The hirer's obligation to return a slave at the end of the term was discharged by the death of the slave.
The hirer was bound to pay the price agreed upon despite the death of the slave before the expiration of the term.
If two slaves were hired under one contact, one died, and the owner took possession of the other without the hirer's consent, the obligation of the hirer to pay for both was discharged.
Facts of the Case
In December, 1833, Aaron Perry hired two slaves to Augustin Hewlett and others. By the terms of the agreement, Hewlett agreed to pay Perry $150 for the hire, which would run through the following December 25, 1834. Sometime in June, 1834, one of the slaves, a female named Fanny, died. The surviving slave was allowed to visit Perry, who detained him. The Morgan County Circuit Court charged the jury that if Perry had detained the other slave then Hewlett was discharged of any duty to pay the hire for both.
The Court's Decision
Chief Justice Arthur F. Hopkins wrote the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court. First, he ruled against the argument that the hirer of a slave, like a tenant, had an obligation to return the property in good repair or pay damages, even though the injury had been caused by an act of God. In the case of a tenant, accidental damage to property did not prevent him from returning it to the owner in good repair, but it did in the case of a slave who died. Because there had been one contract for the hiring of both slaves, Perry could have recovered the full amount of the hire, but by detaining the second slave he lost all claim to payment.
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