Sunday, March 21, 2010

Did George Washington have an illegitimate son?

Did George Washington have an illegitimate son? Linda Allen Bryant, a direct descendent of a slave named West Ford (1784?-1863) points to correspondence between George and his brother, John Augustine, to argue that George Washington visited his brother’s plantation in 1784, and that a gap in Washington’s personal diary that year could account for a sexual liaison during this visit. According to an oral tradition passed down in the Ford family, a story first publicized in the 1940s, when confronted by her mistress, Hannah Washington, a pregnant slave named Venus confessed the paternity of her child, "The old General be the father, Mistress."

In all likelihood, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association argues, West Ford was indeed the son of a Washington, but not of George Washington. At the present development stage of DNA science, no direct link to George Washington can be established. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association has pledged its cooperation with testing as DNA science progresses.

PBS video: "George and Venus"

Neither Martha Washington nor the women of the South’s leading families were marble statues, they had the same strengths and weaknesses, passions and problems, joys and sorrows, as the women of any age.  So just how did they live?

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