The Manumission of Ann and Rufus Johnson

Manumission of Ann and Rufus Johnson,1828

Courtesy, New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, NJ
Anderson Family Papers, MG 608, folder 27 “Johnson Family Records”

Transcription: Manumission Document  May 19, 1828

State of New Jersey
Warren County

It is hereby made known, that on this Nineteenth
day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and
twenty eight. I Hannah Thomson of the township of Hardwick in the said
county of Warren, have liberated, manumitted and set free my two negro slaves
called Ruff Johnson of the age of thirty nine years and Ann Johnson his wife
of the age of thirty eight years or there abouts; and I do hereby liberate, manu
mit and set free my said negro slaves, and discharge them from all services
or demand of services to be hereafter made, either by me or any person claiming
by from or under me. As witness in my hand & seal the day and year above

Signed Sealed and dilivered [sic]                                  Hannah Thomson
in the presence of

Martha S. Thomson
Edw’d Sharp

Transcription: Manumission Document, Children’s Ages, June 3,  1828

The ages of the following children record [sic] in Belvidere
June 3, 1828

The ages of the children of Ruff Johnson and Ann his wife
slaves to Hannah Thomson of Warren county New Jersey
George Johnson was born the fourteenth day of November
eighteen hundred and nineteen – he will be free 14 November 1844
Mary Johnson was born the twentieth day of January eighteen hundred
and twenty one – she will be free 20 January 1842
David Johnson was born the twenty fourth day of March eighteen
hundred & twenty three – he will be free 24th March 1848
Matilda Johnson was born the twenty third day June eighteen
hundred & twenty five – she will be free 23rd June 1846

By the laws of New Jersey the children born of slaves – the males
are free at the age of twenty five and the females at the
age of twenty one years.

Ruff Johnson & Ann his wife was manumitted by Hannah Thomson
the 19th May 1828 which is recorded at Belvidere in Warren

County New Jersey in Book 1
page 10

Ann and Rufus Johnson were 14 and 15 years old respectively when New Jersey enacted gradual manumission in 1804. They, however, were not positively affected by the law. Slavery took the best years of their working lives in service to their owner, Hannah Thomson, before she freed them in 1828.  (Manumission document: upper left.) Their four young children were not slaves, but they were required by law to work for Thomson for many years. Mary (age 7) and Matilda (age 3) were required to work for their parents’ former owner until they were 21; George (age 9) and David (age 5) were required to work until they were 25. Hannah Thomson did not free the children from these obligations when she freed their parents.  (Document showing ages of children: upper right.)

It isn’t known what motives and conditions lay behind the facts of these two legal documents. Were Ann and Rufus going to continue to work for Thomson, but for wages? Would their small children be cared for by their former owner or would the freed parents be expected to bear the cost of their children’s up-keep? Would the family live together or be separated? Why did Thomson not relinquish her right to the indentures of the children, as other owners often did when small children were involved? Were Ann and Rufus skilled workers who would be able to find work elsewhere, or were they destined for a life of menial labor for low wages? Gradual manumission softened the economic impact of abolition for slave owners, but for slaves and their children, in the short term, the law was a very mixed blessing.