Joseph Watson to Philip Hickey, October 2, 1827

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 2 Oct 1827 [unknown]
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United Statesmap
Surname/tag: Watson
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October 2, 1827 letter from Joseph Watson to Philip Hickey insisting he cooperate with the investigations into the kidnapped African American children. He asks that Hickey provide any information pertaining to the Pickards and describes the evidence he has provided to Hickey concerning the kidnapping.

This letter is in reply to

Joseph Watson Correspondence, Mss. 1872, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, La.

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Mayor’s office, Philad. @ 2nd October 1827.


I had the honor to receive your letter of the 14th June last, acknowledging the receipt of mine of 20th April. I have at present to request the favor of you to communicate to me as early as may suit your convenience any information within your knowledge as to the former or present particular residence of Pickard or his wife and be pleased also to state in detail any knowledge you have of their character and conduct. — I have the most implicit belief in the deep infamy of this couple or I should not have presumed to obtrude my opinion of them upon Col. Hickey or at all to address him upon a subject so vexatious and of so much delicacy but from a strong presumption that he had been imposed upon by them & was innocently instrumental in detaining in bondage two black boys who had been stolen away from this city of which I had then and nowhere the honor to preside as its chief magistrate & whose particular duty it is to guard the rights and privileges of its inhabitants, even the most poor and humble of them. I therefore do stand exaccsed[?] and justified in the eyes of Colonel Hickey in again pressing the matter before him and claiming such assistance as it may be in his power to afford me in bringing the offenders to justice. — I am sir, not certain that a letter which I addressed to you to the care of Duncan S. Walker at Natchez under date of the 27th of April has ever reached you; it contained all the proofs and documentary evidence in my possession relative to the children carried away from this city by Pickard.

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I have now in my possession a literal[?] copy of the whole of it which if the original has not reached you I shall be pleased to forward on your intimating a wish to that effect. — I say I am not sure it has reached you because I have not heard from Mr. Walker or yourself received any acknowledgement of the receipt of my letter enclosing said proofs. — This evidence was forwarded for the purpose of exhibiting the management of Pickard in procuring possession of the black children from the Alms-House, and the manner and time of his quitting us, having them in his possession. — The only evidence that applied to James Dailey is a certified copy of the managers Indenture binding the boy under that name to Pickard of 26 of April 1824 — All the proofs however were intended to apply personally and positively to Pickard and wife as fugitives from the justice of this state if they should be found in your neighborhood and with a view to procure their arrest there, until they should be claimed by the Governor of this State. Perfectly aware that as it should affect you if in possession of either of the boys by purchase from Pickard, it must be by a merciful and equitable consideration of their case that the evidence in itself was not legal as against an innocent purchaser and only sufficient against the kidnapper himself to ground process whereon to hold him until a warrant of reclamation could be forwarded by our Governor.

There was not a particle of proof in these documents that either of the boys mentioned had been sold to Col. Hickey or were in his possession, — the evidence of that fact was intended and fully expected to be produced by his examination of the

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boys in his possession and of these documents used by comparing them with circumstances that might be known to himself or his agent or overseer; they were submitted with the utmost frankness and candor as the only proofs in my possession of the identity of the children in question and of the iniquitous conduct of Pickard and his wife in this abduction. —

I now enclose you copies of the only information I have ever received that touches you in this transaction and which so strongly induces me too believe that you have been imposed upon by Pickett or Pickard of whose guilt I think you will join me in believing there cannot be a doubt. — After perusing the documents I have mentioned some of the deponents whose names you will perceive attached to the documents particularly the names of the sons of Captain O’Ellers, Mr. Dubois, and all the managers of the alms-house and their secretary are known to me as highly reputable individuals. — Margaret Dunbar, James Perkins, [and] Charles Mifflin are respectable free blacks; they have steadily and long resided amongst us and bear a good character for truth and honesty. — A letter from Pennel Beale to the Rev. Richard Allen, the Bishop of the African Methodist Church in this city dated Augunta[?] April 5. 1825 which was placed by him in my hands, — Pennel Beale, the writer I formally know as a resident and respectable Cabinet Maker, and elder or Exhostid[?] of the Methodist Church, — a white man, who moved to one of the Southern or Western States several years ago. Mr. Allen assures me that this letter was received by him shortly after its date and by him retained until he placed it in my hands.

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The continued absence of Pickard made the statement exceedingly probable but what seemed to give it certainty was the receipt of a letter from Mr. Thomas Ellicott of Baltimore of 4th Month 2nd 1827 whose high character and standing in Maryland is well known enclosing a memorandum placed in his hands by Mr H. V. Sommerville which he forwarded to me & subsequently a narrative from the same gentleman dated April 5th 1827 — copies of all which I herewith enclose. —

I have caused diligent searches to be made for the friends of Jim Dailey but without success. Nor have I any knowledge of a boy called Washington Brown as mentioned by Dailey. It is the circumstance of absolute and complete desertion by their friends and relations that causes so many black and colored children to be placed in the alms-houses, and from there bound out by the managers and there too arises in very many instances the impossibility of procuring any other information concerning them than their Indention of Apprenticeship if they should be lost sight of for a year or two. I am not aware that I can furnish you with any other proof, or evidence, in addition to what has been forwarded to Mr. Walker and to which I most respectfully and earnestly refer you, fully relying upon your own judgement after mature consideration and to your own conviction of duty for the final disposition of this matter. I feel that in making this application I am performing

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a most unpleasant duty — and in conclusion will only observe that I have no knowledge of that class of “self-styled philanthropists” to whom you allude in your letter of 14th June as “activated either by motives of ostentation or interest or the love of mischief or operated upon by a fanatical zeal, sworn foes of the slave holder who consider stratagems, fraud, violence and perjury as so many virtues when resorted to, to cheat a slave holder out of his property” — nor do I know of any “good but weak men” to whom you refer “that are deceived by and countenance their illegal, undignified and disgraceful proceedings”.

No man with any pretensions to decency, honor or honesty can or will deserve a character of this kind and none but convicts at large or unapprehended kidnappers could be so deeply steeped in infamy. If any part or portion of the anathema is intended by Colonel Hickey to apply to this City, it had better have been spared. — He deceives himself or has been grossly deceived and it would be my duty to repel such accusation in the broadest and most positive terms. For the last ten years I have abundant proof that our laws have been trampled upon and a system of kidnapping and man stealing practiced upon us to a monstrous extent by a band of felons that deserve the execration of every high-minded and honorable man. And it is my belief that it is mainly owing to the frequent illegal and systematic attempts of these characters, or their sub-agents, on our free blacks that has occasionally caused in the non-slave holding states a sometimes riotous resistance to the legal claimants of fugitives

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from labor, that has been indeed painful to the friends of law and order.
Your obed. serv.
(Signed) Joseph Watson,

Colonel Philip Hickey

East Baton Rouge

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