The Arkansas Judiciary website offers Arkansas Supreme Court Published Opinions. This collection includes unofficial copies of published opinions starting from the Spring Term of 1837. I am fascinated by court opinions, not so much from a legal perspective but a historical perspective.
In Daniel v. Guy, 19 Ark. 121 (1857), the plaintiffs sued the defendant for trespass for false imprisonment. At issue was whether the plaintiffs were free or the slaves of defendant William Daniel.
For context, the Arkansas Supreme Court decided Daniel v. Guy just four years before Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter and sparked the American Civil War. So, this opinion pre-dates the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.
The court proceeds to discuss the various legal presumptions in effect including the presumption of freedom for persons that appear to belong to the white race. Other important signals include whether the persons was previously held as a slave. In terms of expert witnesses, the court provided this summary:
Dr. Newton—Had read Physiology. There are five races—the negro is the lowest in intellect. Some physiologists are of the opinion that in the head of the mulatto, there is some negro hair, and some white hair, and that the negro hair never runs out. It would not run out before it passed the second generation. It may in the third generation have waves. The color, hair, feet, nose, and form of the skull and bones furnish means of distinguishing negro blood or descent. The hair never becomes straight until after the third descent from the negro, from neither the father or mother’s side. The flat nose also remains observable for several descents.
In 2171, I wonder what decisions by our present-day state and federal courts will appear as antiquated as this one.
Daniel v. Guy, 19 Ark. 121 (1857).