On March 23, 1778, a slaveholder of New Haven declared on record that:
I … for the consideration of Twenty six shillings lawfull money rec[eive]d to my full satisfaction of Pompey of sd Newhaven a free Negro man late Slave of … the sd Pompey sometimes called Pompey Panchard, have sold, and do by these presents do sell make over & deliver, unto him the sd Pompey, a Negro Woman Slave, called Leah aged about Fifty years at and until the Ensealing hereof to me belonging and being sound and well so far as I know – To have and hold the sd Negro Woman Leah, unto him the sd Pompey, his heirs Ex[ecutors] and assigns for and during her natural life –
The way the document assumes Leah will remain enslaved is disturbing, isn’t it? Pompey Panchard and Leah were not historically prominent enough for me to have found anything else about them, but there are other mentions in various sources of people purchasing spouses or other relatives and it’s always put as buying them “out of slavery.” But in 1778 Connecticut, at least, the standard forms apparently just didn’t encompass that idea – though they did encompass the idea that a free African-American could enslave another African-American.
As I said, disturbing.
I looked for Pompey Panchard, and also just Pompey, in Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Connecticut and found nothing. Nor was there a Leah. If Leah was his spouse and they were about the same age, either of them would have been around seventy years old by 1790. It’s quite likely that they had passed away by then, or were living in another household, or had moved away. Records of this period are not as detailed or accessible as those of later periods.
At any rate, I definitely prefer to think of Pompey diligently saving up money until he could pay off the man holding his wife, Leah, and get her out of slavery. How many years did it take, if they were fifty years old? I shudder to think.
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