it was a common thing for speculators in slaves to purchase runaways for much less than their original value, and take the risk of not being able to catch them.
In the language of the trade, this was called buying them running.
In April, 1802, Joseph Ennells
and Captain Frazer
, of Maryland
, dealers in slaves, purchased a number in this way, and came
in search of them.
There they arrested, and claimed as their property, William Bachelor, a free colored man, about sixty years old. A colored man, whom the slave-dealers brought with them, swore before a magistrate that William Bachelor once belonged to a gang of slaves, of which he was overseer; that he had changed his name, but he knew him perfectly well.
William affirmed in the most earnest manner, that he was a free man; but Mr. Ennells
and Captain Frazer
appeared to be such respectable men, and the colored witness swore so positively, that the magistrate granted a certificate authorizing them to take him to Maryland
As they left the office, they were met by Dr. Kinley
, who knew William Bachelor well, and had a great regard for him. Finding that his protestations had no effect with the Marylanders, he ran with all speed to Isaac T. Hopper
, and entering his door almost out of breath, exclaimed, ‘They've got old William Bachelor, and are taking him to the South
, as a slave.
I know him to be a free man. Many years ago, he was a slave to my father, and he manumitted him. He used to carry me in his arms when I was an infant.
He was a most faithful servant.’
inquired which way the party had gone, and was informed that they went toward ‘Gray's Ferry.’
He immediately started in pursuit,
and overtook them half a mile from the Schuylkill
He accosted Mr. Ennells
politely, and told him he had made a mistake in capturing William Bachelor; for he was a free man. Ennells
drew a pistol from his pocket, and said, ‘We have had him before a magistrate, and proved to his satisfaction that the fellow is my slave.
I have got his certificate, and that is all that is required to authorize me to take him home.
I will blow your brains out if you say another word on the subject, or make any attempt to molest me.’
‘If thou wert not a coward, thou wouldst not try to intimidate me with a pistol,’ replied Isaac.
‘I do not believe thou hast the least intention of using it in any other way; but thou art much agitated, and may fire it accidentally; therefore I request thee not to point it toward me, but to turn it the other way. It is in vain for thee to think of taking this old man to Maryland
If thou wilt not return to the city voluntarily, I will certainly have thee stopped at the bridge, where thou wilt be likely to be handled much more roughly than I am disposed to do.’
While this controversy was going on, poor William Bachelor was in the greatest anxiety of mind.
‘Oh, Master Hopper,’ he exclaimed, ‘Don't let them take me!
I am not a slave.
All the people in Philadelphia
know I am a free man. I never was in Maryland
in my life.’
, hearing the name, said, ‘So your name is Hopper
, is it?
I have heard of you. It's time the world was rid of you. You have done too much mischief already.’
When Friend Hopper
inquired what mischief he had done, he replied, ‘You have robbed many people of their slaves.’
‘Thou art mistaken,’ rejoined the Quaker
‘I only prevent Southern marauders from robbing people of their liberty.’
After much altercation, it was agreed to return to the city; and William was again brought before the alderman, who had so hastily surrendered him. Dr. Kinley
, and so many other respectable citizens, attended as witnesses, that even Ennells
himself was convinced that his captive was a free man. He was accordingly set at liberty.
It was, however, generally believed that Mr. Ennells
knew he was not a slave when he arrested him. It was therefore concluded to prosecute him for attempting to take forcibly a free man out of the state and carry him into slavery.
When Friend Hopper
went to his lodgings with a warrant and two constables, for this purpose, he found him writing, with a pistol on each side of him. The moment they entered, he seized a pistol and
ordered them to withdraw, or he would shoot them.
replied, ‘These men are officers, and have a warrant to arrest thee for attempting to carry off a free man into slavery.
I advise thee to lay down thy pistol and go with us. If not, a sufficient force will soon be brought to compel thee.
Remember thou art in the heart of Philadelphia
It is both foolish and imprudent to attempt to resist the law. A pistol is a very unnecessary article here, whatever it may be elsewhere.
According to appearances, thou dost not attempt to use it for any other purpose than to frighten people; and thou hast not succeeded in doing that.’
Rage could do nothing in the presence of such imperturbable calmness; and Ennells
consented to go with them to the magistrate.
On the way, he quarrelled with one of the constables, and gave him a severe blow on the face with his cane.
The officer knocked him down, and would have repeated the blow, if Friend Hopper
had not interfered.
to rise, he said, ‘Thou hadst better take my arm and walk with me. I think we can agree better.’
When the transaction had been investigated before a magistrate, Mr. Ennells
was bound over to appear at the next mayor's court and answer to the charge against him. The proprietor of the hotel where he lodged became his bail.
Meanwhile, numerous letters
came from people of the first respectability in Maryland
, testifying to his good character.
His lawyer showed these letters to Friend Hopper
, and proposed that the prosecution should be abandoned.
He replied that he had no authority to act in the matter himself; but he knew the Abolition Society had commenced the prosecution from no vindictive feelings, but merely with the view of teaching people to be careful how they infringed on the rights of free men. The committee of that society met the same evening, and agreed to dismiss the suit, Mr. Ennells
paying the costs; to which he readily assented.