@Article{ fede1987,
    author = {Andrew Fede},
    title = {Legal Protection for Slave Buyers in the U.S. South: A Caveat concerning Caveat Emptor},
    journal = {American Journal of Legal History},
    volume = 31,
    number = 4,
    month = {October},
    pages = {322-358},
    year = 1987,


p. 323: “The law in the South was indeed protective of the slave buyer’s interest, in contrast to the law that protected the interests of sellers in the North.”

The scholarly view that American jurisprudence adopted caveat emptor as the general rule “relegates Southern slave law to, at best, a footnote—an odd exception to the general pattern. Consequently, the picture of nineteenth century ‘American’ law that it presents is distorted; caveat emptor did not rule supreme before the Civil War. In fact, the South Carolina courts protected slave buyers to a greater degree than the modern law of sales protects purchasers, and applied this rule to non-slave transactions as well” (327). This supports an “instrumentalist” view of law as malleable to fit social and economic conditions in a particular context.

p. 330: “Slaves were a high risk investment, and the buyer was at an obvious informational disadvantage to the seller whether the slave was purchased at public auction or in a face-to-face transaction. … Since slaves were both the most valuable and most coveted form of investment in the South, it was only natural that masters would also look to the law to protect their interests against unscrupulous sellers—whether traders or fellow slave owners.”

p. 331: South Carolina courts strong example of buyer-oriented law, as courts consistently favored the principle that a sound price created “an implied warranty of soundness.”

Other slave states, however, departed from SC’s “sound price doctrine,” and fell along a spectrum “between the extreme caveat emptor position and the South Carolina approach,” resembling modern Uniform Commercial Code sales law.