22 May 2022

Subject of council heritage motion may have been a slave owner

Reportedly born in Coleraine, Hercules Mulligan was one of America's founding fathers.

Subject of council heritage motion may have been a slave owner

An American founding father who is the subject of planned council heritage trail may have been a slave owner.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council's Leisure and Development Committee this week voted to explore the possibility of honouring Hercules Mulligan by developing a heritage trail in his home town.

The vote was in response to a motion calling for a blue plaque to be erected on Long Commons in Coleraine, but an amendment saw blue plaque plans altered in favour of the heritage trail option.

Mulligan was portrayed in the recent stage production and feature film 'Hamilton', and Alderman Yvonne Boyle, who brought the original motion, praised his anti-slavery credentials.

“He was born in 1740, we believe in Long Commons, Coleraine and left with his family as a young child and went to America” she told the Committee.

“He became a tailor in New York and was a friend and supporter of Andrew Hamilton. He was active in the American Revolutionary War and is known as one of the American founding fathers.

“He was also active in a group working towards the abolition of slavery,” she added.”

However, a local historian has said Mulligan, said to have saved the life of George Washington twice through his activities as a spy, may in fact have been a slave owner.

Stephen McCracken, from local history group Limavady Area Ancestry, has pointed to census data to support his claim.

“Certainly, Hercules left a lasting impression,” said Stephen.

“What the councillors have failed to do is have a look at Hercules Mulligan the person, and indeed maybe the Broadway show 'Hamilton' has clouded peoples minds to the real Mulligan.

“It is clear that in the 1790 Census for New York has in his possession a slave, making him a 'slave owner'. Maybe it is okay for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council that he has just the one 'left' in 1790.

“This motion has been given cross party support and was debated in the chamber, I wonder who didn’t do their homework.

“Will this get the green light and the “slave Owning” aspect of Hercules Mulligan simply be ignored?”

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