Nancy Lee v. Augustus Preuss. Complaint


To the Honorable the Judges of the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, & County of Washington, sitting as a Court of Chancery.

Humbly complaining sheweth unto your Honors, your Oratrix Nancy Lee by Lizette Lee her mother and next friend, that she is the daughter of Lizette Lee and the grand daughter of Joan or Joanna Lee. That the said Joanna was formerly the slave of one Anthony Addison, who in the year 1797 sold and transferred the said Joanna to the Revd Walter Addison as a servant for a period of twelve years, but with the agreement and understanding that at the expiration of that term the said Joanna should revert to and become the property of said Anthony Addison. That afterwards, and before the expiration of the term aforesaid, the said Walter Addison with the humane purpose of suffering the said Joanna to reside with her husband, exchanged the said Joanna with one Peter Savary, to whom her said husband belonged for a certain slave of said Savary named Minty; that the agreement and understanding between the said Walter Addison and said Savary was that at the expiration of the aforesaid turn of twelve years the two slaves aforesaid should be returned to their respective owners and that the issue of said Joanna, if any, should serve the said Savary, if males, until their arrival, respectively, at the age of thirty one years, and of females until their arrival, respectively, at the age of twenty five years. and   and should then revert to and become the property of the said Anthony Addison. That in pursuance of the understanding and agreement aforesaid, at the expiration of the term or period aforesaid, to wit or the 18th day of October AD 1809, the aforesaid Anthony Addison by deed under his hand & seal, and in due form of law (which said Deed is now on the files of this Honorable Court & which she prays may be taken & considered as part of this her Bill) did manumit and set free from the day of the date thereof the said Joanna and all the children of said Joanna which had been born during her being in the Service of Savary and among whom was the mother of your oratix, the males, when they should arrive at the age of thirty one years, and the females at the age of twenty five years, respectively. And your Oratix has been given to understand and verily believes that the said Peter Savary was present or his authorized agent, was present and consulted at the making of the said deed of manumission, and assented thereto, because your Oratix is of opinion that the period of the birth of the children severally & respectively named in said deed born during the period of twelve years as aforesaid and while the aforesaid Joanna was a re servant & resident in the family of the said Savary, and which is particularly specified in said deed of manumission, could have been known only to him or the members of his family, and was probably therefore communicated by said Savary to said Anthony Addison. And your Oratix   further sheweth, that after the execution of the aforesaid deed of Manumission, they remained children of said Joan named in said Deed remaind with the said Savary & among the rest the mother of your Oratrix, until the period of his decease in the year       That after the decease of said Savary Augustus W Preuss (who your Oratrix prays may be made Defendant to this her bill of complaint, and a subpoena issued to compel his appearance) married the only daughter & sole heir at law of the aforesaid Peter Savary, and took out letters of administration upon his estate. And your Oratrix further sheweth that the time of the service of servitude of the aforesaid children of said Joanna named in the deed aforesaid, or of either of them has not yet expired, but that the period for which the mother of your Oratrix has to serve under the deed aforesaid will terminate and expire at Christmas in the present year, to wit, on the twenty fifth day of December next. And your Oratrix further sheweth that the said Preuss denies the validity of the Deed of Manumission aforesaid and insists that the same is void and that the children named in said deed are each and all of them his slaves for life, and that your Oratrix also is his slave for life, and that he has the right to sell and dispose of the mother of your petitioner & the other children of said Joanna and also of your Oratrix as such slaves. And your Petitioner Oratrix further sheweth that she is now about two years of age. That she has serious apprehension cause to apprehend and doth apprehend and believe that the said Preuss intends   and will or may or is about to sell your Oratrix to persons without and beyond the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court as a slave for life and to transfer her to a part of the United States where your Oratrix may be denied the assertion & maintenance of her rights when she shall be entitled to her freedom She therefore In tender consideration whereof & in as much as your Oratrix is without adequate remedy at law she prays your Honors that the United States most gracious writ of subpoena injunction may be issued, directed to said Augustus W Preuss, injoining him from and prohibiting him from selling your Oratrix out of th as a slave for life out of the jurisdiction of your Honorable Court and that he may be also further compelled and directed to give bond and sufficient surety against the sale of your Oratrix as aforesaid. And your Oratrix further prays th until a hearing has been granted her on this her bill of complaint and until the further order of the Court. And your Oratrix prays such further & other and further relief in the premises as to your Honors may seem fit & proper to be granted to the her, and as in duty bound will ever pray &c

S.B. Barrell for Compt

District of Columbia, Washington County, to wit

On this 24th day of May 1827 personally appears in open Court Joanna Lee and makes oath on the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God that the matters & things in the foregoing Bill in Chancery set forth are true to the best of her knowledge & belief.

Sworn to in Open Court this 24th May 1827.
Test. W. Brent, Clk