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    Declaration Signer George Read, himself a slaveholder, asks the Delaware court to "issue replevin" against a tanner who is accused of taking a slave

    George Read Revolutionary War-dated Autograph Document Signed "Geo: Read fr Plff," one page, 8" x 3", inlaid to 8.25" x 4.25". [New Castle, Delaware], January 31, 1781. "To Gunning Bedford Esqr Propty", in full: "Issue Replevin against Jacob Likens late of New Castle County Tanner to answer Archibald M. Murphy in a Plea wherefore he took a Negro Man named York and the Slave of him the said Archibald and the same Slave doth unjustly detain against Sureties and Pledges." Slight surface abrasion at word "doth." Fine condition.

    George Read, the only Signer of the Declaration of Independence to vote against it, lived in a mansion New Castle and owned slaves. Lawyer Gunning Bedford, Sr. was admitted to the Bar in 1779. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed as the Prothonotary (chief court clerk) of New Castle County. In 1775, Delaware's General Assembly had attempted to prohibit the import and export of slaves, but Gov. John Penn vetoed the measure. Between 1763 and 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the Mason-Dixon Line settling the western and southern borders of Sussex, Delaware's most southern county. After Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1781, the western part of this line and the Ohio River became a border between free and slave states, although Delaware remained a slave state. New Castle is Delaware's most northern county. America's first census in 1790 in Delaware listed 8,887 African-Americans as slaves and 3,899 as free.

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    October, 2008
    16th-18th Thursday-Saturday
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