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Originally a talk by Research Historian Mary V. Thompson

George Washington and his servant, William Lee. This Trumbull paining depicts William Lee in stylized dress - George Washington, by John Trumbull, c. 1780. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
George Washington and his servant, William Lee. This Trumbull paining depicts William Lee in stylized dress - George Washington, by John Trumbull, c. 1780. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As foreign as it may be to our modern North American sensibilities, George Washington, perhaps the premier founding father of a country which has come to symbolize freedom and liberty to the entire world, was born into a society in which slavery was a simple fact of life. As abhorrent as it may be to us, people in 18th century Virginia routinely inherited, made presents of, bought, sold, auctioned, and lotteried off other human beings, as if they were livestock or inanimate objects. Unlike most of his contemporaries, however, Washington's views on the subject of slavery did a complete turnabout over the course of his life. In the few minutes available to us, we will explore the institution of slavery, Washington's role as a slave owner, and look more closely at the transformation he underwent in the space of a very short 67 years.

Everything around young Washington would have reinforced the concept that God and society saw slavery as something which was only right and natural. His parents and neighbors owned enslaved people. Both the Bible and classical works from ancient Greece and Rome, which served as textbooks for young scholars of the period, contain numerous references to slaves and the institution of slavery and detail laws governing the practice of slavery in those societies. By the time of Washington's birth, slavery had been a fact of Virginia life for almost a century and was a seemingly indispensable part of the economic, social, legal, and political fabric of the colony. By the time George Washington took control of the Mount Vernon property in 1754, the population of the surrounding county, known as Fairfax, was about 6,500 people, of whom a little more than 1,800 or about 28% were enslaved people of African origin. The proportion of enslaved individuals in the population as a whole rose throughout the century; by the end of the American Revolution, which brought the new United States freedom from England, over 40% of the people in Fairfax County were enslaved.1

Portrait of Martha Dandridge Custis, John Wollaston, oil on canvas, 1757. Washington-Custis-Lee Collection, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA. [U1918.1.1]
Portrait of Martha Dandridge Custis, John Wollaston, oil on canvas, 1757. Washington-Custis-Lee Collection, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA. [U1918.1.1]
Washington himself became a slave owner at the age of 11, when his father died and left him the 280-acre farm near Fredericksburg, Virginia, upon which the family was then living, and ten enslaved people. As a young adult, he purchased at least eight enslaved individuals, including a carpenter named Kitt, acquired for £39.5.0 in 1755, four other men, two women, and a child. It was after his marriage to Martha Dandridge Custis in January of 1759 that Washington's slaveholdings increased dramatically. His young bride was the widow of a wealthy planter, Daniel Parke Custis, who died without a will in 1757; her share of the Custis estate brought another 84 enslaved people. Then, in the sixteen years between his marriage and the beginning of the Revolution, Washington acquired slightly more than 40 additional enslaved workers through purchase.2 Most of the subsequent increase in the enslaved population at Mount Vernon occurred as a result of the large number of children born on the estate.

The over-riding fact that comes through in all the surviving documentation about life at Mount Vernon is that George Washington was, by no means, an easy man to work for. He was a picky, detail-oriented boss, who continually looked over the shoulders of those who served him, could always find a better way to have done a job, and was not above blowing up at a servant, white or black, who didn't meet his standards. Balancing these managerial shortcomings was a sense of humor, a thoughtfulness which softened the rough edges of his temper, and the fact that he would listen to, seriously consider, and bother to investigate the problems brought to his attention. He could also be counted on to give support and encouragement to those who were trying to overcome personal problems. In all these things he was consistent, exhibiting the same personality traits toward, and expecting the same behavior from, both free men, whether they were of his own social class or not.

While the daily routine and material well-being of the Mount Vernon enslaved community was not so different from those enslaved on other large Virginia plantations at this period, the character and personality of their master went a long way toward making their lives both more complicated and better than they might otherwise have been. Of all the descriptions of Washington as a slave owner, only a few are critical of his behavior. One of those, written by an Englishman who lived near Mount Vernon, is especially important and perhaps becomes understandable in the light of Washington's high expectations of both himself and those who worked for him and his interest in scientific farming. When Richard Parkinson remarked that "it was the sense of all his [Washington's] neighbors that he treated [his slaves] with more severity than any other man," neighborhood gossip may well have hinged on Washington's strict management of the estate, which became progressively modern and scientific over the years.

By increasing the scope of supervision to closely track the amount of time spent on each type of work, the number of days lost to illness, the amount of corn used by each of his five farms, and other minute observations and calculations, Washington was becoming more like a modern industrialist or efficiency expert than a traditional gentleman farmer. In the course of that transformation, in the opinion of neighbors whose own enslaved people may well have had dealings with those from Mount Vernon and thus knew how they felt about these changes, Washington was also increasing the burden on his enslaved workers. Changes in crops and techniques over the years not only forced the Mount Vernon enslaved community to learn new ways of doing things, but Washington's expectations transformed them from traditional peasant farmers to prototypical 18th-century factory farmers.3

More typical of the descriptions of Washington as a slave owner was an account left by a foreign visitor traveling in America, who recorded that George Washington dealt with his enslaved people "far more humanely than do his fellow citizens of Virginia." It was this man's opinion that Virginians typically treated their enslaved workers harshly, providing "only bread, water and blows."4 Washington himself once criticized other large plantation owners, "who are not always as kind, and as attentive to their [the slaves'] wants and usage as they ought to be."5 Toward the end of his life, Washington looked back on his years as a slave owner, reflecting that: "The unfortunate condition of the persons, whose labour in part I employed, has been the only unavoidable subject of regret. To make the Adults among them as easy & as comfortable in their circumstances as their actual state of ignorance & improvidence would admit; & to lay a foundation to prepare the rising generation for a destiny different from that in which they were born; afforded some satisfaction to my mind, & could not I hoped be displeasing to the justice of the Creator."6

George Washington visiting the slave cabin at Mount Vernon’s Pioneer Farm (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)
George Washington visiting the slave cabin at Mount Vernon’s Pioneer Farm (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)

Perhaps many of the differences for the better between Washington and his contemporaries in Virginia can be attributed to a second transformation, which took place in Washington's views about slavery. Over the course of his life, he gradually changed from a young man who accepted slavery as matter of course into a person who decided never again to buy or sell another enslaved individual and held hopes for the eventual abolition of the institution. Probably the biggest factor in the evolution of these views was the Revolutionary War, in which Washington risked his life, his family, a sizable fortune, and a stable future for freedom from England and some idealistic concepts about the rights of man. During the conflict, his views on slavery were radically altered, evidence that he truly believed the wartime rhetoric about freedom and liberty. As he wrote a few years after the conflict, "Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth."7 In the matter of his views on slavery, that was certainly true. Within 3 years of the start of the war, Washington, who was then 46 years old and had been a slave owner for 35 years, confided in a cousin back in Virginia that he longed "every day [sic]...more and more to get clear" of the ownership of slaves. 8

During the war, Washington had traveled to parts of the country where agriculture was undertaken without the use of enslaved labor. He had seen black soldiers in action, fighting alongside whites in the Continental Army. In fact, within seven months of taking command of the army, Washington approved the enlistment of free black soldiers, something he and the other general officers had originally opposed.9 They began in late 1775 by re-enlisting free blacks who had fought in the army previously and been let go, much to their disappointment, when Congress disapproved of their presence.10 Five years later, Washington proposed a method for reorganizing two Rhode Island regiments, noting that objections could best be handled by dividing the black soldiers who made up the one unit evenly between the two and making up the difference with new recruits, so "as to abolish the name and appearance of a Black Corps," in essence, integrating the army.11

The Marquis de Lafayette was an ardent opponent of slavery.  Image Credit: Portrait of Marquis de Lafayette, Charles Willson Peale, 1779 (Washington-Custis-Lee Collection, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA)
The Marquis de Lafayette was an ardent opponent of slavery. Image Credit: Portrait of Marquis de Lafayette, Charles Willson Peale, 1779 (Washington-Custis-Lee Collection, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA)
It was also during the war that Washington was first exposed to the views of idealistic young men, like John Laurens of South Carolina, who proposed the formation of an African American corps in that state, and the Marquis de Lafayette, who ardently opposed slavery. In the last days of the Revolution, Lafayette wrote his old commander, suggesting an experiment, in which the two would purchase some land, which Washington's slaves would then work as tenants. Lafayette believed that Washington's participation in the project would help to "render it a general practice." The young man hoped, if his plan proved successful in the United States, to then spread out to the West Indies. He expressed the passionate sentiment that "If it be a wild scheme, I had rather be mad in this way, than to be thought wise in the other task."12 Washington responded warmly to the idea, but preferred to discuss the details in person: "The scheme...which you propose as a precedent, to encourage the emancipation of the black people of this Country [sic] from that state of Bondage [sic] in wch. they are held, is a striking evidence of the benevolence of your Heart [sic]. I shall be happy to join you in so laudable a work; but will defer going into a detail of the business, 'till I have the pleasure of seeing you."13

Not long after the close of the war, Lafayette finally came to Mount Vernon, where he and Washington continued their long-standing discussion about the experiment, perhaps getting into those deferred details. Another houseguest at that same time was quite taken with the conversation, later writing to his host in continuation: "...You wished to get rid of all your Negroes, & the Marquis wisht [sic] that an end might be put to the slavery of all of them. I should rejoice beyond measure could your joint counsels & influence produce it, & thereby give the finishing stroke & the last polish to your political characters. Could it not be contrived that the industrious among them might be turned into copy-holders on the lands of their present masters, & by having a special interest in the produce of their labors be made [mutilated] more profit than at present? A[nd c]ould not this in its consequences excite the lazy to exertions [tha]t might prove highly beneficial? I am not for letting them all loose upon the public; but am for gradually releasing them & their posterity from bonds, & incorporating them so in the states, that they may be a defence [sic] & not a danger upon any extraordinary occurrence."14

By 1785, Lafayette was ready to begin the experiment. In June of that year, he ordered his attorney to purchase a plantation for him in French Guinea, with the proviso that none of the enslaved workers on the plantation be sold or exchanged. He informed Washington in February of 1786 that he had secretly acquired an estate "and am going to free my Negroes in order to Make [sic] that Experiment [sic] which you know is my Hobby Horse [sic]."15 Upon learning of this move, Washington warmly responded:

"The benevolence of your heart my Dr [sic] Marqs [sic] is so conspicuous upon all occasions, that I never wonder at any fresh proofs of it; but your late purchase of an Estate [sic] in the Colony [sic] of Cayenne with a view of emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit would diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country....”16

Washington himself made a start at a similar experiment at Mount Vernon. In the last six years of his life, he tried to rent the four outlying farms of his plantation, if he could find "good farmers" from England or Scotland, willing to take on the project. This scheme would relieve Washington of the burden of managing this land, while at the same time insuring a stable income. He also contemplated that "Many [sic] of the Negroes, male and female, might be hired by the year as laborers," if the tenants chose to use them, instead of bringing in workmen from their own country.17 Unfortunately, although he corresponded with a number of prospective tenants, none of the negotiations proved fruitful.

Inside of the Greenhouse slave quarters at Mount Vernon (Rob Shenk - Mount Vernon Ladies' Association)
Inside of the Greenhouse slave quarters at Mount Vernon (Rob Shenk - Mount Vernon Ladies' Association)

It was also in the period between the end of the war and the start of his presidency, that abolitionists began approaching Washington, seeking his support for their cause. Over and over again, he responded with his conviction that the best way to effect the elimination of slavery was through the legislature, which he hoped would set up a program of gradual emancipation, and for which he would gladly give his vote. As he assured his friend Robert Morris in 1786, he hoped that no one would read his opposition to the methods of certain abolitionists, in this case, the Quakers, as opposition to abolition as a concept:

"I hope it will not be conceived from these observations, that it is my wish to hold the unhappy people, who are the subject of this letter, in slavery. I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it; but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is by Legislative authority; and this, as far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting."18

He admitted to Lafayette, however, that he "despaired" of seeing an abolitionist spirit sweep the country. He confided to the younger man in 1786 that "some petitions were presented to the Assembly [sic] at its last Session [sic], for the abolition of slavery, but they could scarcely obtain a reading. To set them [the slaves] afloat at once would, I really believe, be productive of much inconvenience & mischief; but by degrees it certainly might, & assuredly ought to be effected & that too by Legislative [sic] authority."19 In a fervor of emotion sparked by the Revolution, three New England states (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts) appear to have abolished slavery outright during the war and legislatures in the upper South (Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware) made it easier for slave owners to free their enslaved workers, something which had been impossible for a private individual to do in Virginia between 1723 and 1782. There was even a precedent for the type of gradual process of emancipation, which Washington favored.

Pennsylvania had passed a law in 1780 that all people born enslaved in the future would become free when they reached the age of 28. Other northern states followed suit. In the year Washington died, for example, the New York legislature agreed to free future-born enslaved men at 28 and women at 25 years old. New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island instituted similar plans. As a result of these laws, about 75% of African Americans in the northern states were free by 1810.20

While he could never bring himself to publicly lead the effort to abolish slavery, probably for fear of tearing apart the country he had worked so hard to build, Washington could, and did, try to lead by setting an example 21 In his will, written several months before his death in December 1799, Washington left directions for the emancipation, after Martha Washington died, of all the enslaved people who belonged to him. Washington was not the only Virginian to free his enslaved workers at this period. Toward the end of the American Revolution, in 1782, the Virginia legislature had made it legal for masters to manumit their enslaved laborers, without a special action of the governor and council, which had been necessary before, and a number of people took advantage of this new law. During the 1790s, for instance, planter Robert Carter freed his slaves, numbering more than 500 people.22

A page of the "Negroes Belonging to George Washington in his own right and by Marriage," July 1799 (Mount Vernon Ladies' Association)
A page of the "Negroes Belonging to George Washington in his own right and by Marriage," July 1799 (Mount Vernon Ladies' Association)

Of the 317 slaves at Mount Vernon in 1799, a little less than half, 123 individuals, belonged to George Washington and would go free. When her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis, died without a will, Mrs. Washington had received a life interest in one-third of his estate, including the slaves. The other two-thirds of the estate went to their children. Neither George nor Martha Washington could free these slaves and, upon her death they reverted to the Custis estate and were divided among her grandchildren.

By 1799, 153 enslaved individuals at Mount Vernon were part of this dower property. It was largely because of the Custis estate that George Washington waited as long as he did to free his own enslaved workers. Over the forty years since George Washington and Martha Dandridge Custis were married, his enslaved workers had intermarried with hers, leading to a heartbreaking situation in which families would be broken up when the Washington enslaved people were emancipated. George Washington was trying to put off that terrible consequence for as long as possible.23 The one enslaved person Mrs. Washington owned outright and could have manumitted, a man named Elish, who had been purchased by her from a Washington relative, she bequeathed to her grandson, George Washington Parke Custis.24 Forty more enslaved workers were rented from a neighbor, while another man, Peter Hardiman, was rented from the widow of Mrs. Washington's son. All these people would eventually return to their owners.

In accordance with state law, George Washington stipulated that the elderly or those who were too sick to work were to be supported throughout their lives by his estate. Children without parents, or those whose families were too poor or indifferent to see to their education, were to be bound out to masters and mistresses who would teach them reading, writing, and a useful trade, until they were ultimately freed at the age of 25. Washington stated quite strongly that he took these charges to his executors very seriously:

"And I do moreover most pointedly, and most solemnly enjoin it upon my see that this clause respecting Slaves, and every part thereof be religiously fulfilled at the Epoch at which it is directed to take place; without evasion, neglect or delay, after the Crops which may then be on the ground are harvested, particularly as it respects the aged and infirm. “25

Image of Tom, an enslaved man owned by the Custis estate at Mount Vernon and inherited by the Peter family in 1802 (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)
Image of Tom, an enslaved man owned by the Custis estate at Mount Vernon and inherited by the Peter family in 1802 (Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)
In December 1800, Martha Washington signed a deed of manumission for her deceased husband's enslaved people, a transaction which is recorded in the abstracts of the Fairfax County, Virginia, Court Records. They would become free on January 1, 1801. Time and again since the end of the Civil War, interviews with formerly enslaved people and letters written by them have sometimes expressed the idea that they were better off before they were freed and showed a remarkable attachment to former masters. These statements are often embarrassing to their descendants and completely incomprehensible to most modern Americans.

At least some of the enslaved people who labored for George Washington at Mount Vernon came to feel a similar loyalty to him, which lasted beyond the grave. As an old man, freed for many years, former Mount Vernon carpenter Sambo Anderson echoed the sentiments above, when he told a white acquaintance that he "was a much happier man when he was a slave than he had ever been since," because he had then "had a good kind master to look after all my wants, but now I have no one to care for me." The narrator remarked that he had known quite a few former Washington enslaved workers and "they all spoke in the highest terms of their master."26

These sentiments were more than mere words. On at least one occasion, people formerly enslaved by Washington came back to the plantation to perform a service for their late master. More than thirty years after Washington's death, a visitor to Mount Vernon noticed a work party, made up of eleven black men, making some improvements to the ground around Washington's new tomb, which had been constructed by a few years before. Intrigued by their earnest "expression of feeling," the visitor struck up a conversation with them. He learned that they were some of the people freed by the terms of George Washington's will and had returned to Mount Vernon to undertake this work, "volunteering their services upon this last and melancholy occasion, as the only return in their power to make to the remains of the man who had been more than a father to them." The men planned to "continue their labors as long as any thing should be pointed out for them to do."27

By no means were all of the people formerly enslaved at Mount Vernon as positive in their response as these men, and the one woman, Nancy Quander, who came along to cook for them. Martha Washington's former maid, Ona Judge, remained bitter toward George Washington well into the 1840s when, as a very old woman, she was interviewed by an abolitionist paper. Another elderly enslaved woman at Arlington House, known as Mammy, recalled that, while there were many special qualities about Mrs. Washington, the general was "only a man." Where it might be easier to understand the emotions of these latter individuals, the more generous opinions of those described earlier should not be discounted, but only go to show the complex mix of emotions churned up by the institution of slavery then and now. 28

View of the Mount Vernon Slave Memorial (Rob Shenk)
View of the Mount Vernon Slave Memorial (Rob Shenk)

In conclusion, we should take just a minute to look at the question of how George Washington should be judged by history on the issue of slavery. This is more than just an academic question. In the fall of 1997, the historical community, and seemingly much of the country as a whole, were rocked by the news that the name of a school in New Orleans had been changed from George Washington to Charles Richard Drew Elementary School. This change was made in order to conform to a 1992 school board policy of not naming schools for individuals who were slave owners "or others who did not respect equal opportunity for all." For weeks afterward, the papers were filled with editorials and letters either condemning or supporting the school board's actions. One writer declared with glee that the New Orleans school had "struck a blow for learning, scholarship and inclusiveness" by kicking "George Washington out of the consciousness of the public-school kids of New Orleans, and good riddance. The father of our country is not a fit role model anymore because in addition to being the father of our country, he was the master of several hundred slaves."29

While I can understand the disgust many people in our society feel about slavery and how they cannot fathom how anyone could "own" another person, judging a person from another time and culture, by one's own standards is quite naïve. Not only does it take a person, in this case Washington, out of the context of the time in which he lived, but in the question of slavery, takes him out of human history as a whole. Slavery existed for several thousand years before Washington was born, and few talked in terms of the abolition of slavery until about 1780, during the American Revolution, and, probably the most shocking thing, is that slavery continues to exist.

While slavery and the slave trade were outlawed by the United Nations in 1948, they continued into the late 1950s in the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. Since 1994, there have been news reports of slave trading in Mauritania and the Sudan, as well as stories coming out of Brazil, the former Soviet Union, and North Korea of women and children being sold into brothels in Southeast Asia, India, China, South America, and the Middle East.30 There have been, in addition, tales of involuntary servitude coming out of cities and farms in the United States, as well.31 Given the long history of slavery in the world and the relative constancy of human nature, it is pretty amazing that anyone ever came to question whether it was right to enslave another person. The fact that George Washington could make the transformation from being an unthinking slaveholder to freeing his slaves, in the short span of 24 years, is quite miraculous.

This presentation was first made at a symposium entitled, “George Washington and Alexandria, Virginia: Ties that Bind.” On February 20, 1999. Subsequent corrections were made in March and November 1999.


1 Donald M. Sweig, "Slavery in Fairfax County, Virginia, 1750-1860: A Research Report," (Fairfax County, Virginia: History and Archaeology Section, Office of Comprehensive Planning, June 1983), 4, 8, 15.

2 Worthington Chauncey Ford, editor, Wills of George Washington and His Immediate Ancestors (Brooklyn, New York: Historical Printing Club, 1891), 42 and 42n. Walter H. Mazyck, George Washington and the Negro (Washington, D.C.: The Associated Publishers, Inc., 1932), 5n-6n. Worthington Chauncey Ford, Washington as an Employer and Importer of Labor(Brooklyn, New York: Privately Printed, 1889). Joseph E. Fields, compiler, "Worthy Partner": The Papers of Martha Washington(Westport, Connecticut and London: Greenwood Press, 1994), 105-107.

3 Richard Parkinson, A Tour in America, in 1798, 1799, and 1800(London: Printed for J. Harding and J. Murray, 1805), 420. Lorena S. Walsh, "Slavery and Agriculture at Mount Vernon," unpublished paper prepared for the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, 10/30/1995, 1-4, 32. For a discussion of the change to "industrial farming" in the New World and elsewhere, see William Robert Fogel, Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery(New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989), 25-29.

4 Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, Under Their Vine and Fig Tree: Travels through America in 1797-1799,1805, with some further account of life in New Jersey, translated and edited by Metchie J.E. Budka (Elizabeth, New Jersey: The Grassman Publishing Company, Inc., 1965), 101.

5 George Washington to Arthur Young, 6/18-21/1792, John C. Fitzpatrick ed. The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, prepared under the direction of the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission and published by authority of Congress [39 volumes] [Washington, D.C. ] : United States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944, 32:65.

6 Comment by George Washington, recorded by David Humphries, in the latter's biography of Washington, now in the Rosenbach Library in Philadelphia, quoted in Charles C. Wall, "Housing and Family Life of the Mount Vernon Negro," unpublished paper prepared for the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, May 1962, prefatory note.

7 George Washington to James Madison, 3/2/1788, The Writings of George Washington, 29:431.

8 George Washington to Lund Washington, 8/15/1778, The Writings of George Washington, 12:327.

9 George Washington, General Orders, 10/31/1775 and 11/12/1775, The Writings of George Washington, 4:57 & 86. See also The Writings of George Washington, 4:8n.

10 George Washington to the President of Congress, 12/31/1775, The Writings of George Washington, 4:195.

11 George Washington to Major General William Heath, 6/29/1780, The Writings of George Washington, 19:93. According to historian Robert A. Selig, the Continental Army exhibited a degree of integration not reached by the American army again for 200 years (until after World War II) (see his article, "The Revolution's Black Soldiers: They fought for both sides in their quest for freedom," Colonial Williamsburg(Summer 1997), 15-22).

12 Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington, 2/5/1783, The Writings of George Washington, 26:300n.

13 George Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette, 4/5/1783, The Writings of George Washington,26:300.

14 William Gordon to George Washington, 8/30/1784, The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, 6 volumes, edited by W.W. Abbot and Dorothy Twohig (Charlottesville, Virginia, and London: University Press of Virginia, 1992-1997), 2:64.

15 The Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington, 2/6/1786, The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, 3:121, 544.

16 George Washington to the Marquis de Lafeyette, 5/10/1786, The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series,4:43.

17 George Washington to Arthur Young, 12/12/1793; George Washington to Tobias Lear, 9/11/1797; and George Washington to Richard Parkinson, 11/28/1797, The Writings of George Washington, 33:174-183, 36:31 & 80.

18 George Washington to Arthur Young, 12/12/1793; George Washington to Tobias Lear, 9/11/1797; and George Washington to Richard Parkinson, 11/28/1797, The Writings of George Washington, 33:174-183, 36:31 & 80.

19 George Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette, 5/10/1786, The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, 4:43-44.

20 Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877(New York: Hill and Wang, 1993), 76-79; Donald L. Robinson, Slavery in the Structure of American Politics, 1765-1820(New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1971), 23-24, 29-30, 35, 55n.

21 For a fuller treatment of Washington's views on slavery, see Mazyck, George Washington and the Negro; James Thomas Flexner, "Washington and Slavery," Constitution(Spring-Summer 1991), 5-10 and "George Washington and Slavery," in George Washington: Anguish and Farewell (1793-1799)(Boston, Toronto, and London: Little, Brown and Company, 1969, 1972), 112-125; Dorothy Twohig, "This Species of Property: Washington and Public Policy on Slavery," a lecture given at a conference entitled "Slavery in the Age of Washington," held at Mount Vernon, 11/3/1994.

22 William Waller Hening, editor, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, From the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619,Volume 6 (Richmond, Virginia: Printed for the editor at the Franklin Press, 1819), 112, and Volume 11 (Richmond, Virginia: Printed for the editor by George Cochran, 1823), 39-40; Paul Finkelman, "Thomas Jefferson and Antislavery: The Myth Goes On," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography(April 1994, 193-228), 217; and Paul Finkelman, "Jefferson and Slavery: "Treason Against the Hopes of the World," Jeffersonian Legacies, edited by Peter S. Onuf (Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1993, 181-221), 186-188.

23 John C. Fitzpatrick, editor, The Last Will and Testament of George Washington and Schedule of His Property, to which is appended the Last Will and Testamentof Martha Washington (Mount Vernon, Virginia: The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, 1939, 1947, 1960, 1972), 2.

24 John C. Fitzpatrick, "The Will of Martha Washington of Mount Vernon," in The Last Will and Testament of George Washington and Schedule of His Property, to which is appended the Last Will and Testament of Martha Washington (Mount Vernon, Virginia: The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, 1939, 1947, 1960, 1972, 56-67), 62.

25 Fitzpatrick, The Last Will and Testament of George Washington, 2-4. For Virginia laws dealing with the estate issues and manumission requirements faced by the Washingtons, see William Waller Hening, editor, The Statutes at Large, Volume V (Richmond, Virginia: Printed for the editor at the Franklin Press, 1819), 445, 446, and 464; Volume XI (Richmond, Virginia: Printed for the editor by George Cochran, 1823), 29-40; Volume XII (Richmond, Virginia: Printed for the editor by George Cochran, 1823), 145, 146, and 150.

26 "Mount Vernon Reminiscences Continued," Alexandria Gazette, 1/22/1876, transcript, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, in research notebook, "Early Descriptions After 1800."

27 Alexandria Gazette, 11/16/1835, Photostat, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.

28 Benjamin Chase, "Mrs.[?] Staines," Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies, edited by John W. Blassingame (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1977), 248-250. Agnes Lee, Growing Up in the 1850s: The Journal of Agnes Lee, edited by Mary Custis Lee deButts (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 80-81.

29 Wesley Pruden, "Ethnic cleansing of dead white men," The Washington Times, 11/18/1997.

30 For United Nations policy and the continued existence of slavery and the slave trade into the 1950s, in the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America, see The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition (1986), 27:236. For contemporary slavery or involuntary servitude in South America and Southeast Asia, see the NBC series Dateline, circa 1994. For the sale of women in the former Soviet Union, see Genine Babakian, "Ex-Soviets fall prey to sex trade," USA Today, 11/12/1997. For possible slavery in Mauritania, see David Hecht, "Virtual Slavery," The New Republic, 5/12/1997, 9-10 and Charles Jacobs, Samuel Cotton, and Mohamed Athie, "Master class," The New Republic, 6/16/1997. For slavery in the Sudan, see Samuel G. Freedman, "Christians' indifference makes Meegan Avery cringe," USA Today, 11/12/1997; William Finnegan, "The Invisible War", The New Yorker, 1/25/1999, 50-73; and Dan Rather, CBS Evening News, February 1-2, 1999. For the sale of women in Korea, see The Washington Post, Saturday, 2/13/1999.

31 Len Cooper, "The Damned: Slavery Did Not End With the Civil War. One Man's Odyssey Into a Nation's Secret Shame," The Washington Post, 6/16/1996. Martha T. Moore and Martin Kasindorf, "Enslavement in America: Terrorized immigrants live in bondage in 'land of free,'" USA Today, 7/28/1997