Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802

By Douglas R. Egerton | Go to book overview

2
An Upright Man

Slave controls were in a state of collapse in Virginia at large, but in the capital city of Richmond they were almost moribund. Although it was the political center of the state, Richmond, situated just below the falls on the north side of the James River, presented an unpromising face to visitors. Travelers from the south had to cross John Mayo's toll bridge, part of which teetered precariously upon fifteen large flat-bottomed boats, all held in place by a haphazard system of rusty chains and bent anchors. Riders lucky enough to make it cross soon found themselves on Main Street, an unpaved ditch dusty in the summer and "hub deep" in mud during the rainy season. A dark cloud of coal smoke hung over the town almost year-round. 1

Most of the town hugged the James. Although the city number barely seven hundred houses, most were new and of brick, a concrete symbol of the new wealth accrued from commerce in the Old Dominion's rapidly expanding capital. Gaslight had yet to make an appearance, but lanterns lit the avenues at night and flickered like fireflies in the dark. The city was an increasingly thriving port by the end of the century; tobacco, the region's chief cash crop, flowed out of Richmond even as manufactured goods of all description flowed in. Northern visitors who eyed the dungridden streets with distaste were nonetheless pleasantly surprised by the bustling business tone of the town, for the wharves were crowded with schooners, square riggers, flatboats, and scows. 2

The massive capitol building gave the town whatever elegance it had, but even the capitol square betrayed signs of the recent move from Williamsburg. To one side stood the "Governor's Mansion." The majestic title hardly fit the structure. Built in 1798, the "mansion" consisted of a simple wood building of two floors. Nearby sat the squat guardhouse, an equally shabby frame house, topped by a belfry, which served as headquarters of the Public Guard. As the square itself had no fence, cattle grazed and pigs rooted in the tall grass. Dilapidated horse racks placed on either side of the capitol were used by legislators and soldiers to dry their wet laundry and sodden uniforms. 3

-18-

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Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • I- Richmond 1800 1
  • 1- The Revolutionary Storm 3
  • 2- An Upright Man 18
  • 3- The Year 1800 34
  • 4- The Preparation 50
  • 5- A Plot Discovered 69
  • 7- A Companion Picture 95
  • II- Halifax 1802 117
  • 8- Recalled to Life 119
  • 9- The Footsteps Die out 132
  • 10- A Place of Asylum 147
  • 11- The Power in That Name 163
  • Appendix 1- Gabriel''s Religion 179
  • Appendix 2- The Frenchmen 182
  • Appendix 3- Virginia Slaves Executed in 1800 and 1802 186
  • Notes 189
  • Bibliography 237
  • Index 253
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