July 5, 2003


The other side of liberty: At the very moment they were in Philadelphia declaring that all men are created equal, many of America's Founding Fathers were slave owners. Activists are now demanding a fuller accounting at democracy's birthplace. (Stacy A. Teicher and Walter H. Robinson, 7/03/03, CS Monitor)
Prior to World War II, for instance, it was widely believed that slavery had not been profitable, says Barbara Solow, an economic historian retired from Boston University. Americans held to images of Pilgrims landing and intrepid frontiersmen pushing West, while largely ignoring the economic underpinnings of plantation slavery.

But in recent decades, historians have shown that slavery provided the primary financial support of the Colonies and the United States in its first 50 years, she says. "If you look at what was moving across the Atlantic [during the Colonial period], it was either slaves, the products of slaves, supplies to sustain slaves, or things bought with the earnings of slave labor. Seventy-five percent of Colonial New England's exports went to the Caribbean to support the slave system."

From 1807 to 1865, adds Harvard economic historian Sven Beckert, "the center of our economy was cotton," and both North and South profited.

"The old history separated 'American capitalism' and 'democracy' from 'slavery.' " Dr. Beckert says. "In the 'new history,' the three are organically connected."

Much of this scholarship is not yet widely appreciated outside the realm of economic historians themselves, Solow says. But it is getting more attention, especially from advocates of the slavery-reparations movement.

Nash agrees that only in this generation have historians come to accept the idea that "Slavery allowed there to be liberty.... There could not have been as much liberty as the colonists gained had there not been enslavement of a fifth of the population."

In order to believe something this idiotic it is necessary to believe that had there been no slavery or no such thing as cotton we would have sat around our farmsteads staring into the corner wondering why we were starving. Posted by Orrin Judd at July 5, 2003 5:04 PM
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