His Freedom Papers I Gave to Him

Published:July 10, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

The above facsimile comes from an original 1865 edition of A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison by Paul Jennings. It shows the agreement, made by Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, to purchase Jennings from the Madison family and then, eventually, to free him. Elizabeth Dowling Taylor explains:

On Friday, 19 March 1847, Daniel Webster wrote on a flyleaf, “I have paid $120 for the freedom of Paul Jennings—he agrees to work out the same at $8 per month, to be furnished with board, clothes & washing—to begin when we return from the South—His freedom papers I gave to him; they are recorded in the District.” Jennings was sold to Daniel Webster and freed by him in the span of a paragraph. It was an early spring day, just as when he had first arrived in the city in 1809. Paul Jennings walked down the road in possession of this all-important piece of paper. He still owed Senator Webster $120, but this he would pay off “with his own free hands.”

In the meantime, we’re now editing Taylor’s entry for the encyclopedia on Jennings.

This is one in a series of posts that pays homage to The Art of Google Books.