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Denmark Vesey Trial: 1822

A Long Brewing Plot, The Secret Plot Is Revealed, Vesey And Others Finally Arrested

Defendant: Denmark Vesey et al.
Crime Charged: Conspiracy to commit insurrection and murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Vesey defended himself with assistance from George Warren Cross
Chief Prosecutors and Judges: Lionel Kennedy, Thomas Parker, William Drayton, Nathan Heyward, James Legare, James R. Pringle, Robert J. Turnbull
Place: Charleston, South Carolina
Date of Trial: June 23-28, 1822
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Death (President James Madison later remitted the sentence); also, Hull was dishonorably discharged and his name was stricken form the rolls of the army

SIGNIFICANCE: Along with the later Nat Turner uprising, the Vesey conspiracy prompted new legislation that made it more difficult to free slaves and placed more severe restrictions on free blacks.

In 1822, Denmark Vesey, a 60-year-old former slave who had bought his freedom with the winnings from a lottery ticket, planned what would have been the most extensive slave rebellion in American history. He plotted to seize Charleston, South Carolina, recruiting thousands of slaves to help him and writing to the president of the black Haitian Republic, asking for Haitian military assistance. On the night of the uprising, his coconspirators, the house servants of prominent Charlestonians, were to assassinate the governor and other officials while they slept. Afterwards, six infantry and cavalry companies of armed slaves would move through Charleston and murder the entire white population. The only whites to be left alive were ships' captains, who would carry Vesey and his revolutionaries to Haiti. Before leaving South Carolina, he planned to burn Charleston to the ground.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1637 to 1832