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Seems to us. This nation is young yet. America and time and space. The University of North Carolina presents American Adventure. A study of man in the New World. His values and his characteristics is what he believes what he lives by. American Adventure is produced on a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the educational television and radio center. Written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton.
Today's program presents John bonnets as well humans and run away justice. It's raining harder part of them this afternoon as if God were displeased with us. I'd close the window if I were you there. There's a room do you know. No dare call your boy Matthew. He's right in here. No man here dares. 1769 good going during the time the sheriff and Mr. Blake. Of course I wish they would go. Well I don't know. Having out there on the right you know two poor devils huddling under a tree all the sadness shared and then here warm and dry by the sheriff and your friend.
I've known Blake for twenty years. A fine person a kid into slaves run away from their masters escaped jail. Of course they must be hunted out and if they're here on my island. I want to move from Oh wait oh there you are. What are you doing to get your getting room cover band break here. Hold this current Yes indeed Mr. Blake. What will be done with the runaway slaves once they're caught. Oh I suppose the sheriff will lock them up again and punish them. They've committed a rather serious offense. Yeah striking out of both jail. You sound critical. I've heard of both in jail. Are you coming to bed shortly. Be as quick as you can. All this frightens me. Good night good night Mrs. Williams. Here is your drink Blake. Yes thank you. Do your house. And the success of the sheriff's mission. Good brandy. What was it sounded like someone at the kitchen
door. Yes did. But who at this time of night. Excuse me. Yes. I say that what is it but yes it was nothing nothing. I heard the knocks showed it I know but when I open the door nothing nobody there at all. Nobody. Let me take a look. Hello there. Yes hello So is there for you to see anyone build one and all. Now isn't that unusual. I heard the knocks clear enough. And you spoke to someone who did. Yes. Well no matter. Sure there's no danger. Shall we go ask the sheriff about it if you wish. He'll tell us about ghosts on the sounds yours no doubt. You go on ahead for I'll pour him a drink and bring you another. Pour me a tall one Williams. I may need courage
before morning with Ghost knocking at the doors. Matthew Matthews Mr. Williams get out of bed and come into the kitchen. Yes yes. Yes. You heard no sir. I heard nothing. I just opened the kitchen door to find two runaway slaves here. Yes. Well why why did they come to the kitchen door. Why not to the slave quarters if they wanted help. Is it because you've made your room a haven for them. No indeed. At any rate I think I've suspected that but let's say no more about it please. Did you recognize the two runaways or they're probably the ones that escaped this afternoon from Beaufort jail. I did not know of that. And in my house tonight two men the sheriff and Mr. Blake who have come from Beaufort to look for them. And
I am implicated should have reported them on the spot but I and I let them run away then lied to Blake said. Said no one was there. Why do I do things like that. And I said I don't know. My wife said she hoped they'd get away and I I just. Just let them go. Mr. WILLIAMS. Yes man is fed very little. So I've heard so much the better reason to avoid breaking laws Mr. WILLIAMS. It is cold tonight and they are tired and wet from crossing this are you suggesting Matthew that I don't you know the penalty for aiding runaways. Yes right. So easy enough for you to talk but if you were in my place Matthew you would speak differently. Yes or no. I would not take part in this. I only thought sir that you would not want to let them die. If there is any danger of that. And I told the sheriff and perhaps they can be caught and treated in both. So they would also know look here Matthew what am I to do about all this.
I wash my hands of the whole affair. I would not report it and I would not aid them. I am not even the kitchen area for the night and I will not return. You rock up and see that all matters are attended. Yes but take care Matthew. I did not like the faces of those two. I brought the whole bottle. Did you tell the sheriff about the incident. Yes I did say no one was there. No one sheriff. Well then who knocked. How should I know. Somebody had to knock.
Yes but that's the story don't you see. Somebody had to but no one was there. Nonsense don't tell me you have ghost on this island. Oh no I think not. You can't tell me that nobody knocked it was nothing at any rate. So let's forget it. Of course the fact that you saw no one at the door doesn't mean nobody was there. Now who is talking of goats Yeah. Maybe one of them knocked and ran back into the shadows and Julie saw who answered. Oh I see. You give them too much credit. I don't underestimate them that's true. Mr. Blake I feel those two runaways around this house this minute. Well then tomorrow morning you'll find them for sure they won't go far tomorrow morning. Tonight Sheriff it's quite dark out there you company Mr. Blake. Well if you like you Mr. WILLIAMS. Not if you would excuse me. Of course I need for guns not at night. You have a pistol Mr. Blake. Yes you do. Suppose we start our search at the kitchen door. Matthew Matthew did the sheriff and Mike come in your room. No said
well they've decided to run a ways around it somewhere. We've got to get them out of the house. Yes so where can we send them I don't care where you send them. The sheriff and Mr. Blake are going through the bonds now. Then they'll go to the slave quarters where all the runaways are in my room so if you take them out the front way perhaps they won't be seen but only them. Mr. Williams says Yes dreaming and they are real. Well what am I to do about that. Am I a physician. Can't you understand the problem here. Yes sir but would you tell them. I cannot Confound it Matthew. Let me see them then we have no time for hesitation. Will hold the lantern high. Yes or why do they pull back as if afraid. What miserable specimens of humanity they appear to be. It is no easy matter to cross the sounds certain to come up through the mushers. Do they speak English. Yes well and now listen here. I'm not going to hurt
you. But there are some other men around who will so take my advice and. And why do they look so frightened. I told them I wasn't going to hurt the US so why are they afraid of me. So because you were white. But I've never been beaten a slave nor mistreated one in my life I know but they could not understand that. I see. What did you feed the Matthew. I gave the meat in Bray on the dresser in my room is a box of blossoms have got it and treat the cuts on their skin give them some hot tea and keep them warm give them such clothing as you can spare. Yes sir. I can't turn them out of this house looking so frightened and I can't turn them over to that sheriff and I shouldn't help them. But they must learn that they can expect some kindness from a white man. Now return to the kitchen and wait for the chefs or what if he wants to come in here. I don't think he will have to search my house as an insult probably beyond. There's no way out of this room so if you should try the windows open
only a little Never mind I will I will think of something. Just tend to their wounds for now. The buzz around your place sticks too readily to one's boots that I grow rice that that requires a damp soil. Come on in and close the door Mr. Blake. Yes. We found no slaves Williams cept your own letter to mother you can look again. Oh of course it was dark.
Shall we go into the parlor. I'd rather sit here in the kitchen where it's warm if I may. And as you wish. Yes. We did pick up a clue though didn't we Mr. Blake. A small one two pair of footprints clearly marked under the eaves outside the door. No shoes on the feet clearly marked it could be almost anyone. As they approached the door stop they run off in the opposite direction. Well perhaps they were the two slaves. Perhaps they came to the door as you conjectured then ran away. Yes but I didn't quite conjecture it's like that. What do you mean Joe. Why would two of them come to the door to knock my wood and one of them remain in the shadows and let the other one knock and then hurry back to it. Perhaps you can ask them when you find them. Can I get you some more brandy gentlemen. I mean first you spend much time in the kitchen. None at all ever back here. Oh. Occasionally at night almost none of it is your wife ever back here. No not at night. The servants do the work. Why.
Well I have a perfect theory except for one fact just one. What is that they were not at the door when you opened it. Now by my theory they would be at the door when you opened it and they'd be very much surprised to find a white man there you see. Suppose we go to bed. Oh let's hear the theory Williams I find it very interesting. I find it dull but it's so perfect. Theories are here we have an isolated plantation. We have the possibility of slaves in this area knowing that when they come to this house they will be cared for and given supplies. We know somebody in this area does that for runaway slaves. So they came here tonight and they knocked but the door was answered by a white man not a Negro soul then they turned and fled. I do not care for the inference that lies buried in that mass of conjecture either. Listen to me Sheriff. I've heard quite enough then sir answer me one question more a dozen questions more I
mean nothing to me just one. There are new grossly would sleep in this house and who usually answers the kitchen door at night. Yes my boy Matthew look in his room no I insist insist are you please the answer is No sir I must look Sheriff this is my house. Take care what you do you have no one. Nonsense if you have to escape slaves in here we both best find it out now. Sheriff. Mr. Blake would you fetch some rope. We'll have to tie up the three of one. I do not want Mathew questioned any further but Williams It would seem to me that you would be
interested in finding out the truth here under your own roof as a person hiding running away I know that but I don't nothing let the sheriff proceed with you. Where do you send the slaves and they leave here. No way. They do come here then. No you sent him north of Vandy and send them nowhere Sandhu nowhere. So no one I tell you Sheriff. I do not like this questioning Mr Williams. Yes what is it dear. When are you coming to direct me. Go Go on I'll be up. Mr Williams What is going on. It's nothing ma'am. We just found the two runaways found them while in Matthew's room. Why Matthew did you bring him to this house to to escape. How dare you. It's a terrible thing ma'am. It'll go hard with him. After all the education and help Mr. Williams has given you. Yes ma'am I did. Please go to bed and let me handle this.
Mrs. Williams I thought you wanted the Runaways to escape I would not help them do that and I would expect my servants to stay equally within the law. Good night. If you heard her mistress What do you say. So I don't know. Your punishment will be severe you know that blogging is not good enough for this. I mean Matthew have you ever seen both. Yes so I have seen it from the outside. It's cool in there. Yes. And damp. Yes and you would be there unless you're executed after listen to me this evening I talk to Matthew here. I am the man you want. I told him to take in the slaves. WILLIAMS That's entirely out of reason. What do you say it is not true. Matthew it is not true. You see there were times your offer to protect your slave goes to no avail but I am well I will not say it is not months but sir it is. Matthew plead as I say.
No sir it was me. We will we will bind you and tomorrow you will go with these two runaways the bull for do. Yes. One moment here. Oh Williams please there's nothing you or I said One moment sir and I will speak my piece so we spend the night at it Williams. Matthew go to your room and untie the two runaway slave. Well but my words were in simple English. Mr. Williams I've arrested these three my house is not your jewel. Cut the ropes and if you go on yes or not I'll see here Williams You go too far. Even Mr. Williams tomorrow I'm taking these three men to bed and I will go there with them and if you indict Matthew there you had best indict me. But in either case I would retain such attorneys as money would provide. Do you astound me sir. Then you are easily guessed I represent the law I represent my house and those who are in it under my protection the law does not stop at your door the law stops where it can go no further. WILLIAMS My friend you are subject to the law same as another.
That you're wealthier than I am also subject to my conscience what the law says on the matter in the law when it hurts my conscience. Did you intend to protect all three of these criminals. Yes. I will not contribute to their death over strong words. I've heard that you're different and difficult. But tonight Williams you're a platter a member of the House of Commons. You have a store a new Been you're protecting from the law to runaway slaves you fled the Masters and then broke jail. You claim them as your house guests. You stand against the law. Tell me about just sir we cannot enforce justice without law. Now to protect Matthew was one thing but to protect those other two. And in neither case can you safely get set yourself against society. You ally yourself with convicts. I suppose there is some truth in that but it
tomorrow morning out of turn to Beaufort will but ensure you will change your mind. Mr. Williams Are you in here. Yes dear. I've looked everywhere. I woke up as usual and you've not come to bed. And I've sat here and listened to the rain and looked at the fire. But but that's phone issues and the rain has stopped. It was very heavy. What's the matter dear. What's wrong. You said Matthew. It is that Matthew's guilt is mine. Does that surprise you. Yes. And for a solid night
I've gone through that terrible experience of examining my beliefs. I see I have done that last night when I stood at the kitchen window and looked out and considered the outside with two human beings. And when I saw the media huddled in Matthew's room but Mr. Williams to be outside the law I have no idea. That's something else but two men came to my door. They were hungry and they were cold and I closed them. They were real. I treated them. But I am outside the law. I will not contribute to that death. All outside the law. As the breakfast bell. Yes it's a beautiful day. Everything sparkles the leaves and trees flowers.
What shall I tell the sheriff. I don't know. I believe I can keep him from forcibly taking the slaves. I cannot let him have them dear. But I am outside the law. But it is a good day and your voyage back to Beaufort would be pleasant. Sheriff when are you leaving shortly. WILLIAMS What do you decide. I needn't tell you that I tossed in my bed all night. I'm sorry about that. Mr. Williams and I returned to Beaufort it's my intention to take the two runaways and your boy Matthew. You know I cannot permit you to do that. Do it by force if
necessary. On whose boat came on your supply boat sir I have no other. I do not give you permission to use it for this purpose. Then I will take it. You break the law with less hesitation than I issue in this case perhaps and willingly. And where would you find your navigator. Oh do you know the shoals of boat south. Take a slave who knows that my slaves would not go with you. And if one does I would order him to run you aground. Williams Williams. We're old friends and here you have forced me to swear that I must report you if you do this thing. I intend to report my actions myself. Mr. Williams I think you know dear you have a world of confidence. Yes but justice can be recognized by those not blinded by law. I intend to publish your notice in the newspaper which will state what I have done and ask the owner of these two runaways to come and fetch them.
And indeed I wish he had them now. Mr. Williams you will be prosecuted to the limit of the law. Well I ask Mr. Blake here about that. Ask me what you know. Oh this will not go to court. It would cause discussion about a subject many would prefer to leave undisturbed. Would you like more bacon shop. No Mr. Blake. No I'm quite done. Please forgive me Blake. I've done no more than I think you would have done in my place. I assure you that you're wrong no. You would be surprised how many beliefs a man may have that he does not really believe. And under pressure they desert him. Now gentlemen I would dispatch a boat to carry the two of you to Beaufort. Court records do not show that any legal action was taken against Robert Williams.
But in the newspaper the North Carolina Gazette of New Britain and its issue of January 7th 1774 there was the following paid announcement. Taken up and committed to jail at Beaufort in Carteret County to new negroes. They came in a canoe to where from we cannot understand. By some accident or act of humanity they got out of jail of a cold evening and must have inevitably perished before morning. And strayed to the subscriber's kitchen who wishes the proper owner had them but cannot send them anymore into confinement to starve and freeze to death according to law. Or the great law giver Moses had in command that we should do no murder. Robert Williams Carteret County North Carolina November 22nd 1773. Good.
American Adventure is written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton produced by the communication center of the University of North Carolina. Earl when Director American Adventure is the study of man in the new world his values and his characteristics who he is what he believes what he lives by and is produced on a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the educational television and radio center in today's story run away justice. Robert Williams was played by John bonnet the sheriff by Charles Kuralt. Played by Joe Young. Matthew by Johnny Lee and Mrs Williams by your least Lancaster's. The cast was composed of students faculty members and townspeople of the University of North Carolina community.
Our programs are intended for use by educational and commercial radio stations in this and other countries and for any school listening purposes consultants for American Adventure are the following professors of the University of North Carolina. Bernard Boyd chairman Department of Religion. John Gill and research professor of anthropology. DRAM Green chairman Department of History Everett W. Hall chairman Department of Philosophy Frank W. ham. A professor of law Clifford P. Lyons Dean College of Arts and Sciences the late Howard W. Odum chairman Department of Sociology. William Poteat assistant professor of philosophy and climb and summer professor of art history. American Adventure is produced and recorded in the studios of the communication center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Tom Owen speaking. This is the NASB network.
American adventure
Runaway justice
Producing Organization
University of North Carolina
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The story of John Williams, a man who aided fugitive slaves in North Carolina.
Series Description
This series studies the values and characteristics of notable figures from America's early years. It is written by John M. Ehle and directed by John S. Clayton.
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Social Issues
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Actor: Kuralt, Charles, 1934-1997
Actor: Bonnets, John
Actor: Young, Joe
Actor: Eder, James
Director: Clayton, John S.
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Writer: Ehle, John, 1925-
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-12-21 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:20
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Chicago: “American adventure; Runaway justice,” 1955-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 19, 2024,
MLA: “American adventure; Runaway justice.” 1955-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 19, 2024. <>.
APA: American adventure; Runaway justice. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from