By Dale Baum
For plenty of of the 40 years of her lifestyles as a slave, Azeline Hearne cohabitated along with her filthy rich, single grasp, Samuel R. Hearne. She bore him 4 teenagers, just one of whom survived prior early formative years. while Sam died almost immediately after the Civil warfare ended, he publicly said his courting with Azeline and bequeathed his whole property to their twenty-year-old mulatto son, with the availability that he look after his mom. whilst their son died early in 1868, Azeline inherited the most ecocnomic cotton plantations in Texas and have become one of many wealthiest ex-slaves within the former Confederacy. In Counterfeit Justice, Dale Baum strains Azeline’s impressive tale, detailing her ongoing felony battles to say and hold her legacy.
As Baum exhibits, Azeline’s inheritance fast made her a goal for predatory whites made up our minds to strip her of her land. a well-known determine on the Robertson County District court docket from the overdue 1860s to the early Eighteen Eighties, Azeline confronted quite a few lawsuits—including one filed opposed to her by means of her personal legal professional. Samuel Hearne’s relations took steps to dispossess her, and different unscrupulous white males challenged the identify to her plantation, utilizing claims in line with previous Spanish land gives you. Azeline’s lengthy and brave security of her rightful identify introduced her a definite notoriety: the 1st freedwoman to be a celebration to 3 separate civil proceedings appealed the entire method to the Texas superb court docket and the 1st former slave in Robertson County indicted on felony fees of perjury. even supposing again and again blocked and pissed off via the convolutions of the felony method, she developed from a bewildered defendant to a made up our minds plaintiff who, in a single striking lawsuit, got here tantalizingly on the subject of attaining revenge opposed to those that defrauded her for over a decade.
Due to gaps within the to be had old checklist and the unreliability of secondary money owed in line with neighborhood Reconstruction folklore, a few of the information of Azeline’s tale are misplaced to historical past. yet Baum grounds his hypothesis approximately her existence in contemporary scholarship at the Reconstruction period, and he places his findings in context within the historical past of Robertson County. even though background has no longer credited Azeline Hearne with influencing the process the legislations, the tale of her uniquely tough place after the Civil battle offers an unparalleled view of the period and of 1 solitary woman’s try and negotiate its social and felony complexities in her fight to discover justice.
Baum’s meticulously researched narrative might be of willing curiosity to criminal students and to all these drawn to the plight of freed slaves in this period.
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Additional info for Counterfeit Justice: The Judicial Odyssey of Texas Freedwoman Azeline Hearne (Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War)
St. Clair, “History of Robertson County,” pp. , Robertson County Texas 1860 Census, p. 4; “Volume C [1842–1856],” [August Term, 1853], p. 248, CCM, Robertson County, Texas; Book “I,” [Spring and Fall Terms, 1851], pp. 31 and 62, MDC, Robertson County, Texas; and J. W. : Printed by Texian Press, 1970), p. 130 (quotation). 21. St. Clair, “History of Robertson County,” pp. 93 and 163; Parker, Historical Recollections of Robertson County, p. 169; “Walter S. South Journal,” entry for May 1, 1864, in Ruth M.
D. Prendergast adm’r,” Book “W,” [May 22, 1882], pp. 376–77, PM, CCO, Robertson County, Texas. No Place for a White Man to Live 23 Robertson, Limestone, and Young Counties have been equivalent to $925,000 at the turn of the twenty-fi rst century. 29 The litigation over land titles in the southern half of the Robertson County bottomlands cannot be understood without reference to three grants issued by the Republic of Mexico before Texas became an independent republic. In 1825, when the Mexican government relegated to the states, including Coahuila and Texas, the administration of public lands, the law included a provision for giving grants to those who had served as government officials or army officers.
Although the county commissioners required Sam to put his slaves to work every year on the public roads, such obligations were perfunctory and entailed few decisions or judgments on his part. When Sam fi led a petition detailing plans for a new public road starting on his plantation at the Brazos River and then running east out of the bottomlands to the Houston & Waco Road, the commissioners studiously failed to name him among those they selected in his neighborhood to write a report on the road’s feasibility.