Or, we don’t have information about Washington’s household to conclusively say whether he was arbitrarily punishing slaves (in which case, he deserves full scorn) or if he was punishing people who had committed horrible acts and deserved what (at the time) would have been considered reasonable punishment. These days, of course, there is no crime where it is considered reasonable to whip someone.
Without knowing who, how frequently ran away from whom, for what reasons, it’s entirely possible that someone was fleeing out of fear, out of desperation, or for some inane reason. With the information we have, coming down on any one answer is shortsighted. It may be correct; those may well have been people running away from George Washington, because he was practicing sadistic torture rituals on them every other Wednesday. I am not saying that slaves were well treated or that they ran away for stupid reasons. By our standards they certainly weren’t, and by our standards they’d certainly have been justified in running away for any reason at all, full stop.
But assuming that view to be correct is probably just as silly as assuming that every slave who ran away was behaving childishly.
I personally find it unlikely that for a century, every slave holding household was - as Hollywood would seem to want us to believe - ritualistically torturing the people that they had bought, just for shits and giggles. If you think that’s true, I would say that requires a higher burden of proof than someone cautioning against a view that all slaves, constantly were miserable, unhappy, and being tortured and saying instead, “You know, probably most of the time, regardless of class, life consisted of working several hours, getting some food, chatting with your pals, and going to sleep”.
You will need to point to there place where I said “slavers”. I was talking about George Washington.
You will also need to point to the place where I said “only”.
Again, it’s entirely possible that Washington was a monstrous individual who gleefully tore apart families and sent them to all ends of the Earth, just for the chance to be able to laugh about it while chatting with his mom on Christmas.
But it’s also possible, like I said, that he was sending away people who were dangerous to keep around.
I’m not assuming the latter. I’m pointing at that the former is a rather extreme reading, just as the latter could be as well. But of the two, I’d honestly find the latter more plausible for George Washington. But I’m not arguing for either case. I’m arguing caution and against reading bizarre, ritualistic torture fantasies into the lives of a people 200 years ago.
As said, life sucks everywhere. You can see modern people living in sucky situations. They live in war zones, they live in places where they could be raped by some dude trying to get rid of his AIDS.
And you ask those people how their day was and the grand majority of the time they’ll say, “Pretty good.”
And if that’s true, if people generally throughout history have spent 99% of their life going to work, eating some food, chatting with their friends, and getting some sleep, I’m just not seeing it as being very likely that most slaves, most of the time, were hating life. There almost certainly were moments where several of them thought that life was unfair, that they deserved more or different lives, and I think we can look back and say with certainty that, “Yes, you deserved better lives than you got.” But still, if you asked any slave on any random day how his day was, most often you’d probably get back a “Pretty good.”
It is entirely possible that every single slave ever punished was punished because he had gotten up and said, “I shouldn’t be a slave! This is unfair! I’m not doing any work today!” And I would agree with any slave who said that. It was unfair. He didn’t deserve the life he was given. And so it’s also entirely possible that every whipping was by a slave owner who was hell-bent on breaking the will of every slave he encountered.
But it’s just as possible that at least one slave, of all slaves, raped a woman, another slave, and when this was found out, he was whipped and then sent away to the West Indies. That isn’t a reasonable punishment by today’s standards, but at the time I doubt that anyone would have found it an unreasonable result.
So the question is, is George Washington more likely to have whipped people and to have split up families just for shits and giggles, or that this man who was well-respected for his composure and fairness and who freed all of his slaves on his death bed, meted out punishments based on merit?