The New York Conspiracy Trials

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Fear begets hate and hate begets violence. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the 1741 New York slave conspiracy trials. Much like the violence in the Salem Witch Trials, a set of natural circumstances coupled with the word of one or two people from a lower order of society caused hysteria and bloodshed. This case is flimsy by modern-day standards and is also very flimsy by the standards of the 1740s.

The conspiracy rumblings began after a shop owned by Rebecca Hogg was robbed by two slaves. Then a rash of house fires, with four occurring in one day, unsettled the colony. These fires were most likely caused by soot filled chimneys and the man seen running from one of the burning buildings just might have been running for safety. However, in the face of mortal fear, evidence is the last on anyone's mind. By the standards of the 1740s, this case should have been a draw. Their sole witness was a young, female servant. All three of those characteristics should have made her a null witness. Her status as a servant should have made her a bad witness by the standards of the day. Also, females at the time were not considered reliable witnesses and at many points in history, were not even allowed to testify in court.

However, the prosecution in the case raised some difficult to repute. The black man that was reported to be seen running from a fire and the coals found under hay in a barn (even though the coals were out before the fire started). Not to mention Mary Burton's eyewitness testimony.

Burton's testimony basically tells the prosecutors exactly what they want to hear. She pins the bulk of the conspiring on her masters, the Hughsons, and two slaves, Prince and Caesar. The Hughsons were suspected of fencing stolen goods for slaves and for selling them alcohol and Prince and Caesar were suspected of stealing from a store.

However, what is not made clear is, if this were a conspiracy being hatched by people who actually had to potential to...
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