Benjamin West (1738—1820)

by Benjamin West (1738—1820)

Watercolor on ivory; 6.4 x 4.6 cm (2 1/2 x 1 13/16 in). Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.

by Benjamin West (1738—1820)

Oil on canvas; 131 x 98 cm (51-1/2 x 38-1/2 in). Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection, Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater K

by Benjamin West (1738—1820)

Full title: General Johnson Saving a Wounded French Officer from the Tomahawk of a North American Indian. Oil on canvas. Derby Museum

by Benjamin West (1738—1820)

Art and hand-colored print by Benjamin West; engraving by Pierre Charles Canot (c. 1710—77). Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH.

by Benjamin West (1738—1820)

Art and hand-colored print by Benjamin West; engraving by William Smith (1727—1803). Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH.

by Benjamin West (1738—1820)

Oil on canvas; 28 1/4 x 23 in. (71.8 x 58.4 cm). New-York Historical Society, New York, NY.

by Benjamin West (1738—1820)

Oil on canvas; 76.2 x 61.6 cm. Private collection.

by Benjamin West (1738—1820)

Oil on canvas; 152.6 x 214.5 cm (60 x 84-1/2 in).
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

by Benjamin West (1738—1820)

Oil on canvas; h:66.50 w:66.30 cm (h:26 1/8 w:26 1/16 inches). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH.

by Benjamin West (1738—1820)

Oil on canvas; 25 x 24 7/8 inches (63.5 x 63.2 cm). Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT.

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)