Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Emancipation or Manumission?

Copyright by Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG
May not be copied without written consent

Two words that are often used interchangeably are “manumission” and “emancipation.” Both define the act of freeing a person from the control of another, but there is a slight difference in the word meanings.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, manumission is “the act of liberating a slave from bondage and giving him freedom.” Emancipation is “the act by which one who was unfree, or under the power and control of another, is rendered free, or set at liberty and made his own master.”

By these definitions, it appears that a slave is manumitted, or emancipated, by his master-owner while a father might emancipate, but not manumit, a minor child and allow him to act for himself.

An example of an emancipation can be found in a file marked “Notes” in the Caldwell County Clerk’s office, Princeton, Kentucky. On 15 June 1830, John Ross wrote the following statement: “Know all men by these presents that I John Ross have this day have given my two youngest sons Samuel H. Ross and Bartholomew Ross a free clerence from under my hands, for to act as if they were men of age, by the law of the state, for to make trade and trafic for themselves and be responsible to every person who may trade with them.”

The manumission of a slave woman named Lilly, the property of Samuel Givens of Union County, Kentucky, is recorded in Gallatin County, Illinois Deed Book A, page 71 and is dated 21 March 1820. Givens stated that “having had in my possession a negro woman Lilly do for divers good causes & considerations ... and in consideration of the sum of $300 to me in hand paid by said Lilly hereby liberate, manumit and set free from bondage and service as a slave, the said negro woman Lilly ..."

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