Riggs v. Swann, 59 N.C. 118, 6 Jones Eq. 118 (1860)

Dec. 1860 · Supreme Court of North Carolina
59 N.C. 118, 6 Jones Eq. 118


There is, in this State, no statute whieh requires that the declaration of a trust, made at the time when the legal title to land or slaves passes to one, who agrees to hold in trust, shall be in writing.

[Shelton v. Shelton, 5 Jones’ Eq. 292, cited and approved.

Cause removed from the Court of Equity of Craven county.

John E. Higgs, being indebted to Seth Muse in the sum of $702.50, in 1846, made a deed to the said Muse, for two negn> slaves, Abram and Joe, as security for that sum, and at the same time took from the latter a deed of defeasance, declaring the terms on which the said slaves were conveyed to Muse, the substance of which was, that whenever the said sum of $702.50, with interest, was paid, Muse should recon-vey the said slaves to Higgs. According to the spirit and meaning of this trust, the said Higgs remained in possession of the slaves, Abram and Joe, until 1850. On the 14th of January, of that year, in order to pay off a part of the debt then due to Muse, it was agreed between them two and one *119Samuel Jones, who was the brother of Riggs’ wife, that Muse and Riggs should both join in a conveyance of the two slaves to Jones, and that he should convey one of them, Joe, to Muse, absolutely, at the price of six hundred and fifty dollars, which was to be credited on the said debt of $702.50.

The bill alleges that a part of the above arrangement was, that the said Samuel Jones was to have the use of Abram at the price of $125 a year, until his work should amount to the balance of the debt due Muse, and that he was then to convey him to the plaintiffs, the children of the said John R. Riggs ; that Riggs had put other property in his hands to assist in paying off this balance, and that apart of the arrangement was, that whenever Riggs should stand particularly in need of the said slave, J ones was to let him come and assist him in his work, and it is alleged that during some part of each year, as long as Jones lived, the slave was in Riggs’ possession. The bill further alleges that, by means of the hires of Abram, and the other means put into Jones’ hands, he has received more •than enough to satisfy the whole, principal and interest, of the debt to Muse, and still hold an overplus, to which the plaintiffs are entitled.

Samuel Jones died in 1855, and the defendant Swann, administered on his estate. The prayer of the bill is for a sur- / render of the slave, Abram, and an account of the hires of the slave, and of the other property put into the hands of defendant’s intestate, Jones, on the trusts aforesaid.

The defendant answered, but did not profess to know any thing of his own knowlege, but he insisted on the statute requiring contracts, about slaves, to be in writing, as a bar to plaintiff’s equity. There were proofs taken, which sustained the plaintiffs’ allegations. The cause was set down on the pleadings and proofs, and sent here by consent.

J. W. Bryan, for the plaintiffs.

JIubbard, for the defendant.

Pearson, C. J.

The bill is not filed for the purpose of ob*120taining specific performance of an agreement to convey the slave, mentioned in the pleadings, but for the purpose of setting up and having*enforced, a trust declared in favor of the plaintiffs, by their father, at the time the title was passed to the intestate of the defendant, Swann.

The objection,-that the declaration of trust was not in writing, and was, therefore, void, is not tenable. There is, in this State, no statute which requires the declaration of a trust, made at the time the legal title passes to one, who agrees to hold in trust, shall be in writing. This question is settled by the case of Shelton v. Shelton, 5 Jones’ Eq. 292, and the learning on the subject, is there fully explained. In that case, the subject-matter was land \ in this, it is a slave ; but there is no distinction between land and slaves. The act of 1819, Rev. Code, chap. 50, sec. 11, puts contracts to sell land and slaves on the same footing, and has no reference to a declaration of trust, as is shown in that case. The objection, based on the rules of evidence, is also there shown to have no bearing on the question. In short, that case is decisive of this ; and it is unnecessary to elaborate the subject any further.

Per CuriaM, ' Decree for the plaintiffs.