The hanging of Jeremiah Thomas

Thomas Jeremiah was a renowned free person of color, the world as a harbor pilot in South Carolina. Little is known about his life and how he got to acquire the freedom of being a man of color.  He became a slaveholder, where his wealth was estimated to be about £700 to £1,000, where he was the richest person of African descent in British North America.  However, he got in trouble in 1771 when he got convicted of assaulting a white captain who was sentenced to a10  hour in the pillory and got ten lashes[1]. The event that got him in trouble was the 1775 incident where he was suspected of getting in a ploy to use the enslaved people against white colonists who opposed British rule.

Circumstances leading to the arrest of Thomas Jeremiah

Why  the slave owners like Henry Laurens determined to preserve the institution of slavery

Preserving the institution of slavery was a major thing for slave-owners such as Henry Laurens believed in the importance of slavery in the region. According to them, they thought that the sudden end of the slavery economy would kill the economic impact in the south, whereby the institution of slavery was the foundation of the economy.[2]  They were concerned about the cotton economy, tobacco business and rice farming in the region which slaves supported.

The defenders of slavery also argued that doing away with slavery would lead to widespread unemployment and chaos. This would lead to uprisings, anarchy and bloodshed. They believed that slavery immensely helped in that it provided for affluence and stability for the slaveholding class and the persons who enjoyed a world with the slave society.[3] They believed that slavery and existed throughout history and that it was the nature of humankind. This is since all-powerful nations across Europe and  the world had slaves, which made them superiors.

What did slave-owners feel that the colonies’ revolution from Britain represented a threat to the institution of slavery?

Slave owners felt that increasing colonies’ revolution would eventually impact the institutions of slavery they wanted to survive. They felt that through the revolution, slaves would eventually get the freedom and hence there would be no institutions of that kind across the country and globally. They feared that the revolution would incite and prove the slaves across the region, where they would be resistant and, as a result, lead to chaos and upsprings, which would eventually affect their wellbeing negatively.

The slave owners feared that the slaves could revolt against them and overtake their wealth acquired over the years. They also feared that some powers could have used the power of slaves to join forces which would then make the revolutions a success, making the slave owners and wealthy in the region lesser without any labor force.

Why specifically did Jeremiah pose a threat?

Jeremiah posed a significant threat to other slave owners and British Rule. First of all, he was the wealthiest African in the region with many slaves and was one of the richest despite his skin colour.  He was later suspected of getting involved in an alleged plot by the British rule, which would use the enslaved people against the white colonists who were opposed to the British Rule in the South America region. [4]  Given the position, the colonialists and slave-owners believed that be was very influential, especially to the slaves. One day, he would make them change their minds and make them believe that the colonialists were always against them. His wealth always posed a threat to the colonialists, who thought he would always try to side with the African slaves and go against them in the conquest of power.[5] They believe that they would easily be betrayed by them rather than their fellow counterparts and could barely have them, him on his side.

Part 2

The evidence against Jeremiah’s guilt

In my opinion, Jeremiah was not guilty but was falsely accused of empowering the slavers against the British Colonies. First, Jeremiah was a black person who was not a native or colonizer and was always viewed like a black person who had claimed much wealth, yet all the other black persons where they were always treated as slaves. I also believe that Jeremiah was found guilty of always being against the white people, hence making him an automatic enemy, where they decide to make him their enemy and use the race against him. I believe that he  ought to have received a fair hearing not because of his crimes but because of the color of his skin which was a common phenomenon in the United states culture at that time.




Harris, J. William. The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man’s Encounter with Liberty. Yale University Press, 2009.

[1] Harris, J. William. The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man’s Encounter with Liberty. Yale University Press, 2009.

[2] Ibid

[3] Harris, J. William. The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man’s Encounter with Liberty. Yale University Press, 2009.

[4] Harris, J. William. The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man’s Encounter with Liberty. Yale University Press, 2009.

[5] Harris, J. William. The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah: A Free Black Man’s Encounter with Liberty. Yale University Press, 2009.

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