, a light mulatto, was sold by her master in Maryland
to a man residing in Delaware
The laws of Delaware
prohibit the introduction of slaves, unless brought into the state by persons intending to reside there permanently.
If brought under other circumstances they become free.
Sarah remained with her new master several years before she was made aware of this fact.
Meanwhile, she gave birth to a daughter, who was of course free, if the mother was free at the time she was born.
At last, some one informed the bondwoman that her master had no legal claim to her services.
She then left him and went to Philadelphia
But she remained ignorant of the fact that her daughter was
free, in consequence of the universal maxim of slave law, that ‘the child follows the condition of the mother.’
When the girl was about sixteen years old, she absconded from Delaware
, and went to her mother, who inquired of Isaac T. Hopper
what was the best method of eluding the vigilance of her master.
After ascertaining the circumstances, he told her that her daughter was legally free, and instructed her to inform him in case any person attempted to arrest her.
Her claimant soon discovered her place of abode, and in the summer of 1806 went in pursuit of her. Being aware that his claim had no foundation in law, he did not attempt to establish it before any magistrate, but seized the girl and hurried her on board a sloop, that lay near Spruce-street wharf, unloading staves.
Fearing she would be wrested from him by the city authorities, he removed the vessel from the wharf and anchored near an island between Philadelphia
A boat was placed alongside the sloop, into which the cargo was unloaded and carried to the wharf they had left.
The mother went to Isaac T. Hopper
in great distress, and informed him of the transaction.
He immediately made application to an alderman, who issued a process to have the girl brought before him. Guided by two colored men, who had followed her
when she was carried off, he immediately proceeded to the sloop, accompanied by an officer.
When the claimant saw them appoaching, he went into the cabin for his gun, and threatened them with instant death if they came near his vessel.
quietly told the men to go ahead and pay no attention to his threats.
When they moored their boat alongside of the one into which they were unloading staves, he became very vociferous, and pointing his gun at Friend Hopper
's breast, swore he should not enter the vessel.
He replied, ‘I have an officer with me, and I have authority from a magistrate to bring before him a girl now in thy vessel.
I think we are prepared to show that she is free.’
The man still kept his gun pointed, and told them to beware how they attempted to come on board.
‘If thou shouldst injure any person, it would be impossible for thee to escape,’ replied Friend Hopper
; ‘for thou art a hundred and twenty miles from the Capes, with hundreds of people on the wharf to witness thy deed.’
While speaking thus, he advanced toward him until he came near enough to sieze hold of the gun and turn it aside.
The man made a violent jerk to wrest the weapon from him, and still clinging fast hold of it he was pulled on board.
In the scuffle to regain possession of his gun, the man trod upon a
roller on the deck, lost his balance, and fell sprawling on his back.
seized that opportunity to throw the gun overboard.
Whereupon, a sailor near by siezed an axe and came toward him in a great rage.
Even if the courageous Quaker
had wished to escape, there was no chance to do so. He advanced to meet the sailor, and looking him full in the face said, ‘Thou foolish fellow, dost thou think to frighten me with that axe, when thy companion could not do it with his gun?
Put the axe down.
Thou art resisting legal authority, and liable to suffer severely for thy conduct.’
In a short time they became more moderate, but denied that the girl was on board.
The vessel was nearly emptied of her cargo, and Friend Hopper
peeping into the hold found her stowed away in a remote part of it. He brought her on deck and took her with him into the boat, of which his companions, including the constable, had retained possession.
The girl was uncommonly handsome, with straight hair and regular European
No one could have guessed from her countenance that any of her remote ancestors were Africans.
The claimant did not make his appearance at the alderman's office.
A warrant was obtained charging him and the sailor with having resisted an officer in the discharge of his duty.
Isaac T. Hopper
to the sloop with a constable and brought the two men before a magistrate to answer to this charge.
They did not attempt to deny the truth of it, but Tried to excuse themselves on the plea that they resisted an attempt to take away their proper.
Of course, this was of no avail, and they were obliged to enter into bonds for their appearance at court.
Being strangers in the city, it was difficult to obtain bail, and there seemed to be no alternative but a prison.
However, as there must unavoidably be considerable trouble and delay in procuring all the necessary evidence concerning the birth of the alleged slave, her friends agreed to dismiss them, if they would pay all expenses, give each of the officers five dollars, and manumit the girl.
Under existing circumstances they were glad to avail themselves of the offer; and so the affair was settled.