Bonnie Carruth's Reviews > A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons

A Slave in the White House by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor
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Mar 21, 2012

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Read from March 12 to 21, 2012

Money talks. Our founding fathers had many slave owners among their number. They faced a conundrum, how to live up to their ideals and not lose money. For the most part money won.They had pledge "their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor" to the cause of independence. But when it came down to taking a hit in their pocket books to free their slaves, their slaves remained enslaved.Their honor was lost when it came to breaking promises to free people in their wills or to keep families together. If a debt was due selling off a young man or woman was an easy way to raise money. Dolly Madison's father was a patriot who after the Revolution freed his slave and went broke in his new profession. George Washington asked his wife Martha Custis Washington to free all Washington slaves on her death. But the majority of slaves he worked were Custis slaves.Jefferson did not free his mistress or their children.

Washington, Jefferson and Madison feared that if slavery was abolished the southern states would have left the fledgling union. No one can say for certain if the young republic would have died aborning if they had been true to their ideals and cut the rotting canker that was slavery out of the body politic but it would have been a magnificent gesture.

One of the heroes of the book is Daniel Webster. He spoke aginst slavery and he put his money where his mouth was by purchasing several enslaved people and allowing them to work their purchase price out.

This book can be dull and pendantic but it is worth the reading.

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