1739 - Cato / Stono Rebellion
The first plot of much importance was the Stono uprising of September 9, 1739. The Spanish colony at St. Augustine, always hostile to the South Carolina settlement, seems to have encouraged in every way the incendiary propensities of the South Carolina slaves. McCrady, whose account is for the most part followed here, says that the slaves were encouraged by emissaries of the Spanish to leave their masters and on reaching the Spanish fort were protected and even organized into militia companies; and these facts were communicated to other slaves in Carolina to encourage them also to leave.
A number of slaves finally assembled at Stono, broke open a warehouse, killed the two guards, stole the arms and ammunition, and proceeding further, killed a Mr. Godfrey and family and fired his house. For fifteen miles they proceeded burning, plundering and murdering, compelling all slaves they met to follow. Twenty-one white persons fell victims to their barbarism. Finding rum in some of the houses, they imbibed freely with the result that they began to celebrate with an orgy of dance and song.
Governor Bull met them on his return from a visit to the outside. A Mr. Golightly had also observed them from a safe distance. These two spread the alarm, the latter pressing immediately after them on securing the assistance of the white men who were attending worship at a Presbyterian church, and who in obedience to law had gone to church armed. The militia surrounded the rebellious slaves and captured nearly all of them. Those who apparently had followed because of pressure were pardoned. Those losing their lives in the attack and those of the slaves executed amounted to forty-four.
The outbreak brought consternation to the peaceful inhabitants of the colony. The militia patrol to the southward was strengthened. In 1740 the great slave act was passed, which remained the basic law for the next century and a quarter. It would not be surprising then if on investigation this code should be found to be severe. Such is not the case, however. McCrady states that in some respects the condition of the slaves was ameliorated. The precautions against insurrection, however, were rigid, one section prohibiting beating drums, blowing horns or the like which might on occasion be used to arouse slaves to insurrectionary activity. A special act of the same year was passed quieting any claim against the state by any owner for a slave who had been put to death by execution for being concerned in the insurrection.
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