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Thweatt, John: Petition, Prince George County

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To the honorable Speakers and members of the General Assembly. The petition of John Thweatt humbly sheweth. That in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine, a negro man slave named Tom for whom in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty six, your petitioner paid the sum of ninety two pounds ten shillings, eloped from him and went to Baltimore in the state of Maryland. That after being in that town some small space of time, he was taken up and committed to goal [gaol]. Your petitioner further states that by the laws of Maryland it is enacted that where a slave belonging go a person out of that state shall be committed to goal [gaol], the sheriff after giving the owner two months previous notice shall proceed to sell the slave to the highest bidder, unless the owner shall within that period pay or secure to be paid to the sheriff his fees for the taking up, committing and safe keeping such slave. However the sheriff of Baltimore county to whose custody your petitioners slave was delivered, omitted to give him any notice of the circumstance, and ventured within less than two months after the commitment of the said slave to expose him to public sale; when certain members of a society in Maryland called the "Abolition Society," became the purchasers for the amount of the prison fees, it having been previously stipulated between the said sheriff and themselves that whatever sum they might nominally give for the said negro, should be discharged by payment of the prison fees; in consideration whereof the said members of the Abolition Society agreed that they would deliver the said negro to his owner at any future time when he should appear and prove his property. Your petitioner further states that in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety two, having received information that his negro was in Baltimore, he authorized a friend who was going to that place, to have him taken up and committed to goal [gaol], which was accordingly done; and your petitioner immediately, on hearing of the circumstance, hurried to Baltimore with an intention of [freeing?] his property, discharging the prison fees and bringing back his slave. But on his arrival at that place he was astonished to find that the same magistrate who had committed the negro, had released him, and notwithstanding reiterated applications to him and other magistrates, and although your petitioner produced the most incontrovertible evidence to prove his property, yet every magistrate to whom application was made, refused to give your petitioner any authority to apprehend his own slave. And further to injure your petitioner, within a few days after his arrival, a certain Andrew Aitken, a member as your petitioner conceives, but certainly a creature of the said Abolition Society, although he could possibly pretend no title to the said negro, avowed himself publickly [publicly] as the holder of him, and advertised him as a runaway by the name of James Pickett