April Term, 1790
On Habeas Corpus of Negro Thomas claiming his Freedom.
[Habeas Corpus returned and filed.]
[Different report of this case: 1 N.J.L. 4]
"We have the Negro in the above Writ named, at the Day and Place as by the said Writ we are commanded, and we do certify, that we as Administrators of all and singular the Goods and Chattels, Rights and Credits which were of Isaac Prall, deceased, took Possession of said Negro as part of the personal Property of the said Isaac Prall, and that there is no other cause of detaining him.
Upon the hearing in this cause, it appeared to the Court that the said Negro Thomas belonged to the said Isaac Prall, deceased--That the Intestate, about Three Years before his Death, and frequently afterwards, declared that Tom should never have another Master-- That he had been a faithful Servant to him--That they had been born under one Roof, that they had received Sustenance from one Breast, and had broke up the Ground, and always lived together; and continued to shew great Affection and Regard for the Negro until his last Sickness, and during that Sickness whilst he had his Senses--That in his last Illness, on the Friday before he died, he requested a person might be sent for to make his Will, at which Time his Sister being present, she asked him what he intended to do with his Negroes, he replied they should all be sold but Tom, and he should be free ; which Declaration he also made the same Day to several others, with this, further, that Tom should not serve any other Master--The Person sent for to write his Will, did not come 'till the next Day, when [page 23] the Intestate was so deranged in his Mind as to be incapable of making his Will, and continued so until he died, which was on the Wednesday following ; that the said Intestate, after he was in some measure deranged, continued to shew strong and evident Marks of Affection for the said Negro, and of the Continuance of his Design and Intention to make him free : It also appeard to the Court that the said Negro had always before the Death of the Intestate, and till that Event took place, been much attached to his Master, had shewn a great Affection for him, and had behaved himself well and faithfully.
The Court having considered of the whole Case, and the Arguments of Counsel for and against the Manumission of the Negro, are unamiously of Opinion, that the frequent and full Declarations of the Intestate, amounted more than a bare Intention of doing something in future ; that even if these Declarations were taken in the Sense of a Promise to do something in future, the good Behavior of a Negro which was admitted on all Hands, the evident Continuation of the Affection of the Master as long as he had his Senses, and even when in some Measure deprived of them, afforded a strong Ground of Presumption of a Contract between the Negro and Master for his Freedom, conditionally on his behaving well, which having performed on his Part, the Negro was entitled to his Liberty, and that the Performance of the Condition on the Part of the Master and his Representatives, might be affected on this Habeus Corpus, do therefore adjudge, That the said Negro Tom being entitled to his Freedom, be discharged from the Custody of the said Administrators, and all the Representatives of the said Isaac Prall, deceased. On the Motion of Mr. Bloomfield, Attorney-General.
Attorney-General, and Elisha Boudinot, for the State.
Freelinghuysen and Aaron Ogden, for Defendants.