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‘Until Reduced by Sickness’
Pursuit of an Ailing Convict Slave

Virginia Gazette

(Purdie & Dixon), Williamsburg,

June 1, 1769.

THREE POUNDS REWARD WILL be given to any person who will apprehend and have conveyed home to the subscriber, living near Fredericksburg, a runaway convict servant named James Lee, of about 35 years of age, born near Manchester in Lancashire, the dialect of which county he speaks to great perfection.

There is good reason to believe that he got on board a small eastern shore vessel that left Fredericksburg about the 22d of April, commanded by one Sterling, from Prince's creek, in Pocomoke. Any Gentleman who may happen to live in this man's neighborhood are requested to make inquiry of him.

Lee is a tall stout fellow, and, until reduced by sickness, remarkabley strong and brawney; but, having been long afflicted with a cachexical complaint, [1] he still has a dropsical appearance, [2] his belly and legs being swollen, and his face sallow and bloated. He is very much pitted with smallpox, round shouldered, and has lost the first joint of the thumb of his right hand.

He had on a blue short coat, or jacket, like a seaman's, but also took with him a drab coat, which he will probably put on, as making a better appearance, a double breasted swanskin waistcoat, blue breeches, and mottled yarn hose, though he had several other pair, both thread and worsted, sand shoes with uncommon thick soles.

He is a very tolerable practical farmer, and in particular an excellent ploughman. Being a very clownish ignorant fellow, and neither able to read nor write, I can hardly suppose him to frame a very plausible account of himself, and that therefore any person who happens to question him must easily discover him to be a runaway.

The above reward shall be faithfully paid to any person who will deliver him to Mr. Charles Yates, in Fredericksburg, or to JONATHAN BOUCHER. [3]


1. “A condition in which the body is evidently depraved. A bad habit of body, chiefly the result of scorbutic, cancerous, or venereal diseases when in their last stage.” Dunglison, Medical Lexicon, 154.

2. Dropsy is a condition wherein a person’s body or body part has swelling or excessive accumulation of fluid. In medical terms, it is called “edema”. Dropsy isn’t a disease in itself but may be a symptom of various illnesses or diseases.

3. A good example of a well-to-do master seeking a servant, whose running away besmirches his honor and standing.

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

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