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Nat Turner: Right Or Wrong? (We Had To Read Up On The Case Of Nat Turner's Rebellion And Decide Whether Her Was Right Or Wrong, And Argue Our Points)

1273 words - 5 pages

Nat Turner was a slave in the county of Southampton, Virginia. In 1831, he headed an insurrection against the whites, leading several slaves in a bloody massacre that lasted just over 24 hours. The men traveled from house to house in Southampton, slaughtering the people in each house and at various points gaining new rebels and building the numbers for his cause. It easy to see why this incident was met with such horror. Nat Turner and his men were not only responsible for the deaths of white male planters, but also their helpless wives and, in many cases, their infant children. It is very difficult to say whether or not Turner was right to do what he did, but in order to make a judgment one way or another one must examine both the short-term repercussions of the incident as well as the long-term consequences. After having examined these things, I come to the conclusion that Nat Turner was essentially wrong to do what he did.
One major point that many people make when arguing that Turner was right to do what he did is that his rebellion would have sparked abolitionist sentiments in the whites and may possibly have sped up the advent of emancipation in the long run. However there is no evidence to this end, indeed there is more evidence to suggest the opposite. Emancipation was a trend that was spread over the colonies and not peculiar to just one place, and it is doubtful that a rebellion of 30 slaves could have had a huge impact on its occurrence. In The Confessions of Nat Turner and Related Documents, edited by Kenneth S. Greenburg, are printed several documents by anti-abolitionists. These men use Turner's violence to their advantage, making him seem insane and suggesting this as one reason for never allowing slaves to be free. One such article worth noting is the essay by Thomas R. Dew, "Abolition of Slavery", printed in September and again in December 1832. According to Dew, slaves are a "people differing...in colour and in habits, and vastly inferior in the scale of civilization". Dew echoed the sentiments of the pro-slavery planters, saying that the very idea of abolition was "pregnant with mischief", and that "rash and hasty action threatens...the whole southern country with irremediable ruin" . This article was written and printed a year after Nat Turner was executed, and it shows that the negative attitude of the planters toward abolition had not changed. In another article, printed in The Norfolk Herald in November 1831 and which detailed Turner's capture, Benjamin Phipps recounts that Tuner's actions and confession to the crimes were "no further important than shewing that he was instigated by the wildest superstition and fanaticism", and goes on to say that Turner's "pretended prophecies...should not be mentioned, if it did not afford proof of his insanity" .
Another article, this one anonymous but attributed by some historians to Thomas R. Gray (in light of its language), was printed in The Constitutional Whig in September 1831. The...

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