Delilah v. George Jacobs & Augustine B. Williams. Petition for Freedom


To the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia & sitting for the County of Alexandria.

The petition of Negroes Delilah about 25 years of age, Juliann about 20 years of age, Thornton about ten years of age, George, James, & John William children of said Delilah & Spencer about 15 yrs of age

Respectfully shews that in the year 1792 one John Childs then a resident of the State of Maryland intermarried with a Daughter of the late William Adams, then residing as he had done for many years in the County of Fairfax and State of Virginia. That after the marriage, the said Wm Adams gave a negro girl named Nelly (from whom all the above named parties here descended) with some other slaves to the said John Childs, who shortly afterwards either in the latter part of 1792 or early in 1793 removed her to Calvert County in the State of Maryland. That no Registry or entry of the names of said Nelly or of the slaves so removed to Maryland were ever made by the said John Childs in Calvert County or elsewhere in the State of Maryland. But shortly after said removal to wit on the 31st of December 1793 he executed a Deed of Manumission declaring these slaves so removed to be free, at prospective periods. The said Nelly then said to be about fourteen years of age, to be free at 21 years of age. That after said negro girl Nelly had remained some years in Maryland, she was about to commence suit for the recovery of her freedom on account of this importation into the State of Maryland; The said John Childs then & after the said negro girl Nelly had continued to reside in the State of Maryland for a period of five years, brought her back to the State of Virginia, and there sold her to John Adams by a regular Bill of sale under his hand & seal, by which he conveyed to said Adams all his right, title and interest in & to said negro girl Nelly, who thereupon   received her into his possession, and always afterwards held her as his slave until after the period at which she arrived at the age of 21 years. Shortly after she was sold to said Adams she made a complaint stating her title to freedom, but it being ascertained that Mr Adams did not intend to retain her services longer than the period assigned by the above mentioned deed of Manumission, the Complaint was abandoned. And after serving till she was 21 years of age, she was discharged by Mr Adams, and always afterwards was recognized and acted as a free person, & that for a period now of thirty two years. She lived a great part of this period near the said John Childs, he having removed to the neighborhood since she was not at liberty, and for a considerable portion of the time she lived on his land as a tenant and paid him next and no claim whatever was ever set up by said John Childs to her or any of her descendants. That all the above named parties are descendants of the said Nelly and born after the time at which she was thus discharged and acting as a free person. That recently & since the death of the said John Childs, Your petitioners have been seized by one George Jacobs and Augustine B Williams as distributees of said John Childs, and claimed as slaves for life. That since this seizure the said John Adams supposing that the above mentioned deed of manumission might not be effectual for the purposes intended, & believing in that event that the legal title to your petitioners would be vested in him, has enacted a deed of manumission releasing all his right & claim to your petitioner. Your petitioners therefore pray that they may be allowed to sue in this   Court in forma pauperis for the recovery of their freedom.

District of Columbia
Alexandria County, to wit,

Personally approved John Adams before the subscriber a justice of the peace for the County aforesaid and made Oath that he has read the forgoing petition and that most of the material facts therein stated are well known to him to be true. That the petitioners are all descendants of said negro Nelly, who was carried to Maryland as set forth in the petition, brought back & sold to him by John Childs and afterwards discharged by him as set forth. and that he has no doubt from the facts known to himself together with those stated to him by said John Childs that the petitioners are now entiteld to their freedom.

Given under my hand this 3d day of May 1832.
Wm Minor

I hereby certify that I have carefully examined the facts stated in the forgoing petition. Not from conversations with several respectable persons I am satisfied that these facts will be substantially proved. and that upon these facts I am of opinion that the petitioners are entitled to freedom & ought to be permitted to sue in forma pauperis for the recovery thereof
Thomson F Mason


Trespass vi et amis & false imp.

Delilah, Julian Thornton, George, James & John William
George Jacobs & Augustine B. Williams

Suit for freedom

1832 April Term
petition filed & T. F Mason assigned General to report & & & leave given to sue in forma pauperis.

1832. Oct. Term, 14th day.
Not guilty Jd. & Jury sworn & affd & Contd to Monday

15th day. The Jury retd. the following verdict. "We of the Jury find for the Pltffs & assess their damages to one cent." & Judgmt.

order 26, files ptition 18 Capias 18, doc 8 Att 8, ret 18 96
spa 18, files nar 18, order 26 Jt 18 80
Swg Jy [illegible] 1.28
Jud 18. C 18. 4 order 18 T (72) 4 Capias 72 [illegible] 1.80
[illegible] 17.15
M fees 4.76
Att fee 5.00
Exor 40