John Carmille of Charleston Seeks to Free His Enslaved Wife & Children

John Carmille of Charleston Seeks to Free His Enslaved Wife & Children


John Carmille of Charleston Seeks to Free His Enslaved Wife and Children

  • Charleston, SC

The estate inventory of John Carmille, butcher, of Charleston Neck lists the names of Carmille's enslaved wife Henrietta and their children.

Further research reveals that Carmille petitioned the SC Senate in 1823, seeking to Emancipate Henrietta and her children. The case eventually reached the SC Supreme Court and Henrietta and her children were allowed to live as free.

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This document was discovered and indexed by Alana Thevenet.

Estate Inventory of John Carmille of Charleston Neck, 1833

  • Charleston, SC

The estate inventory of John Carmille, butcher, of Charleston Neck lists the names of Carmille's enslaved wife Henrietta and their children, and notes that Henrietta and her children were claimed to be free by virtue of a Bill of Sale in Trust.

You may view the document by clicking on the images attached to this page.

Below is an abstract of John Carmille's estate inventory:

"A Just and True Inventory & Appraisement of all the goods & Chattels belonging to Jno. Carmille late of Charleston Neck Butcher deceased as Shewn to us by Tho F Purse agent of William Wightman the Administrator... [list of household items follows] ..."

"1 Coloured Woman named Henriette [sic] the wife of Carmille and her two daughters Sharlotte & Elizabeth and Nancy & Nancy's daughter Elizabeth  - a Boy Francis son of Henrietta and John Son of Henrietta ..."

[Appraisers placed brackets around the names above and noted "Claim to be free under a Bill of Sale in Trust to Mr. Pringle and Mr. Shartram."]

Listed below their names were "Two Negro Women Mary & Phillis claimed by Henrietta as her Slaves."

John Carmille's Petition to the SC Senate, ca. 1823

  • South Carolina

Further research reveals that John Carmille petitioned the SC Senate for permission to Emancipate Henriette and their children Charlotte, Francis and Nancy.

John Carmille's petition to the SC Senate is transcribed in:

Schweninger, Loren 2001 The Southern Debate Over Slavery: Petitions to Southern Legislatures, 1778-1864. University of Iliinois Press, pp. 73-74.


John Carmille, Charleston, to South Carolina Senate, ca. 1823

To the Honourable the President & Members of the Senate of the State of South Carolina

The Petition of John Carmille respectfully sheweth: That he is a resident in the city of Charleston in the said state & that for many years past has endeavored to conduct himself as an upright & useful citizen – That some years ago it was his fortune to form a domestic connection with a female named Henrietta & he has had by her three children to wit: Charlotte, Francis & Nancy. That the said Henrietta & her children are of the following ages to wit: Henrietta, Twenty Six Charlotte, Eleven, Francis five, and Nancy three years of age all the class called Mulattoes, & according to the Laws of this state in the condition of absolute Slaves, the property of your petitioner – Your Petitioner is aware that in making the above statement, he is open to censure as infringing the rules of propriety & decorum – He has however no alternative but to make the present application or to remain indifferent to the present melancholy situation of his family, who excluded as they are from the blessing of society, are still dear to your Petitioner & dependent on him for those comforts which the Policy of our Laws may afford to that class of the community – The object of the Petitioner is to solicit that you would Kindly interpose & adopt such measures as may effect the emancipation of the said slaves and as an inducement to a result which would be so grateful to the feelings of your Petitioner be begs to leave to state, that it had always been his intention to adopt the legal means for accomplishment of the above object until he was unexpectedly disabled by the act of the last Session – He therefore indulges the fond hope that a proceeding of the Legislature so unforeseen will not be permitted to have the deplorable effect of riveting on his partner & children the bonds of perpetual & remediless slavery – As a further consideration which he trust will be duly regarded by your honorable Body – Your Petitioner has been blessed with a Sufficient Estate to insure the Comfortable maintenance of his said family, so that no apprehensions can be entertained that they will ever become a charge on the Public – That on the contrary his constant efforts will be employed to support them decently & make them useful members of society –

And your Petitioner will ever pray &c---

(signed)                               John Carmille


We the Subscribers hereby certify that we are acquainted with the within Petitioner Mr. John Carmille & believe him to be an upright & honest citizen & that he has a sufficient Estate to maintain his family within refered to—

(signed)                               Robt. R. Gibbes

Jno. Schultz

Jas. Lowndes

Chas. E. Rowand

John Hume

SOURCE: Petition of John Carmille to the Members of the South Carolina Senate, ca. 1823. Records of the General Assembly, #1807, SCDAH; Certificate, Robert R. Gibbes et. al., ca. 1823, ibid. Rejected. PAR # 11382123.

Supreme Court Decision Upholds Protection of Henriette, Charlotte, Francis and Nancy

    In a footnote to the transcription of Carmille's Senate Petition, Schweninger notes that:

    "Later attempts of Carmille to protect Henrietta and her mulatto children resulted in a state supreme court case. In 1830, a few days before marrying a white woman, Carmille drew up a deed of trust to permit Henrietta and the children “to work out for their own maintenance” and to keep any money they might earn after paying the trustees one dollar per year. After Carmille and his wife died in the early 1830s, one of his daughters sought to have Henrietta’s trust nullified. After years of litigation, the case reached the supreme court. In 1842, the court ruled that the deed should be honored. Henrietta and her children would be permitted to possess personal property, and nothing in the laws of South Carolina prevented quasi-emancipation. The master-slave relationship was a matter for meum et tuum – a matter for the owner to decide. Helen T. Catterall, ed., Judicial Cases concerning American Slavery and the Negro, 5 vols. (Washington, D.C.: W.F. Roberts, 1932, reprint, New York: Octagon Books, 1968), 2:381-83; Thomas D. Morris, Southern Slavery and the Law, 1619-1860 (Chapel Hill: University of North  Carolina Press, 1996), 403." [1]

    Reference Cited:

    [1] Schweninger, Loren 2001 The Southern Debate Over Slavery: Petitions to Southern Legislatures, 1778-1864. University of Iliinois Press, p 74_n_.

    The full text of the Supreme Court petition is available online via Google Books:

    Julia E. Carmille vs. The Administrator of John Carmille, Geo. Pringle, et. al. Cases at Law Determined in the Court of Appeals of South Carolina, from November 1840 to May 1842. Columbia, South Carolina, A.S. Johnson, pp. 454-472.

    About This Document: Volunteer to Index This Free Collection

      This document was digitized as part of a collaborative effort between Footnote, Lowcountry Africana, the South Carolina Department of Archives and History and FamilySearch, to digitize all surviving Charleston, SC Estate Inventories, 1732-1872 and Bills of Sale, 1773-1872, for a FREE Footnote collection.

      When the project is complete, the names of more than 30,000 enslaved ancestors will be preserved in this FREE collection, for generations to come.

      This remarkable collection contains the name of every slave ever listed in a surviving estate inventory for Charleston, SC from colonial times to Emancipation. Many of the post-Civil War inventories list the names of former slaves as well. You can volunteer to help index this **FREE **collection, to make the records searchable.

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      This document was indexed by Alana Thevenet.