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Benjamin Thaw (director) 1810

Tailor and Righteous Man

Benjamin Thaw was a tailor who worked with famous cabinet maker Daniel Trotter and is also mentioned in the story of the trial of a watchmaker who aided an escaped slave. The shopkeeper allowed the slave into his store and locked the door behind him, allowing the slave safe passage out the backdoor saving him from the pursuing mob and granting him his freedom. Afterward, the slave owner tried holding the shopkeeper responsible and the trial went on for several weeks. After a time the jury was weakening its resolve and was leaning toward the side of the slave owner to wrap up the long trial when Benjamin Thaw declared he would rather have his Christmas dinner in the jury room than vote in favor of the slave owner. The trial eventually went in favor of the watchmaker.

Direct Quote: “About the year 1826, a Marylander, by the name of Solomon Low, arrested a fugitive slave in Philadelphia, and took him to the office of an alderman to obtain the necessary authority for carrying him back into bondage.. Having run some distance, and being nearly out of breath, he darted into the shop of a watch-maker, named Samuel Mason, who immediately closed and fastened his door, so that the crowd could not follow him. The fugitive passed out of the back door, and was never afterward recaptured... The disappointed master brought an action against Samuel Mason for rescuing his slave.. Judge Washington summed up the evidence very clearly to the jury, who after retiring for deliberation a considerable time, returned into court, declaring that they could not agree upon a verdict, and probably never should agree. They were ordered out again, and kept together till the court adjourned, when they were dismissed. At the succeeding term, the case was tried again, with renewed energy and zeal. But the jury, after being kept together for ten days, was discharged without being able to agree upon a verdict. Some, who were originally in favor of the defendant, became weary of their long confinement, and consented to go over to the slaveholder’s side; but one of them, named Benjamin Thaw, declared that he would eat his Christmas dinner in the jury-room, before he would consent to such a flagrant act of injustice. His patience held out till the court adjourned. Consequently a third trial became necessary; and the third jury brought in a verdict in favor of the watchmaker.” - L. Maria Child, Isaac T. Hopper: A True Life (1853)

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