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other; and when it happens to fall on a man whose purse will not measure with that of the Society, and he loses his property for want of means to defend it ; it is oppression in such a case, and not humanity in any, because it introduces more evils than it can cure.



Your purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view of emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity.

Would to God, a like spirit might diffuse itself generally, into the minds of the people of this country. But I despair of seeing it.

Some petitions were presented to the Assembly, at its last session, for the abolition of slavery, but they could scarcely obtain a reading.

To set the slaves afloat, at once, would, I believe, be productive of much inconvenience and mischief; but, by degrees, it certainly might, and assuredly ought to be effected; and that, too, by legislative authority.

* Lafayette.


I never mean, unless some particular circumstances should compel me to it, 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 law.



I have no scruple in disclosing to you that my motives to these sales are to reduce my income, be it more or less, to specialities,-that the remainder of my days may thereby be more tranquil, and free from care; and that I may be enabled, knowing what my dependence is, to do as much good as my resources will admit. Although, in the estimation of the world, I possess a good and clear estate, yet sò unproductive is it, that I am oftentimes ashamed to refuse aid which I cannot afford, unless I sell part of it to answer this purpose.

Besides these, I have another motive, which makes me earnestly wish for these things. It is, indeed, more powerful than all the rest; namely, to liberate a certain species of property, which I possess very reluctantly to my own feelings, but which imperious neces

* Tobias Lear, his private secretary, then in England, May 6th, 1794, making arrangements to sell some of Washington's landed estate.

sity compels, until I can substitute some other expedient, by which expenses not in my power to avoid, (however well disposed I may be to do it,) can be defrayed.


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Upon the decease of my wife, it is my will and desire that all the slaves whom I hold in my own right, shall receive their freedom,

To emancipate them during her life, would, though earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties, on account of their intermixture by marriage with the dower negroes, as to excite the most painful sensations, if not disagreeable consequences to the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same proprietor; it not being in my power, under the tenure by which the dower negroes are held, to manumit them.


And whereas among those who will receive freedom according to this devise, there may be some, who, from old age or bodily infirmities, and others, who, on ac

By Washington's Will, dated July 9th, 1799.

count of their infancy, will be unable to support themselves, it is my will and desire, that all, who come under the first and second description, shall be comfortably clothed and fed by my heirs while they live; and that such of the latter description as have no parents living, or, if living, are unable or unwilling to provide for them, shall be bound by the Court, until they shall arrive at the age of twenty-five years; and, in cases where no record can be produced, whereby their ages can be ascertained, the judgment of the Court, upon its own view of the subject, shall be adequate and final.


The negroes thus bound, are (by their masters or mistresses) to be taught to read and write, and to be brought up to some useful occupation, agreeably to the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, providing for the support of orphan and other poor children.


I expressly forbid the sale or transportation out of the said Commonwealth, of any slave I may die possessed of, under any pretence whatsoever.


I do, moreover, most pointedly and most solemnly enjoin it upon my executors, to see that this clause respecting slaves, and every part thereof, be religiously fulfilled, at the epoch at which it is directed to take place, without evasion, neglect, or delay, after the crops which may then be on the ground are harvested, particularly as it respects the aged and infirm; seeing that a regular and permanent fund be established for their support, as long as there are subjects requiring it; not trusting to the uncertain provision to be made by individuals.


To my mulatto man, William, calling himself William Lee, I give immediate freedom, or, if he should prefer it, (on account of the accidents which have befallen him, and which have rendered him incapable of walking, or of any active employment,) to remain in the situation he now is, it shall be optional in him to do so; in either case, however, I allow him an annuity of thirty dollars, during his natural life, which shall be independent of the victuals and clothes he has been accustomed to receive, if he chooses the last alternative; but in full with his freedom, if he prefers the first. And this I give him, as a testimony

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