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Tampering with New England’s Slave Trade

Much of Britain’s difficulty with its American colonies came from New England smuggling and dependence upon French West Indies molasses which it distilled into rum, which in turn fueled its slave trade. In his last years, Boston’s John Adams “saw the Revolution, at least in part, as a struggle over molasses. He said “I know not why we should blush to confess that molasses was an essential ingredient in American independence.

It takes no great imagination to conclude that without British and New England populating the American colonies with African slaves, and perpetuating this into the mid-nineteenth century, the war which destroyed the American republic in 1861 might not have occurred.

Tampering with New England’s Trade in Slaves

“[The Molasses Act of 1733 enacted by the British Parliament] was introduced as a result of complaints from the British islands in the West Indies, whose economy was based on the production of sugar, against the competition of the French sugar islands – St. Dominique, Guadeloupe and Martinique. The British West Indies – Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Monserrat and St. Christopher – were such an immense source of wealth that they were considered at the time to be more important to the empire than the North American colonies.

Molasses, a by-product of the islands’ sugar mills, was turned into rum in New England. There were so many distilleries in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut that they were known as the Rum Coast. Rum, to a degree hard to believe in a later and much different world, was essential to the New England economy.

It was one of the main means of profitable exchange for furs from the Indians and slaves and ivory from Africa. Some of the greatest early New England fortunes were based on the rum trade, most of which was carried on illegally. Boston alone was said to have about fifty distilling houses. Nothing could set off a panic in New England more surely than tampering with this trade.

The trouble arose because the British islands could not supply all the molasses needed by the North American distilleries or supply them as cheaply as the French islands. The French West Indian molasses manufacture and the New England rum production were as if made for each other. By [Sir Robert] Walpole’s time, an immensely important trade had developed between the French islands and the New England colonies. Everyone benefited, except the British sugar islands.

The result was the Molasses Act, which was designed to cut off the [French-New England] trade by putting a 100 percent duty upon non-British sugar. The agent of Massachusetts and Connecticut in London foretold funereally that the act was bound to ruin “many thousand families there.” Richard Partridge, the New York agent in London, brought up the argument of nonrepresentation in Parliament to denounce the act . . .”

By passing the act, [Walpole] legally appeased the British East West Indian planters. By doing little or nothing to enforce it, he appeased New England rum merchants. Smuggling was not a particularly American vice. Even when Secretary at War he had been engaged in smuggling his wines up the Thames.”

(The Struggle for Power: The American Revolution, Theodore Draper, Vintage Books, 1997, excerpts pp. 95-96)

The Slave Trade

The lack of historical perspective today supports the mistaken belief that the American South somehow introduced and perpetuated African slavery in North America, and that the Confederate Battle Flag somehow represents this gross inhumanity.

The truth is not difficult to find, and it is that a Portuguese ship brought the first African to North America, and well after the Spanish had brought them, already enslaved by their African brethren, to the islands of the Caribbean – the latter done after it was found that the local Indians they had enslaved for work died off too quickly.

The British fostered the rise and perpetuation of African slavery in America as a colonial labor system – and African chieftains supplied their needs with captured men, women and children.

The New Englanders quickly followed the British example and became preeminent slavers in their own right, with the economic base of that region founded on slave trade profits, and the later mills of Massachusetts dependent upon slave-produced cotton for profitability.

The American South no more fought to preserve slavery than did the American Colonies after Lord Dunmore’s infamous emancipation proclamation of 1775; nor was the United States fighting for the preservation of slavery after Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane issued his own emancipation proclamation in 1814.

The American South fought for political independence from a North which had lost its moorings to the Constitution of 1789 which held the States together. The South had remained faithful to that document, and departed that federation to maintain its political liberty. The North prosecuted a devastating war to prevent that political liberty, “freed” the slaves which they themselves had helped securely fasten upon the South, and converted them into a dependable voting bloc with which to maintain political hegemony over formerly free States.

The Slave Trade

“In the library of the State College at Raleigh, N.C., there is a notable book of some three hundred and fifty pages and forty-nine illustrations – the fifteenth publication of the Marine Research Society, of Salem, Mass., and published in Vermont – the title being: “Slave Ships and Slaving.”

The introduction is written by a British navy officer, and the text is by George F. Dow.

Within ten years after the discovery of America the Spaniards began to transport Africans to work in their possessions, and all the maritime nations of Europe followed their example; and during the next two hundred and fifty years the English transported twice as many as all other countries put together. They began in Queen Elizabeth’s time, kept it up in the next reign, and, in 1662, the Duke of York undertook to transport to the British Colonies three thousand slaves every year. Ten years later the King himself became interested and, under contract, England got from Spain the exclusive right to supply the Spanish colonies [with African slaves]; and the King of England and the King of Spain each received one-fourth of the profits.

Between 1680 and 1688 England had two hundred and forty-nine slave ships; from 1713, for twenty years, 15,000 slaves were annually brought to America. In 1786, England brought over 97,000 slaves. During eleven years, 1783-1793, Liverpool owned eight hundred and seventy eight vessels in this trade, and imported many thousands of slaves in the West Indies. They were worth some 15,000,000 pounds of that period; equal to about $150,000,000 now [1930].

While Liverpool was the chief port for this trade, Bristol was a close second. Then, over here, New England was not slow. Massachusetts started in 1638. However, Rhode Island became the rival of Liverpool. Ten pages on this volume are devoted to the operations in Rhode Island. There nearly everyone was interested.

In 1750, “Rum was the chief manufacture of New England. About 15,000 hogsheads of molasses were annually converted into rum in Massachusetts alone. The number of stills in operation was almost beyond belief. In Newport there were no less than twenty-two.” With rum they purchased Negroes in Africa; these were exchanged for molasses in the Caribbean Islands and South America, and the molasses was brought to the New England stills; and so the profitable business was carried on in a circle to an extent beyond ordinary imagination!

It was the very basis of New England’s prosperity. At Newport, Bristol and Providence [Rhode Island], some of the most respectable and wealthy merchants were engaged in the trade. Even preachers and philanthropists were advocates. “One elder, whose ventures in slaving had usually turned out well, always returned thanks on the Sunday following the arrival of a slaver that the Africans could enjoy the blessing of a Gospel dispensation.”

The Southern colonies had no ships, nor any molasses. They were not in the trade. However, the British Slaving Company, in which the King of England was a partner was in duty-bound to supply the needs of the colonies as particularly required by Good Queen Anne. The Colonies were forbidden to manufacture, and their products were required to be shipped to England, where they were exchanged for British goods. So the more slaves making products, the more goods the Colonies bought in England.

At length Virginia forbade any more importation [of Africans] but the King annulled that Virginia law. In Jefferson’s draught of the Declaration of Independence he denounced the King most severely for annulling these prohibitions. However, in 1774, importations were forbidden by the people of North and South Carolina, and there were no importations until 1803, when South Carolina opened her ports for four years.

Great Britain abolished the [slave] trade in 1807, just as the Congress of the United States did. After a few years, other countries followed our example: Spain in 1820, Portugal in 1830; but the trade between Portuguese Africa and Brazil did not cease until Brazil, in 1888, put a stop to it. That this volume has been prepared by the Marine Research Society, of Salem, Mass., speaks well for New England, and it should be in every library of the South.”

(The Slave Trade, Capt. S.A. Ashe, Confederate Veteran, December 1930, pg. 457)

Jan 27, 2019 - Black Slaveowners, Britain's Royal African Company, From Africa to America, Slavery Comes to America, Slavery in Africa, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Slavery in British Territory, Circa 1875

Slavery in British Territory, Circa 1875

It is astonishing to many that as their former Northern colonies began a war in 1861 upon their Southern neighbors ostensibly because of African slavery, England would not have intervened with offers of compensated emancipation due to a guilty conscience.

After all, the Royal African Company (RAC) was chartered by the Stuart family and London merchants in 1660 for the express purpose of trade along the West Coast of Africa. The RAC was led by the Duke of York, for whom New York City is named. In the 1680s, 5000 slaves were carried annually across the Atlantic by the RAC and branded with “DY” or “RAC” on their chests, clearly indicating whose property they were.

Therefore, those responsible for populating North and South America with African slaves should be arraigned for perpetuating slavery, as well as those in Africa who captured their own brethren and sold them to the Europeans in the first place.

Slavery in British Territory, Circa 1875

“It has been recently brought to light in England, by the indefatigable Dr. [Wilhelm] Leitner [1840-1899], the principal of the Government College at Lahore, that a large and barbarous slave-trade is carried on by the Ameer of Afghanistan, who is a quasi-feudatory [ally] of Great Britain, by who he is regularly supplied with improved Snider rifles and a large subsidy.

Barbarous raids are continually carried on, on the neighboring tribe of Siah Posh Kafirs, which at present number about 300,000, but is threatened with destruction. The people are described as a noble race, supposed to the descendants of a settlement of Christians of remote antiquity. Armed only with rude weapons they are unable to resist the Afghans with the Sniders supplied to their enslavers by the Indian Government.

In reference to this this subject the Editor of Public Opinion, at Lahore, wrote in May 1874:

“It is well-known, that slaves are purchased by British subjects within the boundaries of British territory, and that many a beautiful Siah Posh girl has been torn from her relations and friends, and has ended her days in misery in the harems of our native fellow subjects.

It is well-known, to everyone well acquainted with the Kafirs, that within the last few years numerous villages of Siah Posh have been conquered by the Afghan Mohammedans, almost solely on account of the high market value of female slaves from Kafiristan; and it ought to be well-known, although we believe it is not as well-known as it should be, that there are agents for the purchase of slaves, who carry on their unholy traffic even in British Territory.”

In speaking at a public meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society in London, Dr. Leitner said:

“Then it comes the case of Ameer of [Kabul] . . . and giving the Ameer money and arms, we have certainly assumed the position of a “paramount” power towards him. These Kafirs consider themselves the brothers of the Europeans – they are neither Hindoos nor Mohammedans, but is has been said have a sort of quasi-Christianity . . . this is the race that is now successfully preyed upon by the Ameer.

The slavery in the British settlements on the West Coast of Africa, which has long been a reproach to Great Britain, has now received its death blow [though] the greatest difficulties will probably be raised by European merchants.”

(The Lost Continent; or, Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa, 1875, Joseph Cooper, Longman’s, Green & Company, 1875, excerpts pp. 19-22)

Portuguese Trade with Africa

It is said that a Portuguese merchant was the first to purchase slaves in 1441 from an African chieftain, who were then taken to Portugal. This country had emerged as the first European country and viable political unit which could raise sufficient revenues through taxation to sustain overseas expeditions for future trade relations. And, like their European counterparts, African coastal slave catchers viewed their captives as marketable objects.

The African slave trade monopoly developed by the Portuguese spread to other European powers, and eventually New England, which created its own “rum triangle” of the transatlantic trade in slaves. Thus, the agrarian Southern colonies of British America became populated with African slaves to work the British plantation labor system. It is then clear who developed, profited from and perpetuated the existence of African slavery, and where condemnation should be accurately directed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Portuguese Trade with Africa

“The transatlantic trade affected the coastal area of West Africa that became Liberia in 1822. Before the arrival of Europeans in the fifteenth century, coastal pre-Liberia had been affected by internal and external social dynamics. The Mande, Mel and Kwa were the first linguistic groups to reside in the region . . . [and] Dei, Bassa, Kran, Kru and Glebo came to pre-Liberia in about 988 AD.

Nearly all these ethnic groups practiced some form of slavery prior to the arrival of the Europeans. [The European] discovery of the New World brought significant demands for . . . a large number of Africans to meet the demand for labor. [North and South American] Indians were enslaved, but frequently escaped. As many as 30 million Indians were killed by diseases such as smallpox and chicken pox . . .

Attempts were made to enslave poor Europeans. Some poor Irish, Scots and English were reduced to indentured servitude to meet the increasing demands for labor in the New World.

The first group of African slaves sent to the West Indies in 1510, had been bought in Portugal. Owing to the increasing significance of the slave trade, King John III activated the monopoly that had been established over the coastal pre-Liberian trade, even though the Portuguese monopoly was ignored by other European powers as the transatlantic slave trade, started by Portugal, was taken over by Spain and then the Netherlands.

Nearly all the major European powers came to be involved with the trade from the 1400s to the 1800s. It has been estimated that as many as 9.5 million Africans were transported to the Americas between 1510 and 1870.

The prosperity of the Vai, Kissi, Kry, Bassa and Glebo merchants was directly tied to their participation in the Atlantic trade . . . [and] African coastal merchants perceived slavery as a commercial action. The African slavers sent “gampisas”, professional slave captors, into the interior to hunt for slaves for their western allies.”

(Transatlantic Trade and the Coastal Area of Pre-Liberia, Amos J. Beyan, The Historian, Phi Alpha Theta, Volume 57, No. 4, Summer 1995, excerpts pp. 757-758; 763-768)

The Cornerstone of New England Prosperity

The primary reason for the large number of slaves in the Southern colonies, despite their repeated complaints to the Crown, was the British colonial labor system supporting large plantations in the South – all to the benefit of England. Although Massachusetts and Rhode Island abolished slavery, their slave trading on the coast of Africa continued unabated. Jefferson castigated George III for waging a “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people [Africans] who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Cornerstone of New England’s Prosperity

“The relation between master and slave had practically continued in every one of the American provinces, until the close of the Revolution in 1783. Immediately after that event, it was decided by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts that slavery had been, in fact, abolished in that State by the operation of the State Constitution, adopted in the year 1790.

In all of the other original thirteen provinces north of Mason and Dixon’s line, except Delaware . . . legislative measures were taken, shortly after the Revolution, for either the immediate or gradual extinction of slavery. The sum total of the slaves in all these Northern States in 1790, was 49,240. The rest of the slaves in the States, amounting to 648,657, were distributed between Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, except 8,887 in Delaware.

[Interestingly, the Northern States, when involved in establishing the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution] did not deem themselves authorized to meddle with [slavery] outside of their several State jurisdictions.

Mr. Jefferson, indeed, gave a reason for this reticence imputing it to the indirect interest of the Northern maritime States, in the transportation of African slaves to the Southern States. In his original draft of the Declaration of Independence he had inserted an article unqualifiedly reprobating the foreign slave trade, and urging the protection afforded to it by the King as one powerful motive for the rebellion.

He finally withdrew this clause from the document, and his reason, recorded by himself, appears in explanation of his conduct. After alluding to the disposition of some of the Southern States to keep up the slave trade, he continues:

“Our Northern brethren, also, I believe, felt a little tender under those censures, for though their people have very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others [Jefferson’s Works, I., p. 15].”

(Origin of the Late War: Traced from the Beginning of the Constitution to the Revolt of the Southern States; George Lunt, Crown Rights Book Company, 2001, (original D. Appleton, 1866), excerpt pp. 10-11)

Fixing Blame for African Slavery

By 1689, few African slaves had been introduced to Virginia and elsewhere by British, Dutch, French slavers, though this changed radically in the next seventy years – by 1760 the black race formed fully two-fifths of the entire Southern population. The increasing supply of Africans certainly fixed the plantation system on the South as part of the British colonial labor system.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fixing Blame for African Slaves

“So far as the [colonial] Southern tidewater is concerned, the increase in population came largely through the involuntary immigration of African Negroes. During the seventeenth century . . . British merchants and their government were organizing as never before for the exploitation of the slave trade.

The prosperity of the Royal African Company stimulated competition, and before long “separate traders” from England and [New England] broke down the company’s monopoly. In 1713 the British slave-traders gained a great advantage over Dutch and French rivals by the Asiento agreement, giving them the privilege of supplying slaves to the Spanish colonial market.

There are no comprehensive statistics; but in 1734 it was estimated that about 70,000 slaves annually were exported from Africa to the New World.

The responsibility for slavery in the English colonies must be distributed widely. British merchants, the imperial government, which defeated efforts on the part of colonial assemblies to check the trade, [and] New England traders . . . each group must take its share.

Peter Fontaine, an Anglican clergyman of Huguenot stock, spoke of it as the “original sin and curse of the country,” but urged that when the colonists tried to restrict importation, their acts were commonly disapproved in England.

Besides, he argued, the Negroes had been first enslaved in Africa by men of their own color . . . Efforts were made to Christianize and educate the Negroes, and the Anglican missionaries were expected to make this part of their work.”

(The Foundations of American Nationality, Evarts Boutell Greene, American Book Company, 1922, excerpts pp. 316; 322)

Richard Henry Lee Rails Against England’s Slave Trade

The responsibility for populating its American colonies with enslaved Africans rests with the British, who needed cheap labor for the plantations producing profit for England. Southern colonists, alarmed at the increasing numbers of black slaves arriving in British and New England hulls, repeatedly called for an end to the cruel trade. As Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) suggests below, any and all demands by Virginians and Carolinians to halt the slave-trade were nullified by the British Crown.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Richard Henry Lee Rails Against England’s Slave Trade

“Massachusetts invalidated the British commercial system, which Virginia resisted from abhorrence of the slave-trade. Never before had England pursued the traffic in Negroes with such eager avarice.

The remonstrances of philanthropy and of the colonies were unheeded, and categorical instructions from the [British] Board of Trade kept every American port open as markets for men.

The Legislature of Virginia had repeatedly showed a disposition to obstruct the commerce; a deeply-seated public opinion began more and more to avow the evils and the injustice of slavery itself; and in 1761, it was proposed to suppress the importation of Africans by a prohibitory duty.

Among those who took part in the long and violent debate was Richard Henry Lee, the representative of Westmoreland. Descended from one of the oldest families in Virginia, he had been educated in England and had returned to his native land familiar with the spirit of Grotius and Cudworth, of Locke and Montesquieu; his first recorded speech was against Negro slavery, in behalf of human freedom.

In the continued importation of slaves, he foreboded danger to the political and moral interests of the Old Dominion; an increase of the free Anglo-Saxons he argued, would foster arts and varied agriculture, while a race doomed to abject bondage was of necessity an enemy to social happiness. He painted from ancient history the horrors of servile insurrections. He deprecated the barbarous atrocity of the trade with Africa, and its violation of the equal rights of men created like ourselves in the image of God.

“Christianity,” thus he spoke in conclusion, “by introducing into Europe the truest principles of universal benevolence and brotherly love, happily abolished civil slavery. Let us who profess the same religion practice its precepts, and by agreeing to this duty, pay a proper regard to our rue interests and to the dictates of justice and humanity.”

The tax for which Lee raised his voice was carried through the Assembly of Virginia by a majority of one; but from England a negative followed with certainty every colonial act tending to diminish the [British] slave-trade. South Carolina, also appalled by the great increase of its black population, endeavored by its own laws to restrain the importation of slaves, and in like manner came into collision with the same British policy.”

(History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent, Volume IV; George Bancroft, Brown, Little and Company, 1856, excerpts, pp. 421-422)

Imagining a Lost Cause

Imagining a Lost Cause

Let us imagine for a moment that the French army and fleet were not present at Yorktown to augment Washington’s army, and that the British prevailed in their war to suppress the rebellion of their subjects populating the American colonies below Canada. As the victorious redcoats swarmed through those colonies they arrested and imprisoned rebel leadership including Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison, et al. All were sure they would swing from sturdy tree limbs for their part in a Lost Cause.

Though the outcry from American Loyalists demanded the execution of rebel leaders, the King decided to not create martyrs and mercifully allowed them to lead peaceful lives after taking a new oath of fealty to the Crown. They would be treated as second-class subjects and forever viewed with suspicion as former rebels.

The official history of that civil war was then written which proclaimed that the rebels fought in defense of African slavery — in short, that the American Revolution was fought to perpetuate slavery and the King fought for the freedom of the black race. Willing court historians suppressed Britain’s deep involvement in the slave trade, and later gate keepers of orthodoxy maintained the fiction to avoid official censure and loss of position.

It is remembered that on November 7, 1775, Royal Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore (John Murray), issued his emancipation proclamation in Norfolk announcing that all able-bodied, male slaves in Virginia who abandoned their masters and took up arms for the King would be free . . . “Negroes and others (appertaining to Rebels) free, that are able to bear arms, they joining his Majesty’s Troops as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper sense of duty to His Majesty’s crown and dignity . . .”

A rebel newspaper correspondent wrote: “Hell itself could not have vomited anything more black than this design of emancipating our slaves.” The proclamation deemed anyone opposing the proclamation as “defending slavery.”

Lord Dunmore afterward was hailed throughout the world as the Great Emancipator and savior of the black race, and that had he not freed the bondsmen from the slave holding colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia, chattel slavery would have continued forever.

The irony of this official history was not lost on those who had witnessed the populating of the American colonies and how the official Royal African Company (RAC) brought slave ship after slave ship to work the plantations that enriched the British Empire. The RAC was established in 1660 by the Stuart family and London merchants, for the purpose of trading along the west coast of Africa – especially for slaves. It was led by the Duke of York (for whom New York City is named), the brother of Charles II.

Additionally, the maritime colonies of Rhode Island and Massachusetts surreptitiously engaged in slaving, with the former colony surpassing Liverpool in 1750 as the center of the lucrative transatlantic slave trade. Thus New England’s maritime ventures and its competition with England was greatly to blame for sparking the rebellion.

Although the British were certainly responsible (along with the Portuguese, French and Spanish) for the presence of African slaves in North America, they were victorious in that civil war and wrote the official histories of the rebellion. Subsequently, all British universities, newspapers and books were in unison denouncing the American rebels as racist white supremacists who refused the black man equality, and any monuments to their dead were simply evidence of glorifying and romanticizing a Lost Cause. Imagine.

Bernhard Thuersam