Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Oct 14 15:35:27 PDT 2000


> > That American slave owners' ideology was
> paternalistic & sometimes anti-capitalist, as Genovese correctly
> argues (though Genovese overstates, in my view, anti-capitalist
> components of slave owners' ideology), doesn't mean that the social
> formation in question was in reality paternalistic in the style of
> pre-modern class societies with serfs or slaves,
>Genovese doesn't say it was. nor do I. G discusses the differences between
>ancient and modern slavery.

Then, it doesn't make sense to assume the kind of Hegelian psychological "dependency" of slaves upon masters or slaves' Gramscian "consent" to be part of the hegemonic bloc of slavocracy, as Genovese does. One can better explain slaves' diverse responses -- from Sally Hemings to Frederick Douglass to Nat Turner -- without resorting to either concepts. In fact, Genovese's theory of paternalism stands in the way of understanding slaves (though, as I said, it helps to understand, for instance, why Southern slave owners had to be defeated by the Civil War to abolish slavery -- economic reason alone can't explain their recalcitrance).

> > much less that
> slaves themselves "spontaneously" consented to the ideology of
> paternalism in the Gramscian sense of consent. >>
>No, it doesn't "mean" that, in the sense that it does not follow from the
>slaveowners' paternalism that the slaves necessarily consented. They didn't
>have to, and sometimes they didn't. There were Nat Turners and Denmark
>Veseys, as well as thousands of runaways. There were also Frederick
>Douglasses (my some is named for him, apropos of nothing), but citing the
>experience of the greatest runaway slave intellectual, the one who formulated
>the radical jsutice that shaped the abolitionist movement, to show that
>slaves did not consent, is sort of like referring to Marx, or maybe Josepf
>Dietzgen, to show that workers do not consent to capitalism. If most slaves
>were like Douglass, or most workers like Dietzgen, we would live in a
>different and better world. So, the lack of consent by some slaves does not
>mean that most slaves did not consent, and the fact that paternalism does not
>require consent does not show that it did not get consent in most cases.
>Personally, I think the rael objection to the thesis is that it somehow
>insults the solaves or threatens to legitimate slavery if we do not say that
>all slaves were Nat Turners who were kept in line by sheer terror if at all.
>The problem is that this is inconsistent with the observed facts of the
>relative stability of American slavery for a very long period, and the
>security inw hich the slaveowners lived their lives. The famous Confederate
>diarist Mary Chestnut wondered why she and others of her class did not have
>to worry that their slaves would not cut their throats while they slept. ANd
>thsi was during the war, when the armed forces were away at the front and the
>slaves were becoming openly restive! Yoshie might contemplate why not, if her
>theory was right. --jks

In my opinion, _even if_ nearly all slaves had always been as courageous as Nat Turner or as eloquent as Frederick Douglass (which they were not) or both, slavery could have been maintained, if enough non-slave-owning whites had joined slave owners in the hegemonic bloc (as they did). Revolts and resistances by slaves alone, even if they had been as frequent & widespread as they had been in the Caribbeans, would not necessarily have led to the overthrow of slavery. Only slaves in Haiti succeeded in doing so, and that is in large parts because of fortuitous circumstances that favored the cause of militant slaves (the French Revolution, the Anti-Jacobin invasions by the British, etc., a more complex & unstable racial & class stratification in Haiti than North America, etc.). That the American Revolution did not have the same effect can't be chalked up to American slaves' Gramscian consent to slavery:

***** Lecture Notes 3 - The American Revolution

African American History - Spring 1999 Department of History, St. John's University

by Omar Ali

...Free black people and slaves

This third and least memorialized uprising that forged the American Revolution frequently allied themselves with Native Americans and sometimes with abolitionist colonials. This third grouping, over the period of decades, provided the liberation of what some estimate to be one hundred thousand slaves, a fifth of the black population who numbered 575,000 in 1780. (Underground railroad which was to come, was credited with the emancipation of some 60,000 slaves.

Black resistance took many forms: appealing to the courts, fleeing, forming maroon communities (as we spoke about last week), to physical retaliation.

This mostly black rebellion constituted the largest emancipation of slaves in the Americas prior to the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and the most significant act of liberation among Africans in North America prior to the Civil War.

It's somewhat remarkable that such a massive emancipation should remain largely unrecounted in American historiography.

The black reaction to the American rebellion against the British was a sharp escalation of slave revolts in South Carolina in 1765 and 1768 and in Georgia in 1771 and 1772.

William Loren Katz reports: "The month before minutemen faced British muskets at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, slaves in Ulster County, NY, organized an uprising that also involved five hundred Native Americans. By the summer of 1775, patriots found armed slaves a menace from Maryland to Georgia. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, struck in three North Carolina counties but were crushed by overwhelming white firepower."

British authorities seized upon this weakness of the American revolutionaries among their slave population in the rebellious colonies.

In November 1775, the British Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, declared a martial law that included the caveat that "all indented servants, Negroes, or others [are] free, that are able and willing to bear arms."

Tens of thousands of slaves fled to the British side. The effect in Virginia alone, as described by Thomas Jefferson, was that 30,000 slaves left their colonial masters -- though there is no indication that all went over to the British.

Dunmore's appeal was purely practical rather than moral, it was rooted in expediency rather than humanitarian zeal.

As Loyalists, slaves and their free black counterparts (approximately one-third of them) took up arms and served as spies, couriers, guides, cooks, orderlies, waiters, personal servants, and field hands.

News of black people being incited to wage war against the colonial elites was received with mixed reviews in England. The elevation of black people to fight was seen as a lowering of the military and national status of England (Edmund Burke lamented in the House of Commons) -- even though this was filled with hyprocricy since the use of slave labor in a military capacity was common among European powers since the seventeenth century in the Caribbean and Brazil, where shortages of manpower forced colonial nations to recruit slaves for various military functions.

At the outbreak of the American Revolution several colonies, all of them in the North, accepted black people in militia units. Black people were at Lexington and Concord and at Bunker Hill.

Several served with Connecticut units during the Boston campaign. However, at the time of the Lexington battle, rumors that slaves were mobilizing to massacre the citizens left defenseless when the militia marched off to fight caused such panic among white citizens that the Massachusetts Committee of Safety decided to prohibit the enlistment of slaves in any of the colony's armies.

Five days after he was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army, George Washington, issued orders against enlisting black people, although those in the army were allowed to remain.

The Continental Congress moved that all black people be discharged from the Continental Army - although the motion was strongly supported by southern delegates, it failed. The actuality of black insurrection in Virginia, however gave the delegates second thoughts, and thereafter the Continental Congress formally declared all blacks ineligible for military service.

But the weight of common sense and military necessity compelled the abandonment of the policy. Convinced that the outcome of the war hinged on which side could arm black people faster, Washington publicly advocated the recruitment of black people into the Continental Army.

By 1777 free black men and slaves were serving in mixed regiments in a number of states, most of them in the North - Rhode Island and Connecticut had all-black batallions (enticed by the promise of freedom in exchange of fighting for Independence).

The historian James W. Walker states that "several black pioneer corps were formed of fugitive slaves, with their own non-commissioned officers, dozens of black people served the Royal Navy as ordinary seamen or as pilots on coastal vessels, and there was even a black cavalry troop created in 1782." When the British General Cornwallis surrendered to the patriots in 1781, more than 4,000 of his 5,000 seamen were black.

At the end of the war George Washington showed up at New York to insist that all slaves must be returned to their American owners.

He was unsuccessful and the British received 30,000 black people (including 3,000 free black people) in Nova Scotia. Many remained in Canada, others were transported to West Africa (eventually the colony of Sierra Leone), and others joined the thousands of other liberated slaves who had already been transferred to the West Indies.

As we will see next week, while the colonial elite consolidate their power in the newly established nation, the third grouping, black people (as was the case with poor whites) continued their rebellion.

Many black people resorted to marronage. In 1800, however, more direct forms of rebellion resurfaced. There was Gabriel's rebellion in Richmond, and in 1802, Sancho's conspiracy embraced Virginia and North Carolina.

Noteworthy: Thomas Jefferson included in the Declaration of Independence drafted for the Continental Congress in 1776 a paragraph detailing the king's guilt in imposing an "execrable commerce" on the colonies: that is the slave trade and slavery.

That paragraph was however, deleted, in all probability because so many at the Continental Congress (George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson himself) were pursuing the domestic slave trade - that is, the sale and transfer of slaves from the upper to the lower south.

Regarding the Constitution, just as had been the case under the British crown, the whole judicial and military might of the new nation conspired against servants and slaves, which could be seen in articles 1 and 2 of the Constitution.

Under Article 1 of the Constitution The number of representatives and direct taxes apportioned to each state was to be determined by its population: "adding the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other Persons."

Article 2, The whole nation was to serve as an informer against fugitive slaves and servants. "No person held to Service or Labour the State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due."

Again the judicial and military might of the new nation would bring its force to bear against both servants and slaves and then pit one group against the other, further isolating slaves:

The second Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Act in 1793, condemning any who would provide aid or protection to fugitive slaves.

<> *****

It seems to me that, during the Revolutionary period, slaves & free persons of color waged impressive struggles, which achieved a partial success of large-scale emancipation (the largest until the Haitian Revolution), as well as poor whites. Slaves couldn't emancipate themselves, however, mainly because the anti-British white Patriots of America did not think like Simon Bolivar or Léger Félicité Sonthonax:

***** To Simón Bolívar, himself of partial African ancestry, it was the Euro-American model of revolution that was to be avoided by the Spanish-American states seeking their independence after 1810, and he suggested the best way was to free all slaves. (Franklin W. Knight, "The Haitian Revolution," at <>) *****

***** The leftward drift of the revolution and the implacable zeal of its colonial administrators, especially the Jacobin commissioner Léger Félicité Sonthonax, to eradicate all traces of counterrevolution and royalism -- which he identified with the whites -- in Saint Domingue facilitated the ultimate victory of the blacks over the whites. (Franklin W. Knight, "The Haitian Revolution," at <>) *****

North American leaders of the Revolution were not Jacobins like Bolivar & Sonthonax. Nor were ordinary North American whites too prepared to emancipate slaves & elevate free persons of color to the ranks of patriots.


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