Governor James Monroe And Southampton Slave Resistance Of 1799 - Critical Essay. Paper by Arthur Scherr which looks at Virginia Governor James Monroe's suppression of slave resistance in Southampton in 1799. Scroll down the page to find the article. The page looks bad due to some dumb coding but the article is there if you scroll down.
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James Monroe's governorship of Virginia (1799-1802) is best known for the violent suppression of "Gabriel's slave conspiracy" in 1800, in which freedom-seeking slaves from Henrico and neighboring counties plotted to burn the capital, Richmond, kill its white slaveholders, and kidnap Governor Monroe. The rebellion was quickly crushed, and over 30 blacks were executed in its aftermath. Less well known is Monroe's involvement in another case of slave resistance that took place in Southampton County in 1799 shortly after Monroe took office.
On 15 October, Georgia slave traders Joshua Butte and Harris Spears (or Spiers), partners of James Simms, a member of Georgia's legislature, used ten thousand dollars Simms had embezzled from the state treasury to purchase "a considerable number" of slaves in southeastern Virginia's Southampton County.(1) Travelling along the high road leading from Broadwater to Jerusalem, Butte and Spiers also bought several Maryland blacks from Virginia slave dealers William Boykin and Ben Drew, adding them to their Georgia-bound slave coffle. Several of the Maryland slaves, wielding sticks, knives, and pistols, escaped after having robbed and murdered Butte and Spiers. When the slave patrol caught up with them, ten runaways reportedly were killed, but five were recaptured, identified, and tried before the Southampton County court of oyer and terminer (criminal court). Their names--Hatter Isaac, Old Sam, Jerry, Isaac, and Young Sam--suggest family ties between four of them.(2)
The eight-magistrate court, headed by Chief Justice Benjamin Blunt, Southampton's county lieutenant and militia commander during the Revolution, convicted the first four men of "conspiracy, insurrection, rebellion, and murder" on 25 October 1799 and scheduled their hanging for 25 November. Young Sam pleaded benefit of clergy, an option for first-time youthful offenders until 1848, and was released after receiving 39 lashes and a branding on the hand. Governor Monroe reprieved the other four slaves for several months while he determined whether they had perhaps been freedmen defending themselves from kidnappers. In the interim he pardoned one slave, young Jerry; a second slave, Old Sam, died of exposure in the county jail during the winter. On 5 May 1800, Monroe consented to the execution of the two remaining convicts.(3)