State v. Hale. From Cumberland.
SUPREME COURT OF NORTH CAROLINA
9 N.C. 582; 1823 N.C. LEXIS 65; 2 Hawks 582
December, 1823, Decided
PRIOR HISTORY: [**1] This was an indictment charging the Defendant with having
The Jury, below, found that the Defendant committed personal violence on the slave, mentioned
in the indictment, by striking him, and whether thisamounted to the offence charged, they
referred it to the Court to decide. Whereupon, Daniel, Judge, rendered judgment for the
Defendant, and theState, by Mr. Solicitor Troy, appealed.
HEADNOTES: A battery committed on a slave, no justification, or circumstances attending it,
being shewn, is an indictable offence. But everybattery on a slave is not indictable, because the
person making it may have matter of excuse, or justification, which would be no defence
forcommitting a battery on a free person. Each case of this sort must, in a great degree, depend
on its own circumstances.
OPINION: [*582] TAYLOR, Chief-Justice.--The indictment, in this case, is for an inhuman
assault and battery, but the special verdict states, thatthe Defendant struck the slave. The
question, therefore, presented to the Court, is, whether a battery, committed on a slave, no
justification, orcircumstances attending it, being shewn, is an indictable offence.
As there is no positive law, decisive of the question, a solution of it must be deduced from
general principles, from reasonings founded on the commonlaw, adapted to the existing
condition and circumstances of our society, and indicating that result, which is best adapted to
general expedience. [**2] Presumptive evidence of what this is, arises, in some degree, from
usage, of which the Legislature must have been long since apprised, by the repeated [*583]
conviction and punishment of persons charged with this offence.
It would be a subject of regret to every thinking person, if Courts of Justice were restrained, by
any austere rule of judicature, from keeping pace withthe march of benignant policy and
provident humanity, which for many years, has characterised every Legislative act, relative to
the protection ofslaves, and which christianity, by the mild diffusion of its light and influence,
has contributed to promote; and even domestic safety and interest equallyenjoin.