Ben v. Sabret Scott. Deposition of Richard Ratcliffe


The Deposition of Richard Ratcliffe, of full age of Fairfax County & Commonwealth of Virginia. Taken on behalf of Sabrett Scott, in a Suit Depending the Circuit Court of the County of Washington, in the District of Columbia wherein Negro Ben, Petitioner for Freedom, is Plaintiffe, and the said Scott Defendt. Who being first duly freedom, Deposethe and and Saieth as follows. Viz:

That he this Deponent and his father (John Ratcliffe) acted as Subscheriffs and Tax Collectors for the said County of Fairfax from about the year Seventeen hundred and Eighty one to Seventeen hundred and Eighty Six Inclusive, & the said Depot. the two Subsiqt. years. That in the year 1785 this Deponent Collected in Fairfax Parish for the year 1784 the Taxes faling due for 1784. in which parish his father aforesaid had previously Collected. That a certain Thomas Ray Resided in said parish, & had [?]stoodRay, Thomas charged on the Sheriff's books with Taxes and leveys[?], pursuant to Titheables & property given in by said Ray to the Commissrs. for that purchase appointed by the Court of said County, and had paid said Taxes &c prior to said 1785, as appears by this depos. fathers books (now in his possession) towit. for 1782 & 1783 - that the said Ray gave in to James Wence[?] one of the Commissioners aforesaid in 1784, as said Commissrs. Book appears, himself a negro woman named Terry, one horse, & five head of Cattle, for which the Taxes & Levies thereon, was payable in 1785. This Depot. not having Collected or Recd. said Taxes &c. prior to the 3d. day of July in the year 1786 did, on or about that day Seize on & Distrain the aforesaid Negro Terry, then in the possession of him the said Thomas Ray, & in the said County of Fairfax, which said Negro woman Terry then had an Infant Child in her arms, which this Depot. afterward was Informed, was a male, & named Benjamin. (not at that time finding any other property, of which said Taxes &c could be levied and made). On the same day that this depot. so distrained on the said Terry for arrears of Taxes &c. He served an Execution, or Ca sa:[?] on the baby of him the said Thomas Ray at the suit of a Certain Samuel Hepburn. The said Ray not being able (as appeared) to Discharge the Debt & both calld. for by said Execution, proposed to this depot. that he was Desirous the negros Terry and Benja. Should be Immediately sold first to Discharge the Taxes &c so in arrear, Secondly to Discharge the said Execution, & lastly that the Depot. should pay to him the said Ray, or to his order the overplush, or access, if any which should be procered by & from the sale of said Terry & Benjamin. and for that purpose did on said 3d. day of July aforesaid did sign a writing dated on said 3d July 1786, a True Copy of which is hereto hereto annexed, & is Marked A. On the 8th day of he same month (July) 1786, this depot. sold the said Terry & Benjamin at Public Auction, at the Courthouse, then in Alexandria, at which time the aforesaid Sabrit Scott became the purchaser as the Highest Bidder, of said Terry & Benja. for the sum of forty eight pounds Vira. Currency. Out of which proceeds, the Taxes &c so in arrear, was first settled, then the amount of the Execution aforesaid, was settled, and the then Remaining Ballance, paid over to the said Ray, who signed a rect. for the same endorsed upon the said paper marked A, and now truly Copied upon the annexed copy of the same. Another paper also hereto annexed, Marked B. is in the hand writing of this Deponent, (purporting to be a Bill of Sale) was drawn up by him, at the Instance of the said Scott, about the time of the said sale. this deponent does not know why it was not Executed by the said Ray. It Recites the Circumstances of the Sale honestly, Except, that it omits[?] to mention the Execution which the said Ray had by his former writing had Consented should be satisfied out of the Sale this Deponent Recollects that the Child of said Terry (aforesaid) at the time of the sale was of a yellow color, was an infant in the arms of Terry   of Terry, he believes was a sucking Infant, apparently from six to nine months old. The last list of Taxable property given by the said Ray, in said Fairfax County, that this depot. knows of, was in the year 1784 as before stated. and in that list, no mention is made of any such negro as Benja. but the negro Soloman Terry was therein mentioned.

This depot. further states, on the Interogotorry Mr. Key the Petitioners Councill (as he is Informed) that in the year 1785, he did not, to his present Recollection, see the said Ray, or Call on him to Collect his Taxes &c. & understood that the said Thos. Ray had gone to Maryland. This, this depot. at present gets[?] his Information from a note made in his Sheriffs book, opposite said Rays account stated therein. And at the time when he Distrained on the negros as before mentioned, & served the Execn. or Ca Sa[?] on the said Ray, he had been Informed, that the said Thos. Ray was about leaving the County & going to the state of Maryland, & carrying his aforesaid negroes with him. This depot. further saieth that if he had of known where to have found the propy. of the said Ray in the County aforesaid, after having so understood he was gone to the State of Maryland, he certainly should of Distrained, or Endeavourd. to [illegible] distrained for the purpose of making the Taxes &c aforesaid. This Depot. doth not know whether the said woman Terry, or her Child Benjamin were carried to the State of Maryland, at any time Between 1784 & the Third of July 1786. Either of his Knowledge, or from any Recollected Information, this Depot. further states, that sometime past, perhaps about the time of the Institution of this suit, or short time afterwards, a young negro man calld. on him at his House in Fairfax County, and then produced to this Depot. a letter, or writing, purporting an Enquiry of me on the Subject of Terry & her Son Benja. (Who the said negro man said he was). Perhaps the writing was from his Council, but at present do not perfectly Remember. at which time I gave a Certificate of what I that time Rememberd. on the subject, but at this time do not Recollect how far it went to the Relation thereof, but since this Depot. hath been summd. as an Evidence in the suit aforesaid, he hath procured the Information before set forth in this Deposition &c from His Tax & Sheriffs Books, Commissrs. Books the Records of Fairfax County Court, & writings in his possession, herein Refered to.

On the further Interogy. of the Defts. Councill, This Depot. states that he had a Deputy Assistant Collector &c viz: Joseph Powell who acted for him in 1785 & 1786 in that part of the County where the said Ray Resided, or had resided, for which reason I am not able to say, with Certainty, whether any or what Search was by him the sd Powell made for the property of the said Ray. it Frequently hath happened that persons have concealed, or neglected to give in their property to the Commissn. for the purpose of bearing[?] legally Taxes, as also, property hath frequently been put out of the way, to prevent Distresses being made thereon & thereby delay the Collection of Taxes &c. and as Respects the intended Removall of the said negroes from Virga. to Maryland since 1784, the first & all the Information I had (now recollected) was on or about the said 3d. day of July 1786.

And further this Dept Saith not.

June 11th 1811

Rd. Ratcliffe


District of Columbia

Alexandria County, Sct

I Abraham Faw one of the Justices of Peace for said County, do Certify that the foregoing Deposition was taken, signed, and Sworn to by Richard Ratcliffe the deponant before me[?] this 11th day of June 1811[?]

A Faw (seal)

[folded page]

Sabret Scott
Negro Ben

Ratcliffe deposition[?]

filed 12th June 1811[?]

Richd. Ratcliffe

Opened in Court
June 12 1811

Wm Brent Esq.
Clerk of the Circuit Court
Washington City