Select Committee on Illegal Traffic in Slaves in D.C. Deposition of Samuel Bootes


Samuel Bootes, Georgetown, duly sworn.

Witness keeps a public house in George Town. Two men from St Mary's county Maryland viz John Shadrack & Charles Grumbell came to witness's house about the last of february brought with them a negro boy & enquired of witness for a purchaser. Witness informed them the most likely place to get a purchaser was Mr George Miller's in the City of Washington he having understood that negroe traders resorted there. Grumbell went out in search of a purchaser & returned in about an hours time with one who purchased the boy, who was about 18 or 19 years old & told witness after the sale that he had about 2½ years to serve, being bound out until 21 years of age. The bargain was concluded, & the money paid (witness thinks four hundred dollars) in the presence of witness who witnessed the Bill of Sale from Grumbell to the purchaser whose name witness does not recollect. He (the purchaser) was one of those traders in slaves who frequented Miller's. Shadrack did not sign the the bill of sale, but appeared to be interested in the transaction as a partner. After the sale the boy complained to the purchaser in presence of witness & of Shadrack & Grumbell that they had deceived him. That they had   had tied him & brought him from home in the dead hour of the night & had promised him to sell him in Charles County if they could find a purchaser there, but at any rate not further from home then this district & that for the remainder of his term of apprenticeship & not as a slave for life. Boy cried & lamented very much said he was born free & was entitled to his freedom. Witness extremely hurt at the the wailings of the boy. Had the boy made the complaint before witness signed the bill of sale he would not have witnessed it. Witness warned Grumbell of the consequences, who denied the boys statement, saying that he was no more entitled to his freedom that he Grumbell was black. Purchaser made no enquiry into Grumbell's title to the boy. seemed anxious to get the boy as the price was low. he asked for no proof of Grumbell's legal right to sell the boy.

From the conduct of Grumbell & Shadrack, who altho their horses were put up for the night, set off about nine o'Clock P.M. on their way home, as soon as they had received their money. witness was impressed with the belief that the transaction was illegal. Witness applied to Dr Ott a justice of the peace for the county of Washington & to Francis Scott Key Es-   quire of George Town, who drew a petition & affidavit the same night with which witness was directed to go before Mr Justice Morsell of the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia; but it was so late that witness did not call that night on Mr Morsell. Next morning by sunrise the Purchaser returned to witness's house enquiring for the men of whom he had bought the boy. another person accompanied him. Purchaser said that they would pursue the sellers until they found them. Witness understood from Nathan Moore constable of the county of Washington that he had recovered the money from Grumbell, Shadrack & the master of the apprentice, who had consented[?] with Grumbell & Shadrack to sell the boy for life as a slave & was to have half the money. the remainder to be divided between Shadrack & Grumbell. accordingly the constable recovered two hundred dollars from the master, & the remainder from Shadrack & Grumbell besides fifteen dollars for the expenses of the pursuit. a few days after the boy was claimed by his master & returned [illegible] him.

Witness has frequently seen droves of slaves pass thro' the streets of George Town said to be, & believed by him to be bought up by the Slave Traders, often chained (handcuffed) two & two together.

Saml Bootes


Sworn to & subscribed before me this seventh day of March 1816

John Randolph of Roanoke
Chairman of the Committee &c: &c: &c:

Samuel Bootes's deposition