Part 2 out of 6
Accordingly, the blacksmith sought an interview with him, and said, "Jim
has been a faithful industrious fellow; but of late he has taken it into
his head that he ought to be free. He strolled off and refused to work,
and I had him put in prison. When I called to see him he insulted me
grossly, and positively refused to return to his business. I have been
referred to you to obtain an order to confine him to the cells on short
allowance, till he submits."
Friend Hopper replied, "I have been long acquainted with Jim. I was one
of his teachers; and I have often admired his punctuality in attending
school, and his patient industry in trying to learn."
"It has done him no good to learn to read," rejoined the master. "On the
contrary, it has made him worse."
"It has made him wiser," replied Isaac; "but I think it has not made him
worse. I have scruples about ordering him to be punished; for he
professes to be conscientious about submitting to serve as a slave. I
have myself suffered because I could not conscientiously comply with
military requisitions. The Society of Friends have suffered much in
England on account of ecclesiastical demands. I have thus some cause to
know how hateful are persecutors, in the sight of God and of men. I
cannot therefore be active in persecuting James, or any other man, on
account of conscientious scruples."
"It is your duty to have him punished," rejoined the blacksmith.
"I am the best judge of that," answered Friend Hopper; "and I do not
feel justified in compelling him to submit to slavery."
The blacksmith was greatly exasperated, and went off, saying, "I hope to
mercy your daughter will marry a negro."
At the expiration of the term of imprisonment allowed by law, James
still refused to return to service, and he was committed for another
thirty days. His master called to see him again, and told him if he
would return home, and behave well, he should have a new suit of clothes
and a Methodist hat. "I don't want your new clothes, nor your Methodist
hat," replied James. "I tell you I never will serve you nor any other
man as a slave. I had rather end my days in jail."
His master finding him so intractable, gave up the case as hopeless.
When his second term of imprisonment expired, he was discharged, and no
one attempted to molest him. He earned a comfortable living, and looked
happy and respectable; but his personal appearance was not improved by
leaving his beard unshaved. One day, when Friend Hopper met him in the
street, he said, "Jim, why dost thou wear that long beard? It looks very
"I suppose it does," he replied, "but I wear it as a memorial of the
Lord's goodness in setting me free; for it was Him that done it."
A Frenchman by the name of Anthony Salignac removed from St. Domingo to
New-Jersey, and brought with him several slaves; among whom was Romaine.
After remaining in New-Jersey several years, he concluded in 1802, to
send Romaine and his wife and child back to the West Indies. Finding him
extremely reluctant to go, he put them in prison some days previous,
lest they should make an attempt to escape. From prison they were put
into a carriage to be conveyed to Newcastle, under the custody of a
Frenchman and a constable. They started from Trenton late in the
evening, and arrived in Philadelphia about four o'clock in the morning.
People at the inn where they stopped remarked that Romaine and his wife
appeared deeply dejected. When food was offered they refused to eat. His
wife made some excuse to go out, and though sought for immediately
after, she was not to be found. Romaine was ordered to get into the
carriage. The Frenchman was on one side of him and the constable on the
other. "_Must_ I go?" cried he, in accents of despair. They told him he
must. "And alone?" said he. "Yes, you must," was the stern reply. The
carriage was open to receive him, and they would have pushed him in, but
he suddenly took a pruning knife from his pocket, and drew it three
times across his throat with such force that it severed the jugular vein
instantly, and he fell dead on the pavement.
As the party had travelled all night, seemed in great haste, and watched
their colored companions so closely some persons belonging to the prison
where they stopped suspected they might have nefarious business on hand;
accordingly, a message was sent to Isaac T. Hopper, as the man most
likely to right all the wrongs of the oppressed. He obeyed the summons
immediately; but when he arrived, he found the body of poor Romaine
weltering in blood on the pavement.
Speaking of this scene forty years later, he said, "My whole soul was
filled with horror, as I stood viewing the corpse. Reflecting on that
awful spectacle, I exclaimed within myself, How long, O Lord, how long
shall this abominable system of slavery be permitted to curse the land!
My mind was introduced into sympathy with the sufferer. I thought of the
agony he must have endured before he could have resolved upon that
desperate deed. He knew what he had to expect, from what he had
experienced in the West Indies before, and he was determined not to
submit to the same misery and degradation again. By his sufferings he
was driven to desperation; and he preferred launching into the unknown
regions of eternity to an endurance of slavery."
An inquest was summoned, and after a brief consultation, the coroner
brought in the following verdict: "Suicide occasioned by the dread of
slavery, to which the deceased knew himself devoted."
Romaine and his wife were very good looking. They gave indications of
considerable intelligence, and had the character of having been very
faithful servants. His violent death produced a good deal of excitement
among the people generally, and much sympathy was manifested for the
wife and child, who had escaped.
The master had procured a certificate from the mayor of Trenton
authorizing him to remove his slaves to the West Indies; but the jury of
inquest, and many others, were of opinion that his proceedings were not
fully sanctioned by law. Accordingly, Friend Hopper, and two other
members of the Abolition Society, caused him to be arrested and brought
before a magistrate; not so much with the view of punishing him, as with
the hope of procuring manumission for the wife and child. In the course
of the investigation, the friends of the Frenchman were somewhat violent
in his defence. Upon one occasion, several of them took Friend Hopper up
and put him out of the house by main force; while at the same time they
let their friend out of a back door to avoid him. However, Friend Hopper
met him a few minutes after in the street and seized him by the button.
Alarmed by the popular excitement, and by the perseverance with which he
was followed up, he exclaimed in agitated tones, "Mon Dieu! What is it
you do want? I will do anything you do want."
"I want thee to bestow freedom on that unfortunate woman and her child,"
replied Friend Hopper.
He promised that he would do so; and he soon after made out papers to
that effect, which were duly recorded.
THE SLAVE HUNTER.
In July, 1802, a man by the name of David Lea, went to Philadelphia to
hunt up runaway slaves for their Southern masters. A few days after his
arrival, he arrested a colored man, whom he claimed as the property of
Nathan Peacock of Maryland. The man had lived several years in
Philadelphia, had taken a lot of ground in the Northern Liberties, and
erected a small house on it.
In the course of the investigation, the poor fellow, seeing no chance of
escape, acknowledged that he was Mr. Peacock's slave, and had run away
from him because he wanted to be free. His friends, being unwilling to
see him torn from his wife and children, made an effort to purchase his
freedom. After much intreaty, the master named a very large sum as his
ransom; and the slave was committed to prison until the affair was
David Lea was a filthy looking man, apparently addicted to intemperance.
Friend Hopper asked him if he had any business in Philadelphia. He
answered, "No." He inquired whether he had any money, and he answered,
"_No_." Friend Hopper then said to the magistrate, "Here is a stranger
without money, who admits that he has no regular means of obtaining a
livelihood. Judging from his appearance, there is reason to conclude
that he may be a dangerous man. I would suggest whether it be proper
that he should be permitted to go at large."
The magistrate interrogated the suspicious looking stranger concerning
his business in Philadelphia; and he, being ashamed to acknowledge
himself a slave-catcher, returned very evasive and unsatisfactory
answers. He was accordingly committed to prison, to answer at the next
court of Sessions. It was customary to examine prisoners before they
were locked up, and take whatever was in their pockets, to be restored
to them whenever they were discharged. David Lea strongly objected to
this proceeding; and when they searched him they found more than fifty
advertisements for runaway slaves; a fact which made the nature of his
business sufficiently obvious. Friend Hopper, had a serious conversation
with him in prison, during which he stated that he was to have received
forty-five dollars for restoring the slave to his master. Friend Hopper
told him if he would give an order upon Mr. Peacock for that amount, to
go toward buying the slave's freedom, he should be released from
confinement, on condition of leaving the city forthwith. He agreed to do
so, and the money was paid. But the slave was found to be in debt more
than his small house was worth, and the price for his ransom was so
exorbitantly high, that it was impossible to raise it. Under these
circumstances, Friend Hopper thought it right to return the forty-five
dollars to David Lea; but he declined receiving it. He would take only
three dollars, to defray his expenses home; and gave the following
written document concerning the remainder: "I request Isaac T. Hopper to
pay the money received from the order, which I gave him upon Nathan
Peacock, to the managers of the Pennsylvania Hospital, or to any other
charitable institution he may judge proper."
DAVID x LEA.
He was discharged from prison, and the money paid to the Pennsylvania
Hospital. Next year, the following item was published in their accounts:
"Received of David Lea, a noted negro-catcher, by the hands of Isaac T.
Hopper, forty-two dollars; he having received forty-five dollars for
taking up a runaway slave, of which he afterward repented, and directed
the sum to be paid to the Pennsylvania Hospital, after deducting three
dollars to pay his expenses home."
The slave was carried back to the South, but escaped again. After
encountering many difficulties, he was at last bought for a sum so
small, that it was merely nominal; and he afterward lived in
It was a common thing for speculators in slaves to purchase runaways for
much less than their original value, and take the risk of not being able
to catch them. In the language of the trade, this was called buying them
running. In April, 1802, Joseph Ennells and Captain Frazer, of Maryland,
dealers in slaves, purchased a number in this way, and came to
Philadelphia in search of them. There they arrested, and claimed as
their property, William Bachelor, a free colored man, about sixty years
old. A colored man, whom the slave-dealers brought with them, swore
before a magistrate that William Bachelor once belonged to a gang of
slaves, of which he was overseer; that he had changed his name, but he
knew him perfectly well. William affirmed in the most earnest manner,
that he was a free man; but Mr. Ennells and Captain Frazer appeared to
be such respectable men, and the colored witness swore so positively,
that the magistrate granted a certificate authorizing them to take him
As they left the office, they were met by Dr. Kinley, who knew William
Bachelor well, and had a great regard for him. Finding that his
protestations had no effect with the Marylanders, he ran with all speed
to Isaac T. Hopper, and entering his door almost out of breath,
exclaimed, "They've got old William Bachelor, and are taking him to the
South, as a slave. I know him to be a free man. Many years ago, he was a
slave to my father, and he manumitted him. He used to carry me in his
arms when I was an infant. He was a most faithful servant."
Friend Hopper inquired which way the party had gone, and was informed
that they went toward "Gray's Ferry." He immediately started in pursuit,
and overtook them half a mile from the Schuylkill. He accosted Mr.
Ennells politely, and told him he had made a mistake in capturing
William Bachelor; for he was a free man. Ennells drew a pistol from his
pocket, and said, "We have had him before a magistrate, and proved to
his satisfaction that the fellow is my slave. I have got his
certificate, and that is all that is required to authorize me to take
him home. I will blow your brains out if you say another word on the
subject, or make any attempt to molest me."
"If thou wert not a coward, thou wouldst not try to intimidate me with a
pistol," replied Isaac. "I do not believe thou hast the least intention
of using it in any other way; but thou art much agitated, and may fire
it accidentally; therefore I request thee not to point it toward me, but
to turn it the other way. It is in vain for thee to think of taking this
old man to Maryland. If thou wilt not return to the city voluntarily, I
will certainly have thee stopped at the bridge, where thou wilt be
likely to be handled much more roughly than I am disposed to do."
While this controversy was going on, poor William Bachelor was in the
greatest anxiety of mind. "Oh, Master Hopper," he exclaimed, "Don't let
them take me! I am not a slave. All the people in Philadelphia know I
am a free man. I never was in Maryland in my life."
Ennells, hearing the name, said, "So your name is Hopper, is it? I have
heard of you. It's time the world was rid of you. You have done too much
When Friend Hopper inquired what mischief he had done, he replied, "You
have robbed many people of their slaves."
"Thou art mistaken," rejoined the Quaker. "I only prevent Southern
marauders from robbing people of their liberty."
After much altercation, it was agreed to return to the city; and William
was again brought before the alderman, who had so hastily surrendered
him. Dr. Kinley, and so many other respectable citizens, attended as
witnesses, that even Ennells himself was convinced that his captive was
a free man. He was accordingly set at liberty. It was, however,
generally believed that Mr. Ennells knew he was not a slave when he
arrested him. It was therefore concluded to prosecute him for attempting
to take forcibly a free man out of the state and carry him into slavery.
When Friend Hopper went to his lodgings with a warrant and two
constables, for this purpose, he found him writing, with a pistol on
each side of him. The moment they entered, he seized a pistol and
ordered them to withdraw, or he would shoot them. Friend Hopper
replied, "These men are officers, and have a warrant to arrest thee for
attempting to carry off a free man into slavery. I advise thee to lay
down thy pistol and go with us. If not, a sufficient force will soon be
brought to compel thee. Remember thou art in the heart of Philadelphia.
It is both foolish and imprudent to attempt to resist the law. A pistol
is a very unnecessary article here, whatever it may be elsewhere.
According to appearances, thou dost not attempt to use it for any other
purpose than to frighten people; and thou hast not succeeded in doing
Rage could do nothing in the presence of such imperturbable calmness;
and Ennells consented to go with them to the magistrate. On the way, he
quarrelled with one of the constables, and gave him a severe blow on the
face with his cane. The officer knocked him down, and would have
repeated the blow, if Friend Hopper had not interfered. Assisting
Ennells to rise, he said, "Thou hadst better take my arm and walk with
me. I think we can agree better."
When the transaction had been investigated before a magistrate, Mr.
Ennells was bound over to appear at the next mayor's court and answer to
the charge against him. The proprietor of the hotel where he lodged
became his bail. Meanwhile, numerous letters came from people of the
first respectability in Maryland and Virginia, testifying to his good
character. His lawyer showed these letters to Friend Hopper, and
proposed that the prosecution should be abandoned. He replied that he
had no authority to act in the matter himself; but he knew the Abolition
Society had commenced the prosecution from no vindictive feelings, but
merely with the view of teaching people to be careful how they infringed
on the rights of free men. The committee of that society met the same
evening, and agreed to dismiss the suit, Mr. Ennells paying the costs;
to which he readily assented.
Levin was a slave in Maryland. He married a free woman and had several
children. In 1802, his master sold him to a speculator, who was in the
habit of buying slaves for the Southern market. His purchaser took him
to his farm in Delaware, and kept him at work till he could get a
profitable chance to sell him. His new master was a desperate fellow,
and Levin was uneasy with the constant liability of being sold to the
far South. He opened his heart to a neighbor, who advised him to escape,
and gave him a letter to Isaac T. Hopper. His wife and children had
removed to Philadelphia, and there he rejoined them. She took in
washing, and he supported himself by sawing wood. He had been there
little more than a month, when his master heard where he was, and
bargained with the captain of a small sloop to catch him and bring him
back to Delaware.
The plan was to seize Levin in his bed, hurry him on board the sloop,
and start off immediately, before his family could have time to give the
alarm. They would probably have succeeded in this project, if the
captain had not drank a little too freely the evening previous, and so
forgotten to get some goods on board, as he had promised. Levin was
seized and carried off; but the sloop was obliged to wait for the goods,
and in the meantime messengers were sent to Isaac T. Hopper. He was in
bed, but sprang up the instant he heard a violent knocking at the door.
In his haste, he thrust on an old rough coat and hat, which he was
accustomed to wear to fires; for, in addition to his various other
employments, he belonged to a fire-company. He hurried to the scene of
action as quickly as possible, and found that the slave had been
conveyed to a small tavern near the wharf where the sloop lay. When the
landlord was questioned where the men were who had him in custody, he
refused to give any information. But there was a crowd of men and boys;
and one of them said, "They are up-stairs in the back room." The
landlord stood in the door-way, and tried to prevent Friend Hopper from
passing in; but he pushed him aside, and went up to the chamber, where
he found Levin with his hands tied, and guarded by five or six men.
"What are you going to do with this man?" said he. The words were
scarcely out of his mouth, before they seized him violently and pitched
him out of the chamber window. He fell upon empty casks, and his mind
was so excited, that he was not aware of being hurt. There was no time
to be lost; for unless there was an immediate rescue, the man would be
forced on board the sloop and carried off. As soon as he could get upon
his feet, he went round again to the front door and ascended the stairs;
but the door of the chamber was locked. He then returned to the back
yard, mounted upon the pent-house, by means of a high board fence, and
clambered into the window of a chamber, that opened into the room where
the slave was. He entered with an open penknife in his hand, exclaiming,
"Let us see if you will get me out so soon again!" Speaking thus, he
instantly cut the cords that bound the slave, and called out, "Follow
me!" He rushed down stairs as fast as he could go, and the slave after
him. The guard were utterly astonished at seeing the man return, whom
they had just tossed out of an upper window, and the whole thing was
done so suddenly, that Friend Hopper and the liberated captive were in
the street before they had time to recover their wits.
A rowdy looking crowd of men and boys followed the fugitive and his
protector, shouting, "Stop thief! Stop thief!" until they came to the
office of a justice of the peace, half a mile from where they started.
The astonished magistrate exclaimed, "Good heavens, Mr. Hopper, what
brings you here this time of the morning, in such a trim, and with such
a rabble at your heels!" When the circumstances were briefly explained,
he laughed heartily, and said, "I don't think they would have treated
you so roughly, if they had known who you were." He was informed that
Levin was a slave in Maryland, but had been living in Delaware with a
man who bought him, and had thus become legally free. Measures were
taken to protect him from further aggression, and he was never after
Friend Hopper went home to a late breakfast; and when he attempted to
rise from the table, he was seized with violent pains in the back, in
consequence of his fall. He never after entirely recovered from the
effects of it.
This man was a slave to a Frenchman of the same name, in the Island of
Guadaloupe. In consideration of faithful services, his master gave him
his freedom, and he opened a barber's shop on his own account. Some time
after, he was appointed an officer in the French army, against Victor
Hughes. He had command of a fort, and remained in the army until the
close of the war. After that period, there were symptoms of insurrection
among the colored people, because the French government revoked the
decree abolishing slavery in their West India Islands. Etienne was a man
of talent, and had acquired considerable influence, particularly among
people of his own color. He exerted this influence on the side of mercy,
and was the means of saving the lives of several white people who had
rendered themselves obnoxious by their efforts to restore slavery.
Affairs were so unsettled in Guadaloupe, that Etienne determined to seek
refuge in the United States; and an old friend of his master procured a
passport for him. A man by the name of Anslong, then at Guadaloupe, had
two slaves, whom he was about to send to the care of Dennis Cottineau,
of Philadelphia, with directions to place them on a farm he owned, near
Princeton, New-Jersey. When it was proposed that Etienne should take
passage in the same vessel, Anslong manifested much interest in his
behalf. He promised that he should have his passage free, for services
that he might render on board; and he took charge of his passport,
saying that he would give it to the captain for safe keeping.
When the vessel arrived at Philadelphia, in March, 1803, Etienne was
astonished to find that Anslong had paid his passage, and claimed him
as his slave. Dennis Cottineau showed the receipts for the passage
money, and written directions to forward the _three_ slaves to
New-Jersey. In this dilemma, he asked counsel of a colored man, whom he
had formerly known in Guadaloupe; and he immediately conducted him to
Isaac T. Hopper. He related the particulars of his case very
circumstantially, and the two colored men, who were really the slaves of
Anslong, confirmed his statement. When Friend Hopper had cautiously
examined them, and cross-examined them, he became perfectly satisfied
that Etienne was free. He advised him not to leave the city, and told
him to let him know in case Dennis Cottineau attempted to compel him to
do so. He accordingly waited upon that gentleman and told him he had
resolved not to submit to his orders to go to New-Jersey. Whereupon
Cottineau took possession of his trunk, containing his papers and
clothing, and caused him to be committed to prison.
A writ of _habeas corpus_ was procured, and the case was brought before
Judge Inskeep, of the Court of Common Pleas. It was found to be involved
in considerable difficulty. For while several witnesses swore that they
knew Etienne in Guadaloupe, as a free man, in business for himself,
others testified that they had known him as the slave of Anslong. It was
finally referred to the Supreme Court, and Etienne was detained in
prison several months to await his trial. Eminent counsel were employed
on both sides; Jared Ingersoll for the claimant, and Joseph Hopkinson
for the defendant. A certificate was produced from the municipality of
Guadaloupe, showing that Etienne had been an officer in the French army
for several years, and had filled the station in a manner to command
respect. The National Decree abolishing slavery in that Island was also
read; but Mr. Ingersoll contended that when the decree was revoked,
Etienne again became a slave. In his charge, Judge Shippen said that the
evidence for and against freedom was about equally balanced; and in that
case, it was always a duty to decide in favor of liberty. The jury
accordingly brought in a unanimous verdict that Etienne was free. The
court ordered him to refund the twenty dollars, which Anslong had paid
for his passage; and he was discharged.
He was a dark mulatto, tall, well-proportioned, and stylish-looking. His
handsome countenance had a remarkably bright, frank expression, and
there was a degree of courteous dignity in his manner, probably acquired
by companionship with military officers. But he belonged to a caste
which society has forbidden to develop the faculties bestowed by nature.
Such a man might have performed some higher use than cutting hair, if he
had lived in a wisely organized state of society. However, he made the
best of such advantages as he had. He opened a barber's shop in
Philadelphia, and attracted many of the most highly respectable citizens
by his perfect politeness and punctuality. The colored people had
various benevolent societies in that city, for the relief of the poor,
the sick, and the aged, of their own complexion. Etienne Lamaire was
appointed treasurer of several of these societies, and discharged his
trust with scrupulous integrity.
Isaac T. Hopper had been very active and vigilant in assisting him to
regain his freedom; and afterward, when he became involved in some
difficulty on account of stolen goods left on his premises without his
knowledge, he readily became bail for him. His confidence had not been
misplaced; for when the affair had been fully investigated, the recorder
declared that Mr. Lamaire had acted like an honest and prudent man,
throughout the whole transaction.
His gratitude to Friend Hopper was unbounded, and he missed no
opportunity to manifest it. To the day of his death, some fourteen or
fifteen years ago, he never would charge a cent for shaving, or cutting
the hair of any of the family, children, or grand-children; and on New
Year's day, he frequently sent a box of figs, or raisins, or bon-bons,
in token of grateful remembrance.
Samuel Johnson was a free colored man in the state of Delaware. He
married a woman who was slave to George Black. They had several
children, and when they became old enough to be of some value as
property, their parents were continually anxious lest Mr. Black should
sell them to some Georgia speculator, to relieve himself from pecuniary
embarrassment; an expedient which was very often resorted to under such
circumstances. When Johnson visited his wife, they often talked together
on the subject; and at last they concluded to escape to a free state.
They went to Philadelphia and hired a small house. He sawed wood, and
she took in washing. Being industrious and frugal, they managed to live
very comfortably, except the continual dread of being discovered.
In December, 1804, when they had been thus situated about two years, her
master obtained some tidings of them, and immediately went in pursuit. A
friend happened to become aware of the fact, and hastened to inform them
that Mr. Black was in the city. Samuel forthwith sent his wife and
children to a place of safety; but he remained at home, not supposing
that he could be in any danger. The master arrived shortly after, with
two constables, and was greatly exasperated when he found that his
property had absconded. They arrested the husband, and vowed they would
hold him as a hostage, till he informed them where they could find his
wife and children. When he refused to accompany them, they beat him
severely, and swore they would carry him to the South and sell him. He
told them they might carry him into slavery, or murder him, if they
pleased, but no torture they could inflict would ever induce him to
betray his family. Finding they could not break his resolution, they
tied his hands behind his back, and dragged him to a tavern kept by
Peter Fritz, in Sassafras-street. There they left him, guarded by the
landlord and several men, while they went in search of the fugitives.
Some of Johnson's colored neighbors informed Isaac T. Hopper of these
proceedings; and he went to the tavern, accompanied by a friend. They
attempted to enter the room occupied by Samuel and his guard, but found
the door fastened, and the landlord refused to unlock it. When they
inquired by what authority he made his tavern a prison, he replied that
the man was placed in his custody by two constables, and should not be
released till they came for him.
"Open the door!" said Friend Hopper; "or we will soon have it opened in
a way that will cost something to repair it. Thou hast already made
thyself liable to an action for false imprisonment. If thou art not
very careful, thou wilt find thyself involved in trouble for this
The landlord swore a good deal, but finding them so resolute, he
concluded it was best to open the door. After obtaining the particulars
of the case from Johnson himself, Friend Hopper cut the cord that bound
his hands, and said, "Follow me!"
The men on guard poured forth a volley of threats and curses. One of
them sprang forward in great fury, seized Johnson by the collar, and
swore by his Maker that he should not leave the room till the constables
arrived. Friend Hopper stepped up to him, and said, "Release that man
immediately! or thou wilt be made to repent of thy conduct." The ruffian
quailed under the influence of that calm bold manner, and after some
slight altercation let go his grasp.
Johnson followed his protector in a state of intense anxiety concerning
his wife and children. But they had been conveyed to a place of safety,
and the man-hunters never afterward discovered their retreat.
PIERCE BUTLER'S BEN.
In August, 1804, a colored man about thirty-six years old waited upon
the committee of the Abolition Society, and stated that he was born a
slave to Pierce Butler, Esq., of South Carolina, and had always lived
in his family. During the last eleven years, he had resided most of the
time in Pennsylvania. Mr. Butler now proposed taking him to Georgia; but
he was very unwilling to leave his wife, she being in delicate health
and needing his support. After mature consideration of the case, the
committee, believing Ben was legally entitled to freedom, agreed to
apply to Judge Inskeep for a writ of _habeas corpus;_ and Isaac T.
Hopper was sent to serve it upon Pierce Butler, Esq., at his house in
Being told that Mr. Butler was at dinner, he said he would wait in the
hall until it suited his convenience to attend to him. Mr. Butler was a
tall, lordly looking man, somewhat imperious in his manners, as
slaveholders are wont to be. When he came into the hall after dinner,
Friend Hopper gave him a nod of recognition, and said, "How art thou,
Pierce Butler? I have here a writ of _habeas corpus_ for thy Ben."
Mr. Butler glanced over the paper, and exclaimed, "Get out of my house,
Feigning not to hear him, Friend Hopper looked round at the pictures and
rich furniture, and said with a smile, "Why, thou livest like a nabob
"Get out of my house, I say!" repeated Mr. Butler, stamping violently.
"This paper on the walls is the handsomest I ever saw," continued
Isaac. "Is it French, or English? It surely cannot have been
manufactured in this country." Talking thus, and looking leisurely about
him as he went, he moved deliberately toward the door; the slaveholder
railing at him furiously all the while.
"I am a citizen of South Carolina," said he. "The laws of Pennsylvania
have nothing to do with me. May the devil take all those who come
between masters and their slaves; interfering with what is none of their
business." Supposing that his troublesome guest was deaf, he put his
head close to his ear, and roared out his maledictions in stentorian
Friend Hopper appeared unconscious of all this. When he reached the
threshold, he turned round and said, "Farewell. We shall expect to see
thee at Judge Inskeep's."
This imperturbable manner irritated the hot-blooded slave-holder beyond
endurance. He repeated more vociferously than ever, "Get out of my
house, you scoundrel! If you don't, I'll kick you out." The Quaker
walked quietly away, as if he didn't hear a word.
At the appointed time, Mr. Butler waited upon the Judge, where he found
Friend Hopper in attendance. The sight of him renewed his wrath. He
cursed those who interfered with his property; and taking up the Bible,
said he was willing to swear upon that book that he would not take
fifteen hundred dollars for Ben. Friend Hopper charged him with
injustice in wishing to deprive the man of his legal right to freedom.
Mr. Butler maintained that he was as benevolent as any other man.
"Thou benevolent!" exclaimed Friend Hopper. "Why, thou art not even
just. Thou hast already sent back into bondage two men, who were legally
entitled to freedom by staying in Philadelphia during the term
prescribed by law. If thou hadst a proper sense of justice, thou wouldst
bring those men back, and let them take the liberty that rightfully
belongs to them."
"If you were in a different walk of life, I would treat your insult as
it deserves," replied the haughty Southerner.
"What dost thou mean by that? asked Isaac. Wouldst thou shoot me, as
Burr did Hamilton? I assure thee I should consider it no honor to be
killed by a member of Congress; and surely there would be neither honor
nor comfort in killing thee; for in thy present state of mind thou art
not fit to die."
Mr. Butler told the judge he believed that man was either deaf or crazy
when he served the writ of _habeas corpus_; for he did not take the
slightest notice of anything that was said to him. Judge Inskeep smiled
as he answered, "You don't know Mr. Hopper as well as we do."
A lawyer was procured for Ben; but Mr. Butler chose to manage his own
cause. He maintained that he was only a sojourner in Pennsylvania; that
Ben had never resided six months at any one time in that State, except
while he was a member of Congress; and in that case, the law allowed him
to keep his slave in Pennsylvania as long as he pleased. The case was
deemed an important one, and was twice adjourned for further
investigation. In the course of the argument, Mr. Butler admitted that
he returned from Congress to Philadelphia, with Ben, on the second of
January, 1804, and had remained there with him until the writ of _habeas
corpus_ was served, on the third of August, the same year. The lawyers
gave it as their opinion that Ben's legal right to freedom was too plain
to admit of any doubt. They said the law to which Mr. Butler had alluded
was made for the convenience of Southern gentlemen, who might need the
attendance of their personal slaves, when Congress met in Philadelphia;
but since the seat of government was removed, it by no means authorized
members to come into Pennsylvania with their slaves, and keep them there
as long as they chose. After much debate, the judge gave an order
discharging Ben from all restraint, and he walked off rejoicing.
His master was very indignant at the decision, and complained loudly
that a Pennsylvania court should presume to discharge a Carolinian
When Ben was set at liberty, he let himself to Isaac W. Morris, then
living at his country seat called Cedar Grove, three miles from
Philadelphia. Being sent to the city soon after, on some business for
his employer, he was attached by the marshall of the United States, on a
writ _De homine replegiando_, at the suit of Mr. Butler, and two
thousand dollars were demanded for bail. The idea was probably
entertained that so large an amount could not be procured, and thus Ben
would again come into his master's possession. But Isaac T. Hopper and
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 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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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,
and my coadjutor in scores of cases for their relief. His soul was
always alive to the sufferings of his fellow creatures, and dipped into
sympathy with the oppressed; not that idle sympathy that can be
satisfied with lamenting their condition, and make no exertions for
their relief; but sympathy, like the apostle's faith, manifesting itself
in works, and extending its influence to all within its reach."
Thomas Harrison was a lively, bustling man, with a roguish twinkle in
his eye, and a humorous style of talking. Some Friends, of more quiet
temperaments than himself, thought he had more activity than was
consistent with dignity. They reminded him that Mary sat still at the
feet of Jesus, while Martha was "troubled about many things."
"All that is very well," replied Thomas; "but Mary would have had a late
breakfast, after all, if it had not been for Martha."
From among various anecdotes in which Friend Harrison's name occurs, I
select the following:
James was a slave to Mr. McCalmont of Delaware. In 1805, when he was
about thirty years old, he escaped to New Jersey and let himself out to
a farmer. After he had been there a few months, several runaway slaves
in his neighborhood were arrested and carried back to the South. This
alarmed him, and he became very anxious that some person should advance
a sum of money sufficient to redeem him from bondage, which he would
bind himself to repay by labor. Finding that his employer abhorred
slavery, and was very friendly to colored people, he ventured to open
his heart to him; and Isaac T. Hopper was consulted on the subject.
The first step was to write to Mr. McCalmont to ascertain what were the
lowest terms on which he would manumit his slave. The master soon came
in person, accompanied by a Philadelphia merchant, who testified that
his friend McCalmont was a highly respectable man, and treated his
slaves with great kindness. He said James would be much happier with his
master than he could be in any other situation, and strongly urged
Friend Hopper to tell where he might be found.
He replied, "It does not appear that James _thought_ himself so happy,
or he would not have left his service. Even if I had no objection to
slavery, I should still be bound by every principle of honor not to
betray the confidence reposed in me. But feeling as it is well known I
do on that subject, I am surprised thou shouldst make such a proposition
They then called upon Thomas Harrison, and tried to enlist him in their
favor by repeating how well James had been treated, and how happy he was
in slavery. Friend Harrison replied, in his ironical way, "O, I know
very well that slaves sleep on feather beds, while their master's
children sleep on straw; that they eat white bread, and their master's
children eat brown. But enclose ten acres with a high wall, plant it
with Lombardy poplars and the most beautiful shrubbery, build a
magnificent castle in the midst of it, give thee pen, ink, and paper, to
write about the political elections in which thou art so much
interested, load thee with the best of everything thy heart could
desire, still I think thou wouldst want to get out beyond the wall."
The master, being unable to ascertain where his slave could be found,
finally informed Friend Hopper that he would manumit him on the receipt
of one hundred and fifty dollars. Mr. John Hart, a druggist, generously
advanced the sum, and James was indentured to him for the term of five
years. Before the contract was concluded, somebody remarked that
perhaps he would repeat his old trick of running away. "I am not afraid
of that," replied Mr. Hart. "I will tie him by the teeth;" meaning he
would feed him well.
In fact, James now appeared quite satisfied. His new master and mistress
were kind to him, and he was faithful and diligent in their service.
When a year or two had elapsed, he asked permission to visit his old
master and fellow servants. Mr. Hart kept a carriage, which he seldom
used in the winter, and he told James he might take one of the horses.
This suited his taste exactly. He mounted a noble looking animal, with
handsome saddle and bridle, and trotted off to Delaware. When he
arrived, he tied the horse and went into the kitchen. Mr. McCalmont
coming home soon after, and observing a very fine horse in his yard,
supposed he must have some distinguished visitor. Upon inquiry, he was
informed that Jim rode the horse there, and was then in the kitchen. He
went out and spoke very pleasantly to his former slave, and said he was
glad to see him. Being informed that the horse belonged to his new
master, Mr. Hart, who had kindly permitted him to use it, he ordered the
animal to be taken to the stable and supplied with hay and oats. James
was treated kindly by all the family, and spent two days very agreeably.
When about to take leave, Mr. McCalmont said to him, "Well, Jim, I am
glad to find that you have a good master, and are happy. But I had
rather you would not come here again in the style you now have; for it
will make my people dissatisfied."
James returned much pleased with his excursion, and soon went to give
Friend Hopper an account of it. He served out his time faithfully, and
remained afterward in the same family, as a hired servant.
William was a slave in Virginia. When about twenty-five years old, he
left his master and went to Philadelphia with two of his fellow slaves;
giving as a reason that he wanted to try whether he couldn't do
something for himself. When they had been absent a few months, their
master "sold them running" to Mr. Joseph Ennells, a speculator in
slaves, who procured a warrant and constable, and repaired to
Philadelphia in search of his newly acquired property. They arrived on
Saturday, a day when many people congregated at the horse-market.
Ennells soon espied the three fugitives among the crowd, and made an
attempt to pounce upon them. Luckily, they saw the movement, and dodging
quickly among the multitude, they escaped.
After spending some days in search of them, Ennells called upon Isaac T.
Hopper and Thomas Harrison, and offered to sell them very cheap if they
would hunt them up. Friend Hopper immediately recognized him as the man
who had threatened to blow out his brains, when he went to the rescue of
old William Bachelor; and he thus addressed him: "I would advise thee to
go home and obtain thy living in some more honorable way; for the trade
in which thou art engaged is a most odious one. On a former occasion
_thou_ wert treated with leniency; and I recommend a similar course to
thee with regard to these poor fugitives."
The speculator finally agreed to sell the three men for two hundred and
fifty dollars. The money was paid, and he returned home. In the course
of a few days William Anderson called upon Isaac T. Hopper for advice.
He informed him that Thomas Harrison had bought him and his companions,
and told him he had better find the other two, and go and make a bargain
with Friend Harrison concerning the payment. He called accordingly, and
offered to bind himself as a servant until he had earned enough to repay
the money that had been advanced; but he said he had searched in vain
for the two companions of his flight. They had left the city abruptly,
and he could not ascertain where they had gone. Thomas Harrison said to
him, "Perhaps thou art not aware that thou hast a legal claim to thy
freedom already; for I am a citizen of Pennsylvania, and the laws here
do not allow any man to hold a slave."
William replied, "I am too grateful for the kindness you have shown me,
to feel any disposition to take advantage of that circumstance. If I
live, you shall never lose a single cent on my account."
He was soon after indentured to Mr. Jacob Downing a respectable merchant
of Philadelphia, who agreed to pay one hundred and twenty-five dollars
for his services. This was half of the money advanced for all of them.
William served the stipulated time faithfully. His master said he never
had a more honest and useful servant; and he on his part always spoke of
the family with great respect and affection.
When the time of his indenture had expired, he called upon his old
benefactor, Thomas Harrison. After renewing his grateful acknowledgments
for the service rendered to him in extremity, he inquired whether
anything had ever been heard from the two other fugitives. Being
answered in the negative, he replied, "Well, Mr. Harrison, you paid two
hundred and fifty dollars for us, and you have not been able to find my
companions. You have received only one hundred and twenty-five dollars.
It is not right that you should lose by your kindness to us. I am
willing you should bind me again to make up the balance."
"Honest fellow! Honest fellow!" exclaimed Thomas Harrison. "Go about thy
business. Thou hast paid thy share, and I have no further claim upon
thee. Conduct as well as thou hast done since I have known thee, and
thou wilt surely prosper."
Friend Hopper happened to be present at this interview; and he used to
say, many years afterward, that he should never forget how it made his
heart glow to witness such honorable and disinterested conduct. The two
other fugitives were never heard of, and Friend Harrison of course lost
one hundred and twenty-five dollars. William frequently called upon his
benefactors, and always conducted in the most exemplary manner.
Sarah Roach, a light mulatto, was sold by her master in Maryland to a
man residing in Delaware. The laws of Delaware prohibit the introduction
of slaves, unless brought into the state by persons intending to reside
there permanently. If brought under other circumstances they become
free. Sarah remained with her new master several years before she was
made aware of this fact. Meanwhile, she gave birth to a daughter, who
was of course free, if the mother was free at the time she was born. At
last, some one informed the bondwoman that her master had no legal claim
to her services. She then left him and went to Philadelphia. But she
remained ignorant of the fact that her daughter was free, in
consequence of the universal maxim of slave law, that "the child follows
the condition of the mother."
When the girl was about sixteen years old, she absconded from Delaware,
and went to her mother, who inquired of Isaac T. Hopper what was the
best method of eluding the vigilance of her master. After ascertaining
the circumstances, he told her that her daughter was legally free, and
instructed her to inform him in case any person attempted to arrest her.
Her claimant soon discovered her place of abode, and in the summer of
1806 went in pursuit of her. Being aware that his claim had no
foundation in law, he did not attempt to establish it before any
magistrate, but seized the girl and hurried her on board a sloop, that
lay near Spruce-street wharf, unloading staves. Fearing she would be
wrested from him by the city authorities, he removed the vessel from the
wharf and anchored near an island between Philadelphia and New-Jersey. A
boat was placed alongside the sloop, into which the cargo was unloaded
and carried to the wharf they had left.
The mother went to Isaac T. Hopper in great distress, and informed him
of the transaction. He immediately made application to an alderman, who
issued a process to have the girl brought before him. Guided by two
colored men, who had followed her when she was carried off, he
immediately proceeded to the sloop, accompanied by an officer. When the
claimant saw them approaching, he went into the cabin for his gun, and
threatened them with instant death if they came near his vessel. Friend
Hopper quietly told the men to go ahead and pay no attention to his
threats. When they moored their boat alongside of the one into which
they were unloading staves, he became very vociferous, and pointing his
gun at Friend Hopper's breast, swore he should not enter the vessel.
He replied, "I have an officer with me, and I have authority from a
magistrate to bring before him a girl now in thy vessel. I think we are
prepared to show that she is free."
The man still kept his gun pointed, and told them to beware how they
attempted to come on board.
"If thou shouldst injure any person, it would be impossible for thee to
escape," replied Friend Hopper; "for thou art a hundred and twenty miles
from the Capes, with hundreds of people on the wharf to witness thy
While speaking thus, he advanced toward him until he came near enough to
seize hold of the gun and turn it aside. The man made a violent jerk to
wrest the weapon from him, and still clinging fast hold of it he was
pulled on board. In the scuffle to regain possession of his gun, the man
trod upon a roller on the deck, lost his balance, and fell sprawling on
his back. Friend Hopper seized that opportunity to throw the gun
overboard. Whereupon, a sailor near by seized an axe and came toward him
in a great rage. Even if the courageous Quaker had wished to escape,
there was no chance to do so. He advanced to meet the sailor, and
looking him full in the face said, "Thou foolish fellow, dost thou think
to frighten me with that axe, when thy companion could not do it with
his gun? Put the axe down. Thou art resisting legal authority, and
liable to suffer severely for thy conduct."
In a short time they became more moderate, but denied that the girl was
on board. The vessel was nearly emptied of her cargo, and Friend Hopper
peeping into the hold found her stowed away in a remote part of it. He
brought her on deck and took her with him into the boat, of which his
companions, including the constable, had retained possession.
The girl was uncommonly handsome, with straight hair and regular
European features. No one could have guessed from her countenance that
any of her remote ancestors were Africans.
The claimant did not make his appearance at the alderman's office. A
warrant was obtained charging him and the sailor with having resisted an
officer in the discharge of his duty. Isaac T. Hopper returned to the
sloop with a constable and brought the two men before a magistrate to
answer to this charge. They did not attempt to deny the truth of it, but
tried to excuse themselves on the plea that they resisted an attempt to
take away their property. Of course, this was of no avail, and they were
obliged to enter into bonds for their appearance at court. Being
strangers in the city, it was difficult to obtain bail, and there seemed
to be no alternative but a prison. However, as there must unavoidably be
considerable trouble and delay in procuring all the necessary evidence
concerning the birth of the alleged slave, her friends agreed to dismiss
them, if they would pay all expenses, give each of the officers five
dollars, and manumit the girl. Under existing circumstances, they were
glad to avail themselves of the offer; and so the affair was settled.
A man by the name of Daniel Godwin, in the lower part of Delaware, made
a business of buying slaves running; taking the risk of losing the small
sums paid for them under such circumstances. In the year 1806, he
purchased in this way a slave named Ezekiel, familiarly called Zeke. He
went to Philadelphia, and called on Isaac T. Hopper; thinking if he knew
where the man was, he would be glad to have his freedom secured on
moderate terms. While they were talking together, a black man happened
to walk in, and leaning on the counter looked up in Mr. Godwin's face
all the time he was telling the story of his bargain. When he had done
speaking, he said, "How do you do, Mr. Godwin? Don't you know me?"
The speculator answered that he did not.
"Then you don't remember a man that lived with your neighbor, Mr.----?"
Mr. Godwin was at first puzzled to recollect whom he meant; but when he
had specified the time, and various other particulars, he said he did
remember such a person.
"Well," answered the black man, "I am he; and I am Zeke's brother."
The speculator inquired whether he knew where he was.
He replied, "O yes, Mr. Godwin, I know where he is, well enough. But I'm
sorry you've bought Zeke. You'll never make anything out of him. A bad
speculation, Mr. Godwin."
"Why, what's the matter with Zeke?" asked the trader.
"O, these blacks come to Philadelphia and they get into bad company,"
replied he. "They are afraid to be seen in the day-time, and so they go
prowling about in the night. I'm very sorry you've bought Zeke. He'll
never do you one cent's worth of good. A bad speculation, Mr. Godwin."
The prospect seemed rather discouraging, and the trader said, "Come now,
suppose you buy Zeke yourself? I'll sell him low."
"If I bought him, I should only have to maintain him into the bargain,"
replied the black man. "He's my brother, to be sure; but then he'll
never be good for anything."
"Perhaps he would behave better if he was free," urged Mr. Godwin.
"That's the only chance there is of his ever doing any better,"
responded the colored man. "But I'm very doubtful about it. If I should
make up my mind to give him a chance, what would you be willing to sell
The speculator named one hundred and fifty dollars.
"Poh! Poh!" exclaimed the other. "I tell you Zeke will never be worth a
cent to you or anybody else. A hundred and fifty dollars, indeed!"
The parley continued some time longer, and the case seemed such a
hopeless one, that Mr. Godwin finally agreed to take sixty dollars. The
colored man went off, and soon returned with the required sum. Isaac T.
Hopper drew up a deed of manumission, in which the purchaser requested
him to insert that Zeke was now commonly called Samuel Johnson. The
money was paid, and the deed signed with all necessary formalities. When
the business was entirely completed, the colored man said, "Zeke is now
free, is he?" When Mr. Godwin answered, "Yes," he turned to Friend
Hopper and repeated the question: "Zeke is free, and nobody can take
him; can they, Mr. Hopper? If he was here, he would be in no danger;
Friend Hopper replied, "Wherever Zeke may now be, I assure thee he is
Being thus assured, the black man made a low bow, and with a droll
expression of countenance said, "I hope you are very well, Mr. Godwin. I
am happy to see you, sir. I am Zeke!"
The speculator, finding himself thus outwitted, flew into a violent
rage. He seized Zeke by the collar, and began to threaten and abuse him.
But the colored man shook his fist at him, and said, "If you don't let
me go, Mr. Godwin, I'll knock you down. I'm a free citizen of these
United States; and I won't be insulted in this way by anybody."
Friend Hopper interfered between them, and Mr. Godwin agreed to go
before a magistrate to have the case examined. When the particulars had
been recounted, the magistrate answered, "You have been outwitted, sir.
Zeke is now as free as any man in this room."
There was something so exhilarating in the consciousness of being his
own man, that Zeke began to "feel his oats," as the saying is. He said
to the magistrate, "May it please your honor to grant me a warrant
against Mr. Godwin? He violently seized me by the collar; thus
committing assault and battery on a free citizen of these United
Friend Hopper told him he had better be satisfied with that day's work,
and let Mr. Godwin go home. He yielded to this expostulation, though he
might have made considerable trouble by insisting upon retaliation.
A Frenchman named M. Bouilla resided in Spring Garden, Philadelphia, in
the year 1806. He and a woman, who had lived with him some time, had in
their employ a mulatto girl of nine years old, called Amy. Dreadful
stories were in circulation concerning their cruel treatment to this
child; and compassionate neighbors had frequently solicited Friend
Hopper's interference. After a while, he heard they were about to send
her into the country; and fearing she might be sold into slavery, he
called upon M. Bouilla to inquire whither she was going. As soon as he
made known his business, the door was unceremoniously slammed in his
face and locked. A note was then sent to the Frenchman, asking for a
friendly interview; but he returned a verbal answer. "Tell Mr. Hopper to
mind his own business."
Considering it his business to protect an abused child, he applied to a
magistrate for a warrant, and proceeded to the house, accompanied by his
friend Thomas Harrison and a constable. As soon as they entered the
door, M. Bouilla ran up-stairs, and arming himself with a gun,
threatened to shoot whoever advanced toward him. Being blind, however,
he could only point the gun at random in the direction of their voices,
or of any noise which might reach his ear. The officer refused to
attempt his arrest under such peril; saying, he was under no obligation
to risk his life. Friend Hopper expostulated with the Frenchman,
explained the nature of their errand, and urged him to come down and
have the matter inquired into in an amicable way. But he would not
listen, and persisted in swearing he would shoot the first person who
attempted to come near him. At last, Friend Hopper took off his shoes,
stepped up-stairs very softly and quickly, and just as the Frenchman
became aware of his near approach, he seized the gun and held it over
his shoulder. It discharged instantly, and shattered the plastering of
the stairway, making it fly in all directions. There arose a loud cry,
"Mr. Hopper's killed! Mr. Hopper's killed!"
The gun being thus rendered harmless, the Frenchman was soon arrested,
and they all proceeded to the magistrate's office, accompanied by
several of the neighbors. There was abundant evidence that the child
had been half starved, unmercifully beaten, and tortured in various
ways. Indeed, she was such a poor, emaciated, miserable looking object,
that her appearance was of itself enough to prove the cruel treatment
she had received. When the case had been fully investigated, the
magistrate ordered her to be consigned to the care of Isaac T. Hopper,
who hastened home with her, being anxious lest his wife should
accidentally hear the rumor that he had been shot.
He afterwards ascertained that Amy was daughter of the white woman who
had aided in thus shamefully abusing her. He kept her in his family till
she became well and strong, and then bound her to one of his friends in
the country to serve till she was eighteen. She grew up a very pretty
girl, and deported herself to the entire satisfaction of the family.
When her period of service had expired, she returned to Philadelphia,
where her conduct continued very exemplary. She frequently called to see
Friend Hopper, and often expressed gratitude to him for having rescued
her from such a miserable condition.
Manuel was an active, intelligent slave in North Carolina. His master,
Mr. Joseph Spear, a tar manufacturer, employed him to transport tar, and
other produce of the place, down Tar river to Tarborough. After
laboring several years for another's benefit, Manuel began to feel
anxious to derive some advantage from his own earnings. He had children,
and it troubled him to think that they must live and die in slavery. He
was acquainted with a colored man in the neighborhood, named Samuel
Curtis, who had a certificate of freedom drawn up by the clerk of the
county, and duly authenticated, with the county seal attached to it.
Manuel thought he could easily pass for Samuel Curtis, and make his way
to Philadelphia, if he could only obtain possession of this valuable
paper. He accordingly made him a confidant of his plans, and he bought
the certificate for two dollars.
The next time Manuel was sent to Tarborough, he delivered the cargo as
usual, then left the boat and started for the North. He arrived safely
in Philadelphia, where he assumed the name of Samuel Curtis, and earned
a living by sweeping chimneys. In a short time, he had several boys in
his employ, and laid by money. When he had been going on thus for about
two years, he was suddenly met in the street by one of the neighbors of
his old master, who immediately arrested him as a fugitive from slavery.
He was taken before Robert Wharton, then mayor. The stranger declared
that the colored man he had seized was a slave, belonging to one of his
near neighbors in North Carolina. Samuel denied that he was a slave,
and showed his certificate of freedom. The stranger admitted that the
document was authentic, but he insisted that the real name of the person
who had possession of the paper was Manuel. He said he knew him
perfectly well, and also knew Samuel Curtis, who was a free colored man
in his neighborhood. The mayor decided that he could not receive parole
evidence in contradiction to a public record; and Samuel Curtis was set
To the honor of this worthy magistrate be it recorded that during forty
years whilst he was alderman in Philadelphia, and twenty years that he
was mayor, he never once surrendered a fugitive slave to his claimant,
though frequently called upon to do so. He used to tell Friend Hopper
that he could not conscientiously do it; that he would rather resign his
office. He often remarked that the Declaration, "All men are created
equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
rights; among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;"
appeared to him based on a sacred principle, paramount to all law.
When Samuel Curtis was discharged, he deemed it expedient to go to
Boston; thinking he might be safer there than in Philadelphia. But he
had not been there many days, before he met the same man who had
previously arrested him; and he by no means felt sure that the mayor of
that city would prove as friendly to the colored people as was Robert
Wharton. To add to his troubles, some villain broke open his trunk while
he was absent from his lodgings, and stole a hundred and fifty dollars
of his hard earnings. The poor fugitive began to think there was no safe
resting-place for him on the face of the earth. He returned to
Philadelphia disconsolate and anxious. He was extremely diligent and
frugal, and every year he contrived to save some money, which he put out
at interest in safe hands. At last, he was able to purchase a small lot
in Powell-street, on which he built a good three-story brick house,
where he lived with his apprentices, and let some of the rooms at a good
In 1807, he called upon Friend Hopper and told him that his eagerness to
make money had chiefly arisen from a strong desire to redeem his
children from bondage. But being a slave himself, he said it was
impossible for him to go in search of them, unless his own manumission
could be obtained. It happened that a friend of Isaac T. Hopper was
going to North Carolina. He agreed to see the master and ascertain what
could be done. Mr. Spear never expected to hear from his slave again,
and the proposition to buy him after so many years had elapsed, seemed
like finding a sum of money. He readily agreed to make out a bill of
sale for one hundred dollars, which was immediately paid.
The first use Samuel Curtis made of the freedom he had purchased was to
set off for the South in search of his children. To protect himself as
much as possible from the perils of such an undertaking, he obtained a
certificate of good character, signed by the mayor of Philadelphia, and
several of the most respectable citizens. They also gave him "a pass"
stating the object of his journey, and commending him to the protecting
kindness of those among whom he might find it necessary to travel. With
these he carefully packed his deed of manumission, and set forth on his
errand of paternal love. When he went to take leave of Friend Hopper, he
was much agitated. He clasped his hand fervently, and the tears flowed
fast down his weather-beaten cheeks. "I know I am going into the midst
of danger," said he. "Perhaps I may be seized and sold into slavery. But
I am willing to hazard everything, even my own liberty, if I can only
secure the freedom of my children. I have been a slave myself, and I
know what slaves suffer. Farewell! Farewell, my good friend. May God
bless you, and may he restore to me my children. Then I shall be a happy
He started on his journey, and went directly to his former master to
obtain information. He did not at first recognize his old servant. But
when he became convinced that the person before him was the identical
Manuel, who had formerly been his slave, he seemed pleased to see him,
entertained him kindly, and inquired how he had managed to get money
enough to buy his children.
The real Samuel Curtis, who sold him the certificate of freedom, was
dead; and since he could no longer be endangered by a statement of
particulars, the spurious Samuel related the whole story of his escape,
and of his subsequent struggles; concluding the whole by expressing an
earnest wish to find his children.
Mr. Spear had sold them, some years before, to a man in South Carolina;
and thither the father went in search of them. On arriving at the
designated place, he found they had been sold into Georgia. He went to
Georgia, and was told they had been sold to a man in Tennessee. He
followed them into Tennessee, but there he lost all track of them. After
the most patient and diligent search, he was compelled to return home
without further tidings of them.
As soon as he arrived in Philadelphia, he went to Isaac T. Hopper to
tell how the cherished plan of his life had been frustrated. He seemed
greatly dejected, and wept bitterly. "I have deprived myself of almost
every comfort," said he; "that I might save money to buy my poor
children. But now they are not to be found, and my money gives me no
satisfaction. The only consolation I have is the hope that they are all
The bereaved old man never afterward seemed to take comfort in anything.
He sunk, into a settled melancholy, and did not long survive his
In the winter of 1808, several Virginia planters went to Philadelphia to
search for eleven slaves, who had absconded. Most of these colored
people had been there several years, and some of them had acquired a
little property. Their masters had ascertained where they lived, and one
evening, when they returned from their accustomed labors, unconscious of
danger impending over them, they were pounced upon suddenly and conveyed
to prison. It was late at night when this took place, and Friend Hopper
did not hear of it till the next morning.
He had risen very early, according to his usual custom, and upon opening
his front door he found a letter slipped under it, addressed to him.
This anonymous epistle informed him that eleven slaves had been
arrested, and were to be tried before Alderman Douglass that morning;
that the owners were gentlemen of wealth and high standing, and could
produce the most satisfactory evidence that the persons arrested were
their slaves; consequently Friend Hopper's attendance could be of no
possible benefit to them. It went on to say that the magistrate
understood his business, and could do justice without his assistance;
but if, notwithstanding this warning, he did attend at the magistrate's
office, for the purpose of wresting from these gentlemen their property,
his house would be burned while himself and family were asleep in it,
and his life would certainly be taken. The writer invoked the most awful
imprecations upon himself if he did not carry these threats into
Friend Hopper was too much accustomed to such epistles to be disturbed
by them. He put it in his pocket, and said nothing about it, lest his
wife should be alarmed. A few minutes afterward, he received a message
from some colored people begging him to go to the assistance of the
fugitives; and when the trial came on, he was at the alderman's office,
of course. Richard Rush was counsel for the claimants. The colored
prisoners had no lawyer. This examination was carried on with much
earnestness and excitement. One of the Virginians failed in proof as to
the identity of the person he claimed. In the case of several others,
the power of attorney was pronounced informal by the magistrate. After a
long protracted controversy, during which Friend Hopper threw as many
difficulties in the way as possible, it was decided that four of the
persons in custody were proved to be slaves, and the other seven were
discharged. This decision greatly exasperated the Southerners, and they
vented their anger in very violent expressions. The constables employed
were unprincipled men, ready for any low business, provided it were
profitable. The man-hunters had engaged to give them fifty dollars for
each slave they were enabled to take back to Virginia; but they were to
receive nothing for those who were discharged. Hence, their extreme
anxiety to avoid Friend Hopper's interference. When they found that more
than half of their destined prey had slipped through their fingers, they
were furious. One of them especially raved like a madman. He had written
the anonymous letter, and was truly "a lewd fellow of the baser sort."
Friend Hopper's feelings were too much interested for those who had been
decreed slaves, to think anything of the abuse bestowed on himself. All
of them, three men and one woman, were married to free persons; and it
was heart-breaking to hear their lamentations at the prospect of being
separated forever. There was a general manifestation of sympathy, and
even the slaveholders were moved to compassion. Friend Hopper opened a
negotiation with them in behalf of the Abolition Society, and they
finally consented to manumit them all for seven hundred dollars. The
money was advanced by a Friend named Thomas Phipps, and the poor slaves
returned to their humble homes rejoicing. They repaid every farthing of
the money, and ever after manifested the liveliest gratitude to their
When the anger of the Southerners had somewhat cooled, Friend Hopper
invited them to come and see him. They called, and spent the evening in
discussing the subject of slavery. When they parted from the veteran
abolitionist, it was with mutual courtesy and kindliness. They said they
respected him for acting so consistently with his own principles; and if
they held the same opinions, they should doubtless pursue the same
This was a polite concession, but it was based on a false foundation;
for it assumed that it was a mere matter of _opinion_ whether slavery
were right or wrong; whereas it is a palpable violation of immutable
principles of justice. They might as well have made the same remark
about murder or robbery, if they had lived where a selfish majority were
strong enough to get those crimes sanctioned by law and custom. The
Bedouin considers himself no robber because he forcibly takes as much
toll as he pleases from all who pass through the desert. His ancestors
established the custom, and he is not one whit the less an Arab
gentleman, because he perpetuates their peculiar institution. Perhaps he
also would say that if he held the same opinions as more honest
Mahometans, he would do as they do. In former days, custom made it
honorable to steal a neighbor's cattle, on the Scottish border; as many
Americans now deem it respectable to take children from poor defenceless
neighbors, and sell them like sheep in the market. Sir Walter Scott says
playfully, "I have my quarters and emblazonments free of all stain but
Border Theft and High Treason, which I hope are _gentlemanlike crimes_"
Yet the stealing of cattle does not now seem a very noble achievement in
the eyes of honorable Scotchmen How will the stealing of children,
within bounds prescribed by law and custom, appear to future generations
THE UNITED STATES BOND.
A planter in Virginia, being pressed for money, sold one of his
bondwomen, of sixteen years old, to a speculator who was buying up
slaves for the markets of the South and South-west. The girl was
uncommonly handsome, with smooth hair, and a complexion as light as most
white people. Her new owner, allured by her beauty, treated her with
great kindness, and made many flattering promises. She understood his
motives, and wished to escape from the degradation of such a destiny as
he had in store for her. In order to conciliate her good will, he
imposed few restraints upon her. The liberty thus allowed gave her a
favorable opportunity to abscond, which she did not fail to improve. She
travelled to Philadelphia without encountering any difficulties on the
road; for her features and complexion excited no suspicion of her being
a fugitive slave. She maintained herself very comfortably by her own
industry, and after a time married a light mulatto, who was a very sober
industrious man. He was for many years employed by Joshua Humphreys, a
ship-carpenter of great respectability in the District of Southwark. By
united industry and frugality they were enabled to build a small house
on a lot they had taken on ground rent. The furniture was simple, but
extremely neat, and all the floors were carpeted. Every thing indicated
good management and domestic comfort.
She had been in Philadelphia thirteen years, and was the mother of a
promising family, when in 1808 she was arrested by her last master, as a
fugitive slave. The Virginian who sold her, and two other persons from
the South, attended as witnesses. Isaac T. Hopper also attended, with
his trusty friend Thomas Harrison. When the witnesses were examined, her
case appeared utterly hopeless; and in private conversation with Friend
Hopper she admitted that she was a slave to the man who claimed her. Mr.
Humphreys, pitying the distress of his honest, industrious workman,
offered to advance one hundred dollars toward purchasing her freedom.
But when Isaac T. Hopper and Thomas Harrison attempted to negotiate with
the claimant for that purpose, he treated all their offers with the
rudest contempt. They tried to work upon his feelings, by representing
the misery he would inflict on her worthy husband and innocent children;
but he turned a deaf ear to all their entreaties. They finally offered
to pay him four hundred dollars for a deed of manumission, which at that
time was considered a very high price; but he stopped all further
discussion by declaring, with a violent oath, that he would not sell her
on _any_ terms. Of course, there was nothing to be done, but to await
the issue of the trial.
When the magistrate asked the woman whether she were a slave, Friend
Hopper promptly objected to her answering that question, unless he would
agree to receive as evidence _all_ she might say. He declined doing
that. Friend Hopper then made some remarks, in the course of which he
said, "The most honest witnesses are often mistaken as to the identity
of persons. It surprises me that the witnesses in this case should be so
very positive, when the woman was but sixteen years old at the time they
say she eloped, and such a long period has since elapsed.
"The question at stake is as important as life itself to this woman, to
her honest husband, and to her poor little innocent children. For my
own part, I conscientiously believe she has a _just_ claim to her
All this time, the woman stood holding her little girl and boy by the
hand. She was deeply dejected, but her manners were as calm and
dignified, as if she had been one of the best educated ladies in the
land. The children were too young to understand the terrible doom that
threatened their mother, but they perceived that their parents were in
some great trouble, and the little creatures wept in sympathy.
When Friend Hopper described this scene forty years afterward, he used
to say, "I shall never forget the anguish expressed in her handsome
countenance, as she looked down upon her children. I see it as plainly
as if it all happened yesterday."
At the time, it was almost too much for his sympathizing heart to
endure. He felt like moving heaven and earth to rescue her. The trial
came on in the afternoon, and it happened that the presiding magistrate
was accustomed to drink rather freely of wine after dinner. Friend
Hopper perceived that his mental faculties were slightly confused, and
that the claimant was a heavy, stupid-looking fellow. With these
thoughts there suddenly flashed through his brain the plan of eluding an
iniquitous law, in order to sustain a higher law of justice and
humanity. He asked to have the case adjourned till the next day, that
there might be further opportunity to inquire into it; adding, "Thomas
Harrison and myself will be responsible to the United States for this
woman's appearance to-morrow. In case of forfeiture, we will agree to
pay any sum that may be deemed reasonable."
The claimant felt perfectly sure of his prey, and made no objection to
the proposed arrangement. It was accordingly entered on the docket that
Thomas Harrison and Isaac T. Hopper were bound to the United States, in
the sum of one thousand dollars, to produce the woman for further trial
at nine o'clock the next morning.
When Friend Hopper had obtained a copy of the recognizance, signed by
the magistrate, he chuckled inwardly and marched out of the office. If
there was a flaw in anything, Thomas Harrison had a jocose way of
saying, "There is a hole in the ballad." As they went into the street
together, his friend said, "Thomas, there's a hole in the ballad. The
recognizance we have just signed is good for nothing. The United States
have not the slightest claim upon that woman."
The next morning, at nine o'clock all parties, except the woman, were at
the mayor's office. After waiting for her about an hour, the magistrate
said, "Well gentlemen, the woman does not make her appearance, and I
shall be obliged to forfeit your recognizance."
"A thousand dollars is a large sum to lose," rejoined Friend Hopper.
"But if it comes to the worst, I suppose we must make up our minds to
pay the United States all the claim they have upon us."
"The United States! The United States!" exclaimed the magistrate
quickly. He turned to look at his docket, and after a slight pause he
said to the claimant, "There is difficulty here. You had better employ
Thomas Ross, a respectable lawyer, who lived a few doors above, was
summoned, and soon made his appearance. Having heard the particulars of
the case briefly stated, he also examined the docket; then turning to
Isaac T. Hopper, with a comical gesture and tone, he exclaimed, "Eh!" To
the claimant he said, "You must catch your slave again if you can; for
you can do nothing with these securities."
Of course, the master was very angry, and so was the magistrate, who had
inadvertently written the recognizance just as it was dictated to him.
They charged Friend Hopper with playing a trick upon them, and
threatened to prosecute him. He told them he had no fears concerning a
prosecution; and if he _had_ played a trick, he thought it was better
than to see a helpless woman torn from husband and children and sent
The magistrate asked, "How could you say you believed the woman had a
right to her freedom? You have brought forward no evidence whatever to
prove your assertion."
He replied, "I did not say I believed she had a _legal_ right to her
freedom. That she had a _just_ right to it, I did believe; for I think
every human being has a just claim to freedom, unless guilty of some
crime. The system of slavery is founded on the grossest and most
"It is sanctioned by the law of the land," answered the claimant; "and
you have no right to fly in the face of the laws."
Friend Hopper contented himself with saying, "If I have broken any law,
I stand ready to meet the consequences. But no law can make wrong
The speculator spent several days in fruitless search after the
fugitive. When he had relinquished all hopes of finding her, he called
on Isaac T. Hopper and offered to manumit her for four hundred dollars.
He replied, "At one time, we would gladly have given that sum; but now
the circumstances of the case are greatly changed, and we cannot consent
to give half that amount." After considerable controversy he finally
agreed to take one hundred and fifty dollars. The money was paid, and
the deed of manumission made out in due form. At parting, the claimant
said, with a very bitter smile, "I hope I may live to see you south of
the Potomac some day."
Friend Hopper replied, "Thou hadst better go home and repent of sins
already committed, instead of meditating the commission of more."
When telling this story in after years, he was wont to say, "I am aware
that some will disapprove of the part I acted in that case; because they
will regard it as inconsistent with the candor which men ought always to
practice toward each other. I can only say that my own conscience has
never condemned me for it. I could devise no other means to save the
Before we decide to blame Friend Hopper more than he blamed himself in
this matter, it would be well to imagine how we ourselves should have
felt, if we had been witnesses of the painful scene, instead of reading
it in cool blood, after a lapse of years. If a handsome and modest woman
stood before us with her weeping little ones, asking permission to lead
a quiet and virtuous life, and a pitiless law was about to tear her from
husband and children and consign her to the licentious tyrant from whom
she had escaped, should we not be strongly tempted to evade such a law
by any means that offered at the moment?
It would be wiser to expend our moral indignation on statesmen who
sanction and sustain laws so wicked, that just and kind-hearted citizens
are compelled either to elude them, or to violate their own honest
convictions and the best emotions of their hearts.
THE TENDER MERCIES OF A SLAVEHOLDER.
In the year of 1808 a Southerner arrested a fugitive slave in
Philadelphia and committed him to prison. When he called for him, with
authority to take him back to the South, the poor fellow seemed
dreadfully distressed. He told the keeper that his master was very
severe, and he knew that terrible sufferings awaited him if he was again
placed in his power. He hesitated long before he followed the keeper to
the iron gate, through which he was to pass out of prison. When he saw
his oppressor standing there with fetters in his hand, ready to take him
away, he stopped and pleaded in the most piteous tones for permission to
find a purchaser in Philadelphia. His owner took not the slightest
notice of these humble entreaties, but in a peremptory manner ordered
him to come out. The slave trembled all over, and said in the fainting
accents of despair, "Master, I _can't_ go with you!"
"Come out, you black rascal!" exclaimed the inexorable tyrant. "Come out
The poor wretch advanced timidly a few steps, then turned back
suddenly, as if overcome with mortal fear. The master became very
impatient, and in angry vociferous tones commanded the keeper to bring
him out by force.
All this time, the keeper had stood with his hand on the key of the iron
door, very reluctant to open it. But at last he unlocked it, and told
the poor terrified creature that he must go. He rushed to the door in
the frenzy of desperation, gazed in his master's face for an instant,
then flew back, took a sharp knife, which he had concealed about him,
and drew it across his throat with such force, that he fell senseless
near his master's feet, spattering his garments with blood. All those
who witnessed this awful scene, supposed the man was dead. Dr. Church,
physician of the prison, examined the wound, and said there was scarcely
a possibility that he could survive, though the wind-pipe was not
entirely separated. But even the terrible admonition of that ghastly
spectacle produced no relenting feelings in the hard heart of the