How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery

Posted By : manager

Posted : March 3, 2022

by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank
of The Hartford Courant

Part Three
Chapter One: Cotton Comes North,
Part Two

by Gene Kizer, Jr.


At the end of this article beneath the notes, I have cited is “Actual Citation from Book,” Complicity’s notes from Chapter One.

SEVERAL PEOPLE have pointed out an excellent 2010 article on the North’s enormous involvement with slavery and the slave trade entitled “New England’s hidden history, More than we like to think, the North was built on slavery” by Francie Latour, who, at the time, was with the Boston Globe. There is a link at the end of this blog article in Note 1.

Latour begins with the story of a slave, Mark Codman, in present-day Somerville, Massachusetts who, with two others, were convicted of murdering their master. Codman “was hanged, tarred, and then suspended in a metal gibbet on the main road to town, where his body remained for more than 20 years.”1

She knows it was there for more than 20 years because Paul Revere mentioned it in his account when he galloped past “Charlestown Neck, and got nearly opposite where Mark was hung in chains.”2

Latour explains the myth that Northerners believe about their history just as it is explained in Complicity and almost verbatim:

Slavery happened in the South, and it ended thanks to the North. Maybe we had a little slavery, early on. But it wasn’t real slavery. We never had many slaves, and the ones we did have were practically family. We let them marry, we taught them to read, and soon enough, we freed them. New England is the home of abolitionists and underground railroads. In the story of slavery — and by extension, the story of race and racism in modern-day America — we’re the heroes. Aren’t we?3

Latour writes that researchers are starting to bring out “the hidden stories of New England slavery — its brutality, its staying power, and its silent presence in the very places that have become synonymous with freedom. With the markers of slavery forgotten even as they lurk beneath our feet — from graveyards to historic homes, from Lexington and Concord to the halls of Harvard University.”4

She quotes Anne Farrow, one of the authors of Complicity, who said “these great seaports and these great historic houses, everywhere you look, you can follow it back to the agricultural trade of the West Indies, to the trade of bodies in Africa, to the unpaid labor of black people.”5

Farrow said she knew nothing about slavery in the North at first but once she started her research, one thing led to another. A mentor of hers stated that the North “democratized” slavery:

Where in the South a few people owned so many slaves, here in the North, many people owned a few. There was a widespread ownership of black people.6

Latour goes into detail about Rhode Island’s huge role in New England slave trading:

Following the Revolution, scholars estimate, slave traders in the tiny Ocean State controlled between two-thirds and 90 percent of America’s trade in enslaved Africans. On the rolling farms of Narragansett, nearly one-third of the population was black —  a proportion not much different from Southern plantations.7

She quotes C. S. Manegold’s Ten Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North with its interesting discussion of the symbolism of the pineapple. She says “When New England ships came to port, captains would impale pineapples on a fence post, a sign to everyone that they were home and open for business, bearing the bounty of slave labor and sometimes slaves themselves.”

The pineapple came to be a happy symbol of “hospitality and welcome.”

John Winthrop, author of the famous sermon “City Upon a Hill” and first Massachusetts governor “not only owned slaves at Ten Hills Farm, but in 1641, he helped pass one of the first laws making chattel slavery legal in North America.”

Ten Hills Farm “centers on five generations of slaveholders tied to one Colonial era estate, the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford, Mass.” He writes that the house passed to the Royalls and:

entered a family line whose massive fortune came from slave plantations in Antigua. Members of the Royall family would eventually give land and money that helped establish Harvard Law School. To this day, the law school bears a seal borrowed from the Royall family crest, and for years the Royall Professorship of Law remained the school’s most prestigious faculty post, almost always occupied by the law school dean. . . . 8

Supposedly, when Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was a dean at Harvard, she “quietly turned the title down.”

Kagan didn’t explain her decision but if she turned down the title because it was associated with slavery yet didn’t explain herself, then she is just as guilty as the long line of disgraceful New England historians who, to this day, have turned a great part of their history into a lie.

In 1860, the South was “producing 66 percent of the world’s cotton, and raw cotton accounted for more than  half of all U.S. exports.”9

Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, patented in 1794, revolutionized cotton production, which led to an “ironclad” relationship between the South and Great Britain:

By the eve of the Civil War, Great Britain was largely clothing the Western world, using Southern-grown, slave-picked cotton.10

The cotton industry was so dynamic it awed observers and was hard to describe. Solon Robinson, the New York Tribune agriculture editor in 1848, wrote of “‘acres of cotton bales'” on the docks in New Orleans:

Boats are constantly arriving, so piled up with cotton, that the lower tier of bales on deck are in the water; and as the boat is approaching, it looks like a huge raft of cotton bales, with the chimneys and steam pipe of an engine sticking up out of the centre.11

New York, Boston and other Northern cities were deeply involved in the cotton trade. It was the source of their wealth:

From New Orleans and the other major cotton ports—Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Mobile, Alabama—most of the cotton was shipped to Liverpool. If it did not go directly to Liverpool, it was sent to the North: to Boston for use in the domestic textile industry, or to New York City. From New York, it generally went to Liverpool, or elsewhere in Europe.

But this gives only the slightest hint of the role New York City and the rest of the North played in the cotton trade, or of the lengths the New York business community was forced to go to protect its franchise.12

Northerners were making vast sums of money shipping Southern cotton. The majority of their shipping industry was cotton.

That’s why the South’s low 10% tariff vis-a-vis the North’s astronomical Morrill Tariff that was 47 to 60% higher, meant that few were going to ship into the North and pay 37% to 50% more than they had to pay in the South. Northern ship captains could get cargoes in the South but were far less likely in the North. The Morrill Tariff threatened to re-route the Northern shipping industry into to the South overnight.

When you add that to the obliteration of Northern manufacturing, which was about to lose the huge, wealthy, captive Southern market it had had all to itself, you can see a fast-approaching economic disaster for the North.

That is what Lincoln and Northern leaders saw in March, 1861, which is why he put together his plan to, hopefully, start a war in Charleston or Pensacola. He was anxious to put up a blockade and scare Europe away from the South, which he did before the smoke had cleared from the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

The South, with 100% control of King Cotton, buying all its manufactured goods from Europe at lower prices and building its own manufacturing industry, would quickly become a powerhouse.

Once European military alliances were established, the North would not be able to beat the South in a war.

The idea that the good North fought their bloody war to free the slaves rather than protect their manufacturing and shipping industries and wealth and power, is an absurdity of biblical proportions.

Nobody in the North said they should march armies into the South to free the slaves. All their legislation and documents supported slavery. The Corwin Amendment, supported by Abraham Lincoln, would have left black people in slavery forever, even beyond the reach of Congress in places where slavery already existed. It passed the Northern Congress and was ratified by five states before the war made it moot.

The Northern War Aims Resolution said the war was about preserving the Union, not ending slavery, as Lincoln himself said over and over.

The North was still deeply involved in the slave trade at wartime. As W.E.B. DuBois wrote, New York and Boston, in 1862, a year into the war, were the largest slave trading ports on the planet.

Several Northern states had laws preventing blacks from even visiting, much less living there, including Lincoln’s Illinois.

No wonder so much of Northern history is a flat out lie.

On December 15, 1860, two days before South Carolina’s secession convention was to convene, a powerful group of Northern businessmen called the Union Committee of Fifteen met at the offices of Richard Lathers, “a prominent cotton merchant.” Two hundred were invited but over 2,000 came. They were in a panic over the thought of Southern secession.13

Lathers implored Southerners to “‘consider their duties to that part of their Northern brethren whose sympathies have always been with Southern rights and against Northern aggression.'”14

John A Dix, “New Hampshire native, former New York senator, and future New York governor” summed things up:

We will not review the dark history of the aggression and insult visited upon you by Abolitionists and their abettors during the last thirty-five years. Our detestation of these acts of hostility is not inferior to your own.15

Southerners had legitimate grievances against the North.

Northerners had organized and financed murderers like John Brown and sent him and his cutthroats into the South. They were to foment a slave insurrection, like in Haiti, where whites were raped and murdered for days with few survivors.

When John Brown was brought to justice, his sons were harbored in Ohio and Iowa, and he was celebrated throughout the North as a hero.

Would you allow people to rule over you who had sent murderers into your peaceful communities to kill your families?

No abolitionists had a realistic plan of gradual, compensated emancipation to end slavery such as the Northern states and all other countries on earth had used except Haiti.

Most anti-slavery in the North was political. It was designed to rally Republican votes for the first sectional party in American history, the party of the North pledged against the South as Wendell Phillips said.

Historians know that anti-slavery in the North was not pro-black. It was actually anti-black. They didn’t like slavery because they didn’t like blacks and did not want blacks near them in the West, and they surely did not want blacks coming North and being job competition.

The mechanics of the antebellum cotton trade are fascinating:

At nearly five feet high and some 500 pounds, a bale of cotton is an impressive presence. In the pre-plastic nineteenth century, bales were bound in tightly woven burlap or held more loosely in place by coarse, large-gapped material from which a sample could easily be sliced and tested for quality. Thin metal bands reinforced the wrapping. But this huge block of soft fibers seemed to burst from its covering, bulging over its tight bands, a muscleman squeezed into a T-shirt.16

Cotton bales could be stacked stories high “and remain stable while being shipped down the Mississippi River or one of its tributaries, up the East Coast, or across the Atlantic.” They could be “wheeled from a dock onto one of thousands of flatboats, sloops, brigs, barks, schooners, clippers, and steamboats.”17

Cotton was king, “the backbone of the American economy” and “the North ruled the kingdom.”

From seed to cloth, Northern merchants, shippers, and financial institutions, many based in New York, controlled nearly every aspect of cotton production and trade.18

New York’s power was enormous. After London and Paris, New York was third in the West. It’s banks were instrumental because:

Only large banks, generally located in Manhattan, or in London, could extend to plantation owners the credit they needed between planting and selling their crop. If a farmer wanted to expand his operations during those boom decades, he required the deep pockets of Northern banks to lend him the money to buy additional equipment, as well as additional labor. Slaves were usually bought on credit.19

Northern middlemen such as cotton “factors” performed important functions. A factor would use his contacts to help the:

isolated rural planter earn the best price in the volatile world marketplace. Factors, generally New Englanders, were more than brokers or agents. They often bought a planter’s supplies, advised him, and took charge of his finances; frequently they knew more about the condition of a plantation than the owner. A factor’s success depended on being indispensable, and that required him to provide a high quality of service in return for his commission on a cotton sale.20

Northerners thoroughly controlled the cotton trade:

Most ships that carried the cotton from plantation to port to market were built in the North, and they were usually owned by Northerners. Their captains and crews were often New Englanders. Northern companies sold the insurance to protect a farmer’s crop and all of his property, including his slaves. And hundreds of Northern textile mills clothed those slaves, using what was sometimes referred to as ‘negro cloth.’21

The “creation of ‘sailing packets,’ shuttles that assured the business world on both sides of the Atlantic of regular delivery of goods” was a huge advancement in the cotton trade. A dynamic cotton merchant named Jeremiah Thompson launched his Black Ball Line which in turn:

launched a storied era of transatlantic races and daring, colorful captains. Using ships termed “packets,” after the leather mail pouches they carried, Black Ball was the first of more than a dozen shipping lines in the united States that transported products and passengers across the ocean—to Liverpool, and to Le Havre, in France—and up and down  the East Coast. The ships would carry good from Europe and the North to the Atlantic cotton ports of Charleston and Savannah, and to ports on the Gulf of Mexico, including the mammoth New Orleans. They would return north with holds full of raw cotton. The Cotton Triangle had been created.22

So, New York “became the fulcrum of the international cotton trade.” Cotton was brought to New York “where it was unloaded and then reloaded onto Liverpool- and Continent-bound vessels” which added thousands of jobs and costs along the way that benefited New Yorkers.23

When ships from Europe were unloaded in New York, those goods were “reloaded onto other ships that brought European and Northern products to coastal and river ports throughout the United States.”

The bottom line was that the South with its slave-grown cotton, tobacco and rice, “was providing New York with more than half of its exports.”


Next Week:
A Comprehensive Review of
How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery
by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank
of The Hartford Courant
Part Four
Chapter One: Cotton Comes North,
Part Three



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