"Negroes taken out of Prison": The Mobberly Diaries, Part I, 1820

Dublin Core


"Negroes taken out of Prison": The Mobberly Diaries, Part I, 1820


Slaves--Maryland; Slave trade--United States;


Br. Joseph Mobberly describes a remarkable episode in which Fr. John Henry, the manager of the Jesuits' Bohemia farm, sold five enslaved people to a neighbor who was involved in the slave trade to Louisiana. The slaves, whom Mobberly does not identify by name, were then sent in a stagecoach to the Chesapeake, where they were to be boarded on a vessel bound for Louisiana. However, the slaves were intercepted in the town of Centreville by a local judge, a Methodist, who put the slaves in jail to prevent them from being illegally transported out of Maryland. Mobberly narrates his negotiations to recover the slaves and return them to Bohemia.


Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers


"Negroes taken out of prison," Diary Part I, Box I, p. 111, Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ, Papers, Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Georgetown University.

The Joseph P. Mobberly Papers have been digitized in their entirity by Georgetown Univeristy Library. To browse the collection visit Digital Georgetown.


Georgetown Slavery Archive

The Mobberly Diaries were previously hosted by the Jesuit Plantation Project.




Adam Rothman, Elsa Barraza Mendoza, Jesuit Plantation Project


Georgetown University Library








GSA 148

Text Item Type Metadata


[Page 111]

Negroes taken out of prison

...After a lapse of some months Br. Herd arrived from the College with a letter from Revd. F. Anth. Kohlman (Superior) requesting me to start immediately for Bohemia farm via George Town College. Br. Herd was to act in my place until my return. Revd. F. Jno. Henry who was stationed at Bohemia, found the Blacks so ungoverneable & so corrupt in their morals, that he deemed it better to send them to some distant State, probably supposing that a change of climate, place &c. would produce a change in their morals. He therefore sold 5 of them to a neighbour, who, it seems was in the habit of purchasing Blacks for planters in New Orleans. A little before this, a severe law had been enacted, by the Legislature of Maryland against Kidnappers, who, it seems, had become pretty common on The Eastern Shore. Those Blacks were sent off in the mail Stage down the Chesapeake Bay to some place where they were to be put on board of a vessel

[Page 112]

Negroes taken out of prison

for Louisiana. The Stage was arrested in the Town called Centreville by a Methodist who was both a Preacher & a Magistrate, and the Blacks were immediately lodged in Centreville gaol. Father Henry was also to have been arrested as a kidnapper according to the interpretation of the late law. Though F. Henry had obtained permission from his Superior for what he had done, & was supposed to be out of the reach of the late law; yet his friends advised him to retire in order to avoid the disagreeable necessity of attending court- he did so, & I met him at the College on my way to Bohemia. Being informed of the history of this unhappy affair, I was ordered on to Baltimore by my Superiour in order to receive instructions from Fr. Enoch Fenwick then in Baltimore how to proceed. Meanwhile the Fathers knowing that the Methodistic fever for protecting Blacks under the influence of the late law was very high; and not being willing to give even a shade of scandal to those pious souls, deemed it pru-

[Page 113]

Negroes released from prison

dent to retain the Blacks and to restore the money to the purchaser. While in Balt. I received from F.E. Fenwick the sum of $1800, which added to the Bohemia farm money that I had received at the College, amounted nearly to $2000.On my arrival at Bohemia I was soon visited by the Brothers of the purchaser. He asked me various questions- "How is this matter determined? Do you intend to retain the negroes? if so, how is my brother to be paid? Have you the money with you? This last question was so bold, and so much out of order, that I felt alarmed- I began to consider the probable danger of my situation- I was in a strange settlement, acquainted with no one and new not what might happen. I gave him evasive answers to his two last questions, observing that his brother need be under no apprehension- that when the negroes should be delivered to me, I would di-

[Page 114]

Negroes released from prison

rect his brother to whom he might apply for his money. He urged and repeated his last question. I continued to evade and repeated my answer. After he left me I felt uneasy- I made what preparations I could to meet a more timal attack.- In a few days I went to Centreville, but having left a very useful paper in Baltimore through mistake, and being obliged to wait, I continued on to St. Joseph's farm, where I was kindly received by the Rev. Jas. Moynihan. I returned next day and took a night with lawyer Carmikel- I then proceded with Mr. Carmikel to Centreville in order to release the prisoners- according to the time they had been in, their legal prison fees would have amounted to about $40- but the pious Methodist gaoler thought proper to charge me

[Page 115]

Breadth of a Methodist conscience

$114- I complained- he alledged that the negroes had had the dysentery, that he had had much trouble with them and that it was a dangerous complaint and I was resolved in any mind not to pay it- I consulted with Mr. Carmikel- he cried out shame! and that it was a gross imposition- but on considering the matter further, he advised me to pay it- for, said he, court detention might cost you much more. I took his advice, freed the Blacks from prison and conducted them to Bohemia.

Original Format




Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers, “"Negroes taken out of Prison": The Mobberly Diaries, Part I, 1820,” Georgetown Slavery Archive, accessed May 27, 2024, http://slaveryarchive.georgetown.edu/items/show/160.