In the Anglo-African Magazine, picture IX, the author provides a satirical depiction of Mount Vernon. Being the residence of George and Martha Washington, who owned slaves, this can be seen as the authors personal comments on the irony of the dilapidation of the home at that current time.
The author describes the imagery of the ghost of a former slave, holding Washington’s bones in his hand accompanied by a sign reading, “For Sale, Price $200,000 this negro included”. Washington, the emblem of the foundation of America, a nation founded on immigrants, was for sale. The ideals of the Founding Fathers, like their idyllic representation in Mount Vernon, were in decay. The repetition of the words “decay” and “Mount Vernon” were used in order to enhance the juxtaposition and importance of these words together.
This nation was founded on immigrants and the hard work of those labeled as lower class individuals and “chattel” – a lot like how Mount Vernon was built and maintained by the blood, sweat, and tears of Washington’s slaves. The presentation and acceptance of this belief during the time of the Anglo-African Magazine would have been met with intense opposition. This meant that those who held these beliefs had to become creative in their opposition, and could greatly explain why the author chose to write this section in such a hidden way.
Despite their inaccuracy in timeline alignment, this excerpt largely reminded myself of lines from songs in Hamilton: the musical. Both artistic productions surround the topic of the establishment of America through the work of immigrants. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and lead of Hamilton, purposefully produced the musical in a humorous and honest way where each character was portrayed by a minority.
Throughout the musical there are lines supporting this belief, but one of the most prominent is “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.” Not all free men. Not all men with land. All men are created equal. (This is slightly bittersweet to defend, considering it does not include women, but that is another post for another day.)
This line was the basis of the creation of the ideals outlined in the Declaration of Independence, and wholly represented principles that Washington supported. It created all men as equal, and confirmed his wishes to free all slaves from their imprisonment. However, the next wave of political representatives brought strong opposition to this belief, increasing slavery exponentially, in response to the past wave of (quasi) equality. This welcomed the Civil War into American history.
As we find ourselves in our current states of affairs, we can look back on history and recognize the pattern of this wave of opposition. The Abraham Lincoln presidency and the subsequent abolishing of slavery followed the Civil War. Brown v. Board of Education and the de-segregation of public places and schools followed periods of deep-seeded hatred and racism. The Obama presidency, a period defined by hope and change, was followed by the Trump presidency and the rise of neo-Nazism.
In the face of all of this opposition throughout American history, opponents were forced to become creative in their presentation of the truth. The Anglo-African Magazine produced satire about the destruction of the ideals of the Founding Fathers. Martin Luther King Jr. practiced peaceful protests, inspiring sit-in movements across the nation. Lin-Manuel Miranda created a hit musical production where America was black, Hispanic, female, and so on. As a result of the works of these minorities, America was strong. But without it, as seen in the depiction of Mount Vernon, America was dilapidated.