The Truth About Slavery

The hard-core left with the assistance of national media outlets like the New York Times and left-wing public figures have begun pushing the idea that modern capitalism is built on the foundation of slavery.  Through this narrative they hope to  disparage capitalism and convince the American population that Reparations is necessary to right the wrong.  However, their theory is just wrong.

Like most left-wing narratives the New York Times Magazine 1619 project’s purpose is not to educate which is evident by their statement that slavery in the U.S. as “unlike anything that had existed in the world before” because it was “racial,” “heritable,” and “permanent,” where slaves were not recognized as human beings but as property. Like most left-wing narratives they leave out a lot of specific details, the most important of which is the fact that slavery has been practiced since the dawn of recorded history. 

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Slavery was known to have existed as early as the Shang Dynasty (18th to 12th Century B.C.) in China and continued to be practiced through the 20th century.  Slaves were owned in Africa throughout recorded history.  The Egyptians enslaved the whole Hebrew nation for over 400 years.  Islam exported slaves from Africa and sold them throughout the Islamic world, ranging from Arabia in the center to North Africa in the west to what is now Pakistan and Indonesia in the east, a practice that still continues today.  Slavery was also treated as a prominent institution in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi of circa 750 B.C.

Slavery existed in ancient India, where it is recorded in the Sanskrit Laws of Manu of the 1st century B.C.  A quarter to a third of the population of some areas of Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) were slaves in the 17th through the 19th centuries and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, respectively.  Slaves were also prominent in Scandinavia during the Viking era, 800-1050 A.D., where slaves for personal use and for sale in the international slave market were a major object of raids.  Slaves also were present in significant numbers in Scandinavia both before and after the Viking era.

The earliest slave society in our present country, was in Puerto Rico where the Spanish not only enslaved the Taino natives by 1500 A.D.  but shipped in the first African slaves to replace the Taino population when they began to die off from brutal violence and disease.

The first Africans to set foot on mainland North America arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 where records of 1623 and 1624 lists them as servants, not slaves. In these same records, however, white indentured servants are listed along with the year in which they were to attain freedom; no such year accompanies the names of black servants.   Yet the first black born in the Jamestown colony was William Tucker, listed as a free man.

Slavery was officially instituted in Jamestown in 1640, Massachusetts in 1641, Connecticut in 1650, Virginia in 1661, Maryland in 1663, New York in 1665, and South Carolina in 1682. By the early 1700s, all the colonies of British North America had legalized slavery.   In 1774, all of the British North American colonies except for Georgia formed an alliance to combat “a ruinous system of colony administration, adopted by the British ministry about the year 1763.”  The “First Continental Congress”  stated that “we will neither import nor purchase, any slave imported after the first day of December next; after which time, we will wholly discontinue the slave trade, and will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our commodities or manufactures to those who are concerned in it.” 

After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, within 10 years, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont legally abolished slavery, although some of these states passed gradual emancipations.   Within 30 years, New Jersey and New York legally abolished slavery through gradual emancipations, and the last slaves in New York were freed in 1827.  Within 60 years, the British Empire legally abolished slavery with gradual emancipations through 1838 and within 90 years, the U.S. Constitution was amended to abolish slavery.

George Washington, president of the Constitutional Convention and the first U.S. president wrote that he could “only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it (slavery) but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished and that is by legislative authority and this, as far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting.”

In 1807 President Thomas Jefferson signed a law “to prohibit the importation of slaves into any port of place within the jurisdiction of the United States,” and prohibited any citizen from building, fitting, equipping, loading or otherwise preparing a slave ship.

Ervin L. Jordan, Jr., an African-American assistant professor and associate curator of the Special Collections Department at the University of Virginia library wrote in Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia that “One of the more curious aspects of the free black existence in Virginia was their ownership of slaves.  Black slave masters owned members of their own family and freed them in their wills.    Free Afro-Virginians were a nascent black middle class under siege, but several acquired property before and during the war.

In the 1850s, the Republican Party was formed on the basis of opposition to slavery. The founders chose the name “Republican,” because they considered their principles to be aligned with those of Thomas Jefferson and the party he formed—which was called the “Republicans”

In 1866, a bloc of Congressmen called the “Radical Republicans” passed a law to ensure that African Americans had the rights to:  make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens

African-American identity today and a personal history of enslaved ancestors are not synonymous. Some African-Americans, like President Obama, have no ancestry among enslaved Africans in America. Many people enslaved in America, most notably the first slaves, Native Americans, and the Irish are not of African descent.

Slavery is an evil that has been in existence worldwide for thousands of years with virtually all ethnic groups having been enslaved at one time or another.  Historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University estimate that 90% of those African slaves shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and sold to Muslims and European traders.    The sad truth is that without complex business partnerships between African elites, Muslim nations, and European traders, slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred. 

Source:  Be Informed:  Racial Issues, Just Facts where you can read pages of Facts about Slavery and documentation, including books and articles where the facts were gathered;   Why They Keep Trying to Blame Capitalists for Slavery, Mises Institute; Slavery In America Did Not Begin In 1619, And Other Things The New York Times Gets Wrong, By Lyman Stone, The Federalist; Slavery: Common To All Races and Nationalities Slavery Was A Lucrative Business for Buyers and Sellers – It Is Not About Slavery, Franklin County Patriots;

Other sources:  Harper’s Book of Facts, 1906; Slavery, Ricahrd Hellie, Encyclopedia Britannica,  the Routledge Atlas of African American History by Jonathan Early. 

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