African-American Historical Notebook/Primer

Download 0.53 Mb.
Size0.53 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9

Slave Trade

The Portuguese were the first to embark upon the slave trade to the Americas starting around 1502. The practice of slavery grew to exponential proportions from 1646 up until 1790. A prime area for slaves was on the west coast of Africa called the Sudan. This area was ruled by three major empires Ghana (790-1240), Mail (1240-1600), and Songhai (1670-1591). Other smaller nations were also canvassed by slavers along the west coast; they included among them: Benin, Dahomey, and Ashanti. The peoples inhabiting those Africans nations were known for their skills in agriculture, farming and mining. The Africans of Ghana were well known for smelting iron ore, and the Benins were famous for their cast bronze art works. African tribal wars produced captives which became a bartering resource in the European slave market. Other slaves were kidnapped by white and black hunters. The main sources of barter used by the Europeans to secure African slaves were glass beads, whiskey, ivory and guns.

The rising demand for sugar, coffee, cotton and tobacco created a greater demand for slaves by other slave trading countries, Spain, France, the Dutch and English were in competition for the cheap labor needed to work their colonial plantation system producing those lucrative goods. The slave trade was so profitable that, by 1672, the Royal African Company chartered by Charles II of England superseded the other traders and became the richest shipper of human slaves to the mainland of the Americas. The slaves were so valuable to the open market - they were eventually called "Black Gold."

What was the Middle Passage and usually how long did it take?

The Middle Passage has been defined in several ways. Some authors refer to these routes as the "triangle trade" or "circuit trade," "three cornered," "round about," and "transatlantic trade" routes. The typical voyage for slaves taken by the British went south down the coast of Africa into the area adjacent to the Gulf of Guinea. These English slavers brought cargoes of rum, brandy, glass, cloths, beads, guns, and other appealing goods from Europe. They bargained with African traders for their tribal captives. Some slavers entered the shores and kidnapped the unsuspecting natives and took them abroad their slave ships or kept in waiting areas near the shore called "barracoons " or slave barracks.

When the desired number of Africans slaves were met for shopping, the voyage of middle passage continued from Africa on the slave ships going across the Atlantic Ocean with a destination in one of several ports in the West Indies and Caribbean (including: Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Santo Domingo, and the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Barbados). In the West Indies and Caribbean, some slaves were off-loaded and sold to work at the sugar plantations, also called the "Sugar Island." The raw molasses was taken aboard the

ships; then they sailed up the coast northbound for Newport or Bristol, Rhode Island's

distilleries, to make rum from the molasses.

Other stops along the Atlantic coast where slaves were exchanged for goods or cash were Charleston, South Carolina and Boston, Massachusetts. The goods produced by cheap slave labor were loaded aboard the now empty slave ships along with sugar, tobacco, or cotton for the trip back to England. The rum from the rum distillers went directly back to Africa to buy more slaves, bartering on this, the Triangular Trade Routes.

By 1768, the English slave trade had a figure of53,000 slaves a year being shipped to the North American continent. Other slave traders included the French at 23,000, the Dutch at 11,000 and the Portuguese at 8,700 slaves being transported yearly from Africa. Estimates of up to JO million slaves took the Middle Passage Voyage to reach the Americas.

The Middle Passage (the route from Africa to the Americas usually took three months (90 days). They were 300 revolts on slave ships between 1502 to 1870. Fifteen (15) million began the journey to the United States from Africa and 2 out of very 10 slaves died in the process

Approximately how many Africans were taken out of Africa from 1502 to 1870. and what was the ratio of those who died in the middle passage?

From historians estimates the numbers usually range from 11.5 million to 15 million Africans were taken from Africa and the Americas, from 1502 to 1870 with ranges of 1.7 million to 4 million having perished in the Middle Passage.

18 million Africans are estimated to have perished crossing overland in Africa to the shores as captives in the Slave Trade.

  • There were more slave revolts due to the high concentration of slaves in one areas,
    and mountains in close proximity to flat land.

  • 1502-1865: Africans were taken to Haiti and the Dominican Republic (formerly
    known as Hispanola).

  • Also taken to Spanish Mexico and Peru to work in gold and silver mines (replaced
    dying Natives)

• And to Brazil and the West Indies to work on sugar plantations.
1510 Spaniards enter slave trade (competition with Portugal)

1492-1592 90 million natives in South America and the Caribbean die from European diseases and

being overworked and underfed as slaves in gold and silver mines.
1550 Dutch and French enter slave trade.

Wars were fought between the Dutch, French and English over control of the slave trade

who would have the authorization from the Pope, (asiento contract).
1527 Spanish colonize Florida (this ends quickly due to slave revolts with Africans joining

with native Americans in overthrowing the colony.) Africans and native Americans get

1555 Spanish bring Africans to South Carolina, they revolt and intermarry with Native


1591-1602 First guns used in Africans, Spaniards/Portuguese take over west Africa, known for gold,

via providing weapons to the Moors (Morocco) so they could destroy Timbuctu (Songhay empire) EVOLUTION OF JAMESTOWN

1607 Colony founded on May 13, 1607. (White indentured servants, plus rich overseers)

1612 Tobacco strand planted by Jon Rolfe

1619 "Africans brought to Jamestown, Virginia (English Colony) 16 survived out of 500 who

originally departed on the "Middle Passage"

1640 Plantation owners started viewing servants in terms of race. John Punch, (Africa), was

sentenced to a life of servitude. Maryland became the first colony to institutionalize

slavery. In 1641 Massachusetts made slavery legal.
1662 The House of Burgess said that a child born would have the same condition at the


1669 Laws were passed separating the races. Also in 1669, a master was exempt from killing

an African slave who was rebelling.

1670 South Carolina established.

1676 Nathaniel Bacon started Bacon's Rebellion, which consisted of white indentured

servants, former servants, and African slaves. Bacon died and the revolt failed, but not before the rebels burned Jamestown to the ground. The elite were worried that the white indentured servants could have guns once their service was done would rebel so they started to replace white indentured servants with African slaves.

1699 Louisiana established

1693 Spanish Florida welcomes runway slaves

1619-1863 North America is the last of the Americas to be developed.

  • American slavery begins in the British colonies (Jamestown, VA).

  • Slave prices rise because the demand is greater.

Top commodities: Tobacco (Virginia and Maryland)

Rum (produced in North America to purchase slaves from Africa)

Sugar (produced in West Indies, sold to Europe
Cotton (later) (1793 cotton gin)
1708 Slave rebellion in New York

  1. New York slaves revolt

  2. English became prominent in the slave trade.

British win supremacy over the Dutch and English (war)

1713 — British import 20,000 slaves per year; by the

1732 - Georgia chartered

1739 - Stono slave revolt (Charleston S.C.)

1741 - New York City revolt, conspiracy

1790's - numbers increased to 50,000 slaves per year.

What was the reason for the decision in 1502 to replace Native Americans with Africans in slavery in the New World?

The Plantation System in the New World

Columbus's voyage of 1492 opened up a whole new field of endeavor for sugar planters. But the Spaniards who followed in Columbus's wake were not interested in cultivating sugar. After all, there were empires to conquer in Mexico and Peru and all sorts of loot to occupy them. Growing sugar, or even making someone else grow it for them, seemed like a lot of trouble compared to theft. But further south, in Brazil, conditions were different, the settlers were different, and soon sugar found a new home there.

In 1500 Pedro Cabral was sailing down the middle of the Atlantic on his way to India. He swung a little further west than was customary and blundered into Brazil. He claimed it for Portugal and got back on his way to India. In Brazil the Portuguese initially found little to interest them. There were no large empires and no gold. The main commercial attractions were forest products. Compared to West Africa, India, or Spanish America, it seems uninteresting. A few merchants went there to buy logwood (used for making dyes) but ambitious noblemen went elsewhere. Soon those merchants noticed that western Brazil had some highly favored sugar lands. The area around Bahia with its flat lands adjacent to a large bay became a major sugar-growing area. By 1575 Brazilian sugar planters were producing volumes of sugar that planters on the Atlantic islands could only dream about. The average production of a Madeira sugar mill was 15 tons a year. By the late sixteenth century the Brazilians were producing a much as 130 tons a year per sugar mill. Total sugar production went up and demand for slaves went up proportionally. In 1550 when Madeira and Sao Tome dominated the sugar trade, annual exports to the Atlantic from West Africa are estimated at 2.200 tons. In 1600 when Brazil was the dominant force in the industry, annual exports were up to 5.600.

From Brazil the sugar industry spread to the Caribbean basin. One island after another came under cultivation. As the total area under sugar cultivation grew, demand for slaves grew apace. It was not just the newly opened land that called for new slaves. Sugar production was a brutal business and the life expectancy of slaves was short. The planters usually preferred to replace dying slaves than to establish self-sustaining slave communities. The result was a constant demand for more slaves to feed into the sugar industry. The price of sugar was a steady trade in slaves across the Atlantic.

Why Indians?

The word slave covers a wide range of meanings and conditions. But slavery in the New World highlighted one particular aspect of slavery - the drive to create profit. The owners and managers of the plantations and mines had a very particular set of needs in mind when they sought a supply of labor that would make their ventures as profitable as possible. At first. Native Americans seemed a perfect source of such labor. First and foremost (to state the obvious). Native Americans were already there right where the labor was needed. Secondly, the absence of ironworking technology in the Americas gave Europeans a substantial technological and military advantage over local populations. This gave Europeans the ability to enslave Native Americans if they so chose. And choose they did. Further, because the Amerindians were not Christians, their subjugation could easily be justified on the grounds that the imposition of European rule would lead to their conversion to Christianity. Given a worldview that did not value diversity in the form of cultural and religious differences, such a perspective as a perfectly logical way of viewing different societies and of justifying the horrors of slavery.

Why Not Indians?

Native Americans, though, did not prove well suited to the institution of slavery as established by the European colonizers of the Americas. Within a few decades Europeans were seeking other sources of labor for the plantations and mines in the New World. This was true for a variety of reasons.

Some have suggested that Native Americans made poor slaves because they were "too proud." This, however, seems to suggest that other folks were somehow willing to become slaves. More significant was the issue of disease. Long out of contact with the disease environment of the Old World. Native Americans' immune systems had no resistance to the great variety of infectious and parasitic diseases that had long plagued Africans, Europeans, and Asians. Smallpox, measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, and the mumps, just to name a few, were diseases that swept through Native American communities with devastating effect. Native populations throughout the Americas plummeted in the decades following European contact. Smallpox, for example, first struck the Caribbean in 1518. Combined with the harsh labor regime of the mines and plantations, losses to the Tainos were catastrophic. By the 1540s. the Taino population had dropped from perhaps several million to a few thousand. Similar losses struck elsewhere in the New World. Aside from a few clerics, who seem to have genuinely cared for the native populations whom they sought to convert to Christianity (such as Poma de Avala. who protested to the Spanish crown regarding the brutality of Pizarro among the Inca), the main concern for most Europeans was the impact of such losses on the labor supply. Susceptibility to disease made Native Americans "bad" slaves. Indeed, the life expectancy of Native Americans on plantations and in mines was often less than a year.

Native Americans had other disadvantages as slaves. Even though they were well acquainted with the soils of their native land, they were unfamiliar with many of the crops grown in the new plantation economy. Although familiar with cocoa and tobacco, which would later become important cash crops, others such as sugar, indigo, coffee, rice, hemp, and sisal were unfamiliar to the inhabitants of the Americas. Plantation owners could little afford to invest the time to train Native American slaves when life expectancy was so short.

Amerindians also possessed what might be considered a "home court advantage" in their resistance to slavery. Knowledge of local geography aided slaves who wishes to escape and return to their homes (though European slave owners sometimes shipped Native Americans long distances to make escape more difficulty'). Those who did escape from forced labor on plantations or in mines also had the advantage that there was a large free population in which to immerse themselves. This made recapture unlikely for Native Americans who did succeed in liberating themselves from slavery. The presence of a large populations of free Native Americans also acted to discourage slave raiding by Europeans because local populations were liable to retaliate. Even if Europeans held a military and technological advantage, continuous conflict with local Amerindians was both dangerous and bad for business.

Taken together, all of these factors came together to help make Native Americans undesirable and unprofitable as slaves. This does not mean that slavery stopped for Native Americans in the Americas, simply that the European settlers would continue to seek out other forms of forced labor.

Why Europeans?

It should not come as a surprise that many Europeans came to the New World as unfree labor. Certainly many students are aware of the institution of indentured servitude, but many may not realize just how harsh this institution could be. Indentured servants were often lured into contracts by tales of wealth and ease in
the New World, only to be faced by the harsh reality that they had no choice of what sort of labor they performed once they arrived in the New World. Families were often separated, never to see one another again. Plantation owners often sought to extract as much labor as possible from indentured servants during their terms of service. And if indentured servants died before their contractual obligations were filled, the plantation owner was then spared from the common obligation of providing the servant with land on which to settle.

Further, some Europeans found themselves in much harsher terms of service - without even the limited legal protections offered to those who signed indentures. Prisons in Europe, generally filled with people whose only crime was debt, were occasionally emptied to provide laborers for New World plantations. Similarly, other groups deemed "undesirables" by European norms of the time, such as the Roma (gypsies) and Jews were often deported as unfree labor. In a time when European militaries simply "pressed" free persons into military service, it is not so ridiculous to see how people could be forced into other forms of unfree labor when demand was high. Even if religious and cultural differences did not exist to justify such harsh treatment, the extreme divisions of class during the period helped aristocratic plantation owners to "dehumanize" the lower-class populations, who often signed on to work the plantations of the New World. The value of a peasant or laborer's life was not to be equated with that of the lives of the gentry. In the end, a large portion of Europeans who traveled to the New World prior to the nineteenth century came as indentured servants, and perhaps as many as 50,000 came as outright slaves.

Why Not Europeans?

For the plantations and mines that provided the bulk of the wealth created by the New World economy. Europeans, whether slaves or indentured servants, proved undesirable as laborers. Europeans were familiar with neither the soils of the New World (especially in the tropical regions where plantations flourished) or with the cash crops associated with new economy. Further, protected by contracts, indentured servants could undertake legal action to protect the rights and demand redress of grievances (though many colonial governments, themselves staffed by aristocrats, generally proved unsympathetic to such claims). Those who fled their service - either to escape harsh treatment or simply to escape their obligations - could hope to be lost in the ever-expanding population of free Europeans. Also, as the enslavement of Native Americans (and later Africans) came to be defined in religious and racial terms. European laborers could increasingly lay claim Christian and "white" identity as grounds for exemption from harsh terms of service. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, was the issue of disease. Though Europeans were resistant to many infectious diseases brought from the Old World, they were highly susceptible to the tropical diseases that were rife in the regions where the most important cash crops grew. Of particular danger were diseases such as yellow fever and malaria which took a staggering toll on Europeans - especially those laboring under harsh conditions. Like Native Americans. European laborers on plantations often had life expectancies of less than 1 year. Again, such factors added up to make them, "bad" slaves.

Why Africans?

In the end, it was Africans who proved to have particular characteristics that made them suitable for forced labor in the New World. Ironically, it was knowledge and disease resistance that helped to doom millions of Africans to servitude in the Americas. Strengths, in the unique setting of the Atlantic System, became curses, not advantages.

Unlike Native Americans and Europeans. Africans were familiar with both tropical environments and soils - there are many similarities between the land and environment of Latin America and West and Central Africa. Further Africans were well acquainted with many of the crops important to the plantation economy. Many African societies had experience growing indigo and rice, for example. Indeed, even the European planters themselves often lacked the skills to cultivate these crops. With a long tradition of gold mining. Africans became a primary source of the technical skills required to find and extract precious ores from the soil of the Americas. Africans even provided much of the knowledge necessary to establish cattle ranching as a profitable enterprise in the Caribbean and South America.

In addition to providing the agricultural and mining technology that helped make the New World economy profitable. Africans also possessed a degree of disease resistance that made them well suited for life in the Americas. As participants in long-distance trade systems linking Africa. Europe, Asia and the Indian Ocean. African populations, like Europeans, had long since developed some degree of resistance to the infectious diseases that so ravaged Native American populations. Owning to the tropical environment of sub-Saharan Africa, inhabitants from this region also possessed a degree of resistance to diseases, but they


were far less likely to die from them than Europeans or Native Americans. Given such disease resistance. Africans were better prepared to survive the rigors of plantation and mine labor in the Americas. Not that their experience was not brutal. Even with such strengths. African slaves were faced with terribly high mortality rates. On Caribbean islands such as Barbados, life expectancies were as low as 7 years for enslaved Africans. Still, such life expectancies were far greater than those of Amerindians or Europeans, and this longer life was reflected in the value of Africans slaves, whose price was generally 10 times as much as a Native American.

Why Not Africans?

If Africans possessed the necessary knowledge and disease resistance to "succeed" as slaves in the New World, why then were they effectively the last to be used to provide labor? In part this might be explained by the relative ease of acquiring Native Americans and Europeans as slaves or forced labor. The fact is that Africans had both to be captured and transported to the New World - factors that made their acquisition both dangerous and expensive. Unlike Native Americans, Africans in the sixteenth century were not at a substantial technological or military disadvantage to European forces who attempted to acquire slaves via raids. When the Portuguese attempted such raids in the fifteenth century, they quickly realized that they could not afford the defeats they often suffered at the hands of African forces. Similarly, the unfriendly disease environment of Africa severely limited the ability of Europeans to penetrate beyond the relative safety of coastal waters. European slavers quickly realized that it was wiser to purchase slaves from Africans rulers and merchants than it was to capture them themselves. Such purchases, combined with the expense of outfitting voyages to Africa and the New World, meant that enslaved Africans would be staggeringly expensive once they arrived in the New World. It is both a testimony to and a condemnation of the profit generated by the new Atlantic economy that Africans could be purchased in such large numbers. Further it is worth noting that the very expense of African slaves might have made them more desirable to some participants in the Atlantic system. Shipping companies such as the Royal Africa Company could take advantage of the demand for the expense of African slaves in a way they could not for slaves captured in the Americas. Similarly, colonial governments could gain revenue from taxes on the slave trade thus gaining an additional source of indirect wealth from the New World economy. Many individuals in Europe, Africa, and the Americas were to grow very rich from the Atlantic slave trade. Societies and economies were to be transformed. The cost in human suffering to those who became the victims of this trade, and to the societies who have inherited the legacy of anger and guilt from it, though, are likely to be far greater than the gains in wealth could every amount to.

The Relationship of the Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery to the Development of Capitalism in the United States.

The discovery of the Americas for Europeans provided new and inexhaustible markets for European commodities. Through the slave trade, an international market was established, laying the basis for development of capitalism, which is a world-wide system.

When Europeans reached the Americas, they recognized its enormous potential in gold, silver, and tropical produce. But that potential could not be made a reality without adequate supplies. The indigenous Native Americans (Indian) population was exterminated from new European diseases such as smallpox, outright terrorism, military aggression of the invaders, and the super exploitation of slave plantations and slave mines. In islands like Cuba and Hispaniola, the local Native American population was virtually wiped out by the European invaders.

During this time, Europe had a very small population and could not afford to release the labor required to tap the wealth of the Americas. The European ruling class, therefore, turned to the nearest continent, Africa, which had a population accustomed to settling agriculture and had a discipline labor force in many spheres. Those were the objective conditions lying behind the start of the European slave trade, and those are reasons why the capitalist class in Europe used their control of international trade to ensure that Africa specialized in exporting captives.

The slave trade was begun in 1441 by the Portuguese. The African slave trade in the 15th century served to fill minor labor shortages in Spain and Portugal. Portugal maintained a monopoly of slaves and trade throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. Portugal was soon followed in the slaves business by Holland, France, England, Spain, Denmark, Brandenburg, and the American colonies. These countries ferociously fought for control of the profitable slave trade. The slave trade was the direct cause of at least two wars and a factor in various other wars of the period. The whole business was also a mass of piracy and hijacking. England defeated all other powers by the early 18th century and as the leading maritime state, it became the world's greatest slave trader.

The main prizes of the slave trade was the so-called Spanish Asiento - the contract for furnishing slaves to the Spanish colonies in America. The Asiento was held first by Portugal until the end of the 16th century; Holland received it in 1640; France grabbed it in 1701, and in 1713 the English through the Treaty of Utrecht seized it., England held it for 33 years, until Spain took over the job.

At the end of the 17th century, the English colonies became involved in the slave trade.

Before this, the English colonial slave trade had been a monopoly of the Royal African Company; but in 1698, this monopoly was canceled and permission for slaving given to any vessel flying the British flag, upon the payment of a ten percent tax. The shippers of New England there upon rushed in and soon secured their full share of the slave trade.2

Europe's trade with Africa gave numerous stimuli to Europe's economic growth in trade, commerce, and industry. Central and South American gold and silver mined by Africans played a critical role in meeting the need for coin in the expanding capitalist

money economy of Western Europe, while African gold was also significant. African gold helped the Portuguese finance further navigations around the Cape of Good Hope and into Asia. African gold was also the main source for the mintage of Dutch gold coin in the 17th century; helping Amsterdam to become the financial capital of Europe in that period.3

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, and for most of the 19th century, the exploitation of Africa and African slave labor continued to be a source for accumulation of capital to be re-invested in Western Europe.3 The African contribution to European capitalist growth extended over such vital sectors as shipping, insurance, capitalist agriculture, technology, and the manufacture of machinery. The effects were so wide-ranging that many are seldom brought to the notice of the reading public. For instance, the French St. Malo fishing industry was revived by the opening up of markets in the French slave plantations; while the Portuguese in Europe depending heavily on dyes like indigo, camwood, and Brazilwood brought from Africa and the Americas. Gum from Africa played a part in the textile industry, which is acknowledged as having been one of the most powerful engines of growth, within the European economy. Then there were the exports of ivory from Africa, enriching many merchants in London's Mincing Lane, and providing the raw material for industries in England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and North America - producing items ranging from knife handles to piano keys. With Africa being drawn into the triangle trade dominated by Western Europe it underdeveloped Africa; and speeded up Western Europe's technological development. The Evolution of European shipbuilding from the 16th century to the 19th century was the result of their monopoly of sea commerce in that period.

Africa being drawn into the orbit of Western Europe's world market speeded up the technological development of Europe. Europe's monopoly of sea commerce from the 16th to 19th century led to the evolution of European shipbuilding. The African slave trade and the development of slavery in the colonies should be viewed in relation to its importance to the world market. Comparative studies estimate that Africa exported some 11,698,000 people in the Atlantic slave trade and that 9,778,500 of them landed in the New World. Slaves imported into the Americas and the Atlantic basin breaks down as follows: 293,400 slaves imported from 1451-1600; 1,494,600 imported from 1601-1700; 5,737,600 imported in 1701-1810.4 It wasn't until the Portuguese succeeded in developing large sugar plantations on the northeastern coastal plains of Brazil in the 16th century did the New World demand for African slaves begin to intensify. Sugar became big business in the New World. Between 1630 and 1680, most of the Caribbean possessions of England, France, Holland, and Spain were transformed into sugar colonies where small numbers of white settlers ruled over mass of African slaves. Brazil became the main exporter of sugar and this called for a large importation of African slaves thereafter 1550. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, Brazil imported some 3.5 million slaves from Africa.4

The African slave trade was called the Triangular Trade because a slave ship leaving Europe would take European trade goods to the West Coast of Africa and trade them for slaves, trading or selling the goods for profit. Slaves bought at a bargain would be sold in the West Indies, South America, or North America to be sold back in Europe for profit.5

The rise of seaport towns in Europe was connected with the African slave trade were notably, Bristol, Liverpool, Nantes, Bordeaus, and Seville. Manufacturing developed in these centers which gave rise to the industrial revolution was directly or indirectly connected to the slave trade.6 Starting in England, the county of Lancashire arose as the first center of the industrial revolution. Lancashire owed its growth as a manufacturing center to the growth of port of Liverpool which developed because of the slave trade.7

Not until the latter part of the 17th century were the English of any importance in the

slave trade or in demand for slaves in their North Americans colonies. English attempts

to break into the profitable trade began in a serious way in 1663 when Charles II, recently

restored to the English throne, granted a charter to the Royal Adventures to Africa, a joint

stock company headed by the king's brother, the Duke of York. The Royal African

Company in 1672 superseded the Royal Adventures to Africa. The Royal African

Company enjoyed the exclusive right to carry slaves to England's overseas plantations.

"For thirty-four years after 1663, each of the slaves they brought across the Atlantic

bore the brand "DY" for Duke of York, who himself became king in 1685. In 1698,

the Royal African Company's monopoly was broken due to the pressure on

Parliament by individual merchants who demanded their rights as Englishmen to

participate in the lucrative trade. Thrown open to individual entrepreneurs, the

English slave trade grew enormously. In the 1680's, the Royal African Company had

been exporting about five to six thousand slaves annually. In the first decade of free

trade, the annual average rose about twenty thousand., For the remainder of the 18th

century, English involvement in the trade increased until by the 1790's, England had

become the foremost slave trading nation in Europe."8

The discovery of America was important because it provided Europe with a new and inexhaustible market for its commodities. With the introduction of the African slave trade, this demand was increased. Capitalism growing in Europe, particularly in England, profited greatly from the highly profitable slave trade. Slave voyages produced usually from 100 to 1,000 per cent profit. Slaves cost about $50 in African in the 18th century and sold for up to $400 in the West Indies.

Among the innumerable surviving profit and loss statements of the slave trade ships

is Captain Theodore Canot's report that on a typical trip, his expenses were $39,980

and his net profit $41,438. He also reported that on the British ship, Enterprise,

cleared $24,430 on 392 slaves. Slaves during this period figured that if they

successfully evaded pirates, other ships and sea marauders, the hazards of the sea, and

they got through with one cargo of slaves out, they would become rich.9

During the 18th century, the English slave trade greatly expanded to enormous

proportions. Liverpool was basically built off of the slave trade and most of its

businessmen were engaged in the slave trade in some way or another. So before the

English colonies of North America achieved their independence from England, much of

its economic development, like that of England, was due to the slave trade and slavery.

The Triangular trade gave a triple stimulus to British industry. Africans were purchased with British manufactures; transported to the plantations where they produced sugar, cotton, indigo, molasses, and other tropical products, the process of which created new industries in England. The maintenance of the Africans and their owners on the plantations in the New World provided another market for British industry, New England

agriculture and New Foundland fisheries. There was hardly a trading or a manufacturing town in England by 1750 which was not in some way connected with the Triangular slave trade. The profits obtained provided one of the main basis of the accumulation of capital in England which financed the Industrial Revolution.10

Two economic developments were occurring at the same time in Western Europe. One was internal development: feudalism was breaking down to developing capitalism. The other development was external. From the super profits obtained from the slave trade and slavery, Western European society was obtaining the primitive accumulation of capital which accelerated the economic transformation to industrial capitalism.

By the 15th century, feudalism was giving way to capitalism in Western Europe. The peasants were driven off the land in England and agriculture became a capitalist operation. In Western Europe, technology became more advanced producing food and fibrous enough to support a larger population and provided a more effective basis for the woolen and linen industries in particular. The social and economic organization as well as the technological base of industry was being transformed. The integration of Western Europe was speeded up by the African trade. The African connection contributed not merely to economic growth (which related to quantitative dimensions), but also to real development in the sense of increased capacity for further growth and independence.

In relation to the European slave trade, Europe transformed its capitalist institutions more completely to North America (U.S.A.) than to any other part of the world, and established a powerful form of capitalism after eliminating the indigenous inhabitants and exploiting the labor of millions of Africans. Like all the British colonies of the New World, the American colonies were used as a means of accumulating primary capital for re-export of Europe. The Northern colonies also had direct access to benefits from slavery in the American South and in the British and French West Indies. The profits made from slavery and the slave trade as in Europe, went firstly to commercial ports and industrial areas, which meant the developing of northeastern seaboard district known as New England and the state of New York.

According to the research of W.E.B. Dubois, in 1862, the city of New York had been until of late 1860, the principle port of the world for the slave trade commerce; although the cities of Portland and Boston were only second to her in that respect, American economic development up to mid-19th century rested squarely on foreign commerce, of which slavery was a pivot. In the 1830's, slave-grown cotton accounted for about half the value of all exports from the United States of America. In the case of the American colonies of the 18th century, Africa contributed in a variety of ways; for instance, in New England, trade with Africa, Europe, and the West Indies in slaves and slave-grown products supplied cargo for their merchant marine, stimulated the growth of their ship­building industry, built up their towns and their cities, and enabled them to utilize their forests, fisheries, and soil more effectively. It was the carrying of trade between the West Indian slave colonies from British rule, and it was no accident that the struggle for American independence started in the leading New England town of Boston. The connection with Africa continued to play an indirect role in American political growth in the 19th century. The profits from the slave activities went into the coffers of political parties, and the African stimulation and black labor played a vital role in extending European control over the present territory of the U.S.A. - notably in the South, but also including the so-called "Wild West", where black cowboys were active.11.

Marx was one of the first political economists to point out the significance of the Atlantic Slave Trade and slavery to the development of the Western capitalist world. Karl Marx pointed out that the profits of the African slave trade were one of the major sources of primitive accumulation of British capitalism. From the slave trade the resources which financed the Industrial Revolution in England were largely denied. Marx said,

"The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement, and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting in black skins, signaled the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production."12

Referring to England during the later American Civil War period, Marx shows the dependence of British industry upon slavery (which led to the primitive accumulation of capital which led to the industrial revolution).

"Slavery is an economic category like any other. Direct slavery is just as much the pivot of bourgeoisie industry as machinery, credits, etc. Without slavery, you have not cotton; without cotton, you have no modern industry" It is slavery that has given the colonies their value; it is the colonies that have created world trade, and it is world trade that is the pre-condition of large scale industry. Thus slavery, is an economic category of the greatest importance. By the same token, the slave trade also helped lay the basis of industry in New England.13

Slavery was the basic economic system of the colonies. Because of geography and cold winters, which were not conducive for stable crops, plantation slavery didn't evolve in the North. But slavery played an important role in the early development of Northern society.

Many of the Africans carried to America as slaves brought with them skills in metallurgy, woodworking, and leather. Slave owners were quick to use those skills and to teach their bondsmen other trades associated with the operations of farms and plantations.14

Charlestown, South Carolina was the only city to develop in the South in the colonial period and here slaves were used to perform skilled and unskilled labor, and slave craftsmen were even hired out. In the Northern colonies, where agrarian development was diversified, the farmer's need for slaves was limited. The use of slaves as artisans and craftsmen grew. A large number of slaves were employed in Northern cities as house servants, sailors, sail makers, and carpenters. New York had higher proportion of skilled slaves than any other colony- croppers, bankers, tanners, goldsmiths, naval carpenters, blacksmiths, weavers, sail makers, millers, masons, candlemakers, tobacconists, caulkers, cabinetmakers, and glaziers.

As early as 1709, free white craftsmen fought a losing battle to exclude African-Americans from most of the skilled trades when free mechanics in Philadelphia complained of the lowliness of wages and their want of employment because of the number of African slaves in the trade. Some restrictions were imposed on the use of slave artisans but they did not end the rivalry between slaves and white workers. Slaves continued to move into the skilled trades in the North where trade and manufacturing grew and were in competition with Anglo artisans, driving wages down. Many white

artisans, craftsmen, and mechanics in the urban areas as a result, joined the movement to abolish slavery.

The opposition of white workers to the continued competition of slave labor was

an important factor in ending slavery in the North.15

Download 0.53 Mb.

Share with your friends:
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9

The database is protected by copyright © 2022
send message

    Main page