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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Profit Margins in Black and White

Bridenbaugh, Carl and Roberta. No Peace Beyond the Line 1624-1690. New York:, Oxford University Press, 1972.

Dunn, Richard S. Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies 1624-1713. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972.

Constant battles occurred in the capitalistic waters of the Caribbean during the period covered by two authors of books that detail the wild business world of the seventeenth-century Caribbean. Richard Dunn and the team of Carl and Roberta Bridenbaugh wrote of the Atlantic world, buccaneer adventures in the English West Indies and published in the same year of 1972. No Peace Beyond the Line reflects the seventeenth-century English policy that whatever peace may have been established at home, it did not exist “beyond the line,” or west of a sometimes malleable meridian, usually at the Azores. Generally, it included everything in America south of the Tropic of Cancer and not in the familiar Atlantic world of the traditional trade routes of the Mediterranean and Africa. The West Indies was a “no man’s land” where lawlessness was rampant, the rum flowed freely, and business was the rule. This is where America was born and Quakers pounded pulpits likely until their palms bled.

The early days of Barbadian settlement under Robert Marsham on Trinidad and the fall-back on Tobago seem like Wild West forays into Indian territories, with the Carib playing the role of the Apache. The Earl of Warwick sent another expedition from Barbados to continue settlement of Tobago. It failed. Barbadians attempted Surinam in 1645 and were completely destroyed by Caribs on the main. Hackett’s attempt at the island of Hispaniola ended in bleached bones for the party led by Captain William Jackson, with 750 West Indies planters/pirates to find a few years later. They simply sloughed it off and pushed on the conquest. Eventually, these English adventurers almost got over the excitement of leaving dreary old England and settled down for a nice cup of mobbie and profit. Sugar helped to quell their island-hopping and fatten their wallets. Still, they had to make sugar a feasible product and develop the tools necessary for its manufacture. Sugar also required tremendous amounts of labor. Barbadians came up with a unique solution to that problem as well.

What must life have been like for the West Indies planter? We know a great deal about life in the Old West, but very little about the earlier version in Barbados. Dunn’s goal is to tell the social history of the planter class in Barbados, a task which he believes had never been done before. The adventurous, stalwart, and often sad existence of the West Indies frontiersmen is a tale too familiar. Too many came and too few found success. Even though the Bridenbaughs write with a flare, they adhere to a strict factual regimen that tells the story in the end. But, their result is chronologically based. Still, they manage to get across the idea that Barbadians loved to make and drink alcohol most everywhere, most anytime, and most any place but, especially at places like the Indian Bridge.

The questions that need answers all involve something new, something that no Englishman had ever experienced. Barbados, with all its beauty and exotic fauna, was obviously new to the Englishman. Barbadians developed a unique business enterprise of a magnitude never before known. Barbadians also discovered the most coveted trade secret of all, one that would not remain secret for long - that of the advent of capital-driven chattel slavery. Barbados was simply new all around. To borrow a phrase deep within the contemporary adventurous media, going to Barbados was to boldly go where no man has gone before. Moreover, going there was to risk one’s own life, assuming he went willingly. Still, Barbados promised the young adventurer riches beyond the dreams of avarice and this fact was usually sufficient to hide the dangers. Like a talented young guitar player trying to become famous, waiting for an audition in a room filled with hundreds just like him, so too were the Barbadian planter’s chances of success. And in the boom or bust frontier atmosphere, no rest or play would be tolerated. Unfortunately for the historian, there also remained little opportunity to record the events of this period. Richard Ligon probably became the most quoted Barbadian then alive and he was a biased salesman. Apparent from both versions, there was no peace beyond the line, in the Caribbean frontier world of buccaneers, “cannibal” natives, and hurricanes.

Carl and Roberta Bridenbaugh tell the story of the same group of people, although more systematically – again, through Richard Ligon and a few others. They begin with a flashy buccaneer raid to take Jamaica but quickly sober and tell a story full of capital intention and accidental beginnings, but a successful enterprise nevertheless. Again, sugar and slavery answered these problems adequately.

Dunn’s first chapter reflects the Bridenbaugh’s title with “Beyond the Line.” In his portrayal of the West Indies, a 1631 English buccaneer adventure off Guadeloupe commenced in a chase of twenty Spanish warships, fully intending to repulse intruders from their “private reserve” of the Caribbean. No matter that Dunn demonstrates the raw beauty of the Caribbean. Dangers of the Spanish and “cannibal” Caribs should have frightened any Englishman away. Not Barbadians. Not “beyond the line.” It was a world of extraordinary wonder and deadly peril that both enticed and repulsed. Moreover, England took no responsibility for what happened that far away. Indeed, the King had no hand in this. Royalist coercive independent merchants, traders, dealers in black flesh hoping to make their fortunes braved the wild waters and dirty rum-filled squalor of “Little England.” No wonder that 1,200 Barbadians packed and moved en masse to New England to escape the dangerous environment - Spanish, Caribs, disease and their fellow Englishmen. Raising sugar and tobacco in this environment should have been more than problematic. It should have been absolutely impossible.

Dunn’s portrayal of Barbadian and West Indian life is a scholarly approach, almost ethnographic in context. He examines primary documents in smooth, rich detail. The Bridenbaughs are just as detailed, though a bit broader in approach. Details such as the Royal African Company’s shipping and losses permeate this work. Their focus is more upon the British world trade arena and the West Indies in that context. This nuance is only a subtle distinction. Both works are very similar in style and approach.

Dunn’s book contains so much statistical information that it makes a fantastic reference for any writer about Barbadian history. There are thirty-two tables and graphs besides what figures can be found in the text. For a book titled Sugar and Slaves, Dunn does not get around to the full discussion of either until two-thirds of the book is read. He obviously had a strong desire to talk about buccaneers and probably just could not wait. Carl and Roberta Bridenbaugh approach their work from a similar approach, yet are more concerned with the transition of West Indian society as a white presence to the predominantly black presence of today. They endeavor to explain the history behind that transition. They rely certainly upon primary sources and almost as heavily upon quantitative analysis as Dunn. Tables and figures make No Peace Beyond the Line as a valuable source as Sugar and Slaves for any work upon the Caribbean.

To be sure, Englishmen came to Barbados really for one thing. Bridenbaugh says that promoters thought exclusively of profits, to get rich. At first, planters tried the time-proven methods of planting tobacco, like in their Virginia cousin plantations. After 1650, the commercial feasibility of sugar reached the dreams of Barbadians who had come from England to profit from a trade that no Englishman had ever done before. They lived under conditions that no Englishman had ever experienced before. Sugar gave them their dreams. Dunn states that in 1680, nineteen planters held an unprecedented total of more than two hundred slaves each while the next level down, at the one hundred-slave mark, there were eighty-nine planters. Enormous wealth found in such a tiny place, with 392 people per square acre. Figures like these boggle the mind. The Bridenbaughs’ figures in relation to slave shipments and their losses seem somewhat bolder.

Sugar, though was not a boom product right away. It took some transitions to make it feasible above the proven New World benefits of tobacco. Both books refer to the foreknowledge of sugar’s value. Dunn finds it remarkable that Barbadians took so long to employ it on their plantations, perhaps still believing that tobacco or cotton would supply their wants. Dunn agrees with the Bridenbaughs that Barbadians learned the trade from Dutch-managed Brazilian techniques before the Portuguese planter revolt in 1645. Dunn offers a bit more detail in that the process originally began in 1627 when the English took many plants from a Dutch outpost on Surinam and transported them, along with sugarcane to Barbados. Still, understanding how to properly plant and cultivate sugarcane proved difficult even with thirty-two natives of Surinam to show them how. Moreover, when the natives were finally successful on Barbados, while not knowing how to make sugar from the cane, they informed Barbadians about how to make a great drink from the juice. Undoubtedly, the drink was alcoholic (after all, molasses from sugarcane makes rum). This fact held the Barbadians back from making sugarcane a profitable product until official pressures focused their inebriated mind and bloodshot eyes upon the prize at hand. As Dunn says, the process developed extraordinarily quickly from 1640-1643. Fast and furious was the frontier boomtown way.

For the Bridenbaughs, another boomtown ideology was involved, the roll of the dice. They argue that gambling instinct played a crucial role in that buying out poor and struggling men’s meager parcels, consolidating them into larger plantations would eventually build the sugar plantation empire in the period 1650-1660. Combined with the proper method of planting cane (digging trenches instead of small holes), the endeavor thrived. Whether the Barbadians learned techniques from the Portuguese, Dutch, Brazilians, or Indians is a matter of who is telling the tale. James Holdip and James Drax are definitely credited with many of these innovations, including the “Dutch Sugar Mill.” Still, whether the mill came from Holland or Pernambuco holds the reader in suspense. The Bridenbaughs certainly seem more certain. Still, in this intrepid environment and the subsequent lack of data mixed with enthusiastic advertisements and their inherent problems with veracity, who could be so certain? Most people would have to fall back on reliable unreliables like Richard Ligon. Ligon, as Dunn says, regarded early English experiments on the island as poor. The sugar produced was poor and full of molasses. Ligon attributed this to English lack of knowledge. They did not know how to plant cane, harvest, grind, boil, or cure it. Dunn also resorts to Brazil as the source of their salvation. Sugar production could never have become as lucrative if it had not been for another capital innovation of a darker nature.

Metaphorically and literally, darker absolutely describes slavery. Of course, it would not be historically appropriate to speak of slavery in anachronistic terms. As deplorable as it sounds, slavery became the next best choice for Barbadian sugar production. Both books reserve their discussion of slavery, an undeniably forceful literary conclusive focus, as the best for last. As with sugar, the Dutch were primary characters in the play. Of course, both books support this with a plethora of figures. Indentured servants came first, but quickly proved their lack of worth. Moreover, with the advent of African chattel use, the Irish and English servants became more uncomfortable with their hierarchical demotion.

If any doubt remained of the status of slaves in the Caribbean, Governor Hawley of St. Christopher dispelled it in 1636 when he declared that Indian and Negro servants were to serve for life unless otherwise stipulated in their contracts. Well, may as well dispense with the useless contract. Indian slaves were popular until about 1650 (note the date), but West Africans after 1640 changed the appearance of the West Indies English plantation, now intent upon keeping slaves as permanent property. The French began slaving earlier than the English, in 1636, because engagés, or servants would not come. Moreover, Dutch traders were all too ready to supply the black labor. According to the Bridenbaughs, slavery came to the tobacco and cotton plantations before sugar production because the island economies suffered from a depression in the 1640s and Negros were simply cheaper than servants. Almost 6,000 blacks were purchased from the Dutch for labor purposes by 1643, according to the Bridenbaughs. By contrast, Richard Dunn shows a quantitative perspective that reveals the number of servants shipping from Bristol radically reduced by the 1670s. Interestingly, Dunn claims that the narrowly ethnocentric English held great aversion to dealing with other cultures, especially something as foreign as Africans. Chattel slavery was an alien concept more attuned to Spanish tastes and the English Barbadians hated the Spanish. Barbados planters increasingly treated servants brutally until by the 1640s and 1650s, so much that servants became rare and rebellious. This fact, Dunn says, prompted Barbadians to use Negroes instead. Carolina or Surinam traders in Indian slaves could not compete in the long run, for Indians made poor slaves. Settling the debate (started by the Bridenbaughs) proves difficult because the two groups of authors never really say anything directly comparable on this point. Still, Dunn’s quantitative and analytical approach seems more reasonable. He is more detailed in his explanation. As to whether the slave came to Barbados before sugar remains a minor consideration in the larger picture. It happened about the same time.

The date of 1650 was extremely important and not because that was when Richard Ligon left Barbados. Partly according to Ligon’s lonely account, that year witnessed the culmination of sugar productive feasibility combined with the use of chattel slavery. Again, Brazil proves to be a bad or good (depending on your point of view) example on Barbadians. Certainly, the facts speak for themselves. West and Central Africans had been agricultural for the centuries that Europeans were aware of them. They were used to the back-breaking labor and they could endure tropical insects, disease, and humidity. According to Dunn, the most important factor was their acquiescence to submit to slavery.

Dunn’s narrower focus on West Indian cultural development reveals itself in class structure. Number of slaves rather than acreage became the factor for determining class by 1680. Big planters held the biggest tracts of land and had sixty slaves or more, middling planters twenty to fifty-nine slaves and held significantly smaller acreage. Social stratification was high. After the middling planters, small planters had fewer than twenty slaves and still ten or more acres while the freemen were little better than servants in status. Illustrating the class distinction in 1680, seven percent of the property holders controlled fifty-four percent of the property. Where Barbadians once slept in hammocks, they now had four-post beds with luxurious furniture filling three-story homes. Only servants and slaves used hammocks. Slaves often got the floor at night.

Sugar production had produced the most affluent society in the empire. To the average Englishman who could only rarely expect to move up in the world, Barbados, the boom colony of the seventeenth century was like a beacon. Bridgetown in 1680 seemed like San Francisco during the gold rush. A fascinating statistic given by Dunn is that a 1969-1970 Barbados phonebook listed eighteen sugar factories and plantations that were still named for their seventeenth-century founders. Big planters in Barbados were so rich in fact that King Charles II felt it necessary to diffuse their arrogance and insert placemen amongst the power structure. These men never even came to the island, preferring instead to select their representatives from the not so well-landed men already there. Authoritative officials who violate the local power structure and assume undue authority can often cause trouble in affluent, arrogant, and remote places. Second generation Barbadian settlers in the Carolina settlement (“Goose Creek men”) attempted their own colony in the Cape Fear region in the early eighteenth century. Whig English officials, newly in power, had to bring them back to earth. It is frightening to realize that southern aristocracy had its roots in this kind of soil. What Dunn does not mention is that Carolina afforded these wealthy Barbadians what they could never have in England and only slightly gain on Barbados – land grants of tremendous size, thousands of acres, sometimes tens of thousands. This is an important factor in the affluence/arrogance/power equation.

Speaking of arrogance, late seventeenth-century governors Dutton and Stede became unpopular choices on Barbados because of presumed authority amongst the many planters on the islands who felt that they would have made better choices. The later actions of these placemen did not help the royal case. Revolutionary spirit brought on by the Glorious Revolution and the deposition of James II further eroded the power of the big planters. Although they regained their power, it delivered a definite blow to the arrogance, stirring anti-government and anti-tax sentiment that found another expression on the American mainland nearly a century later. Richard Dunn gives the impression that the 1680 Barbados census was a pivotal moment.

Religious friction caused a whole new dimension of trouble with Quakers at the heart of activist dissension. The mere fact that Quakers lived in a boomtown atmosphere like Barbados demonstrates their penchant for trouble. Dunn points out that out of pacifist, antislavery Quakers, six of the Barbadian variety owned more than a hundred slaves each. Moreover, they took their slaves to meetings, another Anglican bone to pick. Perhaps it is a matter of cyclical history that fundamental religious sentiment and affluence go together like a match and a gas can. Just as irritating as Quakers to good Anglicans were Sephardic Jews that they nearly taxed off the island. Another demographic of particular note shows comparisons of Bridgetown with Bristol families in England. Whereas 198 families in Bridgetown had no children, only seven out of sixty-nine families in Bristol were without issue. Obviously, Barbados was not England.
Neither were the Leeward Islands or Jamaica for that matter. Dunn gives three reasons why the Leewards rarely make it into the history books: economic, topographic, and political. Few men of substance apparently came, the terrain did not cooperate even though the climate was perfect, they were too close to the French, and religious factionalism between Protestants and Catholics all combined to hold back progress. Still, tobacco grew a little better than on Barbados. Still, the popularity engendered by the lifestyle on Barbados attracted affluent Englishmen away from the Leeward Islands. The settlers that did come were mostly the stragglers and wash-outs from Barbados. The real story of Caribbean piracy was born in “holes” like the Leewards and Jamaica. Barbados was naturally shielded by an island chain and French and Spanish conflicts kept the remainder of the Caribbean in flux. Nevis, as the only island to escape French invasion, was the only one to flourish. Lack of slave labor still held them back. Moreover, the Leeward Islands, getting started much later than Barbados met the falling end of the sugar boom. Bringing convicts to the islands as servants further eroded the social aspect of the island chain.
Dunn’s discussion of these lesser Caribbean islands had less to do with sugar or slaves and more to do with the exciting times of King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, and the resulting band of Caribbean privateers turned pirates. Dunn nor the Bridenbaughs can be blamed for this minor and immensely enjoyable diversion. Playing off the Leeward Island narrative, Dunn’s best line had to be, “The Jamaicans never murdered their governor, but they earned a reputation as England’s most lawless colonists” (Dunn, 1972, 149). It was slightly more subtle than Ned Ward’s earlier interpretive reference to dung. None of these references, says Dunn, capture the true mercantile significance of Jamaica, whose only real nemesis was English rule. Still, the Maroons’ guerilla style tactics, reminiscent of today’s Central American native style, posed a serious problem in the early years of English fighting for Jamaica. The Bridenbaughs detail Maroon society nicely. Buccaneer Jamaicans like Henry Morgan cut their pirate teeth on Spanish Panama. The recently knighted Morgan’s later appointment as Lt. Governor of Jamaica illustrated, at least to former governor, Thomas Lynch, the lawlessness of Jamaica and perhaps of English government as well. Well-fortified Port Royal was the island’s great buccaneer capital in the Caribbean until an earthquake in 1692 wrecked it. Quakers accounted for this disaster as God’s vengeance and most could believe it. From the misrule of numerous governors and the French attack in 1694, Jamaica barely held on. Still, it did. After repairing their sugar facilities from the French attack, planters tried cacao as well. Problems with blight led them away from cacao and sugar remained supreme on Jamaica.

Sugar was the driving mechanism. It created the wealth, affluence, the arrogance, and a need for Negroes. Harvest the cane, crush it with cattle, horse, oxen, or wind-powered mills and boil the dark juice that is produced. All of this must be done quickly. Then, the planter could make muscovado (raw, brown sugar) or clayed, refined white sugar which fetched a better price and, consequently a higher freight charge. This was Barbados. So, of course the planters packed the white, refined variety in hogsheads labeled “muscovado.” The waste product, the molasses that seeped from the buckets was taken to a distillery, probably the second most popular location on the island. There, it was made into a colonial favorite, rum.

As with any business, the most reliable data comes from profit and loss statistics. Insurance claims filed by St. Christopher planters after a French raid in 1706 detailed 450 slaves by occupation. Dunn calls it “ruthlessly exploitive,” a device to “maximize… production,” and “nakedly racial” (Dunn, 1972, 224). Those are methods of capitalization, indeed, it is what the word means. Fly the joli rouge and declare no quarter. Maximize profit and reduce cost as low as possible. There is no variable for humanity in the equation and no controls except the meager whining of a few Quakers who owned slaves themselves. These books were both written in 1972. Richard Dunn thought it necessary to declare his stance on the issue that chattel slavery was fundamentally different from anything that had ever been seen before. In 2010, it may be appropriate (at least allowed) to continue the analogy to Barbados’ godchild, America and the continuing racial problems still plaguing that country today.

Dunn stated that the island colonists plunged while the mainland colonist inched into slavery. He does not support his statement with facts and appears to say it only because he wrote in 1972. Chattel slavery was born of a profitable business. The sugar trade was not so feasible in Carolina when Barbadians settled it and slavery stalled a few decades until rice became a profitable and proven crop in the late seventeenth century. Like sugar, rice required heavy slave labor and Barbadian immigrants took to the deed as quickly as they took to their rum. Negroes and Indians were savagely and routinely abused in Carolina as they were in Barbados. West Africans came so fast that by 1712, Gov. Glen remarked that blacks outnumbered whites in Carolina.
Taken in whole, both Richard Dunn and the Bridenbaughs express how well they understand the English West Indies. Both books are enjoyable. Both rely on strong primary evidence and both rely heavily on statistics. For a place with few remaining records, these two books explain Barbados in fascinating detail. They both offer great narratives on the buccaneer side of the story as well, a point that all pirate fans can appreciate. For 1972, slavery was a timely, if difficult subject to analyze. Some authors are bolder than others. Still, both of these works thankfully attempt to understand and relate those difficult times to us all.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

War Profiteering in Colonial North Carolina

The early settlers to the Albemarle looked upon Indian dispossession not as an illegality so much as a necessity for the success of their merchant enterprise. In the beginnings of their relationship, Europeans wanted something from natives. Thomas Parramore stated that there was a significant lack of European women, a ratio of one out of every eight men. Europeans in the Albemarle (as elsewhere) needed wives and supplemented this need from the start by relying on the native inhabitants. Then, the wives’ families became slaves, shipped to the Chesapeake tobacco plantations and south to Charles Town and Barbados. Charleston elites became known as extraordinary slave traders in Indian flesh and coastal tribes, especially of eastern North Carolina, slated for removal and enslavement. Still, sex and slaves was not enough. The English wanted something else, more than anything else.

Native Americans understood next to nothing about the ownership of land. Algonquian tribes, like most tribes, had no word for land ownership. They were given this land by the Creator for their use. They shared everything, including this land; including their women. The European soon wanted land, along with the women. Alcohol seriously affected the Indians, turning many into addicts and provided a means by which the European could easily deprive the Indian of his land, or more to the point – the Creator’s land. Sex came in the bargain, as well. John Brickell wrote an almost 100-page ethnographic treatise on the Indians of North Carolina in 1737 (borrowed greatly on John Lawson) and he spells out much of their weakness in these respects. Dr. Brickell declares many of the Europeans’ as well.

Disease had taken its toll. Now, the European “thirst for land” epidemic landed upon their shores, providing a one-two punch to their culture. They simply did not have a chance, nor did they view land as significantly as Europeans. In their thinking, they could simply find more to the west or may have felt so disconnected in a growing European America that they did not know what to do, beyond maintaining their existence as best they could. If there is an answer as to why the Indian disappeared, this would be it. This is the substance of their deprivation both of an identity and of the land given to them by their Creator. The once powerful Tuscarora are a prime example of what took place. Their “massacre” in 1711-1715 was really a revolution, and King Hancock, their George Washington. As many would agree, the difference between a revolution and a rebellion is the winner.

The Tuscaroras lost and they were dispossessed, often in very deceitful and violent ways. This paper details in part, some efforts to understand the methods by which the Native American lost their identity, dignity, and land. It is a multi-disciplinary study with conventional land records and colonial/state records, anthropological/archaeological sources, oral histories, and any other pertinent data that might be needed. The problem exists in the fact that dispossession of anyone, whether Indian, Negro, or white would not have been recorded directly. Especially in regards to the Indian, dispossession was kept well below the normally open channels of communication because the Europeans still wanted to make use of this commodity. Of particular note, what they wanted would not have agreed with the Anglican Church officials who, even though they rarely came to North Carolina, still read the reports. Moreover, this commodity could be bought cheaply with no more investment than a bottle or two of rum. Indian land came just as easily, possibly as a peripheral result, but later as a prime motivation as settlers became more numerous. This wave of demand created a search for supply. Some of the “Queen’s subjects” plotted against the Indians and even their own people to take Indian lands away for their personal enrichment to satisfy the economic equation. Certain of the “Queen’s subjects” proved more adept at the deceptive talents necessary in war profiteering.

Edward Moseley came to Charles Town in 1697 on the merchant vessel, Joseph, which had been lost that very year. Edward Moseley probably did not mind, for he never returned to the sea, an occupation probably chosen by the administrators of the orphanage that raised him in London. He may have been stranded in Charles Town, but he made the best of a bad situation. In a few years’ time, he served southern Carolina as an Ordinary Court clerk (1701-1702) under Governor James Moore and a librarian for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 1703. Edward Moseley’s South Carolina political leanings expressed themselves over the years of his activities in the northern half of Carolina. Impressionable as he was at fifteen, he still held to his Charles Town-inspired ideology. The supposed “rescue” of the Albemarle residents in the Tuscarora War, first by South Carolinian, John Barnwell, then by Moore’s two sons, James and Maurice looks suspiciously like part of a plan to obtain Indian slave captives.

William Byrd recalled the address of many of his neighbor Carolinians in 1711 to the Lords Proprietors (including the next governer, Edward Hyde and former governor, William Glover) complaining of “Mr. Moseley and other malcontents.” They charged that:
"complaints are so numerous and grevious, and all the accounts we have yet had from either Mr Moseley or the secretarys Office so short and unsatisfactory; that no certain account can be had till a careful review be made; thus much only is certain that many surveys have been returned for Tracts of land, whereon the Surveyor has never sett his foot…"

Queen Anne was easily persuaded to remove Moseley and his boss, John Lawson from the first commission to survey the Virginia line. Moseley was honored with the position of deputy-surveyor under John Lawson, “killed after a barbarous manner” by the Tuscarora Indians in 1713. He grossly betrayed that trust. Remarkably, Moseley achieved that public trust again in 1723, upon the first arrival of George Burrington as governor. Byrd probably had as much suspicion of Edward Moseley as John Lawson, accused in 1711 by Chief Hancock of stealing Tuscarora land.

It appears from Governor Spotswood's address to the Board of Trade in July 1711 that Moseley aligned himself with Thomas Cary during the attempted coup and against the seating of Edward Hyde as governor of northern Carolina. All of Moseley’s accomplishments (and those of his partners) seem overshadowed by mistrust. Edward Moseley and John Lawson were dismissed from the boundary commission by Queen Anne for their first attempt at the Virginia line in 1710-11. Virginia’s governor Spotswood complained to Her Majesty that personal gain “seems to have been their [Moseley and Lawson] cheif aim in all their affected delays.” Moseley and William Maule, both working with John Lawson, were accused by the Weyanoake Indians of trying to sell their land without permission. Phillip Ludwell’s Indian interrogation revealed, “That man (meaning Mr Maul) was not good for he had been (persuading) him to deny that the Weyanoakes had lived on Wicocon Creek, & promised him two bottles of powder and a thousand shott to do it.” Similar accusations were further confirmed by the Nottoway Indians as well as the Meherrin.

These illicit practices soon resulted in the “barbarous” death of John Lawson. William Byrd, who served under Governor Spotswood as a Receiver-General in 1711 often commented on “Plausible’s,” or Edward Moseley’s sometimes illicit use of his talents in his Dividing Line. Byrd certainly had heard of Moseley’s practices and he well knew his history and relationship to the Moores in Charles Town.

It was Christopher von Graffenried's opinion that a few "malcontents," opponents of Governor Hyde, had tried to start trouble between the colonists and the Tuscarora. If the ruse had worked and Graffenried had been murdered by the Indians, then the general fear of the colonists would have been realized and war would have been the result. Historian Francis L. Hawks declared that Edward Moseley was "friend of Carey in his rebellion, the opponent of Governor Hyde while he lived, and of Colonel Pollock during the [Tuscarora] Indian war." Von Graffenried commented in his journal:
"What kindled that Indian or Savages' war [Tuscarora War] were, above all, the slanders and insinuations of a few rioters against Govr Hyde and against me. They made the savages believe that I had come to expel them from their lands…"

Von Graffenried was set up by Moseley and Lawson. Only, it backfired on Lawson. Furthermore, the Colonial Records indicate very well that Moseley was Hyde and Pollock's political enemy. Their earlier representation to the Board and continued debasement of Moseley through the act wherein he was required to repay the fees must have been burning within him. Any opportunity for revenge and personal enrichment would have attracted his political thirst.

John Lawson influenced the youthful Edward Moseley greatly. Lawson’s 1709 map of North Carolina looks remarkably similar to Moseley’s later 1733 version. They worked together as surveyors for the colony and even swindled Indians together before 1710. For the Weranoakes, Nottaways, and Meherrin, they were a match made in Hades. The Tuscarora, though were much more powerful and already strongly resentful of white men. Still, to the powerful and land-hungry whites, the eastern lands of the Tuscarora made a tasty morsel.

With the Tuscarora removed from the traditional Indian lands which bordered closest on the territory of the white colonists, Edward Moseley and John Lawson would have greater opportunities for selling those lands and surveying the properties. They would have gained quite a fortune for themselves in sales and fees, not to mention land for them, which certainly would have been their plan. Indeed, this was a pattern they had laid down only a few years prior in the border territories with Virginia, against the Weranoakes, Nottaways, and Meherrin. Obviously, after Queen Anne put an end to those plans (for which Edward Moseley had to repay all of his income from the fees), he and Lawson looked elsewhere for more land. When they did, they plotted against the Tuscarora and devised a plan to rid themselves of the Indian problem first.
Geographer William W. Edwards stated that Cary’s Rebellion “created a factious climate that led to inaction and undermining of policy within the colonial government of North Carolina.” Von Graffenried did not mention them by name, but he definitely believed that Governor Hyde’s enemies, the supporters of the now imprisoned Col. Cary, were directly responsible for starting the Indian trouble against the government of Edward Hyde. Hyde’s letters-patent were then on their way to him from London. Hyde’s confirmation as governor was imminent and his enemies had little recourse but collusion against the Tuscarora, which suited Moseley and Lawson’s land needs. They stood to profit from the trouble that forced the Tuscarora into western exile, leaving their eastern lands open to white settlement.

Moseley’s connections to Charles Town may have contributed to their “aid” in the war, which was against Hyde’s wishes. Once Col. John Barnwell returned to Charles Town with its first load of Tuscarora slaves, Governor Hyde responded to Barnwell’s expedition as an intrusion. Hyde did not expect Barnwell’s aid from southern Carolina. The letter of Rev. Francis Le Jau to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel stated, “Governor of Renoque [Roanoke] Collonel Hyde complains it [peace] was done without his advise…." Hyde’s and his council still hoped for a response from Virginia’s Governor Spotswood. Historian Francis Hawks and Edward McCrady believed that the dispute between Barnwell and the Albemarle government arose due to the “friendship between Barnwell and Moseley, who belonged to the opposing faction in North Carolina.” Edward Moseley wanted his Charles Town friends (and future in-laws) to profit by taking Tuscarora slaves and encouraged Barnwell’s aid while preventing possible aid from Alexander Spotswood. Moseley was entrusted with a dispatch to the Virginia governor, but lost it soon thereafter. An enraged Governor’s Council demanded the Provost Marshall arrest Edward Moseley, charging that he “either Carelesly lost [the dispatch] or [it was] otherwise Imbezled by ye said Moseley.” In their eyes, his actions threatened their lives. After Barnwell arrived, he spent most of his time capturing Indians of smaller, less threatening tribes than engaging the more numerous and powerful Tuscarora. Thomas Pollock complained to the Lords Proprietors that,
"And albeit Col Barnwells Indians killed 40 or 50 Cores, Bare River, River Neuse and Matamusket Indian men, and took near upon 200 of their women and Children, yet in all the time he was here, not above 30 Tuskarora Indians were killed, that we can hear of: the others being small nations not able of themselves to hurt us."

He again wrote to Lord Proprietor, Charles Craven to complain about Moseley’s collusion with Col. Barnwell. He said, “as for what private transactions have been carried on betwixt him and Mr Moseley, they have been kept so in the dark that it is next to an impossibility to prove them.” Governor Spotswood told the Board that,
"I found the Commander of their forces [Barnwell] had of his own head, clapt up a peace with the Indians upon very odd and unaccountable conditions, which nobody expected to last long, and it seems he did not intend it should; for he soon after surprized some towns, and carryed off a great many captives of those who looked upon themselves as secure under the Treaty he had made with them, and by that means he has entailed a new war on the people of North Carolina, in which he was resolved to have no share, having imediatly after set sail with his prisoners to South Carolina, and the two massacres I have above mentioned have been the imediate consequences of this Mr. Barnwell's treachery."

Barnwell’s tour in northern Carolina was simply a slaving expedition. Edward Moseley assisted his efforts while stalling possible assistance from Virginia. As recorded by von Graffenried, John Lawson paid for his misdeeds by having “his throat cut, with the razor which was found in his pocket.” Hundreds of white settlers were attacked and killed while more than 1,000 Indians died or were enslaved and Moseley’s “Charles Town” faction may have offered a prayer. Settlement of northern Carolina almost came to a halt for a decade. Moseley’s relations in Charles Town gathered the needed slaves, but his days as a surveyor disappeared until Maurice Moore traveled through the Cape Fear country on his way to help southern Carolina with the Yamassees. The Cape Fear land embezzlement scheme by Moseley and this son of James Moore is another story entirely. Northern Carolina often functioned simply as a resource for the royally-favored Charles Town gang. Unfortunately, the Tuscarora War, while serving Hyde’s enemies’ immediate needs, destroyed the reputation and future of the Tuscarora Indians. Moreover, it politically split them into two polities, causing a civil animosity that still exists today.

William W. Edwards offered that the war did not quite have the results anticipated by Hyde’s enemies. Edward Moseley, John Porter, Richard Roach, and other remaining parties that stood to benefit from the war (and who had not escaped into Virginia) undoubtedly heard rumors of Mohawks planning to join the Tuscaroras against the Carolinians. The French government in Canada sought to hinder the progress of the English colonies by fomenting discontent among the natives of the northern colonies. The Carolina war with their kin, the Tuscarora made a good excuse. Various pockets of those natives arrived in northern Carolina, from tribes of Iroquois, Mohawks, and Senecas, but merely attacked some Virginia Indian traders on the border and then left.

Colonists in the Albemarle and Pamlico settlements suffered tremendously. Settlement did not proceed as quickly as perhaps Edward Moseley and his fellow “investors” hoped. Aside from getting Lawson killed, the Tuscarora War also lessened colonial trade with the Indians, reducing the influx of deerskins significantly. Few settlers had the money for new lands. Moseley and Lawson’s real estate swindle went horribly wrong. Still, Moseley made the best out of a bad situation and his friends in Charles Town stood to profit greatly.

Moseley’s nemesis, Thomas Pollock, having no ties to the Goose Creek slavers like Moseley, may have felt genuinely sorry for the Tuscaroras. Chief Tom Blount, leader of the Tuscarora faction that opposed Chief Hancock, became the undisputed “King” of a politically powerless and displaced Tuscarora tribe. Many of the warring faction left for New York and remote southern areas while Blount’s people remained on their new Carolina lands, assured of white recognition of their efforts in the war. They occupied these lands just west of Edenton itself, offering a buffer zone against possible future attack. Pollock’s plan of a “peaceful coexistence” with Blount’s tribe in 1717 did not last, for as William Byrd stated,
"These Indians were heretofore very numerous and powerful, making, within time of memory, at least a thousand fighting men. Their habitation, before the war with Carolina, was on the north branch of Neuse river, commonly called Connecta creek, in a pleasant and fruitful country. But now the few that are left of that nation live on the north side of Moratuck, which is all that part of Roanoke below the great falls, towards Albemarle sound. Formerly there were seven towns of these savages, lying not far from each other, but now their number is greatly reduced. The trade they have had the misfortune to drive with the English has furnished them constantly with rum, which they have used so immoderately, that, what with the distempers, and what with the quarrels it begat amongst them, it has proved a double destruction."

Byrd continues with an apocryphal reference to a young warrior who took it upon himself to reproach Hancock’s former “Conechta clan.” The young malcontents, displeased at the prophet,
"… tied him to a tree, and shot him with arrows through the heart. But their God took instant vengeance on all who had a hand in that monstrous act, by lightning from heaven, and has ever since visited their nation with a continued train of calamities, nor will he ever leave off punishing, and wasting their people, till he shall have blotted every living soul of them out of the world."

Eerily close to the truth, Byrd’s prediction almost came true. Another letter of Reverend Le Jau stated that “800 of the enemy killed or captured,” some delivered to Charles Town. Col. Moore himself gave an account of the “Nohoroco Fort” incident and said there were “Prissoners 392, Scolps 192, out of ye sd: fort—& att Least 200 Kill'd & Burnt In ye fort—& 166 Kill'd & taken out of ye fort.” Assuming that scalps could not be obtained from charred corpses, that equals 758 plus the 26 scalps not accounted for from the fort captives, or 784, a comparable value to the report of Rev. Le Jau. A full 80% of the fighting men mentioned by Byrd had been killed or enslaved by the Goose Creek men under Col. James Moore on only the second expeditionary hunt. Another version of their number comes from Spotswood’s comments to the Board of Trade in July 1712. He stated the Tuscaroras amounted to 2,000 fighting men, reducing this estimate to 40%. Either way, unprecedented decimation occurred on the Tuscaroras, hardly befitting a conquered sovereign nation.

Is it so hard to believe in today’s world of alleged war profiteering in Iraq, and possible involvement of huge companies like Blackwater or Haliburton, that a group of Indian slave traders from Goose Creek, South Carolina might have used the Tuscarora War for similar purposes? Historians can only analyze and offer possibilities. Most historians infer that the Indians were the ones taking Indian captives, as this was their way. Still, Goose Creek men like the Moores operated an Indian slave-trading business and an opportunity like the Tuscarora War would have been hard to refuse. Judging motive remains problematic in the lack of sufficient evidence. Traditional historiographies have found it difficult to offer alternatives. Today’s internet offers possibilities for research never seen before. The eighteenth century may yet come to life for readers of history as the news on television is today.

Thomas Pollock’s colonial treaty of 1717 delegated over 41,000 acres to the Tuscarora’s use in modern Bertie County, but acreage fell to only 8,000 by 1766 because they were “easily imposed [upon] by designing persons, and unwarily deprived of their said lands….” The rum, happily provided by white settlers, proved to be the worldly manifestation of the Tuscarora god’s mandate. Tuscaroras suffered the most, as the Iraqi people suffer from theories of alleged “weapons of mass destruction.” The political domination, defeat in battle, and continual debasement by whites proved too debilitating for them. By the early nineteenth century, the Tuscarora tribe became a scattered memory.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More than One Way to Skin a Moral

Occasionally, different attitudes lead to similar results. This type of convergent evolutionary history describes Virginia and Maryland well, sisters of the Chesapeake. For many years in their early history, however, they fought like brothers in the dirt. Two books approach the Chesapeake pair from different angles in order to understand the thinking that led to tobacco culture and its peculiar offspring of American slavery. What must be understood about this relationship is that slavery developed as a solution to the uniquely American problem of labor in agriculture. Depending on one’s point-of-view, Maryland either started ahead of or behind Virginia. Still, they both reached the same conclusion of slavery.

One of these books, Robert Cole’s World: Agriculture and Society in Early Maryland describes a Chesapeake farmer and his life, detailing well the everyday, normally mundane facts. This is an ethnographic approach, technical in analysis with fantastic, wonderfully complex detail. The other book tells the same story of these early twins from the perspective of flamboyant, English privateer businessmen who very often paid little attention to legality. In American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, an attempt is accurately and humorously made to explore the great American paradox: the marriage of freedom and slavery. Both Virginia and Maryland would develop a great dependence on the “peculiar institution” and both of these books tell their different stories remarkably well. Ironically, they meet in the end.

Robert Cole’s World endeavors to explain the misunderstood efforts of the Chesapeake tobacco farmers by a detailed examination of seventeenth-century farming methods. The idea was to compare these methods to other farmers of the period and judge them upon their own merits. It is unquestionable and certainly expected that these methods do not correspond to those of today; nor do they correspond with those of the Old World. George Washington commented that the American farmer focused not on how much could be produced from his land, which was plentiful and cheap. Rather, he was concerned with making as much as he could from the labor that he put into it, which was dear and in short supply.

The authors firmly establish that tobacco agriculture was important in Maryland, despite the efforts of the Lords Baltimore. They support this contention well with facts and figures showing that each farmer concerned himself about 85% of the time with, as King James put it in 1631, “that Stincking Weede of America” (Carr, Menard, and Walsh, 1991, 13). Nonsmokers will certainly agree with that sovereign's assessment. Still, Carr, Menard, and Walsh demonstrate well that Maryland followed Virginia’s lead in heavily producing this “weede.” Maryland’s common boundary with Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay, gave its farmers as much opportunity with English and Dutch traders of tobacco as their neighbor and by 1635, they soon found rising prices and profitability. Though the fluctuating price of tobacco was of continual concern to Maryland farmers, enormous growth was spurred on by its production.

The free adult male population was divided amongst four groups: the gentry, landowners (yeoman planters), tenants, and inmates. Gentry in Maryland did not exactly parallel the gentry of England. Maryland gentry comprised some of the more common positions found in the home country: burgesses, sheriffs, and justices of the peace. Some of those considered as gentry were merchants, also not reflective of England. Still, America had less illustrious occupations to choose from. Yeoman planters filled the majority of the lists, also unlike England where a great many of the populace worked the land with virtually no chance of upward mobility. America provided a different opportunity through its vast land resources not available in England. Tenant farmers fell lower on the scale, yet may have approached freemanship. Finally, there were the inmates. Inmates, beyond today’s punitive connotation, were arguably not far from that appellation as low-income contract laborers and had to pay dearly for every necessary in their life, for they were probably unmarried.

There was more to life than simply cultivating dirt. Carr and associates express ideas such as: work routines, agricultural techniques, instructing children, an evolving community, and the role of religion in that community. Farm life in the seventeenth century, as seen through the authors’ eyes, seems remarkably similar to modern farm experiences. One can almost smell the farm with each word in the narrative. Unfortunately, those odors include pigs. Combined with the difficulties in keeping pigs confined, it is easy enough to guess why the Cole’s let their pigs forage in the fields. Still, the sweet scent of the apple orchards, the blossoms, and the cider easily salve the mind’s palate.

This was Robert Cole’s World. Carr, Menard, and Walsh introduce less history but much more of an ethnographical study of a man pulled out of historical times. The idea was to describe life in late seventeenth-century Maryland. Moreover, this was such a rare opportunity, as well. Records apparently were not as complete for most. Furthermore, Cole’s example was rare in that his children were so well cared for after his death. In a way, Cole’s was a success story even though he spent only ten years in Maryland. His wife had died and then he died in England before he could return to his St. Mary’s home in America. So, where did Robert Cole fit in the social hierarchy? Cole did not clearly fit in the “yeoman farmer” category even though he styled himself as such. The authors impress upon the reader that, with a much greater personal worth, Cole might easily have become a gentleman had he lived, yet was content to work alongside his field hands during his ten years in Maryland. Still, his wealth, as compared with his fellow colonists, easily reflects English origins in that he ranked in the top twelve percent of society yet only possessed a net worth in the lower half. Some stratification still developed in the latter half of the seventeenth century, “social fluidity reached the bottom of white society” (Carr, Menard, and Walsh, 1991, 31). Physical resources in America evened the playing field, diversifying American society from English society. The authors’ figures display this well.

Death gave Robert Cole’s life meaning to these quantitative historians. His friend, Luke Gardiner cared for his children and ran his affairs for eleven years after his death in 1662. Gardiner proved himself to be an excellent choice, keeping detailed business accounts and improving the profits on the Cole farm. Gardiner saved as much as 35-40% of the annual income from Cole’s farm. This was even more remarkable considering that Maryland was a society of un-free labor, in definite contrast to Virginia.

Indications are that the authors studied detailed records extensively. Where records on the Cole farm lacked, they drew from nearby examples to fill in the gaps. The result was a consistent and evenly flowing picture of Robert Cole’s farm and family life, an extraordinarily satisfying account to read. The most refreshing aspect of this book is its lack of political intrigues, a polemical style of historical writing, often used over the last few centuries. Anyone who grew up on a southern tobacco farm will find this story nostalgic, for many of these techniques can be found on tobacco farms today. Old, recently-abandoned houses can be found in rural North Carolina with tobacco stick bundles on the front porches. Tobacco barns stand on many roadsides and great fields of bright green, broadleaf tobacco still blanket the gently-rolling hills. Many of us can remember our families working and selling tobacco as described in Cole’s time, perhaps from an occasional visit to a farmer’s auction with our father or grandfather. This is not only a memory of yesteryear, but of yesterday.

There still remains one aspect of the Coles’ story that is yet to be told. Robert’s son, Edward introduces the reader to the growing need for free labor. Until the demographics stabilized in Maryland and farm-life became as productive and profitable as it was in the West Indies, few could afford the luxurious expense of slaves. The Virginians found that prize first.

Edmund Morgan tells the story with an obvious scholarship, primary sources as rich as those in Robert Cole’s World, and an attractive sense of ironic humor. American Slavery explains how the mainstream, Church of England-loving Englishman found his way to Virginia and to slavery. This was not an immediate conclusion, but it was inevitable. Whereas, Robert Cole’s Maryland needed free labor to proceed with the business plan, Morgan’s Virginia absolutely had to have it for their survival.

Englishmen like Drake and Hawkins defined “flamboyant” as well as the typical Virginian entrepreneur of the late sixteenth century. Translate that as “privateer,” or more to the point, “pirate.” Unlike Maryland, founded by Catholics, Virginia was founded with the King’s religion, Anglicanism. Although Spanish Catholics became known for their abuse of Indian slaves, Robert Cole and Catholics like him did not have the money that it took to turn “crime into politics” (Morgan, 1975, 9). Anglicans found the way to that illustrious reputation without much trouble. They barely needed money, as well, riding upon the financial wave of an enthusiastic King James I.

The point that Morgan makes from the start is that the early relationship between black and white simply did not exist, when compared to later developments. He expresses an almost boyish enthusiasm in the English beginnings of America and his discussion of the black Cimarrons of Panama and their alliance with Francis Drake. It seems romantically delightful, if somewhat frightening at times. Any father can relate that enthusiasm causes trouble and so it did with drastic results for Africans as opposed to indentured servants in America.

Indians may have spent less time on work and more on leisure, but English aristocrats spent no time working and supplemented their lack of labor with the abuse of others. Native Americans were aware that the English were lazy, loved their games, and relied too heavily upon Indian charity. As Morgan imbibed, the Indians could have finished off the English simply by leaving. It seems like a plus for Indian morality. Arguments for the colonists were subtle Parliamentary distinctions, though; as Morgan infers with “Do as I say, not as I do” (Morgan, 1975, 63). Subtlety characterizes everything an Englishman does. Morgan’s tongue-in-cheek sarcasm relates this humorously. He also exposes the “Englishman” within the reader. They feel like giddy aristocrats themselves, although they probably feel sad at the consequences of the behavior they enjoy so much. Human nature is that way sometimes.

Morgan definitely does not appear to respect early seventeenth-century English methods in the Jamestown settlement of 1607. Instead, he delights in derisive jibes. Describing George Percy’s behavior during an Indian conflict, he relates how children’s brains were bashed in the river, the queen of the Paspaheghs put to the sword, and still the English demanded Indian-produced corn to keep from starving. A later event caused some colonists to be hanged, burned, broken on the “wheel,” others staked, and some shot. These men committed the most heinous crime of running away from the English to join the Indians. Colonists even burned the desperately-needed corn. Agreeably, the Jamestown colonists could have used better judgment. The runaway colonists probably used this better judgment when they ran away from the Englishmen who were as deadly as the foul well water and intoxicating as the rum.

The real concern for lazy colonists in Virginia should have been John Smith, “part actor and part man of action,” rather than Indians (Morgan, 1975, 76). Clearly, he respected the Indians not at all. Morgan compares his sensitivities more in tune with Hernando Cortez with the Aztecs than Drake with the Cimarrons. Smith got things done. His method was abusive and cruel, but not quite fatal. Moreover, the colonists themselves felt the crack of Smith’s whip often enough. Pressing uppity, lazy Englishmen, of course, was Smith’s fatal mistake. Like the Spaniards, Smith wanted to reduce the Indians to slavery. He never accomplished the task, but subsequent colonists carried his capital ideology even if they were remiss in general organization.

Could this be how slavery began, a perverted ideology that stealthily deprived an American sense of morality, blinding Americans with profit? Marylanders could have been said to have a sense of morality, but perhaps not Virginians. Perhaps it was something more direct and spontaneous? Spontaneous described well enough Opechcancanough’s surprise attack in 1622. Almost 350 dead settlers later, the English had had it. Afterward, colonists lost what little constraints they held against enslaving the Indians. Colonists went a step further, choosing instead to exterminate them. In Morgan’s brand of humor, this was a missed opportunity. Sir Edwin Sandy’s hopeful, irresponsible, and threadbare visions of the integrated community (Indians included) quickly disappeared. Still, the New World idea of chattel slavery had not stepped through the door just yet. This incident became merely an intermediate step toward slavery.

As for what happened to the colonists next, they starved. There was no one left alive to grow their food. Settlers had to fend for themselves, grow their own food rather than trade beaded baubles for corn from the Indians. Fish from the Grand Banks helped, but very little. Not everyone in Jamestown starved. Some had financial resources not often shared with the others and the colony itself had bartered Virginia produce for twenty lusty Negroes in 1619. That year also found John Rolfe bringing tobacco production to viability in Virginia. The pieces of the bomb were being assembled. The labor force was introduced to the labor source. In this erratic and desperate environment, it did not take long before it formed a partnership.

Englishmen abused each other before they abused Africans, though. Moreover, they drank enough rum to compare with Tortuga in the process. Like Morgan said, ships arrived like floating taverns. Virginia Company officers were profiting while the company failed. Abuse of alcohol, the company, and colonists made Virginia infamous ad the labor force weakened in quality. It was not long before Africans would replace white servants, men who had little to no say in their use and abuse.

Racism began gradually. Morgan indicates that it started with the Indians and spread in the abusive atmosphere to encompass all “other people.” The ones different from the “others” were the extremely few at the top of the hierarchy (the ones who did not empty their bowels in public). Morgan seems highly critical. Still, early Virginians probably deserved more than he gave them. Who can say what would have been appropriate? The historian should function as a journalist and simply tell the news and, perhaps in the spirit of Edmund Morgan, have a little fun with it, too. Criticism is a part of the process. Morgan literally danced with criticism.

Morgan quotes enough statistics at times to compare with Carr and associates. The most starkly contrasting feature between American Slavery and Robert Cole’s World is that they read like two extreme views of the same idea. One is pleasant and evokes memories of childhood on the farm while the other is absolutely horrifying. Every story has two sides, even “Little Red Riding Hood.” The wolf gets his day in court. The lamb gets heard, but is always eaten in the end. Undoubtedly, Africans were led to the slaughter in both versions.

With some, slavery was the first drunken choice. With others, it was the reasonable choice. These two very different approaches to Chesapeake history start at opposite ends of the spectrum and arrive at the same place. Both began as an English entrepreneurial endeavor, but with very different ideologies. For the Catholics in Maryland, the ideology was that of a minority, struggling for survival. Robert Cole had money and some family heirlooms, but he worked hard to build a life for his family, in little more than a shack. Whereas with Virginians, as the aristocratic elite who believed that everyone should contribute to their survival, the opposite was true. Only, their shacks were unkempt. Slavery was a natural choice for non-working Virginians who needed food, too. Maryland, on the other hand, found it to be good business sense once the money was there. Morgan saw the fact that both Virginia and Maryland were free to pursue their individual paths. Still, those paths led to a door that contradicted the approach that they took. Both colonies were free to be hypocrites, free to enslave.

What do these two books have in common? Not much in the beginning. The different societies read like night and day, hot and cold, yin and yang; most definitely, white and black. As indicated earlier, these are two disparate approaches that converge into a common social evolution resulting in the “peculiar institution.” Virginia and Maryland, once bitter religious enemies, became sisters in American slavery. Robert Cole’s World still functions as an ethnographic treatise of enormous value, especially to the historian or historical fiction writer who needs to understand the seventeenth-century Chesapeake world, or tobacco culture, or class divisions in detail.

In stark contrast, Morgan introduces Americans to history not to be paired with George Washington’s “cherry tree” fable. The very real paradox of slavery and freedom often embarrass Americans and expose a hypocrisy that can no longer hide; indeed should never remain hidden. Edmund Morgan accomplishes this in a fun and openly sarcastic way. In modern colloquial terms, he “zings” the reader. Morgan is derisive, sarcastic, verbally abusive, and absolutely justified in his opinions. He is so humorous in his method that it effectively hides the long, drawn-out recitations. Carr, Menard, and Walsh are much more subtle. Still, they pleasantly provide a vital resource for the historian and demonstrate admirably that America’s freedom was the seed that germinated class distinctions and the “peculiar institution” of slavery. In the final analysis, there is more than one way to skin a moral.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Dumbing Down Continues...

The early history of the founding of our nation is not an easy subject to learn. The 17th and 18th centuries are difficult for modern Americans to grasp. It's easier to understand a more recent time. Still, there are very important concepts in early American history that young adults should learn about, details that may be embarrassing to older generations. Especially in North Carolina, we have a past that is often not pleasant. Our young people MUST learn about these things if we are to improve our condition.

Slavery was an atrocious period in our history. America had a unique variety of it. Black and red men and women were treated as pure possessions, with no more rights than the family dog. Until 1835, in North Carolina, the Native American enjoyed a little better status. But, in the reworking of the state constitution and the introduction of the category "free persons of color," black and red alike suffered immeasurably.

A new piece of legislation will stop the older children in our state from learning the lessons of our past. Proponents of this legislation say that children will learn more history BEFORE high school and that that is all they will need. During high school, they will learn about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and beyond. The young adults will not be taught the lessons of what caused slavery, its early horrors... and I'm sure that they won't tell those truly horrible tales to mere children.

This is clearly an avoidance of guilt. It has always been about avoiding the guilt of slavery in our state. The nation's trend is to teach more about it, especially since Brown University's willingness to explore the issue with their Steering Report (available as a link from this blog's main page). But, North Carolina's desire is to bury the past.

Blind avoidance of the past can be deadly to our future. You don't wear a blindfold when in the presence of a lion to keep from being eaten. The social problems that have resulted from slavery will gnaw away at our culture (as they continue to today) unless they are clearly taught and studied... and not by little children who cannot hope to understand the intricacies involved. It must be taught in high school to the older students who CAN understand the concepts.

As a history major, I have taken "survey" courses in early American history. They are designed as reviews of what students should remember from high school. In this course, HIST-1050, my instructor routinely gave an introductory quiz to find out what the students knew. Even BEFORE this new curriculum travesty, almost 50% of the students polled did not know the name of our first president. These students were taught this in high school (up till now) and they did not know. Whereas, this new curriculum may or may not improve this response, will these "well-instructed" children remember why black people were pulled from Africa and brutally beaten, many of them dying before even setting foot in America? I seriously doubt that they will even know that we did that. And, once they get into high school, we'll skip telling them about it.

This is important to know. But, like I said, it's also embarrassing for our state and our country. At least some folks, like Brown University in Rhode Island are working toward a "reckoning." If you want to explore this issue, I urge you to look here: and here:

Don't let this happen, folks... not again!