Thursday, August 4, 2011

Living in a glass house: slavery...

I recently finished a new biography on George Washington by Ron Chernow that is probably one of the best biographies I've ever finished. Washington, of course, was a large slave-holder and struggle with the issue of abolition of slavery all his life and found the answer only when he died. In his will he desired that all the slaves he owned were to be freed when he died (14 December 1799), and no later than the death of his Wife, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (22 May 1802). Washington left the task to his wife!

Over and over in this biography I couldn't get over how Washington could do all the other heroic things for which he's known for, "Father of His County," etc., but the issue of his inability of his slaves kept returning to me as the black bar sinister against his character. He knew slavery was wrong, he despised slavery, but he wouldn't free his slaves...he couldn't imagine running Mount Vernon and his other real estate without human slavery!

I personally believe that the greatest mistake the United States ever committed was allowing slavery to exist here with all the noble words we live by in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Do I also find slavery repugnant because I am descended from the Puritans of Massachusetts who had to farm hardscrabble property themselves without slaves? It was acceptable to own slaves in Massachusetts at the time of George Washington's life, but I have never discovered any of my Northern ancestors to own slaves on this continent (I realize I could someday find this in error). Owning the life of another human being is completely wrong!

So as I belittle George Washington for owning slaves, I conveniently forget that some of my Southern family Owned slaves! My ggg grandfather, Atticus Tucker (1809-1853) owned at least 46 slaves and at his death in 1853 they were all listed in his estate papers next to the kitchen table, the fine carriage, and the mules. My descent from Atticus Tucker is as follows:

Atticus Tucker (1809-1853)
m. Nancy (before 1842)

Hamilton Butler Tucker (1842-1904)
m. Louisa Garnet (by 1860)

Hulda Ida Tucker (1860-1899)
m. James Warren Brooks (after 1880)

Roy "Peck" Brooks (1893-1971)
m. Eva Ruth Brooks (1927)

James Warren Brooks (1931-2010)
m. Judith Leola Hackett (1955)

Sarah Ruth Brooks (1961)

Painful as it is to know, my ancestors also owned slaves and they made no attempt to free their slaves at their demise. My ancestors grew rich based on the enforced servitude of other persons. Below is the estate record of Atticus Tucker and a listing all of the slaves he owned:

Estate of Atticus Tucker, deceased, 12 December 1853, Personal Property
Value Name Purchased by
$170.00 Aimy
$605.00 Bill Stone
$295.00 Lucinda
$705.00 Umphry
$900.00 Andrew
$1,430.00 Sarah & 2 children, Jane & Manda
$800.00 Solomon A. Wilson
$1,500.00 Lucy & 2 children, Fanny & Laury
$850.00 Dick
$980.00 Sampson Furman
$850.00 Thomas Glover W. B. Doon
$910.00 Black Joe A. Wilson
$950.00 Yellow Joseph
$1,000.00 Edmund A. Wilson
$1,000.00 Thomas A. Blande
$1,000.00 Edmund Wilson A. Blande
$1,000.00 Big John W. B. Doon
$1,000.00 Henry
$700.00 George W. B. Doon
$850.00 Wesley Wideman Talbert
$850.00 Bill Wideman Talbert
$900.00 Bill Lucius Tompkins
$750.00 Bill Chamberlain
$750.00 Sharp W. B. Doon
$850.00 Brit A.Wilson
$1,000.00 Jack W. B. Doon
$1,000.00 Greer
$1,000.00 Sol
$800.00 Dian W. B. Doon
$850.00 Sam W. C. Robertson
$795.00 Jim
$800.00 Lewis W. B. Doon
$900.00 Randol Mallett
$850.00 Baily A. Blande
$700.00 Jim Boy
$600.00 David Jas. Newby
$610.00 Little Wesley
$700.00 Elmyra
$700.00 Nancy W. B. Doon
$700.00 Nancy Howle
$1,000.00 Nelson W. Thoms
$900.00 Jimmy A. Wilson

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