5.1 Edwin D. Woolley Affidavit

Edwin D. Woolley’s original sworn complaint in the Dan Camp case, June 16, 1856

Document Introduction

Edwin D. Woolley was a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Religious Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, and was serving as bishop of the Salt Lake City 13th Ward, a LDS congregation, in 1856 when he made a deposition against enslaver Williams Camp for violating the terms of An Act in Relation to Service.[1] Woolley had been a member of the 1852 legislature which passed the act and as such was well versed in its provisions. Woolley accused Camp and several unknown associates of kidnapping Camp’s enslaved man named Dan and attempting to take him out of Utah Territory against his will, a violation of An Act in Relation to Service. Woolley’s deposition, reproduced below, instigated Camp’s arrest and preliminary hearing. Even though Judge Elias Smith found that there was insufficient evidence to hold Camp, he personally believed Camp to be guilty.[2]

The hearing nonetheless demonstrated that An Act in Relation to Service did grant enslaved people rights that they would not have enjoyed in the South where chattel slavery dominated. Dan was allowed to testify against his enslaver for example and the hearing itself indicated that he had a right to not be taken from the territory without his consent. Woolley’s deposition also indicates that enforcement of the law was probably not rigorous and was left in the hands of private citizens such as Woolley to point out violations of its provisions and bring it to the court’s attention.

[1] Affidavit of Edwin D. Woolley, The People vs Williams Camp and others, June 16, 1856, Series 373, Reel 5, Box 4, Folder 21, Utah Division of Archives and Record Service, Salt Lake City, Utah; Leonard J. Arrington, From Quaker to Latter-day Saint: Bishop Edwin D. Woolley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976).

[2] Elias Smith, Journal, June 18, 1856, MS 1319, Elias Smith Journals, 1836-1888, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.


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