Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Please free Clara, two years old.

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina

The petition of Thomas Johnson of Washington County humbly sheweth that he is the owner of a mulatto slave named Clara (Clary), about the age of two years, whom he is desirous to emancipate. Your petitioner therefore prays your Honorable Body to pass a bill to liberate said slave and that she may be called by the name of Clara Johnson and your petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray.  /s/ Thomas Johnson

General Assembly Session Records, November-December 1813, Box 3, North Carolina State Archives.

A slave is not a competent witness against a free negro?

Cox v. Dove, a Free Negro, 1 NC 72 (1796) .

1. A slave can not be a witness against a free negro.

2. In trespass quare clausum fregit, the defendant under the general issue may give in evidence a license.

Trespass quare clausum fregit and non culpabilis pleaded.

To prove the entry a negro slave was called and offered to be sworn.

But the Court (WILLIAMS, J., saying he never heard such a thing asked: HAYWOOD, J., tacente,) refused to admit the witness, although the defendant was stated to be a negro. 2, 1777, 2, 42, 307.

The case of State v. George, ante, p. 40, was cited: but much argument was not offered by the plaintiff’s counsel; there being other witnesses, attending to prove the fact intended to have been proved by the slave. He having been offered only to come at the opinion of the judges.

Slade, for the defendant, offered to read in evidence, a letter from the plaintiff to the defendant, authorizing him to tend turpentine trees on the premises.

Martin, for the plaintiff, objected to this: on the ground that if the defendant meant to avail himself of the plaintiff’s license, he ought not to have denied the entry, which he had done by pleading non culpabilis; at all events he ought to have pleaded justification. He cited Co. Litt., 282.

The Court, HAYWOOD, J., and STONE, J., nevertheless permitted the letter to be read: on the authority of a case cited out of Buller’s Nisi Prius, 90. Hatton & Neale, per Jones, C. J., 1683.

The plaintiff proved a trespass committed by cutting timber, and had a verdict.

NOTE.–Upon the first point see State v. George, ante, and 1 Rev. Stat., ch. 31, sec. 81. The law was later clearly settled that a slave is a competent witness against a free negro.

[Sidenote: Though I have a law degree, I’m not completely confident about my interpretation of this bizarrely fashioned decision. Thus, I present it in its entirety.  — LYH]