Item #8383 [Freedmen’s contract with Civil War Pardon for their former owner.]. President Andrew Johnson, Edward T. Jefress.
[Freedmen’s contract with Civil War Pardon for their former owner.]
[Freedmen’s contract with Civil War Pardon for their former owner.]
[Freedmen’s contract with Civil War Pardon for their former owner.]

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[Freedmen’s contract with Civil War Pardon for their former owner.]

Washington, D.C., 1865; Nottoway County, Virginia, 1866. Print pardon completed in manuscript, 16.625” x 10.5”, 2 pp. on bifolium. CONDITION: Very good, old folds with a few Japanese tissue repairs. [With] Manuscript contract, 12” x 7.375”, 3 pp. on bifolium CONDITION: Very good, old folds with some chips on 2nd leaf, a few losses to letters but no loss of sense.

A remarkable pairing of Virginia documents, both drawn up in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War and foreshadowing the failure of Reconstruction and the coming of Jim Crow.

The first of these documents is a presidential pardon of former Confederate soldier Edward T. Jeffress (1794–1873) issued July 22nd, 1865, signed by President Andrew Johnson (with a stamp) and acting Secretary of State William Hunter. The pardon echoes Johnson’s May 29th proclamation, which extended amnesty to most former Confederates, provided they swore an oath of loyalty to the United States and did not attempt to own or make use of slave labor: “this pardon to begin and take effect from the day on which the said Edward T. Jeffress shall take the oath prescribed in the Proclamation of the President, dated May 29th, 1865, and to be void and of no effect if the said Edward T. Jeffress shall hereafter, at any time, acquire any property whatever in slaves, or make use of slave labor.”

The second document, a manuscript contract between Jeffress and twelve of his former slaves (including two boys, underage, whose father signs on their behalf), is dated six months later, on January 5th, 1866, and contains clauses stipulating that the Freedmen are required, among a slew of tasks encompassing the entire operation of the farm, “to attend in every respect to the Comfort and Convenience of the said Ed T Jeffress and his family and to Conduct themselves as honest and polite Servants” and to “consider no work pertaining to the farm however remotely as extra work and not embraced in this Contract.” Furthermore, “any violations of Spirit or letter of either or all the foregoing covenants and agreements in the judgment of the said Ed T. Jeffress shall subject the offender or offenders to an immediate dismissal from the plantation.” It is not clear how many Freedmen may have left the Jeffress plantation, but certainly those who signed this contract—like so many Freedpeople—were “free” in name only.

Col. Edward Thomas Jeffress (1794–1873) was born in Lunenburg, Virginia, to a large and prominent family in the region. He ran a store, built a fine home called “Oakland,” and served as postmaster. In the 1850 census Jeffress recorded his occupation as “Farmer & Merchant,” but by the 1860 census identified himself solely as a farmer, and was “a large slaveholder” (Turner).

A study in the contrast between theory and practice in the shape of a former slave-holder’s presidential pardon and his contract for farm labor with a group of Freedmen.

REFERENCES: Turner, W. R. Old Homes and Families in Nottoway, (1923), p. 38.

Item #8383

Price: $6,500.00