A man by the name of Daniel Godwin
, in the lower part of Delaware
, had a business of buying slaves running; taking the risk of losing the small sums
paid for them under such circumstances.
In the year 1806, he purchased in this way a slave named Ezekiel
, familiarly called Zeke.
He went to Philadelphia
, and called on Isaac T. Hopper
; thinking if he knew where the man was, he would be glad to have his freedom secured on moderate terms.
While they Were talking together, a black man happened to walk in, and leaning on the counter looked up in Mr. Godwin
's face all the time he was telling the story of his bargain When he had done speaking, he said, ‘How do you do, Mr. Godwin
Don't you know me?’
The speculator answered that he did not.
‘Then you don't remember a man that lived with your neighbor, Mr.
was at first puzzled to recollect whom he meant; but when he had specified the time, and various other particulars, he said he did remember such a person.
‘Well’ answered the black man, ‘I am he; and I am Zeke's brother.’
The Speculator inquired whether he knew where he was. he replied, ‘O yes, Mr. Godwin
, I know where he is, well enough.
But I'm sorry you've bought Zeke.
You'll never make anything out of him. A bad speculation, Mr. Godwin
‘Why, what's the matter with Zeke?’
asked the trader.
‘O, these blacks come to Philadelphia
and they get into bad company,’ replied he. ‘They are afraid to be seen in the day-time, and so they go prowling about in the night.
I'm very sorry you've
He'll never do you one cent's worth of good.
A bad speculation, Mr. Godwin
The prospect seemed rather discouraging, and the trader said, ‘Come now, suppose you buy Zeke yourself?
I'll sell him low.’
‘If I bought him, I should only have to maintain him into the bargain,’ replied the black man. ‘He's my brother, to be sure; but then he'll never be good for anything.’
‘Perhaps he would behave better if he was free,’ urged Mr. Godwin
‘That's the only chance there is of his ever doing any better,’ responded the colored man. ‘But I'm very doubtful about it. If I should make up my mind to give him a chance, what would you be willing to sell him for?’
The speculator named one hundred and fifty dollars.
exclaimed the other.
‘I tell you Zeke will never be worth a cent to you or anybody else.
A hundred and fifty dollars, indeed!’
The parley continued some time longer, and the case seemed such a hopeless one, that Mr. Godwin
finally agreed to take sixty dollars. The colored man went off, and soon returned with the required sum. Isaac T. Hopper
drew up a deed of manumission, in which the purchaser requested him to insert that Zeke was now commonly called Samuel
The money was paid, and the deed signed with all necessary formalities.
When the business was entirely completed, the colored man said, ‘Zeke is now free is he?’
When Mr. Godwin
answered ‘Yes,’ he turned to Friend Hopper
and repeated the question.
‘Zeke is free, and nobody can take him; can they, Mr. Hopper
If he was here, he would be in no danger; would he?’
replied, ‘Wherever Zeke may now be, I assure thee he is free.’
Being thus assured, the black man made a low bow, and with a droll expression of countenance said ‘I hope you are very well, Mr. Godwin
I am happy to see you, sir. I am Zeke!’
The speculator, finding himself thus outwitted flew into a violent rage.
He seized Zeke by the collar, and began to threaten and abuse him. But the colored man shook his fist at him, and said, ‘If you don't let me go, Mr. Godwin
, I'll knock you down.
I'm a free citizen of these United States
; and I won't be insulted in this way by anybody.’
interfered between them, and Mr. Godwin
agreed to go before a magistrate to have the case examined.
When the particulars had been recounted, the magistrate answered, ‘You have been outwitted, sir. Zeke is now as free as any man in this room.’
There was something so exhilarating in the consciousness
of being his own man, that Zeke began to ‘feel his oats,’ as the saying is. He said to the magistrate, ‘May it please your honor to grant me a warrant against Mr. Godwin
He violently seized me by the collar; thus committing assault and battery on a free citizen of these United States
told him he had better be satisfied with that day's work, and let Mr. Godwin
He yielded to this expostulation, though he might have made considerable trouble by insisting upon retaliation.