The History of Leith

February 22, 2005

JOSEPH KNIGHT

Joseph Knight was born in Guinea and as a boy was either captured by natives and sold to white slavers, or was captured by white Slavers. He was brought to the coast and put onto a Slave ship bound for Jamaica, the Captain of the ship being called Knight.

On arrival at Jamaica Joseph was sold, with other Slaves along with the ships cargo, to Sir John Wedderburn of Ballendean Baronet. As Joseph was too young to work in the fields he was brought into the house and trained to be a houseboy or Manservant. In 1769 Sir John brought Joseph to Scotland and on arrival was baptised Joseph Knight, and he was promised his freedom if he behaved himself, however within a year Sir John had changed his mind because he thought no-one would employ him and that he would starve to death. Sometime between 1769 and 1773 he married Ann, Thomson who was a servant to Sir John and was discharged because she became pregnant by Joseph. They were married by a Mr Johnston in Edinburgh (North Leith).Also during this period he apparently read something in Mr Donaldsons newspaper. What he read is not known but it caused him to move with his wife to Dundee. Finding out that Joseph had left Sir John had the Justice of the Peace Issue Warrants for his arrest.
The Court case ran between late 1773-1775.The case being held heard by John Swinton Advocate, Sheriff Depute of Perth on the 20th May 1774.Josephs case was that he had married in this country and that his wife lives in Dundee and with whom he intended to reside and apply himself to some industry. Also he ±returned to Sir John but his master refuses to pay him wages and treats him like a slave. Joseph had been arrested on the 13th Nov.1773.He also knows of no natural right that can make him a slave. Joseph was freed because Slavery was against the Law of Scotland, or as stated in the case “A state of Slavery being adverse to the natural rights of Man. In fact as soon as Joseph landed in Britain he was a free man. The full case can be obtained as a photocopy from the Scottish Record Office quoting C5235/K2/2.The child that Ann Thomson was expecting died (Court of Session Cases).
Mr Johnston who married Joseph Knight and Ann Thomson appears to be Mr David Johnston, Minister of North Leith Parish Church between 1765 and I799,Chaplain to the King in 1793,DD Edin 1781,founded Asylurt for Industrious Blind in Edinburgh 1793,Died 1824.
Unfortunately the marriage records for North Leith Parish Church do not exist for this period now. However the marital status of Joseph Knight and Ann Thomson is confirmed from the Court records .They must have moved from Leith to Dundee after the wedding.
Since writing the above it has come to light that Joseph had read the case of Somerset before the Kings Bench in England. Which was a similar case to his own before Lord Mansfield. Joseph eloped on the 3rd July 1772

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