Guide to the John W. Williams papers, 1822-1835 and undated
John W. Williams was a Philadelphia lawyer. A small collection of legal papers, correspondence, and clippings chiefly concerning an 1835 lawsuit in which Robert Aitken of Baltimore alleged that a mulatto girl living in Philadelphia was Emily Winder, the daughter of Milly Winder. Milly Winder was Aitken's former slave whom he had freed in 1824, while keeping her daughter as his slave. Aitken claimed that the child had been stolen from him and given to Jacob Gilmore and his wife, free African Americans, to raise as their child. John W. Williams handled Aitken's suit for the girl's return. Includes affidavits, subpoenas, and notes on the testimonies of both black and white witnesses for the defense and the prosecution, including the testimony of Milly Winder, who told of her attempts to locate her daughter after she was freed.
- Collection Number
- John W. Williams papers
- 1822-1835 and undated
- Williams, John W.
- 0.1 Linear Feet, 32 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Material in English
Samll collection of legal papers, correspondence, and clippings chiefly concerning an 1835 lawsuit in which Robert Aitken of Baltimore alleged that a mulatto girl living in Philadelphia was Emily Winder, the daughter of Milly Winder. Milly Winder was Aitken's former slave whom he had freed in 1824, keeping her daughter as his slave. Aitken claimed that the child had been stolen from him ten years earlier and given to Jacob Gilmore and his wife, free African Americans, to raise as their child. Gilmore claimed that the defendant could not be the slave Aitken was searching for, in that he claimed that a woman gave the girl to him and his wife several years before Aitken's slave went missing.
Papers include the notes and evidence compiled by John W. Williams, the lawyer for the plaintiff Aitken, to present the case before the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The lawyer for the defense was David Paul Brown. Witnesses for the defense claim to have known Emily as a little girl in Philadelphia prior to 1825, and believed her to be white, while witnesses for the prosecution claimed Emily was Aitken's missing slave. Includes the testimony of Milly Winder, who told of her attempts to locate her daughter after she was freed and who claimed that the woman in question could not be her daughter that went missing. This case occurred before the passing of the Federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which removed the possibility of a court trial prior to the removal of an alleged fugitive slave.
Collection arranged chronologically within one folder.
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How to Cite
[Identification of item], John W. Williams Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Set for 1824 Jan. 1, providing that she continues to be a good servant. Any children she might have in the intervening period are also to be free. Baltimore, Maryland.
States that Emily Winder, born in 1816 or 1817, had been taken from Robert Aitken's residence on July 26, 1825.
Appears to concern the matter for Emily Winder.
Desription reads, “Nearly white very black eyes and hair; her mother is a yellow woman known by the name of Milly Winder.” Reward would be twenty dollars if she had to be returned from outside of the state, 1835 June 9. The ad originally ran 1825 Aug. 24, and it claims she was taken July 26, 1825. It also mentions Emily may have been taken by another black individual.
Handwritten copy of Archibald Randall's initial judgment in the case regarding Robert Aitken and Emily Winder.
Deals with the administration by Robert Aitken of his father's will.
Reference to providing legal volume with information on similar cases and laws/statutes that support the case.
Includes clipping of advertisement for ten dollar reward for Emily's return.
Includes the testimonies of various individuals from Baltimore and Philadelphia, such as Maria Congo, a cousin of the late Mrs. Gilmer who apparently informed Mr. Aitken of Emily's presence in Philadelphia. Also contains testimony of Jacob Gilmer, Emily's adoptive father, and Amelia (Milly) Winder, who said she did not believe the woman in question was her daughter that went missing after she was freed. 36 pages.
This was likely Williams's opening statement and begins with the following statement: “Judicial Duty - not popular will - to administer, not adjust the laws. Otherwise my client and I should not be here.”
This witness was present in the Aitken household when Emily went missing. Includes more notes for arguing the case.
Williams argues that the issue is simply a pecuniary matter between Aitken and Gilmer.
Gives detailed summary of major points of the case.
- African American Miscellany, 1757-1983 and undated (contains many early legal papers relating to slavery and manumission) (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library)
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- African American families -- History -- 19th century
- African Americans -- Pennsylvania -- History
- Children, Black -- United States -- History -- 19th century
- Freedmen -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States
- Fugitive slaves -- United States -- History -- 19th century
- Families, Black -- History -- 19th century
- Lawyers -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia -- History
- Personal liberty laws
- Slaves -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States
- Slavery -- Maryland
- Slavery -- Law and legislation -- United States -- Cases
- Slaves -- Emancipation
- Slavery -- United States -- Legal status of slaves in free states
- Women slaves -- United States -- History
The John W. Williams papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 1973.
Processed by Rubenstein Library staff, 1973
Encoded by Jessica Carew, May 2012
Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 1973