If an owner took possession of a hired slave when there had been no violation of the contract, he lost his right to payment.
If the same owner refused to deliver the slave on demand, but later sent the slave, by himself, back to the hirer, he still had not fulfilled his duty under the contract.
Facts of the Case
Anselm B. Easley hired a slave to McNeill. The slave subsequently ran away and returned to the home of Easley. McNeill's son found the slave there and informed Easley that his father had directed him to bring the slave home. Easley refused, saying that the slave had been mistreated. He wanted to speak to the elder McNeill, or his overseer, before he would return the slave. McNeill sent a second son to fetch the slave. Easley informed him that he had sent the slave, by himself, back to the elder McNeill. In fact, the slave ran away. The Marengo County Circuit Court charged the jury that if Easley had directed the slave to return, honestly believing that he would do so, then he was not liable for refusing to deliver him.
The Court's Decision
Judge George Goldthwaite wrote the decision for the Alabama Supreme Court. He ruled that the Circuit Court's charge to the jury was improper. Easley's actions had been more likely to prevent the slave's restoration to McNeill than to effect it.
Go to the AU Archives and
Manuscripts Department Homepage