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Slave Insurrection of 1712


 Location of the Insurrection

 

On Monday morning, April 7, 1712, New Yorkers gasped at the bodies strewn about town after a night of unprecedented violence. August Grasset lay dead with "severall wounds about his Neck and head and fingers." (Butler 2001, p 8)

 

 Auguste Grasset (1645-1712) is my eighth great-grandfather, a French Huguenot who immigrated to New York. He was collector at the weigh-house and a slave owner.

 

In 1712, the population of New York City was between 6,000 and 8,000 people, approximately 1,000 of whom were slaves. Slaves were held in harsh conditions. On 6 April 1712, a slave insurrection occurred. The revolt began when a group of slaves set fire to an outbuilding of one of the slave owners on Maiden Lane. When the fire spread, white owners arrived to put out the fire and were attacked by a group of about 23 slaves (although estimates of the number range as high as 100). Nine whites were killed, including our ancestor Auguste Grasset, and six others were wounded. Governor Robert Hunter called out the militia to suppress the riot. Some of the slaves fled into a wooded swamp. In the round-up by the militia, 70 slaves and free blacks were brought into custody. It was reported that six of those arrested committed suicide rather than face trial. About 40 persons were brought to trial. Eighteen were acquitted and discharged. Three were burned at the stake with the execution carried out immediately. One person was crushed by a wheel, and one person was chained and starved to death. The remainder were hanged. One pregnant woman was reprieved until the birth of her child and then hanged.

 

Eighteen persons were charged related to the death of Auguste Grasset, one charged with murder and seventeen with accessory to murder. Of these, six were hanged immediately, one pregnant woman was hanged after the birth of her child, ten were acquitted, and one was convicted and later pardoned due to insufficient evidence. These are the outcomes of the persons charged in the death of Auguste Grasset, all charged as accessory to murder except Toby who was charged with murder: Arura, acquitted; Ben, acquitted; Bonny, acquitted; Caesar, hanged; Cuffee, convicted and pardoned; Dick, acquitted; George, acquitted; Hanibal, hanged; Jurorico, acquitted; Lilly, acquitted; Quacko, hanged; Quashi, acquitted; Rodriguo, acquitted; Sarah, reprieved until birth of child, then hanged; Titus, hanged; Toby, hanged; Tom; hanged; and Tom, acquitted.

(Scott 1961)


The group sheet for Auguste Grasset can be seen here: https://abbottgenealogy.org/familygroup.php?familyID=F624&tree=abbott1

 

References: 

 

Butler, Jon. 2001. Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776. Harvard University Press.

 

Scott, Kenneth. 1961. "The Slave Insurrection in New York in 1712." New York Historical Society Quarterly 45 (1): 43-74.

 

 

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