book report: Slave Nation by Mr. and Mrs. Blumrosen part 1

In my recent illness, I have had time to read another depressing book on the effect of slavery on our country's origins. Slave Nation: How slavery united the colonies and sparked the American Revolution by A. W. and R. G. Blumrosen is a worthy read for those of us who learned much of their American history from Schoolhouse Rock.

So how did slavery become a contributor to revolutionary sentiment? Certainly a British occupied Boston hardly concerned most of the other states who traded with England directly. However, when a slave named James Somerset fled from his Bostonian owner while visiting in London, the British court found in Somerset's favor, declaring in 1772 slavery "so odious" that "it is not allowed or approved by the Law of England." p.21 This freaked out slave owners in the colonies.
The possibility of a British rejection of slavery anywhere in the empire appalled the plantation owners and their representatives because slavery was a necessary underpinning of their prosperity. Slavery was the foundation of the economic and social environment that their leaders represented and protected.
The riches that flowed from slave ownership were threefold: the value of the slaves themselves, both as capitaland as security for loans; the value of the product they produced, including more slaves; and the value of the land that they cleared and planted. p.25
It's all about money and prestige and getting ahead. Perhaps the reasoning goes, "if someone will have to be stepped on I'd rather do the stepping that become the step."
...owning slaves enabled white children to have some schooling, or enabled ill or disabled family members to bear lighter loads. In addition, the existence of black slaves provided the poor white slave owner with a status that connected him with his betters and distinguished him from those destined to labor forever. p.26
John Adams of Massachusetts decided that things needed to change with the colony's relations with England. Thomas Jefferson, Virginia, and all the southern slave dependent states also wanted a change. Adams' reasons were different, but a common enemy united them. Eventually the First Continental Congress was called. They generated in 1774 the Declaration of Rights and Grievances of which Article IV
declares independence in all cases of taxation and internal polity from British Parliament, and locates all such power in the "several provincial legislatures."
Thus it embodied the deal to preserve slavery as the price of revolution. The agreement was hardly incidental, but was a respnose to the demand for internal freedom for the colonies that came specifically from the South. p.108
Rebellion was not the only option though. Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania had a more peaceful idea.
Galloway's alternative was to create an American colonial parliament, which, with the British parliament, could legislate on matters affecting the colonies...p.111
Thus the plan fully addressed all expressed northern concerns: the grievance concerning taxation without representation, the quartering and support of British troops without consent, as well as the closing of the port of Boston and the other Coercive Acts. p.112
...the Galloway plan was a powerful counter to the Adams-Rutledge language of Article IV because it fully satsified the "taxation without representation" issue...But, as Patrick Henry suggested, the southern colonists would not assume that the same thing would be true when the British raised questions about slavery. The northern and middle colonies might conclude that their self-interestlay in limiting or eliminating slavery. p.115
Just as was evident later in the Civil War, the slave owners would rather risk a great loss of life than lose the comforts of life afforded by slavery.


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