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Antiquary to Frederick Douglass, February 24, 1854


Mr. F. Douglas:—Have the following ever fallen within the range of your reading?

In 1514, Henry the VIIIth manumitted two men, held by him in vassalage, by an instrument in the following form: "Whereas, God created all men free, but afterwards the laws and customs of nations subjected some under the yoke of servitude, we think it pious and meritorious with God to manumit Henry Knight, a taylor, and John Hule, a husbandman, our natives, within the Manor of Stroke Clummysland, in our county of Cornwall," &c.

Was not this pretty well for the despotic Henry? God instituted freedom—never introduced slavery. Even Henry thought emancipation was an act of piety to God.

Fitzerbert says, "no man should be bound well unto God;" and he thinks vassalage contrary to the principles of Christianity.

Sir Thomas Smith, Secretary of State under Edward IV, says "since England had received the Christian religion, men began to be affected in the consciences at holding their brethren in servitude." And Robertson, in his history of Charles V, shows that manumission early became frequent in England "from a religious principle." It was urged upon the people as a religious principle, by the holy fathers, monks and friars;" but characteristically enough, the "holy fathers and bishops" did not manumit their own slaves until forced to do so by popular outcry—by the reaction upon themselves of their popular opinion, which they had aided in creating.







Antiquary to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick DouglassP, 24 February 1854. Offers two historic writings that defend freedom as the will of God.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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Frederick Douglass' Paper