3 N.J.L. 415

Supreme Court of Judicature of New Jersey.




May Term, 1808.


Widow cannot sue heirs for support of a slave without their request.

[page 415o]

The action below was brought on the following state of demand:

Hannah Potter, widow of Caleb Potter, deceased, vs. Samuel Potter, Jr., Phebe Maxwell, and Easter Maxwell, heirs of said Caleb Potter.

The plaintiff demands of the defendants one hundred dollars, for keeping Jin, an old and infirm black woman, who was the property of the said Caleb Potter at the time of his death, and for finding her meat, drink and clothing, for six years since the death of the said Caleb, when according to the statutes and customs of the State of New Jersey, the said defendants, heirs as aforesaid, were bound to support and maintain, at all times after the death of the said ancestor, the black woman; but which upon demand, they the said heirs refused to do; [page 416o] and therefore, the plaintiff (Hannah Potter) brings this suit.

The defendants pleaded verbally that they owed nothing. The plaintiff obtained a judgment for $40.08. The defendants brought this certiorari to reverse the judgment.

The counsel for the plaintiffs in error raised a number of objections, as well to the proceedings as to the right of the plaintiff below to recover. The one on which the court decided the case was, that it did not appear by the state of demand, that the maintenance of the wench was at the request, or by the direction or authority of the defendants; that even if the defendants were liable to support the slave, which he denied, yet that it did not lay in the power of any person to furnish that support without their approbation or request, and then bring an action against them for it. He also insisted that the executors or administrators of the deceased, were first liable.

THE COURT gave no opinion as to the persons liable to support the slave, or the manner of compelling it; but were clearly of opinion, that the plaintiff below could not take upon herself to maintain the slave, and then bring an action for such maintenance; and reversed the judgment.