Mar 10, 2011 - Sale 2239

Sale 2239 - Lot 13

Price Realized: $ 6,480
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 3,500 - $ 5,000
THE FUTURE PRESIDENT BUYS A SLAVE (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) HARRISON, WILLIAM HENRY. William Henry Harrison, Governor of the Indiana Territory purchases a Negro girl named Molley for one hundred pounds from Frederick Ridgely. Handwritten document, folio, folded to form four pages, written on two sides, and docketed on a third. The document is signed and witnessed by John McKinney Jr. Paper toned; encapsulated in lucite, folded in the shape of an open book. Kentucky, 1807

Additional Details

William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), ninth president of the United States, was also the first president to die in office. In this unusual document, Harrison purchases a Negro girl named Molley for the specific period of sixteen years, thereafter she is to be "Free and released from servitude." However, it was stipulated in this contract that any children that Molley might have during her sixteen years of servitude would be "subject to the laws of the aforesaid Territory;" i.e., they would be concerned indentured servants. The Indiana Territory had a rather unusual history as far as slavery is concerned--as did Harrison himself. In 1800, Harrison inherited about a dozen slaves and took seven of them with him when he moved to Indiana, which was "free soil"--which meant no new slaves. Harrison's slaves then became indentured servants under conditions that were virtually indistinguishable from slavery. In 1805, the First Assembly in Indiana passed an act, which Governor Harrison then signed, allowing slave owners to convert (illegal) slaves into indentured servants. This is what Molley was. Negro males under fifteen could be kept in service until 35, women until 32. Offspring of such stayed in service until 30 (male) or 28 (female).