thumbnail of Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with John Riley, Mount Vernon Historian
Transcript
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
it was about slavery washington from the time he was ten years old and a bequest from his father of eleven slaves very early age he owned human beings something that he grew up with certainly and it all revolved and his family is most families in chesapeake around agriculture and the labour are required to grow large quantities of tobacco which is very labor intensive crops so from a very early age watching surrounded by by slaves within their artisans were field and support in the household so in terms of he was a pretty typical situation for him in terms of his mindset when it came to slavery i would say up until the revolution and in terms of regarding the us as a property that would forward that his economic agenda which was becoming hopefully wealthy africa back
washington fugitive slaves as individuals you know them growing up our roundtable in the end there'll be known as individuals are willing to suspend baseless work on mount vernon there were a thousand acres so the three hundred or so slaves were distributed the monks as for five farms so that was obviously in proximity to the mansion of the ones he saw on a day to day basis even though it would go towards farms so the artisans and the household alone help are the ones that he knew better than anyone else so if you're actually working away outline form should probably have somewhat of an advantage in that you have some isolation unit from the big house and you may not have known washington or he may not have known you by name on the outlying farms but it was still a smaller situation almost like a one one european visitor describe melbourne is a rural village so they knew each other
and they all knew each other fairly well i mean what if washington knew well known and if you're particularly working in and around the house alone you're more likely perhaps the suspect at some point to own had his iran circumcision in certain situations for instance if you want to marry someone from another plantation you needed watch and permission to do that was a lot easier to go into town on business for instance on sunday on your day off for instance if you knew washington and had his ear or have access to him if you did a good job in his hand his eyes and obviously you were elevated your status going to washington to some extent was working
on this problem i think the difficulty for mostly from one of the slaves point of view in having watched and not know who you are on may not don't have been such a bad thing as long as you stayed out of trouble on it and it's it makes you think of a a worker who just wants to sustain the background and i'm not be noticed on but you weren't usually noticed all if you're doing something incorrectly or not as well as washington thought if you're living on the island forms so when he did get to know you was probably not have a positive experience washington was expectations high for the people that were kind of a taskmaster or on here i would say overall washings expectations from the slave community are fairly low he never
quite comes out ants and states that he understands even though he must that they don't have any the incentives are required to do the best job for the date that the the top job that he seeks from them so in essence almost as if not to think about the fact that they don't have a system and incentives he almost associates free labor theories to the slave labor and he tries to do to instill pride in that what they should have pride in their work is it almost as naive i don't think it is naive when i think washington was to once these people as he does to work hard from sunup to sundown just as he does and he expects the same commitment to the plantation that he hands on regardless of fire and that they know your or pundit people so in terms of washington regarding these people as essentially thieves
and one that when they don't do the job they're supposed to do there are lazy or that they don't care about their work on from obviously we don't have the words of the slave community but from their point of view on that's not going on at all so we'll watch and see is what i believe that plow around the sun and the rain house rusted roland you know there are some ways says hey you know plow no work in our would want why should i care to bring the tools i mean why should i care so obviously untrue two different viewpoints and they and they are going to question certain times in literature ya stuff is so you only speculation we need to feel a battle mostly his finger on something very interesting i can tell someone said on this means that washington had a wort washed ashore and the documentation you can tell at certain points in time especially in washington's home remember former
almost twenty years he's gone from mount vernon on public business so it's those periods between say the war the presidency and it's a very intense re organization was formed or he's very much a hands on manager at that time and he very much has the time to get to know these people and certainly davey for instance is is a slave who was elevated to the job of an overseer of one of his life are so he he thinks highly of dating he's got no nobody really can try almost trust it i don't think it was never admit he could trust to many white or black to work for my think that's part of his personality as well but in terms of home over on that in the scheme of things washington is just it's just working to probably get especially by the thompsons fifties and sixties get the best he can out of their own there's almost a sense that there's a bit of despair that he will do will never
really accomplish all these grand plans for this model plantation that he was seeking the image of a slave named davy davy is also offered as billy more whimsical names like general or coalition or when you ask me what is that image and the naming of of of getting the diminutive name of it or that you know or the whimsical is not a problem which may or senator well for soldiers it at mount vernon in that situation it's not clear where the child was born name that child i don't think that we we really know especially later on in terms of giving generally slaves known names like especially classical greek roman names for instance
i don't know i mean that you might speculate that that distancing on the slaves with a name to me i really don't have an answer for that vernon even went slaves took on last names and a few of them did washington will even say something like christopher shields are christopher he writes to that christopher's wants to be can be married two woman on another plantation and he has to talk to the owner and get permission from the owner of the plantation and he says christopher my manservant or as he calls himself christopher shiels so there's some love self naming apparently going on that washington it doesn't fight the heat tolerance and uses those letters himself on the li li is named louis because of prior owner just curious that before
or in white boy named junior or islam and saying that's and i say oh he uses those interchangeable when talks about william moore will their ability to produce offering so i don't know how much of the us subconscious or conscious on his part and is commonly or william and what we think and what you think in a recent washington to the caucus goers parsley as the senate would even the mindset is there well he obviously had sung you could speculate that part of iss has to do with with this pre term holistic feeling that the white actors have that these people are children that i need to take care of
and in new orleans isn't it well i think in terms of some of the naming own home when they're not typical names to get or neptune some reason in one regard help you distance that person in a way in which they don't carry a normal named william or or george or john but in terms of the of the interchange of the way i'm an employee whether or not that billy you know comes out of this society and this is very much paternalistic that will wash and owns these people he also feels dedicated to on their well being almost there for their father in a way so if you want to
still twentieth century idea upon this year you may get a much of it you can and the sources of correcting their child today to get the formal name william william william leaks i'm here right now and whether any of that and then maybe when things are still a little more affection toward the way for his service babies talk about a service journal war and so that might crop up and in his writing as well you know we wish we could hear the spoken word to see how how often which one are used during the day now i'm coming to you as slave owners george washington
highly representative mean this is at the time safe from the seventeen seventies on one by that time the slave forces mount vernon was close to two hundred by the end of his life over three hundred is probably about the top two percent in terms of ownership a love of property that would include land and slaves in washington diverse and sixty thousand acres over the country that he had an inner three hundred slaves at mount vernon half of which were owned by martha and half pipe by george washington but it's a pretty extraordinary thing to do to come upon us like slavery and plantation of three hundred and eight thousand acre spread out in washington says that his ten miles you can walk along the potomac river for ten miles and still be on his property it's enormous i didn't buy any stretch since enormous today was enormous them on the
more typical situation if a farmer might have a hundred or two hundred acres of groves and tobacco and corn and if they had slaves that probably had more to do that is by far the more typical situation washings day so and so we begin to get a picture of how the corridors and liza later the washington's her up on this level and it's no wonder these people look up to these people to run the nation and when they do run the nation it's it's it's as republicans and democracy in washington are looking at this the marchers there are a few people they know best and and you just have to trust that washington's in the corridors and leads him in no burst from their educational experience a worldwide does the acquisition of property claims washington and how does
this square ana washington family which first came over in the sixties and fifties who were so he's about the third or fourth generation and he's a third song so he gets the third best of everything for third best tract of land the third best it alters personal property when his father dies so he's starting off all in the washington zoo not the top tier society and washington state so and in addition to that he served in and around the property but not great property so he knows very early on as a teenager that he's gotta make it all as part of the reason that the stars a surveyor sixteen and seventeen he's making a pretty good living as a teenager and fried pies his first piece of property in the shenandoah valley harmonies of his team's so from a pretty early age he knows what he has to do know is that land is wealthier landis power and as i said by the time he he
dies he's got about seventy thousand acres in new york ms gutzman kentucky in and what's now hire west virginian pennsylvania town lots of richmond in williamsburg so while he's quite land rich on having enough cash on hand as another is another story but in terms of wealth he regarded and praise to the value of his estate at half a billion dollars which is huge some retirees other over control walking and that's what i'm kicking in kentucky about what i was doing was like yeah washington at one point or or another in his writings rights to his overseers and managers about the prohibition of what he calls night walk and walk what he
means by that are our members of the slave communities that are are using pretty much the only time they have which is night after work to visit either friends or family on other forms of mount vernon clearly two thirds of the married couples at mount vernon so if you are separated now live on the set for so to see their family to see their spouse or children common was a saturday night or sunday clearly and i can wait till then they are going out at night and obviously washing one's home sleeping at night so they're well rested to get up and work again in the morning so even though it goes to the extent of having his overseer sort of camp out on the roadways at night trying to surprises people in and catch them night walking so he's concerned about that on the other hand through what we know from the archaeological excavations at mount vernon
there's clearly a lot of hunting and trapping by the slave communities to supplement that diet washington provided for them the question of course then becomes does watch you know they're doing this because the casino and look the other way because they're supplementing your diet providing food for themselves that he doesn't have to provide and where does he weigh you know that's against them being exhausted the next day and not be able to work so clearly washington is providing if you just look for documentation you you use he's giving them and cornmeal and pork and herring and we know exactly how much well excavation show that there are huge dozens of varieties of different remains of the animal's that they obviously are are dining on and they've gotten them on their own to raise them on their own in their own time phelps washing has entire economy going on in this part of the popular perception that they worked from sunup to sundown
went to the quarter's and went to bed and never left recorders just not anywhere close to being the way it was used in a very mobile within the plantation in even a third of the ones are unmarried were married to someone on the plantation so an order need some money on another plantation and build a relationship to the comes to marriage are you know they're obviously getting around and they're getting into town alexandria as well where does that come in in terms of how much you can exert if i want you can exert control on individual human being that he was a question where's the prison what washington from his letters it's a loss is one of the borders worse than the bite and he's casting constantly complaining is his overseers of the final forms for instance or command it essentially to be with the slaves almost every moment now from the overseers point of view it is not a wonderful life out there in what is
essentially the boondocks and an almost themselves figuratively being chained to mount vernon and not really going to tell no one so washoe was working with with bonded men and women who have no incentive to do you know particularly good job for george washington or line his pockets he's got a white over stewart's overseeing those people that are critically the cream of the crop either if you're an overseer at mount vernon that meant you carried probably very few skills on for instance as an artist and to make it on her own clearly you'd want to be in town and with its richmond alexander williamsburg jefferson human rights when he was a craftsman and indentured servant becomes in richmond and he tells them to immediately go meet him at the ship and get into my cello because once he starts to get a taste of the city life if you will come up tonight show
so anybody with any current wherewithal or skill is not going to be an overseer they're going to be working in town and making a decent living so you're ending up with people apart from that pool of which is fairly shallow in terms of their commitment to washington and even their abilities and some are even brutal washington when a manager comes and he describes the overseers of an ending and he gets a pretty good description of one of them has to be that he's gotta watch out for because he's hot tempered and it can be it can be it can be brutal and how much of that is the overseer trying to get the job done and how much of that is is allowing his emotions in is an inn the men's side understand the slaves are going to do what they're going to see that once the mystery and finished outside of the purview of what a lot of the end npr news in washington this is
public perception of slavery is probably based on a bone situation probably deep south situation where absentee landowners have hundreds and hundreds of slaves on out now on plantations which may never visit them at mount vernon in the eighteenth century particular in virginia there's a closeness to the to the white and black populations they intermingle they see and talk to one another every day washington almost has to as a human being least contemplate that is that these people i liked him in that they have they want to be married they want the joys of the children will bring their own so he kept he cannot he's his physical distance an emotional distance her
quite similar in a way we cannot really break away from them completely even though it wants to infection and frustration wants to assimilate you know in regards to slay around like to think about you know you had to think about it think about it every day even when he wasn't at mount vernon his name is money was a drama presents he brought in a dozen of the slaves up to work as hassle so he was never away from them on for very long there isn't there's a feeling that yes they're working from sunup to sundown and they get sundays off on even the ones the household survey have to work on sundays because they have to serve the washington's on sundays washington won't admit it in his writings that he needs to look the other way now and again that clearly he does and he not only he keeps it tolerates marriage and helps those unions happen between solve them so
all of this it's mixed up in his head and i think his his decision after the war not to break up the families by selling off slaves is all tied into this certainly is a public figure as well perhaps worried what people think especially in the north the abolitionists and the quakers what they what they would think if he did this certainly the number of your staple one week we see that slaves live up to perform a live there for a long time sometimes ten fifteen twenty years so it is a community on and he can overlook the fact that you know they're not faceless that he does no amenities knows very well i'm margie to mary's mother and his fortunes on the problems and what he gets
material when washington retired from the depression and war years on this commission he married a very probably the wealthiest widow and region where the cost to senators whose first husband died without a will become law provided her third of everything he owned she had two children she brought a marriage and they were on the third one to them as well so george washington area more for calm he had control over all the property that she receive from from her first husband and that would include use of the dour slaves for all his life he could not free with our slaves nor could shape and because he died in a park assistant that will they would go on to the custis grandchildren when martha died but i'm about half or washington's but half were dour he'll use of them he could send
them to the shenandoah he could send them down to the york river plantations that the cost is state brought to him he could move around and he wanted to get full use of a closed our slaves as long as he wasn't raised our sons or dower is is what comes with with marriage in terms of the dowry so the dowry that washington is provided through his marriage includes all of the boat what was then it was either personal property or should've realty and the combined slavery and land and then they'd distinguish that from personal property no desks or house or their clothing or whatever she had quite a bit of a both of that and knowing washington received use of that property and the personal property almost essential became his center's cash and made his land deals he would knew he was able to make me busy and catch an eel for also
oversaw the children's property until it became of age i mean does it really get a good view he got a great deal on american he instantly perhaps what money could bring in terms of stand he was he was pretty much a celebrity at the time you know he was he was a young colonel regina colonel and he'd received quite a bit of fame during the french and he wore suit made a name from self but you never have that kind of money that this marriage brought to him which isn't to say that they didn't love each other and have a wonderful and for forty years i wonder
washington is playing his feelings despondent gloomy as alicia factories for low price in support of a minnesota that you know end up in the region so as a colony virginia is just tired almost totally to the mother country so all abortions tobacco yields are going to have to go through england on beef for they go to france or wherever they're going to get so there's this ties washington's to england certainly and he does not have much say in terms of the pricing gets on his crop from your year and believes that certainly even his neighbors at certain points or growing basically same type of tobacco and they're getting better prices than he is and he can't understand why the season but there's clearly a frustration from economic viewpoint of having very little control and many virginians
just got sucked into the debt society of aldous washington chose not to wash and chose to break away from tobacco to get into grains particularly wheat nor to have some flexibility in terms of his economic well being so with grains he's got west indies options he can turn in the flour is chris miller console that as great as it is it thats getting a fetching a better price that year he because for me a planter that one crop to a foreigner in his mind he he's got at least sixty different crops to reflect on that the plans of mount vernon the home before the war it spits it's his reaction to the economy and to the cool o'neill economy and therefore he has economic a little economic freedom and therefore it he hopes there's little political obviously the political grows and and most probably in washington's mind supersedes the economic survey by
seventeen seventy four and washington is actually one of the earliest of the founding fathers who starts to or read reaction and letters to raising arms against the british very early on he's talking about that that doesn't mean that he instantly others want to try to come to some solution with the kid in parliament but he's gotten it early on that this is what may become of all things the connection for me about cost because well wash which is a people don't lose their farms in your radios and tobacco causes get in the oncoming war can you can make that show unlike the band the birds for example washington makes makes a decision coverage
unlike the byrd family which essentially chose on i guess to ignore the fact that they were they were they had been drawn into and indebtedness that they would never see themselves out of and for whatever reason maybe was what he learned from his mother who is seen as somewhat penny pinching i mean we don't we don't really know were washing comes up with this this very careful nature with this monitor christensen again mosul from arthur that is very careful with it he hates debt before pursell standpoint hates debt he chastises says this is step son for getting a loan and pays six percent interest on it damages riles them to you to know and so the heart of this is the personality quirk and that is one of the dependent on that which is just bothersome to be in debt that doesn't mean he doesn't have some debts in some pretty serious doubts at some points
later after the revolution is a song a lovely and jason gets on but he's starting from a point in which some of the planners just never never achieved right right right i think yeah i think you you need to look at the tobacco cotton me as certainly being really the impetus for the frustrations that the american league certainly think you need to look at the tobacco economy can and as the impetus for that the beginning of the frustrations with with some other country certainly it it starts i am perhaps for a lot of folks in and an employer's religion and chesapeake as as an economic problem that leads in turn
to to taxation representation difficulties that that began to spin i think a more ideological on beginnings of you know we've got records in a break in by the time the declaration is written is all about ideas and it's about you know they're accusing our natural rights and we need to separate from them because we we're these are inherent rights that they can take from us so by then known seventies sixties it's about stand back and not paying taxes on part of it is about not getting are getting a raw deal on gone with the factors back in london not having any control over them was seventy six it's much bigger than that and that it helps i think in the us this week syria's unlock often theories of natural rights help bring some of the other people along and and fire up the revolution little bit quite a bit that that
makes the legal theory of just i'm not getting a good deal of the tobacco some pretty significant headwinds that war starts there aren't in black soldiers but shortly after washington his command he has counseled want me to decide to prescribe against wessel army and as general elections we're going to see who's right you if you look at the wars a whole you'll see that that time that free blacks and they have to play a larger role in america's probably think they do the washing does go back and forth on whether he thinks it's a good idea washing generally does not think it's a great idea that slaves pr
and that's a whole other ballgame with him in fact in south carolina at the lawrence john henry lawrence exclusion decisions washington washington nothing changes his mind a bit on one free blacks to serve and in fact the entire wrote a recommendation now regiment under james warren is is put together i think washington script of winters warnings slaves even worms from a friend of his in south carolina when lawrence cox this idea that we will we will actually feel it and in terms of slaves washington gives us a lukewarm reception and it's killed down south winds killed in south carolina almost immediately and i would imagine that washes relieved when ideas perhaps because
this was somewhat of a friend of his he didn't he speak out more strongly and we will know he didn't he didn't kill the idea and would've been his to kill it would've been civil decision washers was careful that the decisions like i came from the symbol of forty nine years i think he found that when the times are getting tougher as the war went on they needed men i think if i was a better and better idea of free blacks in the mid part of the fighting force in the continental army what is it well known for free blacks that fought with had achieved their freedom for slaves that we're going to fight that was a different different thing altogether and when done more or done more spot proclamation essentially said all all slaves who want to fight for the british i approve much guarantee your freedom
that's the sort of thing that as washington and other planners biggest nightmare as the foreman slaves it one there at mount vernon he's in mount vernon and there were working on the farm and he's seen these people on a daily basis and they're just doing their job and getting or heat he can put those ideas of our rebellion i think back in the back of his mind when you are the slaves and energy in this condition of the fight against the american slave owners and that's just something that he did it's a sound sermon frustrates him and anger some you know a great deal and and it's it's out of control certainly and that's what i think he's most worried about when it's okay when he's the kind of some of his cardinals in terms of of
it well it makes me think of now and again during the presidency for instance when some of his slaves would marry if free black for another plantation or an end and when lee's case from philadelphia and he was not keen on the idea that they should visit mount vernon because obviously they're bringing with them on the idea that most in their face that this is the way it could be come from a one day and that has to extend certainly to the war's well and when it's forced when it's almost made it made almost a policy that that that that people can leave that the southern plantations and governor included over and was a seventeen slaves to the revolution on the british come up the potomac river and they leave with seventeen slave some of which he he he he finds a son he never does again said that it's a personal and and then exit it's attacking their livelihood so that's another whole layer
it's beyond just who am i fighting for his liberty we fighting for but it's another whole labor layer of of attacking their way of life and the way to make a living the planners what's the mission was this is what who was an issue for the president in the end more shows commander in chief mcconnell army and i would never consider using the army or leaving the army for a period of time to take care of what might be regarded as a spur small business as one that to him to come back and protect mount vernon and he was concerned about martha and they have plans for getting the valuables from mount vernon hiding among the british came the british to come and they took his property but he was the commander in chief
mcconnell army and not of overseeing the regional forces and certainly never want to mount vernon never went to virginia and never provided a hint that that personal aspect of the wood would come into and take him away from georgia calls that have to do as much with washington promoting a reputation and being above that kind of thing which is something he certainly promoted and want people to to imagine that he was above that sort of can he did he was away from mount vernon for a half years except for a brief period when his way to europe time and then he was on his way to fight about it wasn't coming home and seeing family martha would come to see him wherever he wasn't more will investors about washington's commitment to the idea and he starts opening the idea and even buys when he's become something different i think
by seventy seventy five when he goes to philadelphia and takes on the role of commander in chief and tells congress that essentially to go up to the task on and some stories very deeply it's recovering himself by saying i don't think i can really succeed at this so don't blame me when i don't but clearly at that point he's he's saying that i will do my best to free if we are successful i will go back and will not take this power will resign my condition go back to my farm and do it to oust him before and asked me to do this on was a pup the public commended him to do this and they could not refuse the public and i think that's different from then on winning the presidency that's how he saw it and that's how he wanted his fellow americans to see he was in mount vernon farming doing his own thing and if the public were to call him back and
on the stage as he put it then ison as a call to call this country and that's the way puts it he cannot ignore that they need to come ask me i'm not going to seek the fame and the power and the glory i'm just doing my job as a public servant and a disinterested pulitzer went on and wash and finds out that the mount vernon in vegas may be too strong of a word but that the british anchor in the potomac and washington's cousin whose name was law and was managing member and during the war an end in order that the bridge might look kindly upon governor not torture lund brought gifts the british he rode out unbroken food and some other things and washington found george washington about this and he was very upset he beat the thought that somebody representing mount vernon would aid the enemy washington said i'd rather than
burn them out for him to the ground then the new aid the enemy part of that is true certainly i guess i'm part of that i think it has to do with washington i feel bad for for the messenger here but they found out for someone else threw russian bow or lafayette i was quite frankly embarrassed of a situation gone i don't think he wished them out for torch or that is they were harmed a y but at this point for washington i think it was just did which is bigger than than any of that and if mount vernon had been roland and the statement in terms of one fighting off the british and one was prepared to do their thought it was you know a few hundred men i can get a neighborhood and hold a british author john this never would've happened it had to do with more symbolic importance of the entire situation a particular event
that did not bother mount vernon went there were well on their way but it it was an embarrassing situation for abortion what you have a lot invested in this and any and his place in the middle of these letters or knowledge that they will be on some level part of what washington sees just these enormous is there on the show and i have a revolution washington home is the revolution to honor people he has an enormous amount of pride in the revolution and knows that it is far from being complete knows from his study of history that it very easily biscuit the counterrevolution could take place and they would lose all had fought for and washington suffered personally quite a debt terms of his plantation and so he made a huge sacrifice but in the entire nation and so by the time this is over
it's very personal to washington to succeed and he talks about you know we are the ones that can prove or disprove that that mankind can govern itself it sneaks its a grand experiment and it's come up to us and we do not want to be in the pride comes in the butt of jokes from european monarchs who were just sort of sitting back on their thrones waiting for the whole thing of this whole thing called republic to fall apart that the world hadn't seen one that i know there are americans did know quite how it was going to work a washington washington was determined that was it and so much so that even though he'd told american people that after resign his commission as commander in chief that he was leaving the public stage he would never serve again you know for five years later they're calling to be president and that it bothers him because he had made a promise that certainly was all much bigger than that and in his presidency was needed to
guarantee but the revolution succeeded about that is something that's necessary human conversation has hold a constitutional convention and how families call just just a few years after the treaty of paris that the people that are not quite called federal sphere but they're of not washington's mindset madison's mindset that the confederation government is to fragment it ever ever succeed and that these thirteen colonies now other states are threatening to become thirteen different nations that there's no strong central authority to align them altogether and out of all of this feeling comes meetings first actually mount vernon mount vernon conference in which maryland virginia and representatives get together to talk about interstate commerce for the first time to become something bigger in annapolis the next year an even bigger in
philadelphia eighty seven and washington again tries to stay out of politics tries to remain above all of that and at first does not want a philadelphia during this bitterness convention and anna's almost convinced and asks for madison others gets feelers out you know do you really need me and madison says audi or do we want to use him yet you know and has determined that they do need help and he's almost immediately made prose president of the convention and so already he's elevated to this release is a word you know for three months he's overseeing all but he's not almost stupid to that to the level of of of telling of the convention and what he thinks needs to be done he hopes that in the backrooms in the taverns at night that he can make his points clear on public level is quite quiet about what he
thinks the effect of course the american people's ire and the constitution he went online well in terms of presence that the constitutional on premise for a fur for executive pierce butler from south carolina says everybody's looking washington when they're thinking about discussing about what this president united states will do and what kind of partial have so clearly it was crucial home even though it wasn't a done deal that's just because washington's ally with the constitution the fight's far from over in washington as president visits every state of the union takes a horribly long and difficult journey has always done for them took to georgia to make sure that it's got the pulse of the people know that they see him and think that there's only a handful of prints most people never even seen and heard about on the family looks like to hear it comes to your town you know miscarriage and he's pressing the flesh is going to parties news talk and to the american
people at that level and try to convince him that this experiment has a chance and here is the president united states and this is what he had a sense of what he isn't so for washington the convention and just because it's ratified it did this it's a long way from being over it's been updated one of the reasons washington and wonder what reasons washington except the presidency from that from the american people is because he's been convinced i think he knows it too but others have convinced him that his leadership but by by no means can be seen as is being completed that the constitution his leadership is vital to getting them over the hump you know this this first president has to be that office has to be
invented in washington convinced that on they didn't they don't have any direction as to what this presidency on means or one or how it'll function so it's pretty clear that while the washington after a few years and the first term israeli go home he is again convince to stay another turn on because they're not quite ready yet as jefferson puts it please stay another four years but by eight years he's had enough of the hopes and brazenly say pretty much tells them you've got to get along that way and doesn't quite say on the die one day folks but you've got to get beyond me and and now's a good time to start and as the president united states where washington's thinking about slavery is all we know how committees can playstation vue
washington's personal stake here in the revolution and the successful revolution to him names drawing together the union regardless of the moral and ethical difficulties that come up with slavery he's not about like lincoln sixty years later the beginning i have not about to let back in the way of yet and for years you know always comes first and obviously on this half of this nation in the seventies and nineties that is not going to be thrilled with the president of all of us making a statement about slavery and making statements about emancipation privately he makes statements here and there about his wishes that afforded gradual emancipation and there's some thought that hopefully will just die away or that by legislative slow and imperceptible degrees
on it we can weaken a mensa pit the slaves part of that has to do with his optimism or lack of it for these people and then in bondage in his mind from his point you i've taken care of these people otherwise they can't take care of themselves has some five hundred thousand on human beings that you know on a certain date or let go to run the countryside looking for work and all that is is just there's no question in and abortions one that's never going to happen the best thing that can happen is that there's legislation and that gradually on their emancipated is personal solutions to free his slaves at mt vernon in his will at his desk on the publicly anything that might hamper the revolutionary union stays away from us
where is it it would be hard to make an argument before the revolution washington is different from on pretty much any other slave holder in that it was interesting it will be hard to argue that washington a different from most planners before the revolution terms of what he thought about the slave community of mount vernon and and what they meant to him in terms of just being property or a way to make him wealthy man clearly for many people including washington on the rhetoric rhetoric of the revolution and and he could not be deaf to the arguments about natural rights on natural light rights as human beings are not water black as it's written decoration as humans aren't certainly has had its effect on washington
pretty much after the revolution he promises to several people and keeps his promise not to sell has an aversion to selling off slaves and breaking up the families and except for a couple of instances in which it actually the runaways that left him without innocence and cook at least made an inquiry on trillion of his life to it perhaps purchase another sleepy pretty much keeps his work on i think in terms of economics he does not see slave labor as an adequate labor system going into the nineteenth century with westward expansion with industry in the north i think he probably does not see that in the long run it's going to work on from a moral point of view and he makes one a tent during his lifetime to freed slaves instance more than a complicated land deal which is hoping to rent for his five mount vernon farms to an english tenant farmer who it he will free the slaves know just be hiring sit at that point and to force through because no
one's interested in and in the land of mount vernon which was quite poor so his his statement as as well and as well as he starts on i george washington citizen of the united states is not speaking as president ordered or commander in chief he speaking is as a private citizen and in this way he makes his statement about slavery his final statement that he hopes certainly there will be followed his example be filed it obviously was not and whether not inspired you know handful of people or more than that it's hard to say but it was he was his private solution to a very difficult complex problem that he'd grown up with and his forefathers had grown up with and quite frankly he was he was confounded at the end about what to do about the institution what was behind this
that decision results in this one washington solution certainly from from the from the viewpoint of a planter from the economic viewpoint i think friend slaves finally would get his mom didn't have children but the ones who came to to melbourne after him out of the situation which he was again which from an economic standpoint was not a very adequate quality was not making much money at mount vernon is getting by from a moral standpoint he even wrote in his will that because it in one to break up the families did they did that have come together from the dour slaves and his slaves that in fact it's more the word tilt to outlive him that they would be freed upon her death will that really puts the problem off or couple of years but it doesn't solve the problem what's in his
mind is hard to say how long its not as if he just waited till his death because he did at least contemplate doing this before on the party that it certainly it was a relief to him but i don't think it was a very joyous thing for him to write that will increase again i don't think that's the emotion that was attached to that if anything it might have been a relief that he was really with the problem for him washington possibly possibly situation i think one indication that that he was a look at the fall to the end of slavery is that it white by an
austrian skier i think one indication of how he was before why slavery even to the very end is that he put more than a very precarious position because they're hundred and twenty five people in our firm who knew that when she died they were free abigail adams went to visit the widow martha and came back and wrote your system the system that had not only economically was not going well at mount vernon but she feared for her life and some are they actually went to court in fairfax county and freed those slaves a year after her husband died she did not wait so she was clearly uncomfortable and you you must think that washington thought that she might be in this situation and i think he didn't want to put her in harm's way but he just didn't know what else to do it it was well firm for washington as a young man you know the war was an opportunity for him to
rise in society and friction in warren to him what was more important and what some historians have noted as a very om unbecoming attitude of washington's this drive this ambition what she always have but it was less restrained when he was in his twenties to gain for instance in this example of british commission for him victory was important just as important was to be considered at the highest echelon which is to go to grant the colonial british commission for that that's what washington almost hope for more than anything else and he had a way of any volunteered for a general brad actually was in the right circles and he learned how to manage an army in that way when the revolution comes up and much as said by washington because they can on the second convention in his uniform and some will say it
came in and just to express huge prepared to go to war if that's what it came to and obviously others were saying is promoting himself to be a named commander in chief of the of the army and we don't know yet in terms of the revolution what war offered washington was fired and and glory and lasting for him in terms of love they're talking about it even two hundred years later that kind of fame and for washington i don't see war as an economic opportunity i think he had a a fairly good reputation but it certainly gave him a huge huge push in terms of a bit of an international reputation and that was very important to washington so he he he told congress i don't want a salary he was known for the money but what it in terms of the revolution turned obviously there's a whole other level of of
separating an and creating your own state interim government is one thing but washington also saw it almost every level and detail how the revolution and its success words fail a year might reflect back on what we think about him today and that's very important and that's why would sometimes we say the revolution in washington the same thing because that's what he is ahead in his mind if it fails i failed and if it succeeds that i have everlasting fed with her in the beginning of the war on the wrist perhaps with a fever of the ideas of the revolution spurred spurred those who want to fight on i don't know whether there's a whole level of of people like a hamilton and and and look at lafayette whose spaces own way to come over
on to serve for washington in terms of that level officer certainly theirs there's a way to make a name for yourself but the fighting units washes for his difficulty throughout the war is putting players on the field a man and he never ever has the kind of numbers are people willing to fight for a lot of extended period time that he needs so the fervor dies down after year or two and then it's like who can we get out here to really fight or four years if it's necessary and it's much more difficult to put some terms of opportunities for someone to move up the ranks i don't think that there's a lot of that sentiment in the lower echelons of the military well what was going to but
Series
Africans in America
Episode Number
102
Episode
Revolution
Raw Footage
Interview with John Riley, Mount Vernon Historian
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/15-5q4rj49n77
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/15-5q4rj49n77).
Description
John Riley is interviewed about George Washington's views on slavery, his low opinion of slaves, his position in 18th century Virginia society, his decision not to break up families by selling slaves, his marriage to Martha and her dowry, how the tobacco economy contributed to the Revolution, free blacks and armed slaves in the Revoutionary War, how Washington tried to stay out of politics, the freeing of his slaves in his will.
Date
1998-00-00
Topics
Women
History
Race and Ethnicity
Subjects
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
Rights
(c) 1998-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
Media type
Moving Image
Duration
01:06:09
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Credits
: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
WGBH
Identifier: Riley_John_02_merged_SALES_ASP_h264.mp4 (unknown)
Duration: 1:06:10
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Citations
Chicago: “Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with John Riley, Mount Vernon Historian,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-5q4rj49n77.
MLA: “Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with John Riley, Mount Vernon Historian.” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-5q4rj49n77>.
APA: Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with John Riley, Mount Vernon Historian. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-5q4rj49n77