Everyone Should Know The Truth About Slavery in America

Engraving of slaves picking cotton on a Louisiana planation in the 19th century. (courtesy of istockphoto.com)

February 20, 2024

This post is my contributions to Black History Month in the U.S.

Nancy Spannaus has made an invaluable contribution to the history of the fight over slavery in the United States, with her new book; Defeating Slavery: Hamilton’s American System Showed the Way. Thoroughly documented, Spannaus exposes the falsehood that America was founded on slavery, or that slavery is in the DNA of Americans. Not only are such untruths historically unfounded, but they are downright folly, and display gross ignorance of the history of the United States. Slavery was a disease, a cancer inside the United States, which sadly is still affecting our society today. However, it is not the basis of the more profound accomplishments of the United States, in its better days.

As anyone who understands real economics would know, it is physically impossible for slavery to begat the creation of the United States as an industrialized power. Slave labor, which dominated a whole section of the southern portion of the United States, is not a driver of economic growth, but rather retards development.

I concur with Spannaus, that if the economic principles of Alexander Hamilton had been fully implemented, the southern slave labor economies would have been driven out of existence. Southern United States, which I know well, still displays the backwardness inherent in its legacy from slavery, which President Lincoln intended to eradicate. Unfortunately, the assassination of President Lincoln, also killed his plans for full  reconstruction of the South.

Bluntly stated, the whole 1619 Project , which erroneously purports that the U.S. was founded on slavery, is a fraudulent attack on the United Staes of America. Our nation is imperfect. Its greatest flaw is an uneducated populace that has been dumb downed over the last half century to submit to popular opinion, rather than investigate the truth  on such critical issues as slavery. Spannaus, in her new book unmasks the actual fight for and against slavery in the U.S. And in so doing, has performed an invaluable service to U.S. and to universal history.

Another valuable benefit to this book is the rich history of the fight for and against the realization of the unique American System of Political Economy, which Spannaus traces from Alexander Hamilton to President Abraham Lincoln

Slavery Has Always Been A Battle

Spannaus boldly states on page one, that contrary to what many uninformed Americans believe, our American Revolution created the first antislavery movement in the world. Do our citizens even know that before the creation of the United States, the colony of Rhode Island banned slavery in 1652, and the colony of Georgia outlawed slavery in 1733? (p. 2) Or that as early as 1688, the Society of Friends in Germantown, Pennsylvania, issued the first petition against slavery? Astonishingly, five decades after 1619, there was only one British colonial territory, South Carolina, which was explicitly founded as a slave economy. (p. 39)

Massachusetts was a leading colony advocating the elimination of slavery. Sam Adams, a leader in the Revolutionary War, in 1766, chaired a town meeting on slavery, which instructed the state’s representatives: that for the total abolishing of slavery among us, you move for a law to prohibit the importation and purchasing of slaves for the future. (p. 63)

Pennsylvania was also a hotbed of the anti-slavery movement. Anthony Benezet, an immigrant, who became a leader and activist in Pennsylvania for the education of black children and the elimination of slavery,  published numerous tracts against slavery. But Benezet did more than write. In 1775 he established a first known organization dedicated to the abolition of slavery anywhere in the world.” (p. 77)

In 1775 , Pennsylvania quakers, under the guidance of Benezet, established the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. Years later its second iteration became, the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting Abolition of Slavery and for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, commonly called the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. (pp. 77-78)

Alexander Hamilton, one of the nation’s founding fathers, first secretary of treasury, and leader in the fight against slavery. (Courtesy of blogs.shu.edu)

Revolutionary figures John Jay and Alexander Hamilton formed the New York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, in 1785. The preamble to their association read in part:

The Benevolent Creator, and Father of all  Men; having given to them all equal right to life, liberty, and property, no sovereign power on earth can justly deprive them of either but in conformity to part impartial laws…(p. 134)

Yet slavery spread even with public sentiment against it. To outlaw enslavement of our fellow Americans required our bloody Civil War, at a cost of 750,000 lives. However, after almost 250 years since the founding of our nation, and almost 160 years since the ending of the Civil War, we are still engrossed in fighting the legacy of slavery. Why wasn’t slavery extinguished and how could that have been accomplished?

U.S. Constitution adopted in September 17, 1787, (courtesy of billpetro.medium.com)

Slavery Could Have Been Eliminated

In her book, Spannaus makes a unique contribution to the discussion of the elimination of slavery. She boldly asserts that had Alexander Hamilton’s economic principles been fully executed across the United States, slavery would have been extirpated from American society. While this idea may seem foreign to many, it is actually elementary. It requires people freeing  themselves from the mysterious belief that economic growth is determined by the “invisible hand, or “buy low and sell dear,” or British spawned “free trade.” Once one rejects this deliberate miseducation by our society, and comprehends the principles of physical economy, we understand the following: an uneducated, poorly paid, poorly fed, and over worked labor force is less productive and yields less profit to the economy. A backward slave labor system that squeezes out “profit” from the exploitation of backbreaking manual labor in growing sugar, cotton, and tobacco, cannot compete with the labor force of an industrialized economy.

Alexander Hamilton expressed this concept as early as 1774, two years before the revolution.

Were not the disadvantages of slavery too obvious to stand in need of it, I might enumerate and describe all the tedious train of calamities, inseparable from it. I might shew that it is fatal to religion and morality; that it tends to debase the mind, and corrupt its noblest springs of action. I might shew, that it relaxes the sinews of industry, clips the wings of commerce, and introduces misery and indigence in every shape. (p. 165)

Spannaus summarizes that Hamilton emphasized two concepts that are central to industrial progress: the productive powers of labor and the need to stimulate the creative powers of the human mind. Both are starkly antithetical to the feudal slave labor system. (p. 166)

Hamilton opposed slavery because it debased human beings, and he knew that slave based agriculture system would weaken the United States. The British not only ran the transatlantic slave trade but invested in the southern slave labor economy as a means of breaking apart our Republic, while making huge profits in the process.

Industrialization Required

Henry Charles Carey, chief economic adviser to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. (courtesy of en.wikipedia.org)

In his Report on Manufacturers,* Hamilton argues the necessity for the United States to become a manufacturing society, but also to exploit, if you will, the capital of the human mind. In the above cited Report, Hamilton writes that manufacturing, unlike slave-labor, serves: to cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying the objects of enterprise. (pp. 170-171)

As Spannaus underscores throughout her book, industrialization of the United States was the means to eliminate slavery before the Civil War. Having Failed to accomplish that, a comprehensive full-throated reconstruction effort for the defeated Southern slave-economy following the war was required. This is what the well-known followers of Hamilton, and proponents of the American System, such as President Lincoln and Henry Carey, understood.

Henry Carey was a towering intellectual force in the nineteenth century. He was an American System economist, advisor to President Abraham Lincoln, and authored the Slave Trade: Domestic and Foreign, and How It May be Extinguished, (1853). Carey wrote on the negative effects of slavery. Spannaus refers to Carey extensively throughout her book and devotes almost the entirety of chapter sixteen to his thoughts. Typifying the outlook of the advocates of the American System, Carey wrote in 1865:

Had our legislation been of the kind which was needed for giving effect to the Declaration of Independence, that great hill region of the South, one of the richest, if not absolutely the richest in the world, would long since have been filled with furnaces and factories, the labourers in which would have been free men, women, and children, white and black, and the several portions of the Union would have been linked together by hooks of steel that would have set at defiance every effort of the ‘wealthy capitalists’ of England for bringing about a separation. Such, however, and most unhappily, was not the course of our operation. (p. 224)

Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Giants in the fight against slavery. (Courtesy of history.com)

Constitution Not Pro-Slavery

Many poorly informed detractors of the U.S. Constitution denounce the framers by selecting a word, a phrase, or a sentence, which they allege  proves the United States is racist nation founded on support for slavery. This conclusion is usually reached without any serious intellectual investigation of the historical and factual context. It has now become popular to attack the Founding Fathers in obeisance to the latest politically correct dogma. The U.S. Constitution was written by mortal human beings with imperfections. However, this noble document, the Preamble in particular, articulated principles that transformed the world. It helped to ignite liberation movements against British colonialism across the globe, including in Africa.

The great American statesman, Frederick Douglas, who was born a slave on a plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, understood this well. Douglas became an informal advisor to President Lincoln despite some  disagreements. He distinguished himself by breaking  from the abolitionists because of their support for the dismemberment of the Union. Americans and non-Americans alike, would benefit from reading Douglas’ writings. In his remarks below, Douglas responds to the provision in the U.S. Constitution that set the date of 1808, for the banning of importation of slaves. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Douglas recognized the importance of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence and insisted that the United States deliver on its noble intention. Speaking in 1860, seven decades after the Constitution was ratified and a year before the outbreak if the Civil War, Douglas spoke on the constitutional banning of slavery:

American statesman, in providing for the abolition of the slave trade, thought they were providing for the abolition of the slavery. This view is quite consistent with the history of the times. All regarded slavery as an expiring and doomed system, designed to speedily disappear from the country. But, again, it should be remembered that this  very provision, if made to refer to the American slave trade at all, makes the Constitution anti-slavery rather than for slavery…Thirdly, it [Constitution] is anti-slavery, because it looked to the abolition of slavery rather than its perpetuity. Fourthly, it showed that the intentions of the framers of the Constitution were good not bad. (p. 157)

It will be well worth your time to read Spannaus’ new book.

Defeating Slavery: Hamilton’s American System Showed the Way, by Nancy Spannaus. Defeating-Slavery-Hamiltons-American-System  

*See Chapters on Report on Manufacturers, Spannaus, Bradeen, Hamilton Versus Wall Street: The Core Principles of the American System of Economics, iUniverse, 2019

Read my earlier post: Nations Must Study Alexander Hamilton’s Principles of Political Economy

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln: A Tragedy for the Human Race

President Abraham Lincoln delivering his Second Inaugural address on March 4, 1865, one month before his death.

April 17, 2022

President Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated on April 15, 1865, was arguably the greatest U.S. President, but I would also suggest, perhaps the finest American. His tragic death changed the the, world not just the United States. My colleague, Nancy Spannaus, provides a fitting requiem for the fallen President. A Requiem for Abraham Lincoln

His temperament, his intellect, and his commitment to the U.S. Constitution, saved our precious Republic, which was less than eighty years old, and heading towards a Civil War, when he took office in 1861. President Lincoln’s unwavering resolve to defeat the opposing army of the Confederacy, demonstrated his superior military skills and strategic understanding that only the surrender by a defeated South, would the Union be preserved. His tragic death affected the world, not just the United States. If his reconstruction program had been fully implemented in his second term, the U.S. would be dramatically different today.

Much has been written and even taught that President Lincoln was not opposed to slavery, but only freed the slaves to win the Civil War. The remarks by the intellectual titan and fierce anti-slavery leader, Frederick Douglas, following the death of President Lincoln, quoted in Spannaus’ articles eloquently dispute this claim. Douglas was an ally of President Lincoln in the fight to eliminate slavery.

In his eulogy on June 1, 1865, at Cooper Union, NY, Douglas said:

 “But what was A. Lincoln to the colored people or they to him? As compared with the long line of his predecessors, many of whom ere merely the facile and service instruments of the slave power, Abraham Lincoln, while unsurpassed in his devotion, to the welfare of the white race, was also in a sense hitherto without example, emphatically the black man’s President: the first to show any respect for their rights as men.”

The vast majority of Americans are also unaware that President Lincoln adhered to the economic policies of Alexander Hamilton’s American System. Abraham Lincoln in his basic campaign stump speech, advocated for protectionism, a national bank, and internal improvements. As President, he initiated the building of the Transcontinental Railroad across the U.S., connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which became a model of transportation infrastructure for the rest of the world. To fund the U.S. economy during the war he created a new currency-greenbacks, bonds backed by the federal government. Lincoln’s economic advisor was Henry Carey, a student of Hamilton’s economic method.

Abraham Lincoln’s frequently delivered speech on Discoveries and Inventions, reflects his philosophical understanding of human economy, revealed in its opening sentences:  

“All creation is a mine, and every man, a miner.

The whole earth, and all within it, upon it, and round about it, including himself, in his physical, moral, and intellectual nature, and his susceptibilities, are the infinitely various “leads” from which, man, from the first, was to dig out his destiny.

In the beginning, the mine was unopened, and the miner stood naked, and knowledgeless, upon it.

Fishes, birds, beasts, and creeping things are not miners, but feeders and lodgers, merely. Beavers build houses; but they build them in nowise differently, or better now, than they did, five thousand years ago. Ants, and honey-bees, provide food for winter; but just in the same way they did, when Solomon referred the sluggard to them as patterns of prudence.

Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship. This improvement, he effects by Discoveries, and Inventions.” (Emphasis added)

Read his entire speech: Abraham Lincoln on Discoveries and Inventions

Let the U.S. again return to the policies of Abraham Lincoln by providing true leadership in the world.

As viewers of my website know, this is my second post in recent days discussing former outstanding U.S. Presidents and their policies. Why has American culture not produced such leaders in the last six decades following the death of John Kennedy? This will be the subject of a future article.

Read my earlier post: Commemorating the Death of Franklin Roosevelt: Last Great American Statesman With A Grand Vision for Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton.

In Celebration of Black History Month, Let Us All Emulate the Great Frederick Douglas

Happy Birthday, Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglas (1818-1895)

February 15, 2021

There is no better way to celebrate Black History Month than to to absorb the ideas of Frederick Douglas. I recommend you read this latest article written my friend, American historian, Nancy Spannaus-see link below: Happy Birthday, Frederick Douglas. I also suggest you read his wonderful autobiography: Life and Times of Frederick Douglas. 

Frederick Douglas believed in the U.S. Constitution and demanded that Americans and their leaders live up to its noble principles. That is something we should all aspire to. Douglas wrote: “Men talk of the Negro problem. There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution.” Frederick Douglas did not advocate tearing down America, but rather, demanded that Americans live up to the principle embodied in the U.S. Constitution.

 

Happy Birthday, Frederick Douglass

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Frederick Douglass: “Knowledge Unfits a Man to be a Slave”

Frederick Douglas was born a slave in the month of February 1818. He was a towering figure in the fight to end slavery in the United States and emerged as a prominent American statesman in the nineteenth century. The article excepted below rekindled my memory of the exhilaration I felt over twenty years ago when I read his autobiography: “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglas.” Douglas’ lasting contribution to all Americans (and all people of the world) was his commitment to develop his mind. By learning to read and developing his mental powers, he had already “freed” himself spiritually years before he escaped from the Maryland plantation where he was kept a slave. In fact, it was the power of his mind that gave him the physical strength to challenge his master. There is no finer example for our children (and adults) to emulate, than the great Frederick Douglas, in our commitment to educate our minds and become free. Douglas understood, once he started reading, that if he could think, he would not be slave. He came to know, as we all should, that he shackles of the mind are more powerful  than the iron shackles on the body. In celebration of this bicentennial year of the birth of Frederick Douglas let us all renew our desire to unfetter our minds by emulating this unique individual. 

Frederick Douglass: “Knowledge Unfits a Man to be a Slave”

by Nancy Spannaus

This year is the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth, and he is finally begun to be celebrated as the towering figure he was during the mid- and late 19th century. Douglass’s role in the movement to abolish slavery, including support for Lincoln in the Civil War, and later in the tumultuous post-war battles, showed him to be a great political leader. He famously championed the U.S. Constitution and called on his fellow African-Americans to support and enforce it. He fought for the woman’s right to vote. For many years he edited his own newspaper. He also served as ambassador to Haiti for a brief time, and remained active in politics until his death in 1895.

Frederick Douglass

But the aspect of Frederick Douglass’s contribution which I want to emphasize on this occasion is Douglass’s understanding of, and commitment to, education.  Yes, Douglass was primarily addressing black Americans in his discussion of this topic. But this man, who, despite being born into slavery, fought successfully to achieve a high degree of literacy, has much to teach all Americans (and others) about the qualifications for responsible citizenship of a republic.

Readers have ample opportunity to investigate the subject for themselves in Douglass’s several autobiographies:  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition; My Bondage and My Freedom (1855); and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, which went through its final editing in 1892, three years before his death.

A Mind Awakening

By the age of nine, Douglass says, he was inquiring “into the origin and nature of slavery. Why am I a slave? Why are some people slaves and others masters? These were perplexing questions and very troublesome to my childhood. I was very early told by some one that ‘God up in the sky’ had made all things, and had made black people to be slaves and white people to be masters …. I could not tell how anybody could know that God made black people to be slaves.”

In 1825, Douglass, who was about eight at the time, was sent to live in Baltimore with his master’s cousin, Hugh Auld, and his wife. The move to a city, one of the major industrial and shipbuilding centers on the U.S. East Coast, was to give Frederick a chance to expand his horizons both mentally and physically. It was at the Aulds that Douglass came to a more conscious understanding of his hatred of slavery and his love of learning.

Douglass developed a passion early on for reading, a passion which, ironically, was provoked by the debased ideas of his master, Hugh Auld. Douglass called Auld’s lecture to his wife, on why she should stop teaching the boy to read, “the first decidedly anti-slavery lecture” he ever heard, and a revelation which drove him to learn as much as he could. In The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, the great man explained:

“The frequent hearing of my mistress reading the Bible aloud … awakened my curiosity … to this mystery of reading, and roused in me the desire to learn. Up to this time I had known nothing whatever of this wonderful art, and my ignorance and inexperience of what it could do for me, as well as my confidence in my mistress, emboldened me to ask her to teach me to read … My mistress seemed almost as proud of my progress as if I had been her own child, and supposing that her husband would be as well pleased, she made no secret of what she was doing for me. Indeed, she exultingly told him of the aptness of her pupil and of her intention to persevere, as she felt it her duty to do, in teaching me, at least, to read the Bible.”

Abraham Lincoln reading to his son Tad.

What was the reaction of the presumably God-fearing, Christian slave-owner, Hugh Auld? Douglass describes it thus: “Of course he forbade her to give me any further instruction, telling her in the first place that to do so was unlawful, as it was also unsafe, ‘for,’ said he, ‘if you give a nigger an inch he will take an ell [an obsolete unit of measurement amounting to about 45 inches-ed.]. Learning will spoil the best nigger in the world. If he learns to read the Bible it will forever unfit him to be a slave.’ Apparently unaware of the rather extraordinary admission he had just made, Auld continued, ‘He should know nothing but the will of his master, and learn to obey it. As to himself, learning will do him no good, but a great deal of harm, making him disconsolate and unhappy. If you teach him how to read, he’ll want to know how to write, and this accomplished, he’ll be running away with himself.’ ”

Read: Frederick Douglass: “Knowledge Unfits a Man to be a Slave”