September 5, 2010

Washington Frees His Slaves


Last Will and Testament of George Washington

Upon the decease of my wife, it is my will and desire, that all the slaves which I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom.

To emancipate them during her life, would tho earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties, on account of their intermixture by marriages with the dower negroes as to excite the most painful sensations -- if not disagreeable consequences from the latter while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same proprietor, it not being in my power under the tenure by which the dower Negroes are held to manumit them.

And whereas among those who will receive freedom according to this devise there may be some who from old age, or bodily infirmities and others who on account of their infancy, that will be unable to support themselves, it is my will and desire that all who come under the first and second description shall be comfortably clothed and fed by my heirs while they live and that such of the latter description as have no parents living, or if living are unable, or unwilling to provide for them, shall be bound by the Court until they shall arrive at the age of twenty-five years, and in cases where no record can be produced whereby their ages can be ascertained, the judgment of the Court upon its own view of the subject shall be adequate and final.

The negroes thus bound are (by their masters and mistresses) to be taught to read and write and to be brought up to some useful occupation, agreeably to the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, providing for the support of orphans and other poor children -- and I do hereby expressly forbid the sale or transportation out of the said Commonwealth of any slave I may die possessed of, under any pretense, whatsoever -- and I do moreover most positively, and most solemnly enjoin it upon my executors hereafter named, or the survivors of them to 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, seeing that a regular and permanent fund be established for their support so long as there are subjects requiring it, not trusting to the uncertain provisions to be made by individuals.

And to my mulatto man, William (calling himself William Lee) I give immediate freedom or if he should prefer it (on account of the accidents which have befallen him and which have rendered him incapable of walking or of any active employment) to remain in the situation he now is, it shall be optional in him to do so.

In either case, however, I allow him an annuity of thirty dollars during his natural life which shall be independent of the victuals and clothes he has been accustomed to receive; if he chooses the last alternative, but in full with his freedom, if he prefers the first, and this I give him as a testimony of my sense of his attachment to me and for his faithful services during the Revolutionary War.

Posted by Vanderleun at September 5, 2010 11:14 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.


thanks for posting this.

Washington and the Founders were great men.

flawed to some degree - as the best of men must be - but GREAT.

God Bless Them All.

Posted by: reliapundit at September 6, 2010 7:12 AM

What bothers me about the way that I was taught history, and probably the way most people were taught history, is that history is taught without context and instead taught from the point of view of moral superiority of the present and the teacher. I am always shaking this hint of mentality off.

Posted by: Jewel at September 6, 2010 8:04 AM

Thanks for posting this, Dr. V. I didn't know anyone else who knew it.

Posted by: Rick at September 6, 2010 8:46 AM

Martha spent the rest of her life worrying that the slaves were going to poison her.

Posted by: daisy at September 6, 2010 10:39 AM

Washington devised a well-crafted solution to an almost insolvable problem of dependency and justice; and from beliefs far different than the greedy, heedless and racist motives that liberals would have us ascribe to him.

Bless you for posting this. It is now being forwarded to various misinformed people!

Posted by: raincityjazz at September 7, 2010 10:37 AM

Hnh, hnh ... He said "negro"!

Posted by: Beavis at September 7, 2010 6:44 PM