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John Belton O'Neall

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Belton O'Neall
Chief Justice of South Carolina
In office
Succeeded byBenjamin Faneuil Dunkin
Personal details
BornApril 10, 1793
near Bobo's Mills, South Carolina
DiedDecember 27, 1863 (1863-12-28) (aged 70)
Spouse(s)Helen Pope
Alma materSouth Carolina College (1812; M.A. 1816)

John Belton O'Neall was a judge who served on the precursor to the South Carolina Supreme Court. He is remembered for writing a digest of The Negro Law of South Carolina.

Biography and legal career

O'Neall graduated from South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) in December 1812 and began teaching at Newberry Academy. He was admitted to practice law in May 1814 in South Carolina.[1] He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1816 from the Newberry, South Carolina area.[2] He was elected again in 1822, and in 1824, he served as the Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives.[2] He was first elected as a trial judge in 1828, and in 1830 was elected a judge on the South Carolina Court of Appeals. Following reforms to South Carolina's judicial branch, he was elected to serve as Chief Justice and President of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the highest court of the state.[2]

In 1848 O'Neall (who was reported by a personal acquaintance to have owned "about 150" slaves and to have been "a most humane master")[3] wrote a digest of the negro law of South Carolina, which he read to the State Agricultural Society. The Society directed him to submit the document to the governor, with a request that he would lay it before the legislature, at its approaching session in November 1848.[4] His book was extremely controversial due to what was perceived by many slaveholding South Carolinians of the time to be its abolitionist-influenced advocacy of sharply reducing the number of crimes for which slaves could be put to death under South Carolina laws. The Columbia, S.C. "Telegraph" newspaper reported that the Judiciary Committee of the South Carolina state legislature declared "The Negro Law in South Carolina" to be "an objectionable book"; and the Telegraph's editors appear to have not only denounced the book for promoting "amalgamation" of the races but also to have joined calls for the book to be withdrawn from circulation.[5]

O'Neall died on December 27, 1863, and is buried in Rosemont Cemetery in Newberry, South Carolina.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Brooks, U.R. (1906). South Carolina Bench and Bar. Columbia, South Carolina: The State Company. pp. 21–31.
  2. ^ a b c "Tribute to Chief Justice John Belton O'Neall". Charleston Mercury. Charleston, South Carolina. February 17, 1864. p. 2. Retrieved November 27, 2014.
  3. ^ O'Neall, John Belton. "The Negro Law of South Carolina". Internet Archive. Printed by J.G. Bowman. Retrieved 30 June 2018. Source for these statements is unsigned handwritten note appended to Univ. of California copy of "The Negro Law of South Carolina", possibly written by the original owner of the book, Francis Lieber, whose name is handwritten on the title page.
  4. ^ O'Neall, John Belton. "The Negro Law of South Carolina". Internet Archive. Printed by J.G. Bowman. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Judge O'Neall's Digest Again". Telegraph. Columbia, S.C., USA. 6 January 1849. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  6. ^ "John Belton O'Neall (1793-1863)". Find a Grave. Retrieved November 27, 2014.

This page was last edited on 9 April 2020, at 16:28
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