Historically, History, Politics

Politics of Race, part 1 – Slavery

The United States of America was founded on the belief that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

The entire world was guilty of enslaving their own and others for over 4,000 years (and that’s just recorded history). Then those words were so eloquently written. Those most basic of Rights don’t come from government. They are innate.  The USA is the greatest harbinger of freedom this world has ever known. It has not come easy, but for a country to overcome over 4,000 years of historical precedent in 88 years is miraculous.

Do you believe that slavery is unique to Africans being enslaved by white Americans and Europeans?  There is much political leverage to be had if that is what you falsely believe.  Guilt is a powerful weapon.  Slavery existed long before there was a United States of America.  Slavery has existed in many cultures consisting of all peoples long before the African slave trade of more recent origins.   Slavery is abhorrent and we as Americans should be disappointed it took so long and a massive war to finally end it within our borders.  But, we should take pride that our country was founded on the ideals that led to its abolition.  Those ideals did not just lead to slavery being abolished within the borders of the United States, but throughout the entire world.

Documented accounts of slavery show it began almost 4,000 years ago, as early as the 18th Century BC in Babylon.  The Code of Hammurabi discusses the laws pertaining to slavery at it relates to ancient Babylon.  Ancient Greece in 7th Century BC, even with all their wisdom that has been passed down from their civilization, they too are not free of slavery.  They routinely enslaved those that they conquered.  Hundreds of years later, many are probably already familiar with Spartacus and the slave revolt in Rome in the century before the time of Christ.  Spartacus was born as a freeman in Thracia in southeast Europe.  In 387 AD, Saint Patrick was born a freeman in Britain to a family that owned slaves.  At age 16, he was captured and became a slave himself in Ireland.

People were routinely captured in wars, the defeated turned into slaves.  This happened throughout the world and consisted of all people enslaving those they defeated in battle – Europe, Africa, Middle East, Russia, China, Japan, Native Americans, Aztecs, Mayans, etc.  There is not a race in history that is free of the guilt of enslaving others.

Between 1530 – 1780, over a million European Christians are estimated to have been captured and removed to North Africa and enslaved.  In the 1600s, the Irish Slave Trade was at it’s height.  The English routinely sold captured Irish off as slaves.  The first documented case of Irish slaves being sold was in 1612 to a settlement on the Amazon River in South America.  In one 12 year period, from 1641 to 1652, over 300,000 Irish were sold as slaves.  Irish families were ripped apart and sent as slaves across the seas to the West Indies, Virginia, and New England.   More Irish were sold as slaves to the American colonies and plantations from 1651 to 1660 than the total existing “free” population of the Americas at that time.  Enslaved Irish women were routinely forced to mate with enslaved African men because their offspring could command a higher price when sold.  This went on until it was abolished 1681, not because of any moral or racial reasons, but because it was interfering with the profits of the Royal African Company.

White slave labor was more susceptible to tropical diseases than black slave labor leading to a rapid growth in the African slave trade.  Over the next three centuries, over 12 million African slaves were traded/sold from their African slave masters to slave traders who transported them to Europe and the Americas.  In 1807, the slave trade was abolished in Britain and the United States.  Britain later outlawed slavery in it’s territories altogether in 1833.  Britain then began exerting diplomatic pressure in Africa to encourage an end to slavery.  To which, African King Gezo, in 1840, stated, “The slave trade is the ruling principle of my people. It is the source and the glory of their wealth…the mother lulls the child to sleep with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery…”  King Gezo agreed to do whatever Britain requested as long as it was not to end his prosperous slave trade.

In 1860, the United States federal census shows that there were 261,988 free blacks living in the southern slave holding states.  There were 10,689 living in New Orleans, of which over 3,000 owned slaves.  That amounts to 28% of free blacks in one city owning other blacks as slaves compared to 4.8% of southern whites being known as slave holders.  It is true that a vast majority of black slaves in America were owned by whites, but it is also true that a vast majority of white Americans did not own slaves (less than 2% of white Americans owned slaves at that time).

The Republican Party was founded in 1854 with their primary objective to end slavery in the United States.  In 1861, the first Republican President was elected, Abraham Lincoln, leading to 11 slave holding southern states seceding from the union.  This led to the Civil War where over 360,000 Union soldiers died fighting for the abolition of slavery.  The victory was complete when slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865.

Brazil was the last New World country to abolish slavery as they continued to participate in the African slave trade until 1888.  While the Atlantic slave trade was coming to an end during this period, the trans-Saharan slave trade was at its peak.  It continued until European powers in the 1880s and 1890s found slavery so offensive, that they used it as justification for colonizing Africa.  Through force, Europeans disrupted most slave trading routes.  Even then, slavery continued in Africa until it was almost completely ended in the 1930s. It is sadly ironic that the enslavement of Africans was first perpetrated by Africans, and was last perpetrated by Africans.



10 thoughts on “Politics of Race, part 1 – Slavery

  1. Fascinating read

    Posted by Talon's Point | March 8, 2012, 8:00 pm
  2. Slavery exists in the modern day, and most of them aren’t black. We don’t call it slavery now; we call it human trafficking. Several years ago there was a major bust of a slavery ring in Oklahoma who were trafficking men from India, for example; there are also plenty of eastern European women sold into sex slavery (one objection to the red light district in Amsterdam is that many of the brothel owners are in the sex slavery business).

    I think it’s important to note that the politics of race are far more complex than just the issue of slavery. But I haven’t read part 2 yet.

    Posted by hemingway12 | March 8, 2012, 11:24 pm
  3. Hemingway,

    I totally agree. When I speak of slavery, I am discussing slavery that existed as common in many cultures and allowed to exist legally. Human trafficking is illegal, thus different from what I referenced here.

    Thanks for stopping by.


    Posted by G | March 9, 2012, 8:35 am
    • Well I am English living in Ireland and no-one has ever been joaelus of me! lol! Why would the Irish be joaelus of the English?? Ireland is one of the richest and most highly developed countries in the world, if anything the English should be joaelus of the Irish because the Irish managed to defeat the English and create one of the best countries in the world in JUST 66 years of being a country! Way long ago the British people used people all over the globe as slaves when they were trying to create a new world order.

      Posted by Thoufeeq | January 29, 2013, 6:07 am
  4. “The USA is the greatest harbinger of freedom this world has ever known. It has not come easy, but for a country to overcome over 4,000 years of historical precedent in 188 years is miraculous. And slowly, the rest of the world follows.”

    Er, no. As you yourself say, Britain outlawed slavery much earlier, and many a slave escaped from his aristocratic American master while visiting France. I don’t have the numbers, but I am figuring most of Europe ended slavery long before Americans did.

    But that is a small quibble. The real tragedy is that slavery everywhere continues, just under different names. Someone once quipped that “war is the health of the state.” I would add, slavery is the health of this civilization.

    Posted by leavergirl | September 24, 2012, 9:57 pm
    • Japan had basically ended slavery in their country in the 1200s. Many western European countries and the United States of America started creating laws against slavery in the early 1800s, mostly focused on ending the slave trade, but not slavery itself. Although, Portugal started in some respects in the late 1500s. Great Britain ended slavery in its empire in 1833, which I cited later in the blog article. The majority of progress against slavery was made after the Declaration of Independence was written, which was my point.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Posted by G | September 25, 2012, 11:00 pm
  5. Here is wikipedia on the subject (I’ve cut and pasted):

    Slavery in early medieval Europe was relatively uncommon and in Western Europe slavery largely disappeared by the later Middle Ages.

    The Norwegian law code from 1274, Landslov (Land’s law), does not mention slaves, but former slaves. Thus it seems like slavery was abolished in Norway by this time. In Sweden, slavery was abolished in 1343. In Poland slavery was forbidden in the 15th century… In Lithuania, slavery was formally abolished in 1588. 1701: The Lord Chief Justice rules that a slave became free as soon as he arrived in England. 1723: Russia abolishes outright slavery but retains serfdom. 1761: Portugal abolishes slavery in mainland Portugal and in Portuguese possessions in India through a decree by the Marquis of Pombal.

    And so on. Nothing to do with the Declaration. At least, not in those days.

    Posted by leavergirl | September 26, 2012, 10:57 am
    • Good information and thank you for sharing. You’ve inspired me to remove the line “and the rest of the world follows.” It is evident that the same spirit that led to laws against slavery in parts of Europe is the same spirit that helped found the United States of America – the freest, and not coincidentally the most powerful and wealthy, country the world has ever known.

      Posted by G | September 26, 2012, 5:39 pm
  6. Are you bating me, G? 😀
    In any case, I am glad it was of use, and you were able to make your point more accurate.

    Posted by leavergirl | September 26, 2012, 6:15 pm

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