Partus sequitur ventrem

Partus sequitur ventrem

Literal Meaning

The offspring follows the mother.


This maxim was a legal doctrine concerning the slave or free status of children born in the English royal colonies. Incorporated into legislation in the British American colonies and later in the United States, partus held that the social status of a child followed that of his or her mother. Thus, any child born to an enslaved woman was born into slavery, regardless of the ancestry or citizenship of the father; this principle was widely adopted into the laws regarding slavery in the colonies and the following United States, eliminating financial responsibility of fathers for children born into slavery. 



Case References

Westropp v. Elligott. (1884) 9 App. Case 815

In the present case there is a plain, unambiguous contract to which the principle Partus sequitur ventrem applies. If the contract is plain upon its face, what the parties may have intended is immaterial. No such term as is contended for by the plaintiff can be implied. At the time of entering into the agreement, Perry had no intention of separating the ewes and their offspring after their birth. A term can only be implied to give a contract business efficacy if such be necessary at the time that the contract is made. This contract already had business efficacy, it was clear and plain; and no term should be implied. The description of “Goods” in the contract is quite clear and ownership of the progeny follows that of the mothers.

Tucker v. Farm and general investment trust ltd., [1966] 2 Q.B. 421

A greater property goes to a lessee under a lease than goes to a hirer under a hire-purchase agreement. The title being reserved to the defendants, the finance company, the rule Partus sequitur ventrem applies. If it is necessary to imply any term into this contract, the term implied by the county court judge that any progeny born during the hiring should be deemed to become part of “the goods” is the correct term.

Arkansas val land and cattle co. Ltd. V. Mann, 1889 SCC OnLine US SC 73

The calves of such of the cows as belonged to the plaintiff, and were converted by the defendant, certainly belonged to the former; for, according to the maxim, Partus sequitur ventrem, the brood of all tame and domestic animals belongs to the owner of the dam or mother.

Edited by Sree Ramya

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Shivani Rani
I am Shivani Rani from Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University,Aligarh pursuing BALLB(Hons.). Criminal law and personal laws of country attracts me the most. I like to read books mostly based on fictin and also like to watch suspense & thriller movies as well as crime thriller web series, in free time. I love to take part in moot court competitions as well as research study work. I am enthusiastic about exploring new places and listening music. I am kind of ambivert person i.e., not so introvert and not so extrovert.