Another Yankee Sin
February is both "Black History Month" and the anniversary
of President Lincolnís birthday, we know we will be hearing a lot
about slavery as well as the War Between the States. Unfortunately,
most of what we hear will be from television and other main stream
media as well as the entertainment field - the most unreliable sources.
They will present the conventional, easy-to-understand, version
of events because many people today cannot deal with an issue that
has more than one variable.
also know from previous Februarys that simplified depictions of
slavery will focus primarily on the South. Last year, a letter to
the editor of an area newspaper, contained this bizarre sentence:
"The South still needs to undergo a catharsis, face up to its
sins and admit its guilt in order to rid itself of the dregs of
evil left in the wake of a war fought to defend slavery." The
letter went on to great lengths to indict the South as being solely
responsible for slavery in America.
thousands of Africans didnít magically appear at Natchez plantations
one morning. The story of slavery in America is more complex and
involves other players in addition to the Southern planters.
the other villains were the New England slave traders, financed
by New York bankers, who used specially constructed ships to transport
slaves from Africa. These Yankee clippers were designed to hold
a maximum number of slaves using a minimum amount of space. Viewing
replicas of slave ships at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut
will give you an appreciation of Yankee ingenuity.
ships would depart New England loaded with trinkets, weapons and,
of course, rum, which would be traded to tribal chieftains in exchange
for the Africans they held as slaves. On return trips, the ships
would stop in the West Indies and exchange slaves for sugar and
molasses, which were taken to New England to be distilled into rum.
slaves died before the ships reached America and their corpses were
unceremoniously tossed into the ocean. Those who survived the harsh
crossing were sold primarily to planters in the Caribbean; roughly
90%, and the South; roughly 10%.
Englandís exploitation of slaves was one of Americaís best kept
secrets until fairly recently. But now some historians refuse to
comply with the conspiracy of silence and they are showing us New
Englandís dirty linen. One of these historians is Joanne Pope Melish
and her recent book, Disowning
Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England, 1780-1860
exposes what has been called "a virtual amnesia about slavery
in New England."
England newspapers, operating from a "Chamber of Commerce"
mindset, rarely mention the regionís history of slave labor. And
some residents of the State of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations
want the Stateís official name changed to simply "Rhode Island"
in order to eliminate the reminder of slavery connoted by the word
slavery did indeed begin in New England with Massachusetts being
the first colony to legalize the use of slaves in 1641. Other colonies
quickly followed suit and soon New Englandís economy was almost
dependent upon slave labor. At first, captured American Indians
were exchanged for black slaves from the West Indies. But eventually
New Englanders realized that slave trading was more profitable than
harpooning whales. "At New England slavery's peak, around 1760,
roughly one in four families owned slaves" which is the same
percentage of families in the South owning slaves just prior to
fact, to a greater or lesser degree, slaves were used throughout
all the developed regions of the nation and the New England slave
traders amassed huge fortunes from the buying and selling of human
beings. Although slave trading was outlawed in 1808, the practice
continued surreptitiously for several years. But long before it
ended, slave traders, like their counterparts in organized crime,
began funneling their profits into reputable ventures and these
new investments began to prosper.
immense monetary success of the slave trade created a ripple effect
on the entire New England economy. In fact, if you trace the source
of wealth of many of the regionís old aristocratic families, you
will find that its genesis was, directly or indirectly, the slave
the slave trade gradually ended, what happened to these New England
families is best described by the old saying: "First you obtain
money and then you obtain morals." The affluent families became
respectable and took pride in their newly acquired virtue. Also,
their enormous wealth afforded them the wherewithal as well as the
leisure for benevolent activities. One of the first causes the New
Englanders embraced was the Abolition movement. It offended their
sensibilities that Southern planters were using slave labor.
easy to picture these distinguished Boston gentlemen and their elegant
ladies, dressed in their Sunday finest and comfortably ensconced
in their Unitarian pews. Their faces surely reflected the compassion
they felt as they listened to one of William Ellery Channingís fiery
Abolition sermons. No doubt they wondered if there was a way to
lift Southerners up to their moral level.
there is one question the Abolitionists never asked: Who is more
culpable? Those who sell slaves or those who buy them? Apparently
their minds became compartmentalized to the point that such questions
didnít arise. However, we know how writers of textbooks answered
this question. But textbooks were published primarily in New York
and Boston, not Atlanta.
to the end, Lady Luck smiled on New Englanders. When they were forced
to end their commercial exploitation of slaves, they fared much
better than the South did at the same juncture. The federal government
didnít take away their assets or their right to vote. Nor did it
place them under military rule. And Confederate troops didnít march
across New England burning homes, schools and libraries; raping
and looting and leaving only the scorched earth.
him mail] is a CPA living in
Beaufort, SC, an unreconstructed Southerner, and an advocate of
© 2002 LewRockwell.com
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