Select Committee on Illegal Traffic in Slaves in D.C. Jesse Torrey to John Randolph


To the Honorable John Randolph Chairman of the Committee for investigating the conduct of traffickers in Slaves, and of kidnappers in the United States.


I have the honor to submit for the consideration of your Committee, the following statement of such information as is in my possession relative to this subject; to wit:

That, on the 4th day of December 1815, I saw a procession of black people, composed of men, women, and children, 12 or 15 in number, accompanied by two white men, pass through the City of Washington. Part of the men were bound together in pairs, with chains, and part with ropes. I was informed by one of the white men, that they were taking them to Georgia.

That, on the 20th day of the same month having been informed that a black woman had leaped in the night, from the garret window of a three story brick house (a tavern) in F street, in order to avoid being transported to Georgia, with a gang of slaves, which was to start the following morning, I called at the said house and requested permission of Mr George Miller (the landlord) to see the woman which, being granted, I requested her to tell me the cause of her jumping from the window, she replyed   "They brought me away with two of my children and would'nt let me see my husband. They did'nt sell my husband, and I did'nt want to go. I did'nt know hardly what I was about, I was so confus'd. and 'istracted, but I did'nt want to go and I jump'd out of the window, but I am sorry now I did it." This woman's arms were both broken and her back badly shattered.

That, in the same room with this woman, I found a young molatto man, and in manacles and chains, and a black woman, with an infant, who stated that they were lawfully free, and had been forcibly seized and bound in the State of Delaware, and transported in a chaise, in the night, and sold as slaves in the state of Maryland; and brought by their purchasers and lodged in that room. That the molatto man had been sold, after his arrival in the City of Washington, to a negro trader from Kentucky, having been previously struck a blow on his head, and threatened to be shot, by his seller, James Carter, for saying he was free man.

The sequel of proceedings, consequent to this accidental discovery, will be learned from the accompanying documents.

It may be proper, however, to mention a fact here, which may throw some light on the inefficient operation of the Habeas Corpus, and proves the facility and security with which the   art of man-stealing can be practised, for the want of prompt means of removing captives from the custody of their holders. The Marshall, charged with the execution of the the writ of Habeas Corpus, first issued, was refused permission of seeing the kidnapped black people, by the landlord, and and went away without having served it.

That, some time in the month of February last, Mr         of       informed me that black people had been frequently offered to him for sale, as slaves for life, in the District of Columbia, whose term of service was to have terminated, lawfully, at limited periods. That he knows the names of many persons who pursue the business of trading in kidnapped negroes, and believes he could communicate such information as would lead to the discovery of a great number of molattoes and negroes now held in unlawful bondage in several of the southern states. That William Thompson, Trader in kidnapped blacks and molattoes, resides in the County of Orange, near Hillsborough, North Carolina, that he staid at a tavern at New Market, Maryland, and about snow hill, last july, and brought from there a molatto man, a small black man and a young black woman 16 years old, all of whom   were kidnapped or sold unlawfully, to the said Thompson, in that neighborhood. While at New Market, the molatto man made loud outcries for relief, but was soon conveyed away privately to a vessel. That the said Thompson sold all of them, in the County of Oglethorp, near Lexington in the State of Georgia, (the girl in Lexington.) And that he was lately at Princess Ann, Md with some several kidnapped negroes in his possession.

That several persons on the Eastern Shore, in connection with Bennett Smith, James D. Bennett, and others, follow the same business. That Bennett Smith resides and has a plantation, in the County of Granville. N.C. That he met J. D. Bennett, about the last of Dec. 1815, with a drove of negroes on the road to the back parts of Georgia. That         Bridgett of Maryland pursues the same employment, and has a partner by the name of Van Hook, and that he passed through North Carolina, about the first of March 1815, with several negroes, who are known to have been kidnapped in Delaware and Maryland.*

That James Carter sold to Y. A. Nicks (who resides near the line between the Counties of Guilford and Rockingham. S.C.) a negro lad called Isaac, who stated to John Parker, that Carter bought him of Joseph Thomas, near North West Fork Bridge Delaware to

* The Hon Mr Wells of Delaware has since informed me that he has in hand, several suits against this man, on similar charges.


whom he had been hired by his father, and that he was not a slave.

That the said Mr         of       assured me that he would communicate every information concerning the above facts in his power, whenever called on by any person for that purpose, provided that proper care is taken that his name shall not be disclosed; without which precaution he believes his life would be endangered.

That I have obtained information from several different persons, of the following facts, in which I have full confidence. That in the letter part of Dec. 1815, James D. Bennett and       Freeman passed through the City of Washington, with a drove* of black and molatto people, (some in manacles and iron collers,) among whom was a large molatto man, who stated that he was lawfully free, and had been seized forcibly, and bound, in the night, near Philadelphia, and sold as a slave, and that on the night previous to his arrival in Washington, his alledged master, (supposed to be Freeman) having overheard him telling some one that he was free, beat him severely with a stick of wood. And that James D. Bennett transported through the

* Dr Blake Mayor of the City of Washington, informed me that he saw this coffle pass his house, on the morning that they started to leave the city.


City of Washington, at the same time, a young black woman called Dinah* who stated that she had been emancipated in St. Georges, State of Delaware, and having previously resided with two or three different families, was sold unlawfully, through the agency of John Chatten, (a known kidnapper) to Bennett, but Aldridge Pendleton, with whom she then resided.

I am respectfully your Obt Sert
Jesse Torrey Jr

affirmed to before me this 29th day of April 1816
John Randolph of Roanoke

* Rosanna Brown, who was delivered to Bennett, by her kidnappers, in the same tavern where this woman was kept, states that she knows the people with whom she had lived, and was emancipated.


Jesse Torrey

Robt B. Wilson
Caswell Co. N.C.