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Imperfect God: George Washington, his Slaves…
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Imperfect God: George Washington, his Slaves and the Creation of America

de Henry Wiencek

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An analysis of how George Washington's life was impacted by slavery discusses his ties to the slave community, activities as a slave owner, realization of the evils of slavery, and political efforts on behalf of slaves. A major new biography of Washington, and the first to explore his engagement with American slavery. When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his only unavoidable subject of regret. In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding father's engagement with slavery at every stage of his life--as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman. Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington's attitudes began to change. He and the other framers enshrined slavery in the Constitution, but Wiencek shows, even before he became president, Washington had begun to see the system's evil. Wiencek's revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and the voluminous Washington archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in Washington's determination to emancipate his slaves. He acted too late to keep the new republic from perpetuating slavery, but his repentance was genuine. And it was perhaps related to the possibility--as the oral history of Mount Vernon's slave descendants has long asserted--that a slave named West Ford was the son of George and a woman named Venus; Wiencek has new evidence that this could indeed have been true. George Washington's heroic stature as Father of Our Country is not diminished in this superb, nuanced portrait: now we see Washington in full as a man of his time and ahead of his time.… (més)
Membre:ksoni1
Títol:Imperfect God: George Washington, his Slaves and the Creation of America
Autors:Henry Wiencek
Informació:Publisher Unknown
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
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An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America de Henry Wiencek

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Es mostren 1-5 de 6 (següent | mostra-les totes)
This is well written and very interesting. It's a bit dated as so much more has come to light about say Oney Judge. None the less readable and interesting.
The author considers George Washington to have not been racist and a benevolent slave owner. Which is a bit like a compassionate rapist. A oxymoron.
He then follows up with GW violating the Federal Slave Act as sitting president. Followed by detailed methods he used to oppress the Enslaved Peoples on his many estates.There is no benevolence in these actions. In addition the idea that black folks owe free service is racism all on it's own. The author details the daily lives of most of GW's Enslaved population on multiple Washington and Custis Estates: they left home before light, worked until dark, were provided a single meal a day. They were expected to grow their own food, keep their own chickens and hunt and fish. In the small amount of down time they were alloted. In addition they were inadequately clothed unless in service where visitors could see them. Yet the author makes repeated references to slave theft. I guess they were just supposed to nobly starve and freeze to death. GW was the thief. He stole their labor they were surviving. He's the thief not them. He also references common slave resistance techniques and then uses that as a reason that GW 'had' to punish them, as if owning humans was something he had to do. As if humans being oppressed have none of the rights of liberty that GW felt entitled to. I appreciate the effort by this author but GW's actions can not be excused. They absolutely are representative of who he is and they taint his image for all posterity. Period. ( )
  LoisSusan | Dec 10, 2020 |
This biography of George Washington focuses on his views of slavery and his relationship with his slaves. I hadn't realized that he was the only founder who actually arranged to free his slaves--further confirmation that he is indeed the greatest American. ( )
  gbelik | Dec 7, 2019 |
There are 2 other excellent reviews by carterchristian1 and juglecerr so I will only add my personal reactions. Loved the authors first person accounts of his research and his comments on earlier historians.

The amazing family interactions, between Martha and George, during his Presidency he was willing/compelled to pursue an escaped slave, Martha's maid and her property, using quite illegal methods, he did not tell her the details of his will, which freed his own slaves, between Hannah Washington, George's sister-in-law and the slave/freedman West Ford, Hannah made great efforts to ensure this one slave was freed, it's is unprovable but likely he was her grandson, which is why she cared. It's also possible that he was George's son.

What must it have been like, for all those white woman, mistresses of the plantation, to look at mixed race children and wonder is this my husband's child? is this my grandchild? ( )
  Janientrelac | Nov 23, 2014 |
This is an excellent view of Washington's position on a major injustice in which he participated, even if he elected to try and free his slaves at his death. It is interesting that his sister's husband in Frederickburg organized a school for slaves. An important contribution to Washington biographies. ( )
  carterchristian1 | Jul 28, 2010 |
This book is a well researched history that focuses on George Washington and his slaves. The book title suggests that it contains smudges on Washington's character because of slavery. Well, it does that, but to me it showed him to be a principled man in a difficult environment. Sure, he was human and enjoyed the luxury of living in a big house with slave servants. But this book shows that he gave a lot of thought to how his slaves could be freed at a time when all of his immediate family, his wife Martha in particular, had no qualms about slavery. Idealists of today can be critical of Washington's silence and compromising approach to the issue of slavery. But remember, one of the reasons the newly written Constitution was ratified by the required number of states was because they knew George Washington would be the first one elected to the office of President, and everybody trusted him. The reason they trusted him was his willingness to remain silent on issues that he knew would ruffle the feathers of others.

The book follows the story of Washington's ancestors, his youth, and follows him through his adult years. The story of slavery of America during this time is also described. The book portrays a shift in Washington's attitude toward African-Americans during the Revolutionary War. Washington spent most of his time during the war in the north where there were numerous freed blacks. Between 6% to 13% of the Continental Army were freed blacks, and one Rhode Island regiment was 90% black. Washington learned to respect their abilities during this time. However, George Washington was the consummate politician, and during his presidency and retirement years in Virginia he kept his personal opinions about slavery limited to a select few. In the end he avoided the wrath of his family and wife by freeing his slaves in his will after his death, an act he had not discussed with Martha. One fact I learned from this book is that most of the slaves serving at Mount Vernon were dower slaves, the property of the Custis estate (came to the marriage through Martha), and Washington's will could not free them. His will indicated his wish that they could be freed along with his, but in the end few were freed. That is again an indication of the attitude of his family.

The narrative follows the stories of some of Washington's slaves, some of whom escaped while serving during the presidency years in Philadelphia. The story of an escaped slave named Ona Judge was of particular interest. It appears that Washington may have been willing to do nothing about her escape, but his wife Martha insisted that every effort be made to make her return. Washington knew that the incident had the potential of being politically embarrassing, but Martha wanted her maid back at all costs.

The following are my thoughts, not from the book:
I think the past predicament of white Americans living in slave states was similar to us today who are addicted to the use of fossil fuels. We know its bad for the world's climate, we know it's bad for the nation's balance of payments, and we know future generations will hate us for it, but we just can't quit. Past slave economies were in a similar situation. They knew there were problems but didn't see how their way of life could survive without slavery. It required the Civil War and 100+ years of continuing struggle to get rid of race based slavery. What will it take to teach us how to live without fossil fuels? Could a world wide financial depression do it? ( )
1 vota Clif | Jan 15, 2009 |
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An analysis of how George Washington's life was impacted by slavery discusses his ties to the slave community, activities as a slave owner, realization of the evils of slavery, and political efforts on behalf of slaves. A major new biography of Washington, and the first to explore his engagement with American slavery. When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his only unavoidable subject of regret. In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding father's engagement with slavery at every stage of his life--as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman. Washington was born and raised among blacks and mixed-race people; he and his wife had blood ties to the slave community. Yet as a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruple, even raffled off children to collect debts (an incident ignored by earlier biographers). Then, on the Revolutionary battlefields where he commanded both black and white troops, Washington's attitudes began to change. He and the other framers enshrined slavery in the Constitution, but Wiencek shows, even before he became president, Washington had begun to see the system's evil. Wiencek's revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and the voluminous Washington archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in Washington's determination to emancipate his slaves. He acted too late to keep the new republic from perpetuating slavery, but his repentance was genuine. And it was perhaps related to the possibility--as the oral history of Mount Vernon's slave descendants has long asserted--that a slave named West Ford was the son of George and a woman named Venus; Wiencek has new evidence that this could indeed have been true. George Washington's heroic stature as Father of Our Country is not diminished in this superb, nuanced portrait: now we see Washington in full as a man of his time and ahead of his time.

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