Unless the contract stipulated otherwise, the hirer assumed the master's authority to inflict reasonable punishment on a slave.Facts of the Case
Reasonable punishment defied specific definitions, but included such considerations as the nature of the offense, its frequency, and the slave's attitude while being punishedd.
William Tillman hired a slave to Dickinson Chadwick. Chadwick punished the slave to a degree Tillman considered unreasonable. Tillman sued to recover damages for the injuries to the slave.The Court's Decision
Judge George W. Stone wrote the decision for the Alabama Supreme Court. He cited several previous decisions which upheld the hirer's authority to inflict reasonable punishment upon a slave, but noted that there existed a boundary beyond which force became unreasonable. The law could not define that boundary with precision, but it depended upon the nature of the offense, its frequency, and the slave's attitude while being punished. Masters punished slaves to reduce them "to a proper state of submission, respect, and obedience to legitimate authority." Chastisement should secure that end with as little permanent injury as possible.
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