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Home: Regional: U.S. States: Virginia: Prince William County

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William Hyden's hardships in PWC
Posted by: Jennifer Little (ID *****8321) Date: January 29, 2007 at 12:13:27
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Basil Brawner, Prince William County, to Virginia Assembly, 1835

To the General Assembly of Virginia

Your petitioner Basil Brawner respectfully represents to your Honorable body that heretofore a mulato called and known as William Hyden was apprehended in the County of Prince William and committed to the Jail of the said County as a runaway, that the said Hyden was confined in the Jail of the County, aforesaid, and advertised as the Law in such cases direct, and was by order of the County Court advertised for Sale & no person having claimed him, and he not having proved his Fredom, he was offered at public Auction for Sale by your petitioner as Deputy for Michael Cleary, then high Sheriff of Prince Wm County, on the first day of January 1834. When one Robert Lipscomb being a bidder, and making the highest bid became the purchaser of said Hyden, as the agent of a trader, or dealer in slaves, and he Lipscomb informed your petitioner, that his principal would pay the purchase money in a fiw [sic] days, the said Hyden was returned to Jail to await the arrival of the said trader, who in a short time came and being requested refused to pay the amount which he had authorised the said Lipscomb to bid. Your petitioner afterwards sent the said Hyden to the Town of Fredericksburg and to the City of Richmond by one Col. James Fewell of Prince William, (who had a number of slaves to be offered for sale,) to be sold if the amount of the said Robert Lipscombs bid could be obtained for him, the said Hyden was offered for sale to sundry persons in Fredericksburg by Fewell & Myself, he was also offered in Richmond by Fewell; all of Whom refused to purchase him at any price, on account of his colour all alledgin that he was too white, the said Fewell returned him to your petitioner in the Town of Brentsville, where he offered him for sale on a court day, several traders were present, all of whom refused to make any offer for him, alledging that his colour was too light and that he could by reason thereof too easily escape from slavery and pass himself for a free man, and whilst your petitioner was endeavouring to sell the said Hyden he made his escape, and although your petition[er] has mad[e] every exertion in his power to regain possession of him he has not been able so that your petioner was compelled to report to the county court aforesaid his proceeding under their order, of and to pay all the expense that arose from aprehension, confinement, advertising &c, without having received any part of the sum of money which was bid for him the said Hyden. Nor has your petitioner any prospect or hope of being reembursed the expense so paid by him, that Robert Lipscomb to whose bid the said Hyden was cried out, if legally bound to your petitioner for the sum bid by him $452 is wholy unable to pay any part of it, as is well know by several of your Honorable body, and if your petitioner had or could obtain a Judgment and Execution against him they would be without avail. That the former Sheriff of this county, Michael Cleary now stands charged on the books of the Auditor of Public accounts with a large sum of Money which your petitioner will be compelled to pay unless your Honorable body will release him from it, although he has not received nor has he any hope of receiving one cent of the same. Your petitioner beg leave to represent to your honorable body that it was the impression of all who saw and conversed with said Hyden that he was born free, that the said Hyden allway asserted that he was born free in the State of New York, was the son of a white woman and was educated in that state, which was evident from his pronunciation, at the age of 14 he went to the State of Ohio where he continued about three years, when the increase of that population with Whom he associated became so numerous as to induce the constituted authorities of that State to enact severe Laws in relation to the police of the State, which compelled all persons of his colour, which was not able to comply with the requisitions of the Laws, to seek an asylum else where, and that he in endeavouring to return to New York his nativity, and not being acquainted with Virginia Laws attempted to pass through said state without evidence of his freedom, and for want of such evidence, he was apprehended and committed to Jail, and dealt with as a runaway slave, that your petition from conversation had with him and conversation had by other persons in his presence whilst he the said Hyden was confined in Jail, has a strong belief, and so have others whose certificates he present with this his petition that the said was free born, his knowledge of the Geography of New York his acquaintance with the cities, Towns, rivers & the trade of the state, is calculated to convince any person that he was born, raised, & educated & migrated, as he the said Hyden himself represented to your petitioner & others. Your petitioner will as the reason of his being therefore prays your Honorable body to pass an act releasing him and the said Michael Cleary from the payment into the Treasury The sum of money charged as aforesaid upon the books of the Auditor of Public accounts, in consideration that he has not received any part of the same and for the reasons above set forth can never expect to receive any part thereof. And your petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray &c.

[signed] Basil Brawner

January 22nd 1835

Prince Wm County towit,

I James Fewell, do hereby certify that I saw Wm Hyden the man refered to in this petition several times whilst he was in prince William Jail, and made sundry inquiries of him in relation of to the scituation of some of the Towns, rivers, and the kind of vessels that, traversed certain rives in the state of New York all of which he answered correctly that in addition to his dialect and education induces me to believe that he was born & raised in the north and I have no doubt but that he was free born. I took him to Fredericksburg and Richmond by request of B. Brawner where I offered him at public auction & but could not get a bid for him. I also endeavored to sell him at private bargain it was also without avail all said that it was evident that he was free born and was so bright that he might easily escape from slavery. I could not sell him at any price and returned him to said Brawner in Brentsville when the boy ran off and I have not heard from him since, given under my hand this 22nd Jany 1835

[signed] Jas Fewell

Prince William County towit,

I certify that I saw Wm Hyden the man referred to in this petition whilst he was confined in the Jail of Prince William, and always considdered his case desperate one of oppression, he was a bright Mulatto, and as I believe born free, this belief is founded upon his representations, which carried with the reason I have no doubt but that he was free born

22nd Jany 1835

[signed] M B Sinclair


SOURCE: Petition of Basil Brawner to the General Assembly of Virginia, 20 February 1835, Legislative Petitions, Prince William County, VSA; Certificates, James Fewell and M. B. Sinclair, 22 January 1835, ibid. Rejected. PAR #11683519. (Original is not included in microfilm edition.)


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