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The Disguised slaveholder.

A colored woman and her son were slaves to a man in East-Jersey. She had two sons in Philadelphia, who had been free several years, and her present master was unacquainted with them. In 1827, she and her younger son escaped, and went to live in Philadelphia. Her owner, knowing she had free sons in that city, concluded as a matter of course that she had sought their protection. A few weeks after her flight, he followed her, and having assumed Quaker costume, went to the house of one of her sons. He expressed great interest for the woman, and said he wished to obtain an interview with her for her benefit. His friendly garb and kind language completely deceived her son, and he told him that his mother was then staying at his brother's house, which was not far off. Having obtained this information, the slaveholder procured a constable and immediately went to the place described. Fortunately, the son was at home, and it being warm weather he sat near the open door. The mother was seated at a chamber window, and saw a constable approaching the house, with a gentleman in Quaker costume, whom she at once recognized as her master. She gave the alarm to her son, who instantly shut the [190] door and fastened it. The master, being refused admittance, placed a guard there, while he went to procure a search-warrant. These proceedings attracted the attention of colored neighbors, and a crowd soon gathered about the house. They seized the man who guarded the door, and held him fast, while the woman and her fugitive son rushed out. It was dusk, and the uncertain light favored their escape. They ran about a mile, and took refuge with a colored family in Locust-street. The watchman soon got released from the colored people who held him, and succeeded in tracing the woman to her new retreat, where he again mounted guard. The master returned meanwhile, and having learned the circumstances, went to the magistrate to obtain another warrant to search the house in Locust-street.

At this stage of the affair, Friend Hopper was summoned, and immediately went to the rescue, accompanied by one of his sons, about sixteen years old. He found the woman and her son stowed away in a closet, exceedingly terrified. He assured them they would be quite as safe on the mantel-piece, as they would be in that closet; that their being found concealed would be regarded as the best evidence that they were the persons sought for. Knowing it was dangerous for them to remain in that house, he told them of a plan he had formed, on the spur of the moment. After giving them careful instructions [191] how to proceed, he left them and requested that the street door might be opened for him. A crowd immediately rushed in, as he had foreseen would be the case. He affected to be greatly displeased, and ordered the men of the house to turn all the intruders out. They obeyed him; and among the number turned out were the two fugitives. It was dark, and in the confusion, the watchman on guard could not distingush them among the multitude.

Friend Hopper had hastily consigned them to his son, with instructions to take them to his house; and the watchman, seeing that he himself remained about the premises, took it for granted that the fugitives had not escaped.

As soon as it was practicable, Friend Hopper returned home, where he found the woman and her son in a state of great agitation. He immediately sent her to a place of greater safety, and gave the son a letter to a farmer thirty miles up in the country. He went directly to the river Schuylkill, but was afraid to cross the bridge, lest some person should be stationed there to arrest him. He accordingly walked along the margin of the river till he found a small boat, in which he crossed the stream. Following the directions he had received, he arrived at the farmer's house, where he had a kindly welcome, and obtained employment.

The master being unable to recapture his slaves, [192] called upon Isaac T. Hopper to inquire if he knew anything about them. He coolly replied, ‘I believe they are doing very well. From what I hear, to judge it will not be necessary to give thyself any further trouble on their account.’

‘There is no use in trying to capture a runaway slave in Philadelphia,’ rejoined the master. ‘I believe the devil himself could not catch them when they once get here.’

‘That is very likely,’ answered Friend Hopper. ‘But I think he would have less difficulty in catching the masters; being so much more familiar with them.’

Sixty dollars had already been expended in vain; and the slave-holder, having relinquished all hope of tracing the fugitives, finally agreed to manumit the woman for fifty dollars, and her son for seventy-five dollars. These sums were advanced by two citizens friendly to the colored people, and the emancipated slaves repaid them by faithful service.

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Quaker (Missouri, United States) (2)

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Isaac T. Hopper (4)
Isaac Tatem Hopper (1)
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1827 AD (1)
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