1500-1799 | Executions | Slavery | Trinidad and Tobago

Slave rebellion evokes brutal executions in Tobago

A gibbet – Sheri – CC License – via Flickr.

10 March 1774

On 10 March 1774, two hundred slaves staged a rebellion on a plantation at Queen’s Bay, Tobago, owned by two wealthy planters, Sir William Young and Robert Stewart. Led by a slave named Sampson, they killed three white overseers, smashed up equipment and stores of alcohol and seized arms and ammunition. As soon as they saw a group of heavily armed militia approaching, they fled into the mountainous rain forest of the interior and were soon pursued by a combined force of soldiers from the Forty Eighth Regiment and militia men.1

Within days, thirty of the rebels, including Sampson, were hunted down and brought in for interrogation and trial. Sampson and six others deemed rebel leaders were condemned to death. The ringleaders each had his right arm severed before being burned alive, while Sampson was hauled up in a gibbet to die slowly as a gruesome public spectacle. He is said to have survived a week. The remaining twenty three slaves were severely whipped and then transported to another island.2


  1. Michael Craton, Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 2009, pp. 155-156, Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2000, p. 146 and ‘Etract of a letter from a Gentleman in Tobago to his friend in Edinburgh, dated King’s Bay, March 24th, 1774,’ The Derby Mercury, 1 July 1774, p. 1.
  2. Michael Craton, op. cit., p. 156.

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