Dutch Colonial Law, and Negro Fortitude.

(From Lavaysse’s Account of Venezuela, Trinidad, Margaritta, and Tobago, just published.)

Stedman, after having given a picture of the cruelties practised on the negroes at Surinam, relates that on his arrival in that colony, a white man was flagged by a black executioner, for having stolen some money from the townhouse ; and he remarked that this negro inflicted the punishment with great signs of commiseration. A negro was broken on the wheel for the same crime, and he bore that horrible punishment without a sigh. A moment afterwards, they prepared to hang another, and whilst the hangman was tying the cord round his neck to launch him into eternity, he looked steadfastly, with a smile of contempt, at his judges, who were among the spectators of the execution. ” Having expressed to the persons who were near me, (says Captain Stedman) how much I was shocked with the injustice and cruelty of those executions, and surprised at the intrepidity of the negroes during the punishment, a very decent looking man thus addressed me ; Sir, you are newly arrived from Europe ; but if you were better acquainted with negro slaves, what you now see would neither excite your surprise nor your pity. It is not long since I saw a negro suspended from that very gibbet by the ribs. The following is the manner in which it was done : two incisions were made in his side, in which was passed an iron hook attached to a chain. He lived three days suspended in that manner, his head and feet hanging down, licking from his bleeding breast the drops of water that fell on it, for it rained at the time. The sufferer did not, however, utter a groan, and never once complained. On the third day, another negro was flogged under the gallows, and having cried from pain, the former reproached him for his want of courage: ” Are you a man?” said he to him, ” you behave like a child!” – A moment afterwards the soldier who was sentry on the spot taking pity on him, dashed out his brains with the butt end of his musquet. ” I saw another negro quartered,” the narrator: ” After his arms and legs were tied to four very strong horses, an iron nail was driven under each nail of his hands and feet He suffered that without complaining, requested a glass of ru,, and ordered the executioners to let loose the horses. But that which amused us most,” continued this monster, “was the humour of the fellow, who, when the hangman presented the glass of rum to him that he had asked for, told him to drink first, as he was very much afraid of bepoisoned, and desired him to take care that his horses should not kick him. As for old negroes being broken on the wheel, and young women burnt alive, nothing is more common in this colony!”

Citation: Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, United Kingdom), 24 January 1820, available at the Scissors and Paste Database, http://www.scissorsandpaste.net/159.