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Saving Free-Born African American from Life of Slavery
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[SLAVERY AND ABOLITION—NEW YORK STATE]. New York Senate. “An Act To remunerate James Bennett for expenses incurred and services rendered in procuring the release of Anthony Adams, a colored citizen of this State, from imprisonment in the jail of Edenton, North Carolina, to prevent him from being sold into slavery,” Edward M. Madden, February 28, 1857, Passed April 15, 1857. 1 p., 6½ x 11⅞ in. 4/15/1857.

Inventory #23389.06       Price: $2,500

Historical Background
Anthony Adams was an eighteen-year-old free-born native of Port Jervis, New York. In November 1855, he shipped on board a schooner from New York to Plymouth, North Carolina. He became ill and was left in a hospital there. When he recovered and boarded a steamer for Edenton, North Carolina, the captain bound him with a rope and had him arrested as a runaway slave. He remained in jail in Edenton from June 20, 1856, to January 7, 1857. He was fined $500 for coming to North Carolina to reside and was sentenced to be sold as a slave if he could not pay the fine.

James Bennet, a resident of Adams’ hometown collected affidavits of freedom and forwarded them to the clerk in Edenton, but the clerk replied that someone would have to identify Adams in person. Bennet appealed to New York Governor Myron H. Clark, and others appealed to former Governor and Senator William H. Seward. Seward immediately offered to pay the costs for Adams’ release, but Governor Clark, though sympathetic, replied that “the law makes no provision for Adam’s rescue by authority of the State.”

Bennet left New York on December 29, and traveled to Edenton, via Washington, to secure Adams’ release. On their return north, Bennet and Adams were delayed in Portsmouth, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; and Washington, D.C. due to local regulations. This Act ordered Bennet to be paid $268 including per diem for eighteen days and expenses. 

The New York Senate had thirty-two members in 1857, so it is likely no more than fifty copies of this bill were printed for Senate consideration. We can find no evidence that any other copies have survived.

Edward M. Madden (1818-1885) was born in Orange County, New York, and began work at a cotton factory at age nine. He worked as a merchant and then opened a saw factory in Middletown. He entered politics as a Democrat and was a delegate to the 1852 Democratic state convention. He joined the new Republican Party and served as a member of the New York Senate in 1856-1857, 1872-1873, 1875, and 1880-1881. He also served as a delegate to the 1864 and 1876 Republican National Conventions.

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