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Joseph Watson to J. W. Hamilton and John Henderson, March 10,1826

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 10 Mar 1826 [unknown]
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United Statesmap
This page has been accessed 54 times.

Henderson, John, Joseph Watson, Job Brown, Thomas Bradford, R. L. Kennon, Joshua Boucher, H. V. Somerville, and Eric Ledell Smith. "Notes and Documents: Rescuing African American Kidnapping Victims in Philadelphia as Documented in the Joseph Watson Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 129, no. 3 (2005): 317-45. Accessed May 15, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20093801.

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Joseph Watson to J. W. Hamilton and John Henderson, March 10,1826

Mayor's office Philadelphia March 10. 1826.


I regret that I have not been able until the present moment to forward to you the necessary documents in the case of the kidnapped boys and woman, now in the possession of Mr. Hamilton, taken by him from Ebenezer F. Johnson. I have looked in vain for a sure private conveyance, for if unfortunately lost [by] mail, the loss of these documents would indeed be serious as well on account of the difficulty of procuring other copies, as of the great labour attending it, but I trust that my former letters have reached you, and that you retain possession of these blacks. Amongst the documents enclosed, you will percieve a true bill of Indictment, found against Joseph Johnson, Thomas Collins, Ebenezer F Johnson, & John Smith alias Spenser Francis, by the Grand Jury of the Court of Quarter Sessions, enquiring for the County of Philadelphia, — for conspiracy to kidnap, and for kidnapping them. You will find also an official record from the State of Delaware, distinctly marking the infamous character of the parties to the same effect. —

It is believed that most of the kidnapping that has taken place for ten years past in the middle states, has been perpetrated by these men. A great number of small free coloured children have suddenly disappeared, together with many grown up persons,— in relation to all of whom it is believed from strong circumstances, that this gang has been directly, or indirectly concerned.— I expect in a week or ten days to receive Governour Shulze's Warrant, for the reclamation of Ebenezer and the other members of the Gang, in case any of them should appear in your State, I trust that what I now enclose will warrant you in arresting and detaining [any of] them until the demand of our Governour should reach you, claiming them as fugitives from Justice. I know from good authority that Ebenezer F Johnson, passed through our City with his wife, having arrived at New York, from New Orleans, on his way to, or near, Easton, Maryland, where he resides, and where he arrived about the 4th of February last. I greatly regret that I had not known of his route homeward by sea, I would certainly have shortened his journey. The people of Delaware have heretofore found it almost impossible to apprehend the Johnsons, who are considered as very desperate ruffians, and utterly infamous. The wife of Ebenezer is said to have respectable relatives in Maryland,— and the report now is that he has induced her father to sell off his real Estate, and to move off to Alabama,— and that some of the Gang, Joseph in particular, were expected to accompany them very speedily, but not however before they had kidnapped another Cargo of Blacks. I intend also immediately to demand them through our Governour, from the Governours of Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. It is greatly to be regretted that their progress had not been stopped long ago; they have entailed an infinite deal of misery and distress on a great number of poor people. I would point your attention particularly to the Copy of a letter enclosed for Messrs. T T and C. Wright, dated Cannon's Ferry, Sussex County, Delaware, Feby. 15th. 1826, giving a list of dealers in this way.—

I beg the favour of hearing from you as frequently & as fully as may suit your convenience, in relation to this matter, and if the blacks are restored, as I anticipate they will be, be pleased to point out the best means of getting them home,— if New Orleans is your nearest Seaport, as I presume it to be, if you will commend these Blacks to the care of Benjamin Morgan Esqr. Joseph Bennet Eves Esqr. William Jaredon[?] Esqr. Merchants, they will I know procure them the means of a passage to Philadelphia, and restore them to their distressed parents and relatives,—and if such destination should be given them, and you would enclose this letter together with one from yourself to either of the gentlemen mentioned at New Orleans, I know it will be an immediate passport to these poor blacks. I shall also enclose documents to Tuscaloosa, for the recovery of Cornelius Sinclair. In his case the proof is full, clear and explicit, but less so in regard to the murdered Joe, the Chimney sweep, than the rest.—

I regret that the Chief Justice of New Jersey, Charles Ewing Esqr. did not affix the seal of his Court to the depositions relative to Sam. I have endeavoured to supply the deficiency, in the Certificate I have given as Mayor of this City. I trust however that the Bills of Indictment found against them for kidnapping in Delaware, and in our State, will operate of themselves as Clinchers.

I request that the papers and documents, if not required by you, or such parts of them as may not be required as matters of record, may be returned to me by some safe conveyance, after you have done with them. Some of them may be very important on the trial of the kidnappers if I should succeed in their capture.— I wish the most intelligent boy sent home quickly in order to give evidence.—

I am with great respect,
Your obedt. Sert.
Joseph Watson,

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