Post by Cheryl Post by Dingbat
Subject: <<Harriet Heming's identity as a fugitive slave was never
discovered in her lifetime>>
I say: In Latin, a fugitive is an escapee but it seems to be that in English,
a fugitive is an escapee who's being chased down. Thomas Jefferson
wasn't treating his children by Sally Heming like slaves and even if
Harriet was a slave, she wasn't being chased down.
Harriet made her way to Philly, and married a white man, passing as
white without anyone getting the wiser in her lifetime. Is it accurate to
call Harriet a fugitive?
I think it would depend on the law in Philadelphia at the time. If it
required the return of slaves living there to their masters, she would
still be a fugitive slave. If it didn't, she would be an ex-slave or a
former slave, since as far as I understand it, she was legally a slave
in her father's home, however well she was treated.
There was a Federal law (*looks it up*), the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.
Since Hemings was born in 1801, she probably was still alive when the
stricter Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed.
However, she didn't escape except technically. Jefferson had his overseer
provide her with a stagecoach ticket and $50 (about $1100 in today's
money if you believe
Post by Cheryl
But it's not entirely clear-cut. Someone from a state where slavery was
legal might well consider an escaped slave to be always a fugitive
slave, even one who had made a new life somewhere that slavery was illegal.
The law said the legal owner in one state had the right to retrieve an escaped
slave from another state.
Incidentally I keep forgetting and being reminded that Sally Hemings,
Jefferson's slave and mistress, was his late wife's half-sister.