Sunday, 29 September 2013

The slave trade 'rescued slaves from night-black Africa'

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It is clear that there are certain people who are free and certain who are slaves by nature, and it is both to their advantage, and just, for them to be slaves. Aristotle



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A former slave named Gordon shows his whipping scars. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1863


It would be very interesting and perilous to write the history of the Africans in North America from an objective point of view. 

Slavery, as opposed to serfdom, faded out in Europe by the 12th century and was abolished by the British Empire in 1833 - other countries following us. Outside Europe, slavery had always existed and was probably justifiable in prehistoric times and in primitive tribal societies. Life in such societies was, in any case, nasty, brutish and frequently short.  

Slavery is in the forefront of people's minds these days not because it was a cruel institution, but because it was an example of white people exploiting brown ones. We hear less about the African slaves owned and traded by Arabs. We hear next to nothing about the 23 million Russian serfs, one-third of the Russian population, who greatly outnumbered the fewer than four million American slaves and who were freed in 1861 by Czar Alexander II. 

At school we might have heard of the English thralls, including those enslaved by the pagan Danes, but one rarely hears of the white slaves captured by the Barbary pirates, or of slavery in India or China. Slavery in China was abolished in 1909 but continued until 1949 under the Nationalists. Under Chinese Communism it continues to this day, of course - the slaves are nowadays prisoners. In its more traditional form, slavery continues in Mali and other parts of Muslim Africa.

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Slavery is therefore not something for which only Europeans, and in particular the British and Americans, are to be blamed. On the contrary, Europeans, in particular the British and to a lesser extent the Americans, can be credited with its abolition.

However terrible slavery in the Americas was, and it certainly very often was (as was serfdom in Europe), slavery was an African institution, as it was an institution in most primitive societies, which whites adopted. The African slaves were enslaved by other Africans, who sold some of the slaves to white men. 

Slavery is barbaric, but it brought African slaves to civilisation, as a very good interview with the (black) Governor-General of Jamaica in the Spectator reminds us.  I cannot forbear to quote a few lines from it:
As we waited for the tea, Cooke began to speak in patriotic terms of Jamaica as a colony of "marvellous antiquity", far older even than British India or Australia. 
"Now hear me on this. When Australia was just a convict settlement, Jamaica was an established outpost of British commerce and British civilisation. "Civilisation? "Yes," he replied. "Even during slavery the British were sending some very good people out to Jamaica . . . missionaries, reformers . . . but, as I said, to Australia, just convicts." 
"But Jamaica was a brutal place . . . the plantation," I said. 
Cooke was not going to condone slavery, was he? 
"Well, neither am I going to harp on about the wickedness of slavery. Jamaica's greatness was due entirely to slavery." 
Yes, the iniquities; yes, the horrors; but slavery, for all its manifest brutality, had rescued Cooke and his forebears from "night-black" Africa and shown them "true" (that is, British) civilisation.
Sir Howard Cooke is a British patriot to put both the BNP and British intellectuals to shame.

An interesting proof of the civilising effects of slavery is that the freed American slaves who settled Liberia did not intermarry with the natives but treated them as coolies and regarded themselves as representatives of a higher civilisation, which of course they were. I remember people wrote about Liberia as the first free black African country, when it was in fact the last colony. The rule of the 'Americo-Liberians', the black colonists, was only ended in 1980, by a military coup.

I once outraged a liberal Anglican parson friend of mine, who was a very intelligent trained philosopher, when I suggested slavery was a relative rather than an absolute evil. He congratulated himself that he did not think like this, but I have never known how Christians can square the idea of slavery as an absolute evil with the fact that the Old Testament takes it for granted and approves of it. I recently came across, thanks to Mr. Valentin Dimitrov, this very interesting explanation of why slavery might have been morally acceptable in the time of King David and later but not in America in the 18th or 19th centuries. 

31 comments:

  1. Surely he means " greatness "Jamara Geechie Newell

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  2. Why on earth do you have to mention the BNP in an otherwise good blog article? Pathetic.

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    1. Because they do not like black people.

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    2. Very boring and by taking this tack you adopt the baggage of The Left in your writing.

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  3. One should mention that since less than a half of African slaves used to arrive alive at the civilising plantations, the other half was even more lucky being transferred from black Africa directly to Heaven. As for Jamaica's greatness - why isn't it a permanent member of the UNSC yet? Yefim

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  4. There's some truth in the claim that the descendants of slaves outside Africa are, in the main, better off then they would be if they'd been born in Africa. This has interesting implications for the question of reparations.
    This isn't a consequence of slavery, though, but of being born outside Africa. It's equally true of the descendants of an African migrant.
    There seems to be good evidence that slavery was an inefficient way to employ labour. They'd have had more profitable plantations if they'd just advertised for people willing to migrate for work, as happened in the 1950s in Jamaica. The effect for their descendants would have been at least as favourable and, given the legacy of resentment, probably far better. Peter Risdon

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  5. I'm not sure what anyone is supposed to walk away with from this article but I will state that in these days Jamaica conjures little more than frequent images of nasty rasta hair, boring music and dope addled minds. Jammin'....indeed.

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  6. If people were truly concerned about slavery, then they would be looking to stop what exists today instead of trying to profit from what existed long before their time. It is indisputable that the descendants of black slaves in the West are far better off economically now than of those who were left behind . Even their IQs have risen a few points. It's a function of the Totalitarian Left to divide and conquer those they wish to rule. They hit the mother lode with race baiting and fostering hatred amongst those who take seriously their shenanigans and those who think they stand to profit from them.

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  7. Hey Paul I did read it--well done! The only reason people are still nattering on about slavery ( and other historical events) is that it's profitability can never run out. No one can EVER change the past therefore it can be use forever to try to induce guilt , seek financial regress , make excuses for current behavior etc.. but only if one gives in to such shoddy , pandering logic. Stop making it profitable and the interest in slavery will be the same as the public's interest in the Magna Carta. Pamela

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  8. You also might care to ask the 10,000 Irish men, women and childrenwhio were involuntariliy transported to the West Indies by Cromwell if they are poud of their contribution to Jamaican success!

    As I recall they were called the "Fever Islands" in those days for the Malaria and Yellow Fever they were so famous for!
    Gary Vant


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  9. Interesting, of course, Paul, and you're quite right that there is an imbalanced focus on slavery in the US. But it was supposed to be civilised, so higher standards might be expected.

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    1. Interestingly Czar Nicholas I of Russia - no bleeding-heart liberal he - thought slavery in the USA was immoral.

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  10. Don't agree with this blog's perspective, Paul, and I'd take issue with the bit about it being an 'African institution'. Slavery has existed for centuries across continents and I don't think any one country can claim (dis)credit.

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    1. oh not only African - perhaps I should amend it - slavery universal institution but existed in Africa as well.

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    2. I amended it - I am not seeking to say slavery was justified in 18th century America. My point is that slavery is used to reinforce anti-colonialism and anti-Western ideas, not considered objectively.

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  11. slavery like democracy and all other mumbo -jumbo, needs no justification! People have been are and will always be on the lookout for someone to rule over / exploit. etc.

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  12. It was Patrick Pearse our 1916 patriot and leader of that rebellion that said "There are worse things than bloodshed and slavery is one of them" Pearse however, was an admirer of John Mitchel one of Ireland's revolutionaries who was an advocate of slavery. A strong polemicist, he argued there was no eleventh commandment, and that slavery was part and parcel of life during and before the bible was even written. In 1848 Mitchel had his death sentence of being hanged drawn and quartered by the Government, commuted to transportation where he eventually wound up in Van Diemens Land.

    From there he escaped and made it to America where he was well received but lost two of his sons, fighting for the Confederate side. Daniel O'Connell was strongly opposed to slavery and irritated Mitchel with his pacifist policies. This clash I believe led Mitchel some way towards his opinion on slavery. It is also likely that Mitchel was deeply affected by England's intransigence towards the Irish people during the famine of 1847. He saw what he believed was the deliberate policy of allowing and contributing to the extirpation of the people hiding behind laissez faire economics and 'Providentialism,' being the will of God. Mitchel is noted for saying... "God may have sent the blight, but England sent the famine. So although many would disagree with his attitude towards slavery, there were mitigating circumstances in his argument, not least that 19th century Ireland had no slavery. The poor just took their chances in the summer and winter months begging in the towns and cities. During the agriculturally productive months of Spring and Autumn they could hope among many other hopefuls of getting some casual labouring work on the land which was owned in the main by the absentee British landlords. These landlords and their likes found it far less expensive to employ workers in a seasonal way rather than pay for the feeding upkeep and maintenance of full time slaves. This theme is highlighted in Robert Tressil's acclaimed novel set in 19th C. Britain "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" This book should be compulsory reading for all management, employers Governments and Non Governmental organizations. You see we are all being reduced to slavery in a not so subtle way.
    Its regrettable Paul does not highlight what he means by Jamaica's greatness.
    michael dunne

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    1. Fascinating stuff about Mitchel. It may be that had the Irish Catholics been enslaved many more would have survived the Famine. Though my forbears were Irish peasants at the time and the 19th century UK is my favourite historical subject, The Famine is one of the lacunae in my education, shamefully. Sir Howard made that comment about Jamaica's greatness, not I. Jamaica is far from great but a disaster though before independence from the UK it was doing well.

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    2. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, Irish men and women were indeed held in slavery. In Cromwells, England many of them were transported into the Carribean region as slaves. They died like flies of the Malaria and Yellow Fever that gave the islands on the region their name :Fever Islands".

      Many more (Irish) were transported to the English colonies as indentured servants. Ultimately, as time when on, many Irish were sent to the colony at Botany Bay (Australia). The English have always been indifferent to the Irish. They view Hibernia as a potential strategiv threat to invasion of Britain and given the religious difference that exist between the wo countires this indifference has from time to time turned to outright hatred.

      Left alone, the Irish are the most peaceful of people, but the British never understood this and have invaded, conquored and enslaved Ireland for centureis. Ultimately, over time, the British have come to the conclusion that it is not econimically profitable to govern the Irish. as they ultimatly found out with the rest of the empire. and after 1916 they pulled out of Ireland, keeping only a few counties in the North.
      Gary Vant

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  13. The toughest test for Americans was what to do about slavery. A terrible civil war started and while the US is not 'Utopia' it strives for utopian ideals. What is the ordinary citizen of the US and Europe and anywhere else prepared to do to match this courageous but NECESSARY action. People need to take stock of whats happening and figure what needs to be done.

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    1. The US Civil War was fought over the question of whether the Southern States were entitled to secede, not slavery. Whether they were legally entitled to or not they were obviously morally entitled to do so. My sympathies are with the Confederacy - it was an unnecessary and unjust war.

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    2. Michael: You are quite correct! There can be No defence of slavery. I M lao of the belief that there can be and ought to be an attack upon the institution whenever it is found throughout the wrold..

      Without going into the philosohical or moral indignation I feel when I hear the word. I believe that Men are created by a just God to go out into the world and become all that their talents and ambitions can make them. (And when I say the word men, I am also including women.) I believe that mankind had fundamental rights, God given rights, to succeeed or fail in life to the extent that these ambitions,and talents can take them.

      Slavery by its very nature is about exploitation. It is about using men and women not for the glory of GOD or the benefit of mankind, But for other, darker, purposes. That is why, we in the USA fought the War between the States.

      While the stated aim of the war was the right of the 13 Southern States to secede from the Union, the reality is that it was fought over the right to keep and exploit slaves. The original 13 states of the South were going broke. Theres was an agriculltural economy based on tobacco or Cotton, Indigo, Rice, Hemp, or other labor intensive crops.

      Farming techniques in those days did not allow for the reintroduciton of basic elements back into the soil and the South was going land poor. In order to survive, the SOuth needed new land and the only lands available to them were to be found in the West.

      Even prior to 1860, the Congress of the United States was dominated by Northern Abolitionists and several years earlier, the Congress had passed the Missouri Compromise, which prohibited the expansion of slavery into the Western territories West of the Mississippi River.

      As such the South was doomed. Without new lands, and with each year the SOuth producing less and less at a time of great industrial expansion in th North, coupled with the fact that California gold was flowing into the coffers of the North in vast quanitities by the late 1850's and the death knell on the Antebellum SOuth was beginning to be rung.

      THeir only alternative if whites were to keep their way of life, a life built upon slavery, was to secede and build a new nations.

      Yes, the stated aim ofsecessdion was the right of the states, to pull out of the union, but the reason for their doing so was the northern dominated congress prohibited expanding slavery.

      So any argument as to what the war was about is circular and has no end or beginning.
      Gary Vant

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  14. Slavery is selfish, and selfish is childish(and lazy). We are meant to be unselfish, hard(er) working and fair(and just) and grow up. That's faith. That's Christianity. Grow up. To be a friend, which is grown up, and being and acting like one, and not a bully, or a coward, or a child. That's democratic, too. That's Dr. King. His ancestors were slaves.
    It's Gandhi and Mandela, too.
    Bullies ruin democracy. They're weak(er) and unfair. Democracy is for grown ups. Slavery is not. It's not fair. Slavery is weak. Not strong. It is, and was even literally, rape. It doesn't make anyone great(er).

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  15. I have now read this story about the Englishman and his thoughts I should think that this story is a long one but i have read it and it gives a universal story of slavery and really explains a lot more that any other story i have read about it historical,and well explained.

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  16. This Englishman's story? was written in a time where the word 'Civilization' had no plural in the Kings English until the 19th Century. Up to that time any territory that was not in the paws of the British Empire was seen as 'outside the pale' and up for grabs. These sterling English aborigines had some strange ideas about their fellow man, Robinson Crusoe, Man Friday and all that kind of stuff.
    It was once said "There are worse things than bloodshed and slavery is one of them" Can this be true and if so what kind of slavery are we likely to be looking at in today's world of multi culture and rapid communications systems? Would it be economic slavery threatened or perceived? Would it be a slavery of women. Would it be a slavery of impoverishment of free thinkers? Maybe the question is not what slavery is because one man's meat is another man's poison. Maybe we should be asking why.
    michael dunne

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  17. Rather than argue as to what is and is not slavery I include 'The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a1 for your information and convenience.

    Article 7 has particular significance in today,s troubled world. These internationally agreed entitlements must be upheld and protected. Equally perhaps WHAT started the US Civil War may not be as relevant as WHY. If as Gary asserts, the thirteen states were going broke from repeated plantation of the same crop with little or no plan of resting or nurturing the soil, more land and cheap labour through slavery were imperative to the survival of this inefficient system. This morally decadent system was pervading all of American society.

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  18. Many historians believe that the greatest threat to Rome came from the numerous rebellions and civil wars within - the underlying causes being the huge divisions between rich and poor with increasing numbers of people being forced off the land to live in the city on the hand outs of government. But again the question of Why is most relevant. At least the slaves were working for a living and often at positions they enjoyed and were often qualified. Along with agriculture labourers –mainly Turks, slaves also had among their numbers highly qualified physicians engineers educators tradesmen and artists, who’s work was appreciated and sometimes rewarded by their masters. Their working environments must have been at least on par with what the displaced peasants and farm labourers enjoyed in their new city habitats. There were eight civil wars in the period towards the end of the Republic between 91 BC. and 44 BC. So probably the greatest threat to the continuance of the Roman empire came from its own people. Its own people were impoverished and forced off the small farms by the Patrician elite who bought up these parcels of land while the husbands were away colonizing more land for the Patrician set.

    The fundamental basis of ancient economic activity was significantly undermined but the system of exploitation was too well established now for it to be abolished. Perhaps if the institution of slavery had been challenged much earlier on then things would have been different but unfortunately even the most enlightened philosophers of the Republic seemed to support it. For example, Aristotle stated that “from the hour of birth some are marked out for subjection, others for rule”. As a philosopher and a wit he may have been correct, as a moralist his views here are morally bankrupt.
    With the benefit of hindsight, so too is the comment "The US Civil War was fought over the question of whether the Southern States were entitled to secede, not slavery. Whether they were legally entitled to or not they were obviously morally entitled to do so. My sympathies are with the Confederacy - it was an unnecessary and unjust war." I would assert they may have had other entitlements but no moral entitlement to do so. My sympathies for this deluded lot was their lack of conscience.

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  19. Without doubt the most cataclysmic event in American History was the Civil War making it a nation which up to then was just a community of states. In the period leading up to this
    “Orally questioning the legality of slavery was made a felony.”
    Homosexuality was considered a capital crime in all thirteen colonies. The Connecticut law code refers to Leviticus (20:13) specifying
    “If a man lieth with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have surely committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death;”
    Such were the legal, moral and religious anomalies then, some of which continue to influence American society to the present day.The downward moral spiral of Americans even in northern states continued where men impressed by…. “having a darkie trudging at your heels …It was the most glittering property in the world.”
    "Such images haunted Lincoln to the point of creating the Republican Party mainly to prevent slavery. Aged twenty two and on his second visit to New Orleans, Abraham Lincoln saw a young and beautiful teenage black girl, ‘guaranteed a virgin’ being sold, the leering auctioneer declaring: “the gentleman who buys her will get good value for his money.”"
    Many philanthropic Americans successfully facilitated the escape of these people through the ‘Underground Railroad’. Several heroic epic accounts allege that between 30,000 and 100,000 black slaves were rescued between 1830 and 1860. Foremost in these rescue operations were the Quakers, the Ottawa Indians led by Chief Kinjeino into Canada and the Seminoles who assisted in rescue into Florida territory descendants of whom now live in Seminole County in Oklahoma. Manifest Destiny is seen by many non Americans as land crazed confiscation which appears to be the prerogative of all strong colonizing nations. Perhaps this is one of the contributing factors whereby the derogatory term ‘Okie’ originated, and one did not have to be Black or Indian to feel marginalized as so poignantly alluded to in Steinbecks ‘Grapes of Wrath’ which highlights economic slavery.This novel about the Joads, a white farming family set in the 1930’s after the ‘Great Depression’ exposes the unsuspecting reader to several levels of emotional turmoil and rips the ‘American Dream’ asunder. Manifest Destiny, a divine destiny based on ‘American Exceptionalism’ and the remnants of the 19th Century belief in the superiority of the Anglo Saxon settlers, is in sharp conflict with the aspirational hopes of this family. Some sceptics argue that the engine of the American Dream is based on hope but fuelled by fear of that most un-American Dream…socialism, spawned from inhumanity and bitterness. As Gary writes "Slavery is in the forefront of people's minds these days not because it was a cruel institution but because it was an example of white people exploiting brown ones"

    http://www.roman-empire.net/articles/article-018.html

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  20. So if Patrick H Pearse was right in his view..."There are worse things than bloodshed and slavery is one of them" ...perhaps society is in the bellicose condition it finds itself and will remain so until an angelic drum major is found.
    michael dunne

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    1. Michael,There are worse things than death and that is Dishonour my point of view,slavery was dishonourable.
      Patrick.

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    2. Patrick. God bless you. You just nailed it. However, in defense of the enormous number of those Africans and others who were victimized, first it should be said that a great many overpowered the crews of slave ships. An enormous number escaped slavery through various means, including buying there own freedom. Secondly, it is far more dishonorable for those who captured, and exported, and sold and bought the victims. Not to mention those who bought, tore mothers and fathers from their children, divided families, sold, raped, beat, deprived slaves from the sanctity of marriage, education, dignity, and degraded the victims in so many other ways. Note, the native Africans who captured other blacks were just as guilty. This is not strictly a white on black collection of crimes. Far worse, it continues in Africa with black Africans enslaving other black Africans.

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