Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

by Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

Oil on canvas. SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA.

by Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

Oil on canvas; 25 x 18 3/4 inches (63.5 x 47.6 cm). Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT.

by Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

Oil on canvas; 737 x 616 mm. Tate Gallery, London, England.

by Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

Oil on canvas; 39 in. x 31 1/4 in. (991 mm x 794 mm). National Portrait Gallery, London, England.

by Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

Oil on canvas; 2390 mm x 1460 mm (94.1 × 57.5 in). National Maritime Museum, London, England.

by Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

Oil on canvas; w641 x h768 cm. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT.

by Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

Oil on canvas; 750 x 620 mm. National Trust, Petworth House and Park, West Sussex, England.

by Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

Oil on canvas. Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, MA.

by Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

Oil on canvas; w635 x h762 cm. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT.

by Joshua Reynolds (1723—92)

Oil on canvas; 50 x 39 7/8 in. (127 x 101.3 cm). The Frick Collection, New York, NY.

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)