Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Slave Trader Sentenced to Hang

This entry is what the Judge Shipman said when he passed sentence on Nathanial Gordon on November 9th, 1861.  

Nathaniel Gordon was the only American slave trader to be tried, convicted and executed "for being engaged in the Slave Trade" in accordance with the Piracy Law of 1820. He loaded 897 slaves aboard his ship Erie in West Africa on August 7, 1860, "of whom only 172 were men and 162 grown women. Gordon was known for preferring to carry children because they were easier to control  The Erie was captured 50 miles from port on August 8, 1860. After one hung jury and a new trial, Gordon was finally convicted on November 9, 1861 and sentenced to death by hanging.  

Here is what the judge, said:

Let me implore you to seek the spiritual guidance of the ministers of religion; and let your repentance be as humble and thorough as your crime was great. Do not attempt to hide its enormity from yourself; think of the cruelty and wickedness of seizing nearly a thousand fellow beings, who never did you harm, and thrusting them beneath the decks of a small ship, beneath a burning tropical sun, to die in of disease or suffocation, or be transported to distant lands, and be consigned, they and their posterity, to a fate far more cruel than death.
Think of the sufferings of the unhappy beings whom you crowded on the Erie; of their helpless agony and terror as you took them from their native land; and especially of their miseries on the ---- ----- place of your capture to Monrovia! Remember that you showed mercy to none, carrying off as you did not only those of your own sex, but women and helpless children.
Do not flatter yourself that because they belonged to a different race from yourself, your guilt is therefore lessened – rather fear that it is increased. In the just and generous heart, the humble and the weak inspire compassion, and call for pity and forbearance. As you are soon to pass into the presence of that God of the black man as well as the white man, who is no respecter of persons, do not indulge for a moment the thought that he hears with indifference the cry of the humblest of his children. Do not imagine that because others shared in the guilt of this enterprise, yours, is thereby diminished; but remember the awful admonition of your Bible, “Though hand joined in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished." 
—Worcester Aegis and Transcript; December 7, 1861; pg. 1, col. 6.

Description of a slave ship," by an anonymous artist, wood engraving. The woodcut was first produced in 1786 to illustrate various works by Thomas Clarkson, and was then distributed separately by abolitionists. from the British Museum, London, this image is from Wikimedia

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