Item #009910 1858 – Two court documents from Missouri regarding grand jury proceedings about one slave accused of murdering another
1858 – Two court documents from Missouri regarding grand jury proceedings about one slave accused of murdering another
1858 – Two court documents from Missouri regarding grand jury proceedings about one slave accused of murdering another
1858 – Two court documents from Missouri regarding grand jury proceedings about one slave accused of murdering another
1858 – Two court documents from Missouri regarding grand jury proceedings about one slave accused of murdering another

1858 – Two court documents from Missouri regarding grand jury proceedings about one slave accused of murdering another

Howard County, Missouri: Howard County Circuit Court, 1858. There are two related documents in this lot.

The first is a partially-printed grand jury witness summons issued by Howard County Circuit Court of Missouri dated December 7, 1858. It is addressed to the owners of five slaves.

“Headley Cooper. Slaves Armpstead, Marion, and Irvin (added later in pencil) / Wm E Hackley. Slave William / Thos H White. Slave Henry”

The sheriff noted on the reverse that he “Served the written Subpoenas by Reading the same to the within named Slaves William Armpstead Irvin &Henry.”

The second summarizes the grand jury’s finding. It has an old tape repair on the reverse. It reads in part:

“The Grand Jurors . . . Present: That Dave a certain Negro Slave the property of H L Brown . . . on the 1st day of December [1858] in and upon one Mark a Negro Slave the property of one Dudley Estill feloniously did make an assault . . . with a certain large stick . . . in his right hand upon the head of . . . Mark and . . . strike and beat, giving him . . . one Mortal wound of which [he] did languish [for] 9 days [until he] died. . .. So the Jurors . . . Say that the Said Dave the Said Mark in the Manner and form aforesaid feloniously did Kill against the peace and dignity of the State.”

Docketing on the second includes: “Dave a Slave of H L Brown – Manslaughter in 3d degree – A True Bill / S I Preston / Foreman”. It also notes that three physicians testified in addition to the slave witnesses.

. Very good. Item #009910

The “Black Code” of Missouri was based largely upon the Black Codes of Louisiana and Virginia. As such, the legal status of enslaved people was unusual; they were simultaneously both property and persons. Laws of the time, therefore, often seem curious or illogical today. Generally, slaves accused of serious offenses were tried within the same legal system and under the same rules of law as a white person. However, as property, slaves were not usually executed for capital crimes that would cause a white person to be hung because to do so would deprive a slave’s master of valuable property. More frequently, if a slave were convicted of a capital offense, s/he would be banished from the state, or perhaps even the country. This usually meant that the slave’s master would have to sell the offender, probably at a discounted price, into a harsher situation, likely one of the huge sugar, indigo, or cotton plantations in the deep South, or, even worse, to French or Spanish hellholes in the Caribbean. Dave’s fate is not known.

(For more information, see “Missouri's Early Slave Laws: A History in Documents,” online at the Missouri State Archives, Flanigan’s “Criminal Procedure in Slave Trials in the Antebellum South” in The Journal of Southern History (Vol. 40, No. 4), and Morris’s “ Slaves and the Rules of Evidence in Criminal Trials” in the June 1993 edition of the Chicago-Kent Law Review.)

Quite scarce. At the time of listing, there are no similar items for sale in the trade. The Rare Book Hub shows five slave trial manuscripts have been sold at auction since 1940, none for a murder case. OCLC show six institutions hold manuscript records of slave trial proceedings, one for a murder case.

Price: $850.00

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