Here Comes The General
If I’m being honest, my interest in George Washington peaked due to the writings about him via Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton made Washington sound like a saint, an honorable man, a king. Ironically Washington could have been king, but instead chose to be Commander-In-Chief during the American Revolution and the First President of the United States!
No denying Washington was a leader of character, honor and civility, and yes accomplished much, and should be memorialized. He was able to set many parts of government which still hold today; such as a two-term presidency.
As I entered the museum on his grounds, I was pulled toward the special exhibition: LIVES BOUND TOGETHER. A walk through the newest exhibit at Mount Vernon offers a glimpse into the lives of the less frequently acknowledged residents of George Washington's plantation home: his slaves. I was pulled into their lives, each having an extraordinary story to tell about who they were as a mother, a father, a daughter, a brother, an enslaved person at Mount Vernon.
I was expecting to read what Washington did to help those enslaved become free. I kept reading, and reading and reading….while I learned so much about his enslaved men and woman, I only found a small excerpt about their freedom. While the exhibit explored Washington's evolving views on slavery, to me, he didn't do enough. One display explained how he opposed buying and selling slaves, tried to keep families together and privately hoped for legislation that would end slavery. However, he did not free his own slaves until after his death.
I couldn’t help but be frustrated and disenchanted that he didn’t do more for those enslaved. I knew his most treasured enslaved got away, I thought he was released by Washington, come to find, Hercules escaped. Washington wasn't oblivious to his faults: 'I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.' I think he struggled with all that he carried - but I am not excusing him for not taking a stand sooner for those enslaved on his property.