American history is full of strange and mostly forgotten facts that we cannot believe to be true when we first hear about them. Yet, they are true. One such fact is that it was a mistake to designate money in a Will to be used to free slaves and appoint Thomas Jefferson as the Executor to carry out the task. That did happen and it was a mistake.
Out of all of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson was probably the most opposed to slavery. He spoke out against it many times and often wrote about. He did have slaves of his own that he never freed. However, he did not free them because at the time slaves were considered property and they were subject to the claims of Jefferson’s many creditors. Thus when Tadeusz Kosciuszko designated Jefferson to be the Executor of his 1798 Will that left a small fortune, for the time, to be used to purchase and free slaves, it was a good choice. It became a mistake because Kosciuszko did not pass away until 1817 when Jefferson was in poor health and unable to serve as Executor.
Had Jefferson served as the Executor it is possible the money would have been used to free slaves. However, without Jefferson, litigation over the estate occurred and none of the money was used for the intended purpose. The moral of the story is that you should change who you designate as Executor when the person originally named is no longer capable of serving in that role.