"The widespread revulsion
which the hideous institution of slavery inspires today was largely confined
to Western civilisation a century ago, and a century before that was largely
confined to a portion of British society. No one seems interested in the
epic story of how this curse that covered the globe and endured for thousands
of years was finally gotten rid of by the West — not only in Western societies
but in other societies conquered, controlled, or pressured by the West.
The resistance put up by Africans, Asians and Arabs was monumental in defense of slavery, and lasted for more than a century. Only the overwhelming military power of the West enabled it to prevail on this issue, and only the moral outrage of Western peoples kept their government's feet to the fire politically to maintain the pressure against slavery around the world. Of course, this is not the kind of story that appeals to the multiculturalists. If it had been the other way around — if Asian or African imperialists had stamped out slavery in Europe — it would still be celebrated, in story and song, on campuses across America."
- Thomas Sowell, "Multicultural instruction"
"Whenever I hear anyone
arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."
- Abraham Lincoln
"In Africa down to the 1930's, the various tribes continued to raid one another to capture slaves both for domestic use and to sell to outsiders. Moreover, in spite of the picture presented in Alex Haley's Roots, white slave traders almost never entered the interior in pursuit of prey but rather purchased their cargo from Africans at the ocean front; coastal Africans would not allow Europeans either into or through their own countries... ....some scholars claimed that slavery in Africa was a response to the international slave trade, but it is now obvious that (Black) slavery was an old domestic institution that was adapted for supplying the international market when it developed."
- Thomas Sowell
On the issue of slavery,
it was essentially Western civilization against the world. What was peculiar
about the West was not that it participated in the worldwide evil of slavery,
but that it later abolished that evil... it was essentially European imperialism
which ended slavery.
- Thomas Sowell, "Black Rednecks and White Liberals"
What William Wilberforce
vanquished was something even worse than slavery, something that was much
more fundamental and can hardly be seen from where we stand today: he vanquished
the very mindset that made slavery acceptable and allowed it to survive
and thrive for millennia. He destroyed an entire way of seeing the world,
one that had held sway from the beginning of history, and he replaced it
with another way of seeing the world.
- Eric Metaxas, "Amazing Grace"
The unweary, unostentatious,
and inglorious crusade of England against slavery may probably be regarded
as among the three or four perfectly virtuous pages comprised in the history
- W.E.H. Lecky, reflecting on the abolition of slavery
African kings were glad to provide a steady flow of men, women and children, who they said were criminals or prisoners of war doomed for execution. Many were not, but this did not prevent partisans of the trade from posing as philanthropists who were rescuing the Africans from death and offering them a better and, of course, more productive life. An African chief, dismayed by the news that the slave trade was on the verge of abolition, insisted that his "oracle and priests" had told him that their god wholeheartedly approved of it. The Christian and Muslim gods agreed, or so their clerics proclaimed.
The vogue of repudiating
black family names that supposedly were given by slaveowners in times past
is another reflection of the widespread ignorance of history among Americans
in general, as a result of our dumbed-down education. Slaves were not only
not given family names, they were forbidden to have family names.
Slaveowners in the American antebellum South were especially opposed to slaves having family names because such names emphasized family ties - and the only legally recognized tie of a slave was to his owner, who could sell him miles away from his kin. The slaves themselves, however, used family names to create a sense of family, though they were careful not to use these names around whites.
- Thomas Sowell, "Naming Names"
It was Al Gore who, in an election campaign attack on Bush's alleged judicial preferences, repeated the libel claiming that the framers of the Constitution regarded a black person as 'three-fifths of a human being'. This is one of the most widely believed myths in black America today. In fact, it was not 'blacks' as such, who were so designated but slaves, there were thousands of free blacks, and it was the anti-slavery Framers who insisted on the three-fifths figure in order to diminish the electoral power of the slave South.
- David Horowitz, "Bush's Political Lynching", Salon.Com
"If great improvements are seldom to be expected from great proprietors, they are least of all to be expected when they employ slaves for their workmen. The experience of all ages and nations, I believe, demonstrates that the work done by slaves, though it appears to cost only their maintenance, is in the end the dearest of any. A person who can acquire no property, can have no other interest but to eat as much, and to labour as little as possible. Whatever work he does beyond what is sufficient to purchase his own maintenance can be squeezed out of him by violence only... the pride of man makes him love to domineer, and nothing mortifies him so much as to be obliged to condescend to persuade his inferiors. Wherever the law allows it, and the nature of the work can afford it, therefore, he will generally prefer the service of slaves to that of freemen."
- Adam Smith, "The Wealth of Nations" (1776)
The anti-slavery movement
was spearheaded by people who would today be called "the religious right"
and its organization was created by conservative businessmen. Moreover,
what destroyed slavery in the non-Western world was Western imperialism.
Nothing could be more jolting and discordant with the vision of today's
intellectuals than the fact that it was businessmen, devout religious leaders
and Western imperialists who together destroyed slavery around the world.
And if it doesn't fit their vision, it is the same to them as if it never
- Thomas Sowell
Since the 1960s, it
has been fashionable in some quarters to take cheap shots at Lincoln, asking
such questions as "Why didn't he free all the slaves?" "Why did he wait
so long?" "How come the Emancipation Proclamation didn't just come right
out and say that slavery was wrong?"
People who indulge themselves in this kind of self-righteous carping act as if Lincoln was someone who could do whatever he damn well pleased, without regard to the law, the Congress, or the Supreme Court. Just one fact should give pause to Lincoln's critics today: When Lincoln sat down to write the Emancipation Proclamation, the Supreme Court was still headed by Chief Justice Roger Taney, who had issued the infamous Dred Scott decision, saying a black man had no rights which a white man needed to respect. This was a Supreme Court that would not have hesitated to declare the freeing of slaves unconstitutional — and Lincoln knew it. There would have been no point in issuing an Emancipation Proclamation that didn't actually emancipate anybody. Ringing rhetoric about the wrongness of slavery would not have gotten the Emancipation Proclamation past Taney and his Supreme Court. Since Lincoln's purpose was to free millions of human beings, not leave some rhetoric to be preserved in the anthologies, he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation in dry legalistic terms that disappointed thoughtless critics in his time and ours, but got it past the Supreme Court. Nothing in the Constitution gave a President the authority to free slaves. The only thing Lincoln could use to make his actions legal was his authority as commander-in-chief in wartime. But that meant that he could only free the slaves in territory controlled by enemy forces. Lincoln was out on a limb, both politically and legally. He could have been impeached. At a minimum, he expected to lose the next election and was surprised when he didn't. But today we see the spectacle of pygmies sniping at this giant. As for the other slaves not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln worked behind the scenes to try to get slave-holding border states to emancipate them by state actions that would be beyond the jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Thomas Sowell, "Trashing Our History: Lincoln"
"The war for my life
had begun, and I resolved not to be conquered... My master had power and
law on his side. I had a determined will."
- Harriet Jacobs, who escaped from slavery aged 21
"Perhaps no class has
carried prejudice against colour to a point more dangerous than have the
Irish and yet no people have been more relentlessly oppressed on account
of race and religion."
– Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and former slave
Lincoln image by Chip Bok.
# WHITE SLAVERY
"Hope, the best comfort
of our imperfect condition, was not denied to the Roman slave; and if he
had any opportunity of rendering himself either useful or agreeable, he
might very naturally expect that the diligence and fidelity of a few years
would be rewarded with the inestimable gift of freedom."
- Edward Gibbon, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", 1776.
Julius Caesar enslaved
as many as one million Whites from Gaul. From the eighth to the eleventh
century France was a major transfer point for White slaves to the Muslim
world, with Rouen being the center for the selling of Irish and Flemish
slaves. At the same time Venetians were selling slaves and timber across
the Mediterranean. The slaves were usually Slavs brought across the Alps.
From 1609 until the early 1800's, between one half and two thirds of all
the White colonists who came to the New World came as slaves. Of the passengers
on the Mayflower, twelve were White slaves. White slaves cleared the forests,
drained the swamps, built the roads. They worked and died in greater numbers
than anyone else.
In Barbados by the 1640's there were an estimated 25,000 slaves, of whom 21,700 were White. Cromwell's conquest of Ireland in the middle of the seventeenth century made slaves as well as subjects of the Irish people. Over a hundred thousand men, women and children were seized by the English troops and shipped to the West Indies, where they were sold into slavery. In the British West Indies the torture visited upon White slaves by their masters was routine. Masters hung White slaves by their hands and set their hands afire as a means of punishment.
To end this barbarity, Colonel William Brayne wrote to English authorities in 1656 urging the importation of negro slaves on the grounds that, "as the planters would have to pay much for them, they would have an interest in preserving their lives, which was wanting in the case of whites.", many of whom, he charged, were killed by overwork and cruel treatment. Ten thousand Whites were kidnapped from England in the year 1670 alone.
- M.A. Hoffman, "They Were White and They Were Slaves"
Slavery has been a
feature of life in many societies all over the world, from the most ancient
times down to the present day. There is hardly a place that has not been
touched by it; hardly an ethnic group that has not been subjected to this
greatest of all indignities at one time or other. It was the memory of
seeing English children in the slave market at Rome that inspired Gregory
the Great to set about the conversion of the English; and I used to tease
my Irish Republican friends — back when such things were still relevant,
I mean, before they all got jobs trading financial futures — with the historical
fact that in early-medieval Ireland, “British slave girl” was a unit of
currency, equivalent to three cows... We have accustomed ourselves to think
of the race slavery of the Americas as being worse than the indiscriminate
slavery of the ancient world. The slaves of old Rome looked no different
from free citizens. In fact, when one of the emperors had the idea to make
slaves wear some kind of distinctive dress, his advisers dissuaded him
by pointing out that it might not be a good idea to let the slaves see
plainly how numerous they were... Under race slavery, by contrast, what
you were — the color of your skin — marked you out as suitable for slavery.
The Mediterranean slavery of the 16th and 17th centuries fell somewhere
between those two. It was not race slavery, but nor was it indiscriminate.
It was religious slavery. The human beings kidnapped and sold by the Barbary
pirates were fair game because they were Christian. A Christian slave on
the Barbary Coast could attain his freedom by converting to Islam, and
many did so.
There was in fact, says Prof. Davis, something of religious revenge in the depredations of the Muslim slavers. The slave trade really got going after 1492, the year the last Muslims were expelled from Spain — what Osama bin Laden calls “the tragedy of Andalusia.” The whole ghastly business has left few traces. There having been so few female slaves, Europeans seem to have contributed little to the North African gene pool. This whole terrible episode in European history has been forgotten. Is there any chance we might persuade the Muslim nations of North Africa to erect modest monuments to the million or so European Christians who suffered and died as slaves of their ancestors? My guess would be: no chance at all.
- John Derbyshire, reviewing "Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters", "National Review"
An apology for slavery
on behalf of the American nation presumes that whites today, who predominantly
oppose racism, and never owned slaves, and who bear no personal responsibility
for slavery, still bear a collective responsibility-a guilt they bear simply
by belonging to the same race as the slave-holders of the Old South. Such
an apology promotes the very idea at the root of slavery: racial collectivism.
Those who owned slaves were certainly guilty of a grave injustice. But by what standards can other whites (many of whom are not even descendants of the slave-holders) be held responsible for their ideas and actions? The only justification for such an approach is the idea that each member of the race can be blamed for the actions of every other member, that we are all just interchangeable cells of the racial collective.
The ultimate result of this approach is not racial harmony or a color-blind society, but racial warfare. Under the premise of racial collectivism, an injustice committed against any member of your racial group entitles you to retaliate against any member of the perpetrator's racial group.
The only alternative to this kind of racial balkanization is to reject the notion of racial collectivism altogether and embrace the opposite principle: individualism. People should be judged based on their choices, ideas, and actions as individuals, not as "representatives" of a racial group. They should be rewarded based on their own merits-and they must not be forced to pay, or to apologize, for crimes committed by others, merely because those others have the same skin color. Americans, both black and white, should reject the notion of a collective guilt for slavery. They should uphold the ideal of a color-blind society, based on individualism, as the real answer to racism.
There is something
unedifying in politicians apologising, without cost to themselves, for
the sins of their predecessors while deploying all the black arts of their
trade to suppress criticism of their own performance. The same goes for
society at large. It would be more admirable for 21st-century Britain to
be trying to imagine what our successors will see as incomprehensible moral
blindness on our part than to be taking easy shots at the morality of two
centuries ago. What will look as foul to Britons of 2306 as slavery does
to us now? We don’t really want to know, because the answers might well
be inconvenient. Abortion? The eating of animals? It is the people who
get it right at the time who deserve celebration. Which is why we should
honour the remarkable people who put Britain in the lead in suppressing
first the slave trade and then slavery itself after thousands of years
of acceptance of both by all significant societies in all continents.
- William Waldegrave, reviewing Tom Pocock's "Breaking the Chains", "The Spectator"
Hasn't there been slavery
since the dawn of time? Didn't other nations trade too? Weren't Africans
themselves exporters of slaves? Were we not the first country to outlaw
the vile trade? How long do we have to go on saying 'sorry'?
- Gillian Reynolds, on contemporary British reactions to slavery discussions, "The Telegraph"
Siân Rees examines
the long campaign to eradicate the Vile Traffic, as it was called, after
1807 when the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was passed, up until
1869 when the Preventive Squadron lost its independent existence. By 1845,
one British merchant wrote: "We have spent £20,000,000 to abolish
slavery and £20,000,000 more to repress the Slave trade; yet does
no one nation under Heaven give us credit for disinterested sincerity in
this large expenditure of money and philanthrophy."
Few historians now give the British much credit, and some Marxists have even proposed that British capitalists only abolished slavery because they saw more profits and potential for exploitation in a post-abolition world... She has read very thoroughly, and tries to give an all-round account of the slave trade, the abolitionists, and the brave fellows of the Preventive Squadron. History has not been kind to the British, and current trends are keener to blame them for ever having had anything to do with it than to credit them for working against it. As we have seen, even the most benevolent and heroic actions have been eagerly interpreted as the acts of awful hypocrites acting in well-disguised self-interest. This lively and interesting book, taking an alternative view, will no doubt be denounced or ignored in academic courses all over the semi-educated world. That, by the way, is a recommendation.
- Philip Hensher, reviewing "Sweet Water and Bitter", "The Spectator"
For six decades after
the abolition of slavery in Britain in 1807 successive governments, along
with the Admiralty and Foreign Office, took it on themselves to enforce
not only our own law but that of much of Europe and even America. The Particular
Service – later reformed and renamed the Preventive Squadron – liberated
around 160,000 slaves during that period but lost 17,000 British seamen
in battle or by disease. Comprising only a handful of ships, the squadron
was evaded by thousands more, each packed with hundreds of slaves. Unpopular
at home and abroad, the cost of the enterprise was fiercely criticised
by the British public – and its effects fostered ill will with the governments
of Spain, Portugal, France and America, complicating both trade and diplomacy.
Siân Rees’s book aims to rescue this attempt to abolish slavery from
the shadows of history.
- Kate Colquhoun, reviewing "Sweet Water and Bitter", "The Telegraph"
"Think about it: we went into slavery pagans; we came out Christians. We went into slavery pieces of property; we came out American citizens. We went into slavery with chains clanking about our wrists; we came out with the American ballot in our hands. Notwithstanding the cruelty and moral wrong of slavery, we are in a stronger and more hopeful condition, materially, intellectually, morally and religiously, than is true of an equal number of black people in any other portion of the globe."
- Zora Neale Hurston
In the nineteenth century,
when France and Britain outlawed slavery in their territories, African
chiefs who had grown fat on the slave trade sent protest delegations to
Paris and London. As Dinesh D'Souza in "The End of Racism" explains, Africans
never developed a principled opposition to slavery; they denounced it when
they were slaves but practised it happily when they could. Slavery can
still be found in Africa. In America too, by 1830, some 3,500 free blacks
in the South owned approximately 10,000 slaves.
D'Souza finds that in North America "slaves were, in material terms of diet, health and shelter, slightly better off than northern industrial workers, and far better off than workers in much of Europe." As he points out, "no free workers enjoyed a comparable social security system from birth until death." Moreover, life expectancy for slaves was only slightly lower than that of their owners. When slave owners had really dangerous work to do, they hired Irish navvies rather than risk their valuable property." On balance, says Mr D'Souza, whites owe blacks nothing on account of slavery.
Six inconvenient truths
about the U.S. and slavery:
1. Slavery was an ancient and universal institution, not a distinctively American innovation.
2. Slavery existed only briefly, and in limited locales, in the history of America, and involved only a tiny percentage of the ancestors of today’s Americans.
3. Though brutal, slavery wasn’t genocidal: live slaves were valuable but dead ones brought no profit, which is why slave-owners wanted to keep them healthy and breed them, not kill them.
4. It’s not true that the US became a wealthy nation through the abuse of slave labour: the most prosperous states in the country were those that were first to free their slaves.
5. While America deserves no unique blame for the existence of slavery, the US (along with Britain) merits special credit for its rapid abolition.
6. There is every reason to believe that today’s African-Americans would be worse off had their ancestors remained behind in Africa
- A summary of a Michael Medved article for Townhall
# SLAVERY IN POPULAR FICTION
"These things I'm going
to tell you know you must hear with more than your ears, for not to do
as I say can mean your being taken away to a place outside our world, outside
of us, forever. Never be alone when you can help it. Never be out at night
when you can help it. And, day or night, if you are alone keep away from
any high wades or bushes. And if eevr you see much smoke away from any
village it's probably the white man's cooking fire, which are always too
big. And remember, when you are close to where he has been his scent remains
in the aur. It is a smell like a wet chicken. The white man is here."
- A Mandinka elder warns the young men of the tribe against slave traders, "Roots"
"There ain't no way
to beat the law! White folks live by it, and niggas die by it."
- Fiddler to Kunte Kinte\Toby, "Roots"
"Don't you ever call
me sir again, you hear? ...Massah."
- Tom, trying to make an overseer of George Johnson, "Roots"
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