Herbert Harris v. Firth. Circuit Court Report


Negro Herbert Harris v. Firth, Executor of Wilkes.

The place to which a person has removed, with intent to remain there an indefinite time, and as a place of present domicil, is the place of his domicil, although he may entertain a floating intention to return at some future period.

If a person comes into this county as a sojourner, and brings with him his slave, and dies here, and his executor has been prevented, by the institution of this suit, from carrying the slave out of the district, the slave is not, by such importation, entitled to freedom.

Petition for freedom, on the ground that he was brought from Virginia into this county, to reside, contrary to the Maryland Act of 1796, c. 67.

The petitioner offered evidence that one Wilkes, was at the head of a company of sportsmen, (gamblers,) who resided in   Richmond, in Virginia. That he had hired a house in Washington, in this county, at first for three years, and afterwards for a term not yet expired, and continued to reside therein until his death on the 8th of November, 1834. That during such residence he purchased the petitioner in Virginia and brought him to Washington, where he resided with his master until his death. That Wilkes was considered as a citizen of the world, and before he came to Washington, had lived in Brunswick, in Virginia; sold out there, and lived in Richmond. That shortly before his death he intended, when he had made money enough, to go to the West and speculate in lands.

Mr. Brent, for the petitioner, prayed the Court to instruct the jury that if they shall find, from the evidence, that Wilkes removed to this county with an intention of remaining here for an indefinite time, and as a place of present domicil, this was his place of domicil, notwithstanding he might have entertained a floating intention to go to the west at some future period.

Mr. Brent in support of his prayer cited Story's Conflict of Laws, 45, 48, and Bruce v. Bruce, 2 B & P. 228

Mr Coxe, for the defendant, cited Story's Conflict of Laws, 39, 47; the Maryland Act of 1796, c. 67, §. 4, respecting sojourners and the cases Negro William v. Sawyer, (2 Cranch C. C. 373,) Negro Mary v. White, (3 Id. 663); and Jones v. Gassaway, (2 Id. 334); Kosciusko's case, in the Supreme Court of the United States; and Harrison v. Nixon; and Aspin's case; Almy v. Bingham, Robertson on Succession, 468.

The Court (Thruston, J., contrà,) gave the instruction as prayed by Mr. Brent.

Verdict for the petitioner.