Morris v. Owen

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First page of the opinion Morris v. Owen, in Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Court of Appeals of Virginia, by Daniel Call. Ed. by Lucian Minor, 3rd ed. Richmond: A. Morris, 1854.

Morris v. Owen, 6 Va. (2 Call) 438 (1801),‎[1] was a dispute regarding the ownership of a slave.


Upon his death, Henry Simmons left his entire estate to his wife, Susanna Simmons, and directed her to dispose of the estate to their children “as she would think proper”. During her life, Susanna appointed a slave named Joan and her increase to her daughter, Susanna Owens. However, a mistake was made in the official draft of Simmons’ will. As a result, two of Susanna's children, Susanna Owens and James Edwards, were completely left out of the will. Susanna and James brought this suit to the Chancery Court to recover the appointed slave as well as those bequests their mother intended to be devised slaves prior to the mistake.

The Court's Decision

Chancellor Wythe found that the gift from Joan and her family to Susanna Edwards was proper. He was also of the opinion that since the plaintiffs could not claim Joan through the will, waived the will regarding their concerns as well. Wythe then decreed that if the will was a will, it should be corrected to reflect the mother’s original intentions. The Court of Appeals reversed in part and affirmed in part.

See also


  1. Daniel Call, Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Court of Appeals in Virginia, 3rd ed, ed. Lucian Minor (Richmond: A. Morris, 1854), 2:438. George Wythe owned the first edition of this set.