Title: Petition of the Sisters of the Visitation of Georgetown D. C., 2 June 1862

Date: June 2, 1862

Source Text: A microfilm reproduction of the original document held at the National Archives and Records Administration, Microcopy 520, Reel 4. The original document is held in the Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, 1775–1978, National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 217.6.5. Within the National Archives' Archival Description Catalog, see ARC Identifier 4644616 / MLR Number A1 347 (http://arcweb.archives.gov).

Civil War Washington ID: cww.00569

TEI/XML: cww.00569.xml


To the Commissioners under the Act of Congress approved the 16 of April 1862 Entitled "An Act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia

The Sisters of the Visitation of Georgetown D.C incorporated by Act of Congress approved May 24th A.D. 1828, by this their petition in writing through their Mother Superior respectfully represent that they are persons loyal to the United States who at the time of the passage of the said act of Congress held a claim to service or labor against Ignatius Tighlman and Mary Elizabeth Tighlman and their seven (7) children namely MaryCharlesIgnatiusJaneCeceliaJosephine & Rosalie Tighlman also against Benjamin MahoneyThomas Weldon and Joseph Dixon for and during the lives of the said named persons Respectively and that by said Act of Congress the said persons of African descent were discharged and freed of and from all claim of your petitioner to such service or labor: that at the time of said discharge the said persons were respectively of the ages and personal description following

  • 1st Ignatius Tighlman—A dark mulatto man Forty (40) years of age, 5 feet 2 inches high, a smart healthy negro and valued at Twelve hundred (1200) dollars
  • 2nd Mary Elizabeth Tighlman—the wife of Ignatius Forty one years of age, Color Black, height 5 feet </item></ul> <ul><item> a very intelligent stout active woman perfectly healthy and valued at nine hundred (900) dollars
  • 3rd Mary Tighlman daughter of Ignatius and Mary Elizabeth a strong healthy mulatto girl 4 feet 8 inches high Seventeen (17) years of age and valued at seven hundred (700) dollars
  • 4th Charles Tighlman a smart active mulatto boy perfectly healthy 4 feet 6 inches high Fifteen (15) years of age and valued at six hundred dollars
  • 5th Ignatius Tighlman Jr a healthy active mulatto Boy 4 feet 5 inches high Thirteen years of age valued at four hundred and fifty (450) dollars. He is now with the Federal Army at Yorktown
  • 6th Jane Tighlman a healthy mulatto girl Ten years of age about Four feet high valued at Three hundred dollars
  • 7th Cecelia Tighlman a healthy mulatto girl three feet high Four years of age valued at about Two hundred dollars
  • 8th Josephine Tighlman a healthy mulatto girl Two years of age and valued at about one hundred dollars
  • 9th Rosalie Tighlman mulatto child 6 mo​ old value 50 dolls
  • 10th Benjamin Mahoney a very valuable bright mu</item></ul> <ul><item>latto man about Five feet six inches high Twenty five years of age strong and healthy has a knowledge of carpenters work and is of superior moral character. He is of the highest value; Eighteen hundred dollars would be a low Estimate of his value to our Institution
  • 11th Thomas Weldon a hard working negro man about Five feet Four inches high and about Twenty eight years of age strong healthy and understands gardening valued at about Twelve hundred (1200) dollars
  • 12th Joseph Dixon a black negro man about Four feet three inches high, Twenty one years of age active and perfectly healthy, is rather sulky and has a bad countenance. He ran away after the battle of Manassas and is now with the Federal Army He is valued at about 1000 dollars—

That your petitioners acquired their claim to the services or labor of Ignatius and Mary Elizabeth Tighlman Benjamin Mahoney and Thomas Weldon by gift from Notley Young to his daughter Martha as her portion of his Estate in the year 1841. Martha Young (Sister Mary Ellen) was a member of this institution and gave them to the Sisters of the Visitation of Georgetown D.C.

The Children of Ignatius and Mary Elizabeth Tighlman have been born since we acquired title to their parents

Joseph Dixon was acquired by gift from John Neal to his daughter Margaret (Sister Regina) about   the year 1842 who being a member of this Institution gave them to the Sisters of the Visitation of Georgetown D.C.

That Your petitioners claim to the service or labor of said persons was at the time of said discharge therefrom of the value hereinbefore stated opposite their respective names—amounting in the aggregate to 8500 dollars—

That Your petitioners know of no infirmity or defect of said persons except as stated which impair the value of petitioners claim to such service or labor and believe none other exists

Your petitioners, through their superior, hereby declare that they bear true and faithful allegiance to the Government of the United States and deem it unnecessary to State that they have not born arms against the United States in the present rebellion; nor have they given aid or comfort thereto—

And your Petitioners further state and allege that they have not brought said persons above named into the District of Columbia since the passage of said Act of Congress and that at the time of the passage thereof said persons were held to service or labor therein under and by virtue of your petitioners claim to such service or labor.

Your petitioners further state that their said claim to the service or labor of said persons does not originate in or by virtue of any transfer heretofore made by any person who has in any manner aided or sustained the present rebellion against the Government of the United States.


And your petitioners pray the said Commissioners to investigate and determine the validity of their said claim to the service or labor of said persons hereinabove set forth; and if the same be found to be valid, that they appraise and apportion the value of said claim in money and report the same to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States in conformity to the provisions of said act of Congress.

Sister Mary Angela Harrison
Superior of the Sisters of the Visitation of Georgetown DC

I Sister Mary Angela Harrison Mother Superior of the Sisters of the Visitation of Georgetown D.C. being duly sworn do depose and say that all the several matters and things which are set forth and stated in the foregoing petition are true in substance and in fact and that all the several other matters and things therein set forth and stated as from the information of others I believe to be true in substance and in fact

SrMary Angela Harrison Superior of the Sisters of the Visitation George Town DC

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 23d day of May AD 1862

Henry Reaves J Peace
Sisters of the Visitation
Georgetown DC
Thos. B. King EsqAtty
Filed June 2, 1862

To the Commissioners under the act of Congress for the emancipation of colored persons in the District of Columbia

The petition of Ignatius Tilghman.

He states that on the 7th July 1856, he and his wife and five children were slaves belonging to the Sisters of the Visitation of George Town; that the said Sisters then agreed with your petitioner that upon his paying the sum of five hundred dollars he and his wife and children should be free; which is shown by the agreement and several receipts, signed by said Sisters, and contained in the book he now files herewith. He shows further that he has paid to said sisters on account of said contract divers sums amounting in the whole to $298:76, which also appears from said book and their entries therein. That one of his children, namely,John, died after the agreement. He admits that $201:25 of the 500$ remain due to said sisters, which he thinks it right they should receive, with interest, but no more; and he submits that what he has paid—not for the purchase of himself—but for his wife and children, should be paid to him.

After the said contract he maintained himself and family without expense to said sisters, and made them the payments above out of his earnings.

That three of his children, now claimed for by said Sisters, have been born since the date of said agreement—namely—Cecelia, Rosalie and Josephine. He thinks no allowance should be made for them to said sisters. If to any one, he thinks it should be to himself: but he does not wish to be considered as claiming for them.

The aggregate value of himself, his wife, and four children living at the date of the agreement, is $4600:—viz—for himself $1000—for his wife $800—for Mary $1000—Jane, $500—Ignatius $700. & Charles 600$. The latter two are not yet appraised. His payments on account for the whole of these, have been $298.75, which would be about 6 ½ per cent. The proportion for himself would be $65. which being deducted from the amount of his payments would leave $233.75   paid by him on account of his wife and children.

He perceives no other way of coming at what is just, and he submits that this mode is so—that the said Sisters should receive the $201:25, and your petitioner the 233:75 for his wife and children.

He prays that such order may be taken in the premises.

W. Redin
for Petr
Petition of Ignatius Tiglman to be filed as Counter in above case.
Filed 15 August 1862.

The Sisters of the Visitation respectfully submit in answer to the Petition of Ignatius Tighlman that said Ignatius his wife and five children were at the time of the passage of the Emancipation Act held to service or labor in its full and most complete sense; and in law, liable to all the incidents of Sale and transfer at the option of their Owners.

From this service with all its incidents they were discharged, not by any act of their Owners, but by law approved April 16, 1862 providing compensation for their value. There is nothing in its terms altering the incidents of servitude as existing prior thereto. Your Respondents submit that as the law has intervened between them and their servants and prescribed its own terms for their Emancipation it should not appropriate to itself their act of Charity and benevolence or at least their intention, by making a humane permission granted to their servants to purchase themselves, which has not been fulfilled, an excuse for depreciating their value. It would be an act of injustice to give full compensation to those owners who were disposed to exercise their full right towards their servants and to deny it to those inclined to be more humane and to lighten the burden of servitude. It would be giving a premium to the strict and severe master at the expense of the more lenient Such would be in conflict with the spirit of the Act and with the principles of its framers.

It would be an Act of justice to the Sisters as they were Emancipated by the law that their value should be estimated by the law as it existed at the time of the passage of this Act. That law did not regard their value as lessened by any promise of future Emancipation. In fact there could be no Emancipation but by deed according to the provisions of the Maryland Act 1796 ch 67 and by last will and Testament; and no executory Contract between Master and Slave is of force either at Law or in Equity—Jos Brown vs Wingard 2nd [Cranch?] p500. 412.634


There is a difference between a contract and a benevolence In this instance the privilege given Ignatius to purchase himself and his children was a mere benevolence for there could be no consideration as all the money he and his family earned belonged to the Sisters of the Visitation. It was more by a permission of the Sisters which might be withdrawn according to circumstances; for instance if it was injurious to creditors or if the servants showed an incapacity to provide for themselves or upon the commission of any offence or in case of sickness—And the sum exacted was only required to insure the Sisters from loss provided they should fall back in sickness or distress on them for support as it was too small for a consideration or price for Ignatius his wife and children.

But Ignatius cannot claim any benefit from what he terms the agreement for the purchase of himself and Family—He could not do so prior to the Act and there is nothing in the Act enabling him to do so. Neither has he done more than make a very lame effort to fulfil his portion of the "agreement". In six years he has only paid $298.75/100 a large portion of which was in work for the Sisters themselves. This would not amount to more than $4 per month for himself wife and children for whom if hired by the Sisters prices might be obtained ranging from 12 to 3 dollars per month for at least 4 of these servants and therefore by every just and candid mind it must be conceded that Ignatius only paid them their own money and but very little of that

Under such circumstances Your Respondents submit that their claim is under the Act full an complete and that its value should not rightfully be depreciated by a benevolence or permission granted their Servants not recognized either at law or in Equity and which many circumstances would justify them in withdrawing. They urge that   as Ignatius could pay them no money which was not already in law their own that they may be allowed their full and just compensation without any regard to the "agreement" and leave to their own benevolence which had already manumitted many of their servants to make such provision for Ignatius and his family out of the proceeds as their liberality may dictate

Thos B King
Answer of the Sisters of the Visitation to the Petition of Ignatius Tighlman
Filed Dec 12, 1862
Transcription and encoding: Courtney Rebecca Lawton, Janel Cayer, and Susan C. Lawrence.