[Of those opposed to slavery,] George Washington belonged, with Mason and Jefferson, in the hardest category — disapproving owners. Theirs was the most difficult position to maintain, psychologically and rhetorically. It would not be maintained over the next sixty years, as southern antislavery rhetoric withered. Practically and politically, disapproving owners were in the hardest position from which to achieve their goals. How do you weaken an institution in which you and all your neighbors are enmeshed? Washington did enough, finally, to free his own slaves, which was more than many owners in his position did. Jefferson never freed all his, nor did any of the other slave-owning presidents.
Political philosopher, Boston revolutionary leader, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Massachusetts governor; 1722—1803.
Soldier, politician, New York governor, vice president under Jefferson and Madison; 1739—1812.
Lawyer, orator, Virginia governor; 1736—99.
Lawyer, architect, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, Virginia governor, diplomat, third President, founder of the University of Virginia; 1743—1826.
Virginia revolutionary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, senator; 1732—94.
Politician, author, political philosopher, Anti-Federalist; 1725—92.
Author, revolutionary, political philosopher; 1737—1809.
Playwright, historian, sister of James Otis, Jr, wife of James Warren; 1728—1814.
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (1996)