Manuscript indenture document (slave deed)


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WALKER, George. Manuscript indenture document transferring ownership of five slaves. Charleston, South Carolina, February 20, 1850. Broadside, two leaves of blue ruled paper conjoined by fold along lower edge, measuring 21-1/2 inches by 14-1/4 inches, penned in a fine secretarial hand on rectos, signed and sealed on fold at lower margin, docketed and certified on verso of second leaf.

Large, ornately penned 1850 Charleston, South Carolina, manuscript slave deed formalizing the purchase (for $5.00) and gifting of five slaves, "Emma, Charles, Louisa, William and Isaac" to Charles Walker and Mary Desel as a wedding present from Mary's father, Charles Lewis Desel (a physician) and John Bickley (a planter).

Charles Desel owned Liberty Hall, an inland rice plantation north of Charleston. John James Audubon visited Desel at Liberty Hall on several occasions to hunt and observe birds and other wildlife. The document is signed and sealed by the two gifting parties (Charles Desel and John Bickley) and the two receiving parties (Mary Desel and George Walker) along the lower margin of the first leaf. It is interesting to note that the contract stipulates the right of the possessor "To have and to hold the said negro slaves, with the future issue and increase of the females" and of course grants the owners the right "to take the wages, profit, income, and use of the said negro slaves… for the maintenance and support of them [the owners], and of the children of the said intended marriage, if any there shall be." Indeed, much of this document is concerned with establishing who would own the slaves in the case of the death of Mary or George: should Mary die first, the slaves would become Charles' property; however, if Charles were to die first, then ownership would go first to any children of the couple, to be split equally among them if they were to have more than one child, only reverting to Mary if there were no children. Should Mary and Charles both die, the slaves would then become the property of Bickley, who somewhat curiously purchased them from Mary's father for the sum of five dollars on the condition that they were to be given by him as a gift to the newly married couple. Examined, certified and docketed in several hands on verso of second leaf.

Two small tears with minor loss along vertical centerfold of first leaf, affecting a few words but not legibility, second leaf split vertically along corresponding centerfold; small chip to right margin, not affecting legibility. An extremely good and scarce document.

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