Dennis Wright v. Elizabeth Robinson & Richard Taylor

United States. Circuit Court (District of Columbia) - Washington (D.C.)


Dennis Wright petitioned for his freedom February 9, 1822. He argued that Sarah Tripplett brought him into Washington, D.C., in 1800—in violation of the Maryland Act of 1796—and that he was sold in 1810 to Samuel Robinson who removed him from D.C. to Virginia. After Robinson's death, he was held by Samuel's widow, Elizabeth, and hired out to Richard Taylor. The case did not go to trial. Instead, on October 11, 1823 both parties entered an agreement. General Daniel Parker, a lawyer who became adjutant general and inspector general of the U.S. Army, paid Dennis Wright $300 in exchange for his agreement to serve for six years. Taylor agreed to execute a deed granting Dennis his freedom at the end of six years.


One of the witnesses, Elizabeth Alexander, testified that her mother, Sarah Tripplett, took Dennis and his mother, Dina, to Washington, D.C., and that Dennis had a sister who died in childhood in Alexandria. She also testified that her brother "went to sea" in Algiers and that his departure changed where and with whom Dennis lived. We do not know how Dennis Wright came to know General Daniel Parker. Parker was born in Massachusetts in 1792 and attended Dartmouth College. He became chief clerk of the War Department in 1810 and then in 1814, adjutant general and inspector general. In 1820, Parker was appointed Paymaster General of the U.S. Army. It is likely that Parker's $300 paid to Dennis Wright was then passed by Wright to Richard Taylor in exchange for the deed of manumission. In this way, Wright borrowed from Parker the funds to accomplish his deed of manumission from Taylor.

This case summary was written and researched by William G. Thomas III, and edited by project scholars.