George Washington, Slave Catcher

  • George Washington, Slave Catcher is the provocative title of an opinion piece by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (The New York Times, 16-Feb-2015). Although nothing new is revealed, it is a sharp reminder that Washington and his wife Martha were typical and not in any way unexceptional slave-owners. When Martha’s personal attendant, Ona Judge, ran away in 1796, Washington discreetly pursued her until his death in1799. Famously, Washington arranged to have his slaves freed upon his wife’s death, and, per Virginia law, he set up a fund to support them. But when Martha died in 1802 all of her human property went to her inheritors. She emancipated no one.
JDN | 16-Feb-2015

The press was the mass medium of the eighteenth century, the only way to bring both news and commentary to a broad public audience. The popularity of newspapers soared in Revolutionary America: By the late 1780s, the United States had about ninety-five newspapers, over twice the number at the time of independence. Moreover, the newspapers of 1776 were weeklies, but those of 1787 we often published two or three times a week. There were even a few that appeared daily to satisfy the hungry reading public.

Pauline Maier
Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787—1788 (2010)