The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of Americaby Published 18 Apr 2014
|The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America.pdf|
|Publisher||New York University Press|
Illuminates how the preservation of slavery was a motivating factor for the Revolutionary War The successful 1776 revolt against British rule in North America has been hailed almost universally as a great step forward for humanity. But the Africans then living in the colonies overwhelmingly sided with the British. In this trailblazing book, Gerald Horne shows that in the prelude to 1776, the abolition of slavery seemed all but inevitable in London, delighting Africans as much as it outraged slaveholders, and sparking the colonial revolt.
Prior to 1776, anti-slavery sentiments were deepening throughout Britain and in the Caribbean, rebellious Africans were in revolt. For European colonists in America, the major threat to their security was a foreign invasion combined with an insurrection of the enslaved. It was a real and threatening possibility that London would impose abolition throughout the colonies--a possibility the founding fathers feared would bring slave rebellions to their shores. To forestall it, they went to war.
The so-called Revolutionary War, Horne writes, was in part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their right to enslave others. The Counter-Revolution of 1776 brings us to a radical new understanding of the traditional heroic creation myth of the United States.
"The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America" Reviews
Excellent. So much in here even I did not know. This book explains many things which have transpired since what was obviously a counter revolution of white supremacist settlers and which established a white settler republic. I wish I were in high school again and stepped forward in my American History class with a "book report" on this book. What fun that would be. For anyone who reads this book, 1776 will never be the same.
Outstanding work, well documented, and somewhat horrifying to boot.
But for a small pox outbreak amongst the African troops of the troops of Lord Dunmore, history might have been writ in a different manner.
Some leftist historians still consider the coming into being of the United States as a positive, progressive development. Undeniably, the struggle for American independence from the Crown directly inspired the French Revolution, which in turn served as an inspiration for the revolutions in Russia and China and so on. But Gerald Horne, the Marxist historian of the African-American experience, here persuasively argues that the war for American independence constituted a counter-revolution. Horne charges that independence was intended to further consolidate the power of the oppressor class and further subjugate the oppressed of the thirteen colonies.
Horne argues that slave resistance was a driving force in the colonization of what would become the mainland United States. For many years the sugar colonies of the Caribbean were seen by the Crown as more valuable and stable than those on the mainland, which were hampered by attacks from the indigenous as well as competing colonizers Spain and France. But the African slaves in the Caribbean soon came to outnumber the European oppressors by such numbers that the latter were helpless when the former rebelled. The mainland offered far more room to run in case of revolt, and it could house vastly more Europeans to keep the slaves in chains. An exodus to the mainland began.
Badly in need of Europeans for the colonial project, the English settlers in America began to let go of their prejudices against such groups as the Irish and Scottish and even (to a lesser extent) the Jews. The Crown, being all too ready to rid British soil of such groups, sent them to the American colonies in mass where they were promised the eventual potential of owning property if they, in turn, put asside their hatred for the British. All ethnicities from the British Isles were to become "white". Thus, Horne asserts, skin color came to define identity more than ethnicity or religion.
While slave revolts continued, the settlers were for the most part successful in maintaining power and some grew extremely wealthy by trading both with the British and, surreptitiously, with the Spanish in Florida and the French in Louisiana and Quebec. Both the colonists and the Crown knew that the colonists had become too powerful to keep under the royal thumb if things continued as they were.
The Spanish deviled the colonists by promising escaped slaves freedom and allowing them into the army where they could share in the spoils of attacks on their former oppressors. Looking from afar, the Crown was quietly impressed with Spain's strategy. The African soldiers fought fiercely, and Spain, while controlling far less territory in what would become the United States than the British, often were the victors militarily. There was growing abolitionist sentiment in the Kingdom. Perhaps the English could fight the Spanish with their own fire by freeing the slaves. True, this could prove disastrous for European colonists of the mainland, but they were quickly turning into a danger themselves.
Ultimately, however, the Crown decided to help its unruly subjects in America by launching the French-Indian War, which forced the Spanish from Florida and the French from Quebec. The crown made a pact with the indigenous to limit expansion west. British blood had been spilled for the colonists, and the Crown wanted to be recompensed through taxes to repay it for the war effort. Not seeking such another project, the Crown pressured the colonists not to expand westward. Both of these moves were greatly resented by the European colonists who began to talk more and more openly of independence.
Talk of independence completely outraged the British who began to characterize, not unfairly it seems to me, the Americans as spectacular hypocrites for maintaining racist slavery while chiming about freedom from taxes to pay for a war fought for their benefit. Abolitionism became a major movement in England, and the courts seemed to be moving more and more towards freeing the slaves in the colonies.
It was this, Horne argues, that ultimately drove the colonists into the arms of the Crown's enemies in France, and to independence. This allowed slavery to be maintained for another 80-something years and for the move westward that led to the genocide of the Native Americans. From the standpoint of the majority, then, the coming into being of the United States was a historical catastrophe. It ultimately proved fully beneficial only for those in the Colonies who were already the most powerful. It should thus, Horne convincingly argues, be understood as a counter-revolution.
I did not know about the British use of armed Africans in colonial conflicts, and the problems that caused with pre-US colonists.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that "settler-colonialist" is the correct way to understand the US, and it is apparent why we really don't learn much about the pre-1776 history of North America.
This was worthwhile to me for the colonial history of British North America and the Caribbean. In particular, I found the demographics of states during this period useful (they are interspersed throughout the beginning half of the book).
Horne argues that the privatization of slave trading post 1688 played a critical role in the development of productive forces in British North America. First, because this encouraged the growth of slavery on territory that was in need of labor (also contributing to the ability to expropriate land from indigenous Americans). Second, because as this growth made the demographics of slavery in the Caribbean untenable, it encouraged movement by planters from the Caribbean to North America--further consolidating economic power in the latter.
Further, Horne argues that the instability inherent in the demographics of slavery throughout this region (North America and the Caribbean) contributed to violent instability in the form of slave insurrections. This, in turn, contributed to the (rational) fear of slaves rising to murder white settlers (often in league with the indigenous and other European powers: France and Spain).
With this background, Horne points to the governor of Virginia's proclamation to free slaves that sided with London during the tumult leading up to 1776 (and, earlier, the Somerset case in London which put Britain's tendency towards abolition in stark relief) as disproportionately contributing towards the unification and intensification of white settlers against British rule.
This is certainly not a light read, and Horne does not write for a wide audience--his language is often wordy and dense. He also has a terrible habit of using the nicknames of states (e.g., "The Palmetto State"). Nonetheless, it's an excellent book if you don't need your hand held and you are interested in the subject.
I really wanted to absolutely love this book. I wanted to 5 star it and have it a favorite and recommend it to everyone.
It's full of information and historical analysis pointing to the wholly correct and anti-racist conclusion that American independence was largely spurred by American obsession with enslaving Africans and the creation of white identity. Horne provides countless examples and events explaining the creation of whiteness, the uprisings of Africans, and the disgusting attitudes of Europeans, especially European American colonists - all of which is virtually non-existent in public education in America. Public education it is, after reading this, impossible to deny is atrociously racist.
The problem with the book is the writing. It is repetitive repetitive repetitive. It is dense in the bad way. It is droning and boring. It is full of words and sentences that require several minutes just to figure out what they mean.
A very simple example:
"As the 1756 war was concluding, there were more sales of Africans from Massachusetts to far-flung sites, a kind of ersatz abolitionism that was to become au courant in the republic: ultimately, there was a conflation on the mainland of getting rid of both slaves and Africans generally, since the latter - in whatever guise - were perceived as a threat to internal security."
that is ONE SENTENCE. That's not even one of the really tough sentence, it's a pretty normal one throughout the book. Ersatz? Au courant? What? This sentence could have simply been:
As the 1756 war was concluding, there were more sales of Africans from Massachusetts to distant locations. These sales gained popularity throughout the mainland as, increasingly, slaves and Africans in general were seen as a threat to internal security.
Simple. Two sentences, simplified and clear. The book is absolutely chock full of confusing words, phrases, grammar, and run-on sentences. Add to that the frequent quotes from ye olde english and it makes it even worse.
If you can stomach a long boring read, you'll learn a lot. If the book was far more concise, less repetitive, and better written, it would be incredible.