Under the Color of Law
July 1775–August 1775
This chapter closely examines the dramatic moments leading up to Jeremiah's trial, hanging, and public incineration by Charles Town patriots. The chapter argues that the pilot became embroiled in a power struggle between the last royal governor of South Carolina, Lord William Campbell, and the wealthy patriot planter Henry Laurens. Enmeshed in a three‐way tug of war, the boatman would eventually pay the ultimate price. On Friday, August 18, 1775, at noon, Jeremiah was brought before the gallows. Before the noose could be tightened around his neck, he boldly proclaimed his innocence, telling his accusers that one day, “God's judgment would … overtake them for shedding his innocent blood.” While the rest of spectacle is difficult to piece together, “Jerry” reportedly met death “like a man and a Christian.” After he was asphyxiated, his remains were set on fire—as both a reminder and a warning. “Surely,” one contemporary concluded, “there is no murder so cruel and dangerous as that committed under the appearance of law and justice.”
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