Not void, but voidable.

by Lisa Y. Henderson

Cornelius Dowd v. Stephen Davis, 15 NC 61 (1833).

Cornelius Dowd charged Stephen Davis with harboring a mulatto named Lydia Burnett.  Burnett and four others (“they being born of a free woman and begot by a negro slave”) had been bound to Dowd in Moore County and had run away.  Davis claimed the indenture was defective and therefore invalid.  The state Supreme Court held that, despite numerous deficiencies, the indenture was valid as between the master and someone harboring a runaway.  The indenture was not void, but was voidable by the parties to it.  Burnett was not a party to her own indenture and therefore could not void it.  The court ordered a new trial and noted that justices across the state should be advised that defective old indentures may need to be replaced with ones that strictly observe the requirements of the law.

In the 1850 census of Moore County, Lydia Burnett, 41, with William, 19, Thomas, 17, Ann, 16, and Betsey Burnett, 10.