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After 50 years of orogenic calm, suddenly the directors of Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) are trying to change the college name, and the school’s public relations cadre has been in full-blown smackdown and smearing of the deceased namesake, Lord Fairfax the 6th.
We know Mr. Fairfax was a slave owner, but let’s look at the other things they have been saying about him.
The former college president said he was a “very minor historical figure.” Yet, Mr. Fairfax was
responsible for the settling of over 5 million acres locally! Like it or not, he was the face of local colonial rule, and he helped along George Washington who grew up to protest the colonial slave trade and lead the army which ended that rule.
They said Fairfax was an out-of-touch, stingy aristocrat, and “never had to work.” However, he donated land and performed civic duties, serving as a Frederick County Justice of the Peace and County Lieutenant. Historian Bishop Meade wrote “that titled as he was, and rich, he never failed to perform his duty as a citizen and neighbor.”
While, yes, through the colonial system, he came unto his land holdings, he did not sit in a recliner playing Xbox. That land had to be surveyed, appropriated and governed, by foot and horseback. Fairfax eschewed English castle life and settled in something visually similar to a horse barn, in the then-wilderness of White Post, Virginia.
Regarding privilege, it is only fair to note that the annual salary for the head of the Virginia Community College system is an aristocratic $481,045!
Moreover, LFCC states: “There are historical records indicating he also engaged in long-term sexual abuse of enslaved women.” One member of the re-naming board said he “partook in a pay-for-rape scenario.” Where is the proof for these outrageous statements?
Similar claims are circulating on the internet and likely derive from Stewart Brown’s biography on Lord Fairfax, published in 1965, a book referenced by the Board’s re-naming committee. Let’s take a closer look at it.
In the appendix, Brown said he had in-hand a receipt written by Fairfax’s clerk, to wit: “February 27, 1777. Received of Curtis Corley ten shillings on the Lords ship account, for bring a negro wench to bed. Cary Balengar.” Let’s assume that is an exact quote of the receipt, because accuracy matters.
Elsewhere in his book, Brown altered the included phrase into, “bedding down a negro wench,” and remarked that this meant Fairfax was paying for sex. He further speculated that this was evidence of a rumor that Fairfax had children by numerous slave women, and that at the age of 83, was thus “sufficiently virile” not to be near death. However, Brown gave no foundation for the rumor or his opinion.
Yet, the Collins Dictionary says “to be brought to bed” is an archaic British English expression meaning “childbirth.” Given that, does it make better sense that this was simply a receipt for delivering a baby, as others have already suggested?
Before we neuter and vandalize Fairfax’s name, let’s do OUR homework.
The writer lives in Front Royal
Editor’s note: We cannot verify the historical veracity of any of the claims made about Fairfax’s biography.