Reflections on a Visit to Mount Vernon

George Washington was a great man. He became one despite his humble roots because he sought distinction his entire life. He was also every man. He strove to prominence, but he made compromises that, when he came to realize the evil of them, he couldn’t imagine a way out.

He enslaved other humans.

Washington looked around and saw other prominent men enslaved people, and he probably thought he treated his better than they did. And he intended to free them upon his death. (I suspect all of them had some such fiction to calm their screaming consciences.)

Other contemporary wealthy Virginians, notably Robert Carter III, freed their enslaved people and provided for their entry into life free. More, like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, willed to free their enslaved people but never did.

Washington shouldn’t have judged himself by the standard of his neighbors but of his Lord. And of course he—all of us—fell way short of that standard.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’” Matthew 19:23