Washington on Slavery
Digital History ID 190
In this brief note, written at a time when he owned some 277 slaves, George Washington expresses his hopes for the gradual abolition of slavery. This letter not only reveals Washington's principles and distaste for slavery, but also an outlook shared by many of the founders, including many from the upper South. Many of the new nation's leaders desperately wanted to find gradualistic solutions to America's deepest-rooted problem. In his will, Washington provided for the emancipation of his slaves following his wife's death.
...I never mean (unless some peculiar circumstances should compel me to it) to possess another slave by purchase; it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by the Legislature by which slavery in this Country may be abolished by slow, sure & imperceptible degrees.
Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute
Additional information: George Washington to John Francis Mercer
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