General Washington Johnston
General Washington Johnston, the first to enter land at Mt. Pleasant, was postmaster at Vincennes. He was commissioned to organize Dubois county, February, 1818. He was born in Virginia, in 1783, and was the first member of the Knox county bar. He was the father of Masonry in Indiana, being the prime mover in establishing Vincennes Lodge No. 1, F. & A. M., March, 1809. Johnson was a hero of Tippecanoe, and was promoted quartermaster from the ranks, October 30, 1811. He was auditor of public accounts, adjutant general, treasurer of Indiana territory, etc. He served as state representative during the sixth, eleventh, thirteenth and fourteenth sessions of the General Assembly. Part of the time he was speaker of the house. In all he was a very active pioneer official and citizen. He died October 26, 1833.
General Johnston never forgot his dignity and aristocratic training. In his early days he always appended the word gentleman after signing his name. He had a colored slave named Mary Clark, who had bound herself to Johnson by an indenture dated October 24, 1816, to serve him for twenty years. After one of the hardest fought legal battles of pioneer days, she was discharged from her servitude. This was the death of slavery in Indiana, five years after the Constitution of 1816. Slaves were considered convenient, and for that reason they were called voluntary servants by an agreement with them in writing, in which they worked out their freedom. Their introduction was permitted by the territorial legislature previous to 1816. The Corydon constitution prohibited slavery forever in Indiana. Many well-to-do citizens about Vincennes had voluntary servants. That was the slave section of Indiana; the Charlestown and Corydon sections opposed slavery.
General Johnson was a noted orator and lawyer of his day and generation. He could melt a jury into tears or bring it up to a state of frenzy. Perhaps the first effort to issue a law book of any kind in Indiana, at private expense, was made by General Johnson, in 1817. He called his work a Compound of Acts, 1807-1814. This volume is very rare now. One book would bring more today than Johnson received for his entire edition in 1817.
Opposition against slavery began to organize in Indiana around 1805, and in 1809 abolitionists took control of the territorial legislature and overturned many of the pro-slavery laws. By the time Indiana was granted statehood in 1816, the abolitionists were in firm control and slavery was banned in the constitution.
It would seem that the Ordinance of 1787 and the Constitution of 1816 were each specific and absolute on the subject of slavery in Indiana, but such was not the case. It was claimed that the Ordinance merely prohibited bringing more slaves into the territory and could not have the ex post facto power to liberate slaves already in the territory. Both the Ordinance and the Constitution were sought to be avoided by indenture laws. It is not proper here to enumerate the many attempts made both through Congress and the state Legislature to allow slaves to be held in the state. The first case in which the subject came for a ruling before the Supreme court was the State v. Lasselle (1 Blackford 60) and was decided at the July term, 1820. In this case Laselle had purchased Polly, a slave, from the Indians before the treaty of Greenville and, so it was argued, before the United States had any jurisdiction over it. In the trial before the Knox county Circuit court the slave had been awarded to Lasselle. Amory Kinney, Moses Tabbs and George McDonald appeared before the Supreme court for the state and Jacob Call represented Lasselle. The opinion was by Justice Scott. The concluding lines of his decision, in answer to the claim that all previous rights of the settlers of Vincennes were still enjoyed by them, will show the ground of the reversal: We are told that the constitution recognizes pre-existing rights which are to continue as if no change has taken place in the government. But it must be recollected that a special reservation cannot be so enlarged by construction as to defeat a general provision. If this reservation were allowed to apply in this case it would contradict and totally destroy the design and effect of this part of the Constitution. And it cannot be presumed that the Constitution, which is the collected voice of the citizens of Indiana, declaring their united will, would guarantee to one part of the community such privileges as would totally defeat and destroy privileges and rights guaranteed to another. From these premises it follows, as an irresistible conclusion, that, under our present form of government, slavery can have no existence in the state of Indiana.
Such language, it seems, would leave little hope for slavery ever to get a foothold in the state, but it was only a short time before the Supreme court was again called upon to rule on this question. In November term, 1821, the case of Mary Clark came up on appeal from Knox (1 Blackford 122). Mary Clark, a colored woman, had bound herself under an indenture dated October 24,1816, to serve General W. Johnston, a lawyer of Vincennes, for twenty years. The demand of the owner here was for specific performance implying personal service. Jacob Call again appeared for the defense and Charles Dewey for the appellant, Mary Clark. This was one of the hardest fought legal battles in the early history of our state. After a long discussion of the case, Judge Holman, who delivered the opinion, concluded: The fact then is, that the appellant is in a state of involuntary servitude; and we are bound by the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, to discharge her there from. Such was the death of slavery in Indiana, thirty-four years after the Ordinance of 1787 and five years after the Constitution of 1816.
In 1820, an Indiana Supreme Court ruling in Polly v. Lasselle freed all the remaining slaves in the state. An additional Supreme Court ruling in 1821 freed indentured servant Mary Bateman Clark, helping to bring an end to indentured servitude. With the end of slavery in the state, Indiana became a border state with the southern slave states. Hoosiers like Levi Coffin came to play an important role in the Underground Railroad that helped many slaves escape from the south. Indiana remained anti-slavery and in the American Civil War remained with the Union and contributed men to the war that would result in an end to slavery in the United States.
The Case of Mary Clark
Mary Clark a woman of Colour (complainant) Vs. GW Johnston Filed May 7 th 1821 H.P. Coburn Decided Nov 6 th 1821
Appeal Copy record Page 2
Pleas at Vincennes in the County of Knox & State of Indiana for the April Term in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty one. Before the Honorable Jonathan Doty Presiding Judge. Henry Ruble & Mark Barnett Associate Judges in and for said County of Knox. Mary a woman of Colour called Mary Clark Against General W. Johnston Be it Remembered that on this thirteenth day of April in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight Hundred & twenty one, the said Mary Clark filed her petition by Amory Kinney her Attorney which said petition is in the following words and figures to wit: “State of Indiana Circuit Court April Term “Knox County 1 st AD 1821 To the Honorable Judges of said Court “the petition of Mary a woman of colour commonly “called Mary Clark humbly sheweth [sic] that Your petitioner “is holden [sic] as a slave in said County by General “W. Johnston without any just or Legal claim contrary “to Law and to the manifest wrong and injury of Petition
“Your petitioner who therefore prays that a writ of “Habeas corpus may be directed to the G.W. Johnston “requiring him to bring Your petitioner forth with before “Your Honour in said Court to shew [sic] cause why “he thus detains her & your petitioner as is duly bound “Will ever pray Mary Clark by A. Kinney her Attorney April 13 th 1821 Whereupon the Court issued their Writ of Habeus Corpus in there words to wit: “State of Indiana Knox County 1 st Cir: Co: April Term 1821 The Judges of said Court now in Session to “General W. Johnston of said County. Greeting: “You are hereby required forth with to bring “before us at the Court House in said county “at 10 o'clock A.M. on the fourteenth Instant “Mary a woman of colour commonly called “Mary Clark said to be illegally held in your “custody together with the day and cause of her “caption and detention to do, submit to and receive “whatsoever the said court shall award and determine “in the premises concerning her, given under our “hands and seals at the court house in said “county this 13 the day of April in the year of our “Lord, Eighteen Hundred and twenty one. J. Doty Pres 1 st Ind. Cir. H. Ruble & Mark Barnett Habeas Corpus Associates seal
And on the said return of the aforesaid writ Here Came the said General W. Johnson and says “In Obedience to the above command I do hereby certify “and return to the Honorable the Circuit Court “of Knox County, that I have in my custody the “body of the above named Mary a woman of colour “called Mary Clark, and that I do detain her “in consequence of a purchase made by me from “Benjamin I. Harrison (for the sum of three hundred and “fifty dollars secured to him by my notes of hand) “and the annexed emancipation executed by said “Harrison to the said Mary & Her Indentures “(Hereto also annexed) to my self for the term of “Twenty years from the time of their execution, to wit [sic], the “24 the October A.D. 1816. The time when the said purchase, “Emancipation & Indentures were made & executed. “Which is the cause of the said Mary’s caption & detention; “and which I humbly conceive are sufficient in law “to entitle me to her services until the expiration of her “said Indentures: Wherefore ___ Gen. W. Johnston…. “Vincennes “April 14 the 1821
The following a copy of the Emancipation which is attached to the foregoing return to wit [sic]: “Whereas I Benjamin I. Harrison in the Year one “thousand eight hundred and fourteen, purchased “a Negro woman called and named Mary, in “the State of Kentucky as a slave – And in the “month of January A.D. One thousand eight hundred Fifteen brought her to the Indiana Territory and “took upon and from her an Indenture of servitude “for thirty years; Which Indenture by consent of the “said Mary, I have now destroyed and effectually “cancelled. And do hereby manumit, liberate & let “free, and by presents have manumitted, “liberated & set free from any and all claim or claims “of slavery and servitude of any kind, the said “Mary not only now but forever hereafter. In Witness “whereof, I have hereunto set my hand & seal at Vincennes “this 24 th of October A.D. 1816 B.I HARRISON “Signed sealed and “Delivered in presence of E. Stout her “Francoise Theriacque mark Also is announced to said return the Following Indenture towit: “This Indenture Witnesseth, That Whereas “Benjamin I. Harrison purchased me Mary (a “woman of colour) in the state of Kentucky in the Year “1814. As a slave for life; and in the month “of January 1815, brought me to Vincennes in the “Indiana Territory – Where I executed to him “an Indenture of Servitude upon myself for the “Term of Thirty years. And Whereas the said “Ben. I. Harrison by my request has this day, “the date of those present, cancelled, annulled seal Indent. a & destroyed the said Indentures; and has further, “by his Act, duly executed & acknowledged and “delivered to me in presence of the witnesses hereto, “manumitted and set me free from Slavery and “servitude. Now be it known unto all who “may see these presents, that I the said Mary “a free woman of colour, of my own free will “& accord, and for a valuable consideration and “for and in consideration of the stipulations & agreements herein after mentioned on the part of “General W. Johnston of Vincennes in Indiana, have “put, placed and bound myself, and by these “presents Do put, place & bind myself as and in “quality of an Indented Servant and House maid “to the said General W. Johnston his heirs, Exec “Admin: and assigns for and during the term and “time of Twenty Years next ensuing from the day “of the date hereof, to be fully complete and ended. “During all which term of time she the said Mary “her said Master, his heirs, Executors & Administrators: & “Assigns shall and will well and faithfully “serve in all things appertaining to the duty “of a good, sober, virtuous and industrious servant “and House maid. And the said General “W. Johnston for himself his heirs, Exec: Administrators: “and assigns doth hereby covenant grant and “agreed to & with the said Mary that He shall and will find, provide and allow unto her, during “all her aforesaid term of servitude, good and wholesome “meat, drink, lodging, washing and apparel both “linen & woolen, fit and convenient for such “a servant; And upon the expiration of her Term “of servitude, she serving out her present Indentures “faithfully, give unto her one suit of new “clothes (not to exceed however in value Twenty “Dollars) and also one flax wheel. In Witness; Whereof the said Servant “& the said Master have hereto set their hands “and affixed their seals at Vincennes This 24 the “day of October Ano Domini One Thousand “eight hundred & sixteen. The mark of “Sealed & ack- Mary X a free woman of colour. “aknowledged In Gen. W. Johnston “presence of E. Stout her “Francoise Theriacque mark “Indiana “Knox County Be it remembered that on “this day, the Twenty fourth day of October “in the Year of Our Lord, One thousand seal seal 1st eight Hundred and Sixteen,
Before me the “subscriber a Justice of he Peace in and “for said County, personally cause the within “Named woman of colour, named Mary, “And acknowledged (upon having the full “of the within and foregoing Indenture made “known to her) That she did freely sign & “seal and as her voluntary act & deed Deliver the same. And the said General “W. Johnston also acknowledged the same. “And they both desired, if necessary, that “the same might be recorded as such. “In Testimony whereof; I have hereunto “set my hand & seal, the date above. E.Stout J.P.K.C. [Justice Peace Knox County] And after Argument of council and the Court having Examined the return of Gen. W. Johnston and papers Thereto annexed are of Opinion that the said Mary Clark a woman of colour be remanded Back to the said Genl. W. Johnston her master And that she serve out the time mentioned In the Indenture which the Defendant holds On her and on motion ordered that the Said G.W. Johnston do recover of of [sic] the present Applicant Mary Clark his costs and charges By him about his defense in this behalf seal Expended, & the said Applicant in mercy & From which opinion & Decision of the Court the Applicant by Amory Kinney her Attorney prayed an appeal to the supreme Court of this state and by consent of the Defendant he wishing to have a final decision security is Dispenced [sic] with and an appeal granted. State of Indiana Knox County I, John D. Early deputy Clerk of of the Knox Circuit Court for Robert Buntin Clerk of said Court in and for said County of Knox Do certify that the foregoing is a true transcript of the record papers filed in the foregoing cause In Testimony, Whereof I have Hereunto set my hand and affixed the Seal of said Court at Vincennes the Twenty First day of April in the Year of our Lord, one thousand eight Hundred And twenty one John D. Early
Adjustment of Errors The appellant says there is manifest error in this to wit That the Court below erred in giving judgment for this appellee When it should have been for the appellant. C. Dewey for appellant The appellee says that is the record affords in nollo est erratum [no error was committed] Call for appellee [End Document] Page 11
A native of Bethel, Washington County, Vermont, Amory was born April 13, 1791, the son of a Congregational minister, Rev. Jonathan Kinney. His parents, Jonathan and Rebecca had several children. Wealty, David, Jonathan, Justus, Lucy, George, Adau, Abigail, and Amory. The Rev. Jonathan Kinne was born on January 18, 1762 in Preston, New London County, Connecticut. He was Captain of Militia in the military. As first minister of the congregational church in Plainfield Washington Count, Vermont, he is also credited with building the first frame home there. He died on May 7, 1838 in Berlin, Rensselaer County, New York.
In 1814 Amory Kinney had read law at Cortlandville, in the office of Samuel Nelson, later a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He met and married Hannah Bishop In 1819 Kenney joined his brother in law John W Osborn in Vincennes. Osborn and Kinney were satisfied that the slavery existing in Indiana was illegal, and they united to make a test case with two lawyers, Col. George McDonald, of New Jersey, the preceptor and father-in-law of Judge Isaac Blackford, who entered the practice at Vincennes in 1819; and Moses Tabbs, a son-in-law of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, who was admitted to the bar at Vincennes in 1818. The test was made by an action of habeas corpus on behalf of a mulatto woman named Polly, held as a slave by Col. Hyacinthe Lasselle, the principal tavern keeper of Vincennes. Lasselle was one of the old families of the French in Indiana. His father, James Lasselle, was an Indian trader at Ki-ki-on-ga (the Indian village at the site of Port-Wayne) until the attack on that place by LaBalme; and Hyacinthe was born there in 1777. He entered the fur trade at the age of sixteen, at Detroit, removing to Fort Wayne after Wayne's victory, and then to the Wabash, where he traded until 1804. In that year he located at Vincennes, and the next year married Julie Frances Busseron, daughter of Major Francis Busseron, who gave notable aid to Gen. George Rogers Clark. The suit was of a friendly character, the defense being conducted by Judge Jacob Call, later a representative in Congress. The case presented the question of the old French slavery, Polly being the daughter of a negro woman who had been captured by the Indians in the Revolutionary period. The Circuit Court held her to, be a slave, but the Supreme Court held that the people of Indiana had the power to abolish slavery, without regard to the Virginia Deed of Cession, and that the framers of our constitution intended a total and entire prohibition of slavery in this state. Polly was freed and as a result Kinney was assaulted by a mob and severely injured.
Amory Kinney married Hannah Bishop on January 6, 1821. The Kinney's remained in Vincennes until 1823, then moved to Washington in Daviess County, In 1826 he moved to Terre Haute where his brother in law, Osborn had relocated. He took over the newspaper started by Osborn, in April of 1828, and renamed it the Western Register. He was elected to the Indiana House and returned the paper to Osborn. After the death of his first wife, Hannah Bishop Kinney on Sept. 2, 1831, Amory married her sister Lucy on November 28, 1833. In 1835, similar to his father, he was one of the founding members of the Congretional Church of Terre Haute, a member of the town council in 1838 and helped draft the ordinances of the town. He served another term in the house in 1846, where he favored free schools. He was elected the first judge of the Vigo County Court of Common Pleas in 1852 and continued to support and advocate for the schools. He had become so zealous a worker in the cause that it was thought his labors could not be dispensed with, and he was induced again to enter the legislature, where, in 1847, the common school system was revised, in the doing of which his services were invaluable. The radical idea with him was that every boy and girl in the state should have the opportunity of acquiring a good practical education, with a graded system to aid in intellectual development, so that if any one failed to reach the highest grade of intellectual culture it should be his own fault and not that of the state. Judge Kinney married according to records a third time in 1852 to Mary Hobart, daughter of Rev James Hobart of Worchester. While on vacation to Vermont he suffered a heart attack and died on November 20, 1859 at the age of 68.
Courts and lawyers of Indiana By Leander John Monks, Logan Esarey, Ernest Vivian Shockley Published by Federal Pub. Co., 1916, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Judicature of the State of Indiana By Indiana. Supreme Court, 1889], Indiana and Indiana:
Indiana magazine of history , Volume 16 By Indiana University. Dept. of History, Indiana University, Bloomington. Dept. of History, Indiana State Library, Indiana Historical Society, 1920]
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