William & Mary Quarterly

3d ser., 68, no. 2
April 2011

Digital Projects

Atlantic Slavery, Atlantic Freedom: George Washington, Slavery, and Transatlantic Abolitionist Networks

François Furstenberg

There are two supplements for this article. Please see the links below.

Historiographical Note; Or, A list of references ”too cumbersome to be included in a footnote

Interactive Diagram

The first wave of Atlantic abolitionism during the late eighteenth century was a transnational movement par excellence. Activists, philosophers, politicians, writers—and slaveholders—across the Atlantic world communicated with other both in person and through print and clearly shaped one another’s thinking. This diagram attempts to map out exactly how such influences and channels of communication worked.

We begin with the similarity between the thinking of George Washington and the Marquis de Condorcet, a similarity rendered somewhat puzzling by the fact that they never met and by the absence of any publication by Condorcet in Washington’s library. By focusing on their links within a transatlantic conversation about slavery and abolitionism, however, the channels of influence begin to emerge. Each was connected to this conversation by various individuals: by the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, most obviously, but also by a host of others.