Thursday, April 29, 2010

Complicity

Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from SlaveryHow the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery 
By: Jonathan Harris

Three journalists of the Hartford Courant, all hailing from Northern States, made a startling discovery a couple years ago as they researched a local lawsuit involving a demand for reparations from modern companies involved in the slave trade. Investigating what appeared to be a peculiar civic incident turned into year and a half post-magazine endeavor turned into a book entitled Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery. The three Northerners describe their initial reaction to the evidence incriminating their homeland as follows:

Our first response was confusion: Hold on, weren't we the good guys in the Civil War? Wasn't the South to blame for slavery? After all, Southerners had plantations, we had the Underground Railroad. They had Simon Legree, we had his abolitionist creator. . . We are journalists, not scholars, and want to share what surprised, and even shocked, the three of us. We have all grown up, attended schools, and worked in Northern states, from Maine to Maryland. We thought we knew our home. We thought we knew our country. We were wrong.

It is well worth emphasizing the these journalists are not Southern sympathizers by any stretch of the imagination. Their conclusion seems to be, "The South was wrong but so was the North. We just didn't realized what hypocrites we were." Still, the book is primarily research, and although every author has a bias, these guys do a great job sticking to their facts helping readers, North and South, to draw their own conclusions. Although, in one portion of the book highlighting the horrors of the Middle Passage, we are almost lead to believe that the South possibly could have had the moral high ground (or a pit not quite as deep depending on how you look at it).

Such practices [related to the Middle Passage] underscore the essential difference between the slave traders and slave masters. For better or worse, the lord of a plantation had to coexist with his slaves. The slave trader had only to deliver them.

Most people don't know that the slave trade itself (the cruelest portion of the entire institution) was almost exclusively (at least in the U.S.) a Northeastern business venture. The Great Triangle, in which slave captains sailing from Connecticut and Rhode Island would sell their Northeastern rum in exchange for slaves, and the slaves in exchange for Molasses in the West Indies, is wiped clean from most public school history accounts.  Even after 1808, millions of slaves were still being traded by Northeastern merchants- New York itself, being notorious for turning a blind eye to the nefarious trade made it the staple of its economy. It is thought that Massachusetts Bay in its early years would not have been able to survive without the human flesh trade, and America itself would not have been an economic powerhouse if it weren't for the often hidden, but still created wealth the trade brought. It was the American flag which flew over all slave vessels bearing their precious cargoes to South America, the West Indies, and the American South in the first half of the 19th century- this enabled ships to resist seizure by the British who would capture and deport any slave cargo found (if the slaves weren't sold instead). It was Northerners in "Free States" who often exhibited violence towards those opposed to slavery. William Lloyd Garrison's being chased, roped, and paraded in 1835 Boston, or Elijah Lovejoy's murder by an Illinois mob in 1837, are two of the most famous incidents. And not only was the North a fertile hostility ground for blacks and abolitionists, but it was also from whence came the true intellectual firepower which scientifically justified slavery- Philidelphia's Samuel George Morton and his crew of Northeastern University professors.

Here's a tip of the iceberg sampling of just some of the facts this work expands upon:

In 1760 the slave population of New England and the Mid-Atlantic States was 41,000.
In 1790 New York alone had 20,000 slaves.
In 1807, the DeWolf family ships (one company in a humongous enterprise) brought 2,000 Africans to Charleston in a 7 month period.
In 1822 Cotton is 40% of New York's domestic exports, and the North is the nations hub for Cotton mills.
In 1842 The Prigg decision (precursor to Dread Scott) is written in Massachusetts.
In 1854 Types of Mankind is published by Northern academia challenging the Genesis creation account and scientifically affirming that blacks were inferior to whites.
In 1862 The Comstock, Cheney piano-key manufacturing company is formed in Ivoryton, Connecticut monopolizing a trade for the next fifty years that would enslave or put to death millions of Africans.
In 1863 Draft rioters in New York City kill scores of blacks and set fire to a Colored Orphan Asylum. 

The facts indicting the North are too numerous to highlight in this review so I suggest to anyone interested in studying this hidden history further, pick up a copy, and while you're at it pick up Myths of American Slavery (a book on the slave trade from a Southern perspective) as well. Click on either link below to order.

Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery

Myths of American Slavery

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