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Wed, 08.22.1792

Brom & Brett v. Ashley is Ruled

John Ashley House

*On this date in 1792, Brom & Brett v. Ashley was decided.  This was the first legal decision against American slavery, ordering John Ashley, a white-American slave owner, to release black servants Mum Brett  (Elizabeth Freeman) and Brom (a Negro man) from bondage.  

When the case was tried in August 1781 before the County Court of Common Pleas in Great Barrington, MA, the plaintiff’s attorney argued that the Massachusetts Constitution had outlawed slavery. The jury determined that Brom and Bett were not Ashley's property. The court set Bett and Brom free and awarded them 30 shillings in damages.  Ashley appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court but abandoned his appeal several months later.

The timing of his decision suggests that Ashley may have determined that an appeal was futile following the first ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court in the Quock Walker case.  

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