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Jefferson's letter to James Monroe

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On September 15, 1800, after ten of the rebels convicted of taking part in Gabriel's Conspiracy had been executed, Governor James Monroe wrote a letter to Vice President and fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson. In it, he asked for Jefferson's advice: "When to arrest the hand of the Executioner is a question of great importance."

Five days later Jefferson replied: "[T]here is a strong sentiment that there has been hanging enough. The other states & the world at large will forever condemn us if we indulge in a principle of revenge, or go one step beyond absolute necessity." While cautioning that he was "unwilling to be quoted in the case," Jefferson suggested that the men in question be imprisoned in a "fort & garrison" to allow the legislature time to "pass a law for their exportation, the proper measure on this & all similar occasions[.]"

With twenty-five slaves by now executed, Governor Monroe looked for an alternative solution, eventually deciding to transport some of the condemned rebels out of state by selling them to slave traders. Many of them, including Jack Ditcher, one of the leaders, were eventually sold in Spanish New Orleans.

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Related Entries:
Gabriel's Conspiracy
Douglas Egerton on the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L'Ouverture, and Jefferson
Julius Scott on John Brown Russworm and the Haitian Revolution

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