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Main article: "Founding Fathers of the United States

Washington was the only Southern slaveholding "Founding Father among the top seven[a] to emancipate his slaves after the American Revolution. Of the seven Founding Fathers, the northerners "Benjamin Franklin and "John Jay both owned slaves whom they freed, and Jay founded the "New York Manumission Society.[26] He had a practice of freeing slaves as adults after a period of service. In 1798, the year before New York passed its gradual emancipation law, Jay still owned six slaves.[27]

As Washington's slaves had intermarried with his wife's dower slaves, he included a provision in his will to free his slaves upon her death, to postpone any breakup of their families, when her dower slaves would be returned or managed by her heirs. He freed only "William Lee, his longtime personal valet, outright in his will. The will called for the ex-slaves to be provided for by Washington's heirs, with the elderly ones to be clothed and fed, and the younger ones to be educated and trained at an occupation so they could support themselves. Martha Washington freed her husband's slaves within 12 months of his death and allowed them to stay at Mount Vernon if they had family members.[28]

Prior to 1782, Virginia law had limits on slaveholders emancipating slaves; they were only allowed to do so for "meritorious service" and only with the approval of the Governor and his council. This law was repealed by the 1782 law allowing slave emancipation by will or deed.[29] Washington did not free any slaves during his lifetime, but relied on his will.["citation needed]

Washington's failure to act publicly upon his growing private misgivings about slavery during his lifetime is seen by some historians as a missed opportunity. The major reason Washington did not emancipate his slaves after the 1782 law and prior to his death was because of the financial costs involved. To circumvent this problem, in 1794 he quietly sought to sell off his western lands and lease his outlying farms in order to finance the emancipation of his slaves, but this plan fell through because enough buyers and renters could not be found. Also, Washington did not want to risk splitting the new nation apart over the slavery issue. "He did not speak out publicly against slavery", argues historian Dorothy Twohig, "because he did not wish to risk splitting apart the young republic over what was already a sensitive and divisive issue."[30]

Notable slaves of Washington[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Historian "Richard B. Morris in 1973 identified the following seven figures as the key Founding Fathers: "John Adams, "Benjamin Franklin, "Alexander Hamilton, "John Jay, "Thomas Jefferson, "James Madison, and "George Washington[25]


<Further information: "Bibliography of George Washington
  1. ^ Chadwick, Bruce (2007). General and Mrs. Washington: The Untold Story of a Marriage and a Revolution. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 331. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  2. ^ Dunbar, Erica Armstrong (February 16, 2015). "George Washington, Slave Catcher". "New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2015. 
  3. ^ Hirschfeld, Fritz (1997). George Washington and Slavery. University of Missouri Press. p. 11. "ISBN "978-0-8262-1135-4. 
  4. ^ Conroy, Sarah Booth (1998). "The Founding Father and His Slaves". Washington Papers. University of Virginia. Retrieved February 12, 2017. 
  5. ^ Number of slaves: Henry Wiencek, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, p. 46; Ellis, pp. 262–63. Quotes from visitors to Mount Vernon: Ferling, p. 476.
  6. ^ Slave raffle linked to Washington's reassessment of slavery: Wiencek, pp. 135–36, 178–88
  7. ^ Slave raffle linked to Washington's reassessment of slavery: Wiencek, pp. 135–36, 178–88. Washington's decision to stop selling slaves: Fritz Hirschfeld, George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal, p. 16. Influence of war and Wheatley: Wiencek, ch 6. Dilemma of selling slaves: Wiencek, p. 230; Ellis, pp. 164–7; Hirschfeld, pp. 27–29.
  8. ^ Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. p. 278.
  9. ^ Virginia reports: Jefferson--33 Grattan, 1730-1880, Thomas Johnson Michie, Thomas Jefferson, Peachy Ridgway Grattan, The Michie Co., 1904, pp. 241-242.
  10. ^ Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1993, p. 81
  11. ^ Kolchin (1993), American Slavery, p. 81
  12. ^ Quotes and Lafayette plans: Dorothy Twohig, "'That Species of Property': Washington's Role in the Controversy over Slavery" in George Washington Reconsidered, pp. 121–22.
  13. ^ Edward G. Lengel (2012). A Companion to George Washington. John Wiley. p. 90. 
  14. ^ Fritz Hirschfeld (1997). George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal. University of Missouri Press. p. 74. 
  15. ^ Robert V. Remini (2007). The House: The History of the House of Representatives. HarperCollins. p. 30. 
  16. ^ Schultz, Jeffrey D. (2002). Encyclopedia of Minorities in American Politics: African Americans and Asian Americans. p. 284. Retrieved March 25, 2010. 
  17. ^ Marcus Pohlmann; Linda Whisenhunt (2002). Student's guide to landmark congressional laws on civil rights. CT: Greenwood. p. 23. "ISBN "0-313-31385-7. Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Regulating the Trade". New York Public Library. Retrieved December 20, 2015. 
  19. ^ Alfred Hunt, Haiti's Influence on Antebellum America, p. 31
  20. ^ Holley, Peter (July 27, 2016). "The ugly truth about the White House and its history of slavery". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  21. ^ Ed Lawler, Jr., "Slavery in the President's House", President's House in Philadelphia website, US, 2001–2010, accessed 16 February 2012
  22. ^ Striner, Richard (2006). Father Abraham: Lincoln's Relentless Struggle to End Slavery. Oxford University Press. p. 15. "ISBN "978-0-19-518306-1. 
  23. ^ Striner, p. 15.
  24. ^ "The President's House in Philadelphia", website
  25. ^ Richard B. Morris, Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries (New York: Harper & Row, 1973).
  26. ^ "Roger G. Kennedy, Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character (2000), p. 92
  27. ^ Crippen II, Alan R. (2005). "John Jay: An American Wilberforce?". John Jay Institute. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved December 13, 2006. I have three male and three female slaves[....] I purchase slaves and manumit them at proper ages and when their faithful services shall have afforded a reasonable retribution. 
  28. ^ Washington, George. "George Washington's Last Will and Testament, 9 July 1799". Founders Online. National Historical Publications & Records Commission. Archived from the original on October 1, 2016. Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  29. ^ Erik S. Root (2008). All Honor to Jefferson?: The Virginia Slavery Debates and the Positive Good Thesis. Lexington Books. p. 19. 
  30. ^ Twohig, "That Species of Property", pp. 127–28.
  31. ^ Harry Washington, Black Loyalist, University of Sidney (Australia).
  32. ^ "Exhibit: Slavery in New York - 7 October 2005 to 26 March 2006". New York Historical Society. 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  33. ^ a b "Slavery in the President's House", President's House in Philadelphia website, US, 2001-2010, accessed 16 February 2012
  34. ^ Mary V. Thompson, “William Lee & Oney Judge: A Look at George Washington & Slavery,” Journal of the American Revolution, JUNE 19, 2014 (“Billy [Lee] was well-enough known that people who came to Mount Vernon looked forward to meeting him.”) (
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