1774: Washington said new British laws would make Americans "as tame and abject slaves as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway." (Flexner, p114)
1778/9: Washington was reluctant to buy or sell slaves, although he felt that: “If these poor wretches are to be held in a state of slavery, I do not see that a change of masters will render it more irksome, provided husband and wife, and parents are not separated from each other, which is not my intention to do." (Flexner, p118)
1786 Washington complained about a Quaker abolitionist society: “I can only say that no man living wishes more sincerely than I do to see the abolition of (slavery)…But when slaves who are happy & content to remain with their present masters, are tampered with & seduced to leave them… it introduces more evils than it can cure."(Hirschfield,p187)
Before 1793: "The unfortunate condition of the people whose labors I in part employed has been the only unavoidable subject of regret. To make the adults among them as easy and comfortable as their actual state of ignorance and improvidence would admit; and to lay a foundation to prepare the rising generation for a destiny different from that in which they were born, afforded some satisfaction to my mind, and could not, I hoped, be displeasing to the justice of the Creator." (Flexner, p121)
1793: As president Washington signed the Fugitive Slave Act.
1793: Washington hoped to rent and/or sell parts of his land, freeing the slaves to work as laborers. In a private letter he said his most powerful motive was:"to liberate a certain species of property which I possess very repugnantly to my own feelings, but which imperious necessity compels, and until I can substitute some other expedient by which expenses not in my power to avoid (however well disposed I may be to do it) can be defrayed." He was unable to find suitable renters or buyers and the plan fell through.(Flexner, p113)
Approx 1794: One of Washington’s slaves died: “I hope every necessary care and attention was afforded him. I expect little from (Overseer) McKoy, or indeed from most of his class, for they seem to consider a Negro much in the same light as they do the brute beasts on the farms, and often treat them as inhumanely.” (Wilkins,p83)
While Washington was serving as president in Philadelphia a Pennsylvania law was passed freeing slaves whose owners had been citizens of the state for six months. Washington sent his two most valuable slaves home, telling them it was for his wife’s convenience.(Wilkins, p76)