Lees v. Augustus Preuss. Complaint


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

Humbly complaining, shew unto your Honors, your Orators John B Lee, Jeanett Lee and Lizette Lee that they are the children of Joanna & Peter Lee. That the said Joanna was formerly the slave of Anthony Addison, and 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 become free revert to and become the property of said Anthony Addison. That afterward and before the expiration of the term aforesaid the said Walter Addison with the humane purpose of suffering her to reside with her husband exchanged the said Joanna with one Peter Savary to whom her said husband belonged for the a certain slave of Savary named Minty; that the agreement and understanding between the said Walter Addison & said Savary was that at the expiration of the aforesaid term of twelve years the two slaves aforesaid should be returned to their respective owners and the issue, if any of said Joanna should serve the said Savary and the said Anthony Addison respectively, if males until their arrival, respectively, at the age of thirty one years, and if females, until their arrival, respectively, at the age of twenty five years,   and should then revert to & become the property of said Anthony Addison become free. That in pursuance of the understanding & argument aforesaid, at the expiration of the Term or period aforesaid, the said to wit on the 18th day of October A.D. 1809, the aforesaid Anthony Addison by deed under his hand & seal & in due form of law, which d said Deed is hereunto annexed & marked A. and which your orator pray may be taken & considered as part of the Bill) did manumit & set free from the day of the date thereof the said Joan, and all the children of said Joan who had been born during her being in the service of said Savary, and among the rest your Orators, when they should arrive, the males at the age of thirty one years, and the females, at the age of twenty five years, respectively. And your Orators allege and believe that the said Peter Savary or his authorized representative was present and consulted at the making of said deed of manumission, and was privy thereto, and asserted thereto because your petion Orators are of opinion that the period of their birth their respectively ages and that of the other children of sd Joan born during the period aforesaid, and while she was in the service & a resident in the family of said Savary and which are particularly specified in said Deed of Manumission could have been known only to him or the members of his family. & must was probably, therefore, communicated by said Savary the said Anthony Addison.


And your Orators further shew, that after the execution of the aforesaid Deed of Manumission, they remained in the service of said Peter Savary until the period of his decease in the year.

That after the decease of said Savary Augustus W Preuss (who they pray may be made Defendant to this their Bill of Complaint & a subpoena issued making him compelling 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 Orators further shew that their time of Servitude under the deed aforesaid has not yet expired, and that the said Preuss insists that the same is void and that your petitioners are the slaves of him the said Prof Preuss for life and that he has the right to sell them as such slaves. And your petitioners further shew that they have [illegible] cause to apprehend and do apprehend and believe that the said Preuss intends and will, or may or is about to sell your Petitioners Orators to persons without and beyond the jurisdiction of this Court as slaves for life and to transfer them to a part of the United States where your Orators may be denied the assertion & maintenance of their right when their term of servitude may expire in tender consideration whereof and in as much as your Orators are without adequate remedy at Law, your Orators they therefore pray your Honors, that the United States most gracious writ of injunction may be issued, directed to the said Augustus W. Preuss, enjoining him and prohibiting him from selling your Orators, or either of them out of the jurisdiction of   of your Honorable Court as slaves for life, and that he may be also further compelled and directed to give bond & sufficient security against the sale of your Orators as aforesaid. And your Orators further pray that Tench Riggold Esquire, the Marshal of this District, in whose custody your Orators now are (and who they pray may also be made a Defendant to this their Bill of Complaint) may be restrained & enjoined from suffering your petitioners or either of them to be taken from Prison & directed to retain your Orators in his custody until a hearing has been grated to your Orators on this their Bill of Complaint & until the further order of the Court. And your Orators pray such other & further relief in the premises as to your Honors may seem fit & proper to be granted to them. And as in duty bound will ever pray &c

S.B. Barrell for the Compts

District of Columbia: Washington County.

On this 23d 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 of Chancery set forth are true to the best of her knowledge & belief.

Test W. Brent Clk