John Murry vs. Louis Menard and Clayton Tiffin
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State of MissouriMissouri
Third Judicial District

. Supreme Court May Term 1827

"John MerryJohn Merry
vs
Tiffin & Menard

Error from St. Louis Circuit CourtCircuit Court
The case is that an action of assault of battery
was brought against the defendants in Error, by John for his freedom, the
record shows that the mother of the plaintiff, before the ordinance of
Congress of 1787 was holden as a slave, in the Territory Northwest of
the Ohio RiverOhio River in that part now called IllinoisIllinois. And that after said
ordinance the said mother was still holden in IllinoisIllinois as a slave, &
while so holden and about 36 years past, in the IllinoisIllinois, John was born
and that he was holden there as a slave until lately â The counsel for
John asked the Court to the Jury, that by virtue of said ordinance,
under these circumstances. John was intitled to his freedom, which
the Court refused, many other points were made in the Court below,
and assigned for Error, none of which, will we notice: as we are
with the Plaintiff in Error on the point above stated. The Ordinance
is found in the first vol of the laws of the U. S.; P.480, the 6th
article says that there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary
servitude in said Territory, otherwise than for the punishment
of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,
this case is not within the exception, we cannot undertake
to give these words a construction: No words are to be construed,
unless a doubt arises. here there is doubt. The ordinance
is positive that slavery cannot exist, and shall me, or any other
Court say otherwise, But it is constructed by the Counsel of the
defendants. (Tiffin & Menard.) That although the words are clear

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enough in themselves. Yet that when we look at the Cession Act
of VirginiaVirginia and the whole of the Ordinance, that there is much
room to doubt if these general positive words ought not to be
so understood as to admit those who were slaves in that Country,
at the adoption of the ordinance, and their decendants, to continue
so. Because the ordinance says in another place, that the
Inhabitants shall be protected in the just preservation of their
rights and property, and by the Act of Cessions of VirginiaVirginia, it is
stipulated, that the Inhabitants shall be protected in the enjoyment
of their rights and liberties. 1st. Vol. Laws U S 473. The whole of
these instruments taken together, are unable to create any doubts
in our minds, as to the meaning of the 6th Article of the Ordinance.
The express words in the Cession Act of VirginiaVirginia, that the Inhabitants
shall be protected in the enjoyment of their rights and liberties.
are Completely satisfied by securing to them the enjoyment of such
rights as they then had, and not that the things or objects that
might then happen to be property, should be so through all
future time, this man was not then born, and when he was
born into existance the law forbid slavery to exist, and at the
time of making the Cession Act, this man John was not property
and at the time of his birth, he could not be property. There
is nothing in the Cession Act forbidding CongressCongress to fix and point
out those things which might afterwards be the subjects of property
According to this view of the subject. John is free. The Judgment is
reversed with casts and sent back to the circuit Court for a new trialâ

I ThompsonThompson Dauglass Clerk of the Supreme CourtSupreme Court of the