Decatur House


Where Charlotte Dupuy takes a brave stand against slavery.


Few people know the story of a brave woman named Charlotte Dupuy who was enslaved in Decatur House, the large brick residence that has stood on Lafayette Square at the corner of H Street and Jackson Place since 1818. In 1829, while living at Decatur House, Dupuy sued her owner, Secretary of State Henry Clay, for her freedom. Charlotte Dupuy, or "Lotty" as she was known, felt that Clay was obligated to uphold an agreement she had with her previous owner to free her and her two children, Charles and Mary Ann. Clay's tenure as the Secretary of State ended before the case was decided, so Clay was instructed by the Circuit Court to leave Dupuy behind in Washington, though he took her husband and children back to Kentucky with him. Charlotte Dupuy continued to live in Decatur House and was employed by the home's next resident, Secretary of State Martin Van Buren.

The Court ultimately ruled against Dupuy and she was forcibly taken to the New Orleans residence of Clay's daughter and, eventually, to Clay's Kentucky estate. In 1840, eleven years after her lawsuit, Henry Clay freed Charlotte Dupuy.




Related Pages:

»  Charlotte Dupuy

»  Decatur House Slave Quarters

»  Members of Gadsby's Enslaved Household




STOPS:

Document summoning Henry Clay to court to answer Charlotte Dupuy's petition for freedom.

Document summoning Henry Clay to court to answer Charlotte Dupuy's petition for freedom. National Archives, Washington, D.C.


Bill of Sale for Charlotte Dupuy from James Condon to Henry Clay.

Bill of Sale for Charlotte Dupuy from James Condon to Henry Clay.


Letter written by Robert Beale on behalf of Charlotte Dupuy petitioning the Judges to summon Henry Clay to court.

Letter written by Robert Beale on behalf of Charlotte Dupuy petitioning the Judges to summon Henry Clay to court.


First page of a letter from Henry Clay to his agent in Washington, Philip Fendall, regarding Charlotte Dupuy's petition for freedom.

First page of a letter from Henry Clay to his agent in Washington, Philip Fendall, regarding Charlotte Dupuy's petition for freedom.


Decatur House Today, located on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.

Decatur House Today, located on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.