Required research are for efforts to determine who was the mother of William and Frank, and what happened to her? Both boys were purchased by George Washington shortly after his friend's death. The fact that Will was allowed to refer to himself as "William Lee" is strong evidence that both he and George Washington knew that he was descended from the famed Lee family; and made self-evident by a natural ability to learn and aggressively ride horses like Harry, Henry and the other famed Lee men.
The issue that would have pricked the conscience of Colonel John Lee and other owners (Christians, Jews and even free Negroes) who fathered slaves was that their flesh and blood were enslaved. Mulattos were very clear evidence that proud White slave-owning Christian and Jewish families were in fact enslaving their relatives. And, there ought to be more research into how and why so many wives of plantation owners accepted the obvious sexual relationships by their husbands with slave women.
An argument can be made by descendents of mulatto slaves that many wives of slave owners perceived sexual relationships by their husbands with slave women as a personal relief from the fear and burden of unwanted pregnancies that often led to early deaths and illness. So, in a biblical sense, husband and wife, may have found comfort in the practice by the story of Abraham and Sarah, and her hand-maiden/slave named Hagar, --- who was sent away with Abraham's son Ishmael. Southern plantation slave owners and others, including slaves, rationalized their attitudes and behavior on the basis of such old testament passages and prided themselves in being obedient to the laws of God. The near absolute power of the theology upholding slavery was in the beginning and ending of the practice cited on a daily basis to the extent that civil laws reflected the theology beliefs.
Further research is required as to the bible based cultural dynamics that existed prior to the death of Colonel John Lee. Evidence would suggest the boys William and Frank, like so many other mulattos may have enjoyed unusual privileges because the father did not want to be biblically guilty of having his concubine sons as his slaves. It is also possible that he may have loved his sons, --- a situation similar to what occurred in the powerful Custis family. Most plantations, especially widow owners, worked around the issue by sending such offspring to distant plantations that would use them as privileged house servants and not mention the names of their fathers. Most importantly, sons of slave owners by slave women concubines such as Hagar, though privileged and treated with kindness, could not be regarded as heirs to their father. This is more or less the argument put forth by descendents of Thomas Woodson and West Ford in their claims about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Unresolved questions remain as to whether or not William and Frank were baptized in the Episcopal Church of either Colonel John Lee or George Washington; and, whether or not William as his body servant attended worship services with Washington at the Pohick Episcopal Church. It is almost inconceivable that house slaves would not have been baptized. The evolved theology, including masonry, rationalizing and upholding slavery would have demanded it of respectable slave owners. Both boys were used as privileged house-servants; but William by age 20 in the year 1775 was the well-known body-servant/guard/soldier later freed by George Washington in 1799 for war-time services.
He was cited and freed in the hand-writing of Washington for services and injuries incurred in the seven year revolutionary war during which he was a witness and participant in every battle and place of presence by General Washington. He and a sizeable number of other mulatto and black soldiers (upwards of 5,000 freemen and slaves) were with Washington at his great maneuvers and battles of Dorchester Heights in Massachusetts, Long Island in New York, Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, Monmouth and Trenton in New Jersey and Yorktown in South Carolina. During his winter of 1777-1778 encampment at Valley Forge, William Lee married Margaret (Thomas) a free mulatto woman of Philadelphia employed by Washington as a washer woman during the war, and fathered a son, Joseph Lee, born around 1779. With the war ending and Treaty of Ghent between Great Britain and the new United States in 1783, --- General George Washington traveled in and about New York City and Philadelphia during 1784 as the great man executed treaty terms in the British evacuation of their former colonies.
Research of Washington's records indicate that William Lee, because of his wartime injuries, perhaps returned to Mount Vernon during 1784. Assumptions are that his lameness prevented him from any longer being the body guard/servant of George Washington. He was not with George Washington in 1786 when the general sought to make arrangements for Margaret Thomas, to join and live with William, her husband, at Mount Vernon. The obvious is that such special arrangements were necessary to secure a disposition by the Virginia Legislature to allow a free Negro, under law, to live in Virginia. The not so obvious conclusions are that Margaret Thomas refused to leave legal freedoms in Philadelphia to live in Virginia, --- risking her freeborn son Joseph who might be kidnapped and sold into slavery, or treated as a Mount Vernon slave. The period of such emotional trauma, by a woman married to a slave, and a slave married to a free woman, offers insight into the apparent ending of that marriage; and, the beginnings of a Mount Vernon approved marriage of William to Aggie, a mansion house slave belonging to Martha Washington.
George Washington's inventory of mansion house slaves at Mount Vernon in 1799, shortly before his death, lists those owned by him, such as William Lee; and those owned by Martha Washington, such as Aggie. Descendents believe that William Lee and Aggie were recognized as husband and wife by George Washington. This belief is given support by facts that Aggie, Rose and Nancy were cited as related and certified in 1825 by the Arlington County Clerk as free pursuant the will of Martha Washington in 1802. It is unlikely and unrealistic that Aggie a mansion house slave with relative privileges would have been married to a field hand (a different color and kind slave) named Will, on a distant Washington plantation --- or that such a man would have been included on the listing of mansion slaves.
Confusion as to the slave named "Will" identified as married to Aggie is resolved by the fact that Aggie was the mother of Rose Lee (about 1787 - 1864?) who in term was mother of Nancy Bannister Lee (possibly about 1810 -1912) whose offspring included a first-born female named Kansas Lee (1844 - ?) and a last born son Thomas Lee (1859 - 1946) born at the Arlington White House the day John Brown was hanged. Thomas, who died in 1946, often referred to grandma Rose as apparently living for a time during his adolescent years with mother Nancy. Freedmen's cemetery records indicate that a woman named "Rose" who died in 1864 is likely the Rose Lee left behind when and if Nancy moved to Richmond with the family of Robert E. Lee. The mystery about Nancy Lee is not only her true age, recorded as 1825-1912 on her tombstone in Bloomington, Ohio but also how she came to be in Midlothia (outskirts of Richmond) immediately after the Civil War? When was this Nancy freed? Or was she a bond-servant?
Again, the question remains as to whether Nancy was a free colored woman who hired herself out as an indentured servant to the Custiss Estate or a woman who had been re-enslaved by some legal means, such as misrepresentation of her age in 1825? The Custiss wills were somewhat confusing as to the age required of slaves to be set free at time of the owners death. It would appear that someone may have contested the age and freedom of Rose and/or Nancy, and returned one or both to slave status? Who were the Bannister family? Further research is needed as to the father of Nancy who insisted that she was a Bannister; and, if she was free in 1825, how and if she was the "Nancy and her children" cited in the will of Robert E. Lee in 1846 and apparently not freed until around 1862 in the vicinity of Richmond, Chesterfield County.
The issues are further complicated by the several persons in the 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 and even later census data of Chesterfield and other counties --- named after and perceived as descendents of William Lee an obvious fixture of great importance in the minds of his descendents. It is amazing that so many dozens of writers about the life of Robert E. Lee, --- never ever mind to interview any descendents of Custis-Lee slaves. For the average American scholar, slaves came to America with no cultural dynamics and were nothing but chattel until their emancipation by Abraham Lincoln, --- and segregated as inferiors until the 1964 civil rights act.
The contempt expressed by most American historians is rationalized on the old bigotry, --- slaves lied about being ill-treated and being illiterate they did not know that which they saw. Listening to such writers is sickening when one realizes that so little has changed in the cultural dynamics of this society. The big question is not why but how to improve the climate that breeds contempt. Our issue is that William Lee exhibited that which Jesus, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and men like them most admired, --- faith, hope and courage as the greatest of virtues! Only the first was born in the Messianic spirit but it surely existed in all by the time they died, --- as evidenced by their records and wills that essentially discarded Roman doctrines they had been born into. Indeed, Martha Custis Washington, who loved him most, could not understand George in his last years!
Slaves also were born into a doctrinal Roman republic of property and privilege. Not all slaves were virtuous but many were --- and that alone bred respect among men and women of Messianic mind-sets like Jefferson, and Lincoln too. It is very applicable to the scholar classes who seem unable to conceive virtues (or even beauty) as existing in people who were slaves or descendents of slaves. Worse still, many seem reluctant to accept facts that Messianic Christian doctrine was the most powerful influence to evolve in changing attitudes of courageous slaves, like Mary Perth of Norfolk and Lott Carey, or slave-owners like his master in Richmond. "Hope" emerged from the mouths of Jesses' in every generation and the mission has not changed one bit!
Slave life-styles in America, as occurred in the Roman Empire, were directly impacted by the evolutionary impact and overwhelming revolutionary power of Messianic Christian thought (over money, property and the Pauline- Christian and Judeo-Christian beliefs that established and rationalized it) among slaves and slave-owners. The Jefferson Foundation's challenge is to integrate the stories of human beings who were slaves within the generation of humanity they shared, --- in order to lend to the cause of integrating Americans of future generations in understanding the growing triumph by Jesus and Jefferson. No one since Christ has been infallible in attitudes and behavior, but during the 67 generations born since HIS birth --- we have come a long ways toward the goal of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for "the least of us." As Dr. King once preached "thank GOD Almighty."
The Jefferson Farm book facts are only one volume of at least 750 similar compilations of book-keeping and other family records available by the Virginia Historical Society regarding the leading slave owning generations of that state. Their records cover generation number 54, in the second millennium, 17th century from the birth of Christ (infamous year 1619 in calendar of Augustus) --- through the birth of generation number 63 in the age of Lincoln, 19th century. The facts are that nine generations of slaves and slavery in North America did not all have the same lifestyles, ie attitudes and behavior relative to the historic issues of security, money, Christ, geography and health. The good news is that hope lived and survived slavery solely via the "good news" --- but the bad news is that many still do not understand how to "keep hope alive" among and about "the least of us" by teaching truths now dormant in thousands of family archives.
Let the Jefferson Foundation light a candle that will be seen atop look-out mountain in Dr. King's Georgia, across the nation, --- and even among cousin Lees. Let the true light of Jefferson's life shine among aristocratic minded offspring of king cotton South Carolina and Mississippi multi-plantation owning families like the Hamptons; and, even inspire agnostic New York and New England millionaire families with stories that also ought to be told about the slave trade with Africa and the Caribbean.
Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book was edited by Edwin Morris Betts and published in 1999 by Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, Inc. It was originally published by the American Philosophical Society, and includes ages-names of his slaves. His flesh and spirit were procreative evidenced by what good has survived as generated by him. He was not perfect and his descendents via Sarah (Sally) Hemings have never condemned or denied him or her.
Jefferson's Farm book ought to be in possession and familiar to any scholar or minister who dare to speculate about American beginnings and history, including Christian development. Whether about Blacks or Whites, Jews or Gentiles, slave or free, the book chronicles fifty critical years in understanding factual details of creating the America we live in.
For African Americans, the book is especially important in efforts to see and feel the reality of the best plantation homes and work of slaves. Jefferson was one of the few best slave-owners and traders among hundreds of thousands that ranged from bible quoting Jews and Pauline Christians, ... to even free Mulatto and Black believers and non-believers.
We like the farm book and the later published garden book because of details that some slave owners did attempt to afford the existence of families among slaves; and even acknowledged husbands and wives in an institution that legally denied it. More important, the books are a clear documentation that many slaves were skilled artisans and contributed to building America - not as animals to pick crops and perform other menial tasks.
Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book and Garden Book are much more than a chronicle of fifty years of agriculture, slavery, and light industry on Virginia plantations. It and companion writings gradually being published for the world to digest (including the Jefferson Bible) are necessary reference tools (along with Shakespeare) for any (Black or White) scholar daring to offer advice about attitudes and behaviors of “certain minorities.”
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