Pre-Cruel and Unusual Punishment United States


Whose mouth would not be agape after reading the following actions that happened during a slave revolt in New York City which was then called New Amsterdam. One can certainly understand the effect such horrid treatment of Blacks then might have on the Black psyche today.

The first slave revolt occurred in 1712(Before US Constitution was enacted and enforced) when a fire was started by slaves in the home of slave holder Peter Van Tilburgh. A band of slaves killed 9 white men who had been summoned to put out the fire.

Armed soldiers were dispatched to subdue the rioters. Some slaves killed themselves rather than be taken captive. There is no doubt the slaves who were arrested wished they had committed suicide as 13 slaves were hanged; one was left to die by starvation immobilized by chains; three were burned; another was burned over slow fire for almost 10 hours before expiring; and another negro was slowly stretched on a huge wheel in agonizing pain before his body ruptured spewing entrails over some of the morbid spectators!

Understand that these egregiously unimaginable punishments were done prior to the formation and adherence to the Constitution which we know today has a clause prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. As outlandish and fiendish as said punishments sound, I know a few mother-in-laws who would not have minded seeing their daughter’s husband executed in one of these hellish ways. Most of us have dealt with a coworker or even a spouse where such thoughts crossed our own minds so let’s not be too quick to judge here.

For more detail on the slave rebellions and revolts, read The Historical Atlas of NYC by Eric Homberger who goes back 400 years in touristy but pithy history tome.



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