Letter from a Freedman to his old Master


Jourdon Anderson was freed from slavery when the Union army reached the Tennessee plantation where he and his family were enslaved. He packed up his wife and kids, made his way to Ohio, worked a job, got paid for it, and lived safely in his community. His former master, Colonel Anderson, did not fare so well after the Civil War. His plantation was in terrible shape and he needed workers to bring his remaining crops in. Colonel Anderson wrote to Jourdon asking him to come back to work for him and promising to treat him well and to give him his freedom.

In response, Jourdon dictated a kind-hearted reply with a hint of sarcasm, playfully pondering Colonel Anderson’s offer. Jourdon was glad to hear Colonel Anderson was doing well, “although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt.”

Jourdon tells Colonel Anderson about his job where he earned $25 a month. If Colonel Anderson would give him that in back pay (a total of $11,680 including some wages for his wife), it would go a long way in showing the sincerity of his offer of treating him well if he returned.

Then there was the matter of Colonel Anderson giving him his freedom. Jourdon retorts he has nothing to gain from his offer of freedom. A higher authority, the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville, had already given him his freedom.

Jourdon’s letter went viral, 1800’s style. Entitled “Letter from a Freedman to His Old Master,” it was printed in the local newspaper and republished in several books. The satirical style of the letter pointed out how ridiculous was the offer of freedom from the plantation owner. Colonel Anderson offered something Jourdon already had.

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he reminded them that freedom is not found in returning to the Law. Christ had already set them free. “For freedom, Christ set us free.” Galatians 5:1

In the Christian life, there is a great temptation to return to the Law or to create our own laws to free us from sin. In those moments, we need to think like Jourdon and remember we already have freedom. When facing temptation to sin, look inward to the Holy Spirit and the freedom you already have in Christ.





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