“ABERCROMBIE’S EXE’TOR vs.
Alabama Supreme Court, 1855
Albert G. Abercrombie’s will, signed and dated, Dec 15, 1848, and admitted to probate in Montgomery Co, AL, Feb 20, 1849.
Under the terms of this will, Abercrombie sold negro woman Nancy, and her six children, Jack, Ellen, Nicholas, Bonaparte, Susan, and Louisa, to Robert J. WARE, for the sum of one US dollar.
Further, Abercrombie directed WARE to treat the family, “with humanity according to the position they occupied in society”, and not allow others to impose upon them. (A moral law, if not a legal one, in most slave states.)
He further directed WARE to free the six children when they reach the proper age, as directed by Alabama law, if possible, so they could remain in the state. If not, he was directed they be sent to a free state, or another country.
Abercrombie also ordered WARE to liquidate “my entire estate for the benefit of Nancy and her six children.”
The court decreed the will was valid, as it pertained to the children. Their mother, on the other hand, could not receive a portion of the estate, because Abercrombie had not freed her under the will.
WARE objected, arguing that Nancy should have been freed under the will, as it was obviously Abercrombie’s intent.
The heirs objected, arguing the emancipation of the children, and the monetary bequest to them, was invalid.
*I believe the heirs knew that these seven humans would bring a lot more than one dollar, on the market!*
Judge Goldthwaite wrote the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court. He noted that the will would have been valid, had it placed the children in a state of “qualified freedom” until their full emancipation, but, in truth, the will placed no obligation on WARE that was not already the moral, if not the legal duty of every master.
The will did create a valid trust for the children.
If the executor was so faithless to fail to implement these provisions, then “the powers of the court of chancery,” were sufficient to do so.
If Abercrombie had attempted to give the children a monetary legacy prior to their emancipation, it would have been invalid, but such was not the case.
Unfortunately, Abercrombie’s will failed to state that Nancy should be freed, although it did provide a monetary legacy for her.
Under the circumstances, she could not be freed, even though this may have been Abercrombie’s intent.
Consequently, Nancy had no legal capacity to accept a monetary legacy.
Auburn University Archives and Records Dept.
Alabama Supreme Court on Manumissions
Inquiring minds want to know–
What caused the rift between Abercrombie and his heirs?
What was the relationship between Abercrombie and WARE?
Was WARE a business partner, a relative, or personal friend?
What was Nancy’s function at the Abercrombie plantation, house maid, kitchen help. field hand? The latter not likely.
What was Abercrombie’s relationship with Nancy?
Were any of these children Abercrombie’s? Or WARE’S?
What was Abercrombie’s motive in considering these people in his last will and testament, to spite his heirs, atonement for his pervious treatment, or simply to ease his own consentience?
Perhaps it’s better we don’t know!
And did you notice, one of Nancy’s boys was named Nicholas?
Just an afterthought, did Nicholas, Jack, or Bonaparte, grow up to play football for Alabama? Auburn?”