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This Day (Freedom Papers Edition)


On this day in 1847, Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts agreed to purchase Paul Jennings from Dolley Madison in order, 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.”

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.

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