A very light mulatto girl, named Fanny
, as slave to the widow of John Sears
, in Maryland
When about twenty-four years old, she escaped to Philadelphia
, and lived in the family of Isaac W. Morris
, where she was known by the assumed name of Mary Holliday
She was honest, prudent, and industrious, and the family became much attached to her. She had not been there many months when her mistress obtained tidings of her, and went to Philadelphia
accompanied by a man named Dutton
She was arrested on the seventh of June, 1805 and taken before Matthew Lawler
, who was then mayor.
Isaac W. Morris
immediately waited on Isaac T. Hopper
to inform him of the circumstance, and they proceeded together to the mayor's office.
, being examined as a witness, testified that he knew a mulatto named Fanny, who belonged to Mrs. Sears
, and he believed the woman present, called Mary Holliday
, was—that person.
Mary denied that she was the slave of the claimant, or that her name was Fanny; but her agitation was very evident, though she tried hard to conceal it.
remarked to the mayor, ‘This case requires testimony as strong as if the woman were on trial for her life, which is of less value than liberty.
I object to the testimony as insufficient; for the witness cannot say positively that he knows
she is the same person, but only that he believes
so. Wouldst thou consider such evidence satisfactory in the case of a white person?’
The mayor who was not friendly to colored people, replied, ‘I should not; but I consider it sufficient in such cases as these.’
‘How dark must the complexion be, to justify thee in receiving such uncertain evidence?’
inquired Friend Hopper
The mayor pointed to the prisoner and s dark as that woman.
‘What wouldst thou think of such testimony in case of thy own daughter?’
rejoined Friend Hopper
‘There is very little difference between her complexion ad that of the woman now stand before thee.’
He made no reply, but over-ruled the objection to the evidence.
He consented, however, to postpone the case three days, to give time to procure testimony in her favor.
Isaac W. Morris
soon after called upon Friend Hopper
and said, ‘Mary has acknowledged to us that her name is Fanny, and that she belongs to Mrs. Sears
My family are all very much attached to her, and they cannot bear the thought of her being carried away into slavery.
I will advance three hundred, dollars, if thou wilt obtain her freedom.’
accordingly called upon Mrs. Sears
, and after stipulating that nothing said on either side should be made use of in the trial he offered two hundred dollars for a deed of manumission.
The offer was promptly rejected.
After considerable discussion, thee hundred and fifty dollars were offered; for it was very desirable to have the case settle without being obliged to resort to an expensive and uncertain process of law. Mrs. Sears
replied, ‘It is in vain to treat with me on the subject; for I am
determined not to sell the woman on any terms.
I will take her back to Maryland
, and make an example of her.’
‘I hope thou wilt find thyself disappointed,’ rejoined Friend Hopper
The slaveholder merely answered with a malicious smile, as if perfectly sure of her triumph.
Finding himself disappointed in his attempts to purchase the woman, Friend Hopper
resolved to carry the case to a higher court, and accumulate as many legal obstructions as possible.
For that purpose, he obtained a writ De homine replegiando
, and when the suitable occasion arrived, he accompanied Mary Holliday
to the mayor's office, with a deputy sheriff to serve the writ.
When the trial came on, he again urged the insufficiency of proof brought by the claimant.
The mayor replied, in a tone somewhat peremptory, ‘I have already decided that matter.
I shall deliver the slave to her mistress.’
gave the sheriff a signal to serve the writ.
He was a novice in the business, but in obedience to the instructions given him, he laid his hand on Mary's shoulder, and said, ‘By virtue of this writ, I replevin this woman, and deliver her to Mr. Hopper
Her protector immediately said to her, ‘Thou canst now go home with me.’
But her mistress
seized her by the arm, and said she should not
go. The mayor was little acquainted with legal forms, beyond the usual routine of city business.
He seemed much surprised, and inquired what the writ was.
‘It is a homine replegiando
,’ replied Friend Hopper
‘I don't understand what that means,’ said the mayor.
‘It is none the less powerful on that account,’ rejoined Friend Hopper
‘It has taken the woman out of thy power, and delivered her to another tribunal.’
During this conversation, the mistress kept her grasp upon Mary.
appealed to the mayor, again repeating that the girl was now to await the decision of another court.
He accordingly told Mrs. Sears
it was necessary to let her go. She asked what was to be done in such a case.
The mayor, completely puzzled, and somewhat vexed, replied impatiently, ‘I don't know.
You must ask Mr. Hopper
His laws are above mine.
I thought I knew something about the business; but it seems I don't.’
Mary went home with her protector, and Mrs. Sears
employed Alexander J. Dallas
The case was kept pending in the Supreme Court a long time; for no man understood better than Friend Hopper
how to multiply difficulties.
attended, bringing witnesses with her from Maryland
; which of course involved much trouble and expense.
After several years, the trial came on; but it was found she had left some of her principal witnesses at home.
Most of the forenoon was spent in disputes about points of law, and the admissibility of certain evidence.
The court then adjourned to three in the afternoon.
was informed that even if the court adjudged Mary to be her slave, Friend Hopper
would doubtless fail to produce her, and they would be compelled to go through another process to recover from him the penalty of the bond.
She had become exceedingly weary of the law, the trouble and expense of which had far exceeded her expectations.
She therefore instructed her lawyer to try to effect a compromise.
, being consulted for this purpose, offered to pay two hundred and fifty dollars for Mary, if the claimant would pay the costs.
She accepted the terms, well pleased to escape from further litigation.
When the court met in the afternoon, they were informed that the matter was settled; and the jury with consent of parties, rendered a verdict that Mary was free.
By her own earnings, and donations from sympathizing friends, she gradually repaid Isaac W. Morris
three hundred dollars toward the sum he had advanced for the expenses of her trial.
In his efforts to protect the rights and redress the wrongs of colored people, Friend Hopper
had a zealous and faithful ally in Thomas Harrison
, also a member of the Society of Friends.
When recounting the adventures they had together, he used to say, ‘That name excites pleasant emotions whenever it occurs to me. I shall always reverence his memory.
He was my precursor in Philadelphia
, as the friend of the slave, and my coadjutor in scores of cases for their relief.
His soul was always alive to the sufferings of his fellow creatures, and dipped into sympathy with the oppressed; not that idle sympathy that can be satisfied with lamenting their condition, and make no exertions for their relief; but sympathy, like the apostle's faith, manifesting itself in works, and extending its influence to all within its reach.’
as a lively, bustling man, with a roguish twinkle in his eye, and a humorous style of talking.
Some Friends, of more quiet temperaments than himself, thought he had more activity than was consistent with dignity.
They reminded him that Mary sat still at the feet of Jesus, while Martha was ‘troubled about many things.’
‘All that is very well,’ replied Thomas
; ‘but Mary would have had a late breakfast, after all, if it had not been for Martha.’
From among various anecdotes in which Friend Harrison
's name occurs, I select the following: