A Race Question: A Negro Man With a White Wife—Some Nice Points of Law—Indians Have Greater Nuptial Privileges.

A Race Question: A Negro Man With a White Wife—Some Nice Points of Law—Indians Have Greater Nuptial Privileges.

Columbus Enquirer-Sun
Columbus, Georgia
Saturday, 1886-11-20
page 8, columns 3-4

Source: Digital Library of Georgia

A very interesting case, both as to the facts and the nice legal points involved, was tried this week at the circuit court in Seale [Alabama].  A negro man was on trial, charged with living in adultery with an alleged white woman.  The prisoner had been living with the woman as his wife for quite a number of years, and had begotten by her a family of children.  As the parties were seated within the bar of the court, they formed an interesting group. The man was as black as midnight, and in appearance, showed prominently every characteristic of the African make up. The woman, on the other hand, was white of skin and had in every liniament of her features the Caucassian cast of countenance. Their two boys, aged respectively about 8 and 10, sat between the black father on the one side and the white mother on the the other, and were of a yellow or copper color.

The defense was based on the position that the woman, although white to all appearances, was yet of mixed blood. The state conceded that if the woman was of such mixed blood, as in contemplation of law, she would be deemed a negro; that then the man could not be found guilty. But the state insisted that if the woman was in fact, or in law, a white woman, that then her marriage with the defendant was unlawful and invalid, and the living together being admitted, the man would be guilty as charged.  So the case tuned on the point whether the woman was of white or mixed blood.

On this point the woman herself testified that as far back as could remember she was living with negroes; that she had never seen either of her parents, but that her mother was a white woman, and she had been told that her father was a bright mulatto or part Indian.

No other positive testimony was introduced. The state asked the court to charge the jury that if they believed the woman’s testimony that then they must find the prisoner guilty, and argued in support of the request that the woman having been shown to be of white maternity, that by legal presumption she herself ws white until the contrary was shown, or until she was shown to be of negro paternity; that this legal presumption put the burden of proof upon the defendant, which burden was not lifted by her vague and hearsay testimony as to the mixed blood of her father. The court charged as requested.

The defense insisted that testimony about one’s own nativity, such as age, place of birth, parentage, etc., was, in the absence of better testimony, a matter of common report, and as the woman had testified that she had been told that her father was of mixed blood or part Indian, that her testimony on that point should have its due weight, and ashed the court to charge that, looking at the whole testimony, if the jury had a reasonable doubt us to whether the woman was of white or mixed blood, that then they must acquit.

The court again charged as requested.

It cropped out incidentally in the discussion that although it is unlawful for whites and negroes to intermarry, yet one of aboriginal blood may marry either white or black according to his own supreme election and not be subject to any legal penalty. So that, if one is arraigned on a charge of miscegenation, they have only to induce the belief that they are of Indian origin and thereby escape the clutches of the law. There are some curious things in municipal as well as natural law. In this case the verdict was not guilty.

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