Missouri State Archives
Before Dred Scott:
Freedom Suits in Antebellum Missouri
Ralph v. Coleman Duncan (1833)
Petition for Freedom
To the Honorable William C Carr, Judge of the Circuit Court for the Third Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri
– The Petition of Ralph a man of colour Represents that he is justly entitled to his freedom but that he is held in slavery now in St. Louis in said Circuit by James Duncan & Coleman Duncan. your petitioner further says that he has resided in the State of Illinois & the Territory of Michigan for between two & three years last past where he was taken by James Duncan & where he has labored for him at his request & with the full knowledge & consent of said Coleman. Your petitioner says that he sued James Duncan in the state of Illinois for his freedom that said James went into court where your petitioner had sued for his freedom & represents that your petitioner belonged to Coleman Duncan whereupon said suit was dismissed & before your petitioner could sue said Coleman for his freedom and serve process upon him said Coleman had escaped or concealed himself so that process could not be served upon him & in the mean time said James Duncan kidnapped your petitioner and brought him to St. Louis. Your petitioner further says that he believes it is the intention of said James & Coleman to take your petitioner to some place where the fact of his freedom is unknown & sell him for a slave. Your petitioner prays that he may be permitted to sue as a poor person to establish his freedom that counsel may be assigned to him & that such order may be made and such process issued in his behalf as his personal safety requires & the law will warrant.
Gustavus A Bird states on oath that he believes the facts stated in the above petition are substantially true—G.A. Bird—Sworn to before me this 26 May 1830—Will C. Carr.--