New York Journal of Commerce, no date

reprinted in The Liberator, September 10, 1831

 

INSURRECTION IN VIRGINIA—Viewed in all its bearings, this in one of the most distressing occurrences which has ever taken place in this country. Nothing can exceed the savage atrocity of the negroes, in the execution of their purposes, whatever they may have been. The mind shrinks with horror from the spectacle, when it contemplates whole families murdered, without regard to age or sex, and weltering in their gore. It is not strange if under such circumstances the whites should be wrought up to a high pitch of excitement, and shoot down without mercy not only the perpetrators, but all who are suspected of participation in the diabolical transaction. We do not say that they have gone too far in this matter. When the lives of a whole community are in jeopardy, severe measures are not only justifiable, but necessary. And yet the second scene of the tragedy is not without its horrors. No man can contemplate the slaughter of so many human beings as will perish by the white man’s hand in consequence of the insurrection, without the most painful emotions. Some of them no doubt deserve to die; others may be comparatively or altogether innocent.

 

        We cannot imagine what infatuation could have seized the minds of these negroes, that they should even dream of success in attempting [p. 75] to recover their freedom by violence and bloodshed. Do they not know that in addition to the forces of the white population among whom they are placed, the whole strength of the General Government is pledged to put down such insurrection? that if necessary, a million of men could be marched, on short notice, from the non-slaveholding States, to defend their brethren in the South? For, much as we abhor slavery; much as it is abhorred throughout the Northern and Eastern States; there is not a man of us who would not run to the relief of our friends in the South, when surrounded by the horrors of a servile insurrection.

 

        It has been said that the leaders of this band of murderers are white men. It seems incredible. Who or what can they be? Monsters in human shape, undoubtedly; by whatever other names they may be called. But we shall know more on this head hereafter, together with the motives which prompted the insurrection.

 

 

From Eric Foner, ed., Nat Turner (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971), 74-75.