On June 3, 1821, James E. Smith sealed his fate. Remember him as a monster. It is a small solace to his victim but almost two centuries later we can look back and remember that he existed, that certain events transpired, and that his name should only cross our lips with poison and anger.
An eight year old girl named Luckey, described in the court documents as “a female slave of colour,” spent much of the day like all her other days. She lived in the household of her master, William Dell, and probably performed various chores, maybe even played a little bit. It seems likely that Smith lived near to Dell’s farm. Either that or he passed along the road and felt a sudden surge of avarice. We’re not entirely certain of the spacial relations between the two white men, but we know what happened next.
Somehow Luckey ended up alone with James E. Smith.
He approached the young girl and assaulted her violently. Luckey fought back because she knew what white men did when they thought they could do anything. James E. Smith bruised her badly and cut the girl with an unidentified object. He tore at her clothes and kicked her viciously. Then he removed his pants and looked at Luckey “with an intent, her the said Luckey, and against her will, then and there feloniously to ravish and casually know [her].”
Fortunately she fought harder and escaped. She presented her wounds to William Dell and he raised an alarm.
The people of Madison county found the crimes of James E. Smith so horrendous that his case quickly became one prosecuted by the state. Even though a jury originally assessed his fines to be a paltry twenty dollars he fought the suit and got a second trial. The next pool of jurors saw him for what he was, a bastard who should pay for his crimes, and they demanded a thousand dollars as compensation for his crimes and sentenced him to await the rest of his sentence in a prison. James E. Smith quickly asked for, and received, a third trial. This time the judge proved either lenient or stupid. By this time the people of the county had calmed down and moved on to some other outrage, so the court simply dismissed the case and set him free.
What the hell Madison county?
The State of Alabama v. James E. Smith, Madison County Alabama Circuit Court State Cases, 1819-1823. p. 103-104 (1821).