National Archive Microfilm Publications Microcopy No. 434

Habeas Corpus Case Records of the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia 1820 – 1863


Roll 1 – 1820 – 1843

Habeas Corpus for William Thomas aka William Brown


To the Hon. Wm. Cranch Chief Justice of the Circuit and District Courts, District of Columbia

Your petitioner respectfully sheweth; that whereas William Thomas John Thomas alias Wm. Brown John Brown has been recently committed to the jail of the Cty. of Washington in the Dist. of Ca. as an absconding slave, altho the said Wm. Thomas John Thomas alias Wm. Brown Jno. Brown is free; his mother being a white woman. And whereas the said Thomas alias Brown is now as your petitioner believes, unlawfully detained either in said Jail or in custody of a certain James Williams in said County. Your petitioner humbly prays that a writ of Habeas Corpus may issue to the Marshal of the Dist. of Cola. or the said Jas. Williams, directing them to bring the sd. Thomas alias Brown before your honor, in order to his discharge, on its being made to appear to your satisfaction that he is illegally detained.

Wm. C. Ellison
City of Washington
13 Nov. 1833

Let the writ be issued returnable before me immediately at my chambers in the city hall in the city of & county of Washington Nov. 13, 1833.

Wm. Cranch

District of Columbia, County of Washington

The United States of America to James Williams & the Marshal of the District of Columbia, greeting

You are hereby commanded that you have the body of William Thomas alias William Brown who is detained in the Jail of the County of Washington or in the custody in the said James Williams as it said – by whatsoever name he may be called together with the cause of his caption and detention before the Hon. Wm. Cranch, Chief Judge of the said District of Columbia at his chambers in the City Hall in the city of Washington immediately, to do, receive and submit to what shall there and then be considered of him in this behalf and have you then and there this writ with your doings thereon.

Witness the Hon. Wm. Cranch, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia. Signed this 13th day of November in the year 1833.

Wm. Brent, Clk.

Issued by my order
W. Cranch

To the Marshal of the District of Columbia –

Whereas William Thomas has been brought before me the subscriber a Justice of the Peace for the County of Washington D. C. as an absconding slave – you are therefore authorized to receive from R. R. Burr and H. B. Robertson, Constables, and him safe keep in your Jail and custody until he shall be from there discharged by due course of law. Given under my hand and seal this 17th day of October 1833.

Robt. Clarke

State of Maryland, Baltimore City, to wit, on this 11th day of November 1833 before me the subscriber a Justice of the Peace in and for the city aforesaid. Personally appeared Robert Kelly now of the aforesaid city and made oath on the Holy Evangelly of Almighty God that he was acquainted with John Thomas alias Brown, a very bright mulatto boy in Ann Arundel County, when said boy was perhaps about four or five years old, then in charge of his mother a white woman of the name of Tamsey Thomas whom deponent well knew, as also the reported father of said boy of the name William Brown, a colourd man, and that the circumstances was well and long known, that the said William Brown col’d man and Tamsey Thomas a white woman did live together, between whom this said boy and a girl were born, and no pretentions ever set up by any persons that they were not free.

Sworn to before Joseph Shane

State of Maryland, Baltimore City

I hereby certify that Joseph Shane, Gentleman, before whom the written affidavit was made and who hath hereto subscribed his name was at the time of so doing one of the Justices of the Peace in and for said City duly commissioned and qualified.

In testimony whereof I have hereto subscribed my name and affixed the seal of Baltimore County Court this 11th day of November in the year 1833.

Thos. Kell, Clk. Of Balt. County Court

I am of opinion that full confidence is due to Kelly in above, deposition is on the other side of this paper. He has confirmed his statement in a conversation with me today. I have no doubt that in Washington Jail is the same person he represents him to be.

N. Brice, C. Judge, B. C. C.

It has been represented to me by his ?unkle that William Thomas alias Wm. Brown is confined as a runaway in the jail of Washington, he is represented as a very bright mulatto and from the representation of Mr. Robert Kelly, a citizen of Baltimore & worthy of credit, I have no doubt that Brown alias Thomas was free born in Anne Arundel County & entitled to his discharge.

N. Brice, Chief Judge B. C. C.
11 Nov. 1833

In obedience the within writ I have the body of the within named William Thomas alias William Brown when and where within commanded together with the cause of his commitment and detention, a copy of which is hereto annexed.

For Henry Ashton, Marshal
James Williams, Jailor

The above named William Thomas being before me by virtue of the above writ, I am satisfied by the deposition of Robert Kelly herewith filed and the two certificates of Judge Brice and the affidavit of Benjamin Lane, also herewith filed, that the prisoner William Thomas is a free man born of a white woman, and is not a runaway servant or slave, and therefore order him to be discharged from his imprisonment, this 13th of Nov. 1833.

Wm. Cranch