Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

by Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

Oil on canvas; 60.96 cm (24 in) x 50.8 cm (20 in). Private collection.

by Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

Oil on canvas. Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks, Physick House, Philadelphia, PA.

by Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

Oil on canvas; 26 3/4 in. x 21 7/8 in. Yale University Art Gallery, Mabel Brady Garvan Collection, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

by Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

Oil on canvas; 22 3/8 x 30 3/8 in. (56.8 x 77.1 cm). Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA.

by Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

Oil on canvas. Penn Medicine, Pennsylvania Hospital Historic Collections, Philadelphia, PA.

by Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

Oil on canvas; 12 ft 2-1/2 in. x 17 ft. 3 in. (3.7 x 5.3 m). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

by Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

Oil on canvas; 17 1/8 x 14 in. (43.5 x 35.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.

by Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

Oil on canvas. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello, Charlottesville, VA.

by Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

Oil on canvas. United States Military Academy, West Point, NY.

by Thomas Sully (1783—1872)

Gouache and pencil on paper, laid down on paper; 24.13 cm (9.5 in.) x 15.88 cm (6.25 in). Private collection.

Racial prejudice worked to perpetuate American slavery, even if it was not essential to sustain the institution. Slavery, serfdom, and peonage had existed elsewhere without racial connotations. Indeed, bondage had been so historically ubiquitous one might well ask why, by the 1760’s, it had come to trouble so many white Americans so much. The answer lies in part — and this part help explain why people like Mason did not act more aggressively on their concerns — in the reservations many whites felt about living alongside members of a supposedly inferior race, whether slave or free. The problem was inherent in American slavery, and emancipation, by undermining white control, would only make it worse.

Jeff Broadwater
George Mason: Forgotten Founder (2006)