Sterling, Windham County, Connecticut, May 4, 1802. Single leaf of foolscap, 13 x 7.75 inches, 2 pages. Approx. 400 words. Somewhat browned and a little soiled and worn; in very good condition. Item #18985
A document dealing with law, violence, and an African American woman; one suspects at the remove ot two centuries the real possibility of self-defense being turned against a vulnerable domestic. Samuel French takes out a complaint before the Justice of the Peace, “that he your Complainant was in the Peace of God and of the State of Connecticut Do. Sterling in the house of James Dorrance in Do. Sterling on about the 3d day of May about his Law full Business and one Jenney Burlington so called a Black woman and then and there Did an assault make on the Body of your Complainant with force and armes by Pulling him Backward by the hair Down on the floor and then Biting him on his thumbs and fingers and other ways Very much abused him of which wounds and abuses your Complainant Languisheth and is in Great Danger.” French signs the complaint with his mark. the Justice of the Peace Gaston directs the sheriff of Windham or the constables of Sterling “forthwith to arrest the Body of the above Said Jenney Burlington So Called a Black woman and to have her Before Some Proper authority at Some Proper time and Place in order to be Examined touch [touching?] the foregoing Complaint.” The writ is annotated by the constable Peter Burlingame, who executed the writ the same day. (Burlingame notes $1.92 in expenses for executing the writ.) The 1800 census shows a Prim Burlington in Plainfield, Windham County (a few miles down the Plainfield Pike from Sterling) with a total of two “All Other Free Persons” (i.e., neither white nor Native American) in her household; a poorly machine-read census entry for Lemuel Dorrance, Esq. of Sterling in the 1800 census (the name is transcribed as Dowanie but upon human examination is revealed to be Dorrance) suggests the Dorrance family in Sterling may also have owned a slave as well as having Burlington as a domestic.