The Confessions Of Nat Turner by Nat Turner


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Page 1

In testimony that the above is a true copy,
from the record of the District Court for
(Seal.) the District of Columbia, I, Edmund J.
Lee, the Clerk thereof, have hereunto
set my hand and affixed the seal of my
office, this 10th day of November, 1831.

Edmund J. Lee, C.D.C.


The late insurrection in Southampton has greatly excited the public
mind, and led to a thousand idle, exaggerated and mischievous reports.
It is the first instance in our history of an open rebellion of the
slaves, and attended with such atrocious circumstances of cruelty and
destruction, as could not fail to leave a deep impression, not only upon
the minds of the community where this fearful tragedy was wrought, but
throughout every portion of our country, in which this population is to
be found. Public curiosity has been on the stretch to understand the
origin and progress of this dreadful conspiracy, and the motives which
influences its diabolical actors. The insurgent slaves had all been
destroyed, or apprehended, tried and executed, (with the exception of
the leader,) without revealing any thing at all satisfactory, as to the
motives which governed them, or the means by which they expected to
accomplish their object. Every thing connected with this sad affair was
wrapt in mystery, until Nat Turner, the leader of this ferocious band,
whose name has resounded throughout our widely extended empire, was
captured. This "great Bandit" was taken by a single individual, in a
cave near the residence of his late owner, on Sunday, the thirtieth of
October, without attempting to make the slightest resistance, and on the
following day safely lodged in the jail of the County. His captor was
Benjamin Phipps, armed with a shot gun well charged. Nat's only weapon
was a small light sword which he immediately surrendered, and begged
that his life might be spared. Since his confinement, by permission of
the Jailor, I have had ready access to him, and finding that he was
willing to make a full and free confession of the origin, progress and
consummation of the insurrectory movements of the slaves of which he was
the contriver and head; I determined for the gratification of public
curiosity to commit his statements to writing, and publish them, with
little or no variation, from his own words. That this is a faithful
record of his confessions, the annexed certificate of the County Court
of Southampton, will attest. They certainly bear one stamp of truth and
sincerity. He makes no attempt (as all the other insurgents who were
examined did,) to exculpate himself, but frankly acknowledges his full
participation in all the guilt of the transaction. He was not only the
contriver of the conspiracy, but gave the first blow towards its

It will thus appear, that whilst every thing upon the surface of society
wore a calm and peaceful aspect; whilst not one note of preparation was
heard to warn the devoted inhabitants of woe and death, a gloomy fanatic
was revolving in the recesses of his own dark, bewildered, and
overwrought mind, schemes of indiscriminate massacre to the whites.
Schemes too fearfully executed as far as his fiendish band proceeded in
their desolating march. No cry for mercy penetrated their flinty bosoms.
No acts of remembered kindness made the least impression upon these
remorseless murderers. Men, women and children, from hoary age to
helpless infancy were involved in the same cruel fate. Never did a band
of savages do their work of death more unsparingly. Apprehension for
their own personal safety seems to have been the only principle of
restraint in the whole course of their bloody proceedings. And it is not
the least remarkable feature in this horrid transaction, that a band
actuated by such hellish purposes, should have resisted so feebly, when
met by the whites in arms. Desperation alone, one would think, might
have led to greater efforts. More than twenty of them attacked Dr.
Blunt's house on Tuesday morning, a little before day-break, defended by
two men and three boys. They fled precipitately at the first fire; and
their future plans of mischief, were entirely disconcerted and broken
up. Escaping thence, each individual sought his own safety either in
concealment, or by returning home, with the hope that his participation
might escape detection, and all were shot down in the course of a few
days, or captured and brought to trial and punishment. Nat has survived
all his followers, and the gallows will speedily close his career. His
own account of the conspiracy is submitted to the public, without
comment. It reads an awful, and it is hoped, a useful lesson, as to the
operations of a mind like his, endeavoring to grapple with things beyond
its reach. How it first became bewildered and confounded, and finally
corrupted and led to the conception and perpetration of the most
atrocious and heart-rending deeds. It is calculated also to demonstrate
the policy of our laws in restraint of this class of our population,
and to induce all those entrusted with their execution, as well as our
citizens generally, to see that they are strictly and rigidly enforced.
Each particular community should look to its own safety, whilst the
general guardians of the laws, keep a watchful eye over all. If Nat's
statements can be relied on, the insurrection in this county was
entirely local, and his designs confided but to a few, and these in his
immediate vicinity. It was not instigated by motives of revenge or
sudden anger, but the results of long deliberation, and a settled
purpose of mind. The offspring of gloomy fanaticism, acting upon
materials but too well prepared for such impressions. It will be long
remembered in the annals of our country, and many a mother as she
presses her infant darling to her bosom, will shudder at the
recollection of Nat Turner, and his band of ferocious miscreants.

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