Supreme Court of Judicature of New Jersey.
March Term, 1807.
ON HABEAS CORPUS, for negro Dick.
Buying a slave in New York State, keeping him there some time, then bringing him and keeping him two years in this State, and then selling him, is not such buying with intent to sell, as, under the laws of New York, entitles him to freedom.
[page 413e] The defendant returned that he was entitled to the services of negro Dick, as his slave, during life. On which return issue was joined; and under our act of Assembly, this issue was tried at this court.
On the trial it appeared in evidence that negro Dick was formerly a slave in the State of New York, about twelve or thirteen years ago; and while the said negro was a slave, and residing with his master in the State of New York, Sir James Jay, who at that time resided part of the time in New York, and part of the time on his plantation in Bergen county, in the State of New Jersey, purchased him of his master. It did not satisfactorily appear how long the negro lived in Sir James' family in New York before he put him on his farm in Jersey; he was on the farm about two years, when Sir James, for some cause or other, put him in jail, and sold him out. That he passed through the hands of several masters, when at length the defendant bought him.
It was contended by Mr. Depeyster, on the part of negro Dick, that by the 5th section of an act of Assembly of the State of New York, entitled "An act respecting slaves," passed the 22d of February, 1788, that by thus purchasing of him by Sir James, and bringing him out of the State of New York into the State of New Jersey, and there selling him, he became free.
[page 414e] This section of the New York law enacts, "That if any person shall, at any time, purchase or buy, or shall, as factor or agent to another, take or receive any slave, with intent to remove, export, or carry such slave from this State to any other place without the State, and there to be sold, the person so purchasing or buying, &c.," going on to create a penalty, and then concludes in these words, viz.: "And the slave so purchased, bought, taken or received, shall be immediately after he shall be so purchased, bought, received or taken, and hereby is declared to be free."
Mr. Depeyster said--That he understood that the supreme court of the State of New York had decided that the fact of purchasing a slave in the State of New York, and taking him out of the State, and there selling him, was of itself such an act as entitled the slave to his freedom, under the foregoing section.
Mr. Halsey, for the defendant, said--Such an opinion, if there was ever such an one given, could not apply to this case. That Sir James Jay was an inhabitant of the State of New York, that he bought the slave in the State of New York, and employed him first in his own family in New York, and then put him on his farm in Jersey, where he kept him for two years; and then for bad behavior put him in jail, and afterwards sold him out of it; that it was impossible to bring this within the act of the State of New York so as to entitle the negro to his freedom; and begged the court to charge the jury as to the law; it being a question of law, he would not trouble the jury with any observations, relying on the opinion that the court should think proper to give.
Mr. Depeyster addressed the jury.
Dick claims his freedom, because, as he says, that under the laws of the State of New York, he is made free; if so, it must be that he was free before he was brought into this State; for the [page 415e] State of New York cannot extend into this State and attach itself to any act done here, in order to give him his freedom; nor does the law of New York intend any such thing. If he is free by virtue of the act of the Legislature of the State of New York, it is because Sir James Jay purchased him with the intent to bring him into the State of New Jersey, and here sell him. It is a question, therefore, of intent. If Sir James, immediately on purchasing him, had brought him into this State, and sold him, it would have been strong evidence of his purchasing him with that intent, and from which you would be justifiable in finding the fact to be so; if from all the evidence in the cause taken together, you believe it; but Sir James keeping him in his own employment for at least two years, and then not selling him until after there was a difference between him and the negro, is to my mind evidence of a contrary intent. The opinion ascribed to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, is what we have no evidence of; but if true, all that I can say of it is, that it is a strange opinion, wholly incomprehensible to my mind; but I apprehend all there can be in it is, that the court has considered the taking a slave out of the State, and there selling it, evidence of an intent to do so at the time of the purchase, fit to go to a jury; and so far, I agree with them.
Verdict for defendant.