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Nat Turner's Rebellion
Digital History ID 277

Author:   Samuel Warner


This volume was copyrighted just one month after the revolt took place.


Horrid Massacre

In consequence of the alarming increase of the Black population at the South, fears have been long entertained that it might one day be the unhappy lot of the whites, in that section, to witness scenes similar to those which but a few years since, nearly depopulated the once flourishing island of St. Domingo of its white inhabitants--but, these fears have never been realized even in a small degree, until the fatal morning of the 22d of August last, when it fell to the lot of the inhabitants of a thinly settled township of Southampton county (Virginia) to witness a scene horrid in the extreme!--when FIFTY FIVE innocent persons (mostly women and children) fell victims to the most inhuman barbarity.

The melancholy and bloody event was as sudden and unexpected, as unprecedented for cruelty--for many months previous an artful black, known by the name of Nat Turner, (a slave of Mr. Edward Travis) who had been taught to read and write, and who hypocritically and the better to enable him to effect his nefarious design, assumed the character of a Preacher, and as such as sometimes permitted to visit and associate himself with many of the Plantation Negroes, for the purpose (as was by him artfully represented) of christianizing and to teach them the propriety of their remaining faithful and obedient to their masters; but, in reality, to persuade and to prepare them in the most sly and artful manner to become the instruments of their slaughter!--in this he too well succeeded, by representing to the poor deluded wretches the Blessings of Liberty, and the inhumanity and injustice of their being forced like brutes from the land of their nativity, and doomed without fault or crime to perpetual bondage, and by those who were not more entitled to their liberty than themselves!--and he too represented to them the happy effects which had attended the united efforts of their brethren in St. Domingo, and elsewhere, and encouraged them with the assurance that a similar effort on their part, could not fail to produce a similar effect, and not only restore them to liberty but would produce them wealth and ease!...

Yet we cannot hold those entirely blameless, who first brought them from their native plains--who robbed them of their domestic joys--who tore them from their weeping children and dearest connections, and doomed them in this "Land of Liberty" to a state of cruel bondage!...

To remove this stain from the American people the energies of justice, the life of virtue, and the sacred obligations of principle must be brought into operation. We have already said that all men are born equal--that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness. But do we mean by the term ALL MEN, to be understood those of a white complexion only, and that nature has denied, or the Creator withheld, from those of other shades, the rights which have been contended for?... The colonization scheme of which we have heard at Washington, was opened to the public with feeling and pathetic acknowledgments that Africans were men and that from us they had a right to look for justice. Hence it cannot be denied, they are literally and in fact included in our bill of rights, nor can we be exonerated from the charge of tyranny until by our solemn act we place them in full possession of those rights which are claimed for ourselves, and which are consistent with the principles of our excellent government. While we believe it to have been the object and compatible with the views of the framers of our constitution, to "form a perfect union, establish justice and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity" we cannot admit that they ever intended to entail upon the sons of Africa the chains of perpetual slavery!--and we rejoice that we have it in our power to say that the reputation of the New-England States (as well as that of New-York, New-Jersey and Pennsylvania) is no longer tarnished with this foul stain--her humane and Philanthropic sons have wisely burst asunder the chains of bondage and set the captive free!

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Samuel Warner, Authentic and Impartial Narrative of the Tragical Southampton County

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