- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - A descendant of a Delaware man credited with helping more than 2,700 slaves reach freedom is asking Gov. Jack Markell to pardon his ancestor and two others.

Robert Seeley, 64, of Havertown, Pennsylvania, said he got the idea after outgoing Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn granted clemency on New Year’s Eve to three abolitionists convicted for hiding and helping escaped slaves.

Seeley said he sent Markell his request on Facebook on New Year’s Day, and then again in an email Monday.

“These are heroes,” Seeley said Monday. “At that time, they broke the law of the land, but not God’s law.”

Seeley is a descendant of Pennsylvania-born Thomas Garrett, who moved to Wilmington, Delaware at age 33 in 1822 and is credited with helping more than 2,700 slaves, according to The News Journal, (https://delonline.us/1AoxREg ).

Garrett, a prominent Quaker, owned a successful store and worked closely with Harriet Tubman - as memorialized by a Wilmington park that bears both their names and has a statue depicting and honoring them.

Garrett also provided funds for land to build the Mother African Union Church at what is now Wilmington’s Peter Spencer Plaza, long recognized as the nation’s first fully independent black church without white supervision, required by law at the time. Garrett also taught black city residents to read, write and teach others those skills.

In addition to his own ancestor, Seeley is asking for pardons for John Hunn and Samuel Burris.

Hunn was an Odessa-area farmer and abolitionist convicted with Garrett in 1848 for aiding the Hawkins family, whose trail to freedom is documented at the New Castle Court House Museum - now part of Delaware’s National Historical Park.

Historians say that Burris, a free black man, was Hunn’s partner. Burris was jailed in 1847 and later convicted with the automatic sentence of being sold for slavery. But a supporter bid the most to buy Burris, then freed him.

It wasn’t immediately clear Monday whether Markell was considering Seeley’s request.

When Illinois’ governor granted clemency to the three abolitionists in his state, he said: “These early warriors for freedom put everything on the line to help their fellow man, and their civil disobedience paved the way for civil rights.”

“Clearing their criminal records 171 years later shows how far we have come, but reminds us all that we should fight injustice wherever we find it,” Quinn said in a statement.


Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., https://www.delawareonline.com



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