John Gottliff, a/k/a Moses Gottlieb, General Buddhoe, Bordeaux, was born enslaved on March 19, 1820 at Estate La Grange, a large sugar plantation near Frederiksted, St. Croix in what was then the Danish West Indies.
John Gottliff’s activities on July 3, 1848 & the following days that have been chronicled by many writers. Dr. Svend E. Holsoe has provided the most reliable account, which is based on eyewitness testimonies extracted from official court records and other first-hand accounts. Holsoe shows that Gottliff was one of several persons who stood out among the crowd on July 3rd, but that he did not appear to be directing the action. After July 3rd, instead of joining those seeking revolution or retribution, Gottliff rode around the countryside urging protesters to lay down their weapons, cease looting & property destruction & return to work. Nonetheless, after calm had been restored, he was arrested & imprisoned by the Danes as a ringleader of the insurrection.
Gottliff’s role as an instigator of the rebellion is somewhat controversial. Throughout his intensive interrogations, he steadfastly maintained that he had nothing to do with organizing or leading the uprising. Holsoe has reached much the same conclusion & has identified Moses Robert of Estate Butler Bay & others as the principle organizers. But, several insurgents did identify John Gottliff as the chief organizer, & this role has been tentatively accepted by Dr. Neville Hall &, less critically, by other historians.
Whatever the truth of the matter, the Danish colonial officials decided, without a trial, to deport Gottliff in 1848. Documentary evidence has recently emerged that he was landed in Trinidad. He later made his way to New York City, where he appeared in the office of anti-slavery crusader Lewis Tappan in 1850. Thereafter, nothing further is known of him.
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