Lydia Maria Francis Child.

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dark face the moment it peeped out, and they were lying in ambush to
observe her closely. After a minute of apparent hesitation, she rushed
into the street and ran with all speed. They joined in hot pursuit, and
soon overtook her. She pretended to be greatly alarmed, and called aloud
for a watchman. The offenders were arrested and brought back to the
house with the girl. Friend Hopper explained that these men had been
watching his house, supposing a fugitive slave to be secreted there; and
that they had mistaken one of his domestics for the person they were in
search of. After laughing a little at the joke practised upon them, he
proposed that they should be set at liberty; and they were accordingly

The next morning, as soon as it was light, he invited the watchers to
come in and warm themselves, but they declined. After sunrise, they all
dispersed, except two. When breakfast was ready, he urged them to come
in and partake; telling them that one could keep guard while the other
was eating. But they replied that Dr. Rich had ordered them to hold no
communication with him.

Being firmly persuaded that the slave was in the house, they kept sentry
several days and nights. For fear she might escape by the back way, a
messenger was sent to Mr. Warrence, who occupied a building in the rear,
offering to pay him for his trouble if he would watch the premises in
that direction. His wife happened to overhear the conversation; and
having a pitcher of scalding water in her hand, she ran out saying, "Do
you propose to hire my husband to watch neighbor Hopper's premises for a
runaway slave? Go about your business! or I will throw this in your

When Dr. Rich called again, he was received politely, and the first
inquiry was how he had succeeded in his efforts to procure a
search-warrant. He replied, "The magistrate refused to grant one."

"Perhaps Joseph Reed, the Recorder, would oblige thee in that matter,"
said Friend Hopper.

The answer was, "I have been to him, and he declines to interfere."

It was then suggested that it might be well to retain a lawyer with a
portion of the seventeen hundred dollars he said he had to spare.

"I have been to Mr. Broome," rejoined the doctor. "He tells me that you
understand the law in such cases as well as he does; and he advises me
to let the matter alone."

"I will give thee permission to search my house," said Friend Hopper;
"and I have more authority in that matter than any magistrate, judge, or
lawyer, in the city."

"That is very gentlemanly," replied the doctor; "but I infer from it
that the woman is not in your house."

He was again assured that she was not; and they fell into some general
discourse on the subject of slavery. "Suppose you came to Maryland and
lost your horse," said the Doctor. "If you called upon me, and I told
you that I knew where he was, but would not inform you, would you
consider yourself treated kindly?" "In such a case, I should not
consider myself well treated," replied Friend Hopper. "But in this part
of the country, we make a distinction between horses and men. We believe
that human beings have souls."

"That makes no difference," rejoined the Doctor. "You confess that you
could find my slave if you were so disposed; and I consider it your duty
to tell me where she is." "I will do it when I am of the same opinion,"
replied Friend Hopper; "but till then thou must excuse me."

The fugitive was protected by a colored man named Hill, who soon
obtained a situation for her as servant in a respectable country family,
where she was kindly treated. In the course of a year or two, she
returned to Philadelphia, married a steady industrious man, and lived
very comfortably.

Mr. Hill had a very revengeful temper. One of his colored neighbors
brought suits against him for criminal conduct, and recovered heavy
damages. From that time he seemed to hate people of his own complexion,
and omitted no opportunity to injure them. The woman he befriended, when
he was in a better state of mind, had been married nine or ten years,
and had long ceased to think of danger, when he formed the wicked
project of making a little money by betraying her to her master.
Accordingly he sought her residence accompanied by one of those
wretches who make a business of capturing slaves. When he entered her
humble abode, he found her busy at the wash-tub. Rejoiced to see the man
who had rendered her such essential service in time of need, she threw
her arms about his neck, exclaiming, "O, uncle Hill, how glad I am to
see you!" She hastily set aside her tub, wiped up the floor, and
thinking there was nothing in the house good enough for her benefactor,
she went out to purchase some little luxuries. Hill recommended a
particular shop, and proposed to accompany her. The slave-hunter, who
had been left in the street, received a private signal, and the moment
she entered the shop, he pounced upon her. Before her situation could be
made known to Isaac T. Hopper, she was removed to Baltimore. The last he
ever heard of her she was in prison there, awaiting her day of sale,
when she was to be transported to New-Orleans.

He used to say he did not know which was the most difficult for his mind
to conceive of, the cruel depravity manifested by the ignorant colored
man, or the unscrupulous selfishness of the slaveholder, a man of
education, a husband and a father, who could consent to use such a tool
for such a purpose.

Many more narratives of similar character might be added; for I think he
estimated at more than one thousand the number of cases in which he had
been employed for fugitives, in one way or another, during his forty
years' residence in Philadelphia. But enough have been told to
illustrate the active benevolence, uncompromising boldness, and ready
wit, which characterized this friend of humanity. His accurate knowledge
of all laws connected with slavery was so proverbial, that magistrates
and lawyers were generally averse to any collision with him on such

In 1810, Benjamin Donahue of Delaware applied to Mr. Barker, mayor of
Philadelphia, to assist him in recovering a fugitive, with whose place
of residence he was perfectly sure Isaac T. Hopper was acquainted. After
a brief correspondence with Friend Hopper, the mayor said to Mr.
Donahue, "We had better drop this business, like a hot potato; for Mr.
Hopper knows more law in such cases as this, than you and I put

He would often resort to the most unexpected expedients. Upon one
occasion, a slave case was brought before Judge Rush, brother of Dr.
Benjamin Rush. It seemed likely to terminate in favor of the
slaveholder; but Friend Hopper thought he observed that the judge
wavered a little. He seized that moment to inquire, "Hast thou not
recently published a legal opinion, in which it is distinctly stated
that thou wouldst never seek to sustain a human law, if thou wert
convinced that it conflicted with any law in the Bible?"

"I did publish such a statement," replied Judge Rush; "and I am ready
to abide by it; for in all cases, I consider the divine law above the

Friend Hopper drew from his pocket a small Bible, which he had brought
into court for the express purpose, and read in loud distinct tones the
following verses: "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant
which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee,
even among you, in that place which he shall choose, in one of thy
gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him." Deut. 23:
15, 16.

The slaveholder smiled; supposing, this appeal to old Hebrew law would
be considered as little applicable to modern times, as the command to
stone a man to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. But when the
judge asked for the book, read the sentence for himself, seemed
impressed by it, and adjourned the decision of the case, he walked out
of the court-house muttering, "I believe in my soul the old fool _will_
let him off on that ground." And sure enough, the slave was discharged.

Friend Hopper's quickness in slipping through loop-holes, and dodging
round corners, rendered him exceedingly troublesome and provoking to
slaveholders. He often kept cases pending in court three or four years,
till the claimants were completely wearied out, and ready to settle on
any terms. His acute perception of the slightest flaw in a document, or
imperfection in evidence, always attracted notice in the courts he
attended. Judges and lawyers often remarked to him, "Mr. Hopper, it is a
great pity you were not educated for the legal profession. You have such
a judicial mind." Mr. William Lewis, an eminent lawyer, offered him
every facility for studying the profession. "Come to my office and use
my library whenever you please," said he; "or I will obtain a clerkship
in the courts for you, if you prefer that. Your mind is peculiarly
adapted to legal investigation, and if you would devote yourself to it,
you might become a judge before long."

But Friend Hopper could never overcome his scruples about entering on a
career of worldly ambition. He thought he had better keep humble, and
resist temptations that might lead him out of the plainness and
simplicity of the religious Society to which he belonged.

As for the colored people of Philadelphia, they believed in his
infallibility, as devout Catholics believe in the Pope. They trusted
him, and he trusted them; and it is remarkable in how few instances he
found his confidence misplaced. The following anecdote will illustrate
the nature of the relation existing between him and that much abused
race. Prince Hopkins, a wood-sawyer of Philadelphia, was claimed as a
fugitive slave by John Kinsmore of Baltimore. When Friend Hopper went
to the magistrate's office to inquire into the affair, he found the poor
fellow in tears. He asked for a private interview, and the alderman gave
his consent. When they were alone, Prince confessed that he was the
slave in question. In the course of his narrative, it appeared that he
had been sent into Pennsylvania by his mistress, and had resided there
with a relative of hers two years. Friend Hopper told him to dry up his
tears, for it was in his power to protect him. When he returned to the
office, he informed the magistrate that Prince Hopkins was a free man;
having resided in Pennsylvania, with the consent of his mistress, a much
longer time than the law required. Mr. Kinsmore was irritated, and
demanded that the colored man should be imprisoned till he could obtain
legal advice.

"Let him go and finish the wood he was sawing," said Friend Hopper. "I
will be responsible for his appearance whenever he is wanted. If the
magistrate will give me a commitment, Prince will call at my house after
he has finished sawing his wood, and I will send him to jail with it. He
can remain there, until the facts I have stated are clearly proved."

The slave-holder and his lawyer seemed to regard this proposition as an
insult. They railed at Friend Hopper for his "impertinent interference,"
and for the absurd idea of trusting "that nigger" under such

He replied, "I would rather trust 'that nigger,' as you call him, than
either of you." So saying, he marched off with the magistrate's mittimus
in his pocket.

When Prince Hopkins had finished his job of sawing, he called for the
commitment, and carried it to the jailor, who locked him up.
Satisfactory evidence of his freedom was soon obtained, and he was

The colored people appeared to better advantage with their undoubted
friend, than they possibly could have done where a barrier of prejudice
existed. They were not afraid to tell him their experiences in their own
way, with natural pathos, here and there dashed with fun. A
fine-looking, athletic fugitive, telling him his story one day, said,
"When I first run away, I met some people who were dreadful afraid I
couldn't take care of myself. But thinks I to myself I took care of
master and myself too for a long spell; and I guess I can make out."
With a roguish expression laughing all over his face, he added, "I don't
look as if I was suffering for a master; do I, Mr. Hopper?"

Though slaveholders had abundant reason to dread Isaac T. Hopper, as
they would a blister of Spanish flies, yet he had no hardness of feeling
toward them, or even toward kidnappers; hateful as he deemed the
system, which produced them both.

In 1801, a sober industrious family of free colored people, living in
Pennsylvania on the borders of Maryland, were attacked in the night by a
band of kidnappers. The parents were aged, and needed the services of
their children for support. Knowing that the object of the marauders was
to carry them off and sell them to slave speculators, the old father
defended them to the utmost of his power. In the struggle, he was
wounded by a pistol, and one of his daughters received a shot, which
caused her death. One of the sons, who was very ill in bed, was beaten
and bruised till he was covered with blood. But mangled and crippled as
he was, he contrived to drag himself to a neighboring barn, and hide
himself under the straw.

If such lawless violence had been practised upon any white citizens, the
Executive of Pennsylvania would have immediately offered a high reward
for the apprehension of the aggressors; but the victims belonged to a
despised caste, and nothing was done to repair their wrongs. Friend
Hopper felt the blood boil in his veins when he heard of this cruel
outrage, and his first wish was to have the offenders punished; but as
soon as he had time to reflect, he said, "I cannot find it in my heart
to urge this subject upon the notice of the Executive; for death would
be the penalty if those wretches were convicted."

There were many highly respectable individuals among the colored people
of Philadelphia. Richard Allen, who had been a slave, purchased freedom
with the proceeds of his own industry. He married, and established
himself as a shoemaker in that city, where he acquired considerable
property, and built a three-story brick house. He was the principal
agent in organizing the first congregation of colored people in
Philadelphia, and was their pastor to the day of his death, without
asking or receiving any compensation. During the latter part of his
life, he was Bishop of their Methodist Episcopal Church. Absalom Jones,
a much respected colored man, was his colleague. In 1793, when the
yellow fever was raging, it was extremely difficult to procure
attendants for the sick on any terms; and the few who would consent to
render service, demanded exorbitant prices. But Bishop Allen and Rev.
Mr. Jones never hesitated to go wherever they could be useful; and with
them, the compensation was always a secondary consideration. When the
pestilence had abated, the mayor sent them a certificate expressing his
approbation of their conduct. But even these men, whose worth commanded
respect, were not safe from the legalized curse that rests upon their
hunted race. A Southern speculator arrested Bishop Allen, and claimed
him as a fugitive slave, whom he had bought running. The constable
employed to serve the warrant was ashamed to drag the good man through
the streets; and he merely said, in a respectful tone, "Mr. Allen, you
will soon come down to Alderman Todd's office, will you?"

The fugitive, whom they were seeking, had absconded only four years
previous; and everybody in Philadelphia, knew that Richard Allen had
been living there more than twenty years. Yet the speculator and his
sons swore unblushingly that he was the identical slave they had
purchased. Mr. Allen thought he ought to have some redress for this
outrage; "For," said he, "if it had not been for the kindness of the
officer, I might have been dragged through the streets like a felon."

Isaac T. Hopper was consulted, and a civil suit commenced. Eight hundred
dollars bail was demanded, and the speculator, being unable to procure
it, was lodged in the debtor's prison. When he had been there three
months, Mr. Allen caused him to be discharged; saying he did not wish to
persecute the man, but merely to teach him not to take up free people
again, for the purpose of carrying them into slavery.

The numerous instances of respectability among the colored people were
doubtless to be attributed in part to the protecting influence extended
over them by the Quakers. But even in those days, the Society of
Friends were by no means all free from prejudice against color; and in
later times, I think they have not proved themselves at all superior to
other sects in their feelings and practice on this subject. Friend
Hopper, Joseph Carpenter, and the few who resemble them in this respect,
are _exceptions_ to the general character of modern Quakers, not the
_rule._ The following very characteristic anecdote shows how completely
Isaac was free from prejudice on account of complexion. It is an unusual
thing to see a colored Quaker; for the African temperament is fervid and
impressible, and requires more exciting forms of religion. David Maps
and his wife, a very worthy couple, were the only colored members of the
Yearly Meeting to which Isaac T. Hopper belonged. On the occasion of the
annual gathering in Philadelphia, they came with other members of the
Society to share the hospitality of his house. A question arose in the
family whether Friends of white complexion would object to eating with
them. "Leave that to me," said the master of the household. Accordingly
when the time arrived, he announced it thus: "Friends, dinner is now
ready. David Maps and his wife will come with me; and as I like to have
all accommodated, those who object to dining with them can wait till
they have done." The guests smiled, and all seated themselves at the

The conscientiousness so observable in several anecdotes of Isaac's
boyhood was strikingly manifested in his treatment of a colored printer,
named Kane. This man was noted for his profane swearing. Friend Hopper
had expostulated with him concerning this bad habit, without producing
the least effect. One day, he encountered him in the street, pouring
forth a volley of terrible oaths, enough to make one shudder. Believing
him incurable by gentler means, he took him before a magistrate, who
fined him for blasphemy.

He did not see the man again for a long time; but twenty years
afterward, when he was standing at his door, Kane passed by. The
Friend's heart was touched by his appearance; for he looked old, feeble,
and poor. He stepped out, shook hands with him, and said in kindly
tones, "Dost thou remember me, and how I caused thee to be fined for

"Yes, indeed I do," he replied. "I remember how many dollars I paid, as
well as if it were but yesterday."

"Did it do thee any good;" inquired Friend Hopper.

"Never a bit," answered he. "It only made me mad to have my money taken
from me."

The poor man was invited to walk into the house. The interest was
calculated on the fine, and every cent repaid to him. "I meant it for
thy good," said the benevolent Quaker; "and I am sorry that I only
provoked thee." Kane's countenance changed at once, and tears began to
flow. He took the money with many thanks, and was never again heard to

Friend Hopper's benevolence was by no means confined to colored people.
Wherever there was good to be done, his heart and hand were ready. From
various anecdotes in proof of this, I select the following.


John was an Irish orphan, whose parents died of yellow fever, when he
was very young. He obtained a scanty living by doing errands for
cartmen. In the year 1800, when he was about fourteen years old, there
was a long period during which he could obtain scarcely any employment.
Being without friends, and in a state of extreme destitution, he was
tempted to enter a shop and steal two dollars from the drawer. He was
pursued and taken. Isaac T. Hopper, who was one of the inspectors of the
prison at that time, saw a crowd gathered, and went to inquire the
cause. The poor boy's history was soon told. Friend Hopper liked the
expression of his countenance, and pitied his forlorn condition. When he
was brought up for trial, he accompanied him, and pleaded with the
judge in his favor. He urged that the poor child's education had been
entirely neglected, and consequently he was more to be pitied than
blamed. If sent to prison, he would in all probability become hardened,
if not utterly ruined. He said if the judge would allow him to take
charge of the lad, he would promise to place him in good hands, where he
would be out of the way of temptation. The judge granted his request,
and John was placed in prison merely for a few days, till Friend Hopper
could provide for him. He proposed to his father to have the boy bound
to him. The old gentleman hesitated at first, on account of his
neglected education and wild way of living; but pity for the orphan
overcame his scruples, and he agreed to take him. John lived with him
till he was twenty-one years of age, and was remarkably faithful and
industrious. But about two years after, a neighbor came one night to
arrest him for stealing a horse. Old Mr. Hopper assured him it was not
possible John had done such a thing; that during all the time he had
lived in his family he had proved himself entirely honest and
trustworthy. The neighbor replied that his horse had been taken to
Philadelphia and sold; and the ferryman from Woodbury was ready to swear
that the animal was brought over by Hopper's John, as he was generally
called. John was in bed, but was called up to answer the accusation. He
did not attempt to deny it, but gave up the money at once, and kept
repeating that he did know what made him do it. He was dreadfully
ashamed and distressed. He begged that Friend Isaac would not come to
see him in prison, for he could not look him the face. His anguish of
mind was so great, that when the trial came on, he was emaciated almost
to a skeleton. Old Mr. Hopper went into court and stated the adverse
circumstances of his early life, and his exemplary conduct during nine
years that he had lived in his family. He begged that he might be fined
instead of imprisoned, and offered to pay the fine himself. The
proposition was accepted, and the kind old man took the culprit home.

This lenient treatment completely subdued the last vestige of evil
habits acquired in childhood. He was humble and grateful in the extreme,
and always steady and industrious. He conducted with great propriety
ever afterward, and established such a character for honesty, that the
neighbors far and wide trusted him to carry their produce to market,
receiving a small commission for his trouble. Eventually, he came to own
a small house and farm, where he lived in much comfort and
respectability. He always looked up to Isaac as the friend who had early
raised him from a downward and slippery path; and he was never weary of
manifesting gratitude by every little attention he could devise.


Some one having told Friend Hopper of an apprentice who was cruelly
treated, he caused investigation to be made, and took the lad under his
own protection. As he was much bent upon going to sea, he was placed in
a respectable boarding-house for sailors, till a fitting opportunity
could be found to gratify his inclination. One day, a man in the employ
of this boarding-house brought a bill to be paid for the lad. He was
very ragged, but his manners were those of a gentleman, and his
conversation showed that he had been well educated. His appearance
excited interest in Friend Hopper's mind, and he inquired into his
history. He said his name was Levi Butler; that he was of German
extraction, and had been a wealthy merchant in Baltimore, of the firm of
Butler and Magruder. He married a widow, who had considerable property,
and several children. After her death, he failed in business, and gave
up all his own property, but took the precaution to secure all her
property to her children. His creditors were angry, and tried various
ways to compel him to pay them with his wife's money. He was imprisoned
a long time. He petitioned the Legislature for release, and the
committee before whom the case was brought made a report in his favor,
highly applauding his integrity in not involving his own affairs with
the property belonging to his wife's children, who had been intrusted to
his care. Poverty and persecution had broken down his spirits, and when
he was discharged from prison he left Baltimore and tried to obtain a
situation as clerk in Philadelphia. He did not succeed in procuring

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Online LibraryLydia Maria Francis ChildIsaac T. Hopper → online text (page 12 of 28)