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‘Apt to Play at Cards’
Born in Ireland and on the Run in America

There is no telling why James was being held on bail. It is, however, or note, that by 1770, many more fugitives from jail and service are described as having been “born in Ireland” rather than having just come over, indicating that by this point in history there were large numbers of adult Irishmen who had completed one or more term of service and were now either in jail for a crime or on the run from a second, third or fourth owner.

April 12, 1770

The Pennsylvania Gazette


ABSCONDED from his bail, about the middle of last February, one James Pursel, born in Ireland, but it is supposed he has changed his name to James Cumins,

full red face, a thick well set fellow, about 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, and had two suits of apparel along with him, one a snuff colour, and the other a brownish colour, bound with tape, has black hair, and he is a lover of strong liquor, and apt to play at cards, and fight when drunk;

he has a pass wit him from the Mayor. [1]

Whoever takes up said James Pursel, and secures him in any goal, so as he may be had again, shall have the above reward, and reasonable charges, paid by us, HUGH STEWARD, RICHARD FAWKES, living in Newtown township, Chester county.


1. The fact that James has a pass means that he had most likely recently finished a term or servitude and was free at whatever time he committed the offense that required bail put up for him to remain at large. As private individuals put up bail, someone in Newtown Township trusted him to be able to earn enough money in his trade to payoff the bail and to do so in good faith.

A Bright Shining Lie at Dusk

A Partial Exhumation of the American Dream

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