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[128]

In the year 1770 a servant of Richard Lechmere, of Cambridge, stimulated by the general discussion of the slavery question and by the advice of some of the zealous advocates of emancipation, brought an action against his master for detaining him in bondage. The suit was decided in his favor two years before the similar decision in the case of Somerset in England. The funds necessary for carrying on this suit were raised among the blacks themselves. Other suits followed in various parts of the Province; and the result was, in every instance, the freedom of the plaintiff. In 1773 Caesar Hendrick sued his master, one Greenleaf, of Newburyport, for damages, laid at fifty pounds, for holding him as a slave. The jury awarded him his freedom and eighteen pounds.

According to Dr. Belknap, whose answers to the queries on the subject, propounded by Judge Tucker, of Virginia, have furnished us with many of the facts above stated, the principal grounds upon which the counsel of the masters depended were, that the negroes were purchased in open market, and included in the bills of sale like other property; that slavery was sanctioned by usage; and, finally, that the laws of the Province recognized its existence by making masters liable for the maintenance of their slaves, or servants.

On the part of the blacks, the law and usage of the mother country, confirmed by the Great Charter, that no man can be deprived of his liberty but by the judgment of his peers, were effectually pleaded. The early laws of the Province prohibited slavery, and no subsequent legislation had

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