(New York) Daily Advertiser,
September (exact date unknown)
reprinted in the Liberator (Boston), September 17, 1831
The Richmond Whig contains an account, drawn by the editor of that paper, of the events and circumstances which occurred in the late negro insurrection in that state. The editor belonged to a troop of horse that were dispatched from that city to assist in the suppression of the insurrection, and therefore was able to relate what he saw as well as something that he had ascertained from others. The butcheries on both sides were dreadful. On the part of the insurgents, the indiscriminate slaughter of families—men, women, and children—were heartbreaking to the feelings, and affords a melancholy and most distressing, as well as a natural result of the state of things in a large portion of our country. It is one of the necessary consequences of slavery; and it is perfectly idle to attempt to conceal it. And we have no doubt that the editor of the Whig, when he was preparing the account of the expedition, was forcibly impressed with the idea we have suggested. After speaking of the atrocities committed by the blacks, he says: “It is with pain that we speak of another feature of the Southampton rebellion; for we have been most unwilling to have our sympathies for the sufferers diminished or affected by their misconduct. We allude to the slaughter of many blacks without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity. How many have been thus put to death (generally by decapitation or shooting) reports vary; probably, however, some five and twenty, and from that to forty; possibly a yet larger number. To the great honor of Gen Eppes, he used every precaution in his power, and we hope and believe with success to put a stop to the disgraceful procedure. [p. 83] We met with an individual of intelligence, who stated that he himself had killed between 10 and 15. He justified himself on the grounds of the barbarities committed on the whites.” The editor, however, acknowledges that his feelings were changed afterwards, and induced him in some measure to apologize for these people, and he adds, “Let the fact not be doubted by those whom it most concerns that another such insurrection will be signal for the extirpation of the whole black population, in the quarter of the state where it occurs and he afterwards repeats his persuasion “that another insurrection will be followed by putting the whole race to the sword.
This language, and the ideas and feelings which it naturally and even necessarily excites, are shocking to the mind. It is obviously intended to be understood as a threat to the blacks, to deter them form the commission of such outrages in the future. But the consequences of it, if it is understood by that description of persons, may be as terrible to the whole as to the blacks. Miserably ignorant and degraded as the latter are, a sense of their own situation, and the oppressions under which they consider themselves as suffering, whenever they become so far excited by any cause, as to make an effort for their own emancipation, it is to be expected that they will be aroused to madness; and, in such bosoms, vengeance is the most natural feeling of the heart. Convince them that, if subdued, they will be subjected to promiscuous and indiscriminate slaughter, and the evils to be apprehended are of the most terrible and appalling character. All the whites who may fall within their power, must expect to be butchered without mercy. And as they will have the first opportunity to give vent to their feelings, the calamity will fall upon the whites, before there will be the least possible chance of interference from abroad to save them.
Whatever feelings, then, the editor of the Whig might have imbibed from the distressing scenes which he had so recently witnessed, we cannot but think it would have been more discreet in him to have withheld them from the public, lest the consequences of their promulgation might, in some possible emergency, have proved fatal to those whose security he was desirous of promoting. Nor do we see any particular use in thus predicting future events. By his own account, the persons engaged in suppressing the insurrection, adopted the practice which he suggests. Many of the negroes in the region of the insurrection were slaughtered under the circumstances of great barbarity.
Henry Irving Tragle, The Southampton Slave Revolt of 1831: A Compilation of Source Material (Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1971), 82-83.