George Washington: Slavery and the Hypocrisy of the War for Liberty

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George Washington:
Slavery and the Hypocrisy of the War for Liberty

History tells us that George Washington was one of our country’s leaders who acted as a commander in the American Revolutionary War, a war that fought for freedom from the Parliament of Great Britain and our natural rights as a people. What some people don’t know is that he owned many slaves from the tender age of eleven until his death. Some slaveholding Patriots saw the hypocrisy of fighting a war for liberty while denying their African-American slaves freedom. Washington was one of those Patriots. Instead of standing up for what he believed in, he had to suppress his views on the institution of slavery. He never publicly opposed or favored slavery, but in his own home, he made his opinions known. Washington was very much against the institution of slavery, but he didn’t make this known to the public for fear that it would divide the new nation over the topic of slavery.

As stated previously, Washington acquired ten slaves at the age of eleven after the death of his father, Augustine, in 1743 and his now infamous 2,650-acre estate at Mount Vernon near Alexandria, VA after the death of his half-brother, Lawrence, in 1752. This number eventually grew to 317 slaves including 124 who solely belonged to him and were to be freed after the death of his wife, Martha Washington, 153 who were his wife’s dower slaves, and 40 others leased by him from his neighbor, Penelope Manely French. Washington frequently had visitors at his estate. One in particular, Julian Niemcewicz, described Washington’s treatment of his slaves in his diary during various visits to the manor: They work all week, not having a single day for themselves except holidays…General Washington treats his slaves far more humanely than do his fellow citizens of Virginia…The management of negroes was a great obstacle…they will not do without harsh treatment…I have never seen the Blacks sad…I noticed that all spoke very good English....
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