The bequest of freedom to a slave must be construed under existing laws.
Under existing laws, such a bequest was void.
Facts of the Case
Jesse Colemanís will gave a slave child named Caroline to his wife for use during her lifetime. The will further directed that, upon his wifeís death, Caroline would be freed. Coleman also left $1500 for Carolineís benefit. Colemanís heirs attempted to block the willís execution and Colemanís executor, William J. Alston, sued in Marengo County Court, where the bequest was ruled invalid. Alston appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court.
The Courtís Decision
Judge Henry Goldthwaite wrote the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court. At first he thought that the case might come under the Virginia rule established in Pleasants v. Pleasants, 2 Call. 270, but in that case the will said the slaves should be freed "if the laws of the state would then permit." Colemanís will did not say this, so it should be interpreted under the laws currently in effect. This cast it under the authority of the Alabama Supreme Courtís decision in Trotter v. Blocker, which rendered the will void.