jollyroger's picture

    1776! The First War of Southern Secession (spoiler: The South wins this one...)

    In 1772, in one stroke, in Somersett's Case,  Lord Chief Justice The Great Lord Chief Justice Mansfield abolished slavery on any land comprising the United Kingdom.


    The clock began to tick for the full abolition of slavery throughout the Empire in 1833, with the odious slave trade to be abolished in 1808.


    The news of Somersett's Case did not travel with the speed of modern social media, but it got around, and if you were someone (like George Washington, (Va.) the largest slave holder in the 13 colonies, say) whose entire fortune would be at risk under the regime enunciated by Mansfield, your ears perked up.


    There would, of course, be two more secessions of slave holding territories from larger political entities which became set upon the abolition of this abomination, viz the successful establishment of the Republic of Texas in 1836, and the unsuccessful attempt of 1861.


    So in addition to lamenting on July 4 the unfortunate series of events which cause us today to be denied the NHS and nifty coats of arms, let us acknowledge that only because George Washington, (Va.) rallied his fellow slaveholders  eventually to force the British to abandon the Northern half of their pre-1763 holding to southern administration after 1783. people continued to be bought and sold for another thirty years or so, until 1865.


    Just sayin'


    Gerald Horne, Prof History at University of  Houston, has the scholarship.


    George Washington made clear that blacks could not serve in the Continental Army. As a result, many slaves fought for the British to gain their freedom.


    Of course by 1812, the sides were so clearly drawn as to leave us to this day with the embarassment of the Star Spangled Banner, and the explicit  (and apparently to this day unencumbered by irony) insult hurled at the Brits that if not prevented, they were the kind of degenerates who would free slaves!

    so far so good--despite specialising in this period of American History for my PhD (!) and, as you know, not without my own pretensions to progressivism, I was astonished when I first read stanzas 2 & 3 sometime I guess no more than a month or two before the Colin K brouhaha.

    Many thanks. I should have ,but didn't, know it existed.

    The stanza was not taught in most schools. Many more people are familiar with Frederick Douglass' speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?".

    There is a great miniseries "Teheran Book of Negroes" that explores the plight of blacks who fought for the British who had to flee the colonies or face re-enslavement

    There's an interesting local hook in that story, viz Fraunces' Tavern where apparently the founder's portrait that is now hung is of questionable provenance, the motivation for which appears to be to obscure Fraunces' African-American identity...


    One of the oldest colonial structures in New York City today is the Fraunces Tavern, near Wall Street, which still serves as a restaurant and revolutionary era museum.

    According to Cole, early in the museum's history, a reporter wrote of a portrait that used to depict Frances at his namesake tavern and "described him with curly brown hair, a slight double chin and dark black eyes.

    That's missing now. What they have in its place is some guy in a white powder wig and a blue velvet coat with green eyes and no hint of a double chin. And that's their biggest piece of proof that he's not African American."

    Thanks jolly, I had heard that story but never really investigated its accuracy. 

    Boston King and his wife Violet were among those who fought for the British and had to flee the country when the colonists won the war. Both are included in the "Book of Negroes". King escaped from a cruel carpenter who held him in bondage. Once he arrived in British controlled territory, he faced a smallpox epidemic. King became infected but miraculously survived. Blacks who did not recover were taken from camp and abandoned to die in the woods. King fought for the British, but had to escape captivity twice. The first escape was from a Loyalist who attempted to sell King back into slavery. The second escape was from a whaler that captured the pilot boat where he served. As the tide towards the colonists, King and his wife sought refuge behind British lines in New York City, the last major port controlled by British.

    The rumor arabesque that Washington negotiating with the British was pushing for slaves fighting for the British would be sent back to their owners and returned to slavery. The British complied a list of blacks who joined British forces prior to signing of the treaty that did indeed return blacks to slavery. The 3000 people on that list were under British protection and would not be returned the the colonists. They were issued certificates of freedom. Most of the Loyalist blacks were sent to Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia proved far from ideal as British failed to deliver supplies to the towns were the black Loyalists lived. King was able to obtain passage to Sierra Leone for he and his wife. By this time, King had become a preacher. He was tasked with preaching to and converting Africans. Facing a language barrier and lacking teaching skills, King traveled to England to become educated to be a teacher. This enabled him to serve his students better. He goal was to teach English and Christianity

    There are real and powerful stories detailing the lives of the black Loyalists.


    It's extremely common for house museums to have extremely inaccurate furnishings including any portraits. They don't have money for proper staff and scholarship much less acquisitions, they just take donations people give them over the years without many questions asked. If it fits the period, they take it.

    So on first glance, I would not be surprised if his supposition is correct.

    That said, the story interested me, so I did a quick search and already at first stop, wikipedia had enough for me to question his suppositions

    On the Fraunces Tavern page

    1) Heirs of the DeLanceys married into the Van Cortlandt family sold it to him in 1762. DeLancey built it in 1719 as his house. After 1762, but before the Revolution, there were Sons of Liberty meetings there and the Chamber of Commerce was founded there. You're talking major white privileged class people, really the powers that be of New York Colony, as it says The DeLancey family contended with the Livingston family for leadership of the Province of New York.

    2) More specifically, under the "Revolution"sub- heading

    When the war was all but won, the building was the site of "British-American Board of Inquiry" meetings, which negotiated to ensure to American leaders that no "American property" (meaning former slaves who were emancipated by the British for their military service) be allowed to leave with British troops. Board members reviewed the evidence and testimonies that were given by freed slaves every Wednesday from April to November, 1783, and British representatives were successful in ensuring that almost all of the loyalist blacks of New York maintained their liberty and could be evacuated with the "Redcoats" when they left if so desired.[9]

    If Fraunces were a free black, one wonders whether he would have hosted the latter? Especially give that Washington later gives his Farewell there, so it's definitely a Royalist-adverse hangout?

    On the Sam Fraunces page

    It does give his birthplace as "possibly West Indies" with a footnote The suspect portrait is illustrated there and is correctly labeled as "presumed" to be a portrait of him.

    It addresses the whole issue at the beginning:

    Since the mid-19th century, there has been a dispute over Fraunces's racial identity.[3] According to his 1983 biographer, Kym S. Rice: "During the Revolutionary era, Fraunces was commonly referred to as 'Black Sam.' Some have taken references such as these as an indication that Fraunces was a black man. ...[W]hat is known of his life indicates he was a white man."[1]:147–148 Some 19th- and 20th-century sources described Fraunces as "a negro man" (1838),[4] "swarthy" (1878),[5] "mulatto" (1916),[6] "Negro" (1916),[7] "coloured" (1930),[8] "fastidious old Negro" (1934),[9] and "Haitian Negro" (1962),[10] but most of these date from more than a century after his death.[11] As Rice noted in her Documentary History of Fraunces Tavern (1985): "Other than the appearance of the nickname, there are no known references where Fraunces was described as a black man" during his lifetime.[12]:27

    And then more in this sub-heading where it says W.E. Dubois himself couldn't find proof:

    It also illustrates another portrait,  an engraving au naturel without wig supposedly from a life sketch by Trumbull. Though in black and white, it is clearly a man with very Caucasian features. Unfortunately, wikipedia has not sourced this image. If that is a true portrait, which it may very well be because it would have been engraved so it could be published somewhere (Trumbull was the major American artist of the time, 1756-1843, hung in The Founders' circle, painted "The Declaration of Independence" in the Capitol Rotunda), this person would have definitely passed as white even if he had black blood.

    Then on to all the other extensive information on Fraunces there, on his "Memorial to Congress", on his personal relationship with Washington (who, were are often reminded, had many slaves), this is not the biography of a nobody, he was well known, prominent, lots of access to power, there are a lot in contemporary records on him, if he presented as a freed black, it would have been mentioned in records. I can only conclude that if he had a black blood he hid it and did so quite well. Just with the evidence Wikipedia presents, I would conclude: not worth pursuing any further, ain't gonna find anything, if he had black blood, he himself didn't want it known.

    oops, being a sloppy scholar myself, I did not check out the bottom of the wikipedia page til now, and I see this, records pertaining to him owning African slaves, he advertised the sale of one:

    Family and slavery

    Fraunces may have had a first wife named Mary Carlile.[19] He married Elizabeth Dally at Trinity Church, Manhattan on November 30, 1757.[46] They had seven children: Andrew Gautier Fraunces, Elizabeth Fraunces Thompson,[47] Catherine Fraunces Smock, Sophia Fraunces Gomez, Sarah Fraunces Campbell, Samuel M. Fraunces, and Hannah Louisa Fraunces Kelly.[note 8] Andrew G. Fraunces worked in the U.S. Treasury Department until 1793,[49] and published a pamphlet denouncing Alexander Hamilton for his financial dealings.[50] Some of the other children ran hotels or boardinghouses. Samuel M. Fraunces, served as executor of his father's estate,[51] and was listed as an "Inn keeper" at 59 South Water Street in the 1795 Philadelphia Directory.[52]

    Fraunces employed servants, including indentured servants, and held enslaved Africans in bondage.[19] In 1778, he advertised the sale of a 14-year-old male slave.[53] The 1790 United States Census for New York listed him as a free white male, with four free white women, and one slave in his household.[54]

    and this on the portrait illustrations. Which tells me, as I suspected, that it is quite possible that the oil portrait is not correct. But that the little sketch most probably is correct! He very probably looked just like that ink sketch, and the original sketch may very well still be with his family:


    The oil-on-canvas portrait at the top of this article was purchased by the Sons of the Revolution in 1913, announced at their December 4 annual meeting,[note 9] and has been displayed at Fraunces Tavern ever since.[60] It came from the collection of Anna E. Macy of Riveredge, New Jersey, and was offered for auction at Merwin Sales Company, November 17, 1913.[60] Auction catalogue description: "Artist Unknown / Colonial Period / Portrait of Samuel Fraunces / Canvas. Height 29in: width, 23in."[60] Art forensic experts examined the portrait in October 2016, and concluded that it dated from the 18th century.[60]

    The ink sketch at the top of this article – undated, inscribed: "from Fraunce [sic] of Fraunces Tavern / J.T.", and attributed to John Trumbull – descended in the Fraunces family.[12]:Appendix 33–34 An engraving from the ink sketch was an illustration in Alice Morse Earle, Stagecoach and Tavern Days (1900), page 184. The illustration was credited: "Sam Fraunces. From original drawing. Owned by Mrs. A. Livingston Mason, Newport, R.I."[61]

    A copy of the oil-on-canvas portrait was painted for the Fraunces Tavern restaurant in 2002, and is viewable on Flickr.[62]

    Also interesting that slavery was only made hereditary in the mid-1600s, so it was a relatively young institution as we know it when this court case threatened to take it away if not for revolt. Of course NY, Mass, NJ and Maryland joined Virginia's 17th century trend (PA I believe being more humane?), Boston enjoying a bit of slave trade out of freedom harbor before figuring out a century later they just needed the cotton, not the slaves. Of course the Revolution wssn't fit *just* over slavery, but that early version of Dred Scott likely formed a good bit of worry over eminent domain and the Rights of Kings & Remote Governments/Courts more than just high taxes. Ironically this was before the cotton gin when the significance of cotton and thus slavery increased immensely.

    Star Spangled Banner bit hilarious if it weren't horrifying and pathetic at the same time. Let's hear it for those Founding Fathers and original intent nich einmal. Just had a conversation recently about those white traditions The Blacks insist on taking away. Start to wonder if there were any that ultimately didn't involve a brown, red or yellow complexion under a boot.

    The capitalist version of the institution was young but not the institutionalized practice in many forms, west, east, everywhere. The particular incongruity of our nation's founding influenced by Enlightenment ideals is what makes it different, we could have easily gone in the other direction given the new theories about "all men being created equal" some were espousing. On why we went in the other direction: yes of course there's the institutionalization going on in a new capitalist country with lots of land and resources but not enough hands. But there's another thing going on, too, we know from personal histories. While hoping not to derail the historic topic of this thread, I'd like to recommend this recent (and very viral) The Atlantic piece on slavery in a 20th-century Filipino-American immigrant family for insight into the insidious rationalizations that occur when the practice.has sunk into a culture. One thing among many that this article made me realize: the awesome bravery of rebel slaves and even the bravery of being anti-slavery during the Enlightenment.

    so a p.s. afterthought more addressed to Jolly's main point: could we sort of commemorate the 4th as "two cheers for the ongoing process of the Enlightenment" day? yes, the southern colonies were being dragged along kicking and screaming, from middle ages, into a new experiment. It was definitley a "to be continued".

    I am willing to concede that to actualize their program of insulating their "property" (aka "purfuit pursuit of happiness...") from the  tender mercies of the British Common Law, they were obliged to concoct a theory of sovereignty deriving from the consent of the governed, but it was really the consent of the propertied and acquiescence of everybody else.


    Welcome to The Enlightenment.

    oh yeah, that's true, no argument from me. The Enlightenment after all was a child of the propertied and of capitalism. (See Marx for the rest?) The revolution was mainly about taxation without representation, after all (hence a late 20th-century movement called the Tea Party), all that extra stuff about all men are created equal blah blah blah a bunch of other ideas taken from classical Greece and Rome as scholarship and archeology improved since the Renaissance, they are talking then about their own class and just starting to tinker with those ideas and not the enormity of the meaning of the words they were writing. (In context, in 1776, the French are still a royal-run country without even a Parliament like the Brits had.

    The founders seem quite bourgeois, actually, now that I think of it, all these "new landed" are up in arms that the House of Lords and the King think they are better than us or something? Because our land is new and wild and not "gentrified" over centuries? We are their equal.

    And yes, for the bigger property owners, absolutely meant many slaves were part of their property, as was probably common in Brit colonies around the globe.

    But it is the start of not accepting all these classes of people, it is a new way of thinking, I don't think we should minimize that change. Before that time, slavery around the world was just accepted as a given, and a property owner was usually someone with a title, and all the rest were lesser beings.

    Edit to add: serfs in Russia weren't freed until 1861. It really did take a great deal of time to sink in that humans shouldn't own other humans. It's not like everyone woke up one morning in the 18th century and went: doh!

    The north was always so excited to be 1 step ahead of the south during that dragging and kicking. "Dumb and Dumber" was good enough to feel superior, and still is, surprising or not. My point on the practice was simply that before 1650 or so, slavery in the US didn't mean forever, or then at least not for your kids. Then it did. Quinn noted before that many Europeans came to the Americas as indentured servants, but at minimum there was the hope left that the children would be free where the parents weren't. And suddenly that was gone. For blacks, at first everywhere, then limited to the south. The Somerset biz was dangerous especially since the colonists had declared that blacks couldn't be made Christian, couldn't be baptized, as would interfere with their being slaves - but it also effectively acknowledged their souls, their humanity. They wanted it both ways, but after 1772 they couldn't have it, despite the revolution, the revisionist laws, all the ways of convoluting logic. I know there are various types of slavery - I used to see the Filipinos hanging out on their free day, Sundays, in Hong Kong with nowhere to go, but still better than in Dubai where they barely existed. But even that was arguably a choice - not much of one, but still a choice, or as in Lola's case, a limited curse, not one for the generations.

    PS - I would love for the Enlightenment to be ongoing - I hope it is, but I must say it's a questionably referenced hope. This year more than most has been brutal towards optimism, though a bit of light here across the pond despite or highlighted by the problems.

    It is important that we realize he Enlightenment is not here. Trump is acting like a dictator. Dictators go after the press. Trump is trying to eject people from the voting rolls. He has the support of a political party. Many of our fellow citizens are in lockstep with Trump. We cannot pretend that racial bias is not part of the framework that appeals  to Trump supporters. We have to be realistic while remaking idealistic. Racism persists.

    Voters influenced by Black Lives Matter inspired voters have thrown prosecutors who failed to address police abuse out of office. Black Lives Matter is criticized, but this is no different than virtually every other black Civil Right group. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali became icons to many whites only after deaths. Black voters are fighting back. Black female Democrats are calling out Tom Perez and the DNC for taking them for granted. The Democratic Party will have to work for black votes in 2018.

    There may be a glimmer of the Enlightenment coming through. In the aftermath of Beyoncé's "Lemonade", Jay-Z's new album "4.44" addresses respect for women, building wealth in the black community, and homophobia. He woke up at 4:44 A.M. to pen the first words. 

    The fight continues.


    Some perspective from the Communist days. And Beyonce & Jay-Z trying to trademark "Rumi"? I shake my head in disbelief. Everybody's gone whack.

    Police departments in Miami, Tampa and Pittsburgh called for refusing to provide protection at Beyoncé concerts.


    There were state-planned dance steps, such as the Lipsi, an attempt to prevent the rise of rock and roll dancing.  

    No doubt emulating Rudy Guiliani's enforcement of the Cabaret Act in NYC...

    Off thread: love this paragraph from your link:

    Another teenager, Alexander Kuehne, was desperate to bring more music into his life in a remote village hours from Berlin. What about getting hold of the latest Western records? As pensioners - not seen as vital to the state - were allowed by the GDR regime to visit the West, he'd give his grandmother shopping lists. It didn't go well. She misread The Clash and came back with Johnny Cash - you can still see the pain in Alexander's face as he recalls this "huge nightmare".

    I recall it like this: all greatest generation save Ed Sullivan (one of the greatest mysteries of all time) were equally clueless if not upset or angry.

    That Playboy interview with Frank Sinatra I posted a while back was equally enlightened - for all his later rep, he was quite progressive in early 60's. Don't know if that included music ;-)

    Republicans in the South are still trying to exact revenge. Voter suppression was attempted in North Carolina but rejected by the Supreme Court

    An analysis of the Trump victory found the racism was a major factor in the vote for Trump.

    ​Blacks fought for the British because they weren't accepted in the Continental Army, even though Crispus Attucks was among the first to die protesting the British. Blacks fought lynching. Blacks fought Jim Crow. Blacks now fight voter suppression and police abuse. Happy Fourth of July.


    On a more positive note regarding blacks in the Revolutionary War, a majority black regiment did fight valiantly for the Continental Army against the British. The 1st Rhode Island Regiment wasn't recruiting many soldiers. The state offered freedom to slaves who joined the Continental Army. 140 slaves signed up before Rhode Island slave owners halted the program. The 140 ex-slaves formed the bulk of the 225 soldiers The black soldiers proved a formidable foe to the British and Hessians they encountered. They did wind up losing badly in a battle in which their commander was captured and slaughtered.

    George Washington eventually relented and allowed blacks to join the army. I remember my father telling me about blacks fighting on both sides in the Revolutionary War and still losing because slavery remained intact.

    The rejection of Monarchy had to answer the logic of Hobbes who argued that an authority capable of bringing law and order to a society could not be directly generated by its members. The natural state of man is war with all others. The acceptance of authority as a means of escaping that war provides the template for all other rights.

    Thomas Paine's answer was that the only replacement for the arbitrary function of the Autocrat was Conscience. Like the logic of monarchy, conscience has it own demands, benefits, and punishments. So it is perfectly consistent, that in 1775,  Thomas Paine published his denouncement of slavery, summed up with the following bullet points:

    1. With what consistency, or decency they complain so loudly of attempts to enslave them, while they hold so many hundred thousands in slavery; and annually enslave many thousands more, without any pretence of authority, or claim upon them?

    2. How just, how suitable to our crime is the punishment with which Providence threatens us? We have enslaved multitudes, and shed much innocent blood in doing it; and now are threatened with the same. And while other evils are confessed, and bewailed, why not this especially, and publicity; than which no other vice, if all others, has brought so much guilt on the land?

    3. Whether, then, all ought not immediately to discontinue and renounce it, with grief and abhorrence? Should not every society bear testimony against it, and account obstinate persisters in it bad men, enemies to their country, and exclude them from fellowship; as they often do for much lesser faults?

    In the court of Paine's jurisdiction, the investigation is still underway. With all the hypocrisy and sins we have piled up, can we become worthy of the claims we make in the name of Liberty?

    Thanks for this, moat. Especially your first paragraph,so remarkable in its clarity about stuff I was just fumbling with in a confused manner.

    And yes, Paine, well he was a true radical ideologue unlike many of the others? But without him all of it might not have happened at all...

    Paine certainly made some of his compatriots nervous. John Adams considered his egalitarian message too extreme before the Revolution and made efforts to belittle Paine's standing afterwards.

    Thanks again, you bringing all this up reminded me I knew Adams never owned a slave. So I went in search of any of his opinions on slavery and I found this:

    A primary source by John Adams

    John Adams to George Churchman and Jacob Lindley, January 24, 1801. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

    On January 24, 1801, President John Adams responded to two abolitionists who had sent him an anti-slavery pamphlet by Quaker reformer Warner Mifflin (1745–1798). In the letter, Adams expresses his views on slavery, the dangers posed by abolitionists (who at the time were mostly Quakers and unpopular religious radicals), and emancipation. Of slavery Adams writes, “my opinion against it has always been known,” noting that he has “always employed freemen both as Domisticks and Labourers, and never in my Life did I own a Slave.” [....]


    Even a man as intelligent and thoughtful as Adams was wrangling with it.

    It was just so helpful for you to bring up the Hobbesian view of things for the point I was trying to make. I firmly believe that people in general really thought differently from us before the Enlightenment. And it was a process of realization, not a lightbulb, in which our founders were major participants. Comes from my study of "the Dark Ages", but no need to get into that here, your paragraph on Hobbes and the idea of top-down authority as the only way to have civilization sums it up well.

    My point was not to apologize for slavery but to bring up that people had accepted it for millenia as part of the whole natural condition of things. Like I said, in the end, where it goes down for me: I think it was amazingly brave to challenge slavery at the time. And I think that the challenge of standard Hobbesian way of doing things that our founders were attempting is still something we should be very proud of, because it was participation in the whole process that eventually ended up with a new civilization without slavery. Not to mention freedom of speech and religion and one man one vote. That many of them had mercenary motives or other motives we do not laud does not diminish this for me as it does seem to diminish it for Jolly Roger. Precisely because: you need coalitions to affect revolutions, where many of the participants will not be ideal. Suffice it to say Patrick Henry couldn't have done it alone. I for one am still in awe of what our founders did, and proud of it, even though many of them were no doubt nasty privileged white guys in many ways.

    One of the Loyalists listed in the "Book of Negroes" was Deborah Squash who escaped from George Washington. She fled to British lines in New York and then to Canada. Her story was told in an exhibit on slavery in New York in 2005.

    One exhibit, for example, centers on a 1782 ledger called "The Book of Negros," which documented the names and owners of 3,000 slaves who chose the side of the British during the Revolutionary War. As loyalists under British rule, they were granted freedom and safe passage to Canada by British Gen. Guy Carleton when the war ended.

    Among the names listed was Deborah Squash, a 20-year-old slave owned by Gen. George Washington. Determined to claim his property, Washington personally called on Carleton to demand her return -- only to discover that she had already fled to Canada.

    Washington tried to re-enslave the woman, but she was already in Canada.

    Henry Washington, another slave of George Washington, escaped, became a Loyalist and served as a corporal. He was among those the British transported to Nova Scotia.

    Obey Judge was another escaped slave of George Washington. She escaped while the family was in Philadelphia. Obey settled in New Hampshire with the help of abolitionists. Washington posted an ad seeking her return.

    It  is hard to have warm feelings for George.


    When black families attempt simple things like building a family tree they often run into obstacles created by the evil that was slavery. To find ancestors, you are forced to go looking for property. You hope that you can match names of descriptions. The process does not endear the founders to your heart.

    A popular Southern reproach to the current statue removal project which is diminishing the number of treasonous memorials goes "Next they'll come for Jefferson and Washington", to which one can but respond "Hell, yeah!"

    Our national problem is that we continue to whitewash evil. Black bodies were tortured for profit. We try to claim that this was done by people who were Christian and good people. We try to pretend that people who tolerated Jim Crow being forced upon their neighbors were good people. Today we see unarmed blacks gunned down by police and juries turning a blind eye. We see overt attempts at voter suppression of minorities. We see this crap today and call Black Lives Matter a terrorist group. We see racism in Trump supporters and we are told to shut up about what we see. Racism continues to be a powerful and evil force because we are afraid of calling out the evil.

    The NRA feels free to put out a racist message and refuse to protect black gun owners. Trump can have a white supremacist as a senior adviser. Fox News can be racist and the anchors who work there are still assured that MSNBC will offer them a contract. The lady who was upset that mythical Santa Claus was depicted as black is at "Liberal" MSNBC. 

    We have a family reunion at the end of the month. We are still trying to complete our family tree. Screw the "Founding Fathers". The Fourth of July is simply a day off to eat barbecue.

    Samuel Fraunces may have decided to "pass" for white to survive in a racist society. "A Chosen Exile" gives some of the details. To pass for white, Fraunces would have registered to vote, owned slaves and hired indentured servants.

    Edit to add:

    Note to George Washington, if at least two slaves in your household fled to the British for safety and release from involuntary bondage, you suck as an icon for freedom.

    We have Confederate flag flying nitwits show up at Gettysburg. They were a mixture of militia groups, Sons of the Confederates, KKK members, and Trump supporters. The first thing out of their mouths is that the Confederacy not about slavery. They are able to state this nonsense because they have been coddled. We avoid telling the truth about the racism of the Confederacy because it may rut their delicate feelings.In actions leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia rounded up Pennsylvania blacks slave and free to send to the South for enslavement. Blacks were considered contraband.

    Confederate rally

    ​Confederate round up of blacks

    ​The Confederate supporters in modern day Pennsylvania can ignore the slavery aspect because they have never been forcefully confronted with the racism of the Confederate campaign. They have been allowed to hide behind the myth of "state's Rights". We coddled delusional people in the past. Today we face Trump supporters who cheer on Muslim bans, voter suppression and police abuse. We have to confront racism head on.

    Hold on - if there's 1 place flag "nitwits" should be able to show up is the battlefield where that cause fought. Soldiers have been sacrificed for good and bad causes since eternity.

    True. Nitwits have to be somewhere.

    I love the testamentary emancipation frame: ' I'm willing to set you free, as long as my heirs bear any cost, but please don't fail to credit my display of virtue--and, btw, half the time I'm gonna make the action insufficiently mandatory to overcome what will turn out to be the cupidity of my executors."

    To the best of my recollection, no biography of these pricks omits some at least optative nod towards the stain on their souls, "He always intended that....", "He left instructions that...." "Although his will specified that, nonetheless..."



    I agree that one can admire and honor the men and women of the Revolution without apologizing for their defects and crimes. I admire and honor Martin Luther for taking on the Church but don't place that regard on a scale to balance his intense hatred of Jews. Speaking of Luther, he is the poster boy for starting a certain way of talking and then getting weak knees when others followed the logic further than he did. John Adam's reaction is a replay of the reaction of some Puritans to the Levelers before the English Civil War. Hobbes' low regard for democratic institutions was not only reaction to a new culture but a memory of that war for "freedom".

    What interests me more than making a final judgment of historical figures and whether "mitigating" circumstances should count against their defects is the question of what is inevitable about what has taken place. The Jolly Roger began this discussion with "the clock was ticking on slavery." The home theater of my tiny mind has no alternative history to play that is less bloody and traumatizing than the one revealed by actual events. In the context of the unfolding domination of European powers over the whole world, the rise of "people wars" and ethnic and racial identity behind them became mighty Leviathans in the in 19th and 20th Century. Along side the important ideas expressed about what was happening is an equally significant skepticism that we were asking the right questions to even talk about it. Tolstoy thought about the invasion of Russia and doubted the presence of the short Corsican with the itchy beer belly was a sufficient explanation for why all those French people were in Moscow. James Baldwin listened to all the economic descriptions of slavery and found they did not explain the desire to keep sub-humans nearby.

    In the absence of complete explanations, I am drawn to John Stuart Mills idea that does not require them:

    He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties. He must use observation to see, reasoning and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision. And these qualities he requires and exercises exactly in proportion as the part of his conduct which he determines according to his own judgment and feelings is a large one. It is possible that he might be guided in some good path, and kept out of harm's way, without any of these things. But what will be his comparative worth as a human being? It really is of importance, not only what men do, but also what manner of men they are that do it. Among the works of man, which human life is rightly employed in perfecting and beautifying, the first in importance surely is man himself. Supposing it were possible to get houses built, corn grown, battles fought, causes tried, and even churches erected and prayers said, by machinery--by automatons in human form--it would be a considerable loss to exchange for these automatons even the men and women who at present inhabit the more civilized parts of the world, and who assuredly are but starved specimens of what nature can and will produce. Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.

    John Stuart Mill. On liberty

    If man is to be the measure of all things then it better be this kind of man.

    Given the choice between enslavement at Mount Vernon or the chance at freedom behind British lines, which would you have chosen?

    I would have chosen going with the British. It would suck when I found out that they valued me as little as the other side did.

    Is your question a response to something I said?

    No. We tend to absolve the slave owners with little thought about the slaves. I was wondering what you would do when viewed from a differ perspective.

    I have no desire to absolve anybody, especially slave holders.

    It seems to me that a distinction should be made between arguments regarding the veneration due or not for pro-slavery "Founders" and the idea put forward by our Resident Pirate that the Revolutionary War was a referendum on the institution of Slavery and the corollary suggestion that victory of the British would have meant the end of the matter. The skepticism I express regarding this idea doesn't turn George Washington into a secret abolitionists.

    The British had to be pushed on the issue of slavery as well.They may have ended the practice in the colonies if it meant gaining an edge on the colonists who owned slaves. Slave owners had cash and political power.

    The British ruled in 1772 that chattel slavery was not supported by the common law in the British Isles and Wales

    They were ahead of the colonists.

    They were the same - they both thought it okay to have slaves in Virginia and Jamaica (and Eireland), just not in Merrye Olde Englande.

    Britain ended slavery before the former colonies ended slavery. Neither of the two were angels.


    Paine was da' man, wasn't he?  If he were alive today and had the Facebook loudspeaker (Mike Check Mike Check", inequality would disappear from the earth in about five months.

    Fans of Thomas Paine in particular or history in general may be interested in watching him in a conversation with Cleopatra, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Aquinas. One aspect of the program I found quite interesting is the live audience reaction to some of the now taboo viewpoints expressed by the various participants. Hearing the clapping and cheering for some of those views on national TV would be quite jarring today, only forty-one years later. 

    For a revolutionary tradition that arose in the New World and was consciously anti-racist, the work of Bolivar is extremely interesting, informed as it was by the refuge he received in Haiti early in his revolution.  


    The tortured reasoning and bullshit religion, that were of necessity marshaled by North American revolutionaries to obscure the contradictions of their racism, are rendered in stark relief by contrast.

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