Ferdinando Fairfax

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Ferdinando Fairfax
Ferdinando Fairfax (1766 - 1820).png
DiedSeptember 24, 1820(1820-09-24) (aged 53–54)
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Blair Cary
Parent(s) Bryan Fairfax
Elizabeth Cary
Relatives Thomas Fairfax (brother)
Sally Fairfax (aunt)
George William Fairfax (uncle)
William Fairfax (grandfather)

Ferdinando Fairfax (born in 1766 at Shannon Hill, Jefferson County, Virginia (now West Virginia); died on 24 September 1820 at Mount Eagle, Fairfax County, Virginia) was a Virginia landowner and member of the prominent Fairfax family.


Early life

He was the youngest son of Bryan Fairfax, 8th Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1736–1802) and Elizabeth Cary. His brother was Thomas Fairfax, 9th Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1762–1846) and his grandfather was Col. William Fairfax (1691–1757). George Washington and Martha Washington, who traveled to Towlston Grange [1] after his birth, were his godparents. [2] Ferdinando was the heir to his uncle, George William Fairfax (1729–1787), son of William Fairfax (1691–1757), who was married to Sally Cary (ca. 1730–1811), his mother Elizabeth's sister. George William Fairfax was Washington's close friend. [3]


Fairfax served as a justice of the peace for Jefferson County, Virginia and was, at the same time, the largest slave owner in the County. [2]

From the 1770s onward, individuals in France, Britain, and North America developed plans to colonize freed black people as a way of encouraging emancipation. These individuals proposed to form colonies in Africa, in the Caribbean, or in the American West; notable proponents include Granville Sharp of England, LaFayette of France, and Thomas Jefferson of America. One of the first such plans came from four enslaved black men in New England, who petitioned the colonial government for permission to buy their own freedom and then transport themselves to a colony they wanted to found on the African coast. [4]

Fairfax offered his own "practicable scheme" for ending slavery through colonization when he developed his "Plan for Liberating the Negroes within the United States" in 1790. Many of these plans were similar in that they wanted the abolition of slaves to be gradual, they wanted the government to compensate the slave owners for the lost property, they wanted the government to pay to educate and prepare free blacks for life as independent people, and they wanted to colonize the freed slaves in a separate place from the white society. This was because most people at the time believed that the races would not be able to get along if they tried to live together.

Fairfax later squandered his inheritance on visionary schemes and squatters lawsuits.

Personal life

Fairfax's son, George William Fairfax, painted by Joseph Wood (1816) GeorgeWilliamFairfax.jpeg
Fairfax's son, George William Fairfax, painted by Joseph Wood (1816)

Ferdinando married his first cousin Elizabeth Blair Cary, daughter of Wilson Miles Cary and Sarah Blair. The couple had the following children: [5]


The Union officer in the United States Navy during the American Civil War, Donald McNeill Fairfax (1818–1894), was his grandson. [5]

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  1. Restored Towlston Grange, Great Falls Historical Society Archived 2010-04-07 at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 "Ferdinando Fairfax" | author= Barbara Rasumussen
  3. William H. Snowden (1902). The Story of the Expedition of the Young Surveyors, George Washington and George William Fairfax: to Survey the Virginia Lands of Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax, 1747-1748. G. H. Ramey. George William Fairfax.
  4. Guyatt, Nicholas (2016). Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation. New York: Basic Books. pp. 197–224.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 du Bellet, Louise Pecquet (1907). "Some Prominent Virginia Families". Bell company: 176. bryan fairfax.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)