• 63°

It is time we do likewise

To the Editor:

Washington needs a statue or two (one standing, one sitting on a park bench) of President George Washington. I know this is heretical to some in the hyper-polarized political environment in which we find ourselves. Washington was a slave owner. Yet, he invited Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American female to be published to visit him in his Massachusetts headquarters. As he wrote to her, “…I shall be happy to see a person so favourd[sic] by the Muses, and to whom nature has been so liberal and beneficent in her dispensations. I am with great Respect, Your obedt[sic] humble servant, G. Washington.”

By 1786, Washington wrote to John Francis Mercer. He wrote of his evolved feelings on the slavery issue. He pointedly wrote that, “…It being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted, by the legislature by which slavery in the Country[sic] may be abolished by slow, sure &imperceptible degrees.” He favored the Pennsylvania approach which passed in 1780 and made all future slaves free when they reached (the age of) 28. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island had similar plans. The result was that by 1810, 75 percent of slaves in those states were free.

Washington was neither left- nor right-leaning politically. He built bridges and evolved his thinking. It is time we do likewise. More to come.

 

Joe Phipps

Washington