Browsing "Slavery Comes to America"

Early Militia in British America

For most of the eighteenth century, New York was second only to Charleston in slave population. By 1737, one if five New Yorkers were black; “between 1700 and 1774, the British imported between 6800 and 7400 Africans to the colony of New York. It was cheaper for New York slave traders to import directly from Africa . . .” (Slavery in New York, Berlin/Harris, pg. 61).

Slave insurrection was a constant menace as the British continued to import forced labor to work the colony. In late March 1712, New York and Westchester militia swept the Manhattan woods in search of 40 or 50 black men and women who had killed nine white people and wounded six more in an insurrection. “More than seventy enslaved men and women were eventually taken into custody, and forty-three were brought to trial by jury. Twenty-five were convicted, of whom twenty were hanged and three burned at the stake, one roasted in slow torment for eight hours” (pg. 78).

Early Militia in British America

“New England towns were more scattered than Chesapeake farms, but each town had the capacity for armed resistance that was lacking in an individual plantation. A town could bear the burden of a military draft and still hope to maintain itself from attack, while the loss of a man or two from a single, remote household often meant choosing between abandonment and destruction.

New England promised its soldiers plunder in the form of scalp bounties, profits from the sale of Indian slaves, and postwar land grants . . . But there remains an important difference: the clustering of manpower and the cohesive atmosphere in the town community gave New England greater military strength.

By the end of the seventeenth century, the principal threat to the British colonies was changing. Europeans – French and Spanish – became the main danger. Virginia found itself so little troubled by the new threat, and her Indian enemies so weak, that militia virtually ceased to exist there for about half a century, a time when a handful of semi-professional rangers could watch the frontier.

During the same period, the frontier of Massachusetts was under sporadic attack by French-supported Indians. [Carolina] occupied the post of danger against Spain. The Carolina militia came from the country to repulse a Spanish attack on Charleston in 1706, and it rallied – with some help from North Carolina and Virginia – to save the colony during the Yamassee War in 1715 . . . [when] four hundred Negroes helped six hundred white men defeat the Indians.

But as the ratio of slaves to whites rapidly increased, and especially after a serious slave insurrection in 1739, Carolinians no longer dared arm Negroes; in fact, they hardly dared leave their plantations in time of emergency.

The British government tried to fill the gap, first by organizing Georgia as an all-white military buffer, then by sending a regiment of regulars with Oglethorpe in 1740. But increasingly, the South Carolina militia became an agency to control the slaves, and less an effective means of defense.”

(A People Numerous & Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence, John Shy, University of Michigan Press, 1990, excerpts pp. 34-37)

“An American Business”

In 1821, after sailing to the proposed site of the colony at Cape Mesurado, present-day Monrovia, Lt. Robert Stockton and Reverend Eli Ayers journeyed twenty miles inland to “convince the most powerful of the native leaders, “King Peter,” to discuss terms to sell the land.

The Africans objected to the intruders and accused them of “kidnapping Africans,” and “destroying the slave trade” – the first was the African tribe’s primary business, the second the African tribe did not want to happen.

Americans were trying to eliminate the slave trade from Africa and provide repatriation for Africans freed in the US – but working against these humanitarian efforts were an increasingly complex slave trade, New England-built slave ships and cotton mills (the latter made profitable by Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney’s invention), and New York merchants and banks hungry for profits. It is noteworthy that none of the slave ships sailed under the Confederate Battle Flag.

“An American Business”

“[In] mid-1799 Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott wrote the customs collector at Boston that “Captain Decatur of the Navy during his late cruise . . . near Cuba, met with the brig Dolphin of Boston, William White [the] Master, with 140 to 150 slaves for sale [and] procured on the coast of Africa.”

Wolcott directed the collector to “take requisite measures to enforce the law.”

And, in April 1800, the Secretary of the Navy passed along to the treasury secretary a short list, sent along by Captain Bainbridge of the USS Norfolk, of suspected slavers who recently returned from Cuban waters to Philadelphia.

With the enactment of the 1800 statute, the Navy immediately began seizing suspected slavers and sending them in for adjudication. The first three were captured in the space of a month. The sloop Betsey of Boston takes the honor of being the first slave-trading vessel captured by the US Navy.

Meanwhile, other factors encouraged the trade, among them the wide use of the cotton gin and the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The former vastly increased production, and the latter moved the slave economy westward to new lands.

[After the war of 1812] the slave trade became logistically complex. The selected American-registered vessel was chartered in Cuba or Brazil by a slave dealer and sailed to Britain or elsewhere to load a cargo particularly suited for the African coast trade: cheap muskets, rum, etc.

[Often] the vessel needed to hover off the coast while the agents ashore gathered the human cargo . . . And once the Africans were gathered and the night was dark, canoes were loaded with the slaves and rowed from shore to ship. Then the ship was “sold” on the spot and became Spanish, Portuguese or Brazilian . . . [and] made passage back to the Western Hemisphere with the slave cargo.

Thus, given fast, American-built vessels; immunity from search; and growing profits, the trade was becoming an “American business.” Though it should be kept in mind that the major markets in this era were Brazil and Cuba, and rarely were slave cargoes brought directly to the United States.

By all accounts the last half of the 1830s marked a quickening of the slave trade, particularly to Cuba, fed by high prices and minimum interference from American cruisers.

The British Mixed Commission at Havana reported the arrival of 240 illegal slavers during the years 1836 through 1839, fifty-eight of which were under American colors. And it was reported that a New York mercantile house had taken in $240,000 in profits on the trade in the space of fourteen months, and that slaves had brought ten times their purchase price at Havana in the same period.”

(African Squadron: The US Navy and the Slave Trade, 1842-1861, Donald L. Canney, Potomac Books, 2006, excerpts pp. 2-4; 21-23)

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)

Feb 26, 2019 - From Africa to America, Historical Accuracy, Slavery Comes to America, Slavery in Africa, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Slavery and a Superabundance of Land

Slavery and a Superabundance of Land

Writing in 1857, author Guy Stevens Callender observes below that the discovery of America made the slave trade from Africa inevitable, as Europeans were too few to cultivate such a vast wilderness. The cheapness of land made slave labor necessary, and the willingness of Africans to sell their enslaved brethren ensured a large labor supply for the New World.

Slavery and a Superabundance of Land

“The serfdom of the Middle Ages was for all Europe, what it is for Poland and Russia still, a kind of slavery required by the small proportion of people to land; a substitute for hired labor, which gradually expired with the increase of population, as it will expire in Poland and Russia when land shall, in those countries, become as scarce and dear as it became in England sometime after the Conquest.

Next comes the institution of slavery in America by the colonies of nations which had abolished serfdom at home; colonies in whose history, whether we read it in Raynal, or Edwards, or Grahame, we find the effect and the cause invariably close together; the slavery in various forms of bondage, growing out of superabundance of land.

It was the cheapness of land that cause [Bartolome de] Las Casas to invent the African slave trade. It was the cheapness of land that brought African slaves to Antigua and Barbadoes . . . it was the cheapness of land that caused the introduction of Negroes into Virginia, and produced the various forms of bondage practiced by all the old English colonies in America.

At the epoch of the discovery of America, the population of Europe was small, and it could make only scanty contributions of people to the New World; and as it was just itself emerging from a state of barbarism, it could not extend into new regions any elevated or enlightened civilization.

Slavery was one of the established systems of that period, and the holding of heathen slaves enjoyed the full sanction of the church. And it had so happened, that the value of the Negro in the condition of servitude had been long tried, especially in Spain and Portugal, and was well understood.

What has occurred in America, was, under the circumstances, inevitable. Incalculable resources existed in the mine and in the soil, but by whose hands could they be developed? Where it was practicable to enslave the native people of the country, their physical organization was unequal to the forced labors imposed upon them, and they perished speedily from the earth.

The people who could subdue and cultivate the New World existed only in Africa. Their number was definitely large; and not only did no existing moral and religious scruples forbid their coerced appropriation to that work, but it was considered rather to be in the safe line of religious duty, to subject the Negro heathen to Christian baptism and Christian masters. It is oftentimes loosely said, that America has been settled by the European races . . . The truth really is, that America, including its islands, has been settled chiefly from Africa.”

(Origin of Slavery in the New World, 1765-1860, Gibbon Wakefield; Chapter XV, The Economics of Slavery; Selections From the Economic History of the United States, Guy Stevens Callender, excerpts pp. 745-749)

The Economic Custom of Slavery

To find those responsible for African slavery and its perpetuation, one must first look to the African tribes themselves who enslaved their brethren captured in warfare, and sold many to Europeans in search of cheap labor for their colonies. Next would be King Ferdinand of Spain, who in the early 1500s had already had deported substantial sections of Jews and Moors from his realm as well as approving slaving expeditions for Caribbean Indians to work his colonies. It was also Ferdinand who granted licenses for those carrying slaves to the Americas. This begs the question: had African slaves not been eventually carried to North America in the bottoms of British and New England slave ships, would North and South still have separated into two countries for the same pecuniary reasons, but without the lame New England excuse of slavery being the cause of war?

The Economic Custom of Slavery

“It is strange that it should never have come into the head of philosopher or philanthropist to ascertain the causes of the revival of slavery by all the modern nations of Europe which have engaged in colonization. Political economists were bound to make this inquiry; for without it their science is incomplete at the very foundation; for slavery is a question of labor, “the original purchase of all things.”

Philanthropists, however, have treated it as a moral and religious question, attributing slavery to all times and places, but especially in modern America, to the wickedness of the human heart. [The immediate cause of slavery] is not a wicked or infernal spirit. Neither communities nor individuals keep slaves in order to indulge in oppression and cruelty.

Those British colonies – and they are many – which would get slaves tomorrow if we would let them, are not more wicked than we are: they are only placed in circumstances which induce us to long for the possession of slaves notwithstanding the objections to it.

They are not moral, but economic circumstances: they relate not to vice and virtue, but to production. They are the circumstances, in which one man finds it difficult or impossible to get other men to work under his direction for wages. They are the circumstances . . . which stand in the way of combination and constancy of labor, for which all civilized nations, in a certain stage of their advance from barbarism, have endeavored to counteract, and have in some measure counteracted, by means of some kind of slavery.

Slavery is a make-shift for hiring . . . [and is] on the whole much more costly than the labor of hired freemen; and slavery is also full of moral and political evils, from which the method of hired labor is exempt. [But] when slavery is adopted, there is no choice: it is adopted because at the time and under the circumstances there is no other way of getting laborers to work with constancy and in combination.

It happens wherever population is scanty in proportion to land [and has] never existed in very populous countries, and has gradually ceased in the countries where whose population has gradually increased to the point of density. Of plentifulness of labor for hire, the cause is dearness of land: cheapness of land is the cause of scarcity of labor for hire.

The ancient Greeks were themselves colonists, the occupiers of a new territory, in which for a time every freeman could obtain as much land as he desired: for a time they needed slaves; and the custom of slavery was established.

The Romans, it the early stages of their history, were robbers of land, and had more land than they could cultivate without slaves: it was partly because of slavery that they at last grew to be so populous at Rome as to no longer need slavery, but to ask for an agrarian law.”

(Origin of Slavery in the New World, 1765-1860, Gibbon Wakefield; Chapter XV, The Economics of Slavery; Selections From the Economic History of the United States, Guy Stevens Callender, excerpts pp. 742-745)

The Slaves of New England

A great irony of history is Massachusetts adopting in 1837 the first of the so-called personal liberty laws, ostensibly to protect free Negroes in the United States, given that Massachusetts stood in the front rank of those responsible for bringing enslaved Africans to American shores. No such laws were necessary until the rise of the New England abolitionists, and their incessant agitation, which eventually brought on a war which claimed a million lives, both black and white.

The Slaves of New England

“At the time the Constitution was adopted, slavery existed in every one of the thirteen States except Massachusetts, though in some other acts had been passed providing for its gradual abolition.

It was deemed essential, therefore, to the peaceful relations of the several States as well as the legal rights of slaveholders that some provision should be inserted into the Federal Constitution dealing with the return of fugitive slaves as well as fugitives from justice.

The necessity, as well as the justice, of fugitive slave laws was recognized almost contemporaneously with the introduction of slavery into this country. Thus, in the Article of Confederation adopted in 1643, between the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Haven, it was provided:

“If any servant runn away from his master into any other of these Confederated Jurisdiccons, that in such case upon the Certiyficate of one Magistrate in the Jursidiccon out of which the said servant fled, or upon other due proofe, the said servant shall be delivered either to his master or any other that pursues and brings such certyficate or proofe.”

Provisions of like character were incorporated in many of the treaties between the various colonies and the Indian tribes, and later between the United States Government and the Indians.

On the 12th of February, 1793, Congress passed an act providing for the method of carrying into effect the section of the Constitution relating to fugitives from justice and fugitive slaves. It passed both houses of Congress by practically unanimous votes – Washington approving the bill with his signature.

With respect . . . to fugitive slaves, the authority and burden of dealing with their return was placed upon officers of the Federal Government as well as upon certain State officials. But with the rise of the Abolitionists at the North, difficulties in executing the law began to appear – especially as to fugitive slaves. The Abolitionists, by every form of suggestion and appeal, incited and assisted slaves to desert their masters, while the Underground Railroad provided increasing facilities for accomplishing the result.

Professor A.B. Hart, of Harvard University, says:

“The Underground Railroad was not a route but a network; not an organization, but a conspiracy of thousands of people banded together for the deliberate purpose of depriving their Southern neighbors of their property and of defying the Fugitive Slave Laws of the United States.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, Beverley B. Mumford, L.H. Jenkins Publisher, 1909, excerpts pp. 201-205)

Abolitionist Secessionists, Motives and Pretexts

In its State Convention in 1851, Massachusetts radicals resolved that “the constitution which provides for slave representation and a slave oligarchy in Congress, which legalize slave catching on every inch of American soil . . . that the one great issue before the country is the dissolution of the Union . . . therefore, we have given ourselves to the work of “annulling this covenant with death,” as essential to our own innocency, and the speedy and everlasting overthrow of the slave power.”

Apparently, there were those in Massachusetts at that time who had forgotten the locally-produced rum sailing for the coast of West Africa on Massachusetts-built, captained and provisioned ships. The African slaves would not be in the South without the help of New England, and its infamous transatlantic slave trade.

Abolition Secessionist Motives and Pretexts

“Gen. Jamison, one of the Abolition marplots of Kansas, made a speech to his soldiers on the 22nd of January, 1862, which appeared in the Leavenworth Conservative, in which he shows that the firing on Sumter was not the beginning of the war.

“For six long years we have fought as guerillas, what we are now fighting as a regiment. This war is a war which dates away back of Fort Sumter. On the cold hill side, in swamps and ferns, behind rocks and trees, ever since ’54 we have made the long campaign. Away off there we have led the ideas of this age, always battling at home, and sometimes sending forth from among us a stern old missionary like John Brown, to show Virginia that the world does move.”

Parson Brownlow, in his debate with Parson Pryne, in Philadelphia in 1858, said:

“A dissolution of the Union is what a large portion of the Northern Abolitionists are aiming at.” (see Brownlow and Pryne’s debates).

Thurlow Weed, for penning the following truth, was, as he avers, was driven from the editorial chair of the Albany [New York] Journal.

“The chief architects of the rebellion, before it broke out, avowed that they were aided in their infernal designs by the ultra-Abolitionists of the North. This was too true, for without said aid the South could never have been united against the Union. But for the incendiary recommendations, which rendered the otherwise useful [Hinton] Helper book, a fire brand, North Carolina could not have been forced out of the Union. And even now, the ultra-Abolition Press and speech makers are aggravating the horrors they helped to create, and thus by playing into the hands of the leaders of the rebellion, are keeping down the Union men of the South, and rendering reunion difficult, if not impossible.” But hatred of slavery was not the moving cause of these Abolitionists. They were secessionists, per se, and only used the slavery ghost to frighten unsuspecting and otherwise well-disposed person into their schemes.

And so it was in 1814, when the secessionists of [New England’s] Hartford Convention made opposition to slavery one of the cornerstones of their disunion edifice . . . disunion, as the motive, was in the background, and slavery, as the shibboleth or pretext, in the foreground.”

(Progress and Evidence of the Northern Conspiracy, The Logic of History, Five Hundred Political Texts, Chapter XI, Stephen D. Carpenter, 1864, S.D. Carpenter, Publisher, excerpts pp. 54-55)

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)

African Slavery in America

Nearly always missing in a discussion of slavery in North America is the question of how Africans arrived and who conveyed them – and it was not slave ships flying the Confederate Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The responsibility for African slavery begins with the African tribes themselves who enslaved each other, then the Portuguese, Spanish, French and British who needed labor for their New World colonies, and the New England slavers who ruled the transatlantic slave trade in the mid-1700s. By 1750, Providence, Rhode Island had surpassed Liverpool as the center of slave-ship construction, with the latter departing for Africa’s west coast laden with rum and Yankee notions, trading these for already-enslaved men, women and children, transporting them to the West Indies to be traded for molasses, and then returning to New England to distill more rum from the molasses. Add to this New England’s textile mills of the early 1800s whose fortunes depended upon slave-produced cotton.

African Slavery in America

“There are three important points to keep in mind in the study of the African-American population of the 1850s. First, we should avoid presentism. Attitudes toward working people of all races were different at that time than those we find acceptable today.

The Dutch did keelhauling of sailors as late as 1853 and the British did no ban the flogging of soldiers until 1860. The working classes in industrialized areas such as Manchester, England, worked under conditions that left many crippled and maimed from injuries of breathing dust from textile mills and mines. This left most unfit for work at 40 years of age and almost none at 50. Children as young as 7 or 8 worked up to 12 hours [a day], some “seized naked in bed by the overlookers, and driven with blows and kicks to the factory.”

Second, regardless of good treatment, being a slave has many costs which few of us would be willing to pay. Third, trying to have a realistic understanding of slavery is not an apology. It is a mistake to oversimplify slavery to chains, whips, and division of families; it is likewise a mistake to say that they were better off as slaves. The objective should be to understand as best we can.

A difficulty is finding objective writings at a time when Northern writers emphasized the horrors of slavery in a continuing regional attack, Southern writers emphasized slavery’s benefit to the African, and the bonded people themselves left few written records. The slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s offer the best testimony we have by the slaves themselves, although, of course, memories of 70 years ago have problems of certainty.

Many Americans, including Abolitionists, advocated that Africans be sent to Africa or some place in the New World where they would be removed from American society. Toward this goal, the American Colonization Society, to which many prominent Northern and Southern Americans belonged to, established the western African nation of Liberia.

The attitude of most Americans of the time was summed up by Abraham Lincoln during the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, “I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people . . . I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

It would not be until January of 1863 that the North would allow black men to serve in the Union army, and then in segregated units at lower pay and with white officers. U.S. “Colored Troops” were often used as labor or in “forlorn hopes,” such as fighting at the Crater and Battery Wagner.”

(Characteristics of the African-American People During the 1850s: American History for Home Schools, 1607-1885, with a Focus on the Civil War, Leslie R. Tucker, Society of Independent Southern Historians, 2018, excerpts Chapter 10)

The Aftermath of New England’s Thanksgiving

The Pequot tribe inhabited the coastline of southeastern Connecticut before the arrival of the Dutch in 1614, and shortly afterward, the English. The Pequots did not welcome strangers who settled on their land, took their wild game, and infected the tribe with smallpox — warring between the tribe and the strangers soon commenced. Early on the morning of June 5, 1637, the English “murmured their prayers,” descended upon a sleeping village, set fire to the wigwams and killed some 400 Pequots. “The brutality of burning people alive did not faze the English” and one commander wrote “Sometimes the scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.” After finally extinguishing the Pequots in 1638, the English turned upon their Indian allies to continue their efforts to make New England safe for European settlement, selling many into slavery in the West Indies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Aftermath of New England’s Thanksgiving

“The English were now determined to eradicate the remnants of the Pequots . . . The first band . . . were captured without resistance, and 40 of them were murdered by the English in cold blood. Some 80 of the women were handed over to the Narragansetts to become part of their tribe. The remainder were bound up and sent to Massachusetts Bay Colony to be sold as slaves, destined for the cane fields of the Caribbean.

Ultimately, according to [Commander John] Mason, some 700 additional Pequots were killed or captured in various groups. Those that had escaped became marked men. Hardly a week passed . . . that [English ally] Narragansetts or Mohegans didn’t appear with yet another grisly trophy. It brought joy to colonial leaders, who proclaimed gratefulness “that on this day we have sent 600 heathen to heaven.”

On October 1, 1638, in a document styled the “Treaty of Hartford,” the colonial government of Connecticut, along with its Indian allies, passed final judgement on the Pequots. Under the terms of the treaty, the remaining living Pequots were divided among the Narragansetts and Mohegans . . . [and] the Pequots could never again live in their homeland and could never again use the name Pequot.

The French traveler and historian Alexis de Toqueville recorded their extermination for the world after travelling New England in 1833. “All the Indian tribes who once inhabited the territory of New England – the Narragansetts, the Mohicans, the Pequots – now live only in men’s memories,” he wrote in Democracy in America after returning home.

Much of the 500 square miles of land that had once been under the domain of the Pequots was awarded to the winning commanders in the Pequot War. John Mason and Lion Gardiner were given huge plantations in what is now southeastern Connecticut. Thousands of settlers from the Massachusetts and Plymouth Colonies streamed into what today is the metropolitan area of Hartford.

Before the war, the body of water that flowed to Norwich was known as the Pequot River. The nostalgic English, after the war, renamed the waterway the Thames River.”

(The Revenge of the Pequots: How a Small Native American Tribe Created the World’s Most Profitable Casino, Kim Isaac Eisler, Simon & Schuster, 2001, excerpts 33-39)

 

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