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Samuel Johnson.

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 [97] 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. [98] If thou art not very careful, thou wilt find thyself involved in trouble for this business.’

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 volley of threats and curses. One of them sprang forward in great fury, siezed 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.

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