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Race and class in New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741 - Essay Example

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Subject: 18 November 2013 Reflection of Race and Class in the New York Conspiracy The New York Conspiracy, one of the significant events in early American history, refers to an episode, where “three slaves robbed” money, jewelry, clothes and other luxury items from a shop in the “East River Docks in New York City” (Zabin 1)…
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Race and class in New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741
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Download file to see previous pages This further has led a presumption that the blacks are revolting against the whites. The main reason for this conclusion appears to be the threat perception of whites due to the fact that Black population steadily increased to make up for “one sixth of the population” by 1741 (Parrillo 45). The people allegedly involved in this purported conspiracy have mainly been blacks and poor whites. The court that heard the trials bas been biased against the black race and poor class, due to which it interpreted a case involving “common theft and arson” as an “enormous conspiracy” (Zabin 3). Thus, it transpires that racial and class supremacy of the dominant white people of higher social echelon has resulted in poor judgment and prejudice in the New York Conspiracy, due to which many blacks and some lower class white men have been executed in the aftermath of the trial. All the men involved in the alleged theft and subsequent developments have either been blacks or white people of poor social standing. Another major member of the accused party has been a “papist priest and Spanish spy” which attributed a conspiracy angle to the episode (3). It can be evidenced from relevant sources that when the city of New York expanded, the affluent have moved away from the docks leaving it open for soldiers, sailors and the blacks to mingle and Hughson’s tavern, by virtue of its location within the close proximity of Hudson River has been ideal for catering the needs of the “transient residents as well as to the slaves” (7). During this time, the “religious revival movement” of the 1740s also becomes relevant, which has also caused bitterness among different segments of people (Parrillo 53). The 1741 winter had been very harsh and many witnesses have testified acute shortage of food and fuel but Burton as well as some other witnesses deposed that Hughson hosted “great feasts” (Zabin 9). Some statements even went to the extent that after the coup Hughson aspired to become “king” and John Gwin the “governor” while others pointed to the resentment about the disparity between the rich and the poor (10). Thus, the court, despite the absence of solid evidence, concluded that there indeed had been a conspiracy and executed the blacks and poor whites on racial and class prejudice. Evidence also suggests that during the trials, a “carefully calibrated” social rank system has been apparent, which determined the “authority and credibility of speeches and interactions” (11). The prevailing system in the early eighteenth century decided the social rank in terms of “gender, race and economic status” (11). Thus, it becomes obvious that the black people on the basis of race and some white men on the basis of lower economic status have been discriminated in the trials due to which the judges have awarded them the punishment of execution. Therefore, many believe that Horsmanden’s account, as one of the city’s elite, can only be seen as a version of the prosecution rather than a record of the actual events. Similarly, religion also has had an upper hand in Colonial America and the religious leaders also favored the higher echelons of the society rather than the poor man. In addition, a designated “civil government of its own” was absent and thus religion assumed additional power, which it could be used for favoring the elite white people (Godbeer 19). Thus, it ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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