Why Washington Matters: Washington the Emancipator

by Datechguy | February 22nd, 2013

Readability

Why Washington Matters: Washington the Emancipator

Baldrick: I still can’t believe you’re leav­ing me behind.
Black­ad­der: Oh don’t you worry. When we’re estab­lished on our plan­ta­tion in Bar­ba­dos I’ll send for you. No more sad lit­tle Lon­don for you Balders. From now on you will stand out in life as an indi­vid­ual.
Baldrick: Will I?
Black­ad­der: Indeed. All the other slaves will be black.

Black Adder Amy and Ami­a­bil­ity 1987

Ben Franklin: First things first, John … Inde­pen­dence. Amer­ica. If we don’t secure that, what dif­fer­ence will the rest make?

1776 1972

The final in my series of post on Why Wash­ing­ton Mat­ters don’t miss Part one (Wash­ing­ton the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary) Part two (Wash­ing­ton the Gen­eral) and Part three (Wash­ing­ton the leader/​president)

If there is any post title that would cause con­fu­sion among read­ers it’s this one. George Wash­ing­ton the Eman­ci­pa­tor? For most of his life, Wash­ing­ton owned slaves. When he mar­ried his wife, she brought even more slaves to the mar­riage and at the time of his death the num­ber of slaves he owned was considerable.

In this mod­ern age where slav­ery exists only in Africa and parts of Ara­bia where Blacks and Mus­lims enslave other blacks (to the silence of the media) and the sex trade (where slav­ery by other names is an inter­na­tional scourge and also pretty much ignored) this con­cept doesn’t wash, but in the age of Wash­ing­ton Slav­ery was not only a norm but had been a norm in the world for the his­tory of…the entire world.

And in addi­tion to full slav­ery, there were inden­tured ser­vants bound to mas­ters by con­tract for years and other sys­tems by which men were held by other men. From Morocco to the Amer­i­cas slav­ery and forced servi­tude was a norm of con­ve­nience and profit wher­ever you went.

To this world Wash­ing­ton was born and raised, in a cul­ture where slav­ery was a total norm, yet look at the record as com­man­der in chief:

In his Gen­eral Orders of 30 Decem­ber 1775, he gave “leave to the recruit­ing Offi­cers to enter­tain … Free Negroes [that] are desirous of inlist­ing” should Con­gress approve the new pol­icy. Writ­ing to John Han­cock the next day he couched his order in terms of mil­i­tary neces­sity: “free Negroes who have served in this army are very much dis­sat­is­fied at being dis­carded. As it is to be appre­hended that they may seek employ in the Min­is­te­r­ial Army, I have … given license for their being enlisted.”

It would have been remark­ably easy for Wash­ing­ton the Vir­ginia planter and slave­holder to let this be.

At the Con­sti­tu­tional con­ven­tion he spoke very lit­tle, how easy would it have been for Wash­ing­ton, slave­holder and south­ern to push for slav­ery, to argue against the con­sti­tu­tion­ally man­dated end to the slave trade. How much of a pull on the del­e­gates would his voice have been if he choose to make the case?

As pres­i­dent although he singed a fugi­tive slave law he also signed a law he signed a law affirm­ing the ban on slav­ery in the North­west ter­ri­to­ries. How easy would it have been for a unan­i­mously elected Wash­ing­ton to argue against such affir­ma­tion? How many of his friends and fel­low slave hold­ers, involved in land spec­u­la­tion would have wanted to bring their “prop­erty” to those lands?

Then in the final act in his will. He freed his slaves.

While it was acknowl­edged even by Con­fed­er­ate lead­ers such as Alexan­der Stephens that the found­ing fathers con­sid­ered Slav­ery wrong:

The pre­vail­ing ideas enter­tained by him and most of the lead­ing states­men at the time of the for­ma­tion of the old con­sti­tu­tion, were that the enslave­ment of the African was in vio­la­tion of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in prin­ci­ple, socially, morally, and polit­i­cally. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the gen­eral opin­ion of the men of that day was that, some­how or other in the order of Prov­i­dence, the insti­tu­tion would be evanes­cent and pass away.

It was he and he ALONE of the slave­hold­ers who would occupy the White House that would free his slaves. After care­fully steer­ing the ship of state that was in dan­ger of split­ting apart on its maiden voy­age he took the act, which has great sym­bolic mean­ing at a time when it was least likely to pro­duce an argu­ment against but would shine as his final exam­ple at the period when an entire nation would be in mourn­ing for him.

Some in the 21st cen­tury might look at this 18th cen­tury man’s act as triv­ial? Why not do this BEFORE death? One might as well con­demn Lin­coln for not push­ing for women’s suf­frage. Con­sider this. Just two years after Washington’s death William Henry Har­ri­son who would later be 9th pres­i­dent was appointed gov­er­nor of the Indi­ana Ter­ri­tory. The slave­hold­ing Har­ri­son pushed vig­or­ously for the legal­iza­tion of slav­ery there and his allies in con­gress man­aged to get arti­cle 6 of the North­west Ordinance/​ for­bid­ding slav­ery sus­pended for ten years.

Imag­ine the dif­fer­ence in the close debate if Har­ri­son won, imag­ine what the coun­try would look like if Harrison’s foes in the debate didn’t have the exam­ple of Wash­ing­ton as eman­ci­pa­tor to use?

Washington’s act was extra­or­di­nary and the proof is that Jef­fer­son, Madi­son, Mon­roe, Jack­son, Tyler, Polk and Tay­lor did not copy it. Lin­coln among pres­i­dent might have been the great eman­ci­pa­tor but Wash­ing­ton was the first emancipator.

In sum­mary for all of these rea­sons:
Wash­ing­ton the rev­o­lu­tion­ary
Wash­ing­ton the Gen­eral
Wash­ing­ton the Leader/​President
Wash­ing­ton the Eman­ci­pa­tor
I argue President’s day once again be known far and wide as Washington’s birth­day.  I fur­ther sub­mit and sug­gest that George Wash­ing­ton is and remains the great­est Amer­i­can who ever lived.

and I don’t think it’s even close.

*************************************

[ther­mome­ter raised=129 target=300 height =200 ]

We’ve reached Fri­day and while the ther­mome­ter moved a bit a lit­tle but I’m still less than half way to that elu­sive $300 weekly paycheck.

On weeks when I make the goal I’ve pulled the ther­mome­ter early after all I’d rather focus on the prod­uct and I sus­pect you dear reader would too.

As we are less than half way there with under 48 hours to go the ther­mome­ter will be on every post today. As a wise man once said if you don’t pro­mote your­self nobody is going to do it for you.

So if you think I’ve earned that $300 pay­check this week and you can afford it feel free to hit DaTipJar.

If not, well I’ll keep try­ing harder.




Baldrick: I still can’t believe you’re leaving me behind.
Blackadder: Oh don’t you worry. When we’re established on our plantation in Barbados I’ll send for you. No more sad little London for you Balders. From now on you will stand out in life as an individual.
Baldrick: Will I?
Blackadder: Indeed. All the other slaves will be black.

Black Adder Amy and Amiability 1987

Ben Franklin:  First things first, John … Independence. America. If we don’t secure that, what difference will the rest make?

1776 1972

The final in my series of post on Why Washington Matters don’t miss Part one (Washington the Revolutionary) Part two (Washington the General) and Part three (Washington the leader/president)

If there is any post title that would cause confusion among readers it’s this one.  George Washington the Emancipator?  For most of his life, Washington owned slaves.  When he married his wife, she brought even more slaves to the marriage and at the time of his death the number of slaves he owned was considerable.

In this modern age where slavery exists only in Africa and parts of Arabia where Blacks and Muslims enslave other blacks (to the silence of the media) and the sex trade (where slavery by other names is an international scourge and also pretty much ignored) this concept doesn’t wash, but in the age of Washington Slavery was not only a norm but had been a norm in the world for the history of…the entire world.

And in addition to full slavery, there were indentured servants bound to masters by contract for years and other systems by which men were held by other men.  From Morocco to the Americas slavery and forced servitude was a norm of convenience and profit wherever you went.

To this world Washington was born and raised, in a culture where slavery was a total norm, yet look at the record as commander in chief:

In his General Orders of 30 December 1775, he gave “leave to the recruiting Officers to entertain … Free Negroes [that] are desirous of inlisting” should Congress approve the new policy. Writing to John Hancock the next day he couched his order in terms of military necessity: “free Negroes who have served in this army are very much dissatisfied at being discarded. As it is to be apprehended that they may seek employ in the Ministerial Army, I have … given license for their being enlisted.”

It would have been remarkably easy for Washington the Virginia planter and slaveholder to let this be.

At the Constitutional convention he spoke very little, how easy would it have been for Washington, slaveholder and southern to push for slavery, to argue against the constitutionally mandated end to the slave trade.  How much of a pull on the delegates would his voice have been if he choose to make the case?

As president although he singed a fugitive slave law he also signed a law  he signed a law affirming the ban on slavery in the Northwest territories. How easy would it have been for a unanimously elected Washington to argue against such affirmation? How many of his friends and fellow slave holders, involved in land speculation would have wanted to bring their “property” to those lands?

Then in the final act in his will.  He freed his slaves.

While it was acknowledged even by Confederate leaders such as Alexander Stephens that the founding fathers considered Slavery wrong:

The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away.

It was he and he ALONE of the slaveholders who would occupy the White House that would free his slaves. After carefully steering the ship of state that was in danger of splitting apart on its maiden voyage he took the act, which has great symbolic meaning at a time when it was least likely to produce an argument against but would shine as his final example at the period when an entire nation would be in mourning for him.

Some in the 21st century might look at this 18th century man’s act as trivial? Why not do this BEFORE death? One might as well condemn Lincoln for not pushing for women’s suffrage. Consider this. Just two years after Washington’s death William Henry Harrison who would later be 9th president was appointed governor of the Indiana Territory. The slaveholding Harrison pushed vigorously for the legalization of slavery there and his allies in congress managed to get article 6 of the Northwest Ordinance/ forbidding slavery suspended for ten years.

Imagine the difference in the close debate if Harrison won, imagine what the country would look like if Harrison’s foes in the debate didn’t have the example of Washington as emancipator to use?

Washington’s act was extraordinary and the proof is that Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Tyler, Polk and Taylor did not copy it. Lincoln among president might have been the great emancipator but Washington was the first emancipator.

In summary for all of these reasons:
Washington the revolutionary
Washington the General
Washington the Leader/President
Washington the Emancipator
I argue President’s day once again be known far and wide as Washington’s birthday.   I further submit and suggest that George Washington is and remains the greatest American who ever lived.

and I don’t think it’s even close.

*************************************

[thermometer raised=129 target=300 height =200 ]

We’ve reached Friday and while the thermometer moved a bit a little but I’m still less than half way to that elusive $300 weekly paycheck.

On weeks when I make the goal I’ve pulled the thermometer early after all I’d rather focus on the product and I suspect you dear reader would too.

As we are less than half way there with under 48 hours to go the thermometer will be on every post today.  As a wise man once said if you don’t promote yourself nobody is going to do it for you.

So if you think I’ve earned that $300 paycheck this week and you can afford it feel free to hit DaTipJar.

If not, well I’ll keep trying harder.




Comments are closed.

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