Treated and regarded as free.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

David Jarman v. L.W. Humphrey, 51 NC 28 (1858).

The case was brought to try the question of L.W. Humphrey’s right to hold David Jarman as a slave.  Jarman was once the slave of Edward Williams and is Humphrey’s slave, unless he has been legally emancipated.  Benjamin Jarman filed a petition in Onslow County Superior Court attesting that he had been the slave of John Jarman and had been lawfully manumitted by the court for meritorious services; that, while a slave, he fathered a child named David, who was now about 30 years old; that David’s master, Williams, had been offered a large sum of money to free David but had refused and had, instead, sold David to his father Benjamin for a reduced price.  Williams attested that he had owned David about 30 years; that he reposed unusual confidence in David; and that he had refused higher sums in order to sell David to his father.  At September term, 1822, the Onslow County Superior Court entered a judgment that David was liberated, and he had conducted himself as a free man since.  However, Humphrey asserted that Benjamin himself was a slave at the time he petitioned for David’s emancipation and therefore could neither have owned nor freed him.  State Supreme Court held that Williams’ acquiescence in and recognition of David’s freedom demonstrated that the transfer of title had been valid and as “he and all other persons had treated and regarded [David] as free for more than thirty years, every presumption ought to be made in favor of his actual emancipation.”

See also State v. William Patrick, 51 NC 308 (1859), a Brunswick County indictment for carrying firearms: “It is clearly settled that it is evidence in favor of a negro, in a suit for his freedom, that he is generally reputed to be free, and has always acted and passed a free man. …  If such evidence be admissible to establish the fact of a negro’s being free, when it is to operate in his favor, it seems to us, that it must equally be so when it is to operate against him.”