This week in 1797

July 23rd, 2013 by admin

“I most solemnly declare with my dying breath . . . that I am innocent, and unknowing to the death of Thomas Read the Guinea, Negro [that I die for]. . . .And now having settled my worldly affairs I shall close and prepare to depart in peace. I’ve kissed this paper— and bid it convey the kiss to you my love: and now my dear Sally, I bid you—oh heavens! I bid you my dear wife! Not the Farewell of a day, month, nor year—but an eternal farewell—I earnestly beg your prayers for me and may God protect, preserve, prosper, and bless you, is the dying prayer of your dotingly fond husband . . .”

— Abraham Johnstone, convicted of murder, hanging, New Jersey.
Executed July 8, 1797

Johnstone was born a slave in Delaware but earned his freedom by throwing himself in between a knife and his master. Sometime later he was accused of killing a man named Tom in a brawl, for which he faced the gallows. The full forty-seven-page booklet of his lengthy speech and a final letter to his wife was printed the same year.

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