Henry v. Ball,
14 U.S. 1 (1816)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Henry v. Ball, 14 U.S. 1 Wheat. 1 1 (1816)

Henry v. Ball

14 U.S. (1 Wheat.) 1


The Act of Assembly of Maryland of 1796, c. 67, prohibiting the importation of slaves into that state for sale or to reside, does not extend to a temporary residence, nor to an importation by a hirer or person other than the master or owner of such slave.

Error on judgment, rendered by the Circuit Court for the County of Washington in the District of Columbia against the plaintiff, who was in that court a petitioner for freedom.

The plaintiff, being a child and the slave of the defendant, who resided in Virginia, was, some short

Page 14 U. S. 2

time before the month of May, 1810, put to live with Mrs. Rankin, then residing also in Virginia, whose husband was an officer in the marine corps stationed in the City of Washington. Mrs. R. was to keep the girl for a year and was to give her victuals and clothes for her services. Sometime in May, 1810, Mrs. R. removed to Washington and brought the petitioner with her -- whether with or without the permission of Mr. Ball, is entirely uncertain. It was probably, though not certainly, with his knowledge. In October, 1810, Mr. Ball married, and soon after took the petitioner into his possession and carried her home, he then residing in Virginia. Mrs. R. gave her up, being of opinion, though the girl had remained with her only seven or eight months, that she was bound to give her up when required by her master. Mr. B. afterwards removed himself into the city and brought the petitioner with him. Upon this testimony the counsel for the petitioner prayed the court below to instruct the jury that if it believed from the evidence that the defendant knew of the intended importation of the petitioner by Mrs. and did not object to it, then such importation entitled the petitioner to her freedom; and, further, that it was competent to the jury to infer from his knowing of the importation and not objecting to it that such importation was made with his consent. This instruction the court refused to give, but did instruct the jury that if it should be of opinion that Mrs. R. was, at the time she brought the petitioner into the City of Washington, a citizen of the United States coming into the City of Washington

Page 14 U. S. 3

with a bona fide intention of settling therein, then her importation of said slave was lawful and did not entitle the petitioner to her freedom, whether the said importation were or were not made with the consent of the defendant. An exception was taken to this opinion, and the jury having found a verdict for the defendant on which judgment was rendered by the court, the cause was brought into this Court by writ of error.

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