Friday, January 17, 2014

Prattville Dragoons January Camp Meeting - Part 2 (The Emancipation Proclamation, a Brief History of Slavery in the Colonial Period)

Following the introductory portion of the Dragoons camp meeting, it was brought to everyone's attention that Communications Officer Tyrone Crowley addressed the local Lions Club as Daniel Pratt and the local Thespian Club as Jefferson Davis.  These appearances provide an outstanding opportunity to convey the true history of the 19th century period. 

Sam Reid was introduced as the guest speaker for the January camp meeting and began by endorsing the Stephen D. Lee Institute Lectures and the upcoming one scheduled fro February for Chattanooga. Sam recalled he developed his love of history from his 11th grade history teacher who often teared up when discussing the War for Southern Independence and spent an inordinate amount of time teaching about this period in American history and he recalled her sentiment, "If we had to lose a war, we would have been better off losing to the British."  Today in history classes, our children are taught the Father Abraham leading the divine Union forces to free the slaves fable. 

Sam began his discussion of the Emancipation Proclamation with a brief history of slavery in the American colonies.  Although there are accounts of mistreatment, most slaves were treated and cared for very well as they were an investment.  Most were well fed, had a relatively short work period with weekends off including Sundays where they attended church and were brought together from nearby plantations to sing and dance. 

The slave trade began in the 16th century in America when colonists enslaved captured Indians but they often escaped back to their tribes.  Soon, with the Massachusetts governor's approval and encouragement, Indians were shipped down to Barbados and traded for African slaves who were brought back to work in Massachusetts. Slave ship building became a huge industry centered in Rhode Island and it was estimated that 100,000 slaves, one fifth of the total number of slaves brought to America from overseas, came aboard ships built in Rhode Island.  One ship builder, John Brown became so wealthy he founded Brown University, an Ivy League school.

So slavery was big business throughout the colonies and largely originated in the New England states.  Many freed slaves often owned slaves and one Long Island resident owned 68 slaves at the time of his death. It was estimated up to 20% of slave owners were black colonists. One slave ship, the Nightingale transported 961 slaves in one voyage with the slaves literally stacked upon each other.  The value of their cargo was one million dollars.  The death rate in the crossings was often 20% and deceased were unchained and thrown overboard. 

Beyond those atrocities, there were some noted slave revolts including one in 1729 in Manhattan NY where the leaders of the insurrection were hung or broken and burned and in 1741, another slave revolt resulted in those being burned at the stake. Eventually due to varying circumstances including urbanization and the development of industries in New England which did not rely on slave labor, the slave trade ended in 1808 in the North although slavery existed in New York for instance until 1851.  During this period of time, laws were enacted which freed slaves once they reached the age of 21 so some slaves were taken to Southern states and sold or shipped to Barbados or Brazil.  Plantations in Brazil often had thousands of slaves where by comparison, American plantations typically had about 50-60 slaves.
Dragoon Sam Reid

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