The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

It was January 2012 and I was ecstatic—and with good reason.

I had been working on the book at hand for some time and had traveled extensively. However, building renovations had prevented my access to the New York Historical Society in Manhattan until my tardy arrival in early 2012. However, as it turns out, my wait was rewarded amply when I encountered the richly informative Daniel Parish, Jr. Slavery Transcripts, which cover extensively colonial slavery in North America—and beyond. Unfortunately, this treasure trove is not organized adroitly, which may account for its relative absence in the footnotes of scholars—and also sheds light on the nature of my references to it. Still, my research peregrination has convinced me that this collection should be better known to scholars seeking to unravel the complexities of the 1776 revolt against British rule.

For it is the argument of this book that slavery permeated colonial North America, underpinning the pre-1776 economy, in terms of not only agriculture but insurance, banking, shipbuilding, and the like. Yet the enslaved resisted fiercely, as we will see, and did so quite often, at times with the aid of competing colonial powers, notably Spain and, to an extent, France. Their resistance helped to drive settlers from the Caribbean to the mainland, particularly in the years leading up to 1776. The sprawling land mass of the mainland—versus the limited land mass of the Caribbean—allowed European empires to more easily bump into one another, for example, on the Georgia-Florida border, causing sparks to fly.

The crucial turning point for North America—and arguably, the British Empire as a whole—emerged in 1688 with the so-called Glorious Revolution, which, inter alia, caused the monarchy to retreat and led to the ascendancy of a rising class of merchants. This, in turn . . .

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