HOOPER V. HOOPER, 32 ALABAMA 669 (1858).



An executor could implement a trust to take slaves to a free state for emancipation and then provide them a financial legacy, but the court could not force him to do so.

Facts of the Case

John Hooper died in Dallas County in 1848. His brother, Zachariah, served as executor of the estate. In the will, Hooper directed that his executor take "a yellow woman" named Harriet and her six children—Ellen, William, Mary Jane, Zachariah, Eliza Ann, and Joseph—to Ohio and liberate them. The will further provided that the executor "settle them comfortably in the country, (not a city)," and "place in some solvent bank…the sum of ten thousand dollars," the interest on which would be used to support Harriet and her family.

Hooper’s heirs, who included the executor, agreed to the liberation of Harriet and her children, but offered an alternative to the $10,000 bequest. Instead, they proposed to give Harriet $300 from each of their shares. Harriet accepted this prior to leaving Alabama, but once in Ohio sued to recover the full amount. Judge James B. Clark in Dallas County Chancery Court ruled in her favor, but the heirs appealed the decision.


The Court’s Decision

Chief Justice Samuel F. Rice delivered the opinion of the Alabama Supreme Court. He recognized that a master could create a trust to transport slaves to a free state for emancipation, as the court had decided in Atwood’s Heirs v. Beck, but a court could not order the execution of such a trust, [contrary to the ruling in Abercrombie’s Heirs]. Besides, an agreement subsequent to the original trust had been reached prior to the slaves’ removal from the state.