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Colonial Cases

R. v. Stella and Buchanan [1823]

slave court - murder - capital punishment

Slave Court

24 June 1823

Source: The Morning Chronicle (London, England) 6 September 1823, issue 16968, from the British Library's 19th Century Newspapers site

SLAVE COURT.

MONTEGO-BAY, JAMAICA, June 24.

The King v. Stella, a negro woman, and her son William Buchanan, a sambo, belonging to the late Mr. Cargill Mowat, for compassing and imagining the death of a white person, and for being accessories to the murder of the late Mr. Mowat.

The indictment being read,

Dr. Gordon sworn, deposed to the fact of the death of Mr. Mowat.

Copy of the record of the conviction of Robert McKellar tendered, objected to by Mr. Grignon - original produced.

Thomas, driver to the late Mr. Mowat, stated, that on the evening of Wednesday, previous to the death of Mr. Mowat, he saw Wm. Buchanan with Robert McKellar: the next morning saw them again, eating breakfast together; did not see him again till the Saturday following, when he saw him at his master's place, Rock Pleasant; that he saw Stella, who complained that her master had driven away the Maroon man; that on Monday morning Wm. Buchanan was one of the last who came to work. William had been driver, and was broken for neglect; that his salt-fish was stopped at Christmas, because he had stolen plantains when he was watching the walk.

Devonshire, belonging to Anchovy-bottom estate, knows William and Stella. William brought Robert McKellar to his hut on Saturday morning; told Devonshire that Robert was his friend, and was a Maroon, out on a party looking for runaways, and whenever he called he must treat him well; Wm. Buchanan slept in Devonshire's hut that night, and got up so early next morning, that he might have been at Rock Pleasant before day-break.

Ellen, or Ann Elizabeth Carter, belonging to Mrs. Mowat, examined as to her knowledge of the nature of an oath, and giving a satisfactory answer, was sworn: knows William and Stella, knew Robert McKellar; William brought Robert to Rock Pleasant on Wednesday night; next morning they went to Belle Vue, where the negroes were working. Thursday night they came back together to Rock Pleasant, and slept there in the hall of the great house; Friday William left Robert at Rock Pleasant, with his mother Stella, and told her to give Robert breakfast for him; Robert went to the Bay for rum, and returned; slept at Rock Pleasant Friday, and stayed there all Saturday; William came to Rock Pleasant on Saturday evening; Robert and he went together to Anchovy, and on Sunday at one o'clock returned with Robert, a woman named Aurelia, and a brown child; they went into the house, and her master began to quarrel; that he would nail the up-stairs door, for they made a negro house of it; that Wm. Buchanan did nothing but walk all over the country, and pick up all the strangers and bring them home, and when he returned from muster he would pay him for harbouring strangers; desired witness to turn Robert out of the washhouse, for though he said he was a Maroon, he had no pass; she told Robert to go away, but Stella said no, let him sit down and not speak, and her master would think he was gone. Robert went down to the negro houses, and returned after her master went to bed; heard Stella complaining to Robert, that her master had killed her pigs and fowl, and that as long as he was alive, she should never be able to do any good for herself and family. Stella made a bed in the hall for Robert that night; told Sammy, one of her sons, to be sure and wake Robert early next morning. Monday morning, after her master was gone, Wm. Buchanan came to Rock Pleasant and asked Stella, his mother, for clothes; after he shifted, he did not go away, but sat down upon the steps; she was in her room, and heard somebody talking, looked out, and saw it was Robert; Stella went upstairs, and brought clean clothes for Robert, and he went into her master's room and shifted. Robert, Sammy, William, and Stella, then went into the pantry, talked for some time, and heard Stella say to Robert, "You did a wrong thing to take away the pocket book;" heard William Buchanan say, "Make haste and give him his breakfast, and let him go to his (William's) wife at Anchovy;" Stella said, "No, let him go farther, and not come back for two years;" after he ate breakfast, Stella told Sammy to take Robert down through Providence grass-piece, for fear any body should meet them if they went by the road. When her master's body was brought up, and the Doctor called for brandy, Stella showed great indifference, said there was none; witness said, "Perhaps some might be in some of the bottles;" Stella said, "What is it to you, if master had used you as he used me, you would not be in such a hurry to find brandy." When she was called to bring some rags for a blister, she said, "She was not going to do so, let him die and go to hell;" her master lived till next day, and Stella became alarmed lest he should live, and exclaimed frequently, "William is going to get into trouble." As the funeral was going down the hill, Stella said, "Ah! you blood of a -, did i not tell you when you flogged Eliza, it was the last you should give a child of mine?" she was very strictly examined by Mr. Grignon without varying her tale.

Flora deposed, that on Sunday morning she went to her ground, and returned in the evening; she heard that her master had quarrelled, and turned away Robert McKellar; asked Stella what was the matter; Stella said, "It is not a little something this afternoon." Heard Stella complaining to Robert about her hogs, on Monday morning; her master quarrelled with Stella for not getting his breakfast soon enough, and said, "If he was fined for being too late at muster, she must pay the fine." Heard Stella mutter and say, "You will meet man like yourself this morning." Went to work; saw Wm. Buchanan; he came late to work; the negroes had heard of her master's accident; heard him say, "Thank God, I have done carrying coin-stones of a Monday morning."

Sydney deposed, that she heard Stella say to Robert McKellar, "that if he would do as she wished him, and make the stage clear for her, that she would be his wife." She understood by the conversation, Stella meant by making the stage clear, that she meant doing away with her master.

James, belonging to Mr. McKeasey, was present when Stella told Robert that she had long been in search of a friend, and that she was happy she had now got one; and that if he would kill her master, she did not know what she would not do for him. James said, "Heigh! if you want to kill your master, why do you not do it yourself? Do you want to bring other people into trouble?" Robert said, "There could be no trouble, he could do it so that nobody would know any thing about it." Stella said, "If you do it, do it good." Ellen was present, and said, "Psha! to morrow Robert will cool, and instead of killing master, he will be afraid to look him in the face." Robert said nothing. Old Sydney, Ellen, Stella, Robert, Samuel, and little John were all present; James told Stella she wanted to bring people into trouble.

Cross-examined by Mr. Grignon - Why did you not tell this to your master? - Because I was afraid of Mr. Mowat's negroes. How came you to tell it now? - I do not know how the magistrates came to send for me, but as they have done so, I come to tell the truth.

By the Court - Did you hear from Stella herself all that you have stated? - I heard her with my own ears say all I have told.

Case closed on the part of the Crown.

Mr. Grignon then addressed the Court and Jury, and after making remarks on the evidence at great length, concluded with an able and ingenious defence.

Mr. Jackson addressed the Court very ably on the part of the Crown, and referred to the cases he had before cited.

The Court addressed the Jury and summed up the evidence, remarking upon the leading parts proved against the prisoners. They told the Jury that the case was in their hands, but if they entertained any doubt, they should give the prisoners the benefit of it.

The Jury retired at half-past six o'clock, and the Court, after waiting till half-past seven, adjourned until eight on Friday morning. The Jury delivered their verdict, sealed, to the Judges at nine on Thursday night, and Friday morning the Court again met, and received the verdict. Stella, Guilty; William Buchanan, Not Guilty. William Buchanan having been taken out of the dock, sentence of death was passed on Stella.

 

Source: The Times (London), 5 September, 1823

SLAVE COURT.
MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA, JUNE 24.
THE KING v. STELLA, A NEGRO WOMAN, AND HER SON, WILLIAM BUCHANAN, A SAMBO, BELONGING TO THE LATE MR. CARGILL MOWAT, FOR COMPASSING AND IMAGINING THE DEATH OF A WHITE PERSON, AND FOR BEING ACCESSORIES TO THE MURDER OF THE LATE MR. MOWAT.
  The indictment being read,
  Dr. Gordon sworn, deposed as to the fact of the death of Mr. Mowat.
  Copy of the record of the conviction of Robert M'Kellar tendered, objected to by Mr. Grigson - original produced.
  Thomas, driver to the late Mr. Mowat, stated, that on the evening of Wednesday, previous to the death of Mr. Mowat, he saw Wm. Buchanan with Robert M'Kellar; the next morning he saw them again eating breakfast together; did not see him again till the Saturday following, when he saw him at his master's place, Rock Pleasant; that he saw Stella, who complained that her master had d riven away the Maroon man; that on Monday morning Wm. Buchanan was one of the last who came to work. William had been driver, and was broken for neglect; that his salt-fish was stopped at Christmas, because he had stolen plantains when he was watching the walk.
  Devonshire, belonging to Anchovy-bottom estate, knows William and Stella. William brought Robert M'Kellar to his hut on Saturday morning, told Devonshire that William was his friend, and was a Maroon, out in a party looking for runaways, and whenever he called he must treat him well; William Buchanan slept in Devonshire's hut that night, and got up so early next morning, that he might have been at Rock Pleasant before day-break.
  Ellen, or Ann Elizabeth Carter, belonging to Mrs. Mowat, examined as to her knowledge of the nature of an oath, and giving a satisfactory answer, was sworn; knew William and Stella, knew Robert M'Kellar; William brought Robert to Rock Pleasant on Wednesday night; next morning they went to Belle Vue, where the negroes were working. Thursday night they came back together to Rock Pleasant, and slept there in the hall of the great house. Friday William left Robert at Rock Pleasant, with his mother Stella, and told her to giver Robert breakfast for him; Robert wen to the Bay for rum, and returned; slept at Rock Pleasant Friday, and stayed there all Saturday; William came to Rock Pleasant on Saturday evening; Robert and he went to Anchovy, and on Sunday at one o'clock returned with Robert, a woman named Aurelia, and a brown child; they went into the house, and her master began to quarrel; that he would nail the upstairs door,  for they made a negro house of it; that Wm. Buchanan did nothing  but walk all over the country, and pick up all the strangers and bring them home, and when he returned from muster he would pay him for harbouring strangers; desired witness to turn Robert out of the washhouse, for though he was a Maroon, he had no pass; she told Robert to go away, but Stella said no, let him  sit down and not speak, and her master would think he was gone. Robert went down to the negro houses, and returned after her master went to bed; heard Stella complaining to Robert, that her master had killed her pigs and fowl, and that as long as he was alive, she should never be able to do any good for herself and family.  Stella made a bed in the hall for Robert that night; told Sammy, one of her sons, to be sure and wake Robert early next morning. Monday morning, after her master was gone, William Buchanan came to Rock Pleasant and asked Stella, his mother for clothes; after he shifted, he did not go away, but sat down upon the slope; she was in her room, and heard somebody talking, looked out, and saw it was Robert; Stella went upstairs and brought clean clothes for Robert, and he went into the master's room and shifted.
  Robert, Sammy, William, and Stella, then went into the pantry, talked for some time, and heard Stella say to Robert, "You did a wrong thing to take away the pocket-book;'" heard William Buchanan say, "Make haste and give him his breakfast, and let him go to his (William's) wife at Anchovy; Stella said, "No, let him go farther, and not come back for two years;" after he ate breakfast, Stella told Sammy to take Robert down through Providence grass-place for fear anybody should meet them if they went by the road.
  When her master's body was brought up, and the Doctor called for brandy, Stella showed great indifference, said there was none; "Perhaps some might be in some of the bottles;" Stella said, "What is it to you, if master had used you as he used me you would not be in such a hurry to find brandy." When she was called to bring some rags for a blister, she said, "She was not going to do so, let him die and go to hell;" her master lived till next day, and Stella became alarmed lest he should live, and exclaimed frequently, "William is going to get into trouble." As the funeral was going down the hill, Stella said, "Ah! You blood of a b---h, die; did I not tell you when you flogged Eliza, it was the last you should give a child of mine." She was very strictly examined by Mr. Grigson without varying her tale.
  Flora deposed, that on Sunday morning she went to her ground, and returned in the evening; she heard that her master had quarrelled and turned away Robert M'Kellar; asked Stella what was the matter; Stella said, "It is not a little something this afternoon." Heard Stella complaining to Robert about her hogs, on Monday morning; her master quarrelled with Stella for not setting his breakfast soon enough, and said, "If he was fined for being too late at muster, she must pay the fine." Heard Stella mutter, and say, "You will meet man like yourself this morning." Went to work; saw William Buchanan; he came late to work; the negroes had heard of her master's accident; heard him say, "Thank God, I have done carrying coin-stones of a Monday morning."
  Sydney deposed, that she heard Stella say to Robert M'Kellar "that if he would do as she wished him, and make the stage clear for her, that she would be his wife." She understood by the conversation, Stella meant by making her stage clear, that she meant doing away with her master.
  James, belonging to Mr. M'Keasey, was present when Stella told Robert that she had been long in search of a friend, and that she was happy she had now got one, and that if he would kill her master she did not know what she would not do for him. James said, "Heigh! If you want to kill your master, why do you not do it yourself? Do you want to bring people into trouble?  Robert said, "There could be no trouble, he could do it so that nobody would know anything about it." Stella said, "If you do it, do it good." Ellen was present, and said, "Psha!" tomorrow Robert will be cool, and instead of killing master, he will be afraid to look him in the face." Robert said nothing. Old Sydney, Ellen, Stella, Robert, Samuel, and little John were all present; James told Stella she wanted to bring people into trouble.
  Cross-examined by Mr. Grigson - Why did you not tell this to your master? - Because I was afraid of Mr. Mowat's negroes.
  How came you to tell it now? - I do not know how the magistrates came to send for me, but as they have done so, I come to tell the truth.
  By the Court - Did you hear from Stella herself all that you have stated? - I heard her with my own ears say all I have told.
  Case closed on the part of the Crown.
  Mr. Grigson addressed the court very ably on the part of the Crown, and referred to the cases he had before cited.
  The Court addressed the Jury and summed up the evidence, remarking upon the leading parts proved against the prisoners. They told the Jury that the case was in their hands, but if they entertained any doubt, they should give the prisoners the benefit of it.
  The Jury retired at half-past six o'clock, and the court, after waiting till half-past seven, adjourned till eight on Friday morning.  The Jury delivered their verdict, sealed to the Judge, at nine o'clock on Thursday night, and Friday morning the Court again met, and received the verdict.
Stella Guilty, William Buchanan Not Guilty. William Buchanan having been taken out of the dock, sentence of death was passed upon Stella.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School