At the August 21, 1789 meeting of the Providence Abolition Society, the Society's standing committee reported that there had been many cases in which white men attempted to wrongfully sell blacks as slaves. While in many such cases the threat of prosecution was enough to prevent such plans from being carried out, the standing committee needed to more actively intervene in Robert's case in order to prevent him from being held indefinitely without trial. After a series of requests for bail, the standing committee applied for a writ of habeas corpus on Robert's behalf. Following a hearing, Robert was released on bail.
August 21, 1789
The Standing Committee made Report which is accepted as follows.
We the standing committee appointed to act in the recess of the society ask leave to report that we have paid attention to our appointment as occasions have presented, which have generally arisen from the cases of individuals claimed by Sundry Persons as slaves, several of whom upon careful examination and inspection have been able to produce no legal title or clame to the black people domiciled or to their services but have attempted to carry them out of this state upon validity of their word only that they were slaves but in some instances have had to resort to the still more dishonorable method of charging such black people with theft under oath before some magistrate and thereby have obtained a warrant to apprehend them as criminals and to deliver them without the state in order to be carried off for a pretended trial in the place of the pretended theft. When this has evidently appeared to be the case, we have esteemed it within the intention of the society to afford relief; and although in this effect has obstructed in the course of legal process, yet it has hitherto been done by the influence the apprehension of a prosecution in behalf of the black has had upon the claimant – except in the case of Robert a black man claimed by Godfrey Wainwood of Newport and mentioned in our last report. His case has been singular and required some Attention and Expense. After he had been bailed on the charge of theft, he was again committed to Gaol by a Justice of the Peace in the town of Newport as Wainwood’s slave without tryal and without hearing. And upon application of the said justice to bail him again until a lawful tryal could be had in the premises, he refused granting it; wherefore application was made to the chief justice of the Supreme Court and a writ of Habeas Corpus obtained by virtue whereof he was had before the said judge and upon investigation of the cause of his commitment, and on full argument by Councill admitted to bail by the general satisfaction of the friends of humanity; he is now following his usual occupation but under bonds to appear before the next Superior Court for the County of Providence.
Godfrey Wainwood's attorneys requested that the case be heard in Newport rather than in Providence, but this request was denied. Godfrey Wainwood's attorneys then requested that the trial be postponed, and Robert's attorneys did not oppose this request. The standing committee of the Providence Abolition Society reported on these events at their November 17, 1789 meeting.
We your standing committee ask leave to make the following report. We have attended to the case of Robert who was bailed by a Judge of the Superior Court. The return of the Habeas Corpus Corpus was called at the late Superior Court in the town, when the Councill of the other party moved for him to be remanded to the county of Newport for tryal and enforced this motion with great Earnestness... but upon full argument the court determined that this was the proper county for the decision. When upon he said he was unprepared for trial and & desired time until the next term to plead – Which was thot best not to be opposed.
At the November 18, 1791 meeting of the Providence Abolition Society, the standing committee reported Godfrey Wainwood had given up his claims to ownership of Robert and that Robert was now free.
The standing committee made report which is as follows –
Your standing committee have the satisfaction to report that through the continued attention of the society to the human’s objects of this institution two important cases, which for some time past have claimed their attention since last meeting have been happily issued. Viz the case of the unfortunate black man named Robert whose services as a servant or slave claimed and contended for by Godfrey Wainwood has terminated in the said Wainwood renouncing all claim to him as such, in consequence whereof the man now enjoys his liberty as a freeman; the several actions on the subject have been by mutual consent withdrawn, that although the society have not been always useful in their laudable undertaking Endeavors to assert like emancipation or to prevent others from being reduced to a state of Thralldom they may console themselves in being the happy instruments of wresting one Fellow Creation from the iron grasps of despotism, and restoring him to the capacity of enjoying himself as a Man.