Ted Cruz cites slaveowner in confirmation hearing for Ketanji Brown Jackson

Bushrod Washington wanted to send Black people to Africa

Eric Garcia
Tuesday 22 March 2022 16:31 GMT
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Senator Ted Cruz cited a slaveowning Supreme Court Justice who wanted to send enslaved people to Africa during Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing to become the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court.

Mr Cruz made the remarks when discussing how contentious Supreme Court nominations can be and faulted Democrats for their attacks on Justice Brett Kavanaugh when Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual assault – which Mr Kavanaugh denied.

“Supreme Court confirmations were not always controversial,” he said. “In fact Bushrod Washington when nominated to the Supreme Court in 1798 was confirmed the very next day.”

Mr Washington, like many of the elite in Virginia in his day, owned slaves. A nephew of George Washington, he inherited the Mount Vernon estate upon Martha Washington’s death in 1802, according to the Washington Papers at the University of Virginia. He occasionally fumed at the idea that his aunt’s death would lead to the liberation of his slaves.

He complained especially when the estate “has at times been visited by some unworthy persons; who have condescended to hold conversations with my negroes, and to impress upon their minds the belief that as the nephew of General Washington, or as president of the Colonization Society, or for other reasons, I could not hold them in bondage, and particularly that they would be free at my death.”

Similarly, Mr Washington also started the American Colonization Society, which sought to send free Black people to Africa. Specifically, upon Liberia’s independence in 1847, the society sent 11,000 Black people to the newly formed West African country. The American Colonization Society also included luminaries such as Senator Henry Clay, according to the Library of Congress.

But when enslaved Black people plotted to escape, Mr Washington did not respond by trying to send them to Africa. Rather, he sold 54 of them to Louisiana.

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