tv The Presidency Bruce Ragsdale Washington at the Plow CSPAN September 1, 2022 8:26pm-9:23pm EDT
question of slavery. in the summer of 1787 in the midst of the meeting of the constitutional convention george washington recorded an outing in his diary. observing some farmers at work and entering into conversation with them. i received the following information with respect to the mode of cultivating buckwheat and the application of the grain. in his letters and diary entries throughout his life washington frequently makes observations on crops and farming practices. for his own mount vernon estate. he kept careful accounts all we seeking improvements in agricultural practices. one can read washington's own words on founders online a searchable website hosted by the national archives through the national historical publications and records commission over time washington's ideas about agriculture and agricultural
labor changed based on his own experiences and application of modern farming techniques in today's program. we'll hear from author bruce ragsdale whose new book washington at the plow discusses these changes in examines how washington's passion for farming led him to question the reliance on enslaved labor for say ragsdale served for 20 years as director of the federal judicial history office at the federal judicial center the author of a planter's republic the search for economic independence and revolutionary, virginia. he's been a fellow at the washington library mount vernon and the international center for jefferson studies. now that's here from bruce ragsdale. thank you for joining us today. thank you. i'm delighted to have this opportunity to speak to audience the archives and as the archivist said i relied so heavily on founders online the wonderful resource that has all the published correspondence in washington and other founders that made it so accessible to do this research.
um, the book is an attempt to write a full history of washington's life as a farmer of farming biography as it were and is his life as a farmer really still stands as the most important untold story about the most familiar of the founders and i started this project with a conviction that no one can fully understand washington without having some sense of why he preferred his life as a farmer so much and also what i hope to achieve for the new nation as a farmer in the way, he saw it. is it an additional kind of leadership in establishing the united states a british visitor to mount vernon 1785 reported that estrogen's greatest ambition following the american revolution was to be considered the first farmer of america washington's been celebrated for many firsts, but the idea of first farmer of america is one that has been lost to our
nation's memory and i wanted to find out why why that accolade would have been so important to washington so soon after he had just led the continental army to victory insecured american independence. why was it so important for him to tend to turn to farming in his service to the nation? i also wanted to uncover a side of washington that that seldom evident in his and and political life. he considered farming the activity that was best suited to his disposition. he certainly enjoyed it more than any other activities that it was more rewarding than any string of military victories could ever be and it reveals a private washington that it is often hard to discern. in his life you find a man who is deeply connected to the natural world around him. you find an intellectual curiosity and you find an engagement with a world of
enlightenment self-defined enlightened landowners on both sides of the atlantic it became a very important part of the person that washington wanted to be and what he wanted to bring to his farming at mount vernon. he affirming for washington was never just a private enterprise agriculturally thought would be one of the most important foundations of america's place in the world if it's respectability among a community of nations, and he always in all of his agricultural innovations over 40 years. he always was looking toward the larger direction of economic growth the political economy. that would be supported by different kinds of agriculture first. the 1760s when he moves away from tobacco, which he abandons in 1765 and makes wheat his cash crop. he does that in those small part because he sees the opportunities outside the
restrictions of empire was a crop that could be traded without the restrictions of the navigation accident encumbrate the tobacco trade and he saw it as a way of making virginia more independent more self-directed and then again after the revolutionary war when he adopts a program of diversified farming that he thinks will be the foundation of the new nations commercial prosperity that it'll provide the common commercial interest that we'll talk the nation together. and so farming was another demonstration of the kind of leadership that he had exercised as both a military and and political leader. but i also wanted to reconstruct a side of the heroic washington that is often forgotten about and especially as represented in this famous sculpture by the french sculptor. who don created for the state
capital in richmond, and that was the celebration of washington as the american cincinnatus that his return from the army to farming recalled the example of the roman general who had left his farm to defend the republic in in battle and then refused an offer of arbitrary power and return to his life as a farmer in the 18th century. the image of cincinnati central plow was held as an idea of civic virtue and washington is the plow became a similar representation made all the more powerful by his actual preference for farming and his deep engagement in farming at mount vernon after 1783 and the presentation that who don has here. it's it's um, he is showing washington. i'm not just as he takes off his
military cloak and hangs up this sword, but also with the plow that's at his feet and the plow at his side that is awaiting his life as a farmer and this representation of washington at the plow is especially notable because who done in consultation with franklin and jefferson and some input from washington, decided to present washington and modern dress rather than the classical address associated with cincinnati of agents and of the ancient cloud that was always associated with cincinnatus who don presents washington with a drill plow a new innovative kind of cloud washington designed one like this. it was manufactured by the enslaved carpenters in blacksmiths at mount vernon and this becomes another representation of washington service through through his his
embrace of the cloud. washington is also associated with the plow and he retires from resigns as president and 1797 in this image. that was created to celebrate that event washington is surrendering the symbols of power on the throne of liberty, but with his left hand, he just gestures to mount vernon and waiting for him at mount vernon is is the plow of the yoke of oxen. and so as these themes and images suggest washington after 1783 is effectively farming on the public stage that he's being closely a watched in by both europeans and americans celebrated as washington at the plow this idea of a farmer doing the public good and that notion of the public that frames many of the expectations of
washington as a farmer. he places greater emphasis on the civic benefits of the agricultural improvements. he introduces but those expectations also frame his new reckoning with slavery in the years following the revolutionary war and it's here in his life as a farmer more than any other dimension of his life that we can discern how washington ultimately confronted the paradox of slavery freedom that runs throughout the founding. and it says a farmer that we can find the most detailed record of his changing attitudes towards slavery. the story of washington the farmer is the story of washington made slaver farming and enslaved labor were inseparable to washington throughout his entire life as a farmer and he once wrote that he didn't like to even think about
slavery let alone write about it or talk about it, but in fact he thought about slavery all the time and he thought about it and wrote about it in terms of his management of the enslaved agricultural labor at at his own estate and it's there in that record that you can see both the change in attitude and also the record of his daily interactions with the enslaved laborers who means supervised and control and then finally when washington does ultimately decide to search for some way to emancipate the enslaved people. he controls the only record we have of that process and thought process is through his record of farming and israel organization of mount vernon. it is here this example of this document of washington made in 17909 toward the end of his
life. he gave a detailed description of various enslaved laborers at mount vernon this documents only in the last 10 years come to light it was acquired by mount vernon and it's in the library there. it's available on their website and what's really interesting about this document is that if such a detailed description of individual laborers and what he sees as their strength, it also makes clear that it finds these individuals largely through their labor and through their valued him but it shows a kind of close personal connection and engaged personally engagement that is not available in any place other than in these farming records. when i started the research for this book, i thought i had a pretty good sense of the trajectory of washington's life as as a farmer. but what i now think are two of the most important contributions
of the book came largely as surprises as i as i undertook the research, um, and the first of the surprises is the depth of washington's commitment to british agriculture to british models of agricultural improvement. and in the middle decades of the 18th century. um transformation of farming and great britain had brought about remarkable increases in productivity and as soon as washington becomes a full-time farmer in 1759 after he leaves the virginia regiment, he's determined to adopt many of those practices from british husbandry to bring it into virginia to create a new kind of farming and new kind of agriculture at mount vernon that would open up new kinds of opportunities and provide a new role for him and he learns about these new techniques almost
entirely through books beginning in 1759. he starts to order new books through his tobacco merchants in london. this is one of the most important is thomas hales complete body of husbandry, and he not only brings these books into his library and takes extensive notes, but we can i'm very specifically trace experiments that he undertakes changes in cultivation that he undertakes. two and after he receives this and other books, he develops one of the largest libraries of practical british treatises in in virginia at the time and he learns about a practical agriculture through these but also learns about a whole culture of farming that was um promoted by a new type of gentleman self-profess gentleman farmer in great britain as the frontest piece on our right side illustrates, um, these gentlemen farmers often connected their
efforts with the great agriculturalists of antiquity people like virtually sinny they often presented there improvements as a kind of civic even patriotic service that they were undertaking experiments that would lead common farmers to improve their land and washington found in this cultural farmer a new role for the virginia planter that the virginia planter could be and take on this role of demonstrating new kinds of farming that would diversify farming it would open up new kinds of commercial opportunities. what's even more surprising is that that this commitment to english has been british husbandry increases over time and is becomes stronger and stronger after the revolutionary war after independence from from the empire washington is still deeply committed to these british models and and 1785. he announces that he wants to
undertake a complete a course of husbandry as practice in the best farming counties in england, and this is not just cultivation methods or new crops. this is a very elaborate complicated system of crop rotations immigrated with livestock management and especially restoration of the soil stewardship of the soil. and it leads him to to redesign the entire agricultural landscape over thousands of acres have mount vernon and also leads him to demand that the enslaved construct a whole new infrastructure of farming including what washington thought was the largest barns in the united states. they probably were all constructed on the basis of very sophisticated british models. the same time washington begins correspondence with some of the most important agriculturalists in in great britain, and they
really become his confidants and and guides as he implements new types of farming after 1785. um, but the second and closely related surprise was was the enormous effort that washington expended on in trying to adapt enslaved labor to this complicated course of british husbandry, and this is a merger of british notions of enlightened farming with enslaved labor. that really is is unique to washington. no one else is trying to do it on the scale that he has and it's a challenge that that he understands is is unique to him. during the revolutionary war washington on a couple of vacations in private correspondence. cicely wants to be done with managing enslaved labor that he wants to be done with relying on its slave labor for agriculture and those comments combined with
a few remarks in the 1780s that he supported the principle of gradual abolition and persuaded many historians from the revolution on washington is is trying to extricate himself from the institution of slavery that he sees the future of american agriculture going in a different direction, but in fact from the time that he adopts this new style of forming farming and 1785. he takes a number of very decisive actions to make increase his reliance on his sleep flavor and to adapt that labor to new kinds of farming find new value in the enslaved labor that he has acquired for at mount vernon he relies on enslaved overseers at four of the five plantations at mount vernon that are involved with commercial agriculture.
he tries to replace the hired white artisans who had paid unto do various kinds of skilled trades with enslaved laborers at mount vernon, especially carpenters who would make the agricultural implements with bricklayers who would help build these tremendous agricultural structures and work with the carpenters in this complicated. joinery and most of the enslaved labors, of course, we're working in the fields and washington imposes a new kind of specialization of labor and and it's a specialization of labor by gender. he puts more and more of the agricultural work the field work on responsibility of the enslaved women, whereas more and more of the enslaved men are
working as artists and craftsmen, but it's a very carefully constructed program to to take the labor that he had it on firm in the slave labor and to apply it to new kinds of farming washington understood that what he was trying to do was unprecedented and certainly he was not going to get any advice on our suggestions from the british agricultural treatises. he wrote i mean that he read and he devises a new kind of supervision of the enslaved. is original to him and it allows him to supervise labor much more closely than he ever had before. he devises these weekly work reports which eventually are kept in the format of of bookkeeping formatted even though there's no money. i mean transferred not know a monetary values being recorded but rather each plantation is in
rec is indented for the number of flavors. they had and then credited for the work that those laborers did over the course of a week. he received these every week. um, usually prepared on a saturday and from 1785 until the end of this life and they allow him to exercise enormous supervision and control over the enslaved labors, even when he is not at mount vernon as president while president philadelphia he devoted most sundays to review this work reports and writing a very detailed instructions for as farm manager in response to that. this these reports are just one example of the many kinds of records that washington kept about his estate. he was a had a pension for all kinds of record-keeping.
and it those records collectively make converting probably the best documented a state in the chesapeake in the 18th century and he keptic it also made possible writing a book like this. here's an example of the kind of exactitude and and detailed that he would offer his farm manager. this is his architectural design for an innovative barn for trading week with horses a 16-sided barn of very complicated construction. and this is at the bottom. is he provides exact details on how the lumber was to be cut he explains which lumber was to be gathered on the state which to be bought from alexandria, but he put this together at one of the busiest times of his presidency. this is this document was sent to his manager of the week before he was elected to a term and as came back from the fields
one day and in the 1780s and he creates this remarkable count of seeds of how many seeds are in a pound and a bushel how many seeds have various crops are needed to so various acres and he's it's looking for an exactitude in a new kind of an efficiencies through this really quite remarkable attention to detail. he brought that same attention to detail in many of the records related to the enslaved particularly in the work reports that i just shown and then also in in the record of the provisions of the enslaved the clothing and food and those kind of detailed records aside from the correspondence it really what made possible some reconstruction of the lives and the work of the enslaved. that record is always imperfect because it is kept almost
entirely by washington. twice managers rather than any input from the enslaved themselves, but these these kind of plantation records and accounts allow for a much broader reconstruction of the work of the enslaved and many historians one thought was possible and if some tantalizing view of people you'd like to know far more about the one person i would love to have better records for and know more about its man named david gray david gray was an enslaved overseer. he had started out as a field worker. he later learned how to create a wheat, which was especially valued trade or or craft and washington was trying to train the enslave to do it rather than to hire white cradlers to do it and enormous expense and then in gray is made.
sierra only the second enslaved overseer of the farm where he had worked. he continues this overseer for 30 years. he works on several different of the farms over that time. he probably knew the land and the patterns of farming better than anyone maybe better than washington because gray was there as a supervisor of labor and a farming during the long years that washington was away in the revolution and again as president, but in all the records in the many references today we break this document is the only one that has any indication of his mark is quite literal mark that he apparently was not able to write but we do have this one receipt that he marks is in receipt for having been paid for poultry that he raised for martha washington just after the death of george,
washington and marcus is is the one indication of gray gray himself. great was able to like the other enslaved overseers greg received some small cash payments from washington, and he apparently used those to buy poultry that he could then sell. he also after the death of washington and the sale of the livestock maybe gray was able to purchase a cow or quite remarkable purchase for an enslaved person, but he was not able to purchase his own freedom or in any other week, and he was one of the so called our slaves those that were controlled by the custis estate washington was able to use their labor during his marriage to martha custis, but upon his death and martha's death the dower slaves were divided among the custis grandchildren and david gray remained enslaved. for all of this attention to
detail that washington never loses sight of a much grander aspirational vision of farming that he's going to implement at mount vernon. this is the seal of the agricultural society of philadelphia's society for improving agriculture, which washington was inducted as an honorary member and she was in a great deal of correspondence and gained a lot of practical assistance from and it presents this this very aspirational notion of what farming will contribute to the new nation series is here presented the goddess of agriculturists here presented with a crown of 13 stars. this improvement society like washington was focused. they had a vision for agriculture in the united states, but it was focused primarily on trying to bring the best of british agriculture to
to the new united states. and washington from the later years of his service in the revolutionary war he starts to talk about make references to the vine and fig tree of life under the vine and fig tree and anticipation of his life after the revolutionary war and and he um sees those biblical references including the many about turning swords into plowshares this as representative of a new kind of peaceful era that he thinks will be based on agricultural improvement and a shared culture of agricultural improvement with other nations and particularly great britain. he bonds with a lot of british agriculturalists and their mutual rejection of the mercantilism that they think has led to war and and that they
believe that they're in this effort and they engage in almost global exchange of agricultural knowledge and of agricultural plant material agricultural implements. this this image here of what's called general washington's -- hardly seems like the start of a new era of enlightened exchange. but in fact it was that this is this is a documentation of washington's first improvement project after the revolutionary war he decided that he wanted to breed mules and that amules were supposed to be superior to all other draft animals in their endurance in their longevity and also in the cost of their upkeep and he um decides he wants to
procure a spanish -- which was considered the best animal from which to breed mules, but they were prohibited from export from spain and when he sends out some letters trying to find out how he might get one. it sets in play a whole network of highest level of diplomatic circles in in europe and it also attracts the attention of the king of spain charles king charles the third recognizes that um, this is a new way of supporting their ally in the revolutionary war and he orders that one of our two of the prize animals would be sent to washington in the united states the one that survived was named royal gift and when he comes it, he's almost a kind of celebrity in his own right? he's pictured here in this, massachusetts farmers almanac
and also his journey from massachusetts where he's landed to mount vernon is covered in the newspapers and he attracts the interest of other agricultural improvers throughout the united states ranging from john jay and in new york to the political elite in in charleston, south carolina who all want to bring their mayors for breeding with royal gift and vernon and over the next 15 years. question participated in this global network of scientific and agricultural exchange that extends mostly through the patterns of the british empire but also through diplomatic channels of of the united states he received seeds and plants from all over the world. he is planting wheat from cape colony and southern africa from the barbary coast and in africa
even receives weight that was sent to him by agriculturalist in great britain. it supposedly was seen that had been given from cat by catherine the great of russia to george the third and so washington it is connected with this whole world of improvement and also exploration of the natural world and and exchange a plant exchange. it also includes agricultural implements. he gets plow. from great britain and most importantly includes even more books to add to his library and he again returns to his practice of taking detailed notes from agricultural treatises that he can apply those lessons to the farming and mount vernon. on in return washington welcome
to many many visitors who pilgrimage to mount vernon and he offered them a view of an agricultural landscape and unlike anything else in the united states. this is the famous five farm maps by farms map that he draws in 1793 and it shows this extent to which he had completely reworked the landscape at mount vernon to incorporate british british farming. and a visitor from one of the visitors people who came to mount vernon recognized that it just looked different from any other farms in the united states particularly those in virginia a visitor from europe couldn't believe that washington had not been to europe because he had so completely absorbed the ideas of agricultural landscape. um, and also that visitors
recognize the civic purpose of what washington was trying to do that the new french minister to the united states came to mount vernon and walks with washington on a circuit of all the farms and he wrote back later and said that the barns that he was building were a monument to patriotism these were showing the for other american farmers and this is a detail from that map which shows that he also was creating. vistas and views that connected the different farms in other words, it's it's agriculture on display to the visitors. here is the farm with the long tree-lined alley that went to the grandis barnes that he built of all at union farm. and in this image of mount vernon that was paid by savage in the late
1780s or early 90s was um, one of the very few that showed the housing was provided for enslaved families to the right of mount vernon is what was known as the house for families and when these visitors who came to mount vernon, of course, not only saw the agricultural improvements, but they saw the large number of enslaved labors who were carrying out washington's innovations who were responsible for the changes and innovations that he had brought to mount vernon and just just as agriculturalists on both sides of the atlantic recognized that the powerful symbol of the general turned farmer. so a new generation of anti-slavery advocates record. we're convinced that washington support for their cause and washington's emancipation of his
own enslaved laborers would add a measurably to the abolitionist movement and encourage other people to join with him, or at that's what they thought. and washington becomes one of the most important objects. of the appeals of these abolitionists that he becomes their special target among all the founders. the first appeal was its documented is from lafayette who invited washington to join him in an experiment to educate and slave laborers to be self-supporting and independent tenants on the land. washington received other personal appeals from religious leaders such as the methodist clergy who wanted him to support a petition for gradual abolition in virginia or the quaker leaders who came to him and in new york to ask him to as
president to support petitions to congress for the freedom of slaves. and french translationist jacque pierre brosseau came to mount vernon with a very special appeal that he wanted washington to establish and be the leader of a new abolitionist society in virginia, and we're so like many of the others who appealed to, washington. would they called recalled the language of liberty from the revolution and they called on washington as the hero of american liberty to now extend that kind of liberty to be enslaved laborers at his estate and hopefully that that would then lead to further emancipation of enslaved laborers throughout the united states. and we're so-called washington said this and said it was appropriate that the man he called the savior of america
would become the liberator of the hundreds of thousands of enslaved blacks in the united states and these appeals to washington including some that were harshly critical and depressed continue through throughout his life. um and apart from the a very few private comments that washington makes and supported gradual abolition. um the change in his attitude towards slavery is really only evident in his record of farming and his record as as an agricultural improver and in the years after he first heard the appeals of abolitionists. he attempted institutes a new new ways of managing enslaved labor any attempts to um shield the enslaved from the worst and most inhumane parts of of slavery most what he thinks of the most inhumane aspects of
slavery. he resolves not to be involved in the purchase or sale of enslaved flavors. he resolves to protect the families of the enslaved. he insists that his managers provide adequate food and medical care and he also tries to discourage the use of violent punishment, especially in a violent. and used in coercion for the coercion of labor and in a way that mirrored similar efforts in the caribbean and among other people including thomas jefferson who thought he could make slavery more rational and humane washington in some ways thought he could try to improve slavery like he was improving agriculture, but by making these resolutions and guaranteeing some minimal protections of sleep washington return increases his demand for labor, and he thinks that in return he
that the enslaved people oh him what he calls there duty to work from sunup to sundown and to do all of the labor that it there capable of caring out. um, so i said, it's difficult to write about so great mount vernon because of the silences that are imposed on the enslaved the fact that they are not able to leave their own mark in the in the record. but as i worked on this project i came to recognition that washington created his own silences that make it further difficult to document his life as an in slaver and in his changing attitudes towards slavery. when lafayette first approached him about the experiment to prepare the enslaved for freedom washington replies that it gives
some big support and affirmation that he'd like to help him. but he also says that any discussion of this should wait till you're at mount vernon that becomes a pattern where washington reserves for conversations that are undocumented any kind of detailed talk about steps away from slavery any kind of consideration of emancipation or or freedom for the enslaved. um, and it's it's that record. it's that record that makes the study of washington as a farmer so important for understanding his eventual path to emancipation of enslaved. um and it it's in this this famous map that i had already shown up of the five farms was
actually created as washington's first step toward what he thought would be a program that would allow him to emancipate the enslaved or at least find some other kinds of less world, um dependency for them and he creates this map in 1793 as part of a very elaborate plan that he has to lease his forms to skilled british farmers who would come and take over his improvements continue his improvements, but who would not rely on his slave labor and that the money they provided washington he hoped would allow him to free the enslaved he suggests that one point that they might then work is higher laborers other people who advise him said that it they might be able to work as tenants, but it's part of this plan that he puts forth in 1793.
from and draws this map as a way of showing the british farmers what would be available for for them to to lease? and how washington got to this point is is somewhat harder to document but there's definitely a change that takes place during his presidency and that he comes to the recognition that the kind of agricultural system that he wants to implement the kind of enlightened agriculture that he hopes to implement and vernon is incompatible with slavery and as president he he gets so much broader perspective on american agriculture, and he begins to understand the ways in which reliance on slavery separated, virginia and maryland from other parts of the country to the north that were engaged in the same kind of farming, but without the reliance on slavery.
so then his particularly his his residence in in pennsylvania where he closely observes farming while he's there as president and he comes to the conclusion that that pennsylvania has improved agriculture much more than in virginia not because they have greater advantages of soil is better rather. he concludes that is because pennsylvania has provided for the gradual abolition of slavery and that virginia has no but that he's convinced virginia and maryland will need to adopt that gradual abolition if they were going to keep up and compete with the improved farming of, pennsylvania. um of course. washington understood that virginiaans were not going to he acknowledges that to pursue and others that virginians are not going to endorse gradual abolition and at that point he
decides that he's going to have to try to find a way to do it himself and it was first through this plan of leasing their farms to british farmers. it was a wildly impractical idea. he refused to lease the farms to any american farmers said he wouldn't hand it over to the slovenly farmers in the united states and despite the support of a number of british correspondents in trying to recruit people it never it never happens. and so washington is left to his own. actions and just in the summer of 1799 and just five months before it's unexpected death washington drafted the will that would provide for the freedom of more than 120 enslaved people at mount vernon, and he ensured that the enslaved ones freed. would those that were older and firm would be cared for that the young would be trained to take
care of themselves and be self-supporting but beyond that he offered no he offers no principle statement of opposition to slavery and he never explains what it was. he was hoping to accomplish whether he expected other people to follow his um, it's actions that they didn't and as he rightly anticipated probably that i'm very few virginians would share his idea on it would not be two away from emancipation the abolitionist at home. completely so just in closing several years after he resumed his life as as a full-time farmer after the revolutionary war washington had wrote said that the life of the husband was the most delectable life of all he said that to seed plants rise from the earth and flourish
right by the superior skill and bounty of the labor heals a contemplative mind with ideas, which are more easy to be conceived than expressed. it was a kind of poetic expression. we don't only associate with washington, but it's one that fine throughout his vision of farming it was that idea of a natural bounty of and and of the rural landscape and the dignity of labor that it originally attracted him to the model of british husbandry of the 1760s and it had guided his further adoption of british style husbandry in the 1780s and visit. to to mount vernon coming into the most public room. this is the freeze in the new room at mount vernon washington decorated both the walls and the ceiling with with sort of the symbols of this kind of improved agriculture and lightened agriculture that he had adopted from great britain.
he also was convinced that his engagement with that enlightened world of agricultural improvement would would bring about a new kind of peace he chose for the top crowning decoration of mount vernon this vein that he designed the piece of dove again recalling the scriptural prescriptions to learn more as part of the turning cloud swords into lao shares and he was convinced that they agricultural improvement would allow the nation to both engage in peaceful commerce and also it establish a kind of political stability based on with the store chip of the land discouraged have passage movement of the west. but that ideal of rural life remains in common ground
washington's life remained in conflict with a system of labor that dependent on coercion and a denial of individual liberty and in this book. i tried to recover not just what i think is an essential dimension of washington as a farmer, but also have tried to show how his pursuit of particular model of agricultural improvement, ultimately and uniquely to him convinced him that slavery had no place and i am enlightened commercially prosperous new nation. thank you. if a few questions here a time to answer. very good question that many people have asked as it's can
you discuss if the cultivation of various crops such as weed as opposed to other crops affected the number of enslaved workers, washington needed. and many people have thoughts over and have written in the past that once he transitions to wheat that he no longer has the need for as many enslaved labors, but that's not true. he finds productive employment for enslaved labors. he actually continues to buy in slave laborers after he transitions to wheat. and in part because we as he implements it depends on a much greater diversity of crafts. and so he employs more of the enslaved in these crafts. he's building a whole infrastructure at the farm of barns. and and also there is just more work to maintain the kind of fields that are necessary wheat requires far more land. then tobacco as a crop, it requires less work on a daily basis than tobacco, but it
requires far more land and so washington actually increases his need for enslaved laborers for his demand for enslaved labor after the transition to wheat and through most of his life. he is able to find productive work for the enslaved labors, and then it's only in the midst late 1790s that he finally decides that he has more labor than he can productively employed. another question. did washington's agricultural activities affect his presidency. i would say yes very much. so and he sees himself as sort of agricultural representative of the united states. he puts together a remarkable survey of american agriculture. it's not a part of his formicial duties, but he receives a a request from a leading agriculturalist and very britain arthur young and washington calls on a number of the leading
farmers who are also part of the government most notably thomas jefferson and he puts together this extensive, um a report on american farming. he also tries very hard to get congress to endorse an institution comparable to what the british part parliament had established a board of agriculture. that would do surveys of agriculture like the one he had carried out but also recommend national legislation. so he begins to see a more active role for governor in the promotion of agriculture. congress does not pass that war of agriculture because a great disappointment. and let me see what else is here. and christian did enslave laborers help manage mount ferment during the war
washington has two enslaved overseers who are running plantations who are supervising the farming and the labor at those plantations boris said the dove run plantation and david gray the man i had spoken about who is then that money whole plantation and they play a very important role in trying to find some way of increasing revenue during the revolutionary war when markets are interrupted. he has them grow tobacco. he had given up tobacco, but he thinks maybe he could make some money from that and he instructs both of those in the two overseers who are involved in because they had been involved with genome before it's not terribly successful as an experiment more because of disruption of tobacco park that's then then the work of it's a christian here were black
laborers washington's only slaves. there's no one enslaved in mount vernon who is not black but when is important is to recognize that washington's ever entirely dependent on slave labor. he threw out his life hires of a number of white skilled craftsman, usually and also indentured sir. see is purchasing in the time and service of indentured servants throughout his time as a farmer. what's interesting. is that after 1785 he requires most of those in dentures have been as part of their contract with him to also train enslaved laborers in in their crafting or ditchers who are the people who drain the fields and maintain the boundaries of the plantation. page that's all the questions that we have here.