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Daniel Benson.

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

The offer was gladly accepted; and in 1805 he removed to Philadelphia, with his mother and family. He sawed wood for a living, and soon established such a character for industry and honesty, that many of the citizens were in the habit of employing him to purchase their wood and prepare it for the winter. Upon one occasion, when he brought in a bill to Alderman Todd, that gentleman asked if he had not charged rather high. Daniel excused himself by saying he had an aged mother to support, in addition to his own family; and that he punctually paid his master twenty dollars every six months, according to an agreement he had made with him. When the alderman heard the particulars, his sympathy was excited, and he wrote a note to Isaac T. Hopper, requesting him to examine into the case; stating his own opinion that Daniel had a legal right to freedom. [105]

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 [106] first salutation was, ‘Where can I find that ungrateful villain Dan? I will take him home in irons.’

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

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

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

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

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

‘Would that satisfy you, master Perry? Well, I can pay you a hundred dollars,’ said Daniel. [107]

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

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

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

When the business was concluded, he invited his former master and Friend Hopper to dine with him; saying, ‘We are going to have a pretty good dinner, in honor of the day.’ Mr. Boots accepted the invitation; but Friend Hopper excused himself, on account of an engagement that would detain him till [108] after dinner. When he called, he found they had not yet risen from the table, on which were the remains of a roasted turkey, a variety of vegetables, and a decanter of wine. Friend Hopper smiled when Daniel remarked, ‘I know master Perry loves a little brandy; but I did not like to get brandy; so I bought a quart of Mr. Morris' best wine, and thought perhaps that would do instead. I never drink anything but water myself.’

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

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

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