1725 Handwritten petition by Thomas Savage to the Northampton County Court
Original Author: Thomas Savage
Created: February 10, 1725
Medium: Handwritten legal petition

Petition to Remove Jane Webb’s Children

In this document dated February 10, 1725, a white man named Thomas Savage petitions the court of Northampton County to bind two children named Lisha and Abimelich Webb into his service, an act that would overturn a long-standing contract he had made with the children's mother, Jane Webb, a free Black woman. In 1703 Webb married a Black man named Left, who was enslaved by Savage. In an attempt to establish the legality of her marriage, and provide eventual freedom for her husband and children, she agreed to become an indentured servant for Savage for seven years.

By 1725, Webb was the head of her own household, which included her youngest children, Lisha and Abimelech, who, in accordance with the terms of the original agreement, were born free. Nonetheless, Savage petitioned the court to have those two children returned to his household and indentured to him, arguing that since Webb had no visible means to support her children, Lisha and Abimelech might "be induced to take ill courses”; thus, he claimed, he had the "best right to the said children." On March 11, 1725, Webb unsuccessfully sued Savage for failing to fulfill the terms of their contract, and on July 12, 1726, the court ruled in Savage's favor and ordered Lisha and Abimelech Webb to be bound to him. On the following day, Webb was accused of "uttering dangerous words" that might stir up public sentiments. The court ordered that she be stripped to the waist and lashed at a public whipping post outside the courthouse.