Washington’s Purposeful Will

Originally published in eFlourishing Issue 34, October 27, 2010.

I’ve just recently joined a professional development collaborative led by John A. Warnick, founder and CEO of the Purposeful Planning Institute, based in Denver. John A. was formerly a partner in the Denver office of Holme Roberts & Owen LLP, a prestigious international law firm.

The Purposeful Planning Institute provides its collaborators with weekly and monthly conference calls and regular on-site training sessions at varying locations around the country. I expect to add to my understanding of issues related to intergenerational wealth transfer from this collaborative, and I hope to translate what I learn into practical benefits for clients.

This week, though, I just want to share something I gained from a personal telephone conversation with John A., and from my membership in the Purposeful Planning Institute collaborative.

George Washington – my great-grandfather’s namesake – has taken a lot of heat over the past couple of decades – despite his indispensable role in America’s founding – because, it is alleged, he didn’t free his own slaves. In response to that line of thinking, I’ve always said that the man deserves immeasurable credit for helping to lay the foundation for the actions of Abraham Lincoln and others, who are more widely recognized for their advancement of civil rights equality. And, I’ve said, you have to give a man his historical context.

So, I was delighted to learn about Washington’s 16-page, handwritten will. You can go online and google it for yourself, but here, thanks to John A. Warnick, is a transcript of the relevant portion.

Upon the decease of my wife, it is my Will & desire that all the Slaves which I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom. —To emancipate them during her life, would, tho’ earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties…And whereas among those who will receive freedome according to this devise, there may be some, who from old age or bodily infirmities, and others who on account of their infancy, that will be unable to support themselves; it is my Will and desire that all…shall be comfortably cloathed & fed by my heirs while they live; —…And I do expressly forbid the Sale, or transportation out of the said Commonwealth, of any Slave I may die possessed of, under any pretence whatsoever. —And I do most pointedly, and most solemnly enjoin upon my Executors…to see that this clause respecting Slaves…be religiously fulfilled.

Washington went on to establish a trust fund for the establishment of a free school for educating the children of poor and indigent slaves.

Isn’t it amazing what I didn’t learn in school? Until next week,


 John A. Warnick and Purposeful Planning Institute are not affiliated with, nor endorsed by, LPL Financial.