Part 1 of 2
1786, July 28 [Friday] — WAS informed by John Stewart,* and Green, that Harry was trepanned* by his master, and carried away and sent on shipboard. Went to the Lord Mayor, and to several Aldermen at Guildhall, also to Bow Street, and Litchfield Street, and could not get a warrant;* and, no Judge being in town, I was disappointed of a writ of Habeas Corpus.*
29. — Sent Mr Irwin to call at Mr Mearn’s, surgeon and apothecary in Bedford Street, where Mr Jeffries lodged. Mr Irwin took Mr Fraser with him. They saw Mr J., who was much frightened, and acknowledged the fact, and the name of the ship and the master.* — Sent Mr Irwin to Messrs. Douce and Bridgman, attorneys, who sent one clerk (Savage) with Irwin, Green, and Stewart, to Litchfield Street, to obtain a warrant; but were again refused, notwithstanding the additional evidence. The other clerk, Mr Day, was sent to procure a Habeas Corpus, which he obtained of the Prothonotary’s clerk, signed by the Court, and having the office seals affixed; and he brought it to me about nine o’clock.
* John Stewart or Stuart was the name later adopted by Ottobah Cugoano (?1757-?), an African from near Ajumako in what is now Ghana. Though well-connected among his own people, he was sold into slavery at the age of thirteen, and trafficked to Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. In 1772, he was bought by an English merchant, and taken from his plantation to London where his new master taught him to read and write. Ottobah also chose to be baptised, taking the Christian name John and the surname Stuart; he remained a devout Christian all his life and founded his campaign against slavery on Christian principles. His master subsequently dropped all claim on him in the light of the Somersett Case. In 1784, John entered ordinary domestic service with artists Richard Cosway and his wife Maria, and continued to write and publish anti-slavery tracts.
* ‘Trepanning’ is most commonly a term for drilling, coring or boring, a word taken from Greek; but another meaning of ‘trepan (or trapan)’ is ‘trick, lure into a trap’, from Old English ‘treppan’, which is the meaning here. Harry was a servant working for Mr Jeffries in Bedford Street; Jeffries somehow duped Harry into going on board a slaver’s ship, where he was held against his will.
* From what Sharp says a little later on in this extract, his request for a warrant was denied initially because he could not give the name of the ship where he believed Harry was being held, nor the name of the slave-ship’s captain; he duly gathered this information, but his second application was denied too.
* A writ of habeas corpus is a demand to produce a named person at a court hearing. Sharp wanted to compel Jeffries or the captain of the slave-ship to bring Harry Demane before a judge. July 28th, 1786, was a Friday, which helps to explain why Sharp could not find a judge anywhere in central London.
* By this time, Sharp’s name was well known as an anti-slavery campaigner of the most dogged kind, and Jeffries could foresee a long, expensive and embarrassing legal battle ahead if he put up any kind of resistance. See The Shadow of a Name.
* The chief clerk of the Court of King’s Bench and in the Court of Common Pleas was known as the Prothonotary. By Sharp’s time, the post of Prothonotary was becoming a sinecure, and the work of issuing writs was done by his clerks.
In 1786, former slave John Stewart warned Granville Sharp that an African servant, Henry Demane, had been duped by his master and was being held on a slave-ship bound for the colonies. Sharp at once mobilised Stewart and other friends, and even though it was the weekend managed at last to obtain a writ forcing the ship’s captain into court. (59 / 60 words)
WE then agreed that Mr Savage should go to serve the writ, and should take with him Stewart, or Mr Green, whichever was most readily found; and Mr Irwin informed me by letter, on Sunday morning, 30th July, that he saw Savage and Green set off last night.
Monday noon, July 31. — Mr Savage and Green arrived in town, bringing with them Henry Demane. They informed me, that when they reached the ship, the anchor was getting up, the sails set, and the captain himself at the helm; so that a single minute more of delay would have lost the opportunity of recovery. Henry confessed that he had intended to have jumped into the sea as soon as it was dark —, choosing rather to die than to be carried into slavery. I sent him with proper officers to find out his master.
On Sunday morning, Sharp learnt that his friends had gone to serve the Writ on the slave-ship’s captain the previous night. At noon on Monday, Sharp was relieved to see them return together with Henry, whom they had rescued with barely a minute to spare before the ship set sail for the colonies. (53 / 60 words)