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Colonel Ridgeley's slave.

A slave escaped from Colonel Ridgeley, who resided in the southern part of Virginia. He went to Philadelphia, and remained there undiscovered for several years. But he was never quite free from anxiety, lest in some unlucky hour, he should be arrested and carried back to bondage. When he had laid up some money, he called upon Isaac T. Hopper to assist him in buying the free use of his own limbs. A negotiation was opened with Col. Ridge. ley, who agreed to take two hundred dollars for the fugitive, and appointed a time to come to Philadelphia to arrange the business. But instead of keep. ing his agreement honorably, he went to that city several weeks before the specified time, watched for his bondman, seized him, and conveyed him to Friend Hopper's office. When the promised two hundred dollars were offered, he refused to accept them.

‘Why, that is the sum thou hast agreed upon,’ said Friend Hopper.

‘I know that,’ replied the Colonel; ‘but I won't take it now. He was the best servant I ever had. I can sell him for one thousand dollars in Virginia. [180] Under present circumstances, I will take five hundred dollars for him, and not one cent less.’

After considerable discussion, Friend Hopper urged him to allow his bondman until ten o'clock next morning, to see what could be done among his friends; and he himself gave a written obligation that the man should be delivered up to him at that hour, in case he could not procure five hundred dollars to purchase his freedom.

When the master was gone, Friend Hopper said to the alarmed fugitive, ‘There now remains but one way for thee to obtain thy freedom. As to raising five hundred dollars, that is out of the question. But if thou wilt be prompt and resolute, and do precisely as I tell thee, I think thou canst get off safely.’

‘I will do anything for freedom,’ replied the bondman; ‘for I have made up my mind, come what may, that I never will go back into slavery.’

‘Very well then,’ rejoined his friend. ‘Don't get frightened when the right moment comes to act; but keep thy wits about thee, and do as I tell thee. Thy master will come here to-morrow at ten o'clock, according to appointment. I must deliver thee up to him, and receive back the obligation for one thousand dollars, which I have given him. Do thou stand with thy back against the door, which opens from this room into the parlor. When he has returned [181] the paper to me, open the door quickly, lock it on the inside, and run through the parlor into the back-yard. There is a wall there eight feet high, with spikes at the top. Thou wilt find a clotheshorse leaning against it, to help thee up. When thou hast mounted, kick the clothes-horse down behind thee, drop on the other side of the wall, and be off.’ The premises were then shown to him, and he received minute directions through what alleys and streets he had better pass, and at what house he could find a temporary refuge.

Col. Ridgeley came the next morning, at the appointed hour, and brought a friend to stand sentinel at the street door, lest the slave should attempt to rush out. It did not occur to him that there was any danger of his running in.

‘We have not been able to raise the five hundred dollars,’ said Friend Hopper; ‘and here is thy man, according to agreement.’

The Colonel gave back his obligation for one thousand dollars; and the instant it left his hand, the fugitive passed into the parlor. The master sprang over the counter after him, but found the door locked. Before he could get to the back yard by another door, the wall was scaled, the clotheshorse thrown down, and the fugitive was beyond his reach. Of course, he returned very much disappointed and enraged; declaring his firm belief that a [182] trick had been played upon him purposely. After he had given vent to his anger some little time, Friend Hopper asked for a private interview with him. When they were alone together in the parlor, he said, ‘I admit this was an intentional trick; but I had what seemed to me good reasons for resorting to it. In the first place, thou didst not keep the agreement made with me, but sought to gain an unfair advantage. In the next place, I knew that man was thy own son; and I think any person who is so unfeeling as to make traffic of his own flesh and blood, deserves to be tricked out of the chance to do it.’

‘What if he is my son?’ rejoined the Virginian. ‘I've as good a right to sell my own flesh and blood as that of any other person. If I choose to do it, it is none of your business.’ He opened the door, and beckoning to his friend, who was in waiting, he said, ‘Hopper admits this was all a trick to set the slave free.’ Then turning to Friend Hopper, he added, ‘You admit it was a trick, don't you?’

‘Thou and I will talk that matter over by ourselves,’ he replied. ‘The presence of a third person is not always convenient.’

The Colonel went off in a violent passion, and forgetting that he was not in Virginia, he rushed into the houses of several colored people, knocked them about, overturned their beds, and broke their furniture, [183] in search of the fugitive. Being unable to obtain any information concerning him, he cooled down considerably, and went to inform Friend Hopper that he would give a deed of manumission for two hundred dollars; but his offer was rejected.

‘Why that was your own proposal!’ vociferated the Colonel.

‘Very true,’ he replied; ‘and offered thee the money; but thou refused to take it.’ After storming awhile, the master went off to obtain legal advice from the Hon. John Sergeant. Meanwhile, several of the colored people had entered a complaint against him for personal abuse and damage done to their furniture. He was obliged to give bonds for his appearance at the next court, to answer their accusations. This was a grievous humiliation for a proud Virginian, who had been educated to think that colored people had no civil rights. In this unpleasant dilemma, his lawyer advised him to give a deed of manumission for one hundred and fifty dollars; promising to exert his influence to have the mortifying suits withdrawn.

The proposed terms were accepted, and the money promptly paid by the slave from his own earnings. But when Mr. Sergeant proposed that the suits for assault and battery should be withdrawn, Friend Hopper replied, ‘I have no authority to dismiss them.’ [184]

‘They will be dismissed if you advise it,’ rejoined the lawyer; ‘and if you will promise to do it, I shall be perfectly satisfied.’

‘These colored people have been very badly treated,’ answered Friend Hopper. ‘If the aggressor wants to settle the affair, he had better go to them and offer some equivalent for the trouble he has given.’

The lawyer replied, ‘When he agreed to manumit the man for one hundred and fifty dollars, he expected these suits would be dismissed, of course, as a part of the bargain. What sum do you think these people will take to withdraw them?’

Friend Hopper said he thought they would do it for one hundred and fifty dollars.

‘I will pay it,’ replied Mr. Sergeant; ‘for Colonel Ridgeley is very anxious to return home.’

Thus the money paid for the deed of manumission was returned. Forty dollars were distributed among the colored people, to repay the damage done to their property. After some trifling incidental expenses had been deducted, the remainder was returned to the emancipated slave; who thus obtained his freedom for about fifty dollars, instead of the sum originally offered.

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