The American Revolution Reconsidered: Part Thirty-Two: Clarification on the Caribbean Connection
I realize that I may have glossed over something absolutely crucial, in our discussion about the American Revolution of 1776-1783. I am referring to its connection to happenings in the Caribbean.
Specifically, we want to answer the question: Why is it that in Latin America and the Caribbean, the achievement of independence from either Spain or France went hand-in-hand with the abolition of African enslavement, was virtually synonymous; while in the North American mainland, the achievement of independence from Britain diverged from the concept of the abolition of African enslavement, so that after the Revolution, slavery continued in America for another 80 years?
How do we account for this difference? What are the implications?
Now then, I shall try to make this as quick and painless as possible.
First of all, those of you who have been following this series, will recall that I previously mentioned and documented the fact that the American Revolutionaries of 1776 received assistance from black, French-speaking troops from Haiti, under the command Euro-French command.
- This means that the French put firearms into the hands of black people, while at the same time, the French enslaved Africans in their Caribbean colonies.
Those of you who have been following this series, may also recall that I previously mentioned and documented facts about what was perhaps the most devastating slave revolt in the history of mainland North America: Stono's Revolt of 1739 which started by the Stono River in South Carolina.
I also previously mentioned and documented for you, the fact the Spanish sponsored this revolt, by providing the escaped slaves with land north of St. Augustine in then Spanish-controlled Florida. This territory was granted on the condition that its recipients defend the interests of the Spanish Crown with their lives. This was the first legal, free African community, anywhere in territory that would become the United States of America.
- This means that the Spanish at least abetted activities of armed Africans, on the North American mainland, even while Spain maintained a labor regime based on the enslavement of Africans in its Caribbean and Latin American colonies.
Now, the fact that the French both enslaved Africans in its Caribbean colonies and placed firearms in the hands of Africans---and the fact that the Spanish both enslaved Africans in their Caribbean and Latin American colonies and, at least, abetted armed Africans was not necessarily the contradiction that it appears to be on the surface.
Stay with me.
The Spanish and French pursued a different model of development in their Caribbean and Latin American colonies, than what was developed by the English in their mainland North American colonies.
These different models of development came from different demographic circumstances.
Europeans did not find the tropical climate amenable for permanent, long-term personal settlement.
- The region was a place for Europeans to make their money (sugar, tobacco, coffee).
- The planters tended not to bring their wives and children to the West Indies with them.
- As I mentioned before, the Caribbean was a region where African slaves were "warehoused" before being redistributed to wherever demand suited.
- Because of all of this, the Africans generally outnumbered the Europeans by an order of magnitude: at least ten-to-one.
- The Europeans, nevertheless, wanted to maintain social control of their colonies in the Caribbean and Latin America.
- In order to try to maintain social control, the European planters had had no choice but to incorporate elements of the oppressed population, the Africans, into the middle management stratum, in order to protect elite settler power.
The North American mainland
- England, alone out of all the European colonial powers, had surplus labor; and in the seventeenth century field labor was the province of English contracted bond-laborers or indentured servants.
- The same cannot be said for any other European colonizing power.
- The British/English/Europeans did find the climate of the North American mainland amenable; and had always planned to settle down, along with their families.
- The demographic situation was the reverse of that in the Caribbean and Latin America.
- European settlers always outnumbered the Africans by an order of magnitude.
- What this means is that the settler elite never had to incorporate elements from the African population, into "middle management," in order to protect their power.
- There were more than enough poor Englishmen and poor Europeans to suit that purpose.
- Having incorporated these poor English and poor European into "middle management," by which elite power could be protected, the elite then set out to cement the alliance by making appeals to their social class inferiors, of a new brotherhood based on their shared phenotype. This is what scholars refer to as the creation of "whiteness." "Whiteness," as an identity is a very recent construct: late seventeenth-early eighteenth century North America. Such a conception had never existed anywhere else in the world before the late sixteenth century.
A. France and Spain imposed the labor regime of African slavery upon their colonies in the Caribbean and Latin America.
B. Africans and their descendants in the Caribbean comprised overwhelming demographic majorities.
C. In the Latin American colonies Africans and their descendants did not make up majorities, but still substantial pluralities, whose interests could not be swept under the rug, as it were.
D. For those three reasons, when those countries sought and achieved independence from France and Spain, the abolition of slavery naturally went hand-in-hand as a joint project.
E. England and the English colonies were different.
F. England never imposed slavery upon any of its colonies.
G. The English settlers, especially, on the North American mainland, adopted the practice of the permanent, lifetime enslavement of Africans on their own.
H. The English settlers were actually breaking English common law by subjecting anybody to permanent, lifetime slavery, as I have mentioned and documented previously.
I. The specific law that the English settlers found themselves in violation, was the Statute of Artificers of 1563, which did provide for a seven-year 'compulsory apprenticeship,' (1), or indentured servitude, which we have discussed previously, but not actual, permanent, lifetime enslavement.
J. Again, combine all of that with the fact that, in the North American mainland, the European settlers outnumbered Africans, unlike in the Caribbean and Latin America.
K. Once again, as a consequence of the demographic situation in North America, the settler elite never needed to incorporate elements from the African population into "middle management."
L. Therefore, American independence could be and was accomplished without the abolition of slavery.
M. We get an idea about just how distasteful the Euro-American settlers found the prospect of the abolition of slavery: As I have mentioned and documented previously, when Haiti successfully achieved its independence from France (1791-1804: Haitian Revolution), the administration of President Thomas Jefferson refused to extend diplomatic recognition to the new West Indian self-governing republic.
N. We have to ask ourselves a question. What was it that the Jefferson administration found objectionable about the new Haitian republic: Was it the fact that a former colonial possession revolted against its European masters, as the American Thirteen Colonies had? Or, was it the joint project of the abolition of slavery that the Jefferson government found objectionable?
O. The United States did not recognize Haiti until 1862 (2), in the midst of the Civil War, whose successful conclusion did put an end to slavery in the United States.
1. (2015, February 10). Statute of Artificers 1562. Retrieved August 6, 2015. (Wikipedia).
2. Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State. A Guide To The United States' History Of Recognition, Diplomatic, And Consular Relations, By Country, Since 1776: Haiti. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
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