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Trial of Dred (slave of Nathaniel Francis)

September 5, 1831 –  Executed


At a Court of Oyer and Terminer summoned and held for the County of Southampton on the 5th day of September 1831 for the trial of Dred a negro man slave the property of Nathaniel Francis of this County for making insurrection and for conspiring the lives of sundry free white persons of this Commonwealth—


Present: Carr Bowers, Samuel D. Massenburg, Benjamin Griffin, Ores a Browne, and James Trezevant Gent.


The Court being thus constituted Meriwether B. Brodnax Attorney for the Commonwealth filed an information against the slave named Dred and thereupon the said Dred was led to the bar in custody of  this County and being arraigned of the premises pleaded not guilty to the information and


Levi Waller of full age being sworn as a witness states that the prisoner was one of the insurgents who came to his home on Monday 22d August 1831 and killed his family. Witness was near him and knew him well. Prisoner was mounted and armed with a gun or rifle. Witness does not know which witness cannot be mistaken in his person[1] – and prisoner rode up on one side of the fence in search of him while he was concealed on the other that he afterward crept within about 60 yards of the house and saw the prisoner drinking with the others.


And the prisoner was heard in his defence by James S. French his Counsel.


The Court after hearing the testimony and from all the circumstances of the case are unanimously of opinion that the prisoner is guilty in manner and form as in the information against him is set forth and it being demanded of him is anything for himself he had or knows to say why the Court should not proceed to pronounce judgment against him according to law and nothing being offerred or alleged in delay of judgment it is considered by the Court that the prisoner be taken hence to the place from whence he came where he is to be securely confined until Monday the twelth day of September instant on which day between the hours of ten o’clock in the forenoon and two o’clock in the afternoon the prisoner is to be taken by the Sheriff to the usual place of execution and there to be hanged by the neck until he be dead. And the Court values the said slave Dred to the sum of four hundred dollars.


The Court doth allow James S. French Esq. the sum of ten dollars for his fee for defending the above named Slave.




[1] This must mean the witness did not know whether it was a gun or a rifle; then the next sentence is, “Witness cannot be mistaken in his person.”

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