The Commonwealth vs. Nat Turner
Charged with making insurrection, and plotting to take away the lives of divers free white persons, &c. on the 22d of August, 1831. Th e court composed of ——, having met for the trial of Nat Turner, the prisoner was brought in and arraigned, and upon his arraignment pleaded Not guilty; saying to his counsel, that he did not feel so. On the part of the Commonwealth, Levi Waller was introduced, who being sworn, deposed as follows: (agreeably to Nat’s own Confession.) Col. Trezvant* was then introduced, who being sworn, narrated Nat’s Confession to him, as follows: (his Confession as given to Mr. Gray.) Th e prisoner introduced no evidence, and the case was submitted without argument to the court, who having found him guilty, Jeremiah Cobb, Esq. Chairman, pronounced the sentence of the court, in the following words: “Nat Turner! Stand up. Have you any thing to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced against you?” Ans. I have not. I have made a full confession to Mr. Gray, and I have nothing more to say. Attend then to the sentence of the Court. You have been arraigned and tried before this court, and convicted of one of the highest crimes in our criminal code. You have been convicted of plotting in cold blood, the indiscriminate destruction of men, of helpless women, and of infant children. Th e evidence before us leaves not a shadow of doubt, but that your hands were often imbrued in the blood of the innocent; and your own confession tells us that they were stained with the blood of a master; in your own language, “too indulgent.” Could I stop here, your crime would be sufficiently aggravated. But the original contriver of a plan, deep and deadly, one that never can be effected, you managed so far to put it into execution, as to deprive us of many of our most valuable citizens; and this was done when they were asleep, and defenseless; under circumstances shocking to humanity. And while upon this part of the subject, I cannot but call your attention to the poor misguided wretches who have gone before you. Th ey are not few in number—they were your bosom associates; and the blood of all cries aloud, and calls upon you, as the author of their misfortune. Yes! You forced them unprepared, from Time to Eternity. Borne down by this load of guilt, your only justification is, that you were led away by fanaticism. If this be true, from my soul I pity you; and while you have my sympathies, I am, nevertheless called upon to pass the sentence of the court. Th e time between this and your execution, will necessarily be very short; and your only hope must be in another world. Th e judgment of the court is, that you be taken hence to the jail from whence you came, thence to the place of execution, and on Friday next, between the hours of 10 a. m. and 2 p. m. be hung by the neck until you are dead ! dead ! dead ! and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul.
*Th e committing Magistrate