« AnteriorContinuar »
INHERITANCE OF SLAVE PROPERTY.
Slaves, as Property, are transmitted by Inheritance or by Will to Heirs at law
or to Legatees. In the distribution of Estates, they are distributed like other Property.
This feature of the slave system, like all its other features, is derived from its cardinal principle of PROPERTY in the bodies and souls of men. Without this principle, the whole edifice falls to the ground. With it, the entire system, in all its parts, and entire, is sustained.
We have already stated the law on this subject. The slave "may be sold" "at the suit of creditors OR LEGATEES." (Stroud, p. 51.)
A more specific recognition of this feature is found in a law of North Carolina, substantially copied by other States, in which, after prohibiting, in a great measure, the further introduction of slaves into their Smits,* a proviso is added that “nothing in this act shall prohibit any citizen of this State who may obtain slaves, &c., by marriage, gift, legacy, devise, or descent," “from bringing the slaves, &c., into this State by land or water.” (Hayward's Manual, 533-4. Act of 1794, chap. 2, &c., &c., &c. Vide Stroud, p. 55.)
* It has already been seen that these prohibitions have not prevented an immense slave traffic between the States. In some of me States, these prohibitions have been repealed.
This indicates what is the known fact, that slaves had previously been inherited in the several States.
The inheritance of slave property appears to have occasioned much litigation in the courts, and accordingly the topic occupies no little space in the reported decisions collected together in “Wheeler's Law of Slavery.”
In the case of Beatley vs. Judy, &c., in Kentucky, it was determined that the phrase "personal estate” in wills and contracts should be construed as embracing slaves. (2 Wash. Rep., 1-8.) The same in the case of Plumpton vs. Cook. (2 Marshall's Ky. Rep., 450; copied by Wheeler, p. 2.*)
In the case of Banks, Admr., vs. Marksbury, it was decided that “the owner of a female slave may give her to one of his children, and the future increase, (that is, unborn children !) to another.” (Wheeler, p. 28.) [The case is reported at length. We give here, as in many other instances, the brief marginal statement of the compiler.]
* In our quotations from Wheeler, we often (to save room) omit his statements of the names of the litigants, the judges, and the “Reports” from which he has copied. We preserve these, in some instances, that the reader may be impressed with the matter-of-fact nature of the and not fancy himself reading “legal fiction." Whatever may be said of statutes, the daily decisions of courts are not "obsolete,” nor are they "theoretical abstractions."
In the case of Carroll et al. vs. Connet, (in Ken tucky,) ROBINSON Ch. J., it was held that “The administrator is liable for failure to distribute slaves. Although for some purposes slaves are declared by statute to be real estate, they are nevertheless intrinsically personal, and therefore are to be considered as included in
statute or contract in relation to chattels which does not, in terms, exclude them. They are liable, as chattels, to the payment of debts. They may be attached as chattels, and they have invariably been treated as chattels, in both Virginia and Kentucky, so far as the rights and duties of administrators are concerned." (Wheeler's Law of Slavery, pp. 37–8.)
And yet Kentucky is one of the only two States in which the statutes have declared slaves to be real estate, a tenure which, if adhered to, would attach the slave to the soil, and prevent the separation of families. The practice, as sanctioned by custom and the courts, is in this case found to be less favorable to the slaves than the words of the statute, in their plain import. The people have been worse than their statutes, and the judges have conformed to the people.
“Enlaws vs. Enlaws, Spring Term, 1821; 3 Marshall's Ky. Rep., 228. The Court held that the slaves of a female, immediately on the marriage, vest in the husband, and although she may survive him, her right to the slaves is not revived." (Wheeler, p. 39.)
“A wife's estate in dower of slaves, by a former
husband, on her marriage vests in her husband; and her right to manumit them is gone." (Ib., p. 182.)
“Slaves are subject to dower, in all the States. Not only are they subject to dower, but the widow's interest in them is protected by statutory provisions. If the husband manumits his slaves, whereby creditors and the dower are affected, the manumission is so far ineffectual, that the manumitted slaves may be sold for a period, and the proceeds applied to the creditors of the former owner and his widow." (Wheeler, p. 181.)
“Slaves are devisable, like any other chattel. А distinction, however, exists, where slaves are con sidered as real property. In these cases they pass immediately to the legatee, and not to the executor as personal estate.” (Wheeler, p. 57.)
“If a father, at the time of his daughter's marriage, puts a negro or other chattel into the possession of his son-in-law, it is, in law, a gift, unless the contrary can be proven.” (Ib., p. 62.)
“The increase” (i. e. the children)“ of slaves born during the life of a legatee for life, belong to the ulterior legatee, who is the absolute owner.” (Ib., p. 23.)
"By the Revised Code of Mississippi, p. 50, slaves descending from an intestate may be sold by order of the Orphan's Court, where equal division cannot be made; and persons holding life estate in slaves, or guardians for infants, are required to deliver a list of slaves to the register of the Orphan's Court, and also the increase, p. 51. And similar provisions exist in the other States for the division of slaves.” (Ib., p. 183.)
On the same page appears, however, the following, which seems less. inflexible. It appears, from the “Table of Cases," that the court was held in Virginia :
Held, by the Court, that an equal division of slaves in number and value is not always possible, and sometimes improper, when it cannot be exactly done without separating infant children from their mothers, which humanity forbids, and will not be countenanced in a court of equity; so that a compensation for excess must, in such cases, be made and received in money.” (Ib.)
Here, the humanity of the judge appears to have modified the statute.
Every one is familiar with the phrases "inherited" or "entailed slave property." Such an one is said to have been “born to a slave inheritance," or "born a slaveholder.” These phrases occur in almost every plea for the blamelessness of the slaveholder, and for the "innocency of the legal relation.” man was born into it, and how can he be blamed for it?” This plea is never more confidently urged than by a class of clergymen who are forward to teach that all men are born sinners and shapen in iniquity; but who would, nevertheless, be shocked at the impiety of the reprobate who should urge his “birth” in sin, his "inherited” or “entailed” depravity, in excuse of his obstinate and voluntary transgression. Perhaps it never occurs to them that "inherited” and