Attempting to make insurrection

Title:                Attempting to make insurrection

Author:            Gov. James Monroe

Date                January 13, 1802

Event               Planned slave insurrection in Virginia

Type:                Letter

Source:            Virginia State Archive


Richmond January 16, 1802

An alarm of a threatened insurrection among the slaves look place lately in Nottaway County which soon reached Petersburg whence, it was immediately communicated to the executive by the Mayor of that Borough. I considered it as furnishing a sufficient motive for increase vigilance, and in consequence gave orders for strong and active patrols in both cities. Several slaves in that county have been since apprehended and tried, two of whom are convicted of the crime of conspiracy and insurrection against the Commonwealth, for which they are sentences to suffer death. Their case was duly considered by the Executive, but as the change appeared to be clearly proved against them; as they were not recommended to mercy by the courts; and no mitigating circumstances occurred in their favor, it was though proper to let the law have its course. Today they will expiate their offence by suffering the punishments adjudge by the courts.  The incident is deemed of sufficient importance to be communicated to the General Assembly, since it seems proper that every extraordinary occurrence relative to those people, especially of this kind should be made known to the representatives of the people.

It is our duty on this occasion to remain, that the public danger proceeding from this description of persons is daily increasing. A variety of causes contribute to produce this effect, among which may be enumerated  the contrast in the condition of the free Negroes and slaves, the growing sentiment of liberty existing in the minds of the latter, and the inadequacy of the existing patrol laws.  I have the honor to be with great respect your most humble servant.