Deputy Governor Sessions to Governor Wanton, relative to the Deposition of the Negro Aaron Briggs, &c.
Providence, January 18th, 1773.
Sir:-- Having been informed by a person, who came from Newport last Saturday, that the mulatto had been examined, and that a report prevailed, that his evidence carried many marks of truth with it; and as I look upon it as my duty to protect the innocent, as well as punish the guilty, I thought it my duty to let Your Honor know of some circumstances that may throw some light on this affair.
I took notice in the mulatto's declaration of his having a red and white handkerchief about his head at the time he was on board the Gaspee, and when he rowed the boat ashore.
I suppose he was told to relate this circumstance, that some of the Gaspee's people might, with the greater appearance of truth, swear to his being on board the schooner that night.
The day after the Gaspee was destroyed, I examined several of her people, viz.: Bartholomew Cheever, John Johnson, William J. Caple, Joseph Bowman, Patrick Whaler, Patrick Earle and Patrick Reynolds; who, although the questions and answers were not set down in writing, yet I can depose that they were put verbally. The answers given by some of them (the rest agreeing thereto), are as follows, viz.:
Question: Was the moon down?
Q: Was it dark?
Q: Was there any light on board of the schooner, when she was boarded by the boats?
A: Yes; but it was immediately put out before we got on deck.
Q: Was there no other light afterwards struck up?
A: Not that they saw; though there was one lighted up in the cabin, to dress the lieutenant's wounds.
Q: Were the people who came on board unmasked, or in disguise?
A: Some of them were either blacked or negroes; but it was so dark, we could not tell which.
The above questions put to any of the Gaspee's people, who pretend to establish the negroes evidence, by swearing to the identity of him, I think, must convince anyone, that their testimony is absolutely false.
The midshipman at Boston, swore that it was a very dark night; and how is it possible that the features and dress of a negro could be sworn to, a month afterwards?
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