Browsing "Slavery Comes to America"

Slaves Doing the Business of New England

The scale of New England trade to the West Indian sugar plantations was nothing short of astonishing, with nearly 80 percent of all overseas exports supporting slave-labor sugar production. By this time as well, the Narragansett region of Rhode Island and neighboring Connecticut both developed their own plantation systems employing African slaves as forced labor.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Slaves Doing the Business of New England

“At the same time that John Winthrop left England to establish his city on the hill, another group of Puritans left England for the Caribbean. While the New England colonists shipped beaver pelts, codfish, and timber back across the Atlantic, the West Indies group ended up on Providence Island raising tobacco and cotton, using slave labor.

Europeans . . . prized sugar [that was slave-produced in the West Indies]. The crop roared its way across the Atlantic like an agricultural hurricane. It denuded islands of their forests and siphoned hundreds of thousands of Africans into slavery to feed a boundless, addicted market.

Between 1640 and 1650, English ships delivered nearly 19,000 Africans to work the fields in Barbados. By 1700, the cumulative total had reached 134,000. The pattern was repeated on other islands. Jamaica, barely populated when the English invaded it in 1655, had absorbed 85,000 African slaves by 1700. The Leeward Islands, including Antigua, took 44,000.

That same year a Boston ship made one of the earliest known New England slave voyages to Africa, delivering its cargo to Barbados. The Puritans thought about using captive labor for themselves. In 1645, Emanuel Downing, John Winthrop’s brother-in-law, advised Winthrop: “I do not see how we can thrive until we get a stock of slaves sufficient to do all our business.”

Although residents of New England and Middle Atlantic States owned slaves and trafficked in slaves, they profited more from feeding the increasingly large numbers of Africans in the West Indies and providing the materials to operate the sugar plantations and mills.

The flow of commerce between America, Africa and the West Indies entered history as the Triangle Trade. In its classic shape, Northern colonies sent food, livestock, and wood (especially for barrels) to West Indian sugar plantations, where enslaved Africans harvested the cane that fed the refining mills.

Sugar, and its by-product molasses, was then shipped back North, usually in barrels made of New England wood and sometimes accompanied by slaves. Finally, scores of Northern distilleries turned the molasses into rum to trade in Africa for new slaves, who were, in turn, shipped to the sugar plantations.”

 

(Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, Profited from Slavery, Farrow, Lang, Frank, Ballantine Books, 2006, excerpts, pp. 46-49)

 

Oct 5, 2016 - Antebellum Realities, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing, Slavery Comes to America    Comments Off on White Slaves Prior to Black

White Slaves Prior to Black

No race or ethnicity has an exclusive claim to being enslaved by others in the past or present, and the peopling of North America clearly shows white indentured servants preceding the arrival of Africans purchased from the tribes that had enslaved them.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

White Slaves Prior to Black

“More than half of all persons who came to the colonies south of New England were [white indentured] servants. The Puritan communities, scanty in their agriculture, chary of favors, hostile to newcomers as they were, received few. Farther south, on the contrary, they were hailed with delight by planters and farmers who wanted cheap labor . . . They formed the principal labor supply of earlier settlements.

Not until the eighteenth century were they superseded in this respect by Negroes, and not until the nineteenth century did an influx on free white workers wholly remove the need for indentured labor. Seldom did the supply of good white servants equal the demand.

Labor was one of the few European importations which even the earliest colonists would sacrifice much to procure, and the system of indentured servitude was the most convenient system next to slavery by which labor became a commodity to be bought and sold.

It was profitable for English merchants trading to the colonies to load their outgoing ships with a cargo of servants, for the labor of these servants could be transferred to colonial planters at a price well above the cost of transporting them.

The English government was well content that the handling of emigration should be in the hands of private business men. It liked to see the establishment and peopling of colonies go slowly forward without requiring from the state either financial commitments or moral responsibility.

Few planters could journey to England and select their own servants. Hence they were practically always indentured to a merchant, an emigrant agent, a ship captain, or even to one of the seamen, and then exported like any other cargo of commodities. Upon arrival in the colonies they were displayed on deck, the planters came on board to inspect them, and they were “set-over” to the highest bidder.

If the servant had a document of indenture, a note of the sale and of the date of arrival was often made on [his or her] back, and the transaction was then complete. During all the seventeenth century indentured servitude was the only method by which a poor person could get to the colonies or by which white labor could be supplied to planters.”

(Colonists in Bondage, White Servitude and Convict Labor in America, 1607-1776, Abbott Emerson Smith, Norton Press, 1971 (original 1947), pp. 5-20)

 

Slavery Up North

The New England colonies (and later States) of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, were primarily responsible for perpetuating African slavery in North America as their shipping interests brought slaves from the Gold Coast. Beginning in the early 1800s, Massachusetts mills depended on slave-produced cotton from the South and Manhattan banks provided easy credit for planters, both Southern and Northern, to expand their plantations. For more on the history of slaves in the North, see “North of Slavery” by Leon Litwack (University of Chicago Press, 1861).

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Slavery Up North

“[The North’s] . . . teachers, its preachers, its writers, its orators, its philosophers, its politicians, have with one voice, and that a mighty voice, been for a hundred years instilling into its mind the un-contradicted doctrine that the South brought the Negro here and bound him in slavery; that the South kept the Negro in slavery; that to perpetuate this enormity the South plunged the nation in war and attempted to destroy the Union; that the South still desires the re-establishment of slavery, and that meantime it oppresses the Negro, defies the North, and stands a constant menace to the Union.

The great body of Northern people, bred on this food, never having heard any other relation, believes this implicitly, and all the more dangerously because honestly. If they are wrong and we right, it behooves us to enlighten them.

There are a multitude of men and women at the North who do not know that slavery ever really existed at the North. They may accept it historically in a dim, sort of theoretical way, as we accept the fact that men and women were once hanged for forgery or for stealing a shilling; but they do not take it as a vital fact.

Massachusetts has the honor of being the first community in America to legalize the slave-trade and slavery by legislative act; the first to send out a slave-ship, and the first to secure a fugitive slave law. Slavery having been planted here, not by the South as has been reiterated until it is the generally received doctrine, but by a Dutch ship which in 1619 landed a cargo of [20 Negroes] in a famished condition at Jamestown . . .

Indeed it flourished here and elsewhere, so that in 1636, only sixteen years later, a ship, the Desire, was built and fitted out at Marblehead as a slaver and thus became the first American slave-ship, but by no means the last. In the early period of the institution, it was . . .

Justified to on the ground that the slaves were heathen, conversion to Christianity might operate to emancipate them. In Virginia, the leading Southern colony . . . Negroes are shown by church records, to have been baptized.

In Massachusetts at that time, baptism was expressly prohibited.  Many of the good people of Massachusetts, in their zeal and their misapprehension of the facts, have been accustomed to regard their own skirts as free from all taint of the accursed doctrine of property in human beings. In Mr. Sumner’s famous speech in the Senate, June 28, 1854, he boldly asserted that “in all her annals no person was ever born a slave on the soil of Massachusetts . . .”

The fugitive slave law . . . which is generally believed to have been the product of only Southern cupidity and brutality, had its prototype in the Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England (19th May, 1643), in which Massachusetts was the ruling colony.

It was not at the South, but at the North in Connecticut, that Prudence Crandall was, for teaching colored girls, subjected to persecution as barbarous as it was persistent. After being sued and pursued by every process of law which a New England community could devise, she was finally driven forth into exile in Kansas.

She opened her school in Canterbury, Connecticut in April 1833 . . . [and] the town-meeting promptly voted to “petition for a law against the bringing of colored people from other towns and States for any purpose . . .”

In May an act prohibiting private schools for non-resident colored persons and for the expulsion of the latter was procured from the legislature amid great rejoicing in Canterbury, even to the ringing of church bells.”

(The Old South, Essays Social and Political, Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896, excerpts, pp. 287-298)

 

Sep 2, 2016 - Abolitionists & Disunionists, From Africa to America, New England's Slave Trade, Race and the South, Slavery Comes to America    Comments Off on New Englander’s Must Look to Their Consciences

New Englander’s Must Look to Their Consciences

 

Thomas Roderick Dew ‘s father was a slaveholder in antebellum Virginia, who provided for his education at the College of William and Mary. After graduation in 1820, he travelled Europe and returned to teach political economy at his alma mater. He later responded eagerly to the Virginia legislature’s request for a disquisition on the abolition of slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New Englander’s Must Look to Their Consciences

“In 1831 it still was the custom of the Virginia legislature to look to the college of William and Mary for guidance. In that year the Assembly made a request of Professor Thomas Roderick Dew that he produce for them a summary of the long controversy on the abolition of slavery.

The professor began by casting his eyes back through history. Where were the great civilizations? He saw them in Greece, in Rome, along the Nile. Captives, instead of being put to death, were put to work. The arts, architecture, freedom, private property, leisure – in fact the true civilizations – flourished only where there was slavery.

This was Dew’s preamble. He proceeded then to prove that slavery benefitted the Negro. Unfitted for freedom by nature, slavery gave him protection, care, and security. His lot was much more desirable, the professor found, than that of the miserable free worker who was exploited and meagerly paid in the North where materialistic clamor and vulgar commercialism made civilization impossible.

Nor did the Scriptures condemn slavery or in any manner suggest the slave owner had committed any offense against God or man. New England traders had bought them – English regulations and, later, the laws of the new Republic, required their retention. Let those responsible for this look to their consciences. The slave owner need not feel any twinges. God approved. It was foreordained to be.

As for freeing them, or sending them to Liberia, that would be worse than slavery. As free men they would be exploited as wretched wage slaves. They would lack all protection, care and security. In Liberia quick death awaited them.

So well pleased were [members of the legislature] that, at their suggestion, he had his paper published in Richmond, title, Review of the Debate [on the abolition of slavery] in the Virginia Legislature of 1831-1832. So popular was it that a second edition was required. Soon other legislatures were repeating it. Pulpits rang with it. Newspapers printed large excerpts with extravagant endorsement.”

(The South and the Southerner, Ralph McGill, University of Georgia Press, 1992, pp. 113-115)

 

New England Commerce Born of the Slave Trade

By 1750, Rhode Island had surpassed Liverpool as the center of the triangular transatlantic slave trade, with British shipbuilders complaining to Parliament that New Englanders were luring their shipwrights away with promises of high pay.  Yankee notions and rum were shipped to Africa to be traded for slaves, thence to the West Indies to trade slaves for molasses, then returning to New England to make more rum for future slave voyages. The American South had no involvement in this inhumane and illicit traffic.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Commerce Born of the Slave Trade

“The planting of the commercial States of North America began with the colony of Puritan Independents at Plymouth, in 1620, which was subsequently enlarged into the State of Massachusetts. The other trading colonies, Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as New Hampshire (which never had an extensive shipping interest) were offshoots of Massachusetts.

They partook of the same characteristics and pursuits; and hence, the example of the parent colony is taken here as a fair representation of them. The first ship from America, which embarked in the African slave trade, was the Desire, Captain Pierce, of Salem; and this was among the first vessels ever built in the colony.

The promptitude with which the “Puritan Fathers” embarked in this business may be comprehended, when it is stated that the Desire sailed upon her voyage in June, 1637. The first feeble and dubious foothold was gained by white man at Plymouth less than seventeen years before; and as is well known, many years were expended by the struggle of the handful of settlers for existence.

So that it may be correctly said, that the commerce of New England was born of the slave trade; as its subsequent prosperity was largely founded upon it. To understand the growth of the New England slave trade, two connected topics must be a little illustrated. The first of these is the enslaving of Indians. The pious “Puritan Fathers” found it convenient to assume that they were God’s chosen Israel, and the pagans about them were Amalek and Amorites. They hence deduced their righteous title to exterminate or enslave the Indians, whenever they became troublesome.

As soon as the Indian wars began, we find the captives enslaved. The ministers and magistrates solemnly authorized the enslaving of the wives and posterity of their enemies for the crimes of the fathers and husbands in daring to defend their own soil. In 1677, the General Court of Massachusetts ordered the enslaving of the Indian youths or girls “of such as had been in hostility with the colony, or had lived among its enemies in the time of war.”

By means of these proceedings, the number of Indian servants became so large, that they were regarded as dangerous to the Colony. They were, moreover, often untamable in temper…Hence the prudent and thrifty saints saw the advantage of exporting them to the Bermudas, Barbadoes, and other islands, in exchange for Negroes and merchandise; and this traffick, being much encouraged, and finally enjoined, by the authorities, became so extensive as to substitute Negroes for Indian slaves, almost wholly in the Colony. Among the slaves thus deported were the favourite wife and little son of the heroic King Philip.”

(A Defence of Virginia, and Through Her, The South, Robert Louis Dabney, E.J. Hale & Son, 1867, pp. 32-35)

An 1830 View of Slavery in the South

The former slave-trading and slave-holding North forgot it was theirs and British ships which brought the African to America, a Massachusetts inventor who perpetuated slavery with his gin, and Massachusetts mills which sought large supplies of slave-produced cotton. Had New Englanders wished to end slavery, they had only to end their demand for slave-produced cotton. The extract below is from Mr. Hayne’s 1830 debate with Daniel Webster on the nature of the federal union, and Hayne clearly delineates the origin of African slavery in the Southern States, who profited from the nefarious trade, and who did their Christian best with what they had inherited.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

An 1830 View of Slavery in the South

“Sir, when arraigned before the bar of public opinion on this charge of slavery, we can stand up with conscious rectitude, plead not guilty, and put ourselves upon God and our country. We deal in no abstractions. We will not look back to inquire whether our fathers were guiltless in introducing slaves to this country. If an inquiry should ever be instituted in these matters, however, it will be found that the profits of the slave trade were not confined to the South.

Southern ships and Southern sailors were not the instruments of bringing slaves to the shores of America, nor did our merchants reap the profits of that “accursed traffic.” But, sir, we will pass over all this.

If slavery, as it now exists in this country be an evil, we of the present found it ready made to our hands. Finding our lot cast among a people, whom God had manifestly committed to our care, we did not sit down to speculate on abstract questions of theoretical liberty. We met it as a practical question of obligation and duty.

We resolved to make the best of the situation in which Providence had placed us, and to fulfill the high trust which had developed upon us as the owners of slaves, in the only way in which such a trust could be fulfilled without spreading misery and ruin throughout the land.

We could not send them back to the shores from whence their fathers had been taken; their numbers forbade the thought, even as we did not know that their condition here is infinitely preferable to what it possibly could be among the barren sands and savage tribes of Africa . . .

[With the false philanthropy of Northern abolitionists and the] shedding of tears over sufferings which had existence only in their own sickly imaginations, these “friends of humanity” set themselves systematically to work to seduce the slaves of the South from their masters. By means of missionaries and political tracts, the scheme was in great measure successful. Thousands of these deluded victims of fanaticism were seduced into the enjoyment of freedom in our Northern cities. And what has been the consequence?

Go to these cities now, and ask the question. Visit the dark and narrow lanes, and obscure recesses, which have been assigned by common consent as the abodes of those outcasts of the world — free people of color. Sir, there does not exist, on the face of the whole earth, a population so poor, so wretched, so vile, so loathsome, so utterly destitute of all the comforts, conveniences and comforts of life as the unfortunate blacks of Philadelphia, and New York and Boston.

Sir, I have had some opportunities of making comparisons between the condition of the free Negroes of the North and the slaves of the South . . . Sir, I have seen in the neighborhood of one of the most moral, religious and refined cities of the North, a family of free blacks, driven to the caves of the rock, and there obtaining a precarious subsistence from charity and plunder.”

(The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Union, Herman Belz, Editor, Liberty Fund, 2000, pp. 44-46. Speech of Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, January 25, 1830)

 

New England Slavocracy

The New England Puritans were quick to enslave anyone standing in their way, and later found large profits in the transatlantic slave trade. By the mid-1700s Rhode Island had surpassed England in the slave trade, and English merchants complained that their shipwrights were being attracted to New England by higher wages for building slave ships. Over two centuries later, the Pequot tribe was given a gambling casino to forgive Puritan offenses.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Slavocracy

“It is not a coincidence that a justice from Massachusetts concluded that liberty was more important than property. His conclusion was rooted deeply in the history of slavery in the colony. To begin with, labor relationships in Massachusetts spanned a very broad spectrum of bonded or forced labor. Massachusetts depended not only on slaves but also indentured servants and enslaved Native Americans, who had a slightly different status than black slaves did.

Slavery began in New England during the first years of settlement in Massachusetts, and thus, the Puritans learned how to be slave owners immediately on arrival. As white New Englanders conquered their new settlements, they enslaved the Native American populations to both control them and to draw on them for labor. As John Winthrop did not immediately see Indians as slaves, it dawned on him quickly that they could be.

Winthrop recorded requests for Native American slaves both locally and abroad in Bermuda. Wars with the Narragansett and Pequot tribes garnered large numbers of slaves. The trading of Indian slaves abroad brought African slaves to Massachusetts shores. In 1645, Emanuel Downing, John Winthrop’s brother in law and a barrister, welcomed a trade of Pequot slaves for African slaves.

However, the enslavement of American Indians had a different tenor than the enslavement of Africans. The indigenous slaves represented an enemy, a conquered people, and a grave threat to [Puritan] society. African slaves represented a trade transaction, laborers without strings attached. Moreover, Indian slaves were part of peace negotiations and control of the region. They served as collateral with which to negotiate with Native leaders. Further, colonists could expel troublesome Negro slaves out of the colony, or they could just control them as slave property.

[In Massachusetts the first] slave law[was] written in the Americas, only two years after African slaves set foot in the colony. This law, appearing in Massachusetts first legal code, the 1641 Body of Liberties, was unique in its proscription. Rather than legalizing slavery outright, it outlawed slavery among the Puritans. However, the exceptions of stranger (foreigners who lacked protection from the king) and war prisoners gave an opening to enslave other human beings.

The exception in the case of war prisoners gave the colonists direct permission to enslave Indians captured in war, such as in the Pequot war they had just commenced. Conveniently, the slave trade had already begun to spread strangers throughout the Atlantic world.”

 

(Tyrannicide, Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts, Emily Blanck, UGA Press, 2014, pp. 11-13)

White and Black Servants in Early America

Quoting John Rolfe’s account of the event, John Smith noted that “About the last of August came in a Dutch manne of warre that sold us twenty Negars.” Thus began the importation of Africans to America though their early status of servants or slaves may still be questioned.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

White and Black Servants in Early America

“Thanks to John Smith we know that Negroes first came to the British continental colonies in 1619. What we do not know is exactly when Negroes were first enslaved there. This question has been debated by historians for the past seventy years, the critical point being whether Negroes were enslaved almost from their first importation or whether they were at first simply servants and only later reduced to the status of slaves.

During the nineteenth century historians assumed almost universally that the first Negroes came to Virginia as slaves. So close was their acquaintance with the problem of racial slavery that it did not occur to them that Negroes could ever have been anything but slaves.

Philip A. Bruce, the first man to probe with some thoroughness into the early years of American slavery, adopted this view in 1896, although he emphasized that the original difference in treatment between white servants and Negroes was merely that Negroes served for life.

James C. Ballagh . . . took the position that the first Negroes served merely as servants and that enslavement did not begin until around 1660, when statutes bearing on slavery were passed for the first time. Writing on the free Negro in Virginia for the Johns Hopkins series, John H. Russell in 1913 tackled the central question and showed that some Negroes were indeed servants but concluded that “between 1640 and 1660 slavery was fast becoming an established fact. In this twenty years the colored population was divided, part being servants and part being slaves, and some who were servants defended themselves with increasing difficulty from the encroachment of slavery.”

Ulrich Philips of Georgia, impressed with the geniality of both slavery and twentieth-century race relations, found no natural prejudice in the white man and expressed his “conviction that Southern racial asperities were mainly superficial, and that the two great elements are fundamentally in accord.”

[Sociologists and social psychologists] . . . “Liberal on the race question almost to a man, [tended] to see slavery as the initial cause of the Negro’s current degradation. The modern Negro was the unhappy victim of long association with base status. Sociologists, though uninterested in tired questions of historical evidence, could not easily assume a natural prejudice in the white man as the cause of slavery. Prejudice must have followed enslavement, not vice versa; else any liberal program of action would be badly compromised.

Ironically there might have been no historical controversy [regarding when racial prejudice began] if every historian dealing with the subject had exercised greater care with facts and greater restraint in interpretation. Too often the debate entered the realm of inference and assumption. For the crucial years after 1619 there is simply not enough evidence to indicate with any certainty whether Negroes were treated like white servants or not. No historian has found anything resembling proof one way or the other. The first Negroes were sold to the English settlers, yet so were other Englishmen.

That some Negroes were held as slaves after about 1640 is no indication, however that American slavery popped into the world fully developed at that time. Many historians . . . have shown slavery to be a gradual development, a process not completed until the eighteenth century. [Some] Negroes served only the term usual for white servants, and others were completely free. One Negro freeman, Anthony Johnson, himself owned a Negro. Obviously the enslavement of some Negroes did not mean the immediate enslavement of all.”

(Modern Tensions and the Origins of American Slavery, Winthrop D. Jordan, Journal of Southern History, Volume XXVIII, February, 1962, pp. 18 -25)

White and Black Servants in Early America

Quoting John Rolfe’s account of the event, John Smith noted that “About the last of August came in a Dutch manne of warre that sold us twenty Negars.” Thus began the importation of Africans to America though their early status of servants or slaves may still be questioned.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

White and Black Servants in Early America

“Thanks to John Smith we know that Negroes first came to the British continental colonies in 1619. What we do not know is exactly when Negroes were first enslaved there. This question has been debated by historians for the past seventy years, the critical point being whether Negroes were enslaved almost from their first importation or whether they were at first simply servants and only later reduced to the status of slaves.

During the nineteenth century historians assumed almost universally that the first Negroes came to Virginia as slaves. So close was their acquaintance with the problem of racial slavery that it did not occur to them that Negroes could ever have been anything but slaves.

Philip A. Bruce, the first man to probe with some thoroughness into the early years of American slavery, adopted this view in 1896, although he emphasized that the original difference in treatment between white servants and Negroes was merely that Negroes served for life.

James C. Ballagh . . . took the position that the first Negroes served merely as servants and that enslavement did not begin until around 1660, when statutes bearing on slavery were passed for the first time. Writing on the free Negro in Virginia for the Johns Hopkins series, John H. Russell in 1913 tackled the central question and showed that some Negroes were indeed servants but concluded that “between 1640 and 1660 slavery was fast becoming an established fact. In this twenty years the colored population was divided, part being servants and part being slaves, and some who were servants defended themselves with increasing difficulty from the encroachment of slavery.”

Ulrich Philips of Georgia, impressed with the geniality of both slavery and twentieth-century race relations, found no natural prejudice in the white man and expressed his “conviction that Southern racial asperities were mainly superficial, and that the two great elements are fundamentally in accord.”

[Sociologists and social psychologists] . . . “Liberal on the race question almost to a man, [tended] to see slavery as the initial cause of the Negro’s current degradation. The modern Negro was the unhappy victim of long association with base status. Sociologists, though uninterested in tired questions of historical evidence, could not easily assume a natural prejudice in the white man as the cause of slavery. Prejudice must have followed enslavement, not vice versa; else any liberal program of action would be badly compromised.

Ironically there might have been no historical controversy [regarding when racial prejudice began] if every historian dealing with the subject had exercised greater care with facts and greater restraint in interpretation. Too often the debate entered the realm of inference and assumption. For the crucial years after 1619 there is simply not enough evidence to indicate with any certainty whether Negroes were treated like white servants or not. No historian has found anything resembling proof one way or the other. The first Negroes were sold to the English settlers, yet so were other Englishmen.

That some Negroes were held as slaves after about 1640 is no indication, however that American slavery popped into the world fully developed at that time. Many historians . . . have shown slavery to be a gradual development, a process not completed until the eighteenth century. [Some] Negroes served only the term usual for white servants, and others were completely free. One Negro freeman, Anthony Johnson, himself owned a Negro. Obviously the enslavement of some Negroes did not mean the immediate enslavement of all.”

(Modern Tensions and the Origins of American Slavery, Winthrop D. Jordan, Journal of Southern History, Volume XXVIII, February, 1962, pp. 18 -25)

Who First Brought African Slaves to America?

Referred to below is Bartholomew de Las Casas (1474-1566), a chaplain assigned to the Spanish armies invading Cuba. He witnessed the horrible massacre of the native Arawaks of Cuba at the hands of his countrymen and he returned to Spain to present his case to end those atrocities.  Those Spanish ships did not fly any flags of the American Confederacy, though New England slavers did fly the flag of the United States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Who First Brought African Slaves to America?

”Do you know how it came about that African slavery was first introduced into the New World?

We warrant you not one in ten of the Negro-philists of Europe or this country can properly answer this question. We warrant you also that fully half the enemies of the peculiar institution do not know that Negroes have always in all lands been held as slaves, from times so remote that the memory of man runneth not to the contrary; but firmly believe, that the whole blame of the great oppression rests upon the heads of the slaveholders of the present generation.

To all such allow us to say, the introduction of African slavery into America originated in the humane breast of Las Casas. At that period the aborigines of this country, the poor untutored “savages,” were sorely oppressed by the discoverers and conquerors of the land who used the poor creatures like so many beasts of burden, not even sparing their lives on occasions. Having been accustomed, before the coming of the pale faces, to the utmost freedom, devoting their time to idleness and hunting, they soon proved unequal to the misfortunate change, being incapable of performing the tasks imposed upon them by their new masters, and so perished miserably by the thousands.

To remedy so great an evil, Las Casas bethought him of the experiment of removing the Negroes from Africa to the New World that they might take the place of the poor “savages.” The Negroes were already slaves in their own country — slaves to masters whose authority was absolute — and had been such from time immemorial. Not only were they slaves to men; they were doubly the slaves of every species of degradation as well.

Sunk in the most deplorable barbarism, and guilty of all the wickednesses of the cities of the plain, they also waged incessantly cruel wars amongst themselves, tribe against tribe, and village against village. [African] chiefs built their huts of human skulls, drank the blood of their enemies out of human skulls, and yearly offered up whole hecatombs of human sacrifices; and on the death of every headman of a tribe, hundreds of his slaves were butchered over his grave that they might accompany and serve their dead master in the other world.

Surely, thought the humane Las Casas, there can be no harm in removing such wretches from the thralldom of their heathen masters to the milder sway of civilized men.

And at the time, all humane men every where were of the same opinion. Catholics, churchmen, non-conformists of every persuasion, and infidel philosophers also, all regarded the move as both philanthropic and evangelic.

Certainly good men reprobated on the horrors of the Middle Passage then, as earnestly as they do at the present time; but when they reflected on the horrors left behind — the man-eaters and the bloody human sacrifices — the constant wars between the different tribes — their spiritual degradation and mental darkness — they felt constrained to look upon even the horrors of the Middle Passage as an advance from the darker horrors of the accursed country, whence the poor creatures were being removed.

And so our own New England Puritans became the leading traffickers in slaves, and Boston one of the best slave-marts in the country.”

(Social Relations in Our Southern States, Daniel R. Hundley, 1860, pp.292-294)

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