In 1860, in Charleston, South Carolina, young Samuel Chase learned that he had inherited the estate of his great Uncle Vance. He rose early the next morning to visit his uncle’s representative, another lawyer who worked out an office on the other side of town.

Charles Caldwell, Esq., welcomed young Chase and asked him to take a seat in the library. After asking his housekeeper to bring them tea, he sat behind his desk and pulled Vance Chase’s will from a leather satchel. “Your uncle thought a great deal of you,” the elder lawyer said, “he told me he spent many delightful hours with you when you were a boy.”

Samuel gave the older man an agreeable smile. “Truth to tell, I barely remember the man. But I’m delighted to know he was fond of me. And I’m most interested in knowing what he left behind.”

“There’s the plantation, of course.” The older lawyer adjusted his spectacles and looked down at the hand-written document. “Seven Hills has been quite productive over the past decade. And with the price of cotton rising–”

“I’ve no interest in cotton,” Samuel interrupted, waving the matter away. “I plan to sell the land as quickly as possible. I know of a lumber company searching desperately for acreage. They will pay a fortune to cover every one of those seven hills in pine seedlings.”

Mr. Caldwell shrugged. “You certainly have the right to do as you please with your own property, but another matter yet remains.”

“Such as?”

“The slaves and livestock. Your uncle owned six carriage horses and thirty-six slaves–one cook, two house maids, one foreman, one blacksmith, two stable boys, a one-legged groom, and twenty-eight field hands. I believe there are a handful of children, as well, but they’re too young to be of any real use yet.”

Samuel rubbed his goatee and stared across the desk for a long moment. “As I said, I’ve no interest in being a plantation owner. The lumber company might be interested in the horses, but they’ll  have no use for housemaids and crippled grooms. ”

“Very well.  I can recommend a sales agent in town. Thirty-six adults in fine health would bring a sizable sum at the market.”

Samuel considered. Two or three good clients were avowed abolitionists, and he’d managed to win their business only because he happened to be a lawyer who owned no slaves. As an unmarried man he operated a small household, employing only a respectable white couple as housekeeper and coachman.  Owning slaves–openly selling slaves–would not only injure his reputation, but might result in a severe loss of income over the next several years. Thirty-six slaves would have to be worth their weight in gold to make up for the loss.

“I don’t think I want to sell,” Samuel told his uncle’s lawyer. He feigned a shudder. “Too–public. Plus, I’d have the burden of feeding them until I can get them sold.”

Caldwell lifted a bushy brow and smiled. “Manumission, then. The papers could be drawn up in days, and your decision would make them happy . I daresay most of them will head north, but at least they’ll be free–”

Remembering that he also had slaveholding clients, Samuel lifted his hand to cut off the older man. “I couldn’t free them. People would interpret that as a political act, and I try to refrain from intermingling my public and private lives. This is a personal decision.”

The other lawyer’s forehead wrinkled in puzzlement. “If you won’t sell them and you won’t free them, what do you plan to do with them?”

Samuel pressed his lips together. “Really, I have only one choice.”


“I have a friend who takes care of such things. He’s a marvelous hunter, goes out every season to bag whatever he can. I’ll ask him to go down there and clean the place out.”

Silence filled the room, a quiet broken only by the older man’s quickened breathing. “By all that’s holy, man, have you no mercy? They are human beings.”

“My dear Mr. Caldwell, have you forgotten high court’s recent decision? Slaves are not citizens; they are property. If I don’t care to feed, clothe, and house them, I don’t have to.”

“What you are describing is an execution. Cold-blooded murder.”

“Have you forgotten the law? Slaves may be beaten until accidentally killed, because what man maliciously destroys his own property? It’s not murder without malice, and the method of dispatch matters not.” He tilted his head and regarded the other man with a clear gaze. “I assure you, Mr. Caldwell, I harbor no ill will toward slaves, these or any others. But at this time, I simply am not prepared to accept what is obviously an overwhelming responsibility.”

“But they have feelings, they live in families. How could any feeling man bear to hear  the agonized cries of another human being–”

“Their feelings are not a consideration in this debate. As to their distress, I won’t be present when the deed is done.  I’m sorry if my decision upsets your sensibilities, and I trust that as my attorney in this matter, you will not speak of this to another soul.”

At that moment, the judge’s black housekeeper entered the library, a tea tray in her hands. She offered a cup to Samuel Chase, who took it without even glancing at the woman. “I am a man of business, sir,” he said, inhaling the warm scents of sweet tea and milk, ” and I cannot see any other practical course of action.  I trust you will send the deed to the estate as quickly as possible.”

As the older man watched with a sheen of tears in his eyes, Samuel Chase sipped his tea, then exhaled in contentment. “And God bless Uncle Vance, wherever he is. I always did think the world of him.”


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” –George Santayana.





  1. Grace Smith

    All people are made in God’s image. Because of that, Satan hates people. He’ll work to destroy people at any stage of life – doesn’t matter to him. Slave. Pre-born. Elderly. Disabled. I’m so thankful that the One True God has already defeated Satan through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

  2. Pat Cory

    Wow! Unfortunately, many today would probably do the same thing. It doesn’t matter who is hurt as long as their own desires are satisfied.

  3. samuel tutor

    sounds like a great book pan to buy it soon


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