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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 [81] 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 settled.

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 [82] 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 [83] 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 Philadelphia unmolested.

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