Monday, September 16, 2019

Going Massively Online

First week in my online American History class includes:

Slavery vs. Indentured Servitude

Slavery was almost always a life sentence.  If you ever received your freedom, it was by purchase or gift of the master (this was rare).  Children born to slaves were also slaves.
Theoretically, American slaves had some legal rights, but seldom in actual practice.
Slaves in America were almost always Indian or black, but there are a few white slaves because of the English Civil War.  Losers (often Scotsmen or Irishmen) were considered traitors and subject to a really gruesome and painful form of execution.  Being sold into slavery in the West Indies sounded humane.  At the end of the English Civil War, many of these white slaves were freed.
Indentured servants
were obligated to work for someone else for a specified period of time (often 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7 years, to pay for their transportation to the New World).  Children of indentured servants were born free.  Indentured servants had many legal rights, and often won court battles to protect those rights.
For more: Abbot Emerson Smith, Colonists in Bondage: White Servitude and Convict Labor in America, 1607 – 1776 (1947)

Slavery is the Natural State of Civilized Man

Today we live in a world where slavery persists, but in most countries it is unlawful and considered backward.
Pretty much all societies have had slaves.  
For the Romans, losers in war were enslaved as a merciful alternative to execution.  (Do you really want to keep military age men under constant supervision?)
White European slaves were common in the Muslim world, as were black Africans.  Muslim slave raiders were still raiding and kidnapping French and Irish coastal villagers into the 18th century.
In the 19th century, Americans taken prisoner at sea by the Barbary Pirates are sold as slaves.

The Slave Trade

Portuguese purchased African slaves from other Africans in small numbers at first for the sugar industry that developed on the islands off the African coast.  African slavery was usually less brutal than being in the sugar business, but they were slaves.
Expansion of the Atlantic slave trade comes later.
Some years back, the presidents of Benin and the Ivory Coast came to the U.S. and visited black churches to apologize for their ancestors selling the ancestors of American blacks into slavery.  

Slavery: A Core Problem of American History

This is called a  core problem because slavery and American ideals of liberty were in obvious conflict.
At the start of the American Revolution, the English intellectual Samuel Johnson sneered: "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?"   This was not entirely fair; many of the Revolutionaries were strongly supportive of abolishing slavery, and even many of the slave owners regarded the system as archaic and brutal.  But getting rid of it would impoverish these intellectuals.  When high ideals and personal comfort conflict, guess which wins?
Another problem is that the conflict between slavery and limited government corrupted our legal system.
We also keep finding documents and artifacts that force re-examination of what we know about slavery.
An additional interesting aspect of this is that the political party that supported unlimited democracy built its base on protecting slavery and white privilege.

Slavery Still Has Echoes Today

The last American slave died in 1948, so it is hard to see how any person alive today can claim any direct injury.
The system of racial oppression that came from it persisted into my youth.  There were laws, and attitudes that would seem completely incredible today.
Racial discrepancies in economic and educational achievement persist today.  How many of these are echoes from slavery?  Some skeptics observe that these ddifferences have increased as our laws and attitudes have become race-neutral.
The Slave Trade & Moral RelativismThe Atlantic Slave Trade is often used a symbol of the moral inferiority of the West.  Yet, slavery has been the norm throughout history.  The West actually led the process of abolishing slavery in Africa, and making it morally objectionable almost everywhere in the world today.  There are only two recent well-publicized situations involving slavery:
  1. In Darfur in the Sudan, where Muslim slave traders were taking Christians, pagans, and "heretic" Muslims, and selling them into slavery.
  2. In Syria, where ISIS enslaved Yazidi women, and sold them as sex slaves to ISIS' warriors.
Furthermore, if slavery is a sign of moral inferiority of the West, what makes slavery "wrong"?  That implies that there is an absolute standard of right and wrong; a claim that few intellectuals would take seriously.

The Rise of the Slave Trade

Africans sold few slaves to Europeans at first.  Partly this was because there was no shortage of laborers in Europe.  Slaves imported to Europe were usually domestic servants.  The Portuguese started growing sugar cane off the African coast.  Sugar cane requires skilled agricultural labor; lots of it; and it is very hard work.
It turns out that Brazil and the West Indies were better suited to growing sugar cane than the Portuguese islands.  And soon, Europeans are shipping slaves to both places to work plantations.  In the 16th century, thousands per year were shipped across the Atlantic.
Over a few centuries, around twelve million Africans were sold and shipped.  A large fraction did not survive the trip and you will find out why.  Why ship Africans instead of hiring or enslaving Indians?  The Indians died too quickly fast of European diseases.  Many, especially in South America and the West Indies, had no agricultural labor experience.  Also, if an African ran off into the wilderness, what plants did he know he could eat?  Indians knew what to eat and where to go.  Also, an Indian could probably find refuge with his own tribe or another.  Africans, not so much.

I am hoping that this next map is already familiar to you from junior high or high school: the Triangular Trade.
Slaves are sold to the New World
Sugar, rum, molasses, tobacco, coffee and cotton go from the New World to Europe.  Most of these commodities are produced by slaves.
Alcohol, cloth , and manufactured goods (including guns) go from Europe to Africa.  The guns are important because the tribes selling slaves now can make war on weaker tribes and get more slaves.
Everyone (except the slaves) is happy,

The Middle Passage

That path from Africa to the New World is awful.
Usually 300-450 slaves (2/3 men) chained below decks like sardines in their own excrement.  Some slave ship captains preferred "loose pack" (each slave chained on his back); others "tight pack" (chained on their sides with inches only between).  Captains who preferred "loose pack" were not humanitarians; but fewer slaves died on the way likely made it at least as profitable as "tight pack."
It was said that you could smell a slave ship at sea before you saw it.  Vomiting from seasickness, malaria, dysentery, no toilet facilities and no way to avoid lying in your own excrement.  About 10% of the slaves died on the way. 
Women slaves were often allowed above deck for fresh air and rape by the crew.
Oddly enough the sailors had higher death rates (1/4 to 1/3 died) because of tropical diseases.  It paid well because  it was terribly dangerous work.
Amazing Grace (2006): Wonderful film about William Wilberforce's campaign in Britain to abolish slavery.  The DVD is available from the CWI Library.
Occasionally, slaves managed to get loose from their chains.  Individuals might jump overboard to commit suicide.  Sometimes, rebellions would take over a ship.  The following clip is from  Amistad (1997).  
It describes a 19th century voyage where the slaves did take over.  It is not the fevered imagination of a Hollywood screenwriter.  It is ased on testimony at trial U.S. v. Amistad (1841), where the U.S. Supreme Court freed the slaves and refused to turn them over to Spain for trial.  But while this describes an 1830s voyage, circumstances no better in earlier centuries.  The  Amistad  was evading the Royal Navy which was trying to stop slave trading.  Food is running short, so the cargo must be reduced in size.

The Origins of Racial and Ethnic Hatred

I cannot think of any nation of any great size that does not have racial or ethnic hatreds.  Unfortunately, people at the bottom of a society need someone to look down on and to whom to feel superior.  Some people come home from a bad day at work, and yell at or beat the wife or kids.  At that point, having someone to feel better than becomes very important.  No one admits that they are a failure because they are lazy, or too severely addicted.  It is someone else's fault.  If there is an identifiable group that is different and not below you in the world, that's a good group to blame and hate.
Throughout American History, politicians have made appeals to racial hatred to get into office, like this 19th century campaign ad:

All that changed is that black voting increased in the 1960s, and the racial pandering changed.
You may be wondering why the party that supported universal white male voting had this hostility to blacks. 
Everyone at the bottom needs someone to look down on and blame
  •   Your dog
  •   Your woman
  •   Jews
  •   blacks
  •   Mexicans
Every society has such cases
  If a minority is successful (Jews and Chinese almost everywhere), they are clearly doing something dishonest.
 Malaysia has a large population of citizens of Chinese ancestry.  They dominated college admissions and the economy so well, that colleges adopted quotas.  Only a certain percentage of Chinese would be admitted, regardless of their qualifications. 
Harvard has adopted a similar quota for Asian-Americans.  In the early part of the 20th century; there was a maximum number of Jews allowed into prestige American medical and law schools.
Germany claimed the Jews were inferior and had taken over the arts and sciences.  Weird form of inferiority.
Turkey murdered hundreds of thousands (at least) of Armenians during World War I.
Most Muslim countries have done the same to their Jews.
Why?  Different theories.  Some historians think this is the result of  Herrenvolk democracy.   Herrenvolk is German for master race; people that think of themselves as the superior race are quite willing to abuse any minority.  Some historians think that rich people manipulate stupid people to vote them into office.
Neither is a strong argument for unlimited democracy. 

Race, Citizenship, & Slavery

We do not know exactly what the status of the first blacks was in Virginia: free?  slave?  Or something between?
A Dutch ship in need of supplies sells a group of African slaves in 1619 at Jamestown.  They were slaves on the ship.  By the time they reached Virginia at the dock, they may have been indentured servants.  Early records are completely silent.
English law had no provision for slavery.  Indentured servants worked for several years to pay for transportation to New World.  These first Africans may have been indentured servants when they reached Virginia soil.  Some eventually become landowners and slaveowners themselves.
The first case where a court orders enslavement for life is 1640: punishment for running away from a black master.  That first case involves a man named John Punch. reported tracing President Obama back to John Punch.  But not through his black father (who was born in Kenya), but through Obama's mother.  Punch later ended up a slave, but not before marrying a white woman.
Their descendants appear to be ancestors of Obama’s mother:

Does this mean there were no slaves before the 1619 arrival?  We do not know.
Laws distinguishing blacks from whites start to appear in 1639 and 1640.  Up to this point, masters were required to arm all their servants for militia duty.  In 1640, masters were no longer required to arm their black servants.  In 1680: slaves were no longer allowed to carry weapons.  In 1723: free blacks were only allowed one gun if they were members of the militia.  That same year, free blacks lose the right to vote.  This is no coincidence.  In 1738: free blacks are no longer trusted to own guns, even if they are members of the militia.
This was not just a quirk of Virginia law; Maryland also took a while to formally recognize slavery, and it was not formally written into the laws until mid-17th century.  Laws against interracial marriage start in 1664.  A black man, Mathias de Sousa, was elected to the Maryland legislature in 1642.  
South Carolina still had free blacks voting in 1701, and Georgia until 1754.
Voting,, holding public office, and being trusted with arms have long been considered signs of citizenship in America.

So Why Did the Enslavement of Some Blacks Reduce the Status of Free Blacks?

Why can most blacks be held as slaves, if race doesn't matter?  It was easier to justify slavery if you hold  all blacks in a lower position.  There also have been fear that free blacks might support slaves in a rebellion.  In practice, free blacks were seldom helpful to slave rebellions.  They knew their status was not very secure.  Helping slaves rebel would certainly have led to enslasvement.

What Caused Slavery?

There are several possible explanations: none of them are proven because the early slave laws have no statement of purpose.
Some of the explanations:  There was a shortage of English workers and slaves filled that need.  Migrations to New England from 1629 onward as many Englishmen migrated to New England.
Another explanation is that the English Civil War (1642-1649) disrupted the supply of workers from England.
Another explanation is that rebuilding London after the Great Fire of 1666 put so many poorer Englishmen to work that few were interested in moving to a malarial swap in America.
Bacon's Rebellion in 1676 Virginia is interesting in this respect.  It is not thought to be a cause but perhaps indicates what was already happening before 1676.  Nathaniel Bacon led a rebellion of frontiersmen, both black and white, who were upset about Indian raids.  They demanded that the royal governor, Berkeley f(also a cousin of Bacon), make war on friendly Indian tribes to make more land available for them to settle.  Berkeley was unwilling to do so; these Indians were allies of Virginia and provided a  buffer between Virginia and other, less friendly Indians.
Bacon's Rebellion overthrew the colony's royal government and waged war against the Indians, who were inconveniently living on land that Bacon and other poor whites wanted.  They also waged war on  the wealthy of Virginia.  Some decades ago, many historians imagined Bacon's Rebellion as the beginnings of democracy in America.  This is no longer in fashion as the attempt to seize Indian land is now recognized as evil.
Bacon died of natural causes, shortly before royal troops arrived from England to suppress the Rebellion. Gov. Berkeley restores order.
In Gov. Berkeley''s Virginia, the politically connected used power to get lots of land on which to grow tobacco, and thus great wealth.  (Some things never change.)   Poor settlers (often indentured servants who had completed their period of indenture) had little land and little wealth.  The wealthy  depended on the poor for protection.  The militia protected the colony from Indians and the occasional attacks by European navies at war with England.   Gov . Berkeley complained of how hard it was to govern a colony where "six parts of seven at least are poor, indebted, discontented, and armed."
Edmund Morgan's American Slavery, American Freedom (1975) argued that slavery reduced dependency on white workers and gave poorer whites someone to look down and exploit.  Bacon's Rebellion showed that poor whites needed a larger piece of the pie, and the system of slavery provided a way to give them more wealth.  While slavery was already present before Bacon's Rebellion, it dramatically expands afterwards.
There were slaves in every colony, not just in the Southern colonies.  Slavery was more common in the South ,because of the need to harvest the labor-intensive crops, such as (tobacco, rice, and indigo.  But there were slaves in the Northern colonies, who usually worked in industrial jobs or as domestic servants.

The Conditions of Slavery

Some slaves were brought directly to America.  More typically, they would be “seasoned” in the West Indies: a few months to a year or two to become used to working conditions, learning some English,  and developing immunities to New World diseases.
Slave owners had tribal preferences.  Some tribes had reputations for particular skills.  Others had reputations for being hard to manage.
Slaves born in Africa were generally harder to control, because they had been free.  People born as slaves were usually more accepting of their status; they knew nothing else.  
Slaves were often Muslim or Catholic (the Congo became Catholic almost immediately after European contact).
Many were POWs from Muslim sub-Saharan Africa or the Congo.  Conversion to Protestantism not a big leap for either group.  All believed in one God.
There was a  conscious decision to break the slave's ties to his own culture.  By absorbing white culture, slaves were more likely to identify with it.  The wide range of African cultures among the slaves meant that colonial culture & English were the only only common bond.
American slavery was actually pretty mild compared to slavery in the British West Indies.  There were fewer deadly diseases.  Working conditions were generally less severe.  Sugar is a intensely demanding crop; it must be harvested in a very short time and workers were sometimes worked to death.  There was very little sugar cane grown in America.  In Jamaica, slave babies were often drowned because it was cheaper to buy freshly imported adults than to feed a baby until it was a productive slave.  One result of this easier situation is that the U.S. imported 9% of the trans-Atlantic slaves, but ended up with 1/3 of the black population of the Western Hemisphere.

American Slave Law

Latin America had slave codes from the start of slave importation.  These laws were often relatively humane, when the local governments enforced them.  They had been constructed based on centuries of contact with Africa and slavery (European, Muslim, and African slavery).  These laws limited a master's authority.  They required masters to sell slaves their freedom, if a slave raised the money for self-purchase.  Spanish courts bent over backward to give benefit of the doubt to slaves about what that price should be.  In Brazil, the Catholic Church financed slave self-purchase.
British America had nowhere to start; slavery had not been present in England for centuries.  The laws the American colonies created were often quite harsh.  Theoretically, a master only owned the slave's labor, not his body.  In practice, it was difficult to get a conviction of a master for mistreatment of a slave; who would sit on the jury?  Other slave owners or at least whites with no reason to take the slave's side.  Britain had enjoyed little contact with Africans before the slave trade.  It was easy to regard them as fundamentally different, perhaps less than human.
Could Christians be held as slaves?   The Roman Catholic Church never directly prohibited this until 1537.  Pope Paul III in Sublimus Deus (1537) prohibited holding Christians in slavery.   But of course by this point Englishmen denied the authority of the Catholic Church.  There was still some concern even among Anglicans about holding Christians as slaves; this discouraged masters from allowing evangelism to slaves.  So, colonial legislatures clarified that Christianity did not change a slave's status.
Laws prohibiting interracial marriage were invented in the 1660s.  At first, they prohibited ministers from performing mixed race marriages.  In time, it became a crime for blacks and whites to marry or have sex.  This was a radical transformation of Christian policy, which only cared about the religion, not race, of those to marry.
It appears that the reason for these laws was competition for scarce white women, who were prepared to marry black men.  Children of white women and slaves were now slaves.
These laws have often been pointed to as analogous to the "one man, one woman" marriage laws.  There are substantial differences.
These laws against interracial marriage were never present in a majority of American states.
They were never consistent in what they prohibited:  Some prohibited blacks from marrying other races; some prohibited non-whites from marrying whites.  These laws peak in the early 20th century.  Why then?   They are a symptom of the rise of an idea called Social Darwinism (the belief that wealth and poverty were caused by one's evolutionary fitness) and its child Eugenics (the belief that our society would be better off if the genetically inferior were discouraged or prevented from reproducing).
In the second semester of American History you will learn about the Scopes Trial of 1925.  Tennessee  prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools.  The ACLU filed suit to overturn the law.  Many people consider it a triumph of science over Christian superstition.  The textbook that the ACLU was defending  was George Wiiliam Hunter's  A Civic Biology: Presented in Problems  (1914) which includes this excerpt explaining that the white race is the most advanced race:

I suspect the ACLU would file suit today to prohibit its use in public schools.
Progressives of that era had an enthusiasm for eugenics because it was considered “science” at the time.  Who wants to be a science denier?  The U.S., along with Sweden, Denmark, and of course Hitler's Germany all did forcible sterilization of the retarded and criminals.  Sweden even sterilized those who did not look "Swedish enough."   Virginia's mandatory sterilization of the feeble minded was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell (1924).  A later law,  in Oklahoma required mandatory sterilization of persons with three felony convictions.  The Supreme Court overturned that law in Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942) because it did not apply to felonies such as bank fraud. 
Germany’s heresy of progressivism could not wait for sterilization; it was too slow; they killed tens of thousands of people with defects, mental illness, and birth defects.  Aryans were given poisons; Jews were starved to death.
Eugenics is a useful for totalitarians.  Of late there have been claims made by scientists that being conservative  is a genetic trait.  What makes eugenics bad science is that there are often very complex connections between apparently unrelated genetic traits.
Recent research suggests that schizophrenia (a very serious mental illness) and bipolar disorder (which in the less extreme forms contributes greatly to genius) share genes.
 International Schizophrenia Consortium, "Common polygenic variation contributes to risk of schizophrenia that overlaps with bipolar disorder," Nature. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2014 Feb 4.
Removing schizophrenia from the gene pool, while a good thing, would likely remove bipolar disorder, which in its milder forms, is a net gain for our society.

Is Slavery Gone?

Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1964.
Mauritania did likewise in 1981.  Still, slavery persists there; there is little government prosecution.  Human trafficking persists in other parts of the world.

At least some of the illegal immigrants across our Southern border are children being brought across to be sold into prostitution.  Some estimate 100,000 children are brought across the border each year for sex trafficking

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