JF Ptak Science Books Post 2401
George Washington was the first president of the United States, and so the first to own slaves while president--he was the first of 12 presidents who were slave-owners, and the first of eight to own slaves while serving in that office. (All of paper currency celebrates celebratory people who also owned slaves--the $1, $2, $10, $20, $50, and $100; all but Lincoln.)
After he served his terms as president, and two years before his death, Washington suffered a property loss. Martha Washington's personal servant fled, escaped, headed north, to freedom. President Washington wanted his property returned:
[Originally in The Pennsylvania Gazette, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 24, 1796. Image source: Wikipedia. The full text1 transcribed in below in Notes.]
The ad was evidently placed by Frederick Kitt, who was a long-time steward of the Washington household, and it fell to him to look after the return of Ms. Judge.
The Founding Father found the Founding Fathers law on his side, of course--it was right in there constitution, Article IV, Section 3. ("No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.) Article IV section 3 was toothless for a while, until the machinery of enforcement was provided in the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. which made it possible for slave catchers to proceed across all state lines in the hunt for escaped slaves, and made it a federal crime to assist a fugitive slave, among other things, but particularly ensuring that an escaped slave would remain a slave, always.
Miss Judge was the baby of her enslaved mother [name?] and an indentured servant; even though the indentured servant was a free man, the mother was not, and the law stated that any fruits and/or labors or babies etc. coming from a slave is the property of the slave's owner.
Miss Olney was actually the property of Martha Washington, who inherited 84 "dower" slaves from her first husband--this meant that the slaves were her's to own but not to sell. When Martha married George in 1759 they gathered their slaves together but separately, adding significantly to the slave population at the estate (a number that would grow to more than 300 by the time of Washington's death 40 years later). Washington freed his slaves after death, in his (1797) will; Martha kept her's until she died in 1802, at which point her property was distributed to Custis heirs.
Oney Judge on the other hand made her way to New Hampshire, where she settled and married Mr. Jack Staines. She spent the rest of her life (she was 26 when she fled and lived to 1848, aged 75) as not-a-slave but unfortunately not-free, either.
Washington suffered another major loss--his prized cook, Hercules, took of from Mt. Vernon in 1798 and evidently met happiness in Philadelphia. Washington wanted that property returned, too2.
1. "Advertisement. ABSCONDED from the houshold [sic] of the President of the United States, ONEY JUDGE, a light mulatto girl, much freckled, with very black eyes and bushy black hair. She is of middle stature, slender, and delicately formed, about 20 years of age. She has many changes of good clothes of all sorts, but they are not sufficiently recollected to be described—As there was no suspicion of her going off, nor no provocation to do so, it is not easy to conjecture whither she has gone, or fully, what her design is;—but as she may attempt to escape by water, all matters of vessels are cautioned against admitting her into them, although it is probable she will attempt to pass as a free woman, and has, it is said, wherewithal to pay her passage. Ten dollars will be paid to any person who will bring her home, if taken in the city, or on board any vessel in the harbour;—and a reasonable additional sum if apprehended at, and brought from a greater distance, and in proportion to the distance. FREDERICK KITT, Steward. May 23
We have never heard of Herculas our Cook since he left this; but little doubt remains in my mind of his having gone to Philadelphia, and may yet be found there, if proper measures were employed to discover (unsuspectedly, so as not to alarm him) where his haunts are.
If you could accomplish this for me, it would render me an acceptable service as I neither have, nor can get a good Cook to hire, and am disinclined to hold another slave by purchase.
If by indirect enquiries of those who know Herculas, you should learn that he is in the City, inform Colo. Clemt Biddle thereof, and he will, I hope, take proper measures to have him apprehended at the moment one of the Packets for Alexandria is about to Sale, and put him therein, to be conveyed hither; and will pay any expence which may be incurred in the execution of this business; which must be managed with address to give it a chance of Success—for if Herculas was to get the least hint of the design he would elude all your vigilance. I wish you well and am Your friend &ca"