in 1797, a wealthy gentleman from Virginia
went to spend the winter in Philadelphia
, accompanied by his wife and daughter.
He had a slave named Charles Webster
, whom he took with him as coachman and waiter.
When they had been in the city a few weeks, Charles called upon Isaac T. Hopper
, and inquired whether he had become free in consequence of his master's bringing him into Pennsylvania
It was explained to him, that if he remained there six months, with his master's knowledge and consent, he would then be a free man, according to the laws of Pennsylvania
The slave was quite disheartened by this information; for he supposed his owner was well acquainted with the law, and would therefore be careful to take him home before that term expired.
‘I am resolved never to return to Virginia
,’ said he. ‘Where can I go to be safe?’
told him his master might be ignorant of the law, or forgetful of it. He advised him to remain with the family until he saw them making preparations to return.
If the prescribed six months expired meanwhile, he would be a free man. If not, there would be time enough to consult what had better be done.
‘It is desirable to obtain thy liberty in a legal way, if possible,’ said he; ‘for otherwise ’