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 failure of the Loyalists to flock to the royal standard cannot be understood without appreciating how effectively they had been locked down and neutralized by the patriots. Loyalists could not buy, sell, or bequeath property or other assets. They were barred from all legal recourse to recover debts or redress any other injury. They could not practice law or teach unless they had taken an oath of allegiance to the cause. They could not be executors of estates or be a guardian to a child. Any person who wrote, or spoke, or by any act libeled or defamed Congress ... should be brought to trial.

Michael Stephenson
Patriot Battles: How the War of Independence Was Fought (2007)