Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 21383610

State: South Carolina Year: 1836
Location: Marion Location Type: District

Abstract: The children of Jane James complain that Robert Harllee has deprived them of their inheritance "by fraud and force." They assert that they are entitled to certain slaves under the 1820 will of their late uncle, Joseph Gourley. At the death of Gourley's daughter "without issue," certain slaves vested in the petitioners. Shortly before her death in 1835, Ann Jane Gourley married Robert Harllee, "a Member of the legislature," who took possession of the slaves in question. At Ann's death, Harllee assigned the slaves to his brothers, William and Thomas, who in turn "collected a large party of men ... for the purpose of running off with the negroes." Joseph Gregg, husband of Harriett James, joined his brother-in-law, John J. James, in following the "armed band" to North Carolina, noting that "all the men among the said negroes" had been placed "in chains to prevent their escape" and the women "were closely guarded." Gregg had an "interview" with Harllee and his brothers, who "made a parade of violence," daring "your Orator to bring any North Carolina Sheriff to arrest them" and refusing Gregg's proposal "to submit the question of property to the Court." Harllee did agree, however, to a compromise, and Gregg agreed to take $3100 in exchange "for the right of his wife and the other children of Jane James." The next day, suspecting that he had made a bad deal, Gregg went to renegotiate with the Harllee brothers, who received him with "an increase of rudeness, abuse and violence," finally threatening to lynch him and put him "to the torture or to death." An intimidated Gregg relented to another compromise, "but on terms still more disadvantageous than the former." The Harllees then returned to Marion with the slaves, who are estimated to be worth $15,000. The petitioners now ask the court to rescind the "pretended compromise," to restrain the Harllees from disposing of the slaves, and to deliver the slaves to them according to the terms of Gourley's will.