Mary Bell v. Susan Armistead. Petitioner's Bills of Exceptions



On the trial of this cause the Petition read in evidence to maintain the issue on her part joined offered and read in evidence the record of a deed of manumission Executed by Robert Armstead to the Petitioner as follows [here insert it] and it being admitted that the said Robert Armistead was dead long before the filing of the said Petition & that the Petitioner is the same person named in the said deed, the petitioner rested her case;

And thereupon the defendant to maintain the issue on her part joined, offered to read in evidence a paper purporting to be a copy of a deed of gift from       Marshal to Susannah Marshal   as follows [here insert the said deed with the authentication there of] it being admitted that the said authentication is in due form, if the said paper is otherwise admissible & accompanied the said offer, with a further offer to prove the identity of the slave named in said offered deed, with the petitioner, and the said Susannah Marshal therein named with the said Defendant: and the Petitioner by her counsel objects to the reading of the said copy of a deed, and to its admissibility in evidence in this cause: And the court overrules the objection & permits the same to be read in evidence, and the Petitioner excepts & prays the Court to sign and seal this her first bill of Exceptions & to cause the same to be enrolled according to the statute, which is done this 3d day of Dec 1847

Jas. S. Morsell (seal)
Jas. Dunlop (seal)



Mary Bell
Susan Armstead

Pltffs 1st Bill of Exception

And thereupon and after the evidence contained in the said Petitioners first bill of Exceptions made part hereof had been given, the said Defendant further to maintain the issue on her part joined offered to give evidence tending to shew that the said defendant in the life time of the said Robert Armstead to whom she was lawfully married and before his going to the Almshouse in which the said deed was executed [it being admitted that said Robert was an inmate of the Alms house in Washington City at the time of the execution of said deed and no member of his family was present or other persons except Daniel the husband of the Petitioner, the witnesses to the deed, & the inmates of the room paupers] treated him well coupled with a further offer to shew that he was of unsound mind, that the Execution of said deed was procured by undue influence to the admissibility of which said offered evidence the Petitioner by her Counsel objected, but the said objection was overruled by the Court, and the said evidence was given, and the Petitioner by her Counsel excepts and prays the Court to sign and seal this her 2 Bill of Exceptions and to cause the same to be enrolled according to the Statute which is done accordingly this 4th day of December 1847

Jas. Dunlop (seal)

And afterwards, and after the evidence had been given set out and contained in Petitioners first and second bill of exceptions made part hereof, the defendant gave evidence tending to shew that said Robert Armstead was for many years employed in the Navy Yard at Washington   until by disease he became incapacitated for work, and the labor and care of and the support of the family devolved on his wife the Defendant who supported the family until by degrees his mind had become greatly enfeebled; that his appearance was haggard and wretched he was very infirm so as to be unable to walk without great difficulty, and with the aid of sticks, that his articulation became indistinct, and his hearing and vision dull; his memory failed; and he would wander in his talk; that his actions also were remarkable he would stand for some time gazing on vacancy, and then suddenly start, and if in the street would immediately go into the house; that his temper and disposition were equally changed and he became harsh and cruel to the members of his family and treated them with great severity that his family treated him well, & provided him with every thing necessary for his comfort. that the Mr Edward W. Clarke who was at that time one of the guardians of the poor for the Ward of the city in which the said Robert resided repeatedly called to see him, in the absence of the Defendant to prevail upon him to execute a deed of manumission to the Petitioner, and he the said Robert refused to do so, although the deed had been prepared and was presented to him by said Clarke, unless in the presence of, and with the consent of the Defendant: that on the Saturday previous to his going to the Alms house, which was on Monday the 5 August 1835, Daniel the husband of the petitioner called at   gate of the yard of said Robert Armstead he said Robert being then in his garden with one of his children, and presented a letter to him, & Daniel being asked by the said child if it was a letter from her sister who was then in Virginia he answered yes. That said Robert put the letter in his pocket, went into his house with his said child, and was asked by his wife if he had a letter from her daughter in Virginia to which he made no reply: that the next day he packed up his clothes in a chest, & being asked by a visitor at the instance of his wife what he was going to do, said he was going away; and being asked why he was going away said, he must go.

That the next day a cart came for him and he gave to the cartman the letter which had been handed to him by Daniel on Saturday, and he had his chest put into it and rode away in the cart his wife being absent from home at the time. and on the same day entered the Alms house; that while in the said Alms house he was visited on one occasion by said Daniel Edward W. Clark;

insert this in defendants statement
[and once or twice by said Daniel who at his request opened his chest and by his direction took from it a book being a bible or prayer book for the purpose of ascertaining the ages of the children named in said deed, and from which the blanks which had been left in the draft of said deed for that purpose were   filled up: that on the said 13 day of September 1835 after the execution of the said deed he was discharged from said Alms house, and taken home by his wife in a carriage very feeble, greatly exhausted, & incapable of speech, and that he died two days thereafter: and she further gave evidence of the opinion of witnesses founded on the facts above detailed and other facts or parts and portions of them that said Robert was not at the time of execution of said deed of unsound mind. & had been so for a long period of time theretofore


And thereupon the said Petitioner by way of rebutting the evidence aforesaid gave evidence to shew that after the said Robert Armstead became incapable of working in the said Navy Yard he had a small shop or store in his dwelling house which was attended and customers were waited upon and supplied by himself & his children that he failed gradually, but that this failing was physical, that his mind was not impaired, that his habits of industry continued that he was constantly employed whenever he was able to be about in attending to his family, that and his affairs: that his wife being absent for the most part going out to days work, or by the week, he attended to the cooking for his family, repaired his own and his childrens clothes, made trifling repairs on the fences around his garden picked oakum, and was in other ways employed as far as was possible in contributing to the support of his family: that he was a man of unhappy temper & disposition and sometimes violent and suspicious, without[?] adequate cause: that by degree as his infirmities increased the poverty of the family became more greater that some short time before he went to the Alms house he gave up the said shop, and afterwards sent for a   Justice of the Peace in the neighborhood to make up his accounts, furnished him with his books, and altho' very infirm and in bed, was present at the making out the accounts & giving such directions as were necessary: that after the closing of the said shop they became still further oppressed with poverty; and he often complained of his circumstances. That on the day or the Saturday before he went to the Alms House, he sent for a neighbor to borrow a carriage in which to ride there, and that neighbor called to see him, and in the presence of his wife had a conversation with him, in which he informed the neighbor that he would have a large chest to carry, and she declined to let him have the carriage, that the defendant being present at this conversation expressed his objections to his going to the Alms house, but said as he had made up his mind to go, he could go.

That on his arrival at the Alms house he gave stated to the Intendant thereof his age, and his birth place according to the rule of the house; that while there he was attended two or three times a week by an able and Experienced Physician, who testified that he had no reason to believe that he was a man insane or so weak in intellect as to be unable to incapable of understanding the effect, and operations of   a deed of manumission although he thought him a man of weak intellect. That while at the said asylum he was visited by a Justice of the Peace, a gentleman of high character, and repute and who is since dead who either prepared there, or brought with him the said draft of a deed of manumission being the same which has been given in evidence and who by the direction of said Robert and in the that the said Robert directed the said Daniel the husband of the Petitioner to go to his chest & bring a bible or prayer book from the said chest to ascertain the ages of the children to be manumitted by said deed, they being recorded in said book and the said Justice then by direction of said Robert, in his presence and in the presence of the Intendant of the asylum filled up the blanks which had been left in said deed for the names or ages of the persons named therein. that the said deed was read over to him by the said Justice, and was afterwards signed by him in the presence of said Justice and said Intendant and acknowledged before the said Justice: on the day it bears date: that the said Robert was not visited at the said asylum by the defendant until the day he was discharged: and further gave evidence by the said witnesses that they had known the said Robert for many years before and up to the day of his death except while he was at the poor house and were in the habit of seeing almost daily and frequently conversing with him, and that during all that time they had never know him to do or to say any thing which was irrational or which appeared to proceed from unsoundness of mind, and they believe him altho   very feeble in body fully competent to the management and discharge of his business and affairs except for his great physical debility, that he was afflicted with chronic Rheumatism; and before he went to the said asylum had become suspicious, peevish, and fretful, and was afflicted with a diseased state of the bowels, and for which he could not in his impoverished condition obtain the proper food and nourishment for such his diseases. that the said Edward W. Clarke has been dead several years

And also that on the 21st Sept 1835 & after the death of said Robert a certificate of freedom was granted to said Petitioner by the clerk of Washington County [as follows here insert it] and afterwards she was registered and licensed on the books of the Corporation of Washington as a free woman; that at the time of the death of said Robert the petitioner was living with her said husband Daniel, a slave in the neighborhood of Defendant: that shortly after the death of said Robert said Defendant made an agreement with Petitioner to furnish provisions for herself and for the children she then had with being the three youngest named in said deed and did from time to time on demand furnish provisions; that Petitioner lived in the neighborhood of said Defendant.   and went about publicly claiming to be and recognized as a free person and dealing his her own account as a free person till the bringing of this action during the whole of which time she lived in the immediate neighborhood of the Defendant

And after the whole evidence aforesaid was closed & before the the cause was argued or the Jury retired from the Bar the counsel for and after the statement of the said evidence had been made out and was about to be submitted to the Court, the counsel for the Defendant maintained that a witness had on her examination in chief stated that said Petitioner did not go at large as free and the counsel for the Petitioner stating that the witness had said "she did not know of that the Petitioner passed about as free, or that she was reported to be free" and after debate between the counsel [strikethrough] The court directed the in the presence and hearing of the witness, as to what she did say the Court ordered permitted the said witness to be called and examined, and the witness then stated "She did not pass about as a free woman because Mrs Armstead gave her orders and she obeyed them." and upon being asked by the counsel   for the Prisoner Petitioner whether on her said Examination in chief she had not said "that she did not know that the Petitioner passed about as free, or that she was reputed to be free"? and whether that was or not all the testimony she gave on that point she says she did, and Thereupon the Court order it to be inserted in the said Bill of Exceptions that the said witness said "she did not pass about as a free woman because Mrs Armstead gave her orders and she obeyed them"

And thereupon the Petitioner by her counsel excepts to the said order of the Court & the said testimony theretoand prays the court to sign and seal this her 3d Bill of Exceptions and to cause the same to be enrolled according to the statute which is done accordingly this 4' day of December 1847.

Jas. S. Morsell (seal)
Jas. Dunlop (seal)