Reardon v. Miller, found at 3 D.C. 344, is an 1828 case from the D.C. Circuit Court. The case is referred to as a ‘Detinue’ case, in other words an adverse possession. The detinue was over Henry Nokes. Reardon, (we have no other name to go by) receives a deed from the first owner of Henry Nokes, Manly (we have no other name to go by, either). The terms of Henry’s servitude are “for the benefit of Manly’s wife, and such children as he had, or should have, by her. At this time Henry was only a year old. Then, Manly sells Henry, again, to the Defendant Mordecai Miller, for $250, in an absolute deed, as a slave for life, but the former deed to Reardon is unknown to the Defendant, and had possession of Henry since 1810 with the intent to emancipate Henry at a future date. Mrs. Manly dies and her children sue for the ownership of Henry. The Defendant contended that possession of the slave was adverse. The Plaintiff argued that the claim is under the children’s right to Henry and thus the right to sue did not occur until death. The court could not agree on whether or not the possession was adverse to the plaintiff, Chief Judge Cranch believed it was clearly adverse, because the Defendant claimed his title under an absolute deed and without notice. The other judge, because the action could not be maintained because the defendant received the possession of henry with Mrs. Manly’s assent and as such must be considered as Mrs. Manly’s possession, and that the trustee can not recover the possession from their own beneficiary trust. The jury was then instructed that if they believed from the evidence that the defendant had been in adverse possession, due to the nature of the bill of sale, for more than five years the plaintiff can not recover due to adverse possession.
This case directly discusses slavery.
REARDON v. MILLER
United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia