The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985 Page: 72
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
day of jubilee for slaves in Texas. For many slaveholders, however, the
great majority of whom saw nothing to celebrate anyhow, the date was
more important in another way. Was June 19, 1865, they asked, the
proper legal as well as symbolic death date of slavery in Texas? Per-
haps, as Granger's proclamation could seem to suggest, slavery had
been illegal since the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.
On the other hand, was it possible that slavery was legal until the
Thirteenth Amendment became part of the United States Constitution
on December 18, 1865?
This question was important to slaveholders because of its bearing
on contracts involving slave property that had been signed during the
Civil War. In spite of the Confederacy's waning fortunes as the con-
flict progressed, Texans continued to deal in slaves as personal chattels
until the bitter end. As late as August 4, 1864, for example, David
Black of Red River County used land to purchase a slave from M. S.
Algier. And, difficult as it may be to believe, John H. Brooks of San
Augustine County signed a note on July 5, 1865, promising to pay
William Garrett $400 in gold for a Negro man named Miles. Slave-
hiring agreements were also common during the war's last stages. For
example, P. Williams and H. J. Meadow executed a promissory note
on January 1, 1865, agreeing to pay Henrietta Arnis of Cherokee
County $700 in "current funds" on January 1, 1866, for the hire of
three Negroes, two men and a woman, for twelve months.4 The end
of slavery in Texas obviously destroyed the property interests of those
who had recently bought or hired Negro bondsmen. Some sought the
return of the money or property they had used to buy or hire, and
others refused to honor contracts calling for payments in the future.
In both situations, the matter soon wound up in state district courts
with the question of slavery's legal death date as a central issue. By the
spring of 1867, appeals on these legal actions began to reach the Su-
preme Court of Texas for a final decision.
Williams v. Arnis was the first case involving the legal end of
slavery to be decided by the Texas Supreme Court. As mentioned
above, P. Williams and H. J. Meadow had promised on January 1,
1865, to pay Henrietta Arnis $700 twelve months later for the hire of
4The facts of these three slave transactions are found in Algier v. Black, 32 Tex. 168-
170o; Garrett v. Brooks, 41 Tex. 479-483; Williams v. Arnis, 3o Tex. 37-38, 39 (quotation),
40-51. Supreme Court decisions involving slavery are an excellent source on the institu-
tion in general, regardless of the legal issues at stake, because of the factual information
presented. E. M. Wheelock wrote the reports for 32 Tex. (St. Louis, 1882) and George W.
Paschal those for 3o Tex. (Washington, D.C., 1870).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985, periodical, 1984/1985; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/m1/94/: accessed January 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.