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D.C.). Mayor Georgetown (Washington.

Representation and resolution of the mayor and council of Georgetown, in the District of Columbia : upon the subject of a bill reported to the House of Representatives, entitled A bill concerning free online

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1827



THE EISENHOWER LIBRARY



3 1151 02543 8742



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Hollinger Corp.
pH8.5



I9th Congress, fDoc. No. 71.1 Ho. of Reps.

2d Session.

MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF GEORGE TOWN, D. C.



REPRESENTATION AND RESOLUTION



MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF GEORGETOWN,



IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,



OPON THE SUBJECT OF A BILL REPORTED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, ESTITLEU



A BILL CONCERNING FREE PEOPLE OF COLOR, IN THE COUNTY OF
WASHINGTON, IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA



February 1, 1827.



Read* and referred to the Committee of the Whole House to which the
above bill is committed.



WASHINGTON :

^HT1»TT?.B BT GALES & »SATO>*.

1827.



[Doc. No. 71.3



Mayor's Office,

Georgetown, 31st January, 18£~.

To the Hon. the Committee on the District of Columbia,

in the House of Representatives :

Gentlemen : The Corporation of Georgetown, being apprized,
through the public papers, that a bill has been reported to the House
of Representatives, providing "that, whenever any person shall be
apprehended or committed in the city of Washington, or Georgetown,
or in the county of Washington, as a runaway, and it should appear,
on examination, that the said person is entitled to his or her freedom,
the jail fees and other legal expenses of such apprehension or com-
mitment shall be chargeable upon the corporations of said towns and
county aforesaid, as the case may be, and be collected and paid over
in the same manner as other public charges," have instructed the un-
dersigned respectfully to remonstrate against the passage of the said
bill, so far as concerns this town.

The undersigned would, therefore, beg to submit to the considera-
tion of your honorable body, the following objections, and request that,
through you, the wishes of this town may be properly presented to
the House, in the further progress of the bill.

It is deemed a settled maxim of justice, that a corporate body shall
not be held resposible for the official acts of others than its authorized
agents, or those amenable to its authority.

The commitment of suspected runaways is uniformly made by jus-
tices of the peace, holding their offices under the appointment of the
President of the United States, ratified by the Senate. Their powers
and jurisdiction are in no case limited to this town, but extend over
the county, and they are in no respect amenable to, nor can be control-
led by, the authorities of the town, in any of their official acts. All
their ministerial acts are in the name of the United States : in this
name is the suspected runaway examined, and, if cause appears, com-
mitted : the commitment is to the public prison, in the custody of the
Marshal of the District of Columbia : and is chargeable, in the first
instance, on the United States.

The proceeding is criminal in its character, and, it is conceived,
possesses no peculiarity, which should discrimate it from other cases
of commitment for trial, in which, though the party be acquitted, the
expenses are properly chargeable on the United States. It is to
be remarked further, that the exercise of this jurisdiction over sus-
pected runaways is not for the benefit of those within the District, but is
exclusively for the advantage and convenience of slave holders in the
neighboring States ; in which view, perhaps, there is a stronger rea-
son why the United States should alone be responsible for expenses,
than in other commitments made for the conservation of order in the



[Doc. No. 7 1. J

■ riit. ami in which the local authorities have an intimate interest.

i whollj in favor of I rond the Di . .. it may be

ted with the commitment i refugee I >m jusi.ice, or

ivied of crime in other jurisdictions, till such time as

inanded by the proper authorities, in which case the

uld unifoi mlj be chargeable to the United Stat. 3

it i- besides proj>er to be considered whether tlie obje< tionable bill
be not likely to operate to 1 1 j • - serious detriment ol slave holders gen-
erally.

Experience lias- sliown. that, in the motley assemblage of adventur*
ers thai crowd to the scat of ( 101 ernmenl and its \ icinity, man) facili-
tiesare afforded to -he designs of runaways, and hence, many have re-
sorted hither to concert their ulterior efforts for escape. Pram the
ease with whicb conceal m< ;.t can be effected, and tlie difficulty of de-
tection among a crowd of .strangers, the slave holder already encoun-
ters man j difficulties in recovery of his property.

If justices of the peace should disregard the interests of the local
authorities, then, manifestly, we are In this bill placed at the mercj of
individuals beyond our control, who on!} need the disposition to in-
flict on us the most extensive pecuniary injurj : but if, on the contrary,
a*- is most probable, there be an identity of feeling and interest be-
tween the magistrate and the local authority, it is to be (eared that
the exercise of this function will be entirely suspended. In this 1
this District will become the common refuge of the runaway, and the
injured owner will lose even his present precarious chance lor the re-
trieval of his property.

It is believed, moreover, that there i> no such severity or injustice
in the present practice, with respect to suspected runaways, as (alls
for legislative interposition in their behalf, and certainly not in the
form of the bill, which would involve our local authorities in se-
rious expense, as well as reprehension. The suspected runaway is
entitled to no higher Bympathy or consideration than the free man
charged with anj infraction of law ; nor can a reason be given why
There should be a discrimination in favor of the former.

The justice of peace is so far considered to be of respectability and
responsibility, that to him is confided the examination, and, if cause
appear, the commitment for trial, of persons (barged with the
highest grade of offence ; and surely the case of the negro can involve
no higher responsibility. The suspected runaway has the benefit of
the like examination before commitment, and has till opportunity
to rebut suspicion by producing any evidence of his freedom. Unless
his conduct give rise to suspicion, the negro is not likeh to he mo-
lested, and, in this case, it requires but moderate caution and pru-
dence to produce adequate evidence of freedom. It is the duty of eve-
ry man to conform to the laws (d' the community where he is, which
he must be presumed to be acquainted with: and the negro can claim

no exemption from this rule more than another. In coming to the
South, he is, no doubt, in fact, apprized that his unfortunate caste are
^objected, by the necessary policy of the slave holding districts, to



[Doc. No. 71.]

many restrictions, and if he fail to ascertain and provide against
them, any inconvenience that he may thereby be subjected to, is pro-
perly chargeable alone on his wilful neglect.

If, in these circumstances, a casual case of suffering should occur,
appealing to the sympathies of the public, though we may indulge in
the feeling, there is certainly no reason why it should operate to
bring the law into disrepute.

All which is respectfully submitted, by, gentlemen,
Your most obedient servant,

JOHN COX, Mayor.



Whereas, it appears by the public papers, that the committee on the
District of Columbia has reported, to the House of Representatives,
a bill, providing, " that, whenever any person shall be apprehended or
"committed, in the city of Washington, or Georgetown, or in the
" county of Washington, as a runaway, and that it should appear,
"upon examination, that the said person is entitled to his, or her free-
" dom, the said fees, and other legal expenses of such apprehension,
"or commitment, shall be chargable upon the corporations of said
"towns, and county aforesaid, as the case may be, and be collected
" and paid over in the same manner as other public charges :" Be it
therefore Resolved, by the Board of Aldermen, and board of Com-
mon Council of the Corporation of Georgetown, that the Mayor be,
and is hereby requested respectfully to represent to Congress, in such
manner as he may think proper, the injustice of compelling this town
to become a common security for fees consequent upon the apprehen-
sion and confinement of a class of persons, not citizens of the town,
and with whom it has no connexion whatever ; and, also, to apprize
Congress of the fact that all such apprehensions and confinements, are
intended for the exclusive benefit of nonresidents.

THOS. CORCORAN, Jr.

Pres. Board Com. Council.
DAN'L BUSSARD,

P. Pro tern of Board of Aid,
20th Jan'y, 1827, Approved :

JOHN COX, Mayor.
Copy test.
JOHN MOUNTZ, Clerk.



Hollinger Corp.
pH8.5



Hollinger Corp.
pH8.5





1

Online LibraryD.C.). Mayor Georgetown (WashingtonRepresentation and resolution of the mayor and council of Georgetown, in the District of Columbia : upon the subject of a bill reported to the House of Representatives, entitled A bill concerning free → online text (page 1 of 1)