State v. Chapman

Citation34 S.E. 961,56 S.C. 420
Decision Date16 February 1900
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina

Appeal from general sessions circuit court of Anderson county George W. Gage, Judge.

James Chapman was convicted of breaking an employment contract after having received advancements, etc., and he appeals. Affirmed.

E. M Rucker, for appellant.

M. F Ansel, for the State.


The sole question presented by this appeal is whether the act of 1897 (22 St. at Large, p. 457) under which the appellant has been convicted is unconstitutional. That statute reads as follows: "That any laborer working on shares of crop, or for wages in money or other valuable consideration, under a verbal or written contract to labor on farm lands, who shall receive advances, either in money or supplies, and thereafter willfully and without just cause fail to perform the reasonable service required of him by the terms of the said contract, shall be liable to prosecution for a misdemeanor and on conviction shall be punishable by imprisonment for not less than twenty days nor more than thirty days, or to be fined in the sum of not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than one hundred dollars, in the discretion of the court: provided, the verbal contract herein referred to shall be witnessed by at least two disinterested witnesses." From the language of this act, it will be seen that the offense denounced is not merely the violation of a contract by a laborer employed to work the lands of another, but the offense consists in receiving advances, either in money or supplies, and thereafter, willfully and without just cause, failing to perform the reasonable service required of him by the terms of the contract. It is apparent, therefore, that this case differs widely from the case of State v. Williams, 32 S.C. 123, 10 S.E. 876, upon which appellant seems mainly to rely. There the defendant was indicted simply for a violation of the contract into which he had entered with the landholder, by willfully failing to give to the landholder the labor reasonably required of him by the terms of the contract, which was made a penal offense by section 2084 of the General Statutes of 1882. By that section it was made a penal offense for either party (the landholder or the laborer) to violate the contract therein referred to; but, as the statute discriminated between these two parties in fixing the amount of punishment that might be...

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