I’ve been quite preoccupied of late and have only stopped in occasionally for a read of the current arm waving and some recent articles about slavery, the confederate flag and the state of race relations in America have ….well… Agitated me.. Any time the subject touches on race and racism in the US on this forum I have been compelled to chime in but the subject has so many facets that brief comments do not suffice ….so as time permitted, I cogitated, jotted down a few thoughts, checked some facts and tried to put them into something readable.. Sorry for the length but this isn’t just some short story or one act play and the myths… they do run deep. A particular apology to King who finds lengthy reads a physical chore.
Let’s cut to the chase here and talk about what is really going on with this long and continual rewrite and scrubbing of history. The truth can certainly be written out of history and that will surely affect the future. The last 50 years of social indoctrination via public education is proof of that. It doesn’t change the facts and until the Ministry of Truth is totally up and running plenty of text exists to dispute the distortions which unfortunately dominate most of the internet reading on this subject… IF you are really interested looking for it and not just trying to affirm your own bias.
Fact is, the north (present day Northeast) has always attempted to manipulate and control the rest of the country to its advantage and so it is with the history of slavery and the economic issues surrounding it. It has done so to its own enrichment and quite cunningly managed to extricate itself from any real ownership of blame or responsibility.
As the story has been evolved… folks in the north never had many slaves, and the ones they did have were practically family. “We let them marry, we taught them to read, and soon enough, we freed them.” New England is the home of abolitionists and underground railroads. In the story of slavery — and by extension, the story of race and racism in modern-day America — northerners are the heroes while southerners were and still are the racist villains.
Traveling the historic cities and townships of the northeast ( I have lived in Maine, New York and New Jersey) you begin to see these great seaports and historic stately homes everywhere you look. You can follow the wealth back to the agricultural trade of the West Indies, to the trade of bodies in Africa, to the unpaid labor of black people in both the north and the south. … Profits that compound day by day and year by year right up to the present …. Profits which pays for all the influence necessary to rewrite the uncomfortable and promulgate the desirable…. In our schools, our papers and the increasingly skewed interpretation of our founding documents…
William Faulkner once said, “To understand the world, you have to understand a place like Mississippi.”
Of course the state was swept along by the global economic force created by its favourable climate for growing cotton, the demand by cotton textile manufacturing in Europe, and New York’s financial and commercial interests. Mississippi did not exist in a vacuum. So, in a sense, Faulkner’s words could be reversed: “To understand Mississippi, you have to understand the world.”
The northern colonies were the first to enshrine into law perpetual slavery (Mass in 1641)as opposed to indentured servitude that obligated so many who travelled to the new world and did so a full generation before any colony in the south(S.Carolina 1682). The influence of the Dutch was felt mostly in the middle states; they had long embraced perpetual slavery. Again the story is told that the north never had many slaves but we never talk about main reason why… the weather. Agriculture, land clearance and building were side-lined for long periods of the year with slaves sitting dangerously and expensively idol for months at a time. That limitation did not exist in the south. The question here of coarse is, if the conditions had been more favourable would the north have embraced its moral stance quite so readily. This however wasn’t a total impediment to the use of plantation slaves in the north. While Wikipedia provides a lengthy list of plantations it fails to show any in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York yet there is a growing library of historical evidence that they existed in quantity and some, like one near Salem Mass were as large as 13,000 acres.
Commercially New England was the financier and slave merchant to the US. Slaves traded and the crops produced by them enriched banks, insurance companies, ship builders, textile mills, railroads, clothiers, distilleries and slave traders of the north. The profits were so lucrative that it actually fuelled the industrial expansion of the north...
If you are interested, study the founding and early profits of these companies (a short list)… keeping in mind the power of compound interest over two or three hundred years and the influence that money has had on what you know of the subject and your life from birth to present.
New York Life
Norfork Southern and CSX railroads
Fleet Boston financial
Brown Brothers Harriman
Look at the history of Wall Street… and who built the wall….
One company of many with an interesting history of ‘diversity’ is DeWolfs. Founded by James DeWolf one of the ‘Grand Folk’ of Bristol Road Island. Member of Bristol general assembly and later US Senator with family business in privateering, Banking, textiles, shipping , molasses, sugar cane, rum distillation. His successor son dodged the war of 1812 and continued illegal slave trade after the war and long after it was made illegal in the US. All of the family businesses were interlinked.. Banks bought the boats from New England ship builders and the trading companies that sailed them. They owned sugar cane plantations in Cuba and when the price of slaves was low, they worked them in the Cuban fields waiting for favourable prices anywhere in the western hemisphere. When slaves were outlawed in New England they bought them cheap and sailed to New Orleans by way of Cuba to trade slaves for cotton… returning the cotton to their textile mills in New England or sugar cane for their rum distilleries.
The book Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited From Slavery by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang and Jenifer Frank catalogues how New York City after Paris and London were built on bricks of cotton and how individuals like Philadelphia doctor Samuel Morton with is ‘scientific research’ fuelled the belief and extended the effects of the French Code Noir (Black Code) published as an edict by Louis XIV in March 1685 and the Arab beliefs before it, that black Africans were inferior in both intellect, capacity and character thus placing them in a sub human category and helping to insure that blacks all over the world still exist as second class citizens in the minds of a significant percentage of other races and cultures… not just whites and not just America.
Of course the northern cities of Boston and New York were none too shy about hosting plantation owners who escaped the hot southern summer’s spending money in it hotels, restaurants and theatres, selling them the fine textiles produced with cheap southern cotton and a durable and functional range of slave attire which gave Brooks Brothers its start. The Adirondack’s in New York saw an explosion of resorts on the back of the wealth both northern and southern in the 1850’s. Cape May New Jersey became a thriving seaside destination for plantation owners and politicians… Sen. Abraham Lincoln and his family vacationed there.
Slavery was part and parcel of the building and creation of the northern aristocracy and by extension, its prosperity. As pointed out in the book by Craig Wilder Ebony and Ivory the Universities(NYTimes review) of Brown, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, Dartmouth, Pennsylvania, and William and Mary all have founding connections to either slave labor in building the structures or slave money to fund them.
I see no reason here why some of Americas leading and most prestigious institutions would have an interest in deflecting the story away from themselves… do you?
The collective amnesia about local slavery's existence and the standard of living enjoyed because of slavery in general became a significant component of New England regional identity; An identity that tenaciously persists in American race relations today.
I do not argue about the hideousness of slavery but that the focus of the subject is much broader than some, for their own political and perhaps economic narrative would choose to ignore. It is in this denial that race relations and what it would actually take to repair them is actually rooted.
The common retort to all of this is that the north outlawed slave imports in 1808 and in 1804 the last northern state outlawed slavery. In some technical measure this is true but significant evidence exists showing that exemptions existed in New York until 1827, Connecticut until 1848, Delaware and Maryland until after the war.
Rather noble, the call for dismantling slavery, when you consider how minimal the actual disruption to the economy of the north was. Easy thing to do when you can just refocus your investment banks away from loans that built the plantations to new endeavours, continue to import your slave produced sugar cane and molasses from the Caribbean for your rum distilleries, repurpose your ships to carry different cargo and find new products to insure and ultimately raise tariffs so that southern producers were forced to sell their products to the north rather than the open market. While many slaves in the north were indeed freed, many found themselves sold to traders, put on slave ships and transported to the many sugar producing islands outside of the US only to later be resold in the US south or transferred directly from north to south… if they lived. One might call that ‘cutting your losses’ rather than benevolence. This doesn’t even address the subject of just what life was like as a freed slave in the northern culture that freed so many blacks into conditions worse than slavery itself especially if you had a family to care for as they could expect to receive the lowest wages of anyone… if they could even find a job at all.
Walking away from the slave culture was not quite so easy when the monoculture of ‘King Cotton’ was as important to the south as oil is to the Middle East and when it is the financial bases for US industrial expansion and government revenue. To understand our racial problems today, getting to the root of all of this faux nobility is important.
Right up to the civil war northern merchant’s ships, fitted for slaves carried rum to Africa and slaves to the American south, the Caribbean, Cuba and Brazil. As a matter of fact 1859-1860 was a peak period in this trade from northern American ports. The American navy wasn’t particularly zealous in capturing these ships and while the British navy was much more robust, America would not allow its US flagged ships to be boarded … other vessels soon found the benefits of flying a US flag and set up companies in New York and Boston for the purpose.. While the US is singled out because it would not allow US ships to be boarded one must take note that the importation as much as half of the Brazilian slave population occurred after 1808 and the US was hardly the sole supplier. Brazil was the last country in the western hemisphere to officially end slavery with its own emancipation proclamation in 1888 although the integration of blacks into Brazilian life was much faster given that the freed black population was large and comparable in size to the indigenous population… it became a majority in 2009.
The New York Times wrote this article in July 1860 about the state of the slave trade and while acknowledging the work that had been done it admonished the government for its less than assertive enforcement of US Law. It gives a list of ships leaving New York harbour in the previous year asking just how serious the government was that these known ships could clear US customs…. From a northern harbour.
Of course for all noise of northern abolitionists, New York City was none too interested in harming the hand that feeds it. On Jan. 7, 1861, two days before Mississippi became the second state to secede, Mayor Fernando Wood delivered a message to the Common Council, the city’s governing body, proposing that New York assert its independence as a “free city” by “disrupting the bands which bind her to a venal and corrupt master” — that is, the Union. The purpose of course was that New York was the harbour to many slave ships and its docks and streets full of warehouses, trade operations, banking and insurance companies heavily vested in their success.
“With our aggrieved brethren of the Slave States, we have friendly relations and a common sympathy.”
While support for secession was not high and support for preservation of the union was generally positive, for a number of reasons after the change in rational for the war with the emancipation proclamation and the national inscription act forcing people into service, people took to the streets in the draft riots of 1863. One of the many reasons was that the change of reason for the war meant fighting a war that they no longer believed in as well as the many jobs supported by the cotton growing south.
Much of the South’s cotton exports passed through New York, and the city’s merchants took 40 cents of every dollar that Europeans paid for Southern cotton through warehouse fees, shipping, insurance and profits. Cotton — and hence slavery — helped, as told by a 2011 New York Times article, build the new marble-fronted mercantile buildings in lower Manhattan, fill Broadway hotels and stores with customers, and build block after block of fashionable brownstones north of 14th Street.
Most New Englanders did not care that the cotton that clothed and employed them was produced by slaves because for them it became sanitized once it left the plantation. For all of the bravado we hear about northern abolitionist, a boycott of cotton products never gained any significant support or enough to significantly influence the northern mills or stockists… or the pay checks of their many workers.
Liverpool, the Wirral, Lancashire and most of the surrounding area in England, had strong political, emotional and financial connections and sympathies with the Confederate States during the Civil War. Indeed, so strong were these connections that it has been quoted that at one time "more Confederate flags fluttered above Liverpool than over Richmond"
While the recognition that slavery was, by moral and economic necessity, coming to an end, many in England saw the hypocrisy of a President Lincoln starting a war over a Union preservation crisis fuelled by tariffs that greatly effected them and then issuing the emancipation proclamation a year and a half after the war had started to garner sympathy and were very cognisant of the fact that it did not affect the border states. They were little impressed with the letter that Lincoln sent to Lancashire seeking their support. Even the aristocracies of both France and England had strong sympathies with the South because up to the later part of 1862 the north had explicitly stated that the reason for war was the preservation of the union, a democratic creation not particularly admired by European governance. The starting of the war to them was never the moral issue of slavery.
The CSS Alabama was one of several ships built in Liverpool shipyards… what made it unique was that it was manned almost exclusively by British sailors. While both France and England were threatened to stay out of the war much opposition arose first from the tariffs which created a ‘cotton famine’ displacing large numbers of workers in both countries but when the focus switched from taxation to emancipation both countries understood the problems of freeing large populations of slave all at once as folly and considered gradual emancipation is the proper solution.
As I said at the beginning, the north-eastern states have always used their money and influence to push the country in a direction that best benefited their own pockets and political interests. In this discussion, taxes and the tariffs enacted in their name have a large part to play in sectionalism between north south. While Lincoln may have used the war to preserve the union and stop the expansion of slavery, he too had no desire to cut off the revenues that streamed from the sale of cotton, but much like the colonies relationship with Britain, the lopsided way the states were taxed caused considerable friction. This friction is dismissed as a distraction to the ‘real’ cause of the civil war… slavery(Read Lincolns inaugural address )… but they were part and parcel of the north south divide ever since the constitution approved direct taxation and apportionment. It was clear from the beginning that some saw this as a way to control the US economy rather than just a method to fund federal government functions…something the northern states exploited time and time again in its economic contests with the south and later with the agricultural and mining west. As inconvenient as it may be for northern apologists, the subject of tariffs were bitterly argued over long before slavery was an issue.
The issues of the purpose for tariffs, states’ rights and the concept of nullification came up along sectional lines with the tariff of 1828 branded the “tariff of abominations.” The tariff enacting up to 62% tax on most all imported manufactured goods and was designed specifically to protect northern industry. It was seriously opposed as unconstitutional in that the federal government had no right to pick business winners and losers using tariffs agreed upon to be a method of revenue collection and not economic manipulation. Previous to the Morall introduced taxes in 1861 the south already provided over 65% of the federal revenue but received little in return for its contribution.
Army Engineer officers surveyed and selected routes, planned, designed, and constructed rights-of-way, track, and structures, and introduced the Army's system of reports and accountability to the railroad companies. More than one in ten of the 1,058 graduates from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point between 1802 and 1866 became corporate presidents, chief engineers, treasurers, superintendents and general managers of railroad companies. These railroad companies had no problem using slave labor it the construction of their networks either.
The federal government provided financing for a national road that connected the Ohio valley with the east coast and land grants that benefited railroads expanding to the Midwest. These expenditures came directly from the federal coffers and were used mostly in the north.
With respect for the reasons the south seceded I would like to point out the Corwin amendment… also known as the original 13th amendment. Passed by both houses of congress on March 2 1861, the amendment if ratified would enshrine slavery as a specific tenet of the constitution under the direction of state and not federal law. This amendment only required 3 more states to ratify it. President Lincoln personally sent letters to each state informing them of this reality. The question is, if secession was about slavery and not oppressive taxation then why did the southern states not re-enter the union knowing slavery would be safe and why, if Lincoln cared so much about ending slavery, did he use it as an enticement only to later give the emancipation proclamation to rev up support for a war he was losing?
An unfortunate consequence of this use of revenues to manipulate commerce was the broad expansion of the original intent of the commerce clause and with these precedents set, the welfare clause as well as necessary and proper.
While the issue of slavery was a morally messy issue prior to the civil war and much ink was spilled over it in the creation of the constitution (that agreement between the parties under which they would agree to join into a union in the first place) it was never the less legal under the constitution. While the resolution of that compromise can be debated from many different angles, it is perfectly clear that the outcome of the civil war which created the 13th and 14th amendments unequivocally altered the relationship of the US with slavery and both federal and state governments’ responsibilities to its citizens with respect to the US Constitution.
There was no ambiguity, yet time and time again the US Federal government failed miserably to live up to its responsibilities under the constitution. I have said previously that had the federal government utilized in a non-discriminatory way, citizens as defined after the emancipation in its own functioning, the subject of racial division after the 13th amendment would have started to heal 150 years ago. The fact is that the Federal government itself, in contravention of its own operating instructions perpetuated discrimination and racial division between whites and blacks into the 1950’s and acted as a ‘do as I do’ example to state governments; some of which were culturally predestine to follow the federal lead. It had segregated work and military forces and glass ceilings everywhere in its structure. One thing that happened in the south after the end of the war was a repeat of what had happened to freed slaves of the north only with exponential magnitude. They were given the poorest wages and the least opportunities only in the south the population disparity made assimilation and tolerance even that much more difficult.
After the 13th amendment we get the 14th. An amendment that brought state constitutions under the same restrictions with respect to citizens’ rights as the US constitution yet we get a hideous decision of the Supreme Court in 1896 somehow interpreting the constitution as allowing government to forcibly separate citizens by race and by extension in any fashion that struck its fancy. So for another 70 years we give permission for a southern culture raised in racial division to remain that way. While only rationalization can provide the excuses for southerner’s treatment of blacks, the Supreme Court of the United States gave them permission…. The US government gave them example.
The interesting thing about Plessy v. Ferguson 163 U.S. 537 (1896) is the makeup of the court that gave racial segregation legal cover.
Name POR POB
Henry Billings Brown (Author) Mich Mass.
Melville Weston Fuller Ill. Maine
Stephen Johnson Field Calif. Conn.
Horace Gray, Mass. Mass.
George Shiras, Jr., Pa. Pa.
Byron Raymond White, La.* La.
Rufus Wheeler Peckham , N.Y. N.Y.
John M. Harlan, Ky. Ky.
With the exception of Byron White who hailed from the state which brought the lawsuit, all the other justices to the affirmative were born in the north and either resided in the state of birth or moved to another ‘free’ state.
In his lone dissenting opinion, which would become a classic of American civil rights jurisprudence, Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan insisted that the court had ignored the obvious purpose of the Separate Car Act, which was, “under the guise of giving equal accommodation for whites and blacks, to compel the latter to keep to themselves while traveling in railroad passenger coaches.” Because it presupposed—and was universally understood to presuppose—the inferiority of African Americans, the act imposed a badge of servitude upon them in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. The effect of the law, he argued, was to interfere with the personal liberty and freedom of movement of both African Americans and whites. Because it thus attempted to regulate the civil rights of citizens on the arbitrary basis of their race, the act was repugnant to the principle of legal equality underlying the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause. “Our Constitution is color-blind.”
His decent here expresses my exact sentiments with regards to this case but equally with the provisions of the1964 civil rights act which installed forced integration which again denied people their rights as citizens to free association.
Harlan and his family had owned slaves in Kentucky, and during the Civil War he staunchly defended the right to slavery as a constitutional provision. At the same time, however, he also joined the Union Army to fight to preserve the Union. After the Civil War ended, he, in line with the constitutions amended principles became a defender of civil rights for African-Americans... a justice who followed the constitution and not is prejudices.
Once again it would seem the north has through sleight of hand and in disregard of the constitution which bound the individual states together, found a way to continue the subjugation of not only a race but a region of the country it had serious economic dispute with.
Of course defenders of the northern righteousness focus on the fact that separate but equal allowed the racist southern states to keep doing what they were doing. This rhetoric provides not a hint of recognition that in New York City in the 1960s provided a woefully inadequate state of black and Puerto-Rican majority schools…the schools’ obvious inequality with white schools due to de facto segregation.
Blacks in New York City, due to housing discrimination, poverty, and white flight, found themselves forced into living in already-existing slums in Harlem.
A scene usually widely publisized with desegregation of schools in the Deep South, occurred at Charlestown High in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston had been regarded as the "cradle of liberty" ever since it played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, but two hundred years later, a court-ordered plan that utilized busing to achieve integration of the city's public schools led to frequent protests, demonstrations, and confrontations between blacks and whites. Northerners who had called for desegregation in Southern schools for decades soon discovered that their own schools were just as segregated and that integrating them was just as difficult.
The fight to desegregate Philadelphia schools began in 1970 when the state Human Relations Commission filed a complaint against the Philadelphia School District for its segregated school system. The commission ordered the district to eliminate its racist segregation by 1974.
Delaware, after Plessy v Ferguson changed its constitution to mandate separate schools not only for whites and black but for Indians and instituted similar segregation for orphanages, old age homes and athletic programs. Elsewhere the state maintained its racial separations in communities as it was before the civil war.
One could go on with comments like this for Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and almost all areas of the north east… point is, Plessy v Ferguson wasn’t just a green light to southern racism. The spotlight on the souths adamant and vocal belief in states’ rights and rights of association as well as clear and open racial animosity provided the diversion northerners needed to deflect the subject of racism away from themselves.
Dismantling the myths of slavery doesn’t mean ignoring the activities of New England movements in ending it. In the 1830s and ’40s, an entire network of white Connecticut abolitionists emerged to house, feed, clothe, and aid in the legal defense of Africans from the slave ship Amistad, a legendary case that went all the way to the US Supreme Court and helped mobilize the fight against slavery… but celebrating that does in no way diminish the responsibility for the introduction and perpetuation of slavery in the US nor does it grant unlimited license to bury its continued manipulation of this entire country for its own power and enrichment.
Nothing presented here in any way absolves the south for its responsibility in the history of slavery and racial strife in the US. The small 3% of the population that actually owned slaves, including my own relatives, have a special cross to bear. The other 97% with their fears of such a large angry population being freed or the loss of their livelihoods or the belief in the inferiority of the black race are culpable for standing by, much like a group of people watching a helpless woman being beaten and raped without anyone lifting a finger. The south owns its part for slavery and racism in America… now it’s time for the rest of the country to admit its part…
One fact that is seldom told is that race relations in America are improving year on year even in the very demonized south, in spite of government meddling… at lease up until this president. Of course the media and the political factions that use race in their power plays hate it…. Unfortunately because these people need racial division for their own gain, they now as in the past, create distortions in law, government power and history that prevents us from putting racial tensions in the past… that prevent blacks from learning to stand on their own two feet… to succeed or fail on their own terms. As a matter of fact these laws and distortions of the constitution restrain us all from our pursuit of happiness. Then again, independent minded individuals are as much of a threat to the people in control of our country present day as independent slaves threatened the power structure of the south.
Today, progressives are justly suspicious of the high-flown “freedom” rhetoric our government deploys to advance American empire. But we need always to be sceptical of reductive, righteous narratives. Far from promoting morality, such fictions allow us to hide our worst impulses from ourselves.
The United States and indeed most of the western world is destine to destroy itself if it doesn’t wake up and realize the truths and realities as they are. Firstly whites were not the first to enslave people nor are they destine to be the last. Every culture on this planet has, at one time or another subjected people, White, Black, Brown and Yellow, against their will, to the desires of their masters… they still do. To blame the ill effects of the world on whites in general and American whites in specific is to deny the rather mean spirited trait that runs through humanity… Its not much different than the propensity for the rather unique human trait of killing for pleasure… it certainly isn’t a manifest of whites but within America we need to honestly come to terms with the fact that some people don’t want equal justice under the law… some people… people who actually pull the strings in this country do not, even today consider ‘all men’ to be equal under the law.
Just the other day in the New York Times was an article about Hillary addressing a heavily African-American audience in which she stated, in a rather feeble attempt to sway votes, “It’s essential that we all stand up and say, loudly and clearly, that, yes, black lives matter.” The audience it would seem wasn’t impressed. Why? Because they knew that she has no idea what it means to rid America of institutional racism… she has no idea how to rid America of institutional anything because at the end of the day, she is part of the institution and so close to the problem that she can’t see that she is part of it. Bush it would seem made similarly incognizant comments in New Hampshire.
As time went on in the south, folks on the religious right used their faith to guide their actions with respect to the blacks living there. They rationalised blacks as incapable of taking care of themselves. They found it to be a religious obligation to care for them because absolute freedom, absolute choice, education without the necessary skills to use it would, without question, result in failure and hardship for these less than capable beings and consequently for the society that surrounded them.
This rational from the civil war forward has kept black people under the paternal care and supervision of the white man… enforced by law. Society has indeed evolved but even as the methods have changed, the chains remain… Ever since the New Deal northerners took charge, blacks have once again fallen under the benevolent hand of the white man and the constitution continues to fade into the background. Black unemployment is high(government unsuccessfully pulls the levers of business and plays favourites), school grades low(government creates standardized failure and refuses to allow people to escape it), incarceration high(government created a new industry that feeds itself with an overly policed state), success low(if your trapped in a government built ghetto or a government program breaking free of that orbit is tough).. but through 100’s of government programs and in their magnanimous benevolence they will give you what exactly what they think you need…
As Hillary told here audience yesterday in a manner that projected absolute authority of conviction (sarcasm)…“And we all have a responsibility to face these hard truths about race and justice honestly and directly.”
The bad thing is that the paternalism that controls the blacks of America also attempts to control us all… It is time that the federal government live up to its obligations under the constitution and leave citizens to sort out their relationships with each other.
Today 40 states have passed or have legislation in process reaffirming there sovereign rights under the constitution of these United States; coincidentally (or not) not one of those states are located in the North East…