Return to Dr. Bronson's St. Augustine
Letter to Treasury about Escaped Slaves
St. Augustine
August 14th, 1843

To the Honorable
John Spencer, Secretary of the Treasury
Washington City

The undersigned the Mayor and Council of St. Augustine beg leave to represent to you that both during
the late Indian War and up to the present moment the Coast of this Territory has been without any
Maritime protection --- being a bare and exposed frontier, on which either smuggling, priracy, or the
abduction of Slaves, may be carried on with impunity and as we have reason to believe, have been
perpetrated both by the Indians and evil disposed white persons in connection with them.

The undersigned are induced to address you on the subject, at this particular time, in consequence of
certain recent occurences, which tend to show not only that the slave property of the Inhabitants of the
Territory is threatened with danger; but also the peaceful relations of the United States with a Power
whose possessions are in our immediate neighborhood, afford her agents and emissaries opportunities of
tampering with our Slaves and abducting them from their owners which, embarked as she is in the cause
of abolition, there can be no doubt of her willingness to avail herself of and as is otherwise shown by the
following facts.

The recent occurences to which we allude are first the absconding some six weeks ago of seven slaves
from Key-West, who seized a Boat in the Harbour and though closely pursued succeeded in making
their escape to the Bahama Islands where they have ever since been sheltered and have no doubt been
made free. Subsequent to this, seven more negroes two of them employed as sailors on board the
Schooner Water M. a vessel in the service of the United States, made their escape in the pilot boat of
the harbour, having first possessed themselves of seven stand of muskets which formed a part of the
armament of the above vessel. There is little doubt they have made as the first party of Fugitives did for
the Bahamas Islands having taken with them a compass and a sufficient quantity of provisions to last
them in a run to that place.

It must be seen that such occurrences, while they tend daily to lesson the security and therefore the value
of a species of property on which the property of the Territory mainly depends there are other
circumstances connected with this last occurrence, which afford good ground for believing that there
exists in some quarter, and probably in the Bahama Islands, a regularly organized system for the
abduction of our Slaves or for aiding and abetting them in escaping from their owners. The
circumstances that lead to this belief are that a few days after the occurence above mentioned a
suspicious sail appeared on the Coast, and continued for several days to lurk on and off the harbour of
this place, so that her movement general attention on being boarded by the Pilots, there was found to
have rather a numerous crew on board, but appeared to be otherwise unusually light, or only in ballast.
The Captain however on being questioned as to his destination stated, that he was in search of a Market
for his Cargo which he represented to be of salt. The balast itself being as he said from Rum Key one of
the Bahama Islands, he nevertheless on being left by the Pilots immediately put about and steered in the
wake of the Walter M. the vessel from which a portion of the Negroes escaped, and which had just
previously left this port for Key-west.

Since the absconding of the Negroes the slave of a Gentleman to whom one of the fugitives belonged,
had stated to his master, that the latter a few nights before he absconded, observed to some of his
comrades, that a British vessel would soon be off the Port, and that there would then be a good
opportunity for those who wished it, to botain their freedom under the circumstance the undersigned
earnestly petititon, that a proper Maritime Force may be stationed on this Coast for its protection and
that at least two rutters be ordered to ply regularly between this harbour and Key West to form a check
on our Slaves along the seaboard and on those whom it is believed keep up a communication with them,
in order to withdraw them from their owners; and who may incite them to still more pernicious acts
against the latter.

We hav ethe honor to be
your obed servants

Abraham Dupont
Mayor of the City of St. Augustine
In witness whereof the Corporation Seal is affixed

P. B. Dumas, Clerk of the Court

Pedro Benet
Manuel Crespo
Eml I. Medicis
Mathew Solana  ---  Alderman