February 2nd, 2013 Headsman
On this date in 1708, the slave “Indian Sam” and an unnamed black woman were put to death for the murder of a prominent Queens landowner named William Hallet. The woman was burned; the apparent principal of the plot was hung in gibbets with a blade or spike positioned to torment him as he twisted … a terrible landmark for what Graham Russell Hodges calls the “closing vise of slavery.”
(Two additional accomplices were also hanged later, and several other slaves questioned whose ultimate fate was unknown.)
New York had greatly curtailed Africans’ liberties with its 1706 “Code Noir”, and the growing conflict would soon give birth to a bloody slave revolt.
But grievances were settled, too, at the rough and ready level of private violence. One witness recounted (pdf) the scene.
William Hallet junior who labored at a place called Hellgate his wife and five children in a quarter of an hour were all murdered by one Indian slave whom he had up for 4 years. There was a negro woman Slave in the house who was to him in counseling him in this bloody matter. Both he and his wife have gone at Justice Hattely house with some others … about seven at night [Hallet and his wife] returned home and went to bed … The slaves were watching their opportunity for they had to do it that night, and the house being something dark, [Indian Sam] came into the house and had a[n] axe laid behind the door and seeing his Master asleep took the axe and struck him first with the edge and then with the back of it. The first shook awakened his wife who was abed in the same room and she called murder, thereupon he struck her with the back of an axe on the head. There was one child lying in a box about 7 or 8 years of age. Those he murdered with the back of an axe and then drags the Young Child out from its murdered mother and Struck it on the head. The mother of the murdered child was also big with child.
… I have nothing new to acquaint you with, only that a most barbarous murder has been committed upon the Family of one Hallet by an Indian Man Slave, and a Negro Woman, who have murder’d their Master, Mistress and five Children; The Slaves were taken, and I immediately issued a special commission for the Tryal of them, which was done, and the man sentenced to be hanged, and the Woman burnt, and they have been executed; They Discovered two other Negros their accomplices who have been tryed, condemned & Executed.
Later that year, New York passed another law imposing potentially tortuous executions (“pains of Death in such manner and with such Circumstances as the aggravation and Enormity of their Crime in the Judgement of the Justices … shall merit and require”) for slave conspiracies.
Hallet was the descendant of one of New York’s prominent early grandees whose name long remained prominent, which would lead us to suppose that the restaurant called William Hallet in nearby present-day Astoria is not altogether coincidental.
* A character with a rather scandalous reputation.
Also on this date
- 1989: Vladimir Lulek, the last Czech executed
- 1951: The first four of the Martinsville seven
- 1945: Carl Goerdeler, as penance for the German people
- Daily Double: 1945, and the legacy of Valkyrie
- 1461: Owen Tudor, sire of sires
- 1940: Vsevolod Meyerhold
- 1512: Hatuey, defied Spanish colonization
Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Burned,Capital Punishment,Crime,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,England,Execution,Gibbeted,Hanged,History,Murder,New York,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Slaves,USA,Women