Daniel Wells v. Benjamin F. Lewis. Affidavit of P. R. Fendall


To the Honorable the Judges of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia sitting at Alexandria

In obedience to an order of your Honors assigning me counsel for Daniel Wells, who has petitioned to sue, in forma pauperis, for his freedom, in your Honorable Court, and requiring me to report on his face, I report.

That a commission has issued from this Court sitting at Washington, directed to Richard I. Morsell Esq. to take depositions in the case of Rachael Shorter and others against Ann Cazenave, and that the depositions are expected during the present term. The Plaintiffs in that case claim their freedom as direct descendants of one Ann Wells, a white woman, under whom the petitioner Daniel also claims. I have conversed with Messrs Ashton, and Randall, the counsel for the Plaintiffs in Washington, and from their statements connected with the information derived from the petitioner's mother, I found am of opinion that the petitioner Daniel is the son of Monica, that Monica is the daughter of Rachael, that Rachael was the daughter of Kitty, that Kitty was the daughter of the said Ann Wells, and that the said Ann Wells was a white woman. I have also been furnished by Mr. Nicholas Young, who sold the petitioner to the Defendant, with the two annexed affidavits. Nothing affirmative affecting the present case appears in these affidavits, except Mr Soper's statement was a dark mula that Rachael was a dark mulatto and had short woolly hair. The former of these circumstances seems to indefinitely stated to authorize any precise inference, and the latter rather to operate in Favor of the petitioner's claim, it being, I understand, the opinion of some eminent physiologists that the child's chair resembles the father, and the said   Ann Wells having certainly been a white woman, Capt. Randall informed me that before bringing the suit at Washington, he had satisfied himself in regard to this fact by sundry affidavits, and also that some of her posterity for one or two generations, I do not exactly remember which, were those from whom the petitioner Daniel claims to be descended. The subsequent [illegible] on the claim of descent can, I am informed by the petitioner's mother, be proved by competent testimony in the counties of Montgomery and Prince Georges in Maryland, and in Washington County in the District of Columbia, but I have, of course, had hitherto no opportunity to prosecute the investigation.

On the whole, after considering the facts and circumstances argued on each side of the petition, and respecting in the same degree, as to their authority, the statements made on behalf of the petitioner, with the annexed informed affidavits on the other side, I am of opinion that the petitioner claims his freedom on probable grounds.

All which is respectfully submitted.

Alexandria Novr. 15, 1823

David Wells's petition for freedom

Report of Counsel

Copyed Depos. for deft. & Cert & Seal $1.25