Tadeusz Kosciuszko

Portrait of Kosciuszko by Benjamin West, 1797

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QUICK FACTS
BORN:
February 1746 in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
  DIED:
15 October 1817 in Solothurn, Switzerland

  • In 1798 Congress grants $18,912 in back-pay to Kosciuszko for his role in the Revolutionary War. In his will, he authorizes his friend Thomas Jefferson to employ the whole thereof in purchasing Negroes from among his own or any others— in order to free them.
  • Jefferson neglects to do so. In 1826 when he dies, the money is still in trust, and his slaves are sold at auction.
Frequently referred to as Thaddeus Kosciuszko. Portrait to come. See entry in Wikipedia.
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By attacking slavery more fiercely than ever before, Revolutionary Americans freed tens of thousands of slaves. But the Revolution’s libertarian and egalitarian message had perverse consequences. It forced those Southerners who chose to retain slavery to fall back on the alleged racial deficiencies of blacks as a justification for an institution that hitherto they had taken for granted and had never before needed to justify. The anti-slavery movement that arose out of the Revolution inadvertently produced racism in America.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)