Location: Mississippi, United States
as published in
The African Observer. United States: I. Ashmead, printer, 1827.
- Natchez, May 26th, 1826.
The Honourable Joseph Watson,
Dear Sir.— I have been requested by Mr. John W. Hamilton, of this state, to inform you he would send the negroes which have been the subject of correspondence between you, forthwith to New Orleans, and that you may expect them shortly. He has no doubt from the documents transmitted, but that they have been basely kidnapped, and are really entitled to their freedom. He is, however, under obligations to have them returned, if their freedom is not established by the first day of January next, and may by possibility be subject to serious inconvenience, and labours under considerable anxiety. The necessity you suggest of having their testimony, to ensure a conviction of the wretches who have thus torn them from their friends, has induced me to advise him to send them and risk the consequences. If the felons should be· convicted, you will oblige a most worthy man by forwarding to him the record, properly and legally authenticated. He has been already at great trouble and expense, and a suit to recover them from him, would be at once burthensome and perplexing.
It is a subject of deep regret to me that proper measures were not taken to ascertain the cause of the death of one of the unfortunate youths, at the time the rest were stopped. There is no doubt upon my mind, but that he was cruelly and barbarously murdered. The situation of Sam and Enos, too clearly proves the treatment they had received, and if their testimony can be relied upon, the cause of the other's death is apparent. Mary Fisher is entirely unwilling to go by sea, but prefers remaining until an opportunity may occur to send her by land. She is treated as a free woman, and will be held subject to your orders. I would suggest the propriety of sending on the evidences of her freedom, if you should deem it advisable to give directions for her return. She is still in the possession of Mr. Hamilton, who is a man every way worthy of confidence, and who will be guided entirely by your decision as to her future destination. The state of Mississippi, is a slave holding state, but be assured, Sir, there is no community that holds in greater abhorrence, the infamous traffic carried on by negro stealers, and none that by public sentiment and by legislative enactment, give greater facilities, for those unjustly detained, to obtain their emancipation. A simple petition will put the parties upon trial before any of our Circuit Courts, no person can evade the obligations of the law, and the legal guards against oppression are ample and encouraging. There has not been a solitary instance, among the numerous applications annually made, when time has not been allowed to procure testimony, even from the most distant parts. Public feeling is uniformly enlisted in favour of the petitioning slave, the bar are ever ready to tender their professional services, and the provisions of our humane statutes are enforced, and generally at the expense of our own fellow citizens, who are innocent purchasers. For myself I can say, that in my private situation, and as attorney general of the state of Mississippi, no trouble will be considered too great, and no exertions shall be spared, to bring to a punishment, which under our law is capital, those infamous miscreants who thus deal in human suffering; and believe me, Sir, in pursuing the dictates of my own feelings, I am but acting in conformity with the general sentiment of the citizens of the state. With the most respectful consideration,
- I remain your obedient servant,
- Richard Stockton