In the afternoon, Mr. Murray having been present and assisting at his negro Jack's examination, upon his return home found Adam running backwards and forwards like a distracted creature, he called him into his study and charged him as one concerned in the conspiracy, which he absolutely denied, and protested his innocence; his master endeavored and used many arguments to prevail with him to confess if he was guilty, but to no purpose, and then he delivered him to the constable.
In the evening two of Mr. Murray's clerks went to see Adam in the jail, to try how far they could prevail upon him; and as soon as he knew they were come, he desired leave to speak with them privately, which being granted, he began with exclamations and protestations of his innocence, declaring it was nothing but damned lies that brought him there, and that he knew who was the author of them, and would be revenged if he died for it: the young gentlemen reasoned with him, telling him if he was innocent to insist upon it, and not be afraid, for he might be assured of having justice done him; but if he was guilty, his denying of it would signify nothing, for that they knew as much about the plot as they that were concerned in it, and the only way to recommend himself to favor, was by making a full confession; he then considered awhile, and desired to know his accuser, they told him they believed it was Jack, which as soon as he heard, he said then I am a dead man, striking his head against one of the beams of the jail; and said further, he was afraid the dog would have served him so. Then he gave the young gentlemen his shoe and knee-buckles (being silver) and some other things, desiring they might be delivered to his brother Caesar (another negro of Mr. Murray's.) In this manner they parleyed with him a full hour, till at length tired with his obstinacy, they concluded to leave him, but he pressed them to stay, still giving them some hopes of his confession; they told him they had no occasion to stay to hear him repeat the same things over again: he then asked them what they would have him say? upon which they told him they would have him speak sincerely, whether he was guilty or not: why then said he to speak sincerely, I am guilty.
Now many negroes began to squeak, in order to lay hold of the benefit of the proclamation; some who had been apprehended but not indicted; and many who had been indicted and arraigned, who had pleaded not guilty, were disposed to retract their pleas and plead guilty, and throw themselves on the mercy of the court; so that confessions were like to be numerous, and business to multiply upon our bands, which made it necessary to call in some gentlemen of the law to our assistance upon the occasion, who very readily undertook the task.
Before the issuing of the proclamation of the 19th instant, for the encouragement of the conspirators to come in, and make voluntary and free confession and discovery, etc. there were betwixt sixty and seventy negroes in jail, who had been already impeached, many of whom after publishing the proclamation, not only confessed their own guilt, in order to entitle themselves to the benefit of it, as may appear by the foregoing examination, but also discovered many of their accomplices who were at large; who were thereupon immediately taken into custody by order of the judges, or grand jury, as the case happened before whom such confessions were made; so that between the 19th and this day, there were upwards of thirty slaves more added to the former, insomuch that the jail began to be so thronged, it was difficult to find room for them; and we were apprehensive that the criminals would be daily multiplying on our hands; nor could we see any likelihood of a stop to impeachments, for it seemed very probable that most of the negroes in town were corrupted.
The negroes in general that came to a confession, agreed in the impeachment of Hughson and his family; that the drift of the plot was to burn the town and destroy the inhabitants; that they were sworn into the confederacy at Hughson's, or by Hughson, or some person entrusted by him for that purpose.
Confessions taken this day by Mr. Nicholls and Mr. Lodge, of the fifteen following Negroes:
No. 1. Jack (Breasted's) said that Vaarck's Caesar (hanged) carried him to Hughson's; that Hughson told him he must join with them in a plot they were making, and swore him to set his master's house on fire, and to cut his mistress's throat....
No. 11. Scipio (Abrahams's) said, that he was at Hughson's at the great Supper; that Hughson swore him to burn the houses and kill the people.
Confession taken by Mr. George Joseph Moore:
Caesar (Horsefield's) said, that Roosevelt's Quack, about new year, of a working day, met him in the meal-market, and told him he must go with him to some company on the North river; he went there and drank, and Quack asked him to stay supper; he consented; they supped; had a goose and some mutton; the supper on the table before they went there.
Being asked several questions about this meeting, and not answering so as to be believed, nor making out any thing, he seemed very much concerned, and said, he understood that Roosevelt's Quack had used his name at the fire, and therefore thought he should be condemned, but declared what he had before said he did because he was afraid of his life, and that he should die if he did not say something, but could not tell what to say, not knowing any thing at all of the plot.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 1
Deposition, No 1-John Schultz made oath, that whereas by the judge's orders 'he took a confession in writing from the mouth of Pedro, belonging to Pierre De Peyster, wherein he accused two negroes, the one belonging to Cornelius Van Horn, called Kid, the other to Dr. Henderson, called Caesar, that they Kid and Caesar, with some other negroes and him the said Pedro, were sworn at Hughson's, and there agreed to set fire to houses and destroy the people inhabiting this city: and whereas the said Pedro did, on the 30th day of June 1741 acknowledge voluntarily to the said John Schultz, Francis Barrow being present, and likewise in the evening of the same day, John Schultz, Pierre De Peyster and Stephen Courtlandt being present, that the words which he spoke relating to himself and the others which he had said were present and all sworn at Hughson's, viz. Kid, Caesar, etc. was not true, and that Will, a negro belonging to one Ward, a watch maker, being in the same prison with him, had told him that he understood these affairs very well, and that unless he the said Pedro did confess and bring in two or three, he would either be hanged or burnt, and did likewise name the aforesaid as proper ones to be accused, and he the said Pedro did say that Will was the cause of his making that false confession, which he can prove by four negroes which are in the same prison with him.
FRIDAY, JULY 3
This day Duane's Prince, Latham's Tony, Shurmur's Cato, Kip's Harry, and Marshalk's York, negroes, were executed at the gallows, according to sentence; and the body of
Some few days after this the town was amused with a rumor, that Hughson was turned negro, and Vaarck's Caesar a white; and when they came to put up York in chains by Hughson (who was hung upon the gibbet three weeks before) so much of him as was visible, viz. face, hands, neck, and feet, were of a deep shining black, rather blacker than the negro placed by him, who was one of the darkest hue of his kind; and the hair of Hughson's beard and neck (his head could not be seen for he had a cap on) was curling like the wool of a negro's beard and head, and the features of his face were of the symmetry of a negro beauty; the nose broad and flat, the nostrils open and extended, the mouth wide, lips full and thick, his body (which when living was tall, by the view upwards of six feet, but very meager) swelled to a gigantic size; and as to Caesar (who, though executed for a robbery, was also one of the head negro conspirators, had been hung up in chains a month before Hughson and was also of the darkest complexion) his face was at the same time somewhat bleached or turned whitish, insomuch as it occasioned a remark, that Hughson and he had changed colors. The beholders were amazed at these appearances; the report of them engaged the curiosity of many, and drew numbers of all ranks, who had curiosity, to the gibbets, for several days running, in order to be convinced by their own eyes, of the reality of things so confidently reported to be, at least wondrous phenomenon’s, and upon the view they were found to be such as have been described; many of the spectators were ready to resolve them into miracles; however, others not so hasty, though surprised at the sights, were willing to account for them in a natural way, so that they administered matter for much speculation.
The sun at this time had great power, and the season as usual very hot, that Hughson's body dripped and distilled very much, as it needs must, from the great fermentation and abundance of matter within him, as could not but be supposed at that time from the extraordinary bulk of his body; though considering the force of the sun, and the natural meagerness of his corpse, one would have been apt to imagine that long ere this it would have been disencumbered of all its juices. At length, about ten days or a fortnight after Hughson's mate, York, hung by him, Hughson's corpse, unable longer to contain its load, burst and discharged pail fulls of blood and corruption; this was testified by those who were near by, fishing upon the beach when the irruption happened, to whom the stench of it was very offensive.
SATURDAY, JULY 4
This day Will, Ward's negro, was executed according to sentence, and made the following confession at the stake.
1. He said that William Kane, a soldier belonging to the fort, knew of the plot, and he heard the said Kane say, he did not care if the fort was burnt down; that since the plot was discovered he told Kane he would make a discovery, on which Kane gave him three pounds in bills and told him not to discover; part of which money his young mistress found in his chest.
2. That his mistress lost a silver spoon, which he, Will, stole and carried to Kane’s wife, who gave it her husband in his presence, and he sold it to Peter Van Dyke, a silversmith, and gave him, Will, eight shillings of the money.
The pile being kindled, this wretch set his back to the stake, and raising up one of his legs, laid it upon the fire, and lifting up his hands and eyes, cried aloud, and several times repeated the names, Quack Goelet and Will Tiebout, who he had said first brought him into this plot.
This evening William Kane, soldier, Goelet's Quack and Tiebout's Will, negroes, were apprehended and committed.
SUNDAY. JULY 5
While Kane was under examination, the under-sheriff came and informed the judges, that Mary Burton had declared, that she had often seen him at Hughson's, amongst Hughson, his wife, etc. and the negroes, when they were talking of the conspiracy, and that he was one of the confederates: whereupon she was ordered to be brought in, and being confronted with Kane, she immediately declared to the effect in the following deposition. The Chief Justice, who was a stranger to the transactions concerning the detection of the conspiracy (having been absent attending the execution of his majesty's special commission at Providence) he thought proper to admonish the witness in an awful and solemn manner, concerning the nature of an oath, and the consequences of taking a false one, more especially as it affected a man's life: she answered, she was acquainted with the nature of an oath very well, and that she would not take a false one upon any account, and repeated the same charge against Kane over and over, and persisted in it, that what she said was truth; all which Kane as positively denied: whereupon she was sworn, and the following evidence taken.
Deposition No.5. - Mary Burton being duly sworn and produced before William Kane, soldier, said that she had seen the said Kane at Hughson's very often, talking with Hughson, his wife and daughter, Peggy Salingburgh alias Kerry, Caesar, Vaarck's; Galloway, Rutgers'; Prince, Auboyneau's; and Cuffee, Philipse's, negroes; and the discourse amongst them was, that they would burn the town, the fort first, the governor and all his family in it, and kill all the white people, and that she heard the said William Kane say, that he would help them all that lay in his power.
Then Mary Burton was ordered to withdraw, and Kane was apprized of the danger he was in, and told he must not flatter himself with the least hopes of mercy, but by making a candid and ingenuous confession of all that he knew of the matter, or to this purpose: but he still denied what had been alleged against him by Mary Burton, till upon most solemn admonition, he began to be affected; his countenance changed, and being near fainting, desired to have a glass of water, which was brought him, and after some pause, he said he would tell the truth, though at the same time he seemed very loth to do it; but after some hesitation began to open, and several hours were spent in taking down heads of his confession, which were afterwards drawn out at large, and distinctly read over to him, and being duly sworn, he made oath that the same was true, and (not knowing how to write) he put his mark to it.
Further examination and confession of William Kane, the same day-No.2....
18. That at the second meeting he was at Hughson's about the plot, there was present about eight negroes, viz. Walter's Quack, Vaarck's Caesar, Philipse's Cuffee, Auboyneau's Prince, Carpenter's Albany, Chambers's Robin, Comfort's Jack, and Niblet's Sandy, he saw all the negroes sworn, and the following ceremony was used: there was a black ring made on the floor about two feet and a half diameter, and Hughson bid everyone pull off the left shoe and put their toes within the ring, and Mrs. Hughson held a bowl of punch over their heads as the negroes stood round the circle, and Hughson pronounced the oath above mentioned, and every negro severally repeated the words after him, and then Hughson's wife fed them with a draught out of the bowl.
FRIDAY, JULY 10
Deposition taken before the Chief Justice-John Schultz maketh oath, that a negro man slave, called Cambridge, belonging to Christopher Codwise, esquire, did on the ninth day of June last, confess to this deponent in the presence of the said Mr. Codwise and Richard Baker, that the confession he had made before Messrs. Lodge and Nicholls, was entirely false, viz. that he had owned himself guilty of the conspiracy, and had accused the negro of Richard Baker, called Cajoe, through fear; and said, that he had heard some negroes talking together in the jail, that if they did not confess, they should be hanged; and that was the reason of his making that false confession: and that what he had said relating to Horsefield's Caesar was a lie: that he did not know in what part of the town Hughson did live, nor did not remember to have heard of the man until it was a common talk over the town and country, that Hughson was concerned in a plot with the negroes.
TUESDAY, JULY 14
Examination of John Ury, before the Chief Justice and third justice, apprehended upon suspicion of being a Romish priest, and a confederate in the conspiracy.
John Ury, school-master, denies being any wise concerned in the conspiracy for burning the town and killing the inhabitants, says, that he never was any wise acquainted with John Hughson or his wife, or Margaret Kerry, nor did he ever see them in his life, to his knowledge.
[Testimony of William Kane, who testified that Ury, and other white men, had met at Hughson's house and agreed to help set fires around the city. He also testified:]
6. That a young gentleman with a pigtail wig, used frequently to come there with Corry, Dry the priest, and Holt; but never saw him in company with any negroes, as those other white people used to be when he was absent.
SATURDAY, JULY 18
About noon Othello, Walter's Quack, Venture, Frank, Walton's Fortune, and Galloway, negroes, were executed according to sentence.
Walton's Fortune behaved at the gallows like a mountebank's fool, jumped off the cart several times with the halter around his neck, as if sporting with death. Some conjectured he was intoxicated with rum.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 22
The further examination of Sarah Hughson, before the chief justice, No.2.
1. She said that she had often seen Ury the priest at her father's house, who used to come there in the evenings and at nights, and has seen him in company with the negroes, and talking with them about the plot of burning the town and destroying the white people.
2. That she has seen him several times make a round ring with chalk on the floor, and make all the negroes then present stand round it, and he (Dry) used to stand in the middle of the ring, with a cross in his hand, and there swore all the negroes to be concerned in the plot, and that they should not discover him, nor any thing else of the plot, though they should die for it.
3. That William Kane used often to come there with the negroes, and once, as she remembers, he came there with Ury the priest, who swore him into the plot, and several negroes, in particular, Vaarck's Caesar, Comfort's Jack, Auboyneau's Prince, Walter's Quack, Philipse's Cuffee, Peggy, and the examinant herself, and her father and mother; that all this was done the last winter, and she thinks before Christmas.
4. That she saw him, the said Ury, baptize the above named negroes, or some of them, and told them he made them Christians, and forgave them all their sins, and all the sins they should commit about the plot, and preached to the negroes; Kane being there also.
5. That she has heard Vaarck's Caesar, Philipse's Cuffee, and other negroes say, that they used to go to Ury's lodging, where they used to pray in private after the popish fashion, and that he used to forgive them their sins for burning the town and destroying and cutting of the people's throats.
6. That Ury afterwards told the examinant that she must confess what sins she had been guilty of, to him, and he would forgive her them; that she told him that she had been guilty of no other sins but cursing and swearing in a passion; upon which he told her, as she had taken the oath to be concerned in the plot, he pardoned her sins; she replied that she did not believe any body could forgive her sins but God; and he said yes, he and all priests could, if the people did but do what the priests bid them, and followed all their directions; that Peggy used to confess in private to Ury, and she heard him tell her, if she would confess all the wickedness she had done in the world, he would forgive her, and particularly about the plot, and she says that Peggy has often told her she was a strong papist.
7. "That several of the soldiers used often to come to their house and call for liquors, but she does not know whether they knew of or were concerned in the plot, or not.
MONDAY, JULY 27
Joseph Web [or Webb] of the city of New-York, carpenter and house joiner, being duly sworn, deposed, [that he had met Ury, heard him teach Latin and English, and asked Ury if he would be willing to teach one of his children].
4. That Dry in some of his conversations with him upon religious topics, expressed himself in such a dark, obscure, and mysterious manner, that the deponent could not understand him; he would give hints that he could neither make head nor tail of....
6. That one day the conversation between Dry and deponent was about Negroes; deponent having said they had souls to be saved or lost as well as other people: Dry said they were not proper objects of salvation; deponent replied what would you do with them then, what would you damn them all? no says Dry, leave them to that Great Being that has made them, he knows best what to do with them; says Dry, they are of a slavish nature, it is the nature of them to be slaves, give them learning, do all the good you can, and put them above the condition of slaves, and in return they will cut your throats.
7. That after Campbell removed to Hughson's house, Dry removed thither about a week or ten days after him, and the deponent went thither three times, and heard him read prayers, in the manner of the church of England, but in the prayers for the king he only mentioned our sovereign lord the king, and not king George; the drift of his first sermon was against drunkenness and debauchery of life, and against deists; the first part of his second sermon was much to the same purpose with the former, and the latter part was an admonition to every one to keep to their own minister; they that were of the church of England, to the English minister, those that were of the Lutheran persuasion to keep to that, and those of the Presbyterian to keep to their minister: that he did not propose to set up a society for preaching to them, that he only gave a word of admonition at the request of the family where he was.
[The judges recommended Sarah Hughson for a pardon, even though they were frustrated that she had not revealed more of the conspiracy. Feeling, however, that she would be able to provide material evidence against Ury, they sent the request to the governor.]
Trial of John Ury
WEDNESDAY, JULY 29
[The attorney general, in his opening argument for the prosecution, told jurors that Ury was a chief conspirator in tha plot and was, in fact, a Catholic priest who offered absolution to other plotters. He also contended that Ury had participated in the rite of the chalk circle. He concluded by arguing that the entire plot was aided and abetted by the Catholic Church.]
Mary Burton sworn.
Mr. Chambers: Mary, give the court and jury an account of what you know concerning this conspiracy to burn down the town and murder and destroy the inhabitants, and what part you know the prisoner at the bar has acted in it: tell the whole story from the beginning, in your own method, but speak slow, not so hastily as you usually do, that the court and jury may the better understand you.
Prisoner: You say you have seen me several times at Hughson's, what clothes did I usually wear?
Mary Burton: I cannot tell what clothes you wore particularly.
Prisoner: That is strange, and now me so well.
M. Burton: I have seen you in several clothes, but you chiefly wore a riding coat, and often a brown coat trimmed with black.
Prisoner: I never wore any such coat.
Prisoner: What time of the day did I use to come to Hughson's?
M. Burton: You used chiefly to come in the night time, and when I have been going to bed I have seen you undressing in Peggy's room, as if you were to lie there; but I cannot say that you did, for you were always gone before I was up in the morning.
Prisoner: What room was I in when I called Mary, and you came up, as you said?
M. Burton: In the great room up stairs.
Prisoner: What answer did the negroes make when I offered to forgive them their sins, as you said?
M. Burton: I don't remember....
[William Kane then testified. He said that Ury christened a child using salt and that Ury had tried to convert him to Catholicism. He also testified that Ury had been at the Hughsons helping to swear slaves into the Plot.]
Sarah Hughson sworn.
Mr.: Chambers [counsel for the king]: Sarah, do you give the court and jury an account of what you know of Dry's being concerned in this conspiracy.
Mr.: Murray (counsel for the king): If your honors please, I have a piece of evidence, which I would not offer until I have opened the nature of it; which is a letter from general Oglethorpe to the lieutenant governor, informing him, that a party of Indians had returned to Georgia, on the eighth of May last, from war against the Spaniards, who in an engagement with a party of Spanish horse near Augustine, had taken one of them prisoner, and had brought him to the general; that the Spaniard in his examination before the magistrates of Georgia, had given some intelligence of a villainous design of a very extraordinary nature, that the Spaniards had employed emissaries to burn all the magazines and considerable towns in the English North America, thereby to prevent the subsistence of the English fleet in the West-Indies; and that for this purpose, many priests were employed, who pretended to be physicians, dancing masters, and other kinds of occupations; and under that pretence to endeavor to gain admittance and confidence in private families.
Court: Mr. Murray, have you any more witnesses?
Court: Mr. Dry, have you any witnesses; for now is your time to produce them?
Prisoner: May it please the King's judges, and the gentlemen of the jury - It is very incongruous to reason to think that I can have any hand or be any way concerned in this plot, if these things be duly weighed: that after the discovery of the conspiracy and the execution of many for it, that I should act such a lunatic part if I were guilty as to continue in this city, join with Mr. Campbell, and not only so, but publicly advertise myself for teaching of grammar yea further, that I should still continue even after the caution Mr. Webb gave me a week and a few days before I was taken into custody he told me Mr. Chambers told him that the eyes of this city were fixed on me, and that I was suspected to be a Roman priest and thought to be in the plot I answered my innocence would protect me I valued not what the world said, again another instance that must free me from this plot is when Mr. Campbell went to take possession of Huson's [sic] house his daughter refusing to go out and she swearing like a life guardsman I took up the cause Mr. Campbell not exerting himself as I thought was proper at that time and told her if she would not go out quietly I would take another method with her for I would have no such wicked person (as she was said to be) live where I was to dwell now reason must pronounce me innocent for had I been engaged in their scheme of guilt my fears would have forced me to have acted in a very different manner rather to have soothed her and gave her liberty to stay till provided for instead of not shewing her the least countenance and further what corroborates my non knowledge of this plot is that the negro who confessed as it is said that he set fire to the fort did not mention me in all his confession doubtless he would not have neglected and passed over such a person as I am said to be namely a priest and if he was bound by any oath or oaths as he confest it shewed he thought it or them of no value and therefore would have confessed and laid open the whole scheme and all the persons he knew concerned in it but more especially the priest as it is said I am and what is still more strong for my innocence is that neither Huson his wife nor the creature that was hanged with them and all that have been put to death since did not once name me certainly gentlemen if I am a priest as you take me to be I could not be so foolish as to engage myself in so absurd a contrivance as to bind myself with a cord for negroes or what is worse profligate whites the scum of this earth superior in villainy to the knights of the post to make an halter for me gentlemen as there is a great unknown and tremendous being whom we call God I never knew or saw Huson his wife or the creature that was hanged with them to my knowledge living dying or dead or the negro that is said to have fired the fort excepting in his last moments but put the case I had known Huson's and had been at his house is it to be inferred from thence that I must be acquainted with his villainy or knew his secrets and as he kept a public house which is open and free for all is it reasonable to think that all or any man being seen at Huson's must make him or them culpable or chargeable with his villainy surely no for if so said would be the case of many gentlemen who in travelling the countries in England who have used bad houses or inns and lit into the company of highwaymen who by their garb and conversation they took for some honest country gentleman or tradesman and yet these have not been in the least suspected but I fear all this trouble of mine springs from and is grounded upon, the apprehensions of my being a Roman priest, and therefore must be a plotter some believing there can be no mischief in a country but a priest (if there) must be in it say they that in the chain of general woes the first and the last link must be tied to the priest's girdle. But gentlemen I must assure you from reading and conversation I believe no priest would hold a confederacy with negroes they are too wise too cunning to trust such sort of gentry it is not men of fortune good sense and learning they care to meddle with or entrust in such affairs as plots excepting they be men of their own kidney of their own way of thinking in religion supposing a priest could be so foolish or become non compos mentes as to plot in short a priest a joint contriver of firing a fort a celebrater of masses a dispenser of absolutions as it is said I am so long passed by such a particular person forgotten No gentlemen you must think and believe he would have been the next person after the discovery of the plot that would have been brought on the carpet And further what is of great note is that Huson was sworn to be the whole projector and carrier on of the plot and if these witnesses knew me so well as they pretend to how came it about what reason can be assigned why they did not bring me out before what not any thing of me before I came to prison, doubtless they would have been eager to have betrayed me when the scheme was discovered, for being a priest and consequently artful and cunning they would have been afraid of my escaping. No if I had been engaged they would have soon informed thinking to have saved their own lives knowing how this government stands affected to such gentlemen. And as to the second indictment wherein-
Court: Mr. Ury, if you have any witnesses to examine, it is more proper you should do that now, and make your defense afterwards.
Prisoner: If that be the pleasure of the judges, I have several witnesses; I desire Mr. Croker may be called....
Joseph Webb called for the prisoner and sworn.
Prisoner: Mr. Webb, I desire you will give an account of what you know of me.
Webb: I have known Mr. Ury since November last; I was then at work at John Croker's, at the fighting cocks, and hearing him reading Latin and English, and thinking he read well, enquired of Croker who he was? he told me he was a schoolmaster lately come from Philadelphia; and from this I became acquainted with him, and I asked him if he would teach a child of mine: and he said he would, if Croker would give him liberty of coming to his house; which Croker agreed to; and I sent my child to him, and he taught him Latin; and after this I recommended him to Col. Beekman, to teach his daughter to write and cypher; and he and I growing more intimate, and I observing a poor and mean appearance in his habit, I thought his pocket might be answerable to it; and I gave him an invitation to my house, and told him he should be welcome at my table noon and night, at any time, when he saw proper; and he frequently came to my house accordingly all the winter: that he used often to stay at my house late in discoursing, sometimes on one subject, sometimes on another; and has stayed there now and then till eleven or twelve o'clock at night, and I have often gone home with him to his lodging at those hours. Mr. ury told me he was a non juring minister; having asked him who ordained him, he answered me, the senior non juror in
Attorney General: Did he say he must take the sacrament, or be at sacrament, or administer the sacrament?
Webb: I cannot be sure, but I remember he said it was his sacrament day.
Attorney General: Was it Sundays or working days he said were his sacrament days?
Webb: I cannot be sure, but I think I have heard him name both.
Attorney General: Do you know any thing of his buying of wafers, or going to a confectioner's?
Webb: He asked me for a confectioner's shop, and I showed him Mr. De Brosse's, where he went along with me; and after he asked for several sorts of sweetmeats, he asked for wafers; which being shown to him, he asked Mr. De Brosse if he made wafers for the Lutheran minister, and he was told he did, but I do not remember that he bought any of them: I have heard him pray and preach several times, but do not remember that ever I heard him pray for king George, but in general terms for the king. I am by trade a carpenter, and Dry applied to me to make him up something in Hughson's house, which I have heard since called an altar; that Dry gave me directions for making it, and said it was a place to lay books on to read, or to put a candle or a bottle and glass on, or other such like common uses; it was two pieces of board, which formed a triangle, and was raised against the wall, at the bottom of which was a shelf; on each side there was a place to hold a candle.
Attorney General: Do you think if a man wanted a shelf or other place to lay a book on to read, or set a bottle or glass on, he would make it in that form?
Webb: I can't say; people may have odd humours, but I should not.
Attorney General: Do you know any thing of Ury's being imprisoned in
Webb: Dry did tell me that he was imprisoned in England: for he said he had wrote a book there, and that the critics laid hold of it, picked a hole in it, and construed it treason; but if it was, he said, it was contrary to his intentions.
Attorney General: Mr. Webb, in your conversations together, what have you heard him say about Negroes?
Webb: We were one day talking about Negroes, and I said I thought they had souls to be saved or lost as well as other people: Dry said he thought they were not proper objects of salvation; I replied, what would you do with them then; what, would you damn them all? No, says he, leave them to that Great Being that has made them, he knows best what to do with them; says he, they are of a slavish nature, it is the nature of them to be slaves, give them learning, do them all the good you can, and put them beyond the condition of slaves, and in return, they will cut your throats.
Court: Mr. Ury, would you ask this witness any more questions?
Prisoner: No, sir, I have nothing more to ask.
[John Campbell and his wife testified to his good character.
Attorney General: If your honours please, as the prisoner has been endeavoring to prove he is not a Romish priest, and has already insisted on it as a part of his defense; I shall beg leave to examine a witness or two to that point.....
At another time, says he [Ury], you talk so much against popery, I believe though you speak so much against it, you will find you have (or I think will have) a pope in your belly, for says he the absolution of the church of Rome is not half so bad as that of the church of England at the visitation of the sick: but says I, I don't approve of their confessing to priests, etc. says I there is a deal of wickedness and deceit in it: says he, no, no, for when any person makes confessions the priest does not know who they be, for he does not so much as see them, but only hears and absolves them: Then says I, I was mistaken. Oh! says he, they speak against the Church of Rome, but don't know them; their priests says he, are the most learned of men; the articles of the Church of England were made in distracted times. And I observed several times he said, we priests. Says he, your Roman priests will make you believe, and prove by the plain rules of grammar, that black is white, and white black, and that the wafer and wine is the real body and blood of Christ.
Council: Mr. Ury, would you ask this witness any question?
Prisoner: No sir, I have nothing to ask him....
Mr. Smith summed up the evidence for the king, and addressing himself to the court and jury, proceeded as followeth.
"Though this work of darkness, in the contrivance of a horrible plot, to burn and destroy this city, has manifested itself in many blazing effects, to the terror and amazement of us all; yet the secret springs of this mischief lay long concealed: this destructive scene has opened by slow degrees: but now, gentlemen, we have at length great reason to conclude, that it took its rise from a foreign influence; and that it originally depended upon causes, that we ourselves little thought of, and which, perhaps, very few of the inferior and subordinate agents were intimately acquainted with.
"Gentlemen, if the evidence you have heard is sufficient to produce a general conviction that the late fires in this city, and the murderous design against its inhabitants, are the effects of a Spanish and popish plot, then the mystery of this iniquity, which has so much puzzled us, is unveiled, and our admiration ceases: all the mischief’s we have suffered or been threatened with, are but a sprout from that evil root, a small stream from that overflowing fountain of destruction, that has often deluged the earth with slaughter and blood, and spread ruin and desolation far and wide.
"We need not wonder to see a popish priest at this bar, as a prime incendiary; nor think it strange that an Englishman of that religion and character should be concerned in so detestable a design. What can be expected from those that profess a religion that is at war with God and man; not only with the truths of the Holy Scriptures, but also with common sense and reason; and is destructive of all the kind and tender sensations of human nature? When a man, contrary to the evidence of his senses, can believe the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation; can give up his reason to a blind obedience and an implicit faith; can be persuaded to believe that the most unnatural crimes, such as treason and murder, when done in obedience to the pope, or for the service of the holy church, by rooting out what they call heresy, will merit heaven: I say, when a man has imbibed such principles as these, he can easily divest himself of every thing that is human but his shape, he is capable of any villainy, even as bad as that which is charged on the prisoner at the bar."
Then the chief justice charged the jury, and a constable being sworn to attend them, they withdrew; and having staid out about a quarter of an hour, returned, and found the prisoner guilty of the indictment.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 4
[John Ury was sentenced to be hanged on August 15.]
SATURDAY, AUGUST 15
This being the day appointed for the execution of John Ury, his honor the lieutenant governor, was pleased, upon the humble petition of the said Ury, to respite the same till Wednesday following.
Juan alias Wan de Sylva, the Spanish negro, condemned for the conspiracy, was this day executed according to sentence; he was neatly dressed in a white shirt, jacket, drawers, and stockings, behaved decently, prayed in Spanish, kissed a crucifix, insisting on his innocence to the last.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 29
This day John Ury was executed according to sentence. Being asked by the sheriff whether he had any speech or paper to deliver? he answered he had given one to his friend, or Webb (the person who attended him at the gallows:) he repeated somewhat of the substance of it before he was turned off: a copy of this paper was made in the jail (from one delivered by Ury himself in his own hand writing) from which the following was taken.
The Last Speech of John Ury
Fellow Christians- I am now going to suffer a death attended with ignominy and pain; but it is the cup that my heavenly father has put into my hand, and I drink it with pleasure; it is the cross of my dear redeemer, I bear it with alacrity; knowing that all that live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution; and we must be made in some degree partakers of his sufferings before we can share in the glories of his resurrection: for he went not up to glory before he ascended Mount Calvary; did not wear the crown of glory before the crown of thorns. And I am to appear before an awful and tremendous God, a being of infinite purity and unerring justice, a God who by no means will clear the guilty, that cannot be reconciled either to sin or sinners; now this is the being at whose bar I am to stand, in the presence of this God, the possessor of heaven and earth, I lift up my hands and solemnly protest I am innocent of what is laid to my charge: I appeal to the great God for my non-knowledge of Hewson [sic], his wife, or the creature that was hanged with them, I never saw them living, dying, or dead; nor never had I any knowledge or confederacy with white or black as to any plot; and upon the memorials of the body and blood of my dearest lord, in the creatures of bread and wine, in which I have commemorated the love of my dying lord, I protest that the witnesses are perjured; I never knew the perjured witnesses but at my trial. But for the removal of all scruples that may arise after my death I shall give my thoughts on some points.
First - I firmly believe and attest, that it is not in the power of man to forgive sin; that it is the prerogative only of the great God to dispense pardon for sins; and that those who dare pretend to such a power, do in some degree commit that great and unpardonable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit, because they pretend to that power which their own consciences proclaim to be a lie.
Again, I solemnly attest and believe, that a person having committed crimes that have or might have proved hurtful or destructive to the peace of society, and does not discover the whole scheme, and all the persons concerned with them, cannot obtain pardon from God: and it is not the taking any oath or oaths that ought to hinder him from confessing his guilt, and all that he knows about it; for such obligations are not only sinful, but unpardonable, if not broken: now a person firmly believing this, and knowing that an eternal state of happiness or misery depends upon the performance or non-performance of the above-mentioned things, cannot, will not trifle with such important affairs.
I have not more to say by way of clearing my innocence, knowing that to a true Christian unprejudiced mind, I must appear guiltless; but however, I am not very solicitous about it. I rejoice, and it is now my comfort (and that will support me and protect me from the crowd of evil spirits that I must meet with in my flight to the region of bliss assigned me) that my conscience speaks peace to me.
Indeed, it may be shocking to some serious Christians, that the holy God should suffer innocence to be slain by the hands of cruel and bloody persons; (I mean the witnesses who swore against me at my trial), indeed, there may be reasons assigned for it; but, as they may be liable to objections, I decline them; and shall only say, that this is one of the dark providences of the great God, in his wise, just and good government of this lower earth.
In fine, I depart this waste, this howling wilderness, with a mind serene, free from all malice, with a forgiving spirit, so far as the gospel of my dear and only redeemer obliges and enjoins me to, hoping and praying, that Jesus, who. alone is the giver of repentance, will convince, conquer and enlighten my murderers' souls, that they may publicly confess their horrid wickedness before God and the world, so that their souls may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
And now, a word of advice to you, spectators: behold me launching into eternity; seriously, solemnly view me, and ask yourselves severally, how stands the case with me? die I must: am I prepared to meet my Lord when the midnight cry is echoed forth? shall I then have the wedding garment on? Oh, sinners! trifle no longer; consider life hangs on a thread; here to-day and gone to-morrow; forsake your sins ere ye be forsaken forever: hearken, now is God awfully calling you to repent, warning you by me, his minister and prisoner, to embrace Jesus, to take, to lay hold on him for your alone savior, in order to escape the wrath to come; no longer delay, seeing the summons may come before ye are aware, and you standing before the bar of a God who is consuming fire out of the Lord Jesus Christ, should be hurled, be doomed to that place, where their worm dies not, and their fire is never to be quenched.
The "Negro Plot" Trials of 1741