§ 182. We shall now consider the contracts of slaves. The condition of slaves in the slave-holding States in this country is analogous to that of slaves among the ancient Greeks and Romans, and not to that of the villeins of feudal times.2 They are considered in most respects as chattels and not as persons. They can bring no actions and acquire no property by descent or purchase.3 They can enforce no promise made to them either in law or equity,4 and notes given to them are void.5
§ 183. There are some modifications of these rules of the Roman law, by statute and usage among some of the slave-holding States, but otherwise they generally obtain in this country. A slave may, however, contract with his master respecting his manumission, and the agreement can be enforced by law.6 But this is the only contract which he can make, he being considered as a thing, and not a person.
1 This title is retained as matter of history, notwithstanding the abolition of slavery in the United States.
2 Bynum v. Bostick, 4 Des. 267; 21 Am. Jur. 18.
3 Cunningham v. Cunningham, Cam. & Norwood, 356.
4 Beall v. Joseph, Hardin, 52; Willis v. Bruce, 8 B. Mon. 548. In Glen v. Hodges, 9 Johns. 67, it is held that a slave cannot contract a debt.
5 Gregg v. Thompson, 2 Rep. Const. Ct. (S. C), 331.
6 Williams v. Brown, 3 Bos. & Pul. 69; Ketletas v. Fleet, 7 Johns. 324; In the case of Tom, 5 Johns. 365. But see Anderson v. Poindexter, 6 Ohio St. 622.