Thomas Ruffin’s opinion in State v. Mann was direct protection of the institution of slavery and the rights of slaveholders. Ruffin was a slaveholder, and his involvement in the slave trade gave him reason to rule so harshly. (Items 596) He showed little compassion for slaves by not stopping his overseer from treating his slaves like a barbarian, and his splitting of slave families. (Items 601, 603, 604) Ruffin also beat slaves that were not his own, despite his knowledge of its legal consequences. (Item 602) Ruffin’s activity with slaves show that he likely did not have the remorse his displayed in his opinion in Mann. (Item 44)
Ruffin’s molding of the Mann decision also shows that he was protecting the institution of slavery. He ignored a precedent set by State v. Hale, which would have allowed him to rule in Mann’s favor without the controversy. Ruffin also did not acknowledge any difference between an owner and hirer, which allowed him to address the rights of slaveowners directly.
Justice Ruffin’s other decisions regarding slavery and emancipation follow his reasoning from the Mann decision and show that he made decisions that hurt slaves on several occasions. In State v. Caesar, he delivered a dissenting opinion that stated that slaves could not fight back against their masters even if they feared for their lives. (Brophy 2009, 815) The Sorrey v. Brightand White v. Green decisions both kept slaves from achieving their freedom, despite their masters wishing they could have it. (Brophy 2009, 819) After looking at the evidence in its entirety, it is apparent that Thomas Ruffin was protecting the institution of slavery and the rights of slaveholders in his State v. Mann decision. It is extremely unlikely that Thomas Ruffin had the “reluctance” he mentioned in his decision and instead felt like he was making the correct choice.