Montgomery, TX: 1843-1850. Manuscript on 5 legal-sized sheets + 1 half-sheet, writing on versos (signs of aging, creasing and folding, some soiling); 3 holes at top of each sheet where formerly affixed inside a notebook (?). Good. Item #3874
SALE OF "ILLEGALLY IMPORTED" SLAVES IN THE EARLY REPUBLIC OF TEXAS, WITNESSING A BRIEF CHAPTER IN A LONG LEGAL SAGA WHICH CONTINUED FOR MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS AND ULTIMATELY CHANGED TEXAS LAW WITH REGARD TO THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS AND THE VALIDITY OF A TRANSFER OF "PROPERTY" TO A THIRD PARTY.
These six handwritten pages are copies of court documents concerning the case which ultimately became known as James M. & William D. McClenney vs. Stephen G. McClenney and the Administrators of Joseph Floyd, Deceased, and in this form was argued before the Supreme Court of the State of Texas (see: Reports of Cases Argued and Decided, vol. 3, pp. 192-199). Our manuscript appears to be copies of 1843 court filings, presented in 1850 to the Hon. C.W. Buckly in the continuing lawsuit by the Estate of Joseph Floyd (George A. Floyd, Administrator) vs. Samuel McGown (a.k.a. McGowan) and Stephen G. McClenney (a.k.a. McClenny or McCleary). Our manuscript is not an official document; it was a copy of a copy, speedily written with misspelled names and words, and with crude illustrations of official seals.
The first petition was filed in July 1843; in it Joseph Floyd complains that on 15 Oct. 1842 he paid Stephen G. McClenny $5,000 for seven "negro slaves for life." Their names are apparently recorded here for the first (and only?) time: "Bob a negro man aged about 35 years of dark complexion," "Clayborn a large chunky negro man about 40 years of age and of a [?] color," "Hartwell a negro man aged 25 years," "Edith or Edy a negro woman of dark complexion aged between 30 or 40 years," "Louisa a woman of yellow complexion about 23 years of age and her infant child named Ann," and "Cate or Caty a negro girl aged about 17 years."
The plaintiff asks the judge to review the Bill of Sale that was "here affixed" to the original documents (not transcribed in our manuscript copy), which was filed by Rusk and Henderson P.Q. The complaint claims that four months after the sale took place, "on or about the 23rd day of March last," Stephen McClenney and Samuel McGowan "did together forcibly and wrongfully seze (sic) take and carry away from the premises and from the control of the family of your petitioner six of the negro slaves" which are identified -- and valued independently -- as follows: Bob ($800), Clayborn ($800), Edy ($600), Louisa and her child ($800), and Cate or Katy ($500). The plaintiff then pleas with the court to order the sheriff of Montgomery County to sequester the defendants, believing that they will "in a short time remove the said negro slaves beyond the limits of the Republic of Texas." A bond of $7,000 for sequestration is then levied, along with a copy of the notarial instrument (Washington County, 25 June 1843, and Montgomery County, 6 July 1843).
As it turns out, these slaves were "illegally" taken from Alabama by McClenny, and sold "fraudulently" to Joseph Floyd, who died intestate. Floyd's son and administrator, George A. Floyd, sued McClenny for the negroes, as is attested in the present manuscripts. The case dragged on for years, during which time several parties in the case died. In the meantime, Texas law had become a quagmire at the county, state, and federal levels, as Texas went from becaming a sovereign nation, in 1836, to the 28th state of the Union, in 1845.
Concerning the present case, Linda Sybert Hudson cites Texas Supreme Court judgments in her "Black Texans in the Texas Supreme Court, 1840-1907: a Database of Free, Enslaved, and Former Enslaved Black Texans; with Case Name and Justice, Year, Persons Involved, County and Judge, Decision and Facts of the Case." Hudson summarizes the ramifications of McClenney v. Floyd’s Adm. (10 TX 160, Wheeler 1853), as property debt: "Negroes / names: McClenney, Knight, Floyd, McGown. Montgomery County: Reversed and Remanded. McClenney gave Negroes to Knight to take to TX, and avoid debt. K was arrested in TX. Arbitration gave slaves to McClenney and Floyd, but McClenney had sold slaves to McGown, and Floyd’s Admn sued for Negroes."
Hudson also references McClenney v. McClenney (3 TX 192 Lipscomb 1848), again as property debt: "Negroes: names: James, W.D. & Stephen McClenney, Jos. Floyd, J.M. Rawls. Walker County: Affirmed. SGM conveyed to JMR Negroes in trust for certain debts, and sell if not pay off. SGM brought to Texas and deeded to Floyd, father in law, but retained possession. Court dismissed all charges." See also the long transcript of the Supreme Court decisions at Caselaw Access Project https://cite.case.law/tex/3/192/
Our manuscript is related to another group of manuscript copies of dispositions on the same legal dispute (sold at Heritage in 2017), and may have been transcribed by the same copyist: we refer to a series of 1842 dispositions concerning the "ownership" of several slaves, and whether they belonged to Joseph Floyd or "McCleary" (sic). The Heritage materials are not well described, but we know that they end with a clerk's signature, and the top edges are trimmed; our documents are unsigned and untrimmed.