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Lee liberated the slaves of Custis during the winter of 1862-63 and checked the list of Negroes and had

the deed of manumission recorded in the Hustings Court of the City of Richmond.




 George Washington Parke Custis' Will  

A Memo


1. G.W. Parke Custis died October 10, 1857, in his 77th year

II. According to Custis' will Robert E. Lee was named as one of the four executors. the other three were Robert Lee Randolph, of Eastern View, Right Reverend William Meade, and George Washington Peter. Failure of the last named three men to quality, left the sole duty of "discharging all the duties of settling a troublesome estate under a complicated testament."

III. The will was probated December 7, 1857.

IV. The will provided for all of Custis' slaves to be emancipated, "the said emancipation to be accomplished in not exceeding five years from the time of my decease."

The slaves numbered sixty-three.

Due to his need of funds Lee was forced to hire most of his slaves out to neighboring plantations and to eastern Virginia. This move caused a "petty rebellion" among the slaves and they tried to run away to Pennsylvania, but were caught and returned to Lee. The version of a man who signed a letter he wrote to the Editor of the N.Y. Tribune, June 19, 1859, "A Citizen," is as follows. 

The children Custis had by his slave women numbered fifteen.

On one occasion three slaves ran away and nine miles from Pennsylvania they were captured and returned to Col. Lee, who ordered them flogged. The officer who captured them whipped the two men and Lee whipped the woman. After their punishment, Lee sent them to Richmond from his Arlington plantation to be hired out. This letter was written from Washington, D.C. -- June 19, 1859 and the facts were told the unknown author of the letter, by relatives of the men whipped.

V. Lee liberated the slaves of Custis during the winter of 1862-63 and checked the list of Negroes and had the deed of manumission recorded in the Hustings Court of the City of Richmond. It was (the deed) acknowledged, before Benj. S. Cason, J.P. of Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Dec. 29, 1862, and was recorded in Richmond, Jan. 2, 1863.

VI. The following is the list of Negroes freed under Custis' will.

           1. Perry, Lee's body servant

            2. Nancy

Robert E. Lee's Slaves (p. 371)

I. He (Lee) had been in contact with slavery all his life, though he had never owned more than some half-dozen slaves.

II. There are no references in any of Lee's letters to slaves of his own and until the rediscovery of his will in the records of Rockbridge County, Virginia, it was not positively known that he ever held any servants in his own name. That document written in 1846, showed that he then owned a Negro woman Nancy and her children who were at the White House plantation. He directed that they be "liberated as soon as it can be done to their advantage and that of others."

III. Lee's Will -- Obtainable -- Clerk's Office, Lexington, Virginia.

George Washington Parke Custis' Slaves

Eleanor Harris
Ephraim Demicks
George Clarke
Charles Syphax

Selina Grey

6 children -- Emma, Sarah, Harry, Amise, Ada, Thornton
Thornton Grey
Margaret Taylor 4 children -- Danbridge, Ihon, Billy, Quincy
Lawrence Parks 9 children -- Perry, George, Amanda, Martha, Lawrence,
James, Magdalera, Leano, William
Julia Ann Check 3 children -- Catherine, Louis, Henry
An infant of Catherine
Sally Norris 3 children -- Mary, Sally, Wesley
Len Norris
Old Shaack Check
Austin Bingham 12 children -- Harrison, Parks, Reuben, Henry, Edward,
Louisa Bingham Austin, Lucuis, Leanthe, Louisa, Carolina, Jem and her infant
Obediah Grey
Austin Banham
Michael Merriday
Catherine Grey  and her child
Marrianne Burke
Agnes Burke
Slaves Belonging to the White House Estate
Robert Crides
Desiah Crides
Locky Zack Young and child
Fleming Randolph and child
Source: R.E. Lee by Douglass S. Freeman, Vol. 1 (page 379); Vol. III (page 228).

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George Washington Parke Custis (April 30, 1781 – October 10, 1857), the step-grandson of United States President George Washington, was a nineteenth-century American writer, orator, and agricultural reformer. . . . Custis died in 1857 and was buried at Arlington alongside his wife, Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis. Custis's will provided that:

Arlington plantation (approx. 1100 acres) and its contents, including Custis's collection of George Washington's artifacts and memorabilia, would be bequeathed to his only surviving child Mary Anna Custis Lee (wife of Robert E. Lee) for her natural life, and upon her death, to his eldest grandson George Washington Custis Lee;

White House plantation in New Kent County and Romancoke plantation in King William County (approx. 4000 acres each) would be bequeathed to his other two grandsons William Henry Fitzhugh Lee ("Rooney Lee") and Robert Edward Lee, Jr., respectively;

Legacies (cash gifts) of $10,000 each would be provided to his four granddaughters, based on the incomes from the plantations and the sales of other smaller properties; (Some properties could not be sold until after the Civil War and it was doubtful that $10,000 each was ever fully paid.)

Certain property in "square No. 21, Washington City" (possibly located between present day Foggy Bottom and Potomac River) to be bequeathed to Robert E. Lee "and his heirs."

Custis's slaves, numbered around 200, were to be freed once the legacies and debts from his estate were paid, but no later than five years after his death. (Fulfilled by Robert E. Lee, executor, in the winter of 1862.)

Custis's death had great effect on the careers of Robert E. Lee and his two elder sons on the cusp of the American Civil War. Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee, named as an executor of the will, took leave from his Army post in Texas for two years to settle the affairs. During the period Lee was ordered to lead troops to quash John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. By 1859, Lee's eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, transferred to an Army position in Washington, D.C. so that he could care for Arlington plantation, where his mother and sisters were living. Lee's second son, Rooney Lee, resigned his army commission, got married, and took over farming in White House plantation and nearby Romancoke. Robert E. Lee was able to leave for Texas to resume his Army career in February, 1860.

At the outbreak of the American Civil War, the 1,100-acre (4.5 km2) Arlington Plantation was confiscated by Union forces for strategic reasons (protection of the river and national capital). A "Freedman's Village" was established there for freed slaves in 1863. In 1864, Montgomery C. Meigs, Quartermaster General of the US Army, appropriated some parts of Arlington Plantation be used as a military burial ground. After the Civil War, George Washington Custis Lee sued and recovered the title for the Arlington Plantation from the United States government. Congress subsequently bought the property from Lee for $150,000. Arlington Plantation is now Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Myer. Arlington House, built by Custis to honor George Washington, is now the Robert E. Lee Memorial. It is restored and open to the public under the auspices of the National Park Service.—Wikipedia

posted 29 June 2008

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Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification (2009)

By David Waldstreicher

Taking on decades of received wisdom, David Waldstreicher has written the first book to recognize slavery’s place at the heart of the U.S. Constitution. Famously, the Constitution never mentions slavery. And yet, of its eighty-four clauses, six were directly concerned with slaves and the interests of their owners. Five other clauses had implications for slavery that were considered and debated by the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and the citizens of the states during ratification. This “peculiar institution” was not a moral blind spot for America’s otherwise enlightened framers, nor was it the expression of a mere economic interest. Slavery was as important to the making of the Constitution as the Constitution was to the survival of slavery.By tracing slavery from before the revolution, through the Constitution’s framing, and into the public debate that followed, Waldstreicher rigorously shows that slavery was not only actively discussed behind the closed and locked doors of the Constitutional Convention, but that it was also deftly woven into the Constitution itself.

For one thing, slavery was central to the American economy, and since the document set the stage for a national economy, the Constitution could not avoid having implications for slavery. Even more, since the government defined sovereignty over individuals, as well as property in them, discussion of sovereignty led directly to debate over slavery’s place in the new republic. Finding meaning in silences that have long been ignored, Slavery’s Constitution is a vital and sorely needed contribution to the conversation about the origins, impact, and meaning of our nation’s founding document.

*   *   *   *   *

Midnight Rising

John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

By Tony Horwitz

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown's uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict. Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy. On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown's capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist. The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfil Brown's dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called "a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale."

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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