Slaves as Property in Louisiana that had JP Morgan Chase Apologize 170 Years Later, Fantastic Archive

Slaves as Property in Louisiana Land Transactions Affect J.P. Morgan Chase 170 Years Later


Perhaps nothing demonstrates the casual inhumanity of slavery so well as the treatment of slaves as property in nineteenth-century legal and land records. These documents illustrate the land transactions of Maryland-born farmer and slaveowner Robert Duer. When his sister sold him thousands of acres of Louisiana land and nearly one hundred slaves, he entered the contested settlement of William J. D. Weeks’s estate. By the end of 1828, he had divided the land, slaves, livestock, and debt with a representative of Weeks’s widow. Three years later, two of his slaves served as security on a mortgage for other property he purchased. Six years after that transaction, three of Duer’s slaves served as part of the security for the purchase of shares of bank stock.


Early in the twenty-first century, Chicago and several other major cities passed ordinances requiring any businesses doing business with the city to disclose any ties to slavery. In 2004, J. P. Morgan Chase acquired Bank One, which had financed a bond issue for the city of Chicago in 2003. Bank One’s history brought J. P. Morgan Chase into confrontation with slavery, like the enslaved persons Robert Duer used to secure his purchase of stock in the Citizens’ Bank of Louisiana in 1837. When slaves served as collateral and borrowers defaulted, the banks became owners of slaves. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions over more than a century and a half, J. P. Morgan Chase acquired the assets of the old Citizens’ Bank of Louisiana, and with it, a connection to slavery. It and another bank had accepted the use of more than 13,000 slaves as collateral and eventually ended up owning approximately 1,250 of them. In 2005, J. P. Morgan Chase issued a public apology for the actions of the two banks and established a scholarship fund for African-American students from Louisiana.


[SLAVERY, LOUISIANA. Archive of documents relating to the land transactions of Robert Duer, 1828-1837, West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. 16 pp. total, 8.5" x 13.5".  Manuscript has expected folds and is attached by ribbons at top and on the left side.


“the said Robert Duer doth hereby mortgage and hypothecate unto the said Andrew Skillman and Ann S. Skillman the tract of Land, hereby conveyed; also two Negro Slaves, of the sex, names and ages—To wit: Negro Boy Rinaldo, aged about 17 years and his sister named Ann aged about 15 years;—and to remain so mortgaged and hypothecated until the full and final payment of the said sum of money.”


This compound document, attached by ribbons, contains originals or copies of the following documents related to Duer’s land and business transactions:

·         Mortgage to secure 90 shares of stock in the Ctizens’ Bank of Louisiana, June 26, 1837, 1 p.

·         Deed and Mortgage of Andrew Skillman and Ann Sterling Skillman to Robert Duer, May 21, 1831, 4 pp.

·         Deed of Henry White and Nancy White to Robert Duer, September 5, 1828, 4 pp.

·         Power of Attorney Appointment by Horatio C. Withers and Ann M. Withers to Thomas W. Chinn, July 14, 1828, 2 pp.

·         Court Order “Act of Compromise,” December 26, 1828, 4 pp.

·         Docketing, 1 p.


Historical Background

Henry B. White (1777-1856) married Nancy Duer (b. 1779), daughter of James and Nancy Duer, in July 1819.


William J. D. Weeks (1805-1827) married Ann M. H. Johnson (c. 1810-1835) in February 1827 in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana.  He died in August 1827.


When William J. D. Weeks died, Nancy White claimed ownership of his entire estate in West Feliciana Parish. She sued his widow of six months Ann M. H. Weeks and her father Joseph E. Johnson (1780-1828) in the U.S. District Court for the State of Louisiana.


Ann M. H. Weeks married Horatio Chinn Withers (1799-1840) before July 1828.


On July 14, 1828, Horatio and Ann Withers, who lived in Fauquier County, Virginia, gave their power of attorney to Thomas W. Chinn (1791-1852), likely his cousin on his mother’s side, to act as their representative in the case in the federal court and in all matters pertaining to Weeks’ estate.


On September 5, 1828, Henry and Nancy White of Worcester County, Maryland, sold the estate of William J. D. Weeks, to her brother Robert Duer (c. 1800-1848) for $5,000.


On December 28, 1828, West Feliciana Parish Judge John B. Dawson met with Robert Duer and Thomas W. Chinn, who was acting as attorney for Horatio and Ann Withers. “Being desirous of compromising the said suit,” the parties agreed that Robert Duer “is to receive of the Estate of the said Wm J. D. Weeks decd the plantation on which the said Wm J. D. Weeks lately resided, containing about Eleven hundred arpents” (approximately 930 acres), an additional 6,900 arpents of land in West Feliciana parish, other lands in East Baton Rouge parish, and any other lands Weeks owned. Duer also received “the following negro Slaves, Negro man named Isaac Richardson, aged about 30 years, Woman Sall aged about 35 years man Isaac Matthews aged about 22 years, Girl Rose aged about 18 years & her infant child Anna, man Watts aged about 25 years Woman Vine (called on the inventory Jin) and child Tom, man Harry aged about 22 years, man big Harry aged about 30 years, man Charles aged about 28 years, Woman Mary aged about 20 years, & her child Amy, aged about 2 years, Boy named William aged about 18 years, Man Abraham about 22 years, Boy George aged about 20 years, Woman Milly aged about 45 years Girl Esther aged about ten years, Negro Boy Robert aged about 8 years negro girl Nancy aged about four years, man Levin aged about 26 years, & Boy Benjamin aged about 18 years”


In the settlement Horatio and Ann Withers received “the following Slaves To wit: Woman Comfort aged about 40 years, & her infant Child Eleanor, Eben, Eliza, Julia, l. Daniel, Hetty, Riley, Manah, Ebzy, Nancy, Jenny, Stuble, Parnel, Janey, Tidey Milenda Peter, & Candy, Dick Little Peter, Peter Gillis, Bill, Rose, Betsy Wilson, Cause, Henry, Cato, Jenny, Black, Priscilla, William Gatty, Celia, Sall, Moses, Sandy, a young child of Sall not yet named, Loat? Brown, Sinas called Sarah in the inventory Daniel Bill, Littleton Harry, Ben, Amos, Old Leven Tony, Milly, Hannah Kesiah, Joshua, Little Leah, Shadrach, Little Isaac, Long Leven, called little Leven in the inventory Henry, Margaret, Prince, Scott, House, Peter, Grace, Rachel, Louisa, Priss, Doctor Peter, Jim, old Jim, Phillis, Sylvia, Parker, Jesse, Pleasant and all other slaves which property belong to the Plantation on which the said Wm J. D. Weeks, decd and which may not have been named above…. also all the remaining crop of cotton on both plantations….”


Duer agreed to pay a debt of $9,000 the estate owed to T. R. P. Spence, and the Witherses agreed to pay all other debts owed by the estates of D. G. Robins, Harriet Robins, and William J. D. Weeks. “And the said parties,” the settlement concluded, “hereby further agree that they give the one to other, no other title or warranty to the above Lands and slaves than a quit claim, respectively the one to the other, not warranting the slaves to be sound, healthy &c. nor the lands to hold out in measure.”


On May 21, 1831, Robert Duer purchased a tract of land totaling 241.79 arpents (approximately 204 acres) from neighbors Andrew and Ann Skillman for $2,418. Duer promised to pay off the purchase price in installments by February 1834. As security, Duer mortgaged the property and two slaves, 17-year-old Rinaldo, and his 15-year-old sister Ann.


In December 1831, Duer offered his farm near St. Francisville and twelve slaves for sale, as well as three other tracts of land. He advertised the sale in a newspaper in southwestern Mississippi.


On June 26, 1837, Robert Duer purchased 90 shares of capital stock in the Citizens’ Bank of Louisiana, in exchange for a conditional mortgage on two tracts of land in West Feliciana Parish and three slaves (Walt, Vine, and Tom). See Certificate and Oath of Appraisal, January 21, 1837, Xavier University of Louisiana. These slaves and thousands like them brought J. P. Morgan Chase to confront its history with slavery in the early twenty-first century.



Robert Duer (c. 1800-1848) was born in Maryland. He married Mary Kilgour, and they had three children.  He moved to Louisiana in 1828 and purchased land and slaves. He died in Cincinnati.





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