Ralph, a man of colour v. James Coleman and Duncan Coleman
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RalphRalph a man of Color
vs
Coleman DuncanColeman Duncan

Appeal from St. Louis Circuit CourtCircuit Court

RalphRalph sued for his freedom in the Circuit CourtCircuit Court of St. Louis County,
and Judgment being given against him in that court he comes here to reverse
that Judgment. On the trial of the cause it was testified by John Steel that
he had heard John GordonJohn Gordon the former master of RalphRalph say in the year 1818
or 19 that he had been in the habit of hiring RalphRalph to work occasionally at
the OhioOhio SalineSaline from the year 1814 or 15 till the time of the conversation
aforesaid. Witnesses were called to impeach Steeles character for veracity,
others were called to support it; and William GordonWilliam Gordon a witness on the part
of the defendant himself by his testimony seemed to support that of SteeleSteele .

William GordonWilliam Gordon was asked by the defendant if he did not live near his
brother John GordonJohn Gordon in the years 1815. 16. 17. 18 & 19 and if he knew that his
brother hiredRalphRalph at the SalineSaline in those years; to which question he
answered that he lived in five miles of John in those years, he never knew
of his (RalphRalph ) being hired by John GordonJohn Gordon at the SalineSaline. The witness to
make the matter more certain was asked, whether if John GordonJohn Gordon had hired
RalphRalph at the SalineSaline he did not believe he should have known it. The answer
was ``I believe if John GordonJohn Gordon had hired him there I should have known it. I''
`heard John GordonJohn Gordon say in his life time, the negro hired his own time and went''
``to the SalineSaline of its (his) own accord'' - The object of the ordinance of 1787 was
to prohibit the introduction of slaves into the Territory of which the present State of IllinoisIllinois contitutes
a part, and the master who permits his slave to go there to hire himself
offends against that law as much as one who take his slave along with
himself to reside there; and if we are at liberty to regard the moral effect of
the act it is much worse to permit the slave to go there to hire himself to
labor, than for the master to take him along with himself to reside there
under his own inspection or to hire him out personally to some person who
will be bound to pay the master the hire; yet even this last act has been
decided to be a violation of the provision of the ordinance - AbnerAbner Martin
MartinAbner Martin one of the plaintiffs witnesses also testified that he was the nephew of
John GordonJohn Gordon (former owner of RalphRalph ) that in 1831 he was 21 year sold and

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that he recollected when he was about seven years old, he heard John GordonJohn Gordon
say that RalphRalph was at work at the Olis SalineSaline, the witnes stated that he
had spent much time in Gordons family, had no knowledge that RalphRalph
was employed at the SalineSaline except from Gordon's statements- much other
testimony was given to prove a hiring of the plaintiff at the SalineSaline, and
at the Lead mines near GalenaGalena in IllinoisIllinois, some part of which time was
since the defendant became the owner, but his assent was not expressly
proved. This testimony and some other not very material to be noticed
being given, the counsel for the defendant moved the court to give six
instructions the sum and purpose of which is as follows -

1st that the constitution of IllinoisIllinois takes date and was obligatory from the time
it passed unless some other date is provided in the instrument.

2nd that the execution of a note by the defendant to the plaintiff as given in evidence
in this case does not operate a manumission of the plaintiff.

3rd that in order to intitle the plaintiff to recover in this suit it must be proved
that the defendant assented to his residence in IllinoisIllinois - These instructions
were given - The plaintiff prayed the court to instruct the Jury that the
Constitution of IllinoisIllinois took effect on 3rd December 1818 when CongressCongress
assented to the admission of that state into the union and not before that
time - this was refused the plaintiff then prayed a new trial which was refused -

This court is of opinion that the instruction asked by the plaintiff should have
been given, and that the first instruction asked by the defendant should have been
refused - We have no doubt that for the purposes of self government the Consti-
tution of IllinoisIllinois might have been well in force from the time of its adoption,
but for the purpose of the present cause we incline to limit its effect to the time
when congress assented to the admission of the State into the Union - It
cannot be said that the 2nd and 3rd instructions asked by the defendant were
improperly given, But the evidence that the defendant gave his not to the plaintiff
is certainly admisible to prove that the defendant treated with him as with a
freeman. - nor is it necesary to prove that the assent either of GordonGordon the
former claimant or of DuncanDuncan the defendant was expressly given to the Residence
in IllinoisIllinois by virtue of which the plaintiff claims his freedom, this asent may be
inferred from circumstances. - The motion for a new trial was in the opinion of
this court improperly overruled. - Then for the reason that the first instruction
asked by the defendant was in the opinion of this court improperly given, and
that asked by the plaintiff improperly refused, and because the plaintiffs motion
for a new trial was in the opinion of this court improperly overruled (there being
as we think evidence enough to entitle the plaintiff to a verdict) the Judgment
of the Circuit CourtCircuit Court is reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings
in conformity with this opinion -

M. McGirk

G Tompkins

R WashR Wash

Judges -