(1790 - 1799)

Chronology On The History of Slavery, 1790 To 1799


Virginia’s slave population reaches 200,000, up from over 100,000 from 1756. (The People's Chronology, 1994 by James Trager from MS Bookshelf.)


During the American Revolution, 20 percent of the overall population in the thirteen colonies was of African descent. The legalized practice of enslaving blacks occurred in every colony. The economic realities of the southern colonies, however, perpetuated the institution, which was first legalized in Massachusetts in 1641. During the Revolutionary era, more than half of all African-Americans lived in Virginia and Maryland. Most of these blacks lived in the Chesapeake region, where they made up more than 50 to 60 percent of the overall population. The majority, but not all, of these African-Americans were slaves. In fact, the first official United States Census, taken in 1790, showed that 8 percent of the black populace was free. [Edgar A. Toppin. "Blacks in the American Revolution" (published essay, Virginia State University, 1976), p. 1]. Whether free or slave, blacks in the Chesapeake established familial relationships, networks for disseminating information, survival techniques, and various forms of resistance to their condition. (Colonial Williamsburg Web Page http://www.history.org/)


The first successful U.S. cotton mill is established at the falls of the Blackstone River at what later will be called Pawtucket, R.I. Samuel Slater and ironmaster David Wilkinson set up a mill that operates satisfactorily after a correction is made in the slope of the carder teeth (see 1789; 1793; Whitney, 1792). (The People's Chronology 1995, 1996 by James Trager from MS Bookshelf)


More than half the 750,000 blacks in the United States lived in Maryland and Virginia. : (Bob Arnebeck, A Shameful Heritage, Washington Post Magazine, January 18, 1889)


Slave make up population of Maryland of which DC was apart at the time is 97,623 total of which 43,450 is Black. (See http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/cliff_m/ for genealogical research)


The population of the United States in 1790 was about 4 million, of whom 60,000 were free blacks and 400,000 were slaves. The largest contributor of colonists to the Americas was Great Britain. During the 17th century, about 250,000 English immigrants arrived, settling primarily in Virginia, Massachusetts, and the Caribbean islands. In the 18th century more than 1.5 million people came from the British Isles to America. The majority of newcomers to the Western Hemisphere, however, were African slaves. About 10 million of them were brought over before 1800.(Compton's Encyclopedia Online http://www.comptons.com/encyclopedia/)

First Census lists 697,897 slaves in the United States.(British Source http://the.arc.co.uk/arm/CronOfColonialism.html)


Congress passes act to make Washington, DC the Capitol of the United States. (H. Paul Caemmerer, The Life of Pierre Charles L'Enfant Planner o the City of Beautiful, The City of Washington, Washington DC, 1950)


Pierre Charles L'Enfant develops plan for capital city; he and President Washington select site for "Congress House."(U.S. Capital web Page Chronology http://www.aoc.gov/


Uprising of Free colored men in Port-with-Prince, Haiti (Chronology of the abolition of French slavery Remerciements à Pascal Boyries, Professeur d'Histoire-Géographie, au lycée Charles Baudelaire d'Annecy, http://perso.wanadoo.fr/yekrik.yekrak/chronoeng.htm)


Slaves hired from their masters by Pierre L'Enfant begin work on the Construction of the White House. "Since much was accomplished very quickly there must have been many; the conditions of their labor from daybreak to dark under the command of tough, hard-drinking James Dermott can only be imagined." Do to lack of skilled labor in Washington, DC, The White House master stonemason, Collen Williamson, had to train hired slaves on the spot at the quarry to cut the stone to build the foundation of the White House. (The President's House: a History by William, Seale and Harry N. Abrams, White House Historical Association with the Cooperation of the National Geographic Society, 1986, vol. 1, Pages 38, 50, 52,57,60)

In a letter from the Commissioners to William Wright, it states that they need "...about sixty hands, you need not be precise as to the number, of which we think, with you as many of them should be good Negroes as you can get. (National Archives, RG 42. Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital, Copies of Letterbooks of letters sent by the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 1791-98, Box 1 entry 104 Volume 3 dated September 1, 1792.)

Collen Willaimson, master stonemason at the Capitol, was another founder (along with Hoban) of Federal Lodge No. 1 of Freemasons in Washington, DC. "A Scotsman, quiet and modest, declining place or prominence, but one whose true worth may in some measure be estimated from his meeting the exacting requirements of Hoban, the architect, whose insistent demands for sound and finished work on the pubic edifices were the case of endless contentions. He left the Capitol on bad terms with the Commissioners of the city and dies in February, 1802." (Charles F. Benjamin, A History of Federal Lodge No 1.contained in the by-laws of Federal Lodge, No. 1 Free and Accepted masons of the District of Columbia with a History of the Lodge, 1901 Gibson Bros., Washington, DC)

The winner of a 1792 competition for its design was the Irish-American architect James Hoban, whose dignified neoclassical plan was a virtual copy of a project in James Gibbs's Book of Architecture (1728). As early as 1807, Benjamin Latrobe, the principal architect of the Capitol, sought to improve the building by preparing designs for pavilions at either end (added that year in collaboration with Thomas Jefferson), for interior alterations, and for porticos on both fronts. After the building was burned (1814) by the British, it was reconstructed (1815-17) by Hoban, who also added (1826) the semicircular South Portico that Latrobe had proposed and completed (1829) Latrobe's rectangular North Portico. (The White House, http://sc94.ameslab.gov/TOUR/whitehouse.html)


George Washington announces decision to move capital. Montgomery Maryland donates 70 sq. miles of land on the Potomac River for the permanent U.S. capital - Washington, the District of Columbia (MD info from Maryland A Chronology & Documentary Handbook, 1978 Oceana Publications, Inc.)


While the Capital was still located in Philadelphia, George Washington, fearing the impact of a Pennsylvania law freeing slaves after six months residence in that state, instructed his secretary Tobias Lear to ascertain what effect the law would have on the status of the slaves who served the presidential household in Philadelphia. In case Lear believed that any of the slaves were likely to seek their freedom under Pennsylvania law, Washington wished them sent home to Mount Vernon. "If upon taking good advise it is found expedient to send them back to Virginia, I wish to have it accomplished under pretext that may deceive both them and the Public." When one of his slaves ran away in 1795 Washington told his overseer to take measures to apprehend the slave "but I would not have my name appear in any advertisement, or other measure, leading to it." (Tobias Lear, Letters and Recollections of George Washington, NY, 1906, page 38; Washington to William Pearce, 22 Mar. 1795, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union. Recounted in "That Species of Property": Washington's Role in the Controversy Over Slavery by Dorothy Twohig Originally Presented at a Conference on Washington and Slavery at Mount Vernon, October 1994, see http://www.virginia.edu/gwpapers/)

1791 Mar. – Aug.

Benjamin Banneker accompanied Charles l'Enfant, a French engineer in surveying the terrain that would eventually become the District of Columbia. Banneker who had taught himself mathematics and astronomy was able to prepare an accurate almanac was recommended for the job by Andrew Ellicott of Baltimore, one of the commissioners. L'enfant unfortunately never finished the map. A perfectionist, he revised and rearranged, seemingly heedless of President Washington's warning that if construction of the public buildings did not start in the near future, Congress might decide to keep the seat of government in Philadelphia. In February 1792 Washington deeply troubled by the months of delay, dismissed the Frenchman and requested Andrew Ellicott to finish the job.(Constance Mclaughlin Green, The Secret City, 1967 more on Banneker see http://tqd.advanced.org/3337/banneker.html)


Boundaries for the Federal District laid out. The ceremonies for placing this stone marker wee under the direction of Elisha Cullen Dick, then Worshipful Master of Alexandria Lodge. (Ray Baker Harris, Sesqui-Centennial History of the Grand Lodge Free and accepted Masons, District of Columbia, 1811-1961, Washington, DC, 1962)

From the beginning of the city’s history, slavery was an integral part of the economy. Slaves formed the core of the early labor force, working on the construction of public and private buildings almost as frequently as they served as household servants. When the government embarked on public works, it also hired slave labor; the Treasury Department paid the absentee masters for the use of their human chattel. To protect slaveholders in the city, a special tax was levied on nonresident slave labor.

Wedged between two slave states, the District of Columbia was ideally located to become the hub of the domestic slave trade. With the increased demand for slaves caused by the expansion of cotton cultivation in the lower South and the slow but steady reduction of tobacco cultivation in Maryland and Virginia, a growing "surplus" of slaves developed in the vicinity of the capital. (Green, Constance McLaughlin. Washington: Village and Capital 1800-1878. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962, 53-54.)

The City of Washington welcomed both coastal slave ships and increasingly numerous overland coffles. Slave pens were established in what is now Potomac Park, and one thrived in the shadows of the White House, behind Decatur House on Lafayette Square. When the pens were full, the city jails were pressed into service as holding centers for slaves awaiting passage to Georgia and the new cotton and sugar plantations of the lower South. (G. Franklin Edwards and Michael R. Winston, Commentary: The Washington of Paul Jennings—White House Slave, Free Man, and Conspirator for Freedom. White House Historical Association. http://www.whitehousehistory.org/whha/news_reminiscence.asp)


Oliver Evans patents an "automated mill" in which power that turns the millstones also conveys wheat (grist) to the top of the mill. (The People's Chronology 1995, 1996 by James Trager from MS Bookshelf) See also http://home.earthlink.net/~alstallsmith/section.html for a description of the milling process.


Haitian Revolution began with revolt of slaves in northern province. (Major Revolts and Escapes, Lerone Bennett, Before the Mayflower, http://www.afroam.org/history/slavery/revolts.html

Undoubtedly, the most outstanding slave revolt in the western hemisphere took place in Haiti. During the French revolution, concepts of the rights of man spread from France to her colonies. In Haiti, the free mulattos petitioned the French revolutionary government for their rights. The Assembly granted their request. However, the French aristocrats in Haiti refused to follow the directives of the Assembly. At this point, two free mulattos, Vincent Oge and Jean Baptiste Chavannes, both of whom had received an education in Paris, led a mulatto rebellion. The Haitian aristocrats quickly and brutally suppressed it.

By this time, however, the concepts of the rights of man had spread to the slave class. In 1791, under the leadership of Toussaint l'Ouverture, the slaves began a long and bloody revolt of their own. Slaves flocked to Toussaint's support by the thousands until he had an army much larger than any that had fought in the American revolution, This revolt became entangled with the French revolution and the European wars connected with it. Besides fighting the French, Toussaint had to face both British and Spanish armies. None of them was able to suppress the revolt and to overthrow the republic which had been established in Haiti. After Napoleon came to power in France, he sent a gigantic expedition under Leclerc to reestablish French authority in Haiti. While he claimed to stand for the principles of the revolution, Napoleon's real interest in Haiti was to make it into a base from which to rebuild a French empire in the western hemisphere. Toussaint lured this French army into the wilderness where the soldiers, who had no immunity to tropical diseases, were hit very hard by malaria and yellow fever. Toussaint was captured by trickery, but his compatriots carried on the fight for independence. Finally, Napoleon was forced to withdraw from the struggle. One of the results of his failure to suppress the slave revolt in Haiti was his abandonment of his New World dreams and his willingness to sell Louisiana to the United States. Unfortunately, this meant new areas for the expansion of the plantation economy and slavery. In other words, the Haitian revolution was responsible for giving new life to the institution of slavery inside America.

American plantation owners were faced with a dilemma. The Louisiana Purchase, resulting from the revolution in Haiti, greatly expanded the possibilities of plantation agriculture. This meant a greater need for slave labor. However, they were not sure from which source to purchase these slaves. They hesitated to bring new slaves directly from Africa. They were also loath to bring seasoned slaves from the Caribbean. Events in Haiti had demonstrated that these Caribbean slaves might not be as docile as previously had been believed. Certainly, Americans did not want repetition of the bloody Haitian revolt within their own borders. Greedy men still bought slaves where they could, but many American slave owners were deeply disturbed and began to give serious thought to terminating the importation of African slaves to America.(Norman Coombs, The Immigrant Heritage of America, Twayne Press, 1972. CHAPTER 2, Caribbean Interlude. http://www.rit.edu/~nrcgsh/bx/bx02b.html)

The Republicans, headed by Jefferson, began to detach themselves from the cause of the French Revolution after 1793, and especially from 1795 on. But this was not because Jefferson and the rest of them were belatedly experiencing some form of revulsion against excesses which they had systematically condoned (often by denying their existence) at the time of their perpetration. The detachment of the Republicans from the French Revolution was the result of a growing perception in 1794-95, that the enthusiasm for the French Revolution, among the American people, was cooling. It was cooling not because of those excesses--which were at their worst during the period when Americans (other than Federalists) were most enthusiastic about the French Revolution—but because of developments in the United States itself and in a neighboring territory, Saint-Domingue (Haiti). Those developments included Citizen Genet's interference in the affairs of the United States and the simultaneous victory of the black slaves in Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and ensuing massacre and dispersion of the whites. The exact nature of the connection between the black insurrection and the French Revolution remains open to argument. But it would have been hard for the slaveowners to remain enthusiastic for the French Revolution after February 1794 when the French National Convention, then dominated by Robespierre, decreed the emancipation of all slaves, both in the dominions of the French Republic and of Great Britain (which had included, up to 1783, the American colonies). The emancipating Act of February 1794 was probably not the least of "the atrocities of Robespierre" in the eyes of Virginia slaveowners, including Thomas Jefferson. After these events--and especially after Washington's withering stigmatization of the Republican and Democratic Societies in December 1794--Jefferson and his colleagues realized that the cause of the French Revolution, formerly a major political asset to them in the United States, had now become a liability. So they cut their losses. They never repudiated the French Revolution--still cherished by many of their rank-and-file--but it was as if this part of their political stock-in-trade had been removed from the front window. You could still get it, but only if you asked for it; as some of Jefferson's correspondents did. (Conor Cruise O'Brien , The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800, published by the University of Chicago Press. 1996, from http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/616533.html)

George Washington wrote Jean Baptiste de Ternant, the French minister, in September 1791, promising to lose no time in dispatching orders to furnish money and arms requested by the French government to quell the revolt. "I am happy in the opportunity of testifying how well disposed the United states are to render every aid in their power to our good friends and Allies the French to quell 'the alarming insurrection of the Negroes in Hispanola' and of the ready disposition to effect it, of the Executive authority thereof." In fact the administration bowed immediately to French requests that portions of the Revolutionary War debt still owed to France by the United States be used to aid French efforts to put down the revolt and provision the colony.[note 49] Strongly supported by the Washington administration with money and arms and by public opinion in the United States, thousands of refugees fled to the United States, settling in seaboard cities, where their tales of the death and destruction left in the path of the rebelling slaves appalled Americans in the north and fed southern paranoia.[note 50] (Washington to Ternant, 24 Sept. 1791, Arch. Aff., Etrang., Memoirs et Documents, Etats-Unis, Paris. For the role of the French refugees in influencing public opinion in the United States, see Catherine Hebert, "French Publications in Philadelphia in the Age of the French Revolution," Pennsylvania History, 58 (1992), 37-61 and Allan J. Barthold, "French Journalists in the United States, 1780-1800," The Franco-American Review, 1 (1937), 215-30. See also, "Slavery in Virginia and Saint-Domingue in the Late Eighteenth Century," Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the French Colonial Historical Society, 1990, pp. 13-14; Carl A. Brasseaux, The Road to Louisiana: The Saint Domingue Refugees, 1792-1809 (Lafayette, La., 1992). For the use of the American debt to France, see George Latimer to Alexander Hamilton, 2 Jan. 1793, introductory note, in Harold C. Syrett et al., eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1961-87), 13:443-45. For background to the slave revolt, see Carolyn E. Fick, The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below (Knoxville, Tenn., 1990), esp. ch. 3.; Frances Sergeant Childs, French Refugee Life in the United States, 1790-1800 (Baltimore, 1940), 11-16; Thomas Fiehrer, "Saint-Domingue/Haiti: Louisiana's Caribbean Connection," Louisiana History, 30 (1989), 426-27. Recounted in "That Species of Property": Washington's Role in the Controversy Over Slavery by Dorothy Twohig Originally Presented at a Conference on Washington and Slavery at Mount Vernon, October 1994, see http://www.virginia.edu/gwpapers/slavery/slavery.html


French Constitutional Assembly abolishes slavery in France, where there are no slaves, according to the former decision of Louis the XIVth. (Chronology of the abolition of French slavery Remerciements à Pascal Boyries, Professeur d'Histoire-Géographie, au lycée Charles Baudelaire d'Annecy http://perso.wanadoo.fr/yekrik.yekrak/chronoeng.htm)


Maryland ceded land for District of Columbia. (Maryland Historical Chronologyhttp://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/mdmanual/01glance/html/chron.html)


Cornerstone of White House laid in Masonic Ceremony.

James Hoban, a native of Ireland, a devout Romanist (Catholic) and Freemason was engaged to supervise the construction of the Capitol building and the "President's House" both of which he had designed. In the year following the laying of The White House corner stone, 1793, James Hoban became first Worshipful Master of the first regularly chartered lodge in the new city of Washington, Lodge No. 15 of Maryland (now Federal Lodge No. 1 of the District of Columbia). As of December 20, 1794, he was recorded as Treasurer of the lodge, and he was closely identified with the first activities of Royal Arch Masonry in the city of Washington. (R. Baker Harris, The Laying of the Corner Stone of the White House, Potomac Lodge No. 5, Georgetown, 1949, this and other books on Freemasonry can be found at the Scottish Rite Library in Washington, DC)

Under the leadership of Captain Hoban, a group of the brethren residing in the city of Washington, most of them operative masons engaged in the work of constructing public buildings, decided to establish a lodge nearer to their homes and thus avoid the necessity of journeying to Georgetown for their Masonic communications. This group, in the summer of 1793, petitioned Lodge No. 9 for dispensation to hold lodge meeting in the Federal City (in a room in the dwelling of one of their number , on New Jersey Avenue just south of the Capitol). On September 12, 1793, a charter was granted to these brethren, creating Lodge No. 15 (now Federal Lodge No. 1) (A Century and a Half of Freemasonry in Georgetown, 1789-1939, Potomac Lodge No. 5, F.A.A.M., Georgetown DC, 1939)

This Lodge was funded by Freemasons brought to the new city to engage in the erection of the public buildings. Chief among them was James Hoban, architect of the Executive Mansion and the Capitol. "Captain Hoban, as he was usually called, was a quick-tempered though generous man, and his professional life at the capital was stormy, despite its success. He took a large view of his won authority, had a high regard for his own opinion, and despite official poverty and parsimony, obtained emoluments fitted to his standing as an architect and the dignity of the works entrusted to his supervision. His designs and proportions for the Executive mansion were deemed too pricey for a young republic by President Washington, but in the end the architect prevailed over the statesman. His first work at the Capitol was to tear out the rotten foundations that private greed and official suppleness had placed there, and influence, entreaty, and clamor were alike powerless to stay his had or tongue. From 1792 till towards 1820, captain Hoban was variously engaged upon the public buildings, though his employment at the Capitol ceased as early as 1802, after one of his numerous controversies with the Commissioners for the Federal City. The latest of his more important works was the restoration of the Executive Mansion, which had been partially destroyed by the British forces in 1814. Its popular name of the White House is due to his thought of painting the brownstone forming the exterior walls, to conceal the discoloration by smoke and fire. He served the Lodge as its first master, and afterwards as treasurer, but in a few years his name had disappeared from its rolls. There is no record of the reason for his withdrawal, nor is the occurrence rare enough to call for inquiry or conjecture. In 1799, he was High Priest of the Royal Arch Encampment formed within Federal Lodge, and he and the encampment disappeared together in that year. Clot Worthy Stephenson was second master of the Lodge, and for a few years was active and conspicuous in Masonic affairs; then fell into obscurity, and apparently into narrow circumstances, and died in 1819." (Charles F. Benjamin, A History of Federal Lodge No 1.contained in the by-laws of Federal Lodge, No. 1 Free and Accepted masons of the District of Columbia with a History of the Lodge, 1901 Gibson Bros., Washington, DC)

Also in the Lodge was Andrew Eastave, first junior warden; William Coghlan, second senior warden; Bernard Crook, second junior warden, and James Dogherty, first secretary, all founders of the Lodge, of whom no other knowledge remains than that they were employed in the construction of the Capitol. (Charles F. Benjamin, A History of Federal Lodge No 1.contained in the By-laws of Federal Lodge, No. 1 Free and Accepted masons of the District of Columbia with a History of the Lodge, 1901 Gibson Bros., Washington, DC)

In 1796, Stephenson became Grand Marshal of the lodge, but his business affairs were getting into bad conditions . In November, 1997, he was summoned to appear before the Grand Lodge, at its half yearly meeting in May, 1798, to show cause why he had not paid a complaining brother the rent for the ferry he had leased on the Potomac. He did not appear, and his active career in masonry ended with 1798. Past Master Hoban succeeded Stephenson as High Priest of the Royal Arch Encampment in 1798, but the seeds of dissolution were already in it, and the Encampment died in the early part of 1799, and with it the Masonic life of Captain Hoban. The Lodge, too, was in bad condition; the fervid and pervading nature of Stephenson having so linked its fortunes with his won that, when he went down, the Lodge, for a time shared his decline.(Charles F. Benjamin, A History of Federal Lodge No 1.contained in the By-laws of Federal Lodge, No. 1 Free and Accepted masons of the District of Columbia with a History of the Lodge, 1901 Gibson Bros., Washington, DC)

George Washington a member of Alexandria Masonic Lodge No. 22 took the first step into Masonry on November 4, 1752 in Fredericksburg. (Charles H. Callahan, Washington, The man and the Mason, George Washington Masonic National memorial Association, 1913)


L'Enfant dismissed. Competition announced for design for Capitol; Dr. William Thornton submits design after deadline. (U.S. Capital web Page Chronology http://www.aoc.gov/

The final design selected for the Capitol was submitted (late) by William Thornton, a physician living in the British West Indies. Three different architects worked on the building since the cornerstone was laid by President George Washington on September 18, 1793. The third architect, James Hoban, worked on the project from the dismissal of his predecessors (Stephen Hallet and George Hadfield) until 1800. In 1803, Benjamin Henry Latrobe picked up where Hoban left off; he left the construction project in 1813 when funding became erratic. (THE CAPITOL BUILDING, DC City Pages, http://dcpages.com/Hwdc/capitol.html)

The Capitol of the United States crowns Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and houses the legislative branch of government, comprising the House of Representatives and the Senate. The 1792 competition for its design was won by Dr. William Thornton, a gifted amateur architect, with a Palladian-inspired scheme featuring a central shallow-domed rotunda flanked by the Senate (north) and House (south) wings. President George Washington laid the cornerstone in 1793, but construction proceeded slowly under a succession of architects, including Stephen Hallet (1793), George Hadfield (1795-98) and James Hoban (1798-1802), architect of the White House, who completed the Senate wing in 1800. Benjamin Latrobe, a major architect of early 19th-century America, took over in 1803; by 1811 he had renovated the Senate wing and completed the House wing. The Capitol was burned by British troops in 1814; in the following year Latrobe began its reconstruction and redesign. Charles BULFINCH, the brilliant Boston architect who succeeded him in 1818, completed the building, with only slight modifications of Latrobe's master plan, in 1830. (The Capitol of the United States, http://sc94.ameslab.gov/TOUR/capitol.html)

In the early part of the 1800's William Thornton, architect of the United States Capitol and a supporter of African recolonization of freed enslaved Americans of African descent. The American Colonization Society (ACS) was formed in 1817 to send free African-Americans to Africa as an alternative to emancipation in the United States. In 1822, the society established on the west coast of Africa a colony that in 1847 became the independent nation of Liberia. By 1867, the society had sent more than 13,000 emigrants. Beginning in the 1830s, the society was harshly attacked by abolitionists, who tried to discredit colonization as a slaveholder's scheme. And, after the Civil War, when many blacks wanted to go to Liberia, financial support for colonization had waned. During its later years the society focussed on educational and missionary efforts in Liberia rather than emigration. (Library of Congress, African-American Mosaic, Colonization, http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam002.html)

In 1816 the American Colonization Society was founded. It was considered the ideal solution to the American racial dilemma. Claiming to be interested in the welfare of the African in its midst, the Society advocated colonizing in Africa or wherever else it was expedient. It comforted slave owners by announcing that it was not concerned with either emancipation or amelioration. Both were outside its jurisdiction. It did imply that slaves might eventually be purchased for colonization. Most of its propaganda tried to demonstrate that the freedman lived in a wretched state of poverty, immorality, and ignorance and that he would be better off in Africa. The movement received widespread support from almost all sectors of the white community including presidents Madison and Jackson. Several state legislatures supported the idea, and Congress voted $100,000 to finance the plan which eventually led to the establishment of the Republic of Liberia. However, the Afro-American community was not very enthusiastic about the project. In 1817 three thousand blacks crowded into the Bethel Church in Philadelphia and, led by Richard Allen, vehemently criticized colonization. They charged that the Society's propaganda only served to increase racial discrimination since it stressed the poverty and ignorance of the freedman and claimed he was doomed to continue in his filth and degradation because of his natural inferiority. It also argued that whites would only take advantage of the Afro-American, and that the separation of the two races was the only solution. The participants at the Bethel meeting contended that this propaganda tended to justify racial discrimination. The claim was also made that the removal of freedmen from America would only serve to make the slave system more secure, and they pledged themselves never to abandon their slave brothers. Besides, while they were African by heritage, they had been born in America, and it was now their home. Most of the fifteen thousand who did return to Africa were slaves who had been freed for this purpose, and the project was acknowledged to be a failure. The Society's own propaganda contributed to the alienation of many freedmen. One of its own leaders admitted that blacks could read and hear and, when they were spoken of as a nuisance to be banished, they reacted negatively like men. (Norman Coombs, The Immigrant Heritage of America, Twayne Press, 1972. Chapter 4, Growing Racism, http://www.rit.edu/~nrcgsh/bx/bx04c.html

The cornerstone was laid by President Washington in the building's southeast corner on September 18, 1793, with Masonic ceremonies. Work progressed under the direction of three architects in succession. Stephen H. Hallet (an entrant in the earlier competition) and George Hadfield were eventually dismissed by the Commissioners because of inappropriate design changes that they tried to impose; James Hoban, the architect of the White House, saw the first phase of the project through to completion. (The History of the U.S. Capitol, Architect of the Capitol, http://www.aoc.gov/history/cap_hist.html)

George Washington was escorted by two lodges from Alexandria Virginia and from Georgetown and were met by Lodge No. 15, headed by the Worshipful grand master Pro tem of Maryland (Brother Joseph Clark Worshipful master of Lodge No. 15 at Annapolis) and conducted to a large lodge for reception. Soon thereafter, under direction of brother C. Worthy Stephenson, Grand Marshal Pro Tem (Lodge no. 15) the entire procession marched to abreast from the President's square to the Capitol. (A Century and a Half of Freemasonry in Georgetown, 1789-1939, Potomac Lodge No. 5, F.A.A.M., Georgetown DC, 1939


Benjamin Banneker, a freedman from Maryland, wrote to Thomas Jefferson complaining that it was time to eradicate false racial stereotypes.(see http://www.lib.virginia.edu/etext/readex/24073.html) While expressing doubts regarding the merits of slavery in his "Notes on Virginia", Jefferson had expressed his belief in the inferiority of the African. Banneker had educated himself, especially in mathematics and astronomy, and in 1789 he was one of those who helped to survey the District of Columbia. Later, he predicted a solar eclipse. In 1791 he had begun the publication of a series of almanacs, and the next year he sent one of these to Jefferson in an attempt to challenge his racial views. Jefferson was so impressed with the work that he sent it to the French Academy of Science. However, he seemed to view Banneker as an exception rather than fresh evidence undermining white stereotypes. (Norman Coombs, The Immigrant Heritage of America, Twayne Press, 1972. Chapter 5 A Nation Divided. THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN AMERICA, PART TWO Emancipation Without Freedom. Chapter 5 A Nation Divided, Black Moderates And Black Militants. http://www.rit.edu/~nrcgsh/bx/bx05a.html


Federal District formed east of Rock Creek from Prince Georges County and West of Rock Creek from Montgomery Co (The Montgomery County Historical Society)


On recommendation of President Washington, Thornton awarded first prize in competition. Washington lays cornerstone. (U.S. Capital web Page Chronology http://www.aoc.gov/)


Letter to Thomas Jefferson from District Commissioners (Th. Johnson, D. Stuart and Dan. Carroll) discuss need for labor for Capitol Building Construction, " as to labourers, a part of whom we can easily make up of Negroes and find it proper to do so. Those we have employed this Summer have proved very useful check & kept our Affairs Cool." (Spelling and capitalization just as reprinted in Thomas Jefferson and the National Capital, 1783-1818, United States Department of Interior, US GPO, 1946. Pages 165-169 taken from PP 139-41 Commissioners Letterbook, Vol. I, 1791-1793 in the National Archives. RG 42, Microfilm M371)

Commissioners to Blodget Jan 5th We may have a good many Negro laborers none so good for cutting before the Surveyors and none better for tending masons. Captain Williamson tells us he could not have done without them the Summer, they were a check on the white laborers who well indeed only at price work. From Johnson, Stuart and Carroll. (National Archives, RG 42. Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital, Copies of Letterbooks of letters sent by the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 1791-98, Box 1 entry 104 Volume 3)

The erratic returns from the tobacco culture and the increasing diversification of crops in the western countries of Maryland and Virginia made slave owners only happy to meet the labor demands for building the Capital by hiring out their surplus slaves. A great portion f the labor on public works was performed by slaves; the work force which build the Capitol itself was made up for the most part of a group of 90 slaves hired for that purpose.(Captain Basil Hall, Travels in North America in the Years 1827-1828 in Three volumes (Edinburgh, 1829) II 46; Robert Sutcliff, Travels in Some Parts of North America, In the Years 1804, 1805 and 1806 (York, 1815), 112, as cited by Letitia W Brown, Residence Patterns of Negroes in the District of Columbia, 1800-1860, Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington DC, 1969-70, p 67-68)


Eli Whitney’s cotton gin will increase U.S. cotton planting, producing an increased demand for slave labor. (The People's Chronology, 1994 by James Trager from MS Bookshelf.)

In 1793 Eli Whitney, working as a tutor on a Georgia plantation, invented the cotton gin. This machine, which separates the seeds from the cotton, makes the production of cotton easier and its sale price much lower. Cotton growing on a large scale (it was grown earlier in small amounts) spread widely in the South and became yet another cornerstone in Southern culture and land use.(Compton's Encyclopedia Online http://www.comptons.com/encyclopedia/)

U.S. cotton production will rise from 140,000 pounds in 1791 to 35 million pounds in 1800 as the efficiency of the Whitney cotton gin leads to rapid growth of cotton planting in the South and a boom in northern and English cotton mills. (The People's Chronology 1995, 1996 by James Trager from MS Bookshelf)

Between 1790 and 1860, about one million slaves were moved west, almost twice the number of Africans shipped to the United States during the whole period of the transatlantic slave trade. Some slaves moved with their masters and others moved as part of a new domestic trade in which owners from the seaboard states sold slaves to planters in the cotton-growing states of the new Southwest. ("Slavery in the United States," Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation.)

The Rise Of Cotton: Before the 1790s Slavery seemed to be a dying institution. Most Northern states had set emancipation in motion and in the Chesapeake states of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, the philosophy of the American Revolution - the idea that all men were created equal, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - also motivated planters to free their slaves. Of crucial importance to the act of freeing slaves in the Chesapeake was the decline of tobacco. Years of overplanting had left the land worn out. As farmers produced less tobacco and turned instead to more profitable grains their need for large numbers of slaves decreased. Rather than assume the cost of caring for their slaves, many farmers freed them instead.("Let My People Go - African Americans 1804-1860", Deborah Gray white, p. 15.)

But the introduction of cotton, which increase the demand for slaves south of the Chesapeake, caused a hurried change in attitude. Before the turn of the 19th century, there was little cotton production in the South. Eli Whitney's cotton gin changed that, and with it also the history of Black America. The cotton gin made the production of the heartier short-staple cotton profitable. Before the invention of the cotton gin it took a slave a day to clean a pound of the short-staple cotton. With the gin, by contrast, the slave could clean up to 50 pounds a day. . ("Let My People Go - African Americans 1804-1860", Deborah Gray white, p. 15.)

Short-staple cotton, unlike long-staple cotton, also had the advantage of not being so delicate. It could be, and was, planted all over the land south of Virginia. And it was in demand throughout the world. It was not long before cotton became the principal cash crop of the South and of the nation. In 1790 the South produced only 3,135 bales of cotton. On the eve of the Civil War, production peaked at 4.8 million bales. Once cotton gave slavery a new lease on life, slaves who were of no use in the Upper South were not set free but sold to the Lower South. That meant that a good many slaves were born in Virginia, Maryland or South Carolina, were likely to die in Mississippi, Alabama or Louisiana. The sale and transportation of Black people within the Unites States thus became big business. . ("Let My People Go - African Americans 1804-1860", Deborah Gray white, pp.16-18.)
(For a graph of Virginia Slave exports by Age and Sex of Slave Exports see http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/slavetrade/agesex.html maintained by the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/slavetrade/home.html)

What slaves hated most about slavery was not the hard work to which they were subjected, but their lack of control over their lives, their lack of freedom. ("Slavery in the United States," Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation.)

No state law recognized marriage among slaves, masters rather than parents had legal authority over slave children, and the possibility of forced separation, through sale, hung over every family. These separations were especially frequent in the slave-exporting states of the upper South. ("Slavery in the United States," Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation.)


Fugitive Slave Act becomes a federal law. Allows slaveowners, their agents or attorneys to seize fugitive slaves in free states and territories.(Underground Railroad Chronology, National Park Service, http://www.cr.nps.gov/htdocs1/boaf/urrtim~1.htm)

The Fugitive Slave Act voted by Congress at Philadelphia February 12 makes it illegal for anyone to help a slave escape to freedom or give a runaway slave refuge (see Underground Railway, 1838). (The People's Chronology 1995, 1996 by James Trager from MS Bookshelf also see http://www.law.ou.edu/hist//fugslave.html for the document)


Bank of Columbia chartered by Maryland legislature. Among the founders were William Deakins, JR, Uriah Forest and Benjamin Stoddert. (p 223 Bryan, Wilhelmus Bogart. The History of the National Capital. Vol. I 1790-1814 Macmillan 1916 GW lib)


Haitian slaves in the French colony of Saint Domingue (Haiti) on Hispaniola rise under the leadership of Pierre Dominque Toussaint L’Ouverture, 51, Jean Jacques Dessalines, 36, and Henri Christophe, 27. They lead 500,000 blacks and mulattos against the colony’s 40,000 whites (see 1802). (The People's Chronology 1995, 1996 by James Trager from MS Bookshelf)


French decree of pluviôse 16 year II abolishing slavery (French revolutionary calendar starts on September 22nd 1792, first day of the Republic) (Chronology of the abolition of French slavery Remerciements à Pascal Boyries, Professeur d'Histoire-Géographie, au lycée Charles Baudelaire d'Annecy http://perso.wanadoo.fr/yekrik.yekrak/chronoeng.htm)


President Washington appointed William Thornton one of the three Commissioners of the Federal District in charge of laying out the new federal city and overseeing construction of the first government buildings, including the Capitol. Upon the abolition of the board in 1802, President Jefferson appointed Thornton Superintendent of the Patent Office, a position which he held until his death.
William Thornton was Born: May 20, 1759, in Jost van Dyke, West Indies
Died: March 28, 1828, Washington, D.C.
Design selected by President George Washington, 1793

Educated in Scotland as a physician, Thornton rarely practiced his profession. He was a self-taught architect, painter, and inventor. His design for the Capitol, submitted after the competition of 1792 had closed, was approved by President Washington, who praised it for its "grandeur, simplicity and convenience." A prize of $500 and a city lot was awarded to Thornton on April 5, 1793; he is thus recognized as the first Architect of the Capitol. (Architect of the Capital Home page http://www.aoc.gov/aoc/aocs_bio.htm#thornton)

In the British Virgin Islands, the remains of the great house of Doctor William Thornton (designer of the U.S. Capitol Building) can be seen at Pleasant Valley (Tortola). The ravages of time and neglect have reduced it considerably, but the remains can still be viewed with interest including a part of the foundation. Besides being an accomplished architect, Dr Thornton was a skilled physician and a fervent Quaker. Sugar and Rum was the main business on Tortola. During the early 1830s a visitor described the Mount Healthy sugar works as follows: It was here that the lash of the whip first sounded in our ears; and, although we were satisfied as we passed onward, and beheld the carts drawn by oxen conveying the canes to the mill from the spot to which they had been conveyed by roughs, that the sound proceeded from the whips of the boys driving the, the conviction was too powerfully associated with the prepossession which had been long established on our mind, that there was little distinction recognized between the Negroes and the cattle. (Giorgio Migliavacca, HISTORIC SITES & VISITORS' ATTRACTIONS, Sun Enterprises (BVI) Ltd.British Virgin Islands Homepage, http://www.islandsun.com/ATTRACTIONS.HTML)


Money was in short supply to build the Capitol, "Thornton came up with an idea to get obedient and cheap masons: buy '50 intelligent Negroes' and train them to do the stonework. Two of three experienced men could be induced with a wage of up to $4 a day to train and supervise the slaves. As an incentive for the slaves, who would only get room, board and clothing, the commissioners would give them their freedom in five of six years. Although nothing came of the idea, it highlights how uncomfortable the commissioners were with free labor. They preferred workers who could make no demands and who were beholden to them for everything they knew." (Thornton to Commissioners, July 18, 1795. Proceedings, July 22, 1795. Cited on P302 Bob Arnebeck, "Through A Fiery Trial, Building Washington, 1790-1800," Madison Books, MD. 1991)


John Adams becomes President as Federalist, VP Thomas Jefferson 1801


George Washington leaves office. Although Washington reluctantly accepted command of the army in 1798 when war with France seemed imminent, he did not assume an active role. He preferred to spend his last years in happy retirement at Mount Vernon. In mid-December, Washington contracted what was probably quinsy or acute laryngitis; he declined rapidly and died at his estate on Dec. 14, 1799. (George Washington, Composite from Washington, D.C. Quick Guide, Washington, D.C. Quick Guide, I Love Washington Guide, by Marilyn J. Appleberg and The New Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia in http://sc94.ameslab.gov/TOUR/gwash.html)


During his presidency, Washington seems to have concluded that slavery was absolutely incompatible with the principles of the new nation and could even cause its division. In August 1797 he wrote,"...I wish from my soul that the legislature of [Virginia] could see a policy of a gradual Abolition of Slavery..." Two years later, Washington revised his will, providing for his slaves to be freed after his death (122 of the 314 African Americans at Mount Vernon were freed; the others were Martha's and by law owned by her heirs). He also left instructions for their care and education which included supporting the young until they came of age and paying pensions to the elderly. (http://www.mountvernon.org/image/bioslavery.html)

Not only did George Washington still need slaves to work his own plantation, he must have been at least somewhat aware that much of the golden age of economic and social expansion in the Chesapeake had rested on black slavery. Washington himself was an avid partaker in the "Anglicization" of Chesapeake society with its emphasis on creature comforts, and the acquisition of consumer goods, much of which was dependent on a slave economy. (See Lois Green Carr and Lorena Seebach Walsh, "Changing Life Styles and Consumer Behavior in the Colonial Chesapeake," in Cary Carson et al., eds., Of Consuming Interests: The Style of Life in the Eighteenth Century (Charlottesville, Va., 1994; Timothy H. Breen, "An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of Colonial America, 1690-1776," Journal of British Studies, 25 (1986), 467-99. (The Papers of George Washington "That Species of Property": Washington's Role in the Controversy Over Slavery Dorothy Twohig, Originally Presented at a Conference on Washington and Slavery at Mount Vernon, October 1994. http://www.virginia.edu/gwpapers/slavery/slavery.html)

Many of the Americans of African descent that were enslaved by George Washington settled close by Mount Vernon in Gum Springs Virginia.
Gum Springs was founded by the patriarchal Freedman, West Ford, whose bones rest near George Washington's at Mount Vernon. It was named after a gum tree that once marked the marshy land, highly prized for farming in the past. Quietly nestled across the river on George Washington's side of the Potomac, Gum Springs was a place for blacks to prevail, assimilating runaways and freed slaves who migrated there by way of the nearby port of Alexandria. Many of its forbearers tended General Washington's estate at Mount Vernon before they were freed at the death of his wife, Martha. Freed slaves found assistance from Quakers in their struggle for economic survival. The skills and trades they learned as estate slaves added to their growth towards independence. Today, Gum Springs has more than 2,500 residents and as many as 500 are descendants of the original families. (A Brief History of Gum Springs, The Gum Springs Historical Society, Inc. Alexandria (Gum Springs), VA 22306 (703) 799-1198 http://www.lke-comply.com/fcmn/htm/gshs/gshs.htm)


Benjamin Stoddert as Secretary of the Navy forbids the deployment of black sailors on Men of War, thus disrupting a non-racial enlistment policy, which had been operative in the Navy for many years. (The Negro Almanac a reference work on the Afro-American, compiled and edited by harry A Ploski, and Warren Marr, II. Third Edition 1978 Bellwether Publishing for the document see MacGregor and Halty, Blacks in the United States Armed Forces: Basic Documents, Vol. 1 Page 95, Scholarly Resources Inc. 1977)

Tenantry made land speculation possible. Large investments in land, were possible only because tenants could take up part of the track almost immediately and bring a return to the investor. Many investors were always absentee owners. Those how did live on the lands they owned normally farmed only a very small portion of their lands with their own slaves or indentured laborers. Tenantry became the rule as the advantages of leasing land far outweighed the disadvantages of developing large plantations. (page 15 general land use adapted from Richard K MacMaster and Ray Eldon Hiebert, A Grateful Remembrance, the story of Montgomery County, Maryland, Montgomery County Historical Society, 1976)

Work on building the Capital Continued, the commissioners ordered plaster from Alexandria for shipment to Georgetown, where small boats took it up Rock Creek to be milled by Isaac Pierce, and then slaves had to boil it down. (Commissioners to Dennis, May 22, 1799, June 11, 1799. Dennis to commrs. June 1, 1799. Commrs to Pierce, May 6, 1799. Proceedings, June 12, 1799 cited on p 525, Bob Arnebeck, "Through A Fiery Trial Building Washington, 1790-1800," Madison Books, 1991, p525)


In mid-December, Washington contracted what was probably quinsy or acute laryngitis; he declined rapidly and died at his estate on Dec. 14, 1799. (George Washington, Composite from Washington, D.C. Quick Guide, Washington, D.C. Quick Guide, I Love Washington Guide, by Marilyn J. Appleberg and The New Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia in http://sc94.ameslab.gov/TOUR/gwash.html)


1619 - 17891800 - 18291830 - 18401841 - End

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