I was born in 1742 to pious Quaker parents living in Haddonfield, Gloucester County (now Camden County), where my father was a shop keeper. When he died in 1766, my brother John inherited a plantation and I inherited the shop. The war with Great Britain brought great trouble to Quakers. While we agreed that the English Parliament had no right to levy taxes on us, opposition to war was one of our core beliefs. Mostly, we ignored the laws requiring militia service and were fined for not participating. In 1777, my brother-in-law, Mark Miller of Woodbury, and I were arrested. When we refused to pledge allegiance to the new State government, we were ordered to jail. However, neither our cell nor the jail were locked. When brought to trial, an attorney volunteered to defend us according to the freedom of religion guaranteed in the State’s new constitution. The court seemed embarrassed to be trying two honest, peaceable citizens as criminals and only fined us token amounts—five shillings each, which we refused to pay. We were about to be sent back to jail when the sheriff stepped up to the court and stated that the fines and fees had been paid.
Learn More About Thomas Redman
I was born in 1742 to pious Quaker parents. Ours was a small and not very healthy family. I had an older sister, Mary, and a younger brother, John, but two other siblings died as infants and my mother died just before my fourth birthday. A year later, my father married Marcy Davis, a fine Christian woman.
We lived in Haddonfield, Gloucester (now Camden) County’s largest town, where my father kept a shop that we lived above. Our shop was in a good location–on the King’s Road just a few houses from the road to the Coopers’ ferries on the Delaware River and Philadelphia. The public market was in the middle of the wide street in front of our house. My father practiced his Christian principles and we prospered. When he died in 1766, my brother John inherited a plantation and I inherited the Haddonfield shop.
Like my parents, I was active in the Society of Friends and served as clerk (chairman) of both the Haddonfield Weekly Meeting for Worship and the Monthly Meeting that supervised the four Gloucester County meetings. Quakers were becoming increasingly opposed to slavery and I am proud to have served on the committee that persuaded members to free fifty slaves.
The war with Great Britain brought great trouble to members of the Society of Friends. Many Quakers agreed with protestors that the English Parliament had no right to levy taxes on us, and a few served on the committees that enforced boycotts of English goods. But opposition to war was one of our core beliefs. Members who served in the militia or Continental Army were expelled from our meetings. Mostly, we ignored the laws passed by the new government that required militia service and were fined for not participating. When we refused to pay the fines, because the monies would be used to support the war, we had property of that value seized and sold.
Our opposition to the rebellion infuriated some Whigs, especially John Cooper of Woodbury, a member of the State’s Legislative-Council. On January 20, 1777, he had me and my brother-in-law, Mark Miller of Woodbury, arrested and questioned by two justices of the peace. When we refused to pledge allegiance to the new state government, we were ordered to jail. The jailer gave us the choice of a room in the County’s House, the building that housed the jailer’s family and some of the county’s poor and feeble-minded, but we preferred the quiet of the dungeon below the courthouse. The cell we chose was dirty and had a broken window, so Sheriff Joseph Ellis kindly had us spend the night at his house, thus giving our friends time to clean, repair, and furnish our cell. For the next eight weeks, the jail was our home. Neither our cell nor the jail were locked, so our friends were free to visit, bring food, drink, and firewood, and to pray with us on First Days. Rarely a day went by without visitors. Most were fellow Quakers, but Judge Samuel Harrison visited us several times as did Sheriff Ellis, although he was a colonel of the militia.
On Tuesday, March 18, the County Court met and we were brought to trial. The Attorney General had come all the way from Somerset County to prosecute us, but an attorney volunteered to defend us, and spoke from a principle of liberty, no doubt citing the freedom of religion guaranteed in the State’s new constitution. The court seemed embarrassed to be trying as criminals, two honest, peaceable citizens who were not Tories. They retired for a few minutes to discuss what to do. When they returned, they fined us just token amounts—five shillings each. For conscience sake, we refused to pay the fines, and were about to be sent back to jail when Sheriff Ellis stepped up to the court and, without explanation, simply stated that the fines and fees had been paid.
While I was in the dungeon beneath the Gloucester courthouse, the State Assembly was meeting in one of my buildings in Haddonfield! Later that spring, neighbors Hugh and Mary Creighton, keepers of the Indian King Tavern, were worried they would lose their lease, so I sold them three of my buildings. They kept tavern there for many years. Much remodeled, it remains one of Haddonfield’s best taverns.
Like my father, I was a successful shop keeper selling good merchandize at fair prices. My neighbors trusted me, frequently naming me the executor of their estates, or requesting my help as an arbitrator. Unlike my parents, my wife Rebecca and I had a large family. Sadly, she died in 1803. I lived another twenty years and died in 1823.
See Meet Your Revolutionary Neighbors sketch of Colonel Joseph Ellis
The Indian King Tavern State Historic Site. Learn more about it in Revolutionary New Jersey “Places.”
Thomas Redman’s Account of his being Apprehended & Imprisoned in the common Goal at Gloucester, & his Diary kept during his Confinement —-
Garry Wheeler Stone
& Larry Kidder
5 May 2019
Art: Joe Barsin