Report of an inquest into the murder of a female slave by her Alabama master. Justice of the Peace Jesse B. Edwards, plus six jurors acting coroner.

Report of an inquest into the murder of a female slave by her Alabama master

Perry County, Alabama: 1842. Unbound. One-page manuscript document (7.75” x 9.75”) on the first page of an otherwise blank biolium measuring 15.5” x 9.75 “ unfolded. The document is dated “the 23rd day of November A.D. 1842” and signed by six jurors in addition to the Justice of the Peace/Coroner

The document reads in part:

“We the undersigned jurors summoned to hold an inquest over the body of Isabell Slave of William H. Jones . . . have come unanimously to the opinion after careful examination of the body of the deceased, that she . . . came to her death by violence, and from every circumstance & the evidence that has come to our Knowledge are unanimously of opinion that the said marks of vilence found upon the body . . . were inflicted by William H. Jones. . ..”. Very good. Item #009595

Court records reveal that there were three counts to the murder charge including one that stated:

“William H. Jones . . . with force and arms . . . feloniously, wilfully and of his malice aforethought, an assault did make, and . . . feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, cruelly, barbarously and inhumanly beat and whipped, of which . . . the said Isabel . . . died. And so . . . did kill and murder, contrary to the statute, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Alabama.”

Jones was tried and convicted by a jury of his peers after which he was sentenced to ten years in the state prison. Jones appealed the conviction on several technicalities including one that claimed the statute against murdering a slave applied only to overseers and not owners. The Alabama Supreme Court found Jones appeals lacking and upheld the lower courts conviction.

Almost needless to say, few slave owners who killed their slaves were indicted, found guilty, and sentenced to time in prison. Alabama Supreme Court records show that on only five occasions it reviewed cases against masters or overseers for harming their slaves, only two of the convictions were upheld. In one case an owner was sentenced to ten years for shooting a female slave in the leg when she spurned his drunken advances. The other case was this one against Jones.

The prosecutor in this case was William M. Brooks. Brooks was the leader of Alabama’s secessionist movement and one of the principal founders of the Confederacy. During the Civil War, Brooks commanded the 3rd Infantry Regiment of Alabama; afterwards, he returned to practicing law in Selma and Birmingham.

Exceptionally scarce. As of this listing, no other similar material is for sale in the trade. Once similar indictment is held at Louisiana State University. No similar items have been sold at auction, however the Rare Book Hub reports that in 2003, a Union soldier’s letter noted that while out foraging, he had found four slaves murdered by their owner at one plantation.

Price: $1,750.00