A woman, who was born too early to derive benefit from the gradual emancipation law of Pennsylvania
, escaped from bondage in Lancaster County
There she married a free colored man by the name of Abraham Morris
They lived together very comfortably for several years, and seemed to enjoy life as much as many of their more wealthy neighbors.
But in the year 1810, it unfortunately happened that Mary's master ascertained where she lived, and sent a man to arrest her, with directions either to sell her, or bring her back to him.
was a very intelligent, industrious man, and had laid up some money.
He offered one hundred and fifty dollars of his earnings to purchase the freedom of his wife.
The sum was accepted, and the parties applied to Daniel Bussier
, a magistrate in the District
, to draw up a deed of manumission.
The money was paid, and the deed given; but the agent employed to sell the woman absconded with the money.
The master, after waiting several months and not hearing from him, sent to Philadelphia
and caused Mary Morris
to be arrested again.
She was taken to the office
of Daniel Bussier
, and notwithstanding he had witnessed her deed of manumission a few months before, he committed her to prison as a fugitive slave.
husband called upon Isaac T. Hopper
and related all the circumstances, he thought there must be some mistake; for he could not believe that any magistrate would be so unjust and arbitrary, as to commit a woman to prison as a fugitive, when he had seen the money paid for her ransom, and the deed of manumission given.
He went to Mr. Bussier
immediately, and very civilly told him that he had called to make inquiry concerning a colored woman committed to prison as a fugitive slave on the evening previous.
‘Go out of my office!’
said the undignified magistrate.
‘I want nothing to do with you.’
He replied, ‘I come here as the friend and adviser of the woman's husband.
My request is reasonable, and I trust thou wilt not refuse it.’
In answer to this appeal, Mr. Bussier
merely repeated, ‘Go out of my office!’
offered him half a dollar, saying, ‘I want an extract from thy docket.
Here is the lawful fee.’
All this time, Mr. Bussier
had been under the hands of a barber, who was cutting his hair.
He became extremely irritated, and said, ‘If you won't leave this office, I will put you out, as soon as I have taken the seat of justice.’
‘I wish thou wouldst take the seat of justice,’ replied Friend Hopper
; ‘for then I should obtain
what I want; but if thou dost, I apprehend it will be for the first time.’
sprang hastily from his chair, and seated himself at the magisterial desk, which was raised about a foot from the floor, and surrounded by a railing.
Conceiving himself now armed with the thunders of the law, he called out, in tones of authority, ‘Mr. Hopper
, I command you to quit this office!’
The impassive Quaker
stood perfectly still, and pointing to Abraham Morris
, he again tendered the half dollar, saying, ‘I want an extract from thy docket, in the case of this man's wife.
Here is the lawful fee for it. Please give it to me.’
This quiet perseverance deprived the excited magistrate of what little patience he had left.
He took the importunate petitioner by the shoulders, pushed him into the street, and shut the door.
then applied to Jacob Rush, President
of the Court of Common Pleas for a writ of habeas corpus
. The woman was brought before him, and when he had heard the particulars of the case, and examined her deed of manumission, he immediately discharged her, to the great joy of herself and husband.
thought it might be a useful lesson for Mr. Bussier
to learn that his ‘little brief authority’ had boundaries which could not be passed with
He accordingly had him indicted for assault and battery.
He and his political friends were a good deal ashamed of his conduct, and finally, after many delays in bringing on the trial, and various attempts to hush up the matter, Mr. Bussier
called upon Friend Hopper
to say that he deeply regretted the course he had pursued.
His apology was readily accepted, and the case dismissed; he agreeing to pay the costs.