A Frenchman by the name of Anthony Salignac
removed from St. Domingo
, and brought with him several slaves; among whom was Romaine.
After remaining in New-Jersey
several years, he concluded in 1802, to send Romaine and his wife and child back to the West Indies
Finding him extremely reluctant to go, he put them in prison some days previous, lest they should make an attempt to escape.
From prison they were put into a carriage to be conveyed to Newcastle
, under the custody of a Frenchman and a constable.
They started from Trenton
late in the evening, and arrived in Philadelphia
about four o'clock in the morning.
People at the inn where they stopped remarked that
Romaine and his wife appeared deeply dejected.
When food was offered they refused to eat. His wife made some excuse to go out, and though sought for immediately after, she was not to be found.
Romaine was ordered to get into the carriage.
was on one side of him and the constable on the other.
cried he, in accents of despair.
They told him he must.
said he. ‘Yes, you must,’ was the stern reply.
The carriage was open to receive him, and they would have pushed him in, but he suddenly took a pruning knife from his pocket, and drew it three times across his throat with such force that it severed the jugular vein instantly, and he fell dead on the pavement.
As the party had travelled all night, seemed in great haste, and watched their colored companions so closely some persons belonging to the prison where they stopped suspected they might have nefarious business on hand; accordingly, a message was sent to Isaac T. Hopper
, as the man most likely to right all the wrongs of the oppressed.
He obeyed the summons immediately; but when he arrived, he found the body of poor Romaine weltering in blood on the pavement.
Speaking of this scene forty years later, he said, ‘My whole soul was filled with horror, as I stood viewing the corpse.
Reflecting on that awful spectacle,
I exclaimed within myself, How long, O Lord
, how long shall this abominable system of slavery be permitted to curse the land!
My mind was introduced into sympathy with the sufferer.
I thought of the agony he must have endured before he could have resolved upon that desperate deed.
He knew what he had to expect, from what he had experienced in the West Indies
before, and he was determined not to submit to the same misery and degradation again.
By his sufferings he was driven to desperation; and he preferred launching into the unknown regions of eternity to an endurance of slavery.’
An inquest was summoned, and after a brief consultation, the coroner brought in the following verdict: ‘Suicide occasioned by the dread of slavery, to which the deceased knew himself devoted.’
Romaine and his wife were very good looking.
They gave indications of considerable intelligence, and had the character of having been very faithful servants.
His violent death produced a good deal of excitement among the people generally, and much sympathy was manifested for the wife and child, who had escaped.
The master had procured a certificate from the mayor of Trenton
authorizing him to remove his slaves to the West Indies
; but the jury of inquest, and many others, were of opinion that his proceedings were not fully sanctioned by law. Accordingly,
, and two other members of the Abolition Society, caused him to be arrested and brought before a magistrate; not so much with the view of punishing him, as with the hope of procuring manumission for the wife and child.
In the course of the investigation, the friends of the Frenchman were somewhat violent in his defence.
Upon one occasion, several of them took Friend Hopper
up and put him out of the house by main force; while at the same time they let their friend out of a back door to avoid him. However, Friend Hopper
met him a few minutes after in the street and seized him by the button.
Alarmed by the popular excitement, and by the perseverance with which he was followed up, he exclaimed in agitated tones, ‘Mon Dieu
What is it you do want?
I will do anything you do want.’
‘I want thee to bestow freedom on that unfortunate woman and her child,’ replied Friend Hopper
He promised that he would do so; and he soon after made out papers to that effect, which were duly recorded.