“One hundred dollars.” (today's equivalent of a half years pay), is what Daniel Bell, a free African American blacksmith living and working at the Navy Yard in the District of Columbia, was told he needed for his family in 1848. Eleven members of his family, including his wife, children and grandchildren could escape from slavery for $100. Legally they were already free, but lawyers had them tied up in court. Proving their freedom would be expensive, time consuming and uncertain at best. A ship could be chartered, The Pearl, to take his family to freedom.
It had been done before and they could get the same captain do it again. Working with two other African Americans living in Washington, D.C., Samuel Edmondson, (who wanted to help his enslaved sisters, Emily and Mary) and Paul Jennings, (a former slave of President and Mrs. Madison then in the process of “paying down the balance of the debt owed for his freedom” from Senator Daniel Webster) Bell would make it happen; he would get the $100. Captain Daniel Drayton took the chance because he needed the money. He chartered The Pearl and brought it to the 7th street wharf in Washington during the great public demonstrations celebrating the establishment of the first French Republic, the exile of King Louis-Philippe and the hope for universal liberty. Washington was aglow with excitement.