Indeed, we laud George Washington and Thomas Jefferson for their private opposition to slavery, but they never challenged the system and took advantage of its benefits when it suited them…As for Washington? This anecdote stands out:
In 1784, five years before he became president of the United States, George Washington, 52, was nearly toothless. So he hired a dentist to transplant nine teeth into his jaw–having extracted them from the mouths of his slaves.
This is not to condemn the Founders are horrible, terrible human beings but to situate them as men of their time, filled with the prejudices of their class, and unwilling — or unable — to transcend them. If we’re out to respect the Founding Fathers, then we should acknowledge their flaws and try to remember them as they lived, not as demigods in a morality play.
It’s a peculiar historical detail, but it’s so memorable that going forward, I will always think of it when I consider our first President.