Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xii

Preparing and publishing scholarly editions of historical documents are major, timeconsuming undertakings. Those who initiate and engage in such projects invest years of effort in identifying, locating, evaluating, transcribing, and organizing relevant materials. Their goals include making history’s primary sources more accessible for scholars...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) in Clinton, New York, has never said “No” in supporting any aspect of this project over the years. We would like to thank in particular Carl Menges of the AHI’s Board of Directors and President Richard Erlanger for approving the resources needed to turn an early...

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Editorial Statement

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pp. xv-xviii

This documentary collection represents an exhaustive effort to reproduce and interpret all documents relevant to the Denmark Vesey affair. The discovery in 1822 by Charleston officials of an alleged revolutionary slave plot, masterminded by Vesey, a freed person of color, transformed the politics of South Carolina and, in so doing, helped set the slave-holding...

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Introduction

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pp. xix-xxvi

The Caribbean historian C.L.R. James prefaced his grand narrative of Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution by paraphrasing Karl Marx: “Great men make history, but only such history as it is possible for them to make.”1 James’s maxim holds equally true for the man who would come to be known as Denmark Vesey. His life and actions...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xvii-xviii

Timeline

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pp. xxix-xliv

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Part I. Preconditions

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pp. 1-72

Most of the slaves and free blacks involved in the conspiracy of 1822 had resided in Charleston for years, if not decades. These documents chart the arrival and subsequent lives of the key leaders of Vesey’s plot. They also establish the context of the plot through their depiction of black life and culture in the Carolina lowcountry. The first...

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Part II. Proceedings

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pp. 73-154

The conspiracy began to unravel on May 22, 1822, when minor recruiter William Paul spoke of the planned uprising to Peter, a mixed-race cook owned by Colonel John Cordes Prioleau (1772–1825). Prioleau, a prominent merchant and planter, resided in 1822 on Meeting Street and owned a large plantation in St. James Goose Creek Parish, north...

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Part III. Trials: The Official Report and the Senate Transcript

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pp. 155-366

The Editorial Statement that precedes Part I identifies the three white men who in 1822 published two accounts that contained all or parts of the records generated by the proceedings of the two courts of magistrates and freeholders formed to pass judgment on the accused plotters. As early as mid-August, Intendant (Mayor) James Hamilton...

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Part IV. Eyewitnesses

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pp. 367-462

Charleston officials confined the accused plotters behind the thick walls of the Charleston Work-House, the city jail, and the Charleston Poor-House. Although the trials proceeded deep within the Work-House, numerous eyewitnesses, some of whom like Charleston’s white ministers had heard confessions of jailed slaves, reported on the...

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Part V. Aftermath

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pp. 463-718

Even as the executions finally ended with the death of William Garner on August 9, and as Charleston gravediggers and surgeons put away their tools, a different sort of struggle ensued both inside and outside South Carolina’s borders. Inside the state, Governor Thomas Bennett Jr. battled for his political life and legacy as he defended his view that...

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Part VI. Recollections and Memorializations

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pp. 719-800

In the history of slave plots and insurrections in the United States, Denmark Vesey’s conspiracy set no records for the shedding of blood. Rebellious slaves killed about two dozen whites, and whites killed about forty slaves during the Stono uprising (1739), part of what white South Carolinians at the time of the Vesey affair referred to in the context...

Index

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pp. 801-812

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About the Authors

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p. 813

Douglas R. Egerton has taught history at Le Moyne College since 1987; he has also held visiting appointments at Colgate University, Cornell University, and the University College of Dublin. He is the author of eight books, including He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey; The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America’s...

Series Page

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p. 814