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.
'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
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.
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 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.