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‘A Servant Lad’
Sold at Age 16, William Ralston Runs Away at Age 19

August 3, 1769

The Pennsylvania Gazette


RUN away from the Subscriber, living in Oxford township, Chester county, a servant lad, named William Ralston, about 19 years of age, 5 feet 4 inches high, came from Ireland about 3 years ago, no doubt he will pretend to be a blacksmith, [1] as he has been some time at the trade;

had on, when he went away, a new brown coat, with flat metal buttons, new shoes, new coarse shirt, petticoat trowsers, an old felt hat, a striped silk handkerchief, and a fine shirt, marked on the breasts with S. S. he is very talkative, and will swear and lie. [2]

Whoever takes up said servant, and brings him home, or secures him in any goal so that his master may have him again, shall have the above reward, and reasonable charges, paid by me THOMAS WHITE.


1. As stated by the master posting this advertisement for his human property, a person was not what he had done or aspired to do, but exactly what his aster said he was and nothing else. The frequency of servants hijacked from one life to toil in another by force, being said to “pretend” at their trade, exposes the white slave trade in plantation America as more than economic exploitation, but as a systematic assault un human identity.

2. The astonishing fact about runaways through most of the history of white slavery in plantation America, was that so few of them were willing to lie to protect their interest in freedom once caught and were so habitually honest that a slave who would lie about having run away was an oddity.

Stillbirth of a Nation: Caucasian Slavery in Plantation America: Part One

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