Without delay I ran with the note to Mr. P. Williamson’s office, Seventh and Arch, found him at his desk, and gave it to him, and after reading it, he remarked that he could not go down, as he had to go to Harrisburg that night on business—but he advised me to go, and to get the names of the slave-holder and the slaves, in order to telegraph to New York to have them arrested there, as no time remained to procure a writ of habeas corpus here.
I could not have been two minutes in Mr. W.’s office before starting in haste for the wharf. To my surprise, however, when I reached the wharf, there I found Mr. W., his mind having undergone a sudden change; he was soon on the spot.
I saw three or four colored persons in the hall at Bloodgood’s, none of whom I recognized except the boy who brought me the note. Before having time for making inquiry some one said they had gone on board the boat. “Get their description,” said Mr. W. I instantly inquired of one of the colored persons for the desired description, and was told that she was “a tall, dark woman, with two little boys.”
Mr. W. and myself ran on board of the boat, looked among the passengers on the first deck, but saw them not. “They are up on the second deck,” an unknown voice uttered. In a second we were in their presence. We approached the anxious-looking slave-mother with her two boys on her left-hand; close on her right sat an ill-favored white man having a cane in his hand which I took to be a sword-cane. (As to its being a sword-cane, however, I might have been mistaken.)
The first words to the mother were: “Are you traveling?” “Yes,” was the prompt answer. “With whom?” She nodded her head toward the ill-favored man, signifying with him. Fidgeting on his seat, he said something, exactly what I do not now recollect. In reply I remarked: “Do they belong to you, Sir?” “Yes, they are in my charge,” was his answer. Turning from him to the mother and her sons, in substance, and word for word, as near as I can remember, the following remarks were earnestly though calmly addressed by the individuals who rejoiced to meet them on free soil, and who felt unmistakably assured that they were justified by the laws of Pennsylvania as well as the Law of God, in informing them of their rights:
“You are entitled to your freedom according to the laws of Pennsylvania, having been brought into the State by your owner. If you prefer freedom to slavery, as we suppose everybody does, you have the chance to accept it now. Act calmly—don’t be frightened by your master—you are as much entitled to your freedom as we are, or as he is—be determined and you need have no fears but that you will be protected by the law. Judges have time and again decided cases in this city and State similar to yours in favor of freedom! Of course, if you want to remain a slave with your master, we cannot force you to leave; we only want to make you sensible of your rights. Remember, if you lose this chance you may never get such another,” etc.
[Illustration: RESCUE OF JANE JOHNSON AND HER CHILDREN.]