Lett, Philadelphia 1785

Lett, Philadelphia 1785

PAS Papers Box 4A Manumissions
Habeas Corpus Actions


Hebus Corpus
Jonas Philips[1]
for Negro Woman Let

PhiladelphiaCounty. Let__
                                                The Common Wealth of Pensilvanie to Jonas Philips of the City of Philad. Merchant  Greeting – We command_ you that the body of a Negro Woman calld Let in your custody by Whatsoever Name she is Detained together with the Day & Cause of his being taken and Detained you have before our Justices of our County Court of Common Pleas of and for our County of Philadelphia__  at Philadelphia Without Delay__  Then & there to submitt to. What our said Justices shall deeme Proper  And have you then there this Writ__  Witness.  Edward Shippin[2] Esquire at Philadelphie the Eight Day of November in the year of our Lord one Thousand seven Hundred and Eighty five-

Attest  Edward Shippen                                                                 JB Smith[3]

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John Steels
to Lett formerly
J. Phiipses

Philadelphia Novr.
13th --}

Whereas a Negroe Woman named Lett has this day ?been? before the Courts of coman Plees in this City & is discharged from Jonau Philips who had her in possesion as a Slave & as she is now at liberty to dispose of hir Self she has choseen to live with John Steel in New london Township in Chester County ~

Now I the subscriber do promis to take no due undue advantage of hir neither in getting an indenture on hir nor sending hir out of this state or other wise Imposeing on hir Ignorance but in all things using hir as a free person & paying hir suitable wages so long as she shoses to reside with me & to the true performance of this Contract I bind my self my heirs executers & administeraters in the penal sum of one hundred[? text partially covered] pound money of Pencelvania

To be paid to the said Negro Woman Let on defalt of this ingagement – in witness whereof I have here unto set my hand & seal this day & year above Writen

Witness present}                                                      John J Steel

Thos Armat[4]
Joseph Moore[5]

*        *        *

Wm Rowle[6] Opinion –
Respecting Negro Lett – Late
Wh John Steele

[Editor’s note: The following text runs vertically along the right-hand side of the manuscript page.]

Simon was sold by J. Steele to_ James Bond who Paid no money to John Steele & after some time Returnd him to John Steele who sold him to his Brother in Law.                With whome he now Lives __

*        *        *

I have considered the case of Lett a negro woman formerly in possession of Jonas Philips—

          It appears to me  1. that by the decision of the Court of Commen Pleas in Philadelphia County now she was adjudged to be a free woman_ I consider this as a solemn adjudication which establishes her right and is not liable to ?be? overthrown by any subsequent & extraneous proceedings among third persons.

2. Altho’ John Steel may in all probability be rendered liable in his written engagement in the nature of a bond, yet [text obscured] see how any suit could be maintained in the name of Lett and as the defendts are entitled to call for the authority by which a suit is instituted, it would be liable to be defeated unless such authority from her could be shewn_

          If the bond had been made to a third person this objection would not lie.  But 3dly I think the proper method would be to find her out and with a copy of the adjudication of the Court of Commen Pleas _ and an identification of her person I cannot doubt any Court of Justice would decide in her favor and Stell may be freed afterwards
---- 17 Jan[text missing]                 W Rowle

*        *        *

Negro Lett
        v             }
Jonas Philips

          Sept 1785   734

Hab Corp ad Subjiciendm
          & Discharge of Negro

PhiladelphiaCounty of

                                      I Charles Biddle Esquire  Prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County do hereby Certify, that a Writ of Habeas Corpus, ad Subjiciendum issued out of the Prothonotarys office, by Order of one of the Judges of the same Court, conformably to the Act of Assembly, upon proper Affidavit made &c. and that it appears from the minutes of the same Habeas Corpus, on record, that on the 12th Day of November 1785, the return to the said Habeas Corpus was read (which Habeas Corpus was issued in favor of Negro Lett, against Jonas Philips): and thereupon said Negro Lett_ was discharged by Order of Court, said return not being sufficient to detain her, and [the ?sd Negro Lett? was freed??   ??? ] Liberty accordingly__

Certified under my hand and
the Seal of the said Court at
Philadelphia this 13th Jany 1794

                   Chas Biddle

[1] In 1785, Jonas Philips lived at 21 Market Street.  Macpherson’s Directory for the City and Suburbs of Philadelphia (1785), 106.

[2] In 1785, Edward Shippen was a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and lived at 418 Fourth Street.  Macpherson’s Directory for the City and Suburbs of Philadelphia (1785), 122.

[3] In 1785, Jonathan B. Smith was the Prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas and lived at 401 Third Street.  Macpherson’s Directory for the City and Suburbs of Philadelphia (1785), 126.

[4] Thomas Armatt had been a longstanding member of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society by 1785 and served on severa committees.  He resided at either 567 Second Street or at 22 Moravian Alley.  Macpherson’s Directory for the City and Suburbs of Philadelphia (1785), 4.

[5] Joseph Moore was an active member of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in the 1780s.  In 1785, he lived at 30 Elbow Lane.  Macpherson’s Directory for the City and Suburbs of Philadelphia (1785), 94.

[6] William Rawle, a young local attorney, was a critical member of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society as it re-oriented its strategy in the mid-1780s, focusing more on aggressive legal action to aid aggrieved slaves and free blacks.  He often successfully sued in defense of his black clients, winning a more secure freedom for many of them.  In 1785, Rawle lived at 341 Arch Street.  Macpherson’s Directory for the City and Suburbs of Philadelphia (1785), 116.