The Historical Spectator.

Runaway Phil

This advertisement appeared in the Kentucky Gazette in Lexington, January 22, 1791. There are still those who suppose that slavery was a benevolent institution, on the grounds that slave-owners had a financial interest in keeping their property in good condition. If you meet one of those deluded persons, dear reader, you may point him to original documents such as this. Stop and think for a moment that not only the slaveholder but also the proprietor of the Gazette, his compositor, and all the subscribers who continued their subscriptions afterward, must have considered this a perfectly reasonable thing to print, and you will have a better understanding of the pervasiveness of evil once it gains a foothold.


From the subscriber in Mercer county on thursday 24th of November 1790, a negro man named Phil, about twenty five years old, well set, and about five feet six or seven inches high, has a round face, flat nose, wide mouth, and thick lips when he laughs, he generally draws up his nose, and shews most of his teeth, which are very white, had on when he went off, an old hat, a linsey hunting shirt and coat of the same stuff, both dyed a sooty colour, a jump jacket, an old shirt, leather breeches, blue and white yarn stockings, a pair of wrappers, a pair of old shoes, and a pair of brass buckles—it is expected he has taken other clothes with him and will change his dress. Five pounds reward will be given to any person that takes him a live and delivered safe to me, or ten pounds for his head sever’d from his body, to be paid in cattle at cash price.