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Etienne Lamaire.

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 [92] 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 [93] 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 [94] 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 [95] 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.

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