Talk:Legacy of George Washington

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Slavery legacy[edit]

I moved this section here for reference. The slavery section in the GW legacy article should focus on whether Washington had an affect on slavery. After his slaves were freed his wife did not free her slaves. Washington freeing his slaves had no effect on other slave owners releasing their slaves. Cmguy777 (talk) 16:26, 31 August 2010 (UTC)

Extended content
This 19th century engraving is an idealized depiction of Washington supervising his slaves at Mount Vernon.

For most of his life, Washington was a typical Virginia slave owner. At the age of ten, he inherited ten slaves; by the time of his death there were 317 slaves at Mount Vernon, including 124 owned by Washington, 40 leased from a neighbor, and an additional 153 "dower slaves" which were controlled by Washington but were the property of Martha's first husband's estate. As on other plantations, his slaves worked from dawn until dusk unless injured or ill and they were whipped for running away or for other infractions. They were fed, clothed, and housed as inexpensively as possible, in conditions that were probably quite meager. Visitors recorded contradictory impressions of slave life at Mount Vernon: one visitor in 1798 wrote that Washington treated his slaves "with more severity" than his neighbors, while another around the same time stated that "Washington treats his slaves far more humanely than do his fellow citizens of Virginia."[1]

George Washington (John Trumbull, 1780), also depicts William Lee, Washington's enslaved personal servant, who for many years spent more time in Washington's presence than any other man.

Before the American Revolution, Washington expressed no moral reservations about slavery, but by 1778 he had stopped selling slaves without their consent because he did not want to break up slave families. Historian Henry Wiencek speculates that Washington's slave buying, particularly his participation in a raffle of 55 slaves in 1769, may have initiated his gradual reassessment of slavery. His thoughts on slavery may have also been influenced by the rhetoric of the American Revolution, by the thousands of blacks who sought to enlist in the army, by the anti-slavery sentiments of his idealistic aide John Laurens, and by the enslaved black poet Phillis Wheatley, who in 1775 wrote a poem in his honor. In 1778, while Washington was at war, he wrote to his manager at Mount Vernon that he wished to sell his slaves and "to get quit of negroes", since maintaining a large (and increasingly elderly) slave population was no longer economically efficient. Washington could not legally sell the "dower slaves", however, and because these slaves had long intermarried with his own slaves, he could not sell his slaves without breaking up families, something which he had resolved not to do. Confronted with this dilemma, his plan to divest himself of slaves was dropped.[2]

After the war, Washington often privately expressed a dislike of the institution of slavery. In 1786, he wrote to a friend that "I never mean ... to possess another slave by purchase; it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted, by which slavery in this Country may be abolished by slow, sure and imperceptible degrees." To another friend he wrote that "there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see some plan adopted for the abolition" of slavery. He expressed moral support for plans by his friend the Marquis de Lafayette to emancipate slaves and resettle them elsewhere, but he did not assist him in the effort.[3]

Despite these privately expressed misgivings, Washington never criticized slavery in public. In fact, as President, Washington brought eight household slaves with him to the Executive Mansion in Philadelphia. By Pennsylvania law, slaves who resided in the state became legally free after six months. Washington rotated his household slaves between Mount Vernon and Philadelphia so that they did not earn their freedom, a scheme he attempted to keep hidden from his slaves and the public. Two slaves escaped while in Philadelphia: one of these, Oney Judge, was located in New Hampshire. Judge could have been captured and returned under the Fugitive Slave Act, which Washington had signed into law in 1793, but this was not done so as to avoid public controversy.[4]

Washington was the only prominent, slaveholding Founding Father to emancipate his slaves. He did not free his slaves in his lifetime, however, but instead included a provision in his will to free his slaves upon the death of his wife. William Lee, Washington's longtime personal servant, was the only slave freed outright in the will. The will called for the ex-slaves to be provided for by Washington's heirs, the elderly ones to be clothed and fed, the younger ones to be educated and trained at an occupation. Washington did not own and could not emancipate the "dower slaves" at Mount Vernon.

Washington's failure to act publicly upon his growing private misgivings about slavery during his lifetime is seen by some historians as a tragically missed opportunity. One major reason Washington did not emancipate his slaves earlier was because his economic well-being depended on the institution. To circumvent this problem, in 1794 he quietly sought to sell off his western lands and lease his outlying farms in order to finance the emancipation of his slaves, but this plan fell through because enough buyers and renters could not be found. He did not speak out publicly against slavery, argues historian Dorothy Twohig, because he did not wish to risk splitting apart the young republic over what was already a sensitive and divisive issue.[5]

  1. ^ Number of slaves: Henry Wiencek, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, p. 46; Ellis, pp. 262–63. Quotes from visitors to Mount Vernon: Ferling, p. 476.
  2. ^ Slave raffle linked to Washington's reassessment of slavery: Wiencek, pp. 135–36, 178–88. Washington's decision to stop selling slaves: Fritz Hirschfeld, George Washington and Slavery: A Documentary Portrayal, p. 16. Influence of war and Wheatley: Wiencek, ch 6. Dilemma of selling slaves: Wiencek, p. 230; Ellis, pp. 164–7; Hirschfeld, pp. 27–29.
  3. ^ Quotes and Lafayette plans: Dorothy Twohig, "'That Species of Property': Washington's Role in the Controversy over Slavery" in George Washington Reconsidered, pp. 121–22.
  4. ^ Washington's slaves in Philadelphia and the scheme to rotate them: Wiencek, ch. 9; Hirschfeld, pp. 187–88; Ferling, p. 479.
  5. ^ Twohig, "That Species of Property", pp. 127–28.

Section merge[edit]

Should George Washington#Legacy be merged into this article, with only a short summary left behind? Rationale: This legacy article exists for a reason, and the main GW article is swimming in "legacy" trivia, with disputes on the talk page there about adding more of it, distracting from the purpose of improving the historical bio article.

After the merger, a section that is a comprehensive treatment of GW in fiction should be written (in prose, not as a list), for things like filmic portrayals, use of GW as a major video game character (often as in an anhistorical way), etc., or people will never strop trying to insert bullet items about video games, comics, etc., into the main article, which is about the actual historical figure.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:27, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

  • Support. the substance of the proposal. The sequencing is important. A consensus should also be found at Talk:George Washington, perhaps by proposing a one- or two-paragraph summary for the George Washington#Legacy section, which otherwise is proposed to be migrated here. Until the move is made, a sourced narrative contribution on video games at George Washington should be accommodated for now, as it too would migrate here. Lists of video games, comics, etc. are to be deprecated in any mainspace article. I think that this should become the model of other prominent figures of history where the "legacy" narrative can become something more than a stub. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 14:38, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
    Merges don't work that way. They're discussed in one place (like everything should be), the target by default. How to summarize it after the merge is up to consensus at the other talk page, though.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  09:40, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
  • Yes, there's no reason why the George Washington biography (main article) can not have a summarized Legacy section, while at the same time the Legacy' article can entertain in depth coverage of this topic. A well written summary of Washington's legacy in the main article will serve to create interest in and invite readers to the Legacy' article itself. -- Gwillhickers (talk) 18:41, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
    SMC was correct to link to WP:Summary style. Your stance and his proposal are not in disagreement. --Izno (talk) 14:38, 22 March 2016 (UTC)
Considering all the content in the G.W. Legacy section, this will no doubt involve a some discussion/debate as to what will be removed from that section to the Legacy' article here. There's also the issue of who will be willing to do the actual editing. Unfortunately proposals tend to outnumber actual editing efforts considerably, and that's an optimistic view. I would leave most of the content/images for memorials, currency and postage (present when the article became a Good Article) in the main G.W. article. For starters I will remove a few redundant statements regarding currency and postage. --
  • Support - There is no reason that this article cannot contain a "Legacy" section, as previously mentioned by another user. As long as the section is concisely written and is indeed a short summary, I don't see a problem in including it. Comatmebro User talk:Comatmebro 15:27, 1 April 2016 (UTC)

Content moved from G.W. Legacy section to here[edit]

The George Washington Legacy section was quite lengthy in terms of weight for a biography. I moved a considerable amount of content from there to the article here. The moves were bold and further editing may be needed here as well as in the Legacy of G.W. article in terms of chronology, redundancy, citations, overlinking, etc. Hope this hasn't ruffled anyone's feathers. -- Gwillhickers (talk) 19:59, 22 March 2016 (UTC)