Tuesday, March 25, 2008

abolishment of slavery and the industrial revolution

After reading Chapter 8 & 9 in ‘Black Cargoes’ I realized my misconception of the industrial revelation’s effect on slavery in the colonies. I would have thought that the invention of the ‘cotton gin’ would have reduced the amount of slaves needed to produce cotton but in actuality it increased the amount of cotton plantations as the demand for cotton increased. The increase in number of cotton plantations as colonists turned to cotton as the cash crop to produce created a stronger demand for slaves. As England sought to abolish slavery cotton in the southern states of North America drove up the demand for cheap labor. The invention of the ‘Power Loom’ in England also helped to drive demand of slaves.
As to the movement to abolish slavery it seems unlikely that people of conscience would come forth in any country where the economy is driven by the procurement of slaves. Men like William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson had the courage to champion the cause to sway public opinion. The voice of the masses seems to be the determining factor of swaying the minority in power that reaped the benefits of the slave trade.

‘Black Cargoes’ Daniel P. Mannin

Andrew Jackson said once, "One man with courage can make a majority."

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’
Edmund Burke

‘When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.’ ’Edmund Burke


Monday, March 24, 2008


In 1772 a runaway slave named James Somerset was the victim of an attempted abduction by Charles Stewart, his previous owner. While in London, Somerset had been baptized and his Godparents issued a writ of habeas corpus (a legal action through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention of himself). Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, Lord Mansfield, had to judge whether the abduction was not under English Common Law as there was no legislation for slavery in England. It was thus declared that the condition of slavery did not exist under English law. This judgement by Lord Mansfield emancipated the thousands of slaves in England.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

On September 18th 1850 the United States Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law as a compromise between the southern slave states and the northern free states. This law allowed southern slave owners to reacquire runaway slaves in the free states. The law also required authorities in the free states to assist in the return of runaways. Anyone providing food, shelter or aid to fugitive slaves were subject to a $1000.00 fine and 6 months in jail. After the Crafts escape in December of 1848 they moved to Boston until December of 1850, they learned that two slave catchers, Willis Hughes and John Knight, had been sent by their prior masters to return them to Macon, Georgia. The Crafts fled to Nova Scotia and then to England.
Unsuccessful effort to capture the Crafts
December 6, 1850
From the Georgia Constitutionalist is an account of an unsuccessful attempt to recapture fugitive slaves from Boston. It is written by Willis H. Hughes, from Macon, dated Nov. 21, 1850, and is addressed to "fellow citizens". The fugitive is named as "Bill", but it becomes clear it is William Craft. Hughes recounts the ways in various officials in Boston avoided assisting him by delays, postponements, jurisdictional disputes, and even at one time when he was arrested for slandering Ellen Crafts, and held to bail for $20,000. He indicates that he has leaned that the Crafts had "positively left for England". Hughes concludes that he "went to Boston as an agent to execute a lawful trust, thinking I should be protected and assisted by the laws of my country. But, on the contrary, from the first, the laws of the country, instead of a protection, were made an engine of cruelty, oppression, injustice, and abuse; so that my life was constantly endangered, and this, without the first offer of assistance from Government, national, State, or city. I feel that every man who has a Southern heart in his bosom, and would maintain the honor of his country, should sustain the Southern right cause, by every constitutional measure, until our rights are acknowledged, and justice obtained."
A similar account is given here by John Knight, the slave Pursuer, from Macon, who had been with Mr. Hughes.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Mary Prince

Mary Prince was one of a few slaves who publish a narrative of her life, part of which was on Turks Island located due north of Haiti in theCaribbean. This is just a short excerpt from this link.

History of Mary Prince a West Indian slave.

We slept in a long shed, divided into narrow slips, like the stalls used for cattle. Boards fixed upon stakes driven into the ground, without mat orcovering, were our only beds. On Sundays, after we had washed the saltbags, and done other work required of us, we went into the bush and cut the longsoft grass, of which we made trusses for our legs and feet to rest upon, for they were so full of the salt boils that we could get no rest lying uponthe bare boards. He would stand by and give orders for a slave to be cruelly whipped, and assist in the punishment, without moving a muscle of his face; walking about and taking snuff with the greatest composure. Nothing could touch his hard heart--neither sighs, nor tears, nor prayers, nor streaming blood; he was deaf to our cries, and careless of our sufferings.--Mr. D---- has often stripped me naked, hung me up by the wrists, and beat me with the cow-skin, with his own hand, till my body was raw with gashes. Yet there was nothing very remarkable in this; for it might serve as a sample of the common usage of the slaves on that horrible island.


Rum Cash cow from sugar

Another important source of income for the cane plantation owners was Rum made from distilling molasses. The English planters in the West Indies were the first sugar makers to discover this. The muscovado would yield molasses this would be mixed with inferior cane juice and skimmings and let it ferment for about week. The Rum provided more income being of higher price then molasses and gave an outet for this byproduct of sugar. A distellery was standard at every plantation.
Surar and slaves-Richard S. Dunn Pg. 196

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Antiguain Rebellion

Antigua is the only Island to have had a genuine slave revolt in the 17th century. Slaves would run away to the hills and hide in the jungle near Boggy Peak in the southwest corner of the Island. There were so many run aways that the colony government posted bounties on them in 1684. The bounty was twice as much for a live run away as a dead one. In 1687 fifty armed negros maintained a fortified camp in the Boggy Peak area, they would enter the sugar plantation compound an encite rebellion. In the later part of that year the Antigua militia spurred by double bounties stormed the run aways camp, captured or killed the majority, burned one ringleader to ashes, executed the others, and cut out the tounge and cut off the leg of another.
Sugar and Slaves, Richard S. Dunn Pg. 259

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Antigua - How Sugar Plantations Work

Antigua - How Sugar Plantations Work
Discovered by Christopher Columbus during his second Caribbean voyage in 1493, it is located northwest of Barbados in the Leeward Island chain. Antigua is roughly 108 square miles, has low lying terrain and a good deal of level farmland but has no springs and suffers from drought.
Sugar became the sole industry on the Island, the most well known sugar plantation was ‘Betty’s Hope’ founded in the early 1650's by Gov. Christopher Keynell. After the French occupation of Antigua in 1666-67 ownership was transferred to Sir Christopher Codrington. The sugar plantations relied heavily on slave labor to operate. The first part of a plantation system was planting. The land was divided into 10 to 20 acre lots. The lots were a then further reduced to 4 foot grids. The grids were aligned in rows to allow the prevailing winds to dispel moisture on the cane to lessen the chance of "blast"a fungal disease.
The work was done using the "gang" system organizing labor into 3 groups depending on their ability and strength to work. The lead gang cultivated the land with hoes setting up the grids for planting. The second gang of less able men and women would plant the young cane in the holes 6" to 8" deep and cover them with a mixture of dung and soil. The least able and children served as errand runners, helpers and rat chasers.
The cane sections were planted sequentially to keep the crews and harvests in a rotational basis during the growing season. Weeding, hoeing, replanting and burning of the past seasons cane stubble from the outer edge inward to kill the rats was continual during this time.
Harvesting season for the cane came around the 1st of the year during the dry season; till the end of July. The field gangs worked from dawn till night. They used "cane bills" or cutlasses to cut the cane into 4 foot sections to be taken to the mill. The cane had to be processed with in 20 minutes of being cut because it would ferment resulting in an inferior product. Each windmill could process about 2 acres of cane a day. The average yield was 1 ton of sugar for each acre of cane. Therefore the harvesting had to be coordinated to the milling process.
Once the cane reached the mill the cane was fed back and forth through the rollers of the press driven by the wind. The pressed cane or "begasse" was dried and used as fuel for the boiling house. The juice would then be caught in a containment and flow through a pipe to the boiling house.
The boiling house collected the juice in vats where lime was added and boiled to thicken, then it was ladled to the next smaller vat until reaching the right consistency. It was then sent to wooden flats where it was allowed to cool. The sugar in the flats would be packed into wooden hogsheads with perforations at the bottom or use clay pots. The hogsheads or pots were placed in a rack to allow molasses to drain from the bottom. Sugar refined to this stage was called "muscovado".
Once the molasses had been drained form the sugar and it crystallized it was then packed into large wooden casks and transported to the coast and loaded into small boats and taken out to waiting sloops to be shuttled to ports around the Leeward Islands for export.
Sugar and Slaves, Richard S. Dunn