Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
LookingGlass

Blackbeard’s True Treasure

50 posts in this topic

Blackbeard’s True Treasure

©2011 Kevin P. Duffus

RALEIGH--The whereabouts of the mythical pirate treasure of the notorious Blackbeard has bewitched folks ever since the smoke cleared following the Battle of Ocracoke 292 years ago. Minutes after Blackbeard’s death, Royal Navy sailors began a search for the bearded pirate captain’s ill-gotten gains. They were soon disappointed. They found no treasure chests of gold, silver or jewels. And despite many enticing claims, nor has anyone else found Blackbeard’s lost treasure since that historic November day on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

However, there was a treasure, and it likely survives to this day in eastern North Carolina.

North Carolina’s Department of Cultural Resources proudly boasts – and rightly so – that it has retrieved over the past 15 years more than 250,000 artifacts from the Queen Anne’s Revenge, including the anchor recently brought to the surface. Few experts, however, have considered the cargo of flesh and blood transported by the famous ship.

This is not the pirate history you will see on the silver screen, find on roadside historic markers, read on museum walls or heard at our state’s historic sites. But it is our history.

More here: http://www.newsobser...e-treasure.html

Edited by LookingGlass

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

250,000? There were a quarter of a million artifacts found in the wreckage? Man, that Blackbeard was one acquisitive dude!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

250,000 artifacts includes individuals nails, pieces of wood, individual pieces of small shot, etc.....it's actually not that big of a number for most wrecks that have been excavated for multiple seasons.

-Adam C.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm posting the entire contents of the article in the event that it is not archived by the newspaper:

Blackbeard's True Treasure

©2011 Kevin P. Duffus

RALEIGH--The whereabouts of the mythical pirate treasure of the notorious Blackbeard has bewitched folks ever since the smoke cleared following the Battle of Ocracoke 292 years ago. Minutes after Blackbeard's death, Royal Navy sailors began a search for the bearded pirate captain's ill-gotten gains. They were soon disappointed. They found no treasure chests of gold, silver or jewels. And despite many enticing claims, nor has anyone else found Blackbeard's lost treasure since that historic November day on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

However, there was a treasure, and it likely survives to this day in eastern North Carolina.

North Carolina's Department of Cultural Resources proudly boasts – and rightly so – that it has retrieved over the past 15 years more than 250,000 artifacts from the Queen Anne's Revenge, including the anchor recently brought to the surface. Few experts, however, have considered the cargo of flesh and blood transported by the famous ship.

This is not the pirate history you will see on the silver screen, find on roadside historic markers, read on museum walls or heard at our state's historic sites. But it is our history.

In November 1717, north of Barbados, Blackbeard positioned his flotilla in the path of slave-trading ships arriving from west Africa, where he captured the French slaver La Concorde, renaming her the Queen Anne's Revenge. Historians have surmised that he wanted to capture a big slave ship in order to mount up to 40 guns aboard, making her as powerfully armed as any Royal Navy warship patrolling the West Indies.

I believe it was to serve a different purpose.

Six months later, near the end of his two-year career of piratical mayhem, Blackbeard sailed to North Carolina and purposely wrecked the Queen Anne's Revenge in the entrance to what is today, Beaufort Inlet. There, records say, he disbanded his 400-man company, marooned some men on an island and tricked all but his closest allies out of all of their communal treasure, and left aboard a fast and nimble sloop he named Adventure. About 10 days later, Blackbeard arrived at Bath, where he surrendered to Gov. Eden and applied for a royal pardon.

Depositions filed in Charleston, S.C., later that year by former members of Blackbeard's crew – the ones he left behind at Beaufort Inlet, are well-preserved and very detailed. When Blackbeard and his inner-circle of associates sailed to Bath, they had with them 60 African men. Some pirate historians wax lyrical at the apparent racial diversity of Blackbeard's crew, marveling that 6 out of 10 of Blackbeard's pirates were black. But what the pirate historians don't tell you is that six months later, when Blackbeard was killed at Ocracoke, he had aboard his sloop only six Africans. What happened to the 54 other African men?

I believe they were the pirates' secret treasure, a labor force delivered to the impoverished plantation society of the Pamlico region, which was desperately short on manpower and far from the slave markets at Williamsburg, Va., and Charleston.

The colony of North Carolina had been wracked by years of political strife, punitive trade restrictions, drought, sickness and war with Indians. As her wealthier neighbors, Virginia and South Carolina, began to grow due to navigable, deepwater ports, the northern colony of Carolina was severely constrained by the vagaries of shoaling inlets, shallow sounds and great distances between her plantations and the travelled byways of the sea.

From the beginning, North Carolina settlers struggled to produce the volume of commodities necessary to support their economy because, compared to South Carolina and Virginia, North Carolina had few slaves. "For the want of suitable ports negro slaves were not imported directly into North Carolina, and the planters there were forced to buy from Virginia and South Carolina. And in this very important particular North Carolina was at great disadvantage," wrote Colonial Records editor William Saunders.

There is wide gulf of opinion among those who have studied the question – historians such as David Cordingly, Kenneth Kinkor and Marcus Rediker – regarding the status of blacks among pirates and whether they were treated as equals, servants or slaves. Rediker wrote that "Negroes and mulattoes were present on almost every pirate ship, and only rarely did the many merchants and captains who commented on their presence call them slaves." Kinkor even presents examples of blacks who were leaders of predominantly white crews.

Conversely, Cordingly wrote that "pirates shared the same prejudices as other white men in the Western world. They regarded black slaves as commodities to be bought and sold, and used them as slaves on board their ships for the hard and menial jobs."

Having analyzed the references found among the primary sources pertaining to Africans among Blackbeard's crew after June 1718, I would have to agree with Cordingly's assessment. The 60 blacks who departed Beaufort Inlet aboard the sloop Adventure were most certainly treated as commodities to be bought and sold, and were used as servants to do the hard and menial jobs.

For example, four blacks named Richard Stiles, Thomas Gates, James Blake and James White, accompanied Blackbeard on an arduous 36-hour, 95-mile round trip journey across the Pamlico Sound for a mysterious midnight visit to Bath on Sept. 14, 1718. Records indicate that the black crew member's jobs were to row the Adventure's launch. They were in all likelihood Blackbeard's servants or slaves – men who were perhaps trusted to carry arms, but servants or slaves just the same.

As an example of the value that slaves held in the 1718 economy of Bath, the Beaufort County deed book shows that Stephen Elsey and James Robins, two mariners who appear in the records shortly after Blackbeard's arrival in North Carolina suggesting that they may have been former members of his crew, purchased Gov. Eden's former 400-acre plantation, house and outbuildings on Bath Creek, for the price of three slaves named Barsue, Lawrence and John. This same property was sold again eight years later to Blackbeard's cooper-turned-merchant, assemblyman and patron of Bath's St. Thomas Church, Edward Salter, for £600.

Records reflect that other slaves were sold by members of Blackbeard's crew, including two to Customs Collector Tobias Knight – probably 26-year-old Pompey and 23-year-old Caesar, each valued a year later at £60. Former quartermaster William Howard was apprehended in Virginia with two African slaves after having retired from Blackbeard's crew at Bath. According to a letter from Virginia's Lt. Gov. Spotswood, Howard admitted that his slaves had "been piratically taken."

Over six months, Blackbeard's company acquired, traded and gleaned the healthiest, fittest, strongest African men and then delivered them to North Carolina's destitute settlement of Bath – the very place in colonial America that needed them the most. Using a popular calculator for measuring worth of historical prices (MeasuringWorth.com), Blackbeard's flesh and blood "treasure" in 1718 would be worth millions in today's dollars.

It has long been whispered among a number of eastern North Carolina families that they consider themselves descendants of pirates. Until now, few people have taken the time to remember the untold numbers of black families whose roots might lead to the 60 African slaves brought in by pirates in the summer of 1718.

The importation of African slaves is the forgotten legacy of the Great Age of Piracy, and an unappreciated but important part of North Carolina's heritage. Who knows who might be related to Barsue, Lawrence and John, or Tobias Knight's Pompey and Caesar, or the pirate-cooper Edward Salter's Priamus the shoemaker, Toney, Aberdeen, Cimrick and Tom? I list their names here so that they might not be forgotten. It was by their heartache, their labors, their suffering, and by the sacrifices of their families and others who shared their plight, that eastern America was wrought out of wilderness.

The slaves brought to North Carolina by Blackbeard in 1718 were a true treasure, indeed. Perhaps someday they will be so remembered by our historical community.

Kevin P. Duffus of Raleigh is the author of "The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate – Within Every Legend Lies a Grain of Truth."

Edited by LookingGlass

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In November 1717, north of Barbados, Blackbeard positioned his flotilla in the path of slave-trading ships arriving from west Africa, where he captured the French slaver La Concorde, renaming her the Queen Anne's Revenge. Historians have surmised that he wanted to capture a big slave ship in order to mount up to 40 guns aboard, making her as powerfully armed as any Royal Navy warship patrolling the West Indies.

I believe it was to serve a different purpose.

In other words, the author has an unprovable and somewhat controversial theory and he's going to amass a whole mess of circumstantial evidence that doesn't prove it, but sounds pretty good when strung together with helpful explanations of how the scattered data fits his theory. All this while ignoring any possible controverting facts. JR Moore used this sort of technique to give credit for the authorship of The General History of the Most Notorious Pyrates to Daniel Defoe and make a name for himself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"In other words, the author has an unprovable and somewhat controversial theory and he's going to amass a whole mess of circumstantial evidence that doesn't prove it, but sounds pretty good when strung together with helpful explanations of how the scattered data fits his theory."

I am not sure I understand your point. This article is about how Blackbeard departed Beaufort Inlet with 60 Africans (David Herriott deposition, Charleston trial of pirates captured with Stede Bonnet, Nov. 1718), but only had six Africans aboard the sloop Adventure during the Battle at Ocracoke. Members of Blackbeard's crew were known to have sold slaves to Bath residents (Tobias Knight testimony in 1719) or had slaves in their possession when captured (William Howard). The conclusion is that not all of the 60 Africans who were taken with Blackbeard from Beaufort Inlet were free men. What is unprovable or controversial about that? What controverting facts have been ignored?

Edited by LookingGlass

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As I read this, he's trying to make the point that Blackbeard was primarily out to sell slaves.

Few experts, however, have considered the cargo of flesh and blood transported by the famous ship.

This is not the pirate history you will see on the silver screen, find on roadside historic markers, read on museum walls or heard at our state's historic sites. But it is our history.

In November 1717, north of Barbados, Blackbeard positioned his flotilla in the path of slave-trading ships arriving from west Africa, where he captured the French slaver La Concorde, renaming her the Queen Anne's Revenge. Historians have surmised that he wanted to capture a big slave ship in order to mount up to 40 guns aboard, making her as powerfully armed as any Royal Navy warship patrolling the West Indies.

I believe it was to serve a different purpose.

This may or may not be true, but it is unprovable. He's just just positing a sensational theory.

But what the pirate historians don't tell you is that six months later, when Blackbeard was killed at Ocracoke, he had aboard his sloop only six Africans. What happened to the 54 other African men?

I believe they were the pirates' secret treasure, a labor force delivered to the impoverished plantation society of the Pamlico region, which was desperately short on manpower and far from the slave markets at Williamsburg, Va., and Charleston.

Slaving was legal at the time the General History was published and I can think of no reason the author wouldn't have wanted to include this in his account if he could prove it were true. Nor has it been scrubbed since the original publishing of the book because we have copies of the original work.

It sounds like someone trying to make a name for themselves to me by incorporating a now reviled practice into the history of a famous anti-hero.

I've no doubt BB would and did sell slaves if the opportunity presented itself. But slaves were a difficult cargo, hard to care for and keep alive. Pirates wanted things that would give them a fast turn-around.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think, if I may say so, that this is a classic example of journalistic reportage overshadowing a good historical point.

The main argument here seems to be that Blackbeard was probably involved in trading slaves in North Carolina. In fact, there's no 'probably' about it. Blackbeard was involved in trading slaves - the testimony of Tobias Knight proves that - the question is the extent of the activity. North Carolina offered a good market for slaves, Blackbeard had a supply of slaves: if such a business opportunity didn't cross the old fella's mind then he wasn't the man he's credited as. Moreover, I can't think of a better hypothesis to account for the 50 or so black men who simply disappear from the record during Blackbeard's stay in North Carolina.

Whether this was a deliberate policy dating back to before the time BB took the QAR, or an opportunistic carpe-ing of the diem, is a different question. The 'slave trading route' that BB positioned himself on was, in fact, the main trade artery into the Caribbean, so was a good hunting ground for a pirate anyway. Having captured a ship full of valuable slaves it makes sense for Blackbeard to have sought a market for them, whether his acquisition of human cargo was chance or design. "I've no doubt BB would and did sell slaves if the opportunity presented itself": I think the capture of a ship full of slaves counts as the opportunity presenting itself. I'm not convinced, like Mission, that it was necessarily a pre-planned operation.

But, ignoring the rather sensationalist approach as to why BB took the QAR, the underlying point about him selling slaves in NC seems to be a fairly sober appraisal of the evidence. Why didn't Johnson mention it? Well, Johnson didn't mention everything that happened during the GAoP, and it may well be that he just wasn't aware of it.

(In the interests of honesty, I ought to point out that I recently spent several days in the company of the author of the article, with little else to talk about once we'd exhausted my amazement at having to prevent pelicans eating my lunch.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

what makes a better story- the man had TREASURE, or he traded slaves. Seems while the author of General History may not have included slaves it reflects back to absence of proof does not make proof of absence. Maybe it was just a better story to tell that has grown over 300 years and ultimately received little recognition until now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My head's been buried in period medical books for quite awhile and I may be confusing things, but wasn't there a pirate crew that burned a ship full of slaves rather than bother to try and transport and sell them? Or perhaps I read that in one of the old threads we have around here about slaves and pirates and it was proven untrue. My pirate history fact recollection is a bit hazy these days. (This is also circumstantial evidence, but it helps make my point about slaves not being ready trade for pirates if true.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At the time, slaves were seen as valuable property. But, that property needed to be fed and had certain needs other property did not. Also, a good steward of his property takes care of his property. The "classic" politically correct view of all slavery is inherently evil is NOT something a person of the early 1700s would have understood. It simply wasn't a single monolithic institution. There were good and bad slave owners/masters and good and bad slaves. Some masters viewed their slaves as family members, while others viewed them as a talking mule (that said, some farmers love their mule more than their children . . . ).

One element people forget is that slavery actually offered a legal protection that the lowest rungs of society didn't have. Under a "good" master, they were taken care of- sheltered, fed, and the like. I forgot the precise source, but it was of a poor farmer/sharecropper lamenting that the slaves had it better than him. Also, some "slaves" were more protected employees who served a business or institution. After the period (in the 1800s American South), Churches actually had "slaves" who were seminary trained, literate, and whose "jobs" were to be pastors to the local "slave" populations. I known of several specific documented examples (but don't want to say them here, as it could be VERY bad PR for them today, with the misunderstanding of what was considered "good," "Christian," and actually extremely "openminded" and "progressive" at the time).

*********

-Cross, I'd LOVE to discuss some of this with you when we have a chance. For various reasons over the years, I've read far more than I ever planned to on slavery and found it far more complicated and more gray areas than I had every expected- as good people worked to do good in the legal and cultural situation they found themselves in. Some slaves were actually FAR better educated and "well-off" than lower-tier "wage-slaves." We started to discuss this, but got cut-off.

Oh, and if anybody ties to think I'm some racist redneck, its actually quite the opposite.

*********

Pirates rarely took EVERYTHING of value, focusing on what they valued at the moment, whether supplies, rigging, food, trade-stuff (commodities), or whatever. The ones who burned the ship had no value for the contents at the time, for whatever reasons. Other times, they valued the slaves and either took them for themselves, freed them as crew members, or sold them as property.

Oh, and:

When looking at historical stuff, try to understand what people did and why and pass moral judgements based on the values of THAT day more than ours.

As for the article, as Foxe says, there is actual documented evidence for this more than just innuendo. Now, in the case of Blackbeard and the run-off of the Adventure after the QAR crash, I DO think there was money-valued objects and humans that made up the "treasure" they ran off with in the sloop.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also:

With ANY "treasure," you must be able to unload it or its effectively worthless, just "pretty junk." The "value" of anything is what someone is willing to pay for it (whether that value is insane or not).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

that would be John Martles men......January of 1717 , st. Croix...John Martel and his gang had gone apirating, and come to st. croix for a careening......unfortunately(for them) the HMS Scarborough spotted them and began firing upon them......when the warship retreated slightly, the pyrates tried to flee in Martels 22gun galley John & Marshall...but ran aground...so capt. martel ordered the ship burned...with 40 slaves in the hold......out of the 40, 8 did escape but that begs the question of if the 8 were chained, or being used as manpower........some of the group was later rescued by Bellamy, and La Buse...some were taken by the return of the HMS Scarborough...... Coolin Woodard in "The Republic of Pirates" theorizes that perhaps slaves of good english speaking were more easily accepted by pyrates, while those who spoke their native tongue might have be treated more as cargo, and less likley accepted..........

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i am inclined to agree with him, i personally think, that when in need of man power, a slave...or recently freed african......seems a perfectly necessary, and great choice...but i also think that pyrates were men of their times, and perfectly prone to the actions of such....when profitable...that great labor choice, now seems a great opportunity for a quick buck....and then add the factors of personality, morals etc. etc. you almost can make any broad statement about the treatment of black pirates...or slaves...just as you cant about the motives of the pyrates themselves.......im quite sure blackbeard was in the slave trading business...but when the opportunity arouse in the 18th century,who wasn't?(i do realize that some wernt, i just used that phrase to make a point).... and thats what i think.....you all may realize that there is a reason i joined an english privateer with a captain who has a hateful grudge against slavery...........

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Damn! I typed out a long response full of really clever stuff and then lost my internet connection...

I suspect that pirates' attitudes towards slaves and other black men was dictated more by the nature of the slaves and the location of the pirates than anything else.

If a slave could speak English then he might be useful for pumping or other menial tasks and, heck, we can always sell him later if need be.

If a slave could speak English and was familiar with a sailing vessel then he might be even more useful and, heck, we can always sell him later if need be.

If a slave could speak English, sail, fight, and was a willing volunteer then he'd be a very welcome addition to the crew and, heck, we can always sell him later if we can get his guns off him.

If he had none of those skills then he would still have been a valuable commodity, provided there was some way of getting him to a market. Sure, they've got to be fed, but ultimately they're self-propelled treasure that can load and unload themselves from the hold. In the absence of a nearby market then they might be more trouble than they're worth and might as well be burned, abandoned, turned over to their former owners, or 'freed' and left to fend for themselves.

In this particular case, BB captured a ship full of slaves and was not a million miles away from a potentially very good market for them, so the idea that they were sold in NC makes a great deal of sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In this particular case, BB captured a ship full of slaves and was not a million miles away from a potentially very good market for them, so the idea that they were sold in NC makes a great deal of sense.

I've made the same sort of argument for something much more mundane (why people might have used something other than 'dishes' for coffee - such as mugs) and been soundly booed off the stage for lack of evidence. (Evidence which I have yet to find.)

Proof, man! Proof! What appears to be logical to us now may or may not have been then.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, as noted earlier, the evidence of Tobias Knight shows that Blackbeard's crew sold slaves in NC. The evidence of William Howard shows that they kept some of them for themselves. Is that not enough evidence?

The problem with, say, dishes vs mugs is that there is a viable alternative to mugs, ie. dishes. If there is a viable alternative explanation for the disappearance of 50+ black men in the region of the Carolinas in 1718, other than them being sold into slavery, I for one would love to hear it.

(I still don't buy that BB's reason for taking the QAR was slaves though, for much the reasons that you give: no real evidence and a wealth of alternative viable possibilities)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "classic" politically correct view of all slavery is inherently evil is NOT something a person of the early 1700s would have understood.

It troubles me when viewing slavery as inherently evil is dismissed as "politically correct." Slavery is evil, and one need not adhere to any one right wing or left wing political viewpoint to think so. The term "political correctness" is better reserved for the rigid lockstep postmodernist political orthodoxy that prevails in certain universities, which analyzes everything in terms of ethnic and religious groups' grievances and "power," dismisses everything created by the "powerful," (i.e. whites, Christians, capitalists, Americans, Europeans) and automatically validates everything produced by the "powerless" (everybody else).

I reject political correctness in the sense I just described, but that doesn't stop me from considering slavery as evil: ALL slavery. To take the contrary view requires you to reject not just political correctness, but the Western democratic tradition that views all men as created equal, the Western capitalist tradition that regards society as happiest and most productive when everyone is free to pursue their own wealth and prosperity.

I understand that in the 1700s slavery was a widespread and accepted institution, not just in the Americas and Europe but all over the world, and that most people wouldn't have thought to question it. That mitigates the evil, but doesn't make it right. Many of those who did think to question slavery, even in the 1700s, recognized that it was wrong, noticeably a large number of the Quakers, Benjamin Franklin, and (ironically, since he was a slave owner) Thomas Jefferson.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

that would be John Martles men......January of 1717 , st. Croix...John Martel and his gang had gone apirating, and come to st. croix for a careening......unfortunately(for them) the HMS Scarborough spotted them and began firing upon them......when the warship retreated slightly, the pyrates tried to flee in Martels 22gun galley John & Marshall...but ran aground...so capt. martel ordered the ship burned...with 40 slaves in the hold

There was another case also. In 1722, Bartholomew Roberts' pirates burned the Porcupine in Whydah roadstead with 80 slaves aboard, because the captain refused to ransom the ship. Note in each case there were serious obstacles to marketing the slaves. Roberts was on the African coast, the ultimate buyer's market for slaves, and would have had to go all the way across the Atlantic to reach a good seller's market. Slaves on the African coast were so little valued that several pirates (notably England) gave them back to the captains they robbed. In Martel's case he was under attack and was about to lose the slaves anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can see what Mission is saying, after reading the article, the author, in my opinion, was trying to paint the image that slavery was all that Blackbeard was interested in. And I think that he is trying to make a bigger deal out of something that was common. There was a slave trade during the GAoP, and slaves were cargo and pirates took cargo.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

that would be John Martles men......January of 1717 , st. Croix...John Martel and his gang had gone apirating, and come to st. croix for a careening......unfortunately(for them) the HMS Scarborough spotted them and began firing upon them......when the warship retreated slightly, the pyrates tried to flee in Martels 22gun galley John & Marshall...but ran aground...so capt. martel ordered the ship burned...with 40 slaves in the hold

There was another case also. In 1722, Bartholomew Roberts' pirates burned the Porcupine in Whydah roadstead with 80 slaves aboard, because the captain refused to ransom the ship. Note in each case there were serious obstacles to marketing the slaves. Roberts was on the African coast, the ultimate buyer's market for slaves, and would have had to go all the way across the Atlantic to reach a good seller's market. Slaves on the African coast were so little valued that several pirates (notably England) gave them back to the captains they robbed. In Martel's case he was under attack and was about to lose the slaves anyway.

That is actually the one I was thinking of. I thought it was Roberts, but I wasn't sure. I don't doubt pirates would trade in slaves if the opportunity existed. They were after fast cash, just like any criminal intent on stealing. I still don't think BB would plan to take a slave ship unless he had a ready buyer. (And for this you still need proof, dammit. All the rest of it is circumstantial evidence and supposition.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "classic" politically correct view of all slavery is inherently evil is NOT something a person of the early 1700s would have understood.

It troubles me when viewing slavery as inherently evil is dismissed as "politically correct." Slavery is evil, and one need not adhere to any one right wing or left wing political viewpoint to think so. The term "political correctness" is better reserved for the rigid lockstep postmodernist political orthodoxy that prevails in certain universities, which analyzes everything in terms of ethnic and religious groups' grievances and "power," dismisses everything created by the "powerful," (i.e. whites, Christians, capitalists, Americans, Europeans) and automatically validates everything produced by the "powerless" (everybody else).

I reject political correctness in the sense I just described, but that doesn't stop me from considering slavery as evil: ALL slavery. To take the contrary view requires you to reject not just political correctness, but the Western democratic tradition that views all men as created equal, the Western capitalist tradition that regards society as happiest and most productive when everyone is free to pursue their own wealth and prosperity.

I understand that in the 1700s slavery was a widespread and accepted institution, not just in the Americas and Europe but all over the world, and that most people wouldn't have thought to question it. That mitigates the evil, but doesn't make it right. Many of those who did think to question slavery, even in the 1700s, recognized that it was wrong, noticeably a large number of the Quakers, Benjamin Franklin, and (ironically, since he was a slave owner) Thomas Jefferson.

The notion that "all men are created equal" is, in the philosophical realm, an enlightenment idea. Slavery was controversial in the 18th C., but legal and had many who argued for it. I was trying to mention it from the POV of the early 18h C, and from a common-man's POV, rather than an elightenment POV.

Personally, I find it awful and am glad it was disposed of, along with a number of social, economic, and political ideas from the 18th C.

My point was that, as it was LEGAL and largely practiced at the time, we need to look a it with the moral POV of the time. Also, I was starting to and mentioned that not ALL slave owners were evil people. A fair number used the laws of the time to do "the right thing" and used the legal protections afforded by the laws to the ADVANTAGE of themselves and the men and women enslaved. To use a passage that was used at the time as a guide, look at the book of Philemon in the Bible. The background is that Philemon's slave Onesimus had fled and ran to Paul. Paul then wrote this letter and sent Onesimus back to Philemon. In it, Paul argues that sense both are Christians, Philemon should treat Onesimus as a fellow Christian and either treat Onesimus as a member of his household or set him free.

Actually, of one does a detailed study of slavery and slave terminology in the Bible, it will be very interesting.

What I was talking about is the 20th C. "taking for granted" that slavery is inherently evil" without looking into the pros, cons, the way it was practiced in different periods, and all the other details.

Take a look at the film "Amazing Grace" (2006) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454776/ on Wilberforce, who was the leader in getting the slave trade illegal in Britain, a century after our period. Even then, it was defended by many, many people and only barely passed the first time around. It was the anti-slavery advocates of THAT time that changed public opinion.

We live in a post-American Civil War, post-Wilberforce, and post-civil rights movement world.

In the 18th C, the perspective was VERY different than our own. It was also just as complex as many socio-political issues are today.

I'd also separate slavery from the foundations of western democracy, as slavery WAS and REMAINED legal well into the history of western democratic governments.

At the time, Quakers were seen as "odd" in many ways, which is also a reason they were persecuted by most everyone else. Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin were half-century later. Also, they were products of the "Enlightenment" philosophical school that developed during the 18th C. In the early 18th C., there were a growing number who thought slavery was evil and sought to make it gone, and a great many more who saw no problem with it at all and another sizable group who saw it as a "necessary evil." I was aiming to highlight the OTHER POV of those that saw: "it as a legal reality, now how does one use that reality to do what is right and good . . . " That group lasted until slavery legally ended. I'd even do so far into saying it was the shift of that last group and "necessary evil" to the abolitionist side that finally ended slavery for good (which was a GOOD thing).

Also, over a century later, in the American South, slavery was a debated issue and there WERE a number of plans to gradually scale it down, end it, and transform the economy from a slave economy to a wage economy. Now, that gets into the vast complexity of the causes of the American Civil War . . .

I will say that "my people" (direct ancestors) were part of those that were legally at issue for teaching slaves to read and right (illegal at the time) and literally "tarred and feathered" and ran people out of town for abuse of slaves. They DID write, in church documents that church members who owned slaves were to treat them as they do their own children or not have them at all- abuse has a zero toleration.

On my other side, my family was friends and associated of the Atlanta-based civil rights leaders in the 20th C. (What I was alluding to when saying I was "quite the opposite" . . . )

When you get down to it, slavery was part of human history from the beginning of recorded history and wasn't ended until the 1800s.

In period, we need to study what was ACTUALLY thought and done, not what we wish had been thought and done from out POV 300 years (and a key 300 years in all of human history on that specific issue) later. To impose late 20th and 21st century morality on the early 18th C IS "politically correct" revisionist history. At the time, it wasn't nearly as clear as we today would like it to be. AT THE TIME, slavery was morally ambiguous.

Edited by Tartan Jack

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When you get down to it, slavery was part of human history from the beginning of recorded history and wasn't ended until the 1800s.

In period, we need to study what was ACTUALLY thought and done, not what we wish had been thought and done from out POV 300 years (and a key 300 years in all of human history on that specific issue) later. To impose late 20th and 21st century morality on the early 18th C IS "politically correct" revisionist history. At the time, it wasn't nearly as clear as we today would like it to be. AT THE TIME, slavery was morally ambiguous.

No. That is like saying that the Sun orbited the Earth in the 12th century, because most people AT THE TIME believed that it did. People in the 12th century had many good reasons for thinking the Sun orbited the Earth, but they were absolutely, 100% wrong, just like those in the 18th century who failed to recognize that slavery was evil.

Granted, good and evil are not as objectively verifiable as the Earth orbiting the Sun. Good and evil refer only to some moral standard; if you take as your standard that people should deal with each other by brute force, and that no concept of human rights should interfere with the use of brute force, than of course slavery would be good by that standard. But even in the 18th century, that was not the standard of morality most people adopted. It was generally considered wrong to seize white people against their will and sell them, or force them to work without giving them anything in exchange. An exception was made for slaves, and that exception was based on three demonstrable falsehoods: 1) that slaves were happier enslaved; 2) that black persons were naturally inferior in intelligence and morality to whites; and 3) that God had decreed the world must be forever ordered in this way. We know each of these to be false because 1) the "happy" slaves ran away in huge numbers even at the risk of hideous punishments, 2) no genetic difference is discernible between black people and white people that would cause one to be less moral or intelligent than the other, and 3) God did not prevent humans from reordering the world to eliminate slavery when humans chose to do so.

If all you are saying is that the vast majority of people in the 18th century did not consider slavery wrong, or at least not so wrong that it should be abolished, you are of course correct. When I write my novels, I don't put abolitionists on every street corner; slaveowners are respected people in society in my fiction as they were in real history. Indeed, the heroine of one of my novels is a slaveowner, and while she is not willfully cruel, she treats her slaves with about the same care and respect that she gives her horses, because that's how her society has taught her to act and it has never occurred to her to question it, any more than it occurs to us to question whether the computer objects to being typed on. I try to represent the past as it was, with its ugly parts as well as its beautiful ones.

On the other hand, if you are saying that slavery is wrong now, but was not wrong then, merely because slavery is less popular now than it was then, I still must object. Even if you believe that morality is a matter of majority vote, which I don't accept but I suppose I cannot disprove, the beliefs on which the 18th century moral attitude toward slavery was based (the natural inferiority of blacks, the happiness of the slaves, and the divine ordination of slavery that I mentioned earlier) were objectively false. Even at that time, the belief in slavery's goodness persisted mostly through astonishing self-delusion: I've read a Barbadian slave owner from the late 18th century swearing up and down how the slaves were all universally happy and just a few pages later describing large numbers of slaves being executed by slow torture to punish their revolt against their "happy" conditions; others insisted that slavery was a necessary means of giving slaves the education they needed, while knowing full well that it was illegal to teach slaves to read.

As for slavery being legal in the 18th century; of course it was, in most places, but that's irrelevant. Lots of things that are evil are legal, even today. It's legal in most states to cheat on your wife; it's legal for the Westboro Baptist Church to exploit the grief of dead soldiers' families for publicity. That doesn't mean they're not evil.

I agree with you that the idea of all men being created equal was more of an Enlightenment view than an early 18th century one: Fontenelle and Montaigne had laid the foundation, but it was certainly still a small minority viewpoint in our period. I meant that more to show that you don't have to accept the extremist leftist prejudices that are properly called "politically correct" to declare slavery to be evil: 18th century slavery is considered evil by people from every conceivable band of the political spectrum. Indeed, the idea that it is inherently wrong to impose our ideas of morality on other cultures is exactly what real politically correct "scholars" routinely use to bash Western culture. Lots of leftist academics treat it as morally leperous cultural chauvinism to grant Western civilization any credit over other civilizations for getting rid of human sacrifice, allowing women to vote and own property, destroying slavery, developing antibiotics, enacting religious tolerance, etc. So, even if I am wrong in believing that what is evil today was also evil yesterday, that does not make my mistake inherently "politically correct."

I realize that the morality of a person's ancestors can be a very touchy subject. So let me just say that believing that slavery was evil does not necessarily mean that every person who ever practiced it was evil. There are no perfect people; everyone does something morally wrong at some point in their lives. If we say a person is evil, we mean that he was evil on balance; that his evil actions outwieghed his good ones. I do not presume to pass such a judgment on every single slave owner. To return to Thomas Jefferson; he enslaved a few scores of people, but he liberated millions, and provided inspiration for the ultimate end of slavery and for the survival of liberty in many countries today. I would say on balance he was a good person.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[blue beret]

The "classic" politically correct view of all slavery is inherently evil is NOT something a person of the early 1700s would have understood

So let me just say that believing that slavery was evil does not necessarily mean that every person who ever practiced it was evil.

I believe you have reached an accord. Otherwise, the debate is about the meaning attached to the phrase 'politically correct', which is somewhat off topic. I'm sure that Tartan Jack was not suggesting that aspects of slavery were a good thing, or that one needs to be a raving leftie to believe otherwise.

[/blue beret]

When you get down to it, slavery was part of human history from the beginning of recorded history and wasn't ended until the 1800s

It hasn't ended.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kevin Duffus: His name came up when I was doing my 10-15 pager for my Pirates and Piracy class on Blackbeard, anyone know what he's into besides this article? I think he's local to the Bath region, or at least that's what my befuddled brain wants to tell me.

As part of the same class, we were required to read a book about a slaver called The Dilligent. Piracy and slavery were inextricably linked, whether it was popular to take slavers as new pirate vessels for their speed and cargo room, or, if you buy Marcus Rediker's theory that piracy was a voluntary grass-roots movement of formerly upstanding sailors who got tired of bad conditions and worse food, that many pirates were former sailors aboard slavers and couldn't stand them because of the terrible conditions of their own lives, and not for the moral attrocities that the institution was based upon.

Foxe or someone may have said something similar, I just did a bunch of scanning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0