A Picture of Slavery from Southern Judicial Directions.
A member of the bar has furnished the Philadelphia Press with the following extracts from various decisions of the Southern bench, in regard to the rights of slaves and slave-owners. Read them and say whether that man has not just reason to blush who would prolong the existence of a system that tramples on the plainest principles of natural justice:
THE SLAVE A NO BODY.
The slave in the South is regarded as nobody; he has no legal existence; laws passed for the protection of others do not embrace him unless he is specially names; "of the rights of personal security, personal liberty, and private property, he is deprived, and the slave is held pro nullis," (George vs. The State 37 Miss. Rep. 317)
The master is necessarily a despot. "The slave to remain a slave, must be made sensible that there is no appeal from his master," (Sate vs. David, 4 Jones, N. Car., 353) Be he ever so sick, the owner and overseer is the judge whether he is able or unable to work (10 Ala. Rep. 928)
COVENANTS WITH SLAVES NOT BINDING.
A promise made to him by his master has no binding force or validity.
This was exemplified in the case of Bland vs. negro Dowling, (9 Gill & Johnson's Maryland Reports,) here the plaintiff (we blush to say she was a woman) agreed that if her slave would pay her $200, she would give him his freedom. He faithfully and honestly paid the amount, waiting several years for it, and then, claiming her promise, was refused. The rigid law of slavery was in her favor, the Judge saying "there could be no valid contract between master and slave;" but as, fortunately for the poor fellow, she had suffered him to live in New York, a free State, for two years, she was held to have liberated him, and her nefarious attempt to hold him in bondage, when she had received his hard earnings paid to her in good faith, was frustrated.
Nor has he any right to personal property. All belongs to his master; and even where the master is generous enough to confer a boon upon a slave, the hard spirit of slavery, in the shape of odious enactments, comes in to prevent it. Thus, in Louisiana emancipation is prohibited, and the slave can, under no circumstances be freed; and thus, in that State, where a will liberating one poor fellow from servitude, he was complacently told that "a slave cannot be a party to any suit but one for freedom, and that emancipation being prohibited by law, he could not even sue for that." (Jamison vs. Bridge; 14 Louisiana Reports, 31.)
The power of the master over the person of the slave necessarily involves the right of chastisement, and this may be inflicted in such proportions and to such extent as the owner may deem proper, there being but a single limitation, that it should not be excessive, but whether it is or not is left for a jury (slaveholders of course) to judge.
Thus we find the following case: State vs. Man, 2 Devereux, 263, in which it appears, that a master having hired a female slave to another person, the latter undertook to chastise her for having committed (so says the report) a small offense. During the process she ran off; her master for the time called upon her to stop, which she refusing to do, with the chivalric spirit of the South, the slave being a woman, he shot at and wounded her. But, alas! she had no redress. The judge tells her the master is not liable to indictment for assault and battery; and feeling how contrary to all sense of justice and humanity such a decision must appear, is compelled to say: "A judge cannot but lament when such cases as the present are brought into judgment. It is impossible that the reason upon which they go can be appreciated, but where institutions similar to our own exist and are thoroughly understood. The struggle, too in the judge's own breast between the feelings of the man and the duty of the magistrate, is a severe one. I would gladly have avoided this ungrateful questions."
SLAVES MAY BE HUNTED WITH DOGS.
Witness the case of Moran vs. Gardner Davis, 18 Georgia Rep, 722, in which it was decided, that "it is lawful to hunt runaway slaves with dogs, provided it is done with a due degree of caution and circumspection." In that case the plaintiff had hired a slave to the defendant. Whilst in the service of the latter he ran away. Hist master, for the time being, employed a creature by the name of Hamblin, who hunted him with dogs, but the poor fellow, terrified by the pursuit, plunged into a creek and was drowned. The owner sued him for the value of the slave, such an idea as punishing the miscreant criminally being out of the question. But the owner is told by the court "that it is lawful to hunt a slave with dogs on general principles, provided the dogs would not lacerate and otherwise materially injure the slave—the statute of the State prohibiting the use of harsh or cruel treatment of slaves, using the words unnecessarily biting or tearing with dogs."
But this approves itself also to the moral and religious convictions of the judge, who says: "The South has lost sixty thousand slaves, worth twenty five or thirty millions. Instead therefore, of relaxing the means allowed by law for the security and enjoyment of this species of property, the facilities offered for its escape, and the temptation and encouragement held out to induce it, constraining us, willingly or otherwise, to redouble our vigilance, and to tighten the cords that bind the negro to his condition of servitude."
[According to the pro-slavery code of humanity, not only slaves, but also white men, may be rightfully chased and mangled by dogs. This community has a vivid recollection of the advertisement of Capt. Harris and Col. Frank McNairy, both members of the Tennessee pro-slavery aristocracy, for blood hounds to be used in hunting the Union men of the State.]
SLAVES CANNOT MARRY.
Let us examine Merlinder vs. Gardner, 24 Alab., 719, and there we find the law laid down thus:
"Slaves cannot contract marriage, nor does their cohabitation confer any legal rights on their children. Persons in that condition are incapable of contracting marriage, because that relation brings with it certain duties and rights, with reference to which it is supposed to be entered into; but there are necessarily incompatible with the nature of slavery, as the one cannot be discharged nor the other be recognized without doing violence to the rights of the owner. In every State where slavery exists, and the question has been presented, it has so been decided.
"If the father and mother, being slaves, are freed by the master's will, and the father afterwards acquires property the children cannot inherit his property.
"As a necessary consequence it escheats to the State."
The marriage, then, of slaves is a mere idle ceremony. Their children are illegitimate, and have no rights, and even freedom puts their offspring in no better condition.
No wonder, then, that we find such decisions as the following:
Alfred vs. The State ( 8 George, 37 Mississippi Reports) in which it was ruled that "adultery with a slave's wife is no defence to the charge of murder, and that a slave indicted for the murder of his overseer cannot introduce, as evidence for his defense, upon a trial for murder in the first degree, the fact that the deceased, a few hours before the killing, had forced the prisoner's wife to submit to his embraces, and that this had been communicated to the prisoner before the killing."
Look, for instance, at the celebrated Brasealie case, often cited, and reported in 2d Howard, Mississippi Reports 837. There Elisha Brasealle, a planter in Mississippi, was faithfully and successfully nursed by a mulatto slave during a dangers and protracted illness. He afterwards took her to Ohio, had her educated, and finally married here, having first emancipated her, by deed recorded in Ohio and Mississippi. He returned with her to the latter State, where she have birth to a son. Upon Mr. Brasealle's death his will was found, in which he ratified the deed of emancipation, and devised all his property to this son, whom he acknowledge to be such. The will, however, was successfully contested as to the valicity of the emancipation and devised to the son, by some distant relations of the testator in North Carolina. The Judge, (Sharkey) in his opinion, uses this language: "The state of the case shows conclusively that the contract that had its origin in an offence against morality, pernicious and detestable as an example. But, above all, it seems to have been planned and executed with a fixed design to evade the rigor of the laws of this State. The acts of the party in going to Ohio with the slaves, and there executing the deed, and his immediate return with them to this State, point with unerring certainty to his purpose and object. The laws of this State cannot be thus defrauded of their operation by one of our own citizens."
This merciful judge gave no quarter to the slaves. No time was afforded to apply to the Legislature to sanction the emancipation, but the greedy North Carolinians took the whole of the estate, and the mother and son were decreed, in the language of the judge, "still slaves and part of the estate of Elisha Brasealle."
Can those who believe in an overruling and avenging Providence, wonder that a nation which tolerates and maintains such iniquity is devastated and scourged by civil war?
Reference: The Nashville Daily Union, 27 Sep 1863, p. 4 as indexed at Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers, National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress, accessed January 2015