Friday, February 26, 2010


Well here's a word I never heard of before, courtesy of Earl M. Maltz's Slavery and the Supreme Court, 1825-1861.

Strader v. Graham was a suit that involved Kentucky slaves who had traveled to Ohio and Indiana, with the consent of their master, then voluntarily returned to Kentucky. A question in the case was whether their visits to free states terminated their status as slaves. In 1847, the Kentucky Court of Appeals held that, whatever their status under Ohio and Indiana law, their slavery reattached when they returned to Kentucky.

In an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, attorney Walter Jones argued that the slaves became forever free when they touched the soil of Ohio or Indiana with the consent of their master.
Jones explicitly rejected the position that the character or duration of a putative slave's presence in a state north of the Ohio River was relevant to the analysis, asserting that "there [is] no distinction . . . to be drawn from the mere duration of commorancy, if the removal to a free state was voluntary on the part of the slave and with the permission of the master" and that "the instant . . . came within the boundaries of such states, the laws of those states took effect upon his condition, and eo instanti he became clothed with every attribute of freedom."

As you will gather from the context, "commorancy" means temporary residence.

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