Who Was Billy Lee?
Who Was Billy Lee? George Washington’s Mulatto Man
In George Washington’s Mulatto Man – Who was Billy Lee, I connect dots from a series of events that began more than twenty-five years before our forefathers declared their political independence from England and ended more than twenty-five years after they achieved it.
We are aware of the great majority of these events because George Washington mentioned them in his papers. The most important are the paragraphs Washington added to his Will a few months before he died. In this passage, Washington directed that his “mulatto man William” be freed and provided a dwelling and an annuity for the remainder of hs life. This unusual act of generosity appears even more peculiar when we learn that Washington shunned his servant through the last nine years of his, Washington’s, life. Nor did the master give his loyal servant an audience as he lay dying.
What was the mysterious bond that tied Gorge Washington to Billy Lee for thirty-two years and induced the great man to provide for Billy after he had gone to his reward?
I submit that only one thing could have bound the greatest man in history to his anonymous slave. George idolized his older half-brother Lawrence, and as Lawrence lay dying in July of 1752, I believe George promised him that he would assume an obligation Lawrence had committed to perform. What was it? To protect and provide for the two son’s of George William Fairfax and his beautiful wife, Sally Cary Fairfax.
George William Fairfax was Lawrence Washington’s brother-inlaw, his neighbor, and his best friend. He was also the son of William Fairfax, who was the steward of his cousin’s 5.2 million acre proprietary and Lawrence’s powerful benefactor.
As Lawrence lay dying, I contend that he revealed to his half-brother who Billy Lee really was and why he had assumed the obligation of being his guardian. I also believe that he ordered his half-brother carry on for him after he, Lawrence, was gone.
I define and defend this thesis in the pages of this book. I also explain that George Washington’s mullato man was probably his distant cousin.
In the book’s first section, I reconstruct Billy Lee’s life before George brought him to Mount Vernon. I explain how George and his brother Jack “purchased” Billy from their cousin and how Billy became George Washington’s huntsman and, when the American Revolution began, General Washington’s personal attendant.
In the book’s second part, I reconstruct the forgotten relationships and social patterns that made George Washington’s vow to his dying brother unbreakable.
In the book’s final section, I unveil the true portrait of Billy Lee, which I say Charles Willson Peale painted from life in Philadelphia in 1779.
I build my analyis on extensive original research. I am the first to notice, for example, that George Washington was joined by his brother Jack in the “purchase” of Billy Lee from their cousin. This transaction was, I say, designed to mask the transfer of two mixed-race family members from their place of residence at Cabin Point in Westmoreland County to Mount Vernon, where the two boys had lived prior to Lawrence Washhington’s death. While the documentary evidence is not sufficient to prove my theory, it must be true for two reasons: 1) it takes into account all the known facts, and 2) it is the only plausible explanation for what we know happened.
I show in my narrative how conspicuous facts become invisible when viewed through wrong lens. I explain in my concluding comment why the qualities of his person coupled with his circumstances made George Washington the greatest man in history. Although this great man deserves credit for honoring his vow to his dying half-brother, I also blame him for “ruining” his faithful servant. He should have done much more!
I am particularly critical of the analysis presented by historian Fritz Hirschfeld, who insinuated that the greatest man in history was a 20th century “racist”. Mr. Hirschfeld raised this faux issue even though he admitted that 18th century society was not equivalent to 20th century society and that 20th century racism, which Mr. Hirschfeld left undefined, was not a characteristic of 18th century men like George Washington.