In 1834, deputy sheriff Basil Brawner sold William Hyden, who had been jailed as a runaway slave, to one Robert Lipscomb acting as the agent of an unnamed slave trader. When the unnamed trader finally came to town to take a look at Hdyden, he refused to pay. Brawner then asked Colonel James Fewell, a slave trader on his way to Fredericksburg and Richmond, to sell Hyden. Fewell offered Hyden for sale in both locations but to no avail, all interested buyers refusing "to purchase him at any price, on account of his colour all alledging that he was too white." Hyden was returned to Brawner, who later tried to sell him on a court day in Brentsville, but again the several traders present refused "to make any offer for him, alledging that his colour was too light and that he could by reason thereof too easily escape from slavery and pass himself for a free man." As it happened, Hyden did escape, and Brawner now seeks compensation for the "expense that arose from aprehension, confinement, advertising &c." Robert Lipscomb is unable to pay the $452 he bid for Hyden, Brawner argues, and former sheriff Michael Cleary "now stands charged on the books of the Auditor of Public accounts with a large sum of Money which your petitioner will be compelled to pay unless your Honorable body will release him from it, although he has not received nor has he any hope of receiving one cent of the same." Several related documents offer the opinions of individuals who express their conviction that, from what they had learned of Hyden's background and from what they saw and heard of him, he was a native of New York, born of a white woman, and an educated man.
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Repository: Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia