How many slaves did george washington have
An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America by Henry WiencekA major new biography of Washington, and the first to explore his engagement with American slavery
When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his only unavoidable subject of regret. In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding fathers engagement with slavery at every stage of his life--as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman.
Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washingtons attitudes began to change. He and the other framers enshrined slavery in the Constitution, but, Wiencek shows, even before he became president Washington had begun to see the systems evil.
Did George Washington Really Free Mount Vernon’s Slaves?
He would acquire many more in the years to come, whether through the death of other family members or by purchasing them directly. When he married the wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis in , she brought more than 80 slaves along with her, bringing the total number of enslaved men, women and children at Mount Vernon to more than by the time the Revolutionary War began. Ona Judge was born around After fulfilling his four-year work contract at Mount Vernon, Andrew Judge moved off the plantation to start his own farm. As children born to enslaved women were considered property of the slaveholder, according to Virginia law, his daughter remained in bondage. Ona, more commonly known as Oney, moved into the mansion house when she was just 9 years old. When Washington headed to New York City in for his inauguration as president, Oney was one of only a handful of slaves the couple took with them.
Despite having been an active slave holder for 56 years, George Washington struggled with the institution of slavery and spoke frequently of his desire to end the practice. At the end of his life Washington made the bold step to free all his slaves in his will - the only slave-holding Founding Father to do so. In his will, Augustine left his son the acre family farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia. In addition, Washington was willed ten slaves. As a young adult, Washington purchased at least eight more slaves, including a carpenter named Kitt.
When George Washington died in , a new nation ground to a halt. Mourning Americans wore black crepe armbands. Church bells tolled. Or so the story goes. And though he promised in his will to free all of his slaves when he died, only one of them immediately went free and nearly half of the enslaved people at Mount Vernon remained in bondage for decades. Like nearly all wealthy landowners in Virginia, George Washington owned slaves who worked his land.
The relationship between George Washington and slavery was complex, contradictory and evolved over time. It operated on two levels: his personal position as a slaveowning Virginia planter and later farmer; and his public positions first as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and later as President of the United States. He owned slaves almost his entire life, having inherited the first ten slaves at the age of eleven on the death of his father in
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