29 May 2009

Equally Responsible

"A century and a half after the end of the Civil War, most Americans still think of slavery as a purely Southern institution. The enduring image of American bondage is that of lines of black men and women picking cotton on a plantation in a Southern state. In fact, the North was equally responsible for American slavery, as shown by the authors of Complicity. Before the Civil War, Northern industries such as textiles and shipbuilding flourished as a result of the free labor of millions of black people. The only difference was that Northerners could profit from slavery at a distance – and were in a better position to deny their complicity." ~ Boston Public Library

20 comments:

Border Ruffian said...

Many New England towns were built on money from the slave trade.

chaps said...

Many New England towns, colleges, insurance companies, banks, and personal fortunes were built on money from the slave trade. The Confederate flag never flew over a slave ship.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

BR, Chaps:

You are correct, of course. And, of course, the same can be said of the South. My whole point is that the North has typically gotten a pass, while wagging its finger at the South.

James F. Epperson said...

It is incredibly disingenuous to brag that "The Confederate flag never flew over a slave ship." The heyday of slave importation into the US was some 50-60 years before the Confederacy's existence. In addition, this kind of ignores that there was a serious effort to re-open the slave trade at the Montgomery convention. The effort failed, of course, largely because no one wanted to offend Virginia, who they all wanted to join their effort.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

James - a valid point, but I believe Chaps was simply reminding readers of what flag DID fly over slave ships. Kind of like saying the North fought to free the slaves. Both are disingenuous, but are attempts in making a point, get the reader's attention, provoke a thought, etc.

Also important to remember that Virginia was the first government in the modern world to outlaw the slave trade (1778).

James F. Epperson said...

"a valid point, but I believe Chaps was simply reminding readers of what flag DID fly over slave ships." -- Sure: British, Dutch, Portugese, all were *much* more involved than New England.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

True, and much more involved than the South.

Anonymous said...

You know what the problem is, it's that the US government has progressed over time to be a very democratic country that places civil rights in high regard in law and policy. The Confederacy and its symbols are representative of a particular time when America did not provide equal civil liberties to all inhabitants. That is the problem with the image of earlier America.

What bothers me is that some leverage this association gap in order to disparage southern history, heritage, and culture. This is particularly discouraging to myself and others whose families founded this country and who take pride in being a familial part of American history from its settlement. I can see no advantage to selectively condemning all things southern or Confederate anymore than I can successfully propose making the Old South and the Confederacy all things to all people of America.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Anon:

All excellent points and very well said. Thanks for your input.

Border Ruffian said...

JF Epperson-
"...there was a serious effort to re-open the slave trade at the Montgomery convention. The effort failed, of course, largely because no one wanted to offend Virginia, who they all wanted to join their effort."
=======================

There was NO effort to re-open the slave trade at the Montgomery Convention.

Border Ruffian said...

JF Epperson-
"It is incredibly disingenuous to brag that 'The Confederate flag never flew over a slave ship.' The heyday of slave importation into the US was some 50-60 years before the Confederacy's existence."
============================

Not disingenuous at all.

It was a thriving business during the 1850s and early 1860s. Of US ships involved in the trade 90% were from the North.

Their primary off-loading point: Cuba.

During the Civil War at least 12,000 slaves were delivered to Cuba on ships bearing the United States flag. 3,000 died along the way.

Many like to give Lincoln credit for ending the slave trade, but it was actually the actions of Spain and Cuba to finally crack down on the trade.

James F. Epperson said...

"There was NO effort to re-open the slave trade at the Montgomery Convention." ---You might want to read William C. Davis's book "Look Away," or Emory Thomas's book "Confederate Nation." It happened.

James F. Epperson said...

"Not disingenuous at all.

It was a thriving business during the 1850s and early 1860s. Of US ships involved in the trade 90% were from the North.

Their primary off-loading point: Cuba."

If the primary off-loading point is in Cuba, then we aren't talking about slave importation into the US, are we?

At some point (not sure when) any participation in the slave trade by US ships was considered piracy.

James F. Epperson said...

I believe it is the case that, as of 1820, any participation in the slave trade was considered piracy. Enforcement might have been lax, but it would be interesting to look at why that was so.

Border Ruffian said...

JF Epperson-
"There was NO effort to re-open the slave trade at the Montgomery Convention." ---You might want to read William C. Davis's book "Look Away," or Emory Thomas's book "Confederate Nation."

It happened.
=======================

No, it didn't.

I checked Look Away and I don't see any effort, serious or otherwise, to re-open the slave trade.

There was debate about the language used in outlawing the trade. Rhett of SC wanted to use weaker language (like that in the United States Constitution)--
Congress may or shall pass laws against the slave trade as opposed to Congress is required to pass laws against it.

From Look Away (p.100):

"When the prohibition of the African slave trade came up, Rhett tried yet again to remove the stigma from that glorious institution by softening the wording to allow that Congress 'may' enact a prohibition, but without making it part of the organic law. South Carolina was virtually alone on this, however, the overwhelming majority of delegates being committed to an outright abolition"

To interpret that as an effort to re-open the trade is spin beyond the pale.

Check the Journal of the Confederate Congress.
In that journal there is no proposal by anyone, anywhere, to re-open the slave trade.

James F. Epperson said...

I guess I'm confused. If Rhett wanted the Constitutional language to say that the CS Congress "may" pass a law banning the slave trade, it seems to me that he was working to legalize the trade, for in the absence of such a law being passed, the trade would be legal. This isn't "spin," it is Logic 101. The text of the book (which I can't quote because I'm at work on a Sunday afternoon---ugh) makes it clear that Rhett *wanted* to re-open the slave trade. IIRC, Thomas makes the further point that no one wanted to offend Virginia, which was a net exporter of slaves and a state they all hoped would eventually join the Confederacy.

James F. Epperson said...

From Look Away, pp. 66-67: "It would take them two days to pass the provisional charter...The only real attempt at substantive deletion came whe Rhett tried to strike out the prohibition of the African slave trade." Sorry, but that sounds to me like an attempt to allow the slave trade.

Border Ruffian said...

JF Epperson-
"I guess I'm confused. If Rhett wanted the Constitutional language to say that the CS Congress 'may' pass a law banning the slave trade, it seems to me that he was working to legalize the trade, for in the absence of such a law being passed, the trade would be legal. This isn't 'spin,' it is Logic 101. The text of the book (which I can't quote because I'm at work on a Sunday afternoon---ugh) makes it clear that Rhett *wanted* to re-open the slave trade. IIRC, Thomas makes the further point that no one wanted to offend Virginia, which was a net exporter of slaves and a state they all hoped would eventually join the Confederacy."
================================

You described this as a 'serious' effort to reopen the slave trade.

Such would require either one or both of these:

* To strike out from the Constitution any provision against the slave trade.

and/or

* To expressly legalize it in the Constitution.

Neither of these things were even attempted.

And the attempt to change the wording of the provision against the slave trade failed by a vote of six states to one.

Doesn't look like a serious effort to me.

Border Ruffian said...

"From Look Away, pp. 66-67: 'It would take them two days to pass the provisional charter...The only real attempt at substantive deletion came whe Rhett tried to strike out the prohibition of the African slave trade.' Sorry, but that sounds to me like an attempt to allow the slave trade."
============================

I've looked through the Journal of the Confederate Congress. The only effort by Rhett was to change the wording of the provision against the slave trade, not to strike it from the Constitution.

James F. Epperson said...

"The only effort by Rhett was to change the wording of the provision against the slave trade, not to strike it from the Constitution." --- And the change Rhett wanted to make to the wording would have allowed the slave trade. I'll plead guilty to perhaps over-stating my case, due to an error in my memory: I honestly thought more of a push to allow the slave trade was made. But Rhett did make the effort. He very much wanted the slave trade re-opened.