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.”
The above facsimile comes from an original 1865 edition of Jennings’s memoir, A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison.
A version of this post was originally published on July 10, 2012.