Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Julia v. McKinney I: An Owner's Plan to Thwart Freedom

In Julia v. McKinney, 3 Mo. 270, 1833 WL 3254 (1833), the Supreme Court of Missouri once again confronted the issue whether it should declare a slave free based upon the laws of a free territory or state. The court reaffirmed its holdings in Winny v. Whitesides (1824), Merry v. Tiffin (1827) and Milly v. Smith (1829), in which it held that a slave who resided in a free territory or state should be declared free based upon foreign law. Julia is particularly noteworthy because the court pointedly rejected an opportunity to limit its earlier decisions in a way that would have been legally plausible and highly advantageous to slaveholders.

Lucinda Carrington, the owner of a slave named Julia, lived in Kentucky. When Mrs. Carrington announced in 1829 that she intended to move to Illinois with Julia, a neighbor warned her “that if she took [Julia] there she would be free.” The Illinois Constitution contained a provision “which declares that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall hereafter be introduced into this State otherwise than for the punishment of crimes . . . and concludes by saying any violation of this article shall effect the emancipation of such person for his obligation to service.”

Determined nonetheless to move to Illinois, Mrs. Carrington then established a plan to evade the constitutional provision. She arrived in Pike County, Illinois on October 27 or 28, 1829 with Julia and settled herself there. But she asserted that she did not intend to keep Julia in Illinois, but instead to hire her out in Missouri. For a little over a month, until December 1, 1829, Julia stayed with Mrs. Carrington. During that month, Mrs. Carrington “exercise[ed] the ordinary acts of ownership and dominion over [Julia] which are usually exercised by masters over their slaves.” Mrs. Carrington also hired Julia out in Illinois for “about two days.”

On about December 1, 1829, Mrs. Carrington “sent Julia to Louisiana, Missouri, a distance of about thirty miles, and hired her out” there. Julia became sick, and Mrs. Carrington had her return to Pike County, Illinois. When Julia recovered, Mrs. Carrington sent her to St. Louis, where she was sold to S. McKinney.

Julia sued for her freedom in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, naming Mr. McKinney, her new owner, as the defendant. She contended that Mrs. Carrington and she had resided in Illinois between October 27 or 28 and December 1, 1829. At trial, however, the Circuit Court gave the jury an instruction, unfavorable to Julia, that focused on Mrs. Carrington’s intent, rather than her actions. The trial court instructed the jury that, if it believed that Julia “was taken into the State of Illinois by her owner without any intention on the part of such owner to make that State the residence of Julia, that the plaintiff is not entitled to recover in this action.”

The jury returned a verdict against Julia, and the Circuit Court entered judgment against her. Julia then appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri.

In the next post, we shall examine how the court analyzed and resolved the issues.

1 comment:

  1. I am a descendant of Julia Varlia McKinney - can view all my Native American Genealogy on my blog at www.conidubois.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete

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