Lucy v. Stephen Cooke. Answer of Stephen Cooke


To Honorable Judges of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Columbia

Stephen Cooke of the County of Loudoun in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in answer to Lucy's bill of complaint to this Honorable Court in behalf of herself and children against the claim of the said S. Cooke, respectfully sheweth. That it appears from Lucy's own shewing, that she & her son John were in 1802 the slaves of Littleton Gale of Maryland. That on the 31st of December 1802 he signed a deed of manumission, by which Lucy would be entitled to her freedom on the 1st of January 1811, and her son John to his freedom about the year 1830. It is not denied that Littleton Gale sold Lucy & and her son to Joseph Rogers whether for term of years or for life, your orator does not know As Rogers was passing through Loudoun County with Lucy, her son and other blacks to the southward, Lucy & her son were arrested under a warrant from a magistrate, taken from their owner Joseph Rogers, and committed to the County Jail of Loudoun on the 19th November 1802, as appears by the deposition of George Hammet, Jailor & constable, herewith annexed. Rogers proceeded on with his other blacks, but some time after he sent a person to claim them as the charge on what Lucy & her son were arrested & committed, was not proved, the claimant in behalf of Rogers wd have recd possession of them, had he brought proper vouchers to prove his authority to receive them. Lucy & her son lay in Jail from the 19th Novr. 1802 to the 21st of February 1803. Long confinement in a cold Jail in the depth of winter, the want of sufficient clothing etc. had injured Lucy's health when George Hammet the Jailor was, as he stated, advised by the magistrates to deliver her & son to the care of some responsible person, in trust for their owner Rogers, who wd engage for them forthcoming, when demanded, and who would in the mean time provide for them. Lucy found it difficult to find a person, who wd receive her on those terms; and also pay in advance to the Jailor $46.92 cents, demanded for their Jail fees. Your orator on Lucy's solemn promise that she wd not go off, paid Geo. Hammet $46.92 cents. Lucy & her son John were then delivered to your orator by G. Hammet in trust for their owner Joseph Rogers, until he shd demand them, & repay to your orator the $46.92 cents etc etc. Lucy after some time, forgetting her solemn promises, applied to the County Court of Loudoun for leave to sue, former pauperis, for her freedom. Which was granted, & two gentlemen of the bar Wm Chilton & Richard Henderson esqrs., were appointed by the Court to assist her, as counsel. Your orator entered no claim to Lucy & her son, as slaves, but faithfully stated the facts, as above stated. On a full & fair trial, it appearing to the satisfaction of the Jury, by Lucy's own shewing, that she was not entitled to her freedom, before the 1st January 1811, they found a verdict against her immediate claim to freedom; which was approved of by the Court. Messrs Swann & N. T. Taylor were present at the trial, and paid considerable attention to its merits. Thus it appears   that your orator did not at the trial in the County Court of Loudoun claim Lucy & her children as slaves. Your orator does not now claim them, as slaves. But as they were delivered to yr orator by the Jailor G. Hammet, on certain terms & conditions, in trust for their owner Joseph Rogers, and as your orator paid a valuable consideration on receiving them in trust, at the solicitation of Lucy herself, in the expectation, that their owner wd soon demand them, and repay him the same, and other reasonable expenses incurred for them. Your orator presumes that he has the right to hold Lucy & her children as a security for the repayment thereof, untill they are legally entitled to their freedom. The more so, as it was at the solicitation of Lucy herself, that yr orator advanced the $46.92, and recd her & her son, as pledges for the repayment of it, when they shd be demanded by their owner. As to Lucy's four younger children, they were born under your orator's roof, and have been clothed & fed at his expense. Your orator's claim against them is compensation for his trouble & expense, to be ascertained by impartial, upright men, to be paid by their services, when able to render any. Thus wd the business have been settled by the magistrates of the County of Loudoun, had not Lucy & her children been stolen away from your orator by Tom the slave of Dr. Sim of George Town. He came in the dead of night, and without the knowledge of any of yr orator's family, stole them out of your orator's house & carried them off. Your orator presumes that, if this Hon'ble Court has known, that this claim of Lucy to immediate freedom, had been fairly and fully tried in the County Court of Loudoun before an impartial jury, & judgement given agt. her immediate claim to immediate freedom, That this Hon'ble Court wd not have taken her & her children under its protection. Your orator presumes that this Hon'ble Ct. will not reverse the Judgement of the County Ct. of Loudoun. If after a fair trial of Lucy's claim in the County Ct. of Loudoun, and verdict & judgement against her, your orator may be compelled by this Hon'ble Ct. either to abandon his claim to Lucy & her children, as pledges placed in his hands to secure the repayment of monies advanced on their acct & for their benefit, or to travel from home out of his own state to another district; again to fee lawyers; again to encounter the expense & trouble of a tedious suit at law to defend his claim; then may he be compelled, should Lucy not succeed in this Hon'ble Ct., to follow her from Ct. to Court through the States. If this Hon'ble Court should not respect the decision & Judgment of the County Ct. of Loudoun; your orator cannot expect, that other Courts would respect the decision & Judgment of this Hon'ble Court. Your orator is informed, that it is alledged in favor of Lucy's claim, that Rogers promised not to carry her & son out of the State of Maryland. Should this be legally proved, your orator presumes, that Rogers breach of promise to Gale, does not entitle Lucy & children to freedom sooner than the time fixed in the deed of manumission. That if Rogers' breach of promise cancelled the contract between him & Gale, that then Gale's title to Lucy & her children revives[?]; & they become again his property. Your orator presumes, that the original contract between Gale & Rogers   should be produced to prove such a promise. That if such a promise by Rogers does not appear on the face of the contract, that Gale's oath to prove more than appears on the face of the contract, will not be admitted. That it appears from Lucy's shewing, that she & her son were slaves of L. Gale of Maryland on 31st Decr. 1802. That on that day, he executed a deed of manumission giving freedom to Lucy after the 1st Jany 1811, and to her son about the year 1830, and sold them to Joseph Rogers. Should this deed of manumission be duly proved; even [torn page] Lucy has no claim to freedom before the 1st Jany 1811, unless this Hon'ble Ct. should deem, that Rogers' breach of the alledged promise not to carry them out of the State of Maryland, entitles them to immediate freedom. Were your orator acting soley for himself, he wd probably now close; but as he is acting as trustee of Jos. Rogers, he is bound to observe, that he suspects some fraud. The deed of manumission from L. Gale to Lucy & her son, which was produced by her counsel in the trial of her claim to freedom in the County of Loudon, was dated the 31st of December 1802. You orator's son John, whom he sent to examine the papers filed by the counsel of Lucy in the office of Mr. Brent, clerk of this Hon'ble Ct, informs yr orator, that the deed of manumission there filed to support her claim is of the same date Decr. 31st 1802. It appears by the deposition of Geo. Hammet keeper of the Jail of Loudoun, hereto annexed. That Lucy & her son were by him arrested, & taken from Rogers about a mile & an half from Leesburgh, & were by a magistrate committed to the County Jail of Loudoun on the 19th November 1802. This fact, if disputed, can be proved by the depositions of several persons, of course. Lucy & her son had been confined in Loudoun Jail full 40 days before L. Gale executed the deed of manumission under which she claims her own & son's freedom. Your orator hopes, that this Hon'ble Court will dismiss the said Lucy's bill of complaint, and order her & her children to be restored to yr orator. And your orator, to satisfy this Hon'ble Ct., that he has no designs injurious to Lucy & her children, now freely offers to pledge to this Hon'ble Court any part of his property in Alexa. as a security, that he will never directly, nor indirectly dispose of Lucy, or any of her children; nor even send them, or either of them out of the County of Loudoun, or give personal security.

Steph. Cooke


Loudn. County to wit

Stephen Cooke personally appeared before me a Justice of the peace for the sd. County and made Oath on the Holy Evagelist of Almighty God that the Several Matters Set forth in the foregoing Bill & Answer so far as relates to his own knowledge are true and that all other Matters Therein contained, he believes to be true. Given under my hand this 9 day of December 1809

Samuel Murrey