Lydia Maria Francis Child.

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Thomas Harrison signed the bail-bond, and Ben was again set at liberty,
to await his trial before the Circuit Court of the United States.
Bushrod Washington, himself a slaveholder, presided in that court, and
Mr. Butler was sanguine that he should succeed in having Judge Inskeep's
decision reversed. The case was brought in October, 1806, before Judges
Bushrod Washington and Richard Peters. It was ably argued by counsel on
both sides. The court discharged Ben, and he enjoyed his liberty
thenceforth without interruption.




DANIEL BENSON.


Daniel and his mother were slaves to Perry Boots, of Delaware. His
master was in the habit of letting him out to neighboring farmers and
receiving the wages himself. Daniel had married a free woman, and they
had several children, mostly supported by her industry. His mother was
old and helpless; and the master, finding it rather burdensome to
support her, told Daniel that if he would take charge of her, and pay
him forty dollars a year, he might go where he pleased.

The offer was gladly accepted; and in 1805 he removed to Philadelphia,
with his mother and family. He sawed wood for a living, and soon
established such a character for industry and honesty, that many of the
citizens were in the habit of employing him to purchase their wood and
prepare it for the winter. Upon one occasion, when he brought in a bill
to Alderman Todd, that gentleman asked if he had not charged rather
high. Daniel excused himself by saying he had an aged mother to support,
in addition to his own family; and that he punctually paid his master
twenty dollars every six months, according to an agreement he had made
with him. When the alderman heard the particulars, his sympathy was
excited, and he wrote a note to Isaac T. Hopper, requesting him to
examine into the case; stating his own opinion that Daniel had a legal
right to freedom. The wood-sawyer started off with the note with great
alacrity, and delivered it to Friend Hopper, saying in very animated
tones, "Squire Todd thinks I am free!" He was in a state of great
agitation between hope and fear. When he had told his story, he was sent
home to get receipts for all the money he had paid his master since his
arrival in Philadelphia. It was easy to prove from these that he had
been a resident in Pennsylvania, with his owner's consent, a much longer
time than the law required to make him a free man. When Friend Hopper
gave him this information, he was overjoyed. He could hardly believe it.
The tidings seemed too good to be true. When assured that he was
certainly free, beyond all dispute, and that he need not pay any more of
his hard earnings to a master, the tears came to his eyes, and he
started off to bring his wife, that she also might hear the glad news.
When Friend Hopper was an old man, he often used to remark how well he
remembered their beaming countenances on that occasion, and their warm
expressions of gratitude to God.

Soon after this interview, a letter was addressed to Perry Boots,
informing him that his slave was legally free, and that he need not
expect to receive any more of his wages. He came to Philadelphia
immediately, to answer the letter in person. His first salutation was,
"Where can I find that ungrateful villain Dan? I will take him home in
irons."

Friend Hopper replied, "Thou wilt find thyself relieved from such an
unpleasant task; for I can easily convince thee that the law sustains
thy slave in taking his freedom."

Reading the law did not satisfy him. He said he would consult a lawyer,
and call again. When he returned, he found Daniel waiting to see him;
and he immediately began to upbraid him for being so ungrateful. Daniel
replied, "Master Perry, it was not _justice_ that made me your slave. It
was the _law_; and you took advantage of it. Now, the law makes me free;
and ought you to blame me for taking the advantage which it offers me?
But suppose I were not free, what would you be willing to take to
manumit me?"

His master, somewhat softened, said, "Why, Dan, I always intended to set
you free some time or other."

"I am nearly forty years old," rejoined his bondsman, "and if I am ever
to be free, I think it is high time now. What would you be willing to
take for a deed of manumission?"

Mr. Boots answered, "Why I think you ought to give me a hundred
dollars."

"Would that satisfy you, master Perry? Well, I can pay you a hundred
dollars," said Daniel.

Here Friend Hopper interfered, and observed there was nothing
rightfully due to the master; that if justice were done in the case, he
ought to pay Daniel for his labor ever since he was twenty-one years
old.

The colored man replied, "I was a slave to master Perry's father; and he
was kind to me. Master Perry and I are about the same age. We were
brought up more like two brothers, than like master and slave. I can
better afford to give him a hundred dollars, than he can afford to do
without it. I will go home and get the money, if you will make out the
necessary papers while I am gone."

Surprised and gratified by the nobility of soul manifested in these
words, Friend Hopper said no more to dissuade him from his generous
purpose. He brought one hundred silver dollars, and Perry Boots signed a
receipt for it, accompanied by a deed of manumission. He wished to have
it inserted in the deed that he was not to be responsible for the
support of the old woman. But Daniel objected; saying, "Such an
agreement would imply that I would not voluntarily support my poor old
mother."

When the business was concluded, he invited his former master and Friend
Hopper to dine with him; saying, "We are going to have a pretty good
dinner, in honor of the day." Mr. Boots accepted the invitation; but
Friend Hopper excused himself, on account of an engagement that would
detain him till after dinner. When he called, he found they had not yet
risen from the table, on which were the remains of a roasted turkey, a
variety of vegetables, and a decanter of wine. Friend Hopper smiled when
Daniel remarked, "I know master Perry loves a little brandy; but I did
not like to get brandy; so I bought a quart of Mr. Morris' best wine,
and thought perhaps that would do instead. I never drink anything but
water myself."

Soon after Daniel Benson became a free man, he gave up sawing wood, and
opened a shop for the sale of second-hand clothing. He was successful in
business, brought up his family very reputably, and supported his mother
comfortably to the end of her days. For many years, he was class-leader
in a Methodist church for colored people, and his correct deportment
gained the respect of all who knew him.

If slavery were _ever_ justifiable, under _any_ circumstances, which of
these two characters ought to have been the master, and which the slave?




THE QUICK-WITTED SLAVE.


About the year 1805, a colored man, who belonged to Colonel Hopper, of
Maryland, escaped with his wife and children, who were also slaves. He
went to Philadelphia and hired a small house in Green's Court, where he
lived several months before his master discovered his retreat. As soon
as he obtained tidings of him, he went to Philadelphia, and applied to
Richard Hunt, a constable who was much employed as a slave hunter.
Having procured a warrant, they went together, in search of the
fugitives. It was about dusk, and the poor man just returned from daily
toil, was sitting peacefully with his wife and children, when in rushed
his old master, accompanied by the constable.

With extraordinary presence of mind, the colored man sprang up, and
throwing his arms round his master's neck, exclaimed, "O, my dear
master, how glad I am to see you! I _thought_ I should like to be free;
but I had a great deal rather be a slave. I can't get work, and we have
almost starved. I would have returned home, but I was afraid you would
sell me to the Georgia men. I beg your pardon a thousand times. If you
will only forgive me, I will go back with you, and never leave you
again."

The master was very agreeably surprised by this reception, and readily
promised forgiveness. He was about to dismiss the constable, but the
slave urged him to stay a few minutes. "I have earned a little money
to-day, for a rarity," said he; "and I want to go out and buy something
to drink; for I suppose old master must be tired." He stepped out, and
soon returned with a quantity of gin, with which he liberally supplied
his guests. He knew full well that they were both men of intemperate
habits; so he talked gaily about affairs in Maryland, making various
inquiries concerning what had happened since he left; and ever and anon
he replenished their glasses with gin. It was not long before they were
completely insensible to all that was going on around them. The colored
man and his family then made speedy preparations for departure. While
Colonel Hopper and the constable lay in the profound stupor of
intoxication, they were on the way to New Jersey, with all their
household goods, where they found a safe place of refuge before the
rising of the sun.

When consciousness returned to the sleepers, they were astonished to
find themselves alone in the house; and as soon as they could rally
their wits, they set off in search of the fugitives. After spending
several days without finding any track of them, the master called upon
Isaac T. Hopper. He complained bitterly of his servant's ingratitude in
absconding from him, and of the trick he had played to deceive him. He
said he and his family had always been extremely comfortable in
Maryland, and it was a great piece of folly in them to have quitted such
a happy condition. He concluded by asking for assistance in tracing
them; promising to treat them as kindly as if they were his own
children, if they would return to him.

Friend Hopper replied, "If the man were as happy with thee as thou hast
represented, he will doubtless return voluntarily, and my assistance
will be quite unnecessary. I do not justify falsehood and deception; but
I am by no means surprised at them in one who has always been a slave,
and had before him the example of slaveholders. Why thou shouldst accuse
him of ingratitude, is more than I can comprehend. It seems to me that
he owes thee nothing. On the contrary, I should suppose that thou wert
indebted to him; for I understand that he has served thee more than
thirty years without wages. So far from helping thee to hunt the poor
fugitives, I will, with all my heart, do my utmost to keep them out of
thy grasp."

"Have you seen my man?" inquired the slaveholder.

"He came to me when he left his own house in Green's Court," replied
Friend Hopper; "and I gave him such advice on that occasion, as I
thought proper. Thou art the first slaveholder I ever met with bearing
my name. Perhaps thou hast assumed it, as a means of gaining the
confidence of colored people, to aid thee in recapturing the objects of
thy avarice."

The Colonel replied that it was really his name, and departed without
having gained much satisfaction from the interview. He remained in
Philadelphia a week or ten days, where he was seized with _mania a
potu_. He was carried home in a straight jacket, where he soon after
died.

A few months after these transactions, the slave called to see Friend
Hopper. He laughed till he could hardly stand, while he described the
method he had taken to elude his old master, and the comical scene that
followed with him and the constable. "I knew his weak side," said he. "I
knew where to touch him."

Friend Hopper inquired whether he was not aware that it was wrong to
tell falsehoods, and to get men drunk.

"I suppose it _was_ wrong," he replied. "But liberty is sweet; and none
of us know what we would do to secure it, till we are tried."

He afterward returned to Philadelphia, where he supported his family
comfortably, and remained unmolested.




JAMES DAVIS.


In 1795, James escaped from bondage in Maryland, and went to
Philadelphia, where he soon after married. He remained undisturbed for
ten years, during which time he supported himself and family comfortably
by sawing wood. But one day, in the year 1805, his master called to see
him, accompanied by two other men, who were city constables. He appeared
to be very friendly, asked James how he was getting along, and said he
was glad to see him doing so well. At last, he remarked, "As you left
my service without leave, I think you ought to make me some
compensation for your time. Autumn is now coming on, and as that is
always a busy season for wood-sawyers, perhaps you can make me a small
payment at that time."

This insidious conversation threw James completely off his guard, and he
promised to make an effort to raise some money for his master. As soon
as he had said enough to prove that he was his bondsman, the slaveholder
threw off the mask of kindness, and ordered the constables to seize and
hand-cuff him. His wife and children shrieked aloud, and Isaac T.
Hopper, who happened to be walking through the street at the time,
hastened to ascertain the cause of such alarming sounds. Entering the
house, he found the colored man hand-cuffed, and his wife and children
making the loud lamentations, which had arrested his attention. The poor
woman told how her husband had been duped by friendly words, and now he
was to be torn from his family and carried off into slavery. Friend
Hopper's feelings were deeply affected at witnessing such a heartrending
scene, and he exerted his utmost eloquence to turn the master from his
cruel purpose. The wife and children wept and entreated also; but it was
all in vain. He replied to their expostulations by ridicule, and
proceeded to hurry his victim off to prison. The children clung round
Friend Hopper's knees, crying and sobbing, and begging that he would
not let those men take away their father. But the fact that the poor
fellow had acknowledged himself a slave rendered resistance hopeless. He
was taken before a magistrate, and thence to prison.

Friend Hopper was with him when his master came the next day to carry
him away. With a countenance expressive of deepest anguish, the unhappy
creature begged to speak a word in private, before his master entered.
When Friend Hopper took him into an adjoining room, he exclaimed in an
imploring tone, "Can't you give me some advice?" Agitated by most
painful sympathy, the Friend knew not what to answer. After a moment's
hesitation, he said, "Don't try to run away till thou art sure thou hast
a good chance." This was all he could do for the poor fellow. He was
obliged to submit to seeing him bound with cords, put into a carriage,
and driven off like a sheep to the slaughter-house.

He was conveyed to Maryland and lodged in jail. Several weeks after, he
was taken thence and sold to a speculator, who was making up a coffle of
slaves for the far South. After crossing the Susquehanna, they stopped
at a miserable tavern, where the speculator and his companions drank
pretty freely, and then began to amuse themselves by shooting at a mark.
They placed the slave by the tavern door, where they could see him.
While he sat there, thinking of his wife and children, feeling sad and
forlorn beyond description, he noticed that a fisherman drew near the
shore with a small boat, to which was fastened a rope and a heavy stone,
to supply the place of an anchor. When he saw the man step out of the
boat and throw the stone on the ground, Friend Hopper's parting advice
instantly flashed through his mind. Hardship, scanty food, and above
all, continual distress of mind, had considerably reduced his flesh. He
looked at his emaciated hands, and thought it might be possible to slip
them through his iron cuffs. He proceeded cautiously, and when he saw
that his guard were too busy loading their pistols to watch him, he
released himself from his irons by a violent effort, ran to the river,
threw the stone anchor into the boat, jumped in, and pushed for the
opposite shore. The noise attracted the attention of his guard, who
threatened him with instant death if he did not return. They loaded
their pistols as quickly as possible, and fired after him, but luckily
missed their aim. James succeeded in reaching the opposite side of the
river, where he set the boat adrift, lest some one should take it back
and enable them to pursue him. He bent his course toward Philadelphia,
and on arriving there, went directly to Friend Hopper's house. He had
become so haggard and emaciated, that his friend could hardly believe it
was James Davis who stood before him. He said he dared not go near his
old home, and begged that some place might be provided where he could
meet his wife and children in safety. This was accomplished, and Friend
Hopper was present when the poor harassed fugitive was restored to his
family. He described the scene as affecting beyond description. The
children, some of whom were very small, twined their little arms round
him, eagerly inquiring, "Where have you been? How did you get away?" and
his wife sobbed aloud, while she hugged the lost one to her heart.

The next morning he was sent to Bucks County in a market wagon. Some
friends there procured a small house for him, and his family soon joined
him. He was enabled to earn a comfortable living, and his place of
retreat was never afterward discovered by enemies of the human family.




MARY HOLLIDAY.


A very light mulatto girl, named Fanny, was slave to the widow of John
Sears, in Maryland. When about twenty-four years old, she escaped to
Philadelphia, and lived in the family of Isaac W. Morris, where she was
known by the assumed name of Mary Holliday. She was honest, prudent, and
industrious, and the family became much attached to her. She had not
been there many months when her mistress obtained tidings of her, and
went to Philadelphia, accompanied by a man named Dutton. She was
arrested on the seventh of June, 1805, and taken before Matthew Lawler,
who was then mayor. Isaac W. Morris immediately waited on Isaac T.
Hopper to inform him of the circumstance, and they proceeded together to
the mayor's office.

Dutton, being examined as a witness, testified that he knew a mulatto
named Fanny, who belonged to Mrs. Sears, and he believed the woman
present, called Mary Holliday, was that person. Mary denied that she was
the slave of the claimant, or that her name was Fanny; but her agitation
was very evident, though she tried hard to conceal it.

Friend Hopper remarked to the mayor, "This case requires testimony as
strong as if the woman were on trial for her life, which is of less
value than liberty. I object to the testimony as insufficient; for the
witness cannot say positively that he _knows_ she is the same person,
but only that he _believes_ so. Wouldst thou consider such evidence
satisfactory in the case of a white person?"

The mayor who was not friendly to colored people, replied, "I should
not; but I consider it sufficient in such cases as these."

"How dark must the complexion be, to justify thee in receiving such
uncertain evidence?" inquired Friend Hopper.

The mayor pointed to the prisoner and said, "As dark as that woman."

"What wouldst thou think of such testimony in case of thy own daughter?"
rejoined Friend Hopper. "There is very little difference between her
complexion and that of the woman now standing before thee."

He made no reply, but over-ruled the objection to the evidence. He
consented, however, to postpone the case three days, to give time to
procure testimony in her favor.

Isaac W. Morris soon after called upon Friend Hopper and said, "Mary has
acknowledged to us that her name is Fanny, and that she belongs to Mrs.
Sears. My family are all very much attached to her, and they cannot bear
the thought of her being carried away into slavery. I will advance three
hundred dollars, if thou wilt obtain her freedom."

Friend Hopper accordingly called upon Mrs. Sears, and after stipulating
that nothing said on either side should be made use of in the trial, he
offered two hundred dollars for a deed of manumission. The offer was
promptly rejected. After considerable discussion, three hundred and
fifty dollars were offered; for it was very desirable to have the case
settled without being obliged to resort to an expensive and uncertain
process of law. Mrs. Sears replied, "It is in vain to treat with me on
the subject; for I am determined not to sell the woman on any terms. I
will take her back to Maryland, and make an example of her."

"I hope thou wilt find thyself disappointed," rejoined Friend Hopper.
The slaveholder merely answered with a malicious smile, as if perfectly
sure of her triumph.

Finding himself disappointed in his attempts to purchase the woman,
Friend Hopper resolved to carry the case to a higher court, and
accumulate as many legal obstructions as possible. For that purpose, he
obtained a writ _De homine replegiando_, and when the suitable occasion
arrived, he accompanied Mary Holliday to the mayor's office, with a
deputy sheriff to serve the writ. When the trial came on, he again urged
the insufficiency of proof brought by the claimant. The mayor replied,
in a tone somewhat peremptory, "I have already decided that matter. I
shall deliver the slave to her mistress."

Friend Hopper gave the sheriff a signal to serve the writ. He was a
novice in the business, but in obedience to the instructions given him,
he laid his hand on Mary's shoulder, and said, "By virtue of this writ,
I replevin this woman, and deliver her to Mr. Hopper."

Her protector immediately said to her, "Thou canst now go home with me."
But her mistress seized her by the arm, and said she should _not_ go.
The mayor was little acquainted with legal forms, beyond the usual
routine of city business. He seemed much surprised, and inquired what
the writ was.

"It is a _homine replegiando_," replied Friend Hopper.

"I don't understand what that means," said the mayor.

"It is none the less powerful on that account," rejoined Friend Hopper.
"It has taken the woman out of thy power, and delivered her to another
tribunal."

During this conversation, the mistress kept her grasp upon Mary. Friend
Hopper appealed to the mayor, again repeating that the girl was now to
await the decision of another court. He accordingly told Mrs. Sears it
was necessary to let her go. She asked what was to be done in such a
case. The mayor, completely puzzled, and somewhat vexed, replied
impatiently, "I don't know. You must ask Mr. Hopper. His laws are above
mine. I thought I knew something about the business; but it seems I
don't."

Mary went home with her protector, and Mrs. Sears employed Alexander J.
Dallas as counsel. The case was kept pending in the Supreme Court a long
time; for no man understood better than Friend Hopper how to multiply
difficulties. Mrs. Sears frequently attended, bringing witnesses with
her from Maryland; which of course involved much trouble and expense.
After several years, the trial came on; but it was found she had left
some of her principal witnesses at home. Most of the forenoon was spent
in disputes about points of law, and the admissibility of certain
evidence. The court then adjourned to three in the afternoon.

Mrs. Sears was informed that even if the court adjudged Mary to be her
slave, Friend Hopper would doubtless fail to produce her, and they would
be compelled to go through another process to recover from him the
penalty of the bond. She had become exceedingly weary of the law, the
trouble and expense of which had far exceeded her expectations. She
therefore instructed her lawyer to try to effect a compromise. Friend
Hopper, being consulted for this purpose, offered to pay two hundred and
fifty dollars for Mary if the claimant would pay the costs. She accepted
the terms, well pleased to escape from further litigation.

When the court met in the afternoon, they were informed that the matter
was settled; and the jury with consent of parties, rendered a verdict
that Mary was free. By her own earnings, and donations from sympathizing
friends, she gradually repaid Isaac W. Morris three hundred dollars
toward the sum he had advanced for the expenses of her trial.

In his efforts to protect the rights and redress the wrongs of colored
people, Friend Hopper had a zealous and faithful ally in Thomas
Harrison, also a member of the Society of Friends. When recounting the
adventures they had together, he used to say, "That name excites
pleasant emotions whenever it occurs to me. I shall always reverence his
memory. He was my precursor in Philadelphia, as the friend of the slave,



Online LibraryLydia Maria Francis ChildIsaac T. Hopper → online text (page 7 of 28)