The slaveholder, in cases not a few, sustains to his slaves the double relation of master and father.
-Frederick Douglass (Douglass 18)
George Washington has been known as “The Father of Our Country” for over 200 years. However, for the entirety of his life, hundreds knew him as “master.” Upon his death, the president’s Virginia neighbors were aghast that he freed all his slaves. At one point in his later years, Washington noted that slavery was the “only unavoidable subject of regret” in his life (Wiencek 272). In the sunset of this great man’s life he came to the realization that slavery was an evil. Why did he slowly turn against the “peculiar institution,” which made him and his family extremely wealthy? Slavery was the greatest contradiction in a nation that deemed that all were entitled to the right of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Washington dealt with this paradox all his life. Ultimately, the Founding Father could not force himself to face the slavery issue as president because he feared the planter class of the south would rebel in opposition. Nevertheless, he granted freedom to his slaves upon his death since he equally feared he would be on the wrong side of history.
The first national census in 1790 revealed that there were nearly 700,000 slaves living in the young United States. This number accounted for nearly twenty percent of the republic’s population. In Washington’s Virginia meanwhile, over one third of the Old Dominion’s populace was enslaved: 140,000 people (Wood 38). Virginia was the largest of the colonies and until the time of the American Revolution, the most profitable colony, due in large part to its slave resources (Taylor 32). Washington used them to harvest his biggest crops: tobacco, wheat, and corn (Henriques 18). The “peculiar institution” of slavery was embedded in every aspect of southern culture and Washington’s life. The slave industry encompassed not only the economic and social spheres of southern life, but most facets of the political process as well, both at the state and federal levels. Washington was very well aware of this fact. In the early days of the republic, many Americans, even some founders, struggled with the conflicting notions of freedom versus slavery. Some argued that the power of consensus was the only trait that separated the two. Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s trusted staff member during the Revolution and first Secretary of the Treasury stated, the “only distinction between freedom and slavery consists in this,” he noted: “In the former state, a man is governed by the laws to which he has given consent.” Many leaders of the time felt much the same way (Furstenberg 17-18).
In his youth, Washington was indoctrinated to believe that slaves were inferior beings, not capable of intellectual comprehension or formulating important decisions. In 1743, at age eleven, he acquired ten slaves upon the death of his father. In his teens, he was instructed in the fields of plantation management, slave matters, and political affairs of Britain’s royal colonial government (Wiencek 29). He was schooled further in such matters through associations made while serving in the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg. By the time of the French and Indian War, in which Washington would serve as a colonel of militia, he had been well instructed in the art of slave and agricultural management. During one House of Burgesses session in the fall of 1769, Washington was present when a senior and respected representative, Richard Bland, presented a resolution to the House which would have allowed masters to free their slaves at their own will. Bland was quickly “denounced as an enemy of his country” by many in the chamber (Wiencek 160). By 1774, Washington too had developed somewhat different views on “Negroes.” He argued, “custom and use” made blacks “tame and abject slaves.” The rising politician had already begun to question long-standing thoughts on slavery. Other leaders may have held similar notions. In 1776, when the Continental Congress voted to repeal the Non-importation Act of 1774, “it chose to retain its prohibition against the importation of African slaves. . .” (Ellis Brothers 89). This, however, made the slave business within America even more lucrative.
One English traveler by the name of Andrew Burnaby traversed through Virginia in the summer of 1760 and was hosted by the Washingtons for a portion of his journey. The journeyman noted the impressiveness of Washington’s “plantations,” for the Virginia planter owned a series of farms throughout the northern region of the state. Each satellite farm had “its own distinctive name, slave workforce, and overseer.” By the beginning of the American Revolution, the 3,000 acre Mount Vernon more than doubled in size, both in acreage and slave population. At the inception of the United States, Washington owned more than one hundred slaves. The master once noted the servants as “Species of Property,” just as he might refer to his cattle (Ellis His Excellency 41, 45). But his thoughts on slavery evolved further after being appointed commander of the Continental Army with the launch of the Revolutionary War. In the days preceding the conflict Washington used the unusual argument of comparing British tyranny to his own sins as a slaveholder. If Americans did not rebel against the Crown, he warned, they all would become “as tame and abject slaves as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway” (Washington 309).
In those early months of the war, Washington’s preliminary attitude toward black recruitment was one of ambivalence. In November of 1775, he went as far as to say, “Neither Negroes, boys unable to bear arms, nor old men unfit to endure the fatigues of the campaign, are to be enlisted” (Ellis His Excellency 84). In the coming months and years, Washington’s selectiveness of troops would quickly dissipate. After thousands of slaves flocked to the British Army for the opportunity of independence, Washington’s thoughts slowly began to shift. After a crippling winter at Valley Forge in 1777-78, the general badly needed more men. Despite initial misgivings on the acceptance of slaves as troops into the Continental Army, his hunger for manpower eventually compelled him to accept black soldiers. This action was one of necessity, not privileges. An entire regiment of black troops was raised as an experiment in Rhode Island but served in a minor role. The project failed. Nevertheless, Washington commanded an integrated army until the end of the war (Wood 39). He could not help but notice the dedication of the ex-slaves under his command. By war’s end, 5,000 African Americans served in Continental forces, most of who were lured to opportunities of emancipation. The Americans overlooked a momentous opportunity, however, in not offering enlistment and freedom to blacks earlier. Some 20,000 slaves enlisted in the British Army, many through the will of their Loyalist masters (Lanning, 205).
Despite a slow and tardy conversion, Washington ultimately gained a new appreciation for black civilians as well as his own black troops. He went out of his way on more than one occasion to accommodate African Americans, even famed poet Phillis Wheatley. When she mailed a copy of her poem, “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” Washington responded with perhaps one of the most fascinating letters he ever wrote:
Cambridge, February 28, 1776
Your favor of the 26th of October, did not reach my hands till the middle of December. Time enough, you will say, to have given an answer ere this. Granted. But a variety of important occurrences, continually interposing to divert the mind and withdraw the attention, I hope will apologize for the delay, and plead my excuse for the seeming, but not real neglect. I thank you most sincerely for your polite notice of me, in the elegant lines you enclosed; and however undeserving I may be of such encomium and pangyric; the style and manner exhibit a striking proof of your poetic talents; in honor of which and as a tribute justly due to you, I would have published the poem, had I not been apprehensive, that, while I only meant to give the world this new instance of your genius, I might have incurred the imputation of vanity. This, and nothing else, determined me not to give it place in the public prints. If you should ever come to Cambridge, or near headquarters, I shall be happy to see a person so favored by the Muses, and to whom nature has been so liberal and beneficent in her dispensations.
I am, with great respect, your obediant servant,
George Washington, (Wiencek 211-12)
Not only does Washington display deep respect for the talents of Wheatley, he refers to her as Miss Phillis. Needless to say, very few slave masters would have answered a black woman in such a courteous manner. He later noted of Wheatley, she has been “favoured by the Muses, and to whom nature has been so liberal and beneficent in her dispensations” (Henriques 54).
Washington’s gaining of confidence in the capabilities of blacks can be clearly seen in his postwar plantation management. His assessments of their aptitude made his views far more advanced than Jefferson’s and many other founders. As scholar Paul Finkelman has written, “He understood that slavery, not some innate characteristic of race, made blacks seem less than equal to whites. On his own plantations he proved this conclusion to be so. By 1789, all five of his farms had black overseers” (Finkelman 192). Times were changing on the farms of General Washington.
Still, a large portion of Washington’s slaves possessed deeply-rooted cultural traits from Africa, embracing tribal life and commanding very little English diction. When a slave fled from Mount Vernon, Washington widely dispersed detailed advertisements calling for their apprehension. Slaves who attempted to gain freedom more than once found themselves being resold. One servant, an obstinate slave named Tom, was sold to a slaver in the Caribbean after a failed attempt at escape. Tom was “a Rogue & Runaway,” Washington noted to a slave ship captain. However, despite Tom’s intractable nature, he was a strong laborer who could sell well “if kept clean & trim’d up a little when offered to Sale” (Ellis, His Excellency 46; Higginbotham 118). When two of his most coveted slaves escaped, Washington unsuccessfully did everything in his power to recover them. One of them, Hercules, a gifted chef, evaded capture and fled to Pennsylvania. The other, Ona Judge, escaped to New Hampshire. Washington learned of her whereabouts, wrote to her, and tried to persuade her to return on her own free will. Judge, in turn, demanded her freedom upon her master’s death. Washington refused, relaying to a friend: “To enter a compromise with her...is totally inadmissible....For however well disposed I might be to a gradual emancipation...it would neither be politic or just to reward unfaithfulness with a premature preference” (Ellis His Excellency 260). Despite Washington’s wishes to free his slaves, his was still unwilling to exonerate those who desired freedom most.
Given his sometimes harsh business methods in the world of slave trading, Washington did display some compassion to those he enslaved. Unlike some slave owners, Washington often safeguarded his slaves. After all, they were simultaneously his property and his “children.” He commanded his numerous overseers not to drive the servants too hard in time of inclement weather. He saw that they were properly fed. And, in times of pandemic, he personally oversaw recuperation efforts (Ellis His Excellency 46). When one slave named Cupid became seriously ill, Washington had him moved to the main house and personally supervised his recovery. Furthermore, to the amazement of his contemporaries, Washington refused to break up families by selling individual family members away to other plantations. Do these displays of compassion reveal Washington’s moral sympathy for the plight of his slaves, or was he simply guarding his business interests? Perhaps more interestingly, at least a dozen of Washington’s slaves were baptized at Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg throughout the mid-1760s. Did the Washingtons allow these slaves to partake in these religious ceremonies, or were the servants compelled to procure the sacrament covertly? The answer to this question is not yet clear (Wiencek 164).
The planter class often possessed deep emotional connections to slaves, albeit not always moral ones. Martha Washington’s half-sister, Ann Dandridge, was a slave. Ann was actually owned by her half-sister and was not free until Martha’s death in 1802. “Martha had the mental steel to hold a half-sister as a slave. Martha’s act reveals the capacity of the masters and mistresses to tolerate profound psychological dislocation, the conversion of kin into property” (Burstein 153).
Notwithstanding his occasional generous nature, Washington still at times displayed a parsimonious disposition towards his slaves, unwilling to spend additional money to properly clothe them. Sets of clothing were distributed only once per year. Therefore, clothing was often stolen from the main house and Washington denounced his slaves’ “villainy.” He ordered the seamstresses of Mount Vernon to produce only traditional knee breeches, for he did not wish to spend the money on wool required for full-length pants. Perhaps most shockingly, Washington punished those slaves who mended their clothing using his food storage sacks (Wiencek 124-25). These contradictory actions of Washington further create speculation in regard to his true feelings toward his slaves.
There is little record revealing how often slave punishment was implemented at Washington’s plantations, but when it did come, it came with severity. Overseer James Hill chronicled one instance of castigation in 1773 in response to an escape attempt by a slave named Jemmy. When Jemmy’s shirt was removed for whipping, the overseer found old scars. “[He] appeared as if he had been in time Past Severely Corrected....[Still] I whipd him But very little.” At one point, Washington wrote that flogging, “in one or two instances [has] been productive of serious consequence” (Wiencek 125).
In the summer of 1787 came one of the defining moments for Washington and the decision of slavery in America. At the Constitutional Convention it was decided that slave commerce would continue with the assistance of the Three-Fifths Compromise, the pact that deemed that any slave was only three-fifths of a human being. This act provided the slaveholding south additional representation in Congress and thus, with more power. Washington historian Dorothy Twohig has noted:
The three-fifths clause gave them extra representation in Congress, the electoral college gave their votes for president more potency than the votes from the north, the prohibition on export taxes favored the products of slave labor; the slave trade clause guaranteed their right to import new slaves for a least twenty years; the fugitive slave clause gave slave owners the right to repossess runaway slaves in free states; in the even of a slave rebellion the domestic violence clause promised the states federal aid. (Ellis Brothers 94)
While the Constitution is the bedrock for all the freedoms of modern Americans, it was far from that in 1787. The founders present at the Convention, including Washington, were largely slave owners. While most believed they were serving the best interests of the people, others were surely looking to secure their own financial interests. Washington’s friend, George Mason, was deeply distraught by the concessions made to slavers in the Constitutional process. He wrote to Washington, “As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities” (Wiencek 269). In retrospect, Mason could not have been closer to the truth. Nearly seventy five years later, the nation would erupt into civil war to resolve the unfinished work of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Marquis de Lafayette echoed Mason’s sentiments on a number of occasions to Washington. The president and Lafayette had developed a father/son relationship when the latter served on the general’s staff in the Revolution, and the young French general was one of Washington’s most trusted companions. Lafayette viewed the creation of the United States as an opportunity for the world and enthusiastically noted that America “has begun, for the civilized world, the era of a new and...the only true social order founded on the inalienable rights of man.” Lafayette attempted to convince Washington on multiple occasions of the immorality of slavery, alluding to the fact that Washington was too good a man to take part in such a cruel system of degradation. In one instance, he emotionally wrote, “I would never have drawn my sword in the cause of America, if I could have conceived that thereby I was founding a land of slavery” (Wiencek 260-61). Washington must have taken such words to heart given their relationship.
Washington was a secretive individual, and thus his personal agenda regarding slavery is quite difficult to interpret. Throughout his many private letters he expressed an interest in the abolition of slavery. Yet he was afraid to share these beliefs in public or take a substantive stance to address the issue while he was still alive. Did he fear repercussions from the planter class with whom he had much in common? Although he was America’s beloved leader, he was by no means invincible in all political spheres. One must also take into account that Washington may have feared that life without slaves would be a more difficult existence for both him and his family.
Three years into his presidency, Washington once more had an opportunity to strike a blow against slavery, but again he failed. In 1791 Governor Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania demanded the return of three Virginia men who allegedly kidnapped a black man. Beverly Randolph, Governor of Virginia, immediately refused, emphatically stating that the three men in question were slave catchers chasing the African Americans. This debate led to the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, which easily permitted bounty hunters to pursue escaped blacks into Free States. Washington did nothing to prevent the act’s authorization. Once again, he fell prey to the influence, interests, and lifestyles of his wealthy neighbors and his own financial ambition. In addition, such a law would allow Washington to more easily retrieve his own escaped slaves (Finkelman 81). The law remained intact for decades afterward.
In 1847, Reverend Benjamin Chase noted in the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator of Washington’s escaped slave Ona Judge:
This woman is yet a slave. If Washington could have got her and her child, they were constitutionally his; and if Mrs. Washington's heirs were now to claim her, and take her before Judge Woodbury, and prove their title, he would be bound, upon his oath, to deliver her up to them. Again — Langdon was guilty of a moral violation of the Constitution, in giving this woman notice of the agent being after her. It was frustrating the design, the intent of the Constitution, and he was equally guilty, morally, as those who would overthrow it. (Blassingame 250)
As his reign continued, Washington oversaw slavery implemented into the federal government itself. In the infancy of the District of Columbia, he commandeered key aspects of designing the city. The president micromanaged its construction just as he might a project at his own Mount Vernon -- by supervising the slaves constructing the numerous government buildings legislators use to this day (Ellis His Excellency 208). The fact that much of the early Capitol was built on the back of slave labor reflected the young nation as a whole. Like Washington, that same nation would come to regret its dependency on that “peculiar institution.” And Washington’s fears of internal discord within the country over slavery would become reality as well. Some sixty years after his death, Americans in both the north and the south would fight in his name, fight to defend his legacy of Union and revolution. He knew he had to act in order to prevent such strife. He wished “to see some plan adopted, by which slavery in this country may be abolished by slow, sure, and imperceptible degrees” (Ellis Brothers 113). But how could he do so given the ways in which his fellow Americans looked up to him?
Washington evoked the quintessential image of a leader, the bond that bonded the other founders and their cause together. From this impression arose the ideology of Washington as the father of the nation, a representation with which Americans today still identify him. In Washington’s time, however, this fatherhood was anything but austere. As Francois Furstenberg makes evident, Washington was the father of both the young nation and his slaves. This “paternalistic ideology of nationalism blended into and eventually authorized a paternalist ideology of slaveholding.... [It] promoted both nationalism and slavery in the name of the father.” Washington had been placed on a national pedestal by his contemporaries. This, in many ways, seemed to enhance the acceptance and tolerance of slavery since he, the founder, also practiced it. (Furstenberg 21).
In 1790, less than one year after his inauguration, Washington received two petitions from Quaker leaders, both beseeching the dissolution of slavery. Like Benjamin Franklin, Washington, as historian Joseph Ellis states, saw slavery as a “moral and political anachronism” (Ellis His Excellency 201). When the Quaker leaders put forth the petitions, Washington avoided them. He wanted eventual emancipation but desired to accomplish it in his own manner with those allies he trusted most. In the end, no ally could be found (Wiencek 343). Instead of an initiative to extinguish slavery, the plan evolved into a counter measure to end any and all federal plans for emancipation. The measure passed the House 29 to 25. Afterward, Washington wrote to a friend: this “slave business has at last [been] put to rest and will scarce awake” (Ellis Brothers 118).
Oddly enough, however, Washington made it known that he still looked favorably upon some form of gradual emancipation. From the 1780s onward, if not before, Washington knew quite well that the ongoing slave industry in America not only poorly reflected upon the reputation of the young republic, but on his legacy as its first leader as well. Despite his misgivings about the institution, the president did not formally recognize any portions of either Quaker petitions (Ellis His Excellency 201-02).
In the final years following the presidency, the moral complexities of slavery continued to plague Washington. His opinions of the capabilities of African Americans had dramatically changed since the days of his youth. He had seen firsthand in the American Revolution how blacks could fight, comprehend orders, and act with indisputable courage under the fire and strains of battle. He accepted them into the ranks not because he wished to create new opportunities but because he required new troops for the cause. His initial pessimistic opinions of them as fighters gradually changed.
During the course of the conflict, he was exposed to abolitionist factions in New England that he had never experienced in the South. He wanted to unlock himself from the chains of slavery, very much aware that history would judge him not only by his successes in creating a new nation, but also by denying freedom to a large portion who lived in that new nation. And perhaps most interestingly, he refused to sell families apart because of moral strife from within (Ellis His Excellency 256-7). More was at risk for Washington beyond political or financial loss. He feared what history would say, yet was equally frightened to take action and defy the traditional lifestyles of his slave-owning neighbors and class.
Although Washington remained uncertain over his course of action, he knew he could no longer sit idly. In May of 1794, as Washington prepared to sell property to support his upcoming retirement, he wrote to a friend, “I have another motive which makes me earnestly wish for an accomplishment of these things, it is indeed more powerful than all the rest, namely to liberate a certain species of property which I possess, very repugnantly to my own feelings” (Higginbotham 128). Washington hoped to sell this land in order to depend no longer on slave labor to support his wealth status. However, Washington was unable to sell many tracts of his property. In actuality, his economic situation may have been the main purpose in preventing the manumission of his slaves. Washington himself agonized in this moral and financial labyrinth. He wrote:
It is demonstrably clear that on this Estate I have more working Negros [sic] by a full moiety, than can be employed to any advantage in the farming system; and I shall never fully turn to Planter thereon....To sell the surplus I cannot, because I am principled against this kind of traffic in the human species....What else then is to be done? Something must, or I shall be ruined...(Ellis His Excellency 257-8).
The thought of manumitting his slaves had been resonating in Washington’s mind since 1785, if not earlier. It was at this time that the retired general received an imploring letter from fellow Virginia planter Robert Pleasants. Pleasants, an impassioned Quaker, had just weeks previously emancipated all eighty of his chattel slaves. He sincerely urged Washington to do the same in a no holds barred letter:
How strange then it must appear. . . to impartial thinking men, to be informed, that many who were warm advocates for that noble cause during the War, are now sitting down in a state of ease, dissipation and extravagance on the labour of slaves? And most especially that thou...should now withhold that inestimable blessing from any who are absolutely in thy power, & after the Right of freedom, is acknowledged to be the natural & unalienable Right of all mankind. (Ellis His Excellency 161)
Here, Pleasants intentionally and judiciously quotes Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration to argue the point with which abolitionists would contend for the next eighty years. But would Washington listen? He must have, for in 1798, just a year before his death, Washington confided to a visiting Englishman: “...I can clearly foresee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our nation, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle” (Wiencek 352).
Washington retired to Mount Vernon in 1797. Now that the burden of office was behind him, he was freer to make his opinions on slavery known. On December 12, 1799, Washington conducted a typical tour of his property. Despite the freezing rain and icy chill, Washington pressed on. He returned to Mount Vernon that evening and ate dinner in his soaked clothing. Within a day, his cold evolved into an acute infection of the throat. The man was slowly and painfully dying. Those closest to him (three whites and four blacks) gathered around his bedside as the president’s trachea slowly closed, making it near impossible for him to speak or even breathe. One of the slaves in the room, Christopher Sheels, was Washington’s most trusted butler. Sheels had attempted escape once before, but when Washington had not punished him, Sheel remained loyal to his master until the end. Sheels refused to leave the bedside of his failing master in the final day of Washington’s life. Washington was undoubtedly pondering not only his own fate but that of his slaves. He whispered to Martha to procure the two wills in his office desk. He ordered one be burned and the other be opened upon his death (Furstenberg 71-72). He passed away around 10:30 on the morning of the fourteenth. “Tis well,” were his final words.
The general’s will was immediately made public to the American people. One particular aspect of Washington’s will was more prominent than perhaps any other. George Washington had freed his slaves, even providing homes for the elder slaves. Unlike Jefferson, Washington had shown some compassion for his chattel following his death (Burstein 257). It fell upon Martha to conduct the legal aspects involved in emancipating her late husband’s servants. Because many of the slaves at Mount Vernon were property of Martha’s first husband, Daniel Custis, only 124 of the 317 slaves could be legally manumitted. Only one slave would be freed outright: Washington’s Revolutionary War aide William Lee. The other 123 slaves would be emancipated only upon the death of Martha, a fact that greatly frightened the widow who did not want to live alone with over 300 slaves, 123 of whom’s independence rested upon her final demise. Because of this startling fact, she ultimately freed all her husband’s slaves in 1800, two years before her own death. Her action came of necessity and not moral conviction, as her grandson freely noted in a letter: “It was found necessary for prudential reasons” (Hirschfeld 214). Then-current first lady Abigail Adams was aware of this fact as well when she wrote, “[Martha] did not feel as tho her Life was safe in their Hands, many of [the slaves] would be told that it was [in] their interest to get rid of her – She therefore was advised to see them all free at the close of the year” (Furstenberg 73-74)
Washington truly hated slavery but could never fully pull himself away from its financially gainful aspects. His final actions may have had some impact on fellow slaveholders in the years to come. In 1833, the wealthy John Randolph of Roanoke manumitted hundreds of slaves upon his death and even left funds for them to buy land. He had hoped to follow in the president’s footsteps. However, had Washington emancipated his slaves years before, the impact may have been even more profound on future presidencies and their relations to slavery. Although those critical of Washington may have publicly reprimanded him for not freeing his slaves sooner, the emancipation of his slaves spoke volumes about his most recent thoughts of the institution. The man had never been publicly critical of slavery and only privately mentioned to his closest confidants that he somehow wished to do away with it. Throughout his illustrious life he was torn between the social and economic versus the moral and righteous course of action when it came to that ever “peculiar institution” so deeply rooted in his life. In regards to slavery, Washington’s finest moment came not during that life, but in his death.
Blassingame, John W. Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies. New York: Louisiana State UP, 1977. Print.
Burstein, Andrew. Jefferson's Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello. New York: Basic Books, 2005. Print.
Douglas, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, An American Slave. New York: Barnes and Noble, 2003. Print.
Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. Print.
Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency George Washington. New York: Vintage, 2005. Print.
Finkelman, Paul. Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2001. Print.
Furstenberg, Francois. In the Name of the Father: Washington's Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nation. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics), 2007. Print.
Henriques, Peter R. George Washington: America’s First President. Fort Washington, PA: Eastern National Publications, 2002. Print.
Higginbotham, Don, ed. George Washington Reconsidered. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 2001. Print.
Hirschfeld, Fritz. George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal. Columbia: University of Missouri, 1997. Print.
Lanning, Michael. African Americans in the Revolutionary War. New York: Kensington, 2000. Print.
Taylor, Dale. The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Colonial America From 1607-1783. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1997. Print.
Wiencek, Henry. An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. Print.
Wood, Gordon S. Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.
Washington, George and Sparks, Jared, ed. The Writings of George Washington: Being His Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and Other Papers, Official and Private, Selected and Published from the Original Manuscripts; with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations. American Stationers' Company, John B. Russell, 1834.