Was Slavery Debated in the 18th Century?
This painting shows Charles Calvert, 5th Lord Baltimore, at the age of five with one of his family’s slaves. While both are ornately dressed, their identities as master and slave are clearly indicated in the composition of the painting.
Although the institution of slavery was well-established in 18th-century Maryland, the expansion of rights and freedom for African slaves was also a subject of great debate in the years following the American Revolution. Antislavery supporters, both evangelical and secular, brought the question of slavery to the floor of the state legislature many times throughout the 1780s and 1790s.
John Hesselius painted many portraits of the colonial elite in the Chesapeake region, and was Charles Willson Peale’s first instructor.