As a result of these and other disclosures it was seen that not only Hughson and Romme but also Ury, who was not so much a priest as an adventurer, had instigated the plots of the Negroes; and Quack testified that Hughson was the first contriver of the plot to burn the houses of the town and kill the people, though he himself, he confessed, did fire the fort with a lighted stick. The punishment was terrible. Quack and Cuffee, the first to be executed, were burned at the stake on May 30. All through the summer the trials and the executions continued, harassing New York and indeed the whole country. Altogether twenty white persons were arrested; four—Hughson, his wife, Peggy, and Ury—were executed, and some of their acquaintances were forced to leave the province. One hundred and fifty-four Negroes were arrested. Thirteen were burned, eighteen were hanged, and seventy-one transported.
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It is evident from these events and from the legislation of the era that, except for the earnest work of such a sect as the Quakers, there was little genuine effort for the improvement of the social condition of the Negro people in the colonies. They were not even regarded as potential citizens, and both in and out of the system of slavery were subjected to the harshest regulations. Towards amicable relations with the other racial elements that were coming to build up a new country only the slightest measure of progress was made. Instead, insurrection after insurrection revealed the sharpest antagonism, and any outbreak promptly called forth the severest and frequently the most cruel punishment.
THE REVOLUTIONARY ERA
1. Sentiment in England and America
The materialism of the eighteenth century, with all of its evils, at length produced a liberalism of thought that was to shake to their very foundations old systems of life in both Europe and America. The progress of the cause of the Negro in this period is to be explained by the general diffusion of ideas that made for the rights of man everywhere. Cowper wrote his humanitarian poems; in close association with the romanticism of the day the missionary movement in religion began to gather force; and the same impulse which in England began the agitation for a free press and for parliamentary reform, and which in France accounted for the French Revolution, in America led to the revolt from Great Britain. No patriot could come under the influence of any one of these movements without having his heart and his sense of justice stirred to some degree in behalf of the slave. At the same time it must be remembered that the contest of the Americans was primarily for the definite legal rights of Englishmen rather than for the more abstract rights of mankind which formed the platform of the French Revolution; hence arose the great inconsistency in the position of men who were engaged in a stern struggle for liberty at the same time that they themselves were holding human beings in bondage.