top of page


Court Cases, 1838 

 Mary Ann Acre seeks to divorce her husband, slave owner Samuel Acre. Mary Ann writes that in her marriage she has "sought to make her deposition, her feelings, her pleasures & her walk in life square with his wishes and views, the promotion of his interest and pleasures were the objects nearest her heart and governed all her actions." However, Mary Ann says that her husband "began to indulge very freely in the use of ardent spirits," which resulted in more frequent "fits of intoxication." As a result, he treated her cruelly and barbarously, repeatedly beating her "with many stripes," and driving her from her home in the middle of the night. Acre contends that her husband's property is worth over forty thousand dollars, of which a considerable "portion of this estate was acquired by the Said Samuel Acre by his intermarriage with your Oratrix." Along with a divorce, Mary Ann Acre seeks a division of her husband's estate. In his answer and cross bill, Samuel Acre contends that his wife, far from being the virtuous and indulgent wife she claims to be, is "anything but a hand in his dish, a hand in his pocket, and a pest, termigant and scold in his house." He claims that Mary Ann inherited several slaves from the estate of her late father, and that the slaves have been placed in a trust estate for her use and benefit. Not only has Mary Ann caused him to be falsely imprisoned but, during his time in jail, she seduced and committed adultery with a young man. He seeks to divorce her and asks that she be returned to her maiden name of Carney.

Slave owner Samuel Acre, worth more than forty thousand dollars, responds to his wife's divorce petition with a petition of his own. He charges that his wife, Mary Ann Acre, left her house for a period of two years and, during this time, accrued a debt of $3,350 to various individuals and establishments. He points out that "he was arbitrarily, at her request, held in imprisonment, without warrant of law, and without ever the imputation of any accusation whatever," so she might indulge "unrestrainedly, in her lacivious propensities," to wit the seduction of a young man with whom, Acre charges, his wife committed adultery various times while he was in jail. In view of these facts, and since "it has become improper and indecent" for his wife "to remain an inmate in the dwelling house" of the petitioner, he asks the court to order that his wife go to the City Hospital "or to such other place as to your Honor shall seem meet and proper."

bottom of page