At age 11, George Washington inherited 10 slaves from his father’s estate. As the years went by, he acquired more slaves through the death of family members and by direct purchase.
When he married the wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759, she added another 80 slaves to the Mount Vernon estate. By 1769, the estate kept a total of about 150 slaves.
Washington wrestled with slavery and at times, especially in 1778, thought of freeing all of the slaves, but he needed slave labor to maintain his wealth and lifestyle.
During his two terms in office, President Washington was relocated first to New York and then to Philadelphia which created a problem for him. Pennsylvania’s Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 began dismantling slavery, releasing people from bondage after their 28th birthdays. Under the law, any slave who entered Pennsylvania with an owner and lived in the state for longer than six months would be set free automatically. Washington’s answer to that was to travel back to Mt. Vernon every six months
Everything was moving along nicely for Washington until May of 1796 when a 22 year old slave named Ona Judge ran away. She had been a slave for the family since she was 15 years old and was Martha Washington’s personnel attendant. She ran only after she leaned that Martha intended to give her away as a wedding gift to her granddaughter.
Judge fled Philadelphia for Portsmouth, N.H and married Jack Staines, a free black sailor, with whom she had three children. Washington’s agents (Lawyers and overseers) chased Ona for three years up and the President was still after her three months before he died.
When Washington did die, on December 14, 1799, there were 318 slaves living on his property. His will called for the emancipation of his slaves following the death of his wife who died in 1802. But Martha directed that all of her property….including slaves….be given to her inheritors.
Ona Judge died on Feb. 25, 1848.
Other things Washington
Before Donald Trump took office, Washington was the richest president ever. Today he would be worth about $500 million, most of that in land holdings and slaves. (He also had amazing debt)
He never had children of his own. He had two step children, Martha Washington children from her first marriage. His stepdaughter died at the age of 16 due to a seizure and his stepson died just after the siege of Yorktown in 1781, where he contracted a disease at the military encampment.
Washington and a group of troops he was leading from Virginia were forced to surrender to the French at the Battle of Fort Necessity in July 1754. The mistake was his. He built a fort in the wrong position. The French released him after he signed the surrender terms. In all fairness, he was 21 years old at the time and in 1758 Washington commanded a regiment that captured Fort Duquesne.
Washington had a distillery that produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey in one year and yes, Washington, like most Virginia farmers of his day, grew hemp as a cash crop. Hemp was used to make rope, paper, and other products. So no, he didn’t grow dope as the rumor says he did.
Washington introduced the mule to America when he bred donkeys from the King of Spain and the Marquis de Lafayette with his own horses.