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List of George Washington’s Slaves, 1799

DATE
June 1799
Series
Retirement Series [ 1797 - 1799 ]
Topics
Colonial Life, Mount Vernon, Slavery
VIEW
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The list of Mount Vernon slaves which GW drew up, probably some time in June 1799, included those slaves owned by him outright, those who were controlled by him as part of Martha Washington’s dowry, and a number who were rented by him in 1786 by contract with Mrs. Penelope French at the time he acquired her life rights to land that she owned on Dogue Run.

The slaves Washington owned in his own right came from several sources. He was left eleven slaves by his father’s will; a portion of his half brother Lawrence Washington’s slaves, about a dozen in all, were willed to him after the death of Lawrence’s infant daughter and his widow; and Washington purchased from time to time slaves for himself, mostly before the Revolution.

Washington also hired for varying periods of time individual slaves, usually skilled artisans, from neighbors and acquaintances. These do not appear on this slave list.

Only one other complete roll of the slaves at Mount Vernon has been found. In February 1786 Washington recorded in his diary all the Mount Vernon slaves, dower and personal, the farms on which they lived, and their jobs. The total at that time came to 216; it did not include Mrs. French’s slaves, the use of whom Washington acquired later in the year.

There are also in the Washington Papers at the Library of Congress Washington’s lists of his tithables in Truro and Fairfax parishes (where Mount Vernon lies) for every year from 1760 through 1774. These have been printed in the Papers, Colonial Series. These lists name slaves living at Mount Vernon but do not include children under the age of sixteen and a few elderly slaves who were not tithed. The lists of tithables also include the names of indentured white servants and other whites living on the farms, including GW’s overseers and managers. For further information on GW’s slaves, see Charles Lee to GW, 13 Sept. 1786, and especially note 4 to that document, GW to William Triplett, 25 Sept. 1786, and notes 3 and 5 (Papers, Confederation Series, 4:247–49, 268–74), Memorandum: Division of Slaves [1762] and note to that document (Papers, Colonial Series, 7:172–74), Division of Slaves, 10 Dec. 1754 (ibid., 1:227–31), and Diaries, 4:277–83.

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Images of George Washington’s Slave List, June 1799
(courtesy of Mount Vernon). Click on images for larger view.

Notes

Retirement Series, Volume 4
AD, ViMtvL. A somewhat different list of only Mrs. French’s slaves was enclosed in Washington’s letter to Benjamin Dulany of 15 July 1799 (ALS [letterpress copy], NN: Washington Papers).

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