Letter from James S. French to Governor Floyd 

 

                                                                                                 Jerusalem Southampton, Feb 14, 1835

 

Dear Sir,

 

                 Hither the last day or two there was carried through here a negro who escaped several years since from the Sussex jail under a sentence of death for insurrection. I do not recollect his name, but your excellency will, inasmuch as you have offered a large reward for his apprehension. I appeared as his counsel on his trial, and nothwithstanding he was convicted, I could not think the charge made out against him, subsequent events and many conversations with persons who live in his immediate neighbourhood tend to confirm me more strongly in my belief – indeed I believe there are many of those who were at the time most strongly exasperated against him, who now agree with me in opinion –

 

                 His trial came on immediately after the insurrection in this county, upon a charge preferred [sic] against him and eleven other slaves of aiding and abetting in insurrection. They were all residents of Sussex living fully twenty five miles from the scenes of violence in this county – no overt act whatever was proved against them, nor were they shown to have been out of the way at any time, or to have committed one single disorderly act and yet upon a naked charge, unsupported by corroborating in circumstance, and preferred [sic] by a single witness and that witness a slave – a small black girl of some twelve to fifteen years of age were eleven of the twelve convicted. [illegible]: Can a single slave by his or her evidence legally deprive another slave of life. The declaration of what shall be deemed evidence sec 44 title “Slaves, Free Negroes + Mulattoes.”

 

                 A day or two previous to that fixed upon for their execution they broke jail. Several were shot at the time and the slave the subject of this letter escaped. He has remained in the same neighbourhood until the present time, has frequently been seen, sought several conversations with respectable gentlemen, protested his innocence, and professes himself ready to deliver himself up at any time that he could be assured he would not be hung. He is now the property of the state his master having recieved [sic] compensation at the time of his conviction and I respectfully request the propriety of commuting his punishment to that of transportation. It is more than probably that this subject may be brought before your Excellency by the citizens of Sussex, but believing as I do implicitly in his innocent I could not forbear doing it myself. I know not what steps have been taken in Sussex or what time may have been fixed upon for his execution. The facts above state are there to the best of my belief and as I am a stranger to you I must refer you to Francis E. Rives or Wm. B. Goodwin to say what credit you must give my statement.

                                                                                                                              Yours Res:

                                                                                                                              James S. French