Washington’s Critique Of Slavery

Washington concluded that his slaves worked four times as fast when he was directly supervising them than when he was absent. Try as he might, he was never able to get his slaves to work efficiently, which was one of the initial reasons he came to oppose the institution. He realized that the slaves had no incentive to work hard and develop “a good name” for themselves. This he thought was slavery’s greatest single flaw as a system of labor. He believed that people strove to do well in life in order to win the respect of others. But slaves had no opportunity to win respect or earn good reputations; hence their presumed lack of ambition. He often wondered what they might accomplish if they were free men.12

Wood, Gordon S. (2009). Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (Oxford History of the United States) (Kindle Locations 9353-9357).

I’ve never found Washington to be particularly interesting (the same can be said of Andrew Jackson*), so I know comparatively little about him in relation to other Rev. War and Early Republic figures (say Jefferson, Madison, Benjamin Rush, etc.).  This quote definitely lifts my interest in him in a way I didn’t expect.

*Military biographies, as opposed to military history, have always bored me, and I frame Washington and Jackson as being primarily military figures.  This may or may not be fair.

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