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A child Kidnapped.

In the year 1801, a Captain Dana engaged passage in a Philadelphia schooner bound to Charleston, South Carolina. The day he expected to sail, he called at the house of a colored woman, and told her he had a good suit of clothes, too small for his own son, but about the right size for her little boy. He proposed to take the child home to try the garments, and if they fitted him he would make him a present of them. The mother was much gratified by these friendly professions, and dressed the boy up as well as she could to accompany the captain, who gave [67] him a piece of gingerbread, took him by the hand, and led him away. Instead of going to his lodgings, as he had promised, he proceeded directly to the schooner, and left the boy in care of the captain: saying that he himself would come on board while the vessel was on the way down the river. As they were about to sail, a sudden storm came on. The wind raged so violently, that the ship dragged her anchor, and they were obliged to haul to at a wharf in the district of Southwark. A respectable man, who lived in the neighborhood, was standing on the wharf at the time, and hearing a child crying very bitterly on board the vessel, he asked the colored cook whose child that was, and why he was in such distress. He replied that a passenger by the name of Dana brought him on board, and that the boy said he stole him from his mother.

A note was immediately despatched to Isaac T. Hopper, who, being away from home, did not receive it till ten o'clock at night. The moment he read it, lie called for a constable, and proceeded directly to the schooner. In answer to his inquiries, the captain declared that all the hands had gone on shore, and that he was entirely alone in the vessel. Friend Hopper called for a light, and asked him to open the forecastle, that they might ascertain whether any person were there. He peremptorily refused; saying that his word ought to be sufficient to satisfy [68] them. Friend Hopper took up an axe that was lying on the deck, and declared that he would break the door, unless it was opened immediately. In this dilemma, the captain, with great reluctance, unlocked the forecastle; and there they found the cook and the boy. The constable took them all in custody, and they proceeded to the mayor's. The rain fell in torrents, and it was extremely dark; for in those days, there were no lamps in that part of the city. They went stumbling over cellar doors, and wading through gutters, till they arrived in Front street, where Mr. Inskeep, the mayor, lived. It was past midnight, but when a servant informed him that Isaac T. Hopper had been ringing at the door, and wished to see him, he ordered him to be shown up into his chamber. After apologizing for the unseasonableness of the hour, he briefly stated the urgency of the case, and asked for a verbal order to put the captain and cook in prison to await their trial the next morning. The magistrate replied, ‘It is a matter of too much importance to be disposed of in that way. I will come down and hear the case.’ A large hickory log, which had been covered with ashes in the parlor fire-place, was raked open, and they soon had a blazing fire to dry their wet garments, and take off the chill of a cold March storm. The magistrate was surprised to find that the captain was an old acquaintance; and he expressed much regret at meeting [69] him under such unpleasant circumstances. After some investigation into the affair, he was required to appear for trial the next morning, under penalty of forfeiting three thousand dollars. The cook was committed to prison, as a witness; and the colored boy was sent home with Isaac T. Hopper, who agreed to produce him at the time appointed.

Very early the next morning, he sent a messenger to inform the mother that her child was in safety; but she was off in search of him, and was not to be found. On the way to the mayor's office, they met her in the street, half distracted. As soon as she perceived her child, she cried out, ‘My son! My son!’ threw her arms round him, and sobbed aloud. She kissed him again and again, saying, ‘Oh my child, I thought I had lost you forever.’

When they all arrived at the mayor's office, at the hour appointed for trial, the captain protested that he had no knowledge of anything wrong in the business, having merely taken care of the boy at the re quest of a passenger. When he was required to appear at the next court to answer to the charge of kidnapping, he became alarmed, and told where Captain Dana could be arrested. His directions were followed, and the delinquent was seized and taken to Isaac T. Hopper's house. He was in a towering passion, protesting his innocence, and threatening vengeance against everybody who should attempt to [70] detain him. Badly as Friend Hopper thought of the man, he almost wished he had escaped, when he discovered that he had a wife and children to suffer for his misdoings. His tender heart would not allow him to be present at the trial, lest his wife should be there in distress. She did not appear, however, and Captain Dana made a full confession, alleging poverty as an excuse. He was an educated man, and had previously sustained a fair reputation. He was liberated on bail for fifteen hundred dollars, which was forfeited; but the judgments were never enforced against his securities.

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