Tag Archives: History

Religion & Slaves: 1600’s Atlantic Coast

Atlantic-America-North-CoastMap of New Netherland, Virginia, and New England by Joan Vinckeboons (1639)

The religions mentioned herein were persecuted or outlawed in 1600’s Europe.

Boston, the “City on the Hill” was founded by Puritans in 1630 to mostly to serve god.  Other religions soon occupied New England, themselves also seeking freedom. The Back Bay was used through the 1640’s for the trade of seafood, slaves, and sugar. This challenged the Puritanical mores and ethics of “a just price for goods” to mitigate the “sway” of trade.

In the 1660’s, backlash from worldly gain forced many of Boston’s wealthy traders and religious dissenters elsewhere. Puritans left Boston earlier, settling New Haven in 1638, a slow-growing planned community. Many Quaker and Jewish merchants moved their fleets to the harbor of Newport, expanding their role in the slave trade and the manufacture of rope and sails.

Amsterdam began as Dutch fur post in 1625 and became a safe haven for the persecuted Jews of Portugal and Spain. In 1664, the British take New Amsterdam and rename it New York. Charleston was settled in 1670 by English Bermudans along secular lines to be a “great port towne.” It would attract a diverse lot of people trading rice, lumber, and African slaves.

The wealthy Quaker, William Penn, was granted land by Charles for debts owed to Penn’s father. He established Pennsylvania in 1682, a distance from Europe and New England as a refuge for Quakers. Considered a “green country town” in it’s early days, by 1800, Philadelphia and it’s suburbs would be the biggest city in North America.

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Thomas Newcomen’s Steam Engine

Newcomen's steam engine design.

Newcomen’s steam engine design.

The steam engine has been the catalyst for probably the greatest number of economic, social, and political changes in human history.  It provided an opportunity for fast growth, fast travel, and circumvented much of the longstanding problem of food spoilage during transportation.  It can also be said that the steam engine is where all the jobs went, as many labor consuming tasks eventually became mechanized from technology.

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Huey P. Long: A Unique Presence

A man of the people, Huey P. Long, Governor of Louisiana would travel the state, and eventually the entire country.  He spoke with an energy and populism that was supported by policy designed to help the working class. He had a unique charismatic presence that made him an effective orator.

Senator Huey P. Long of Louisiana, warms up for a radio speech from his Washington, DC office on March 7, 1935.

Senator Huey P. Long of Louisiana, warms up for a radio speech from his Washington, DC office on March 7, 1935.

He would gesticulate wildly, with emotion to emphasize his points.  He was poetic, and his speeches flowed well, telling a story.   He would literally yell at a large audience, carrying his voice before the regularity of teleprompters, sound amplification, and sound bite television coverage.  His spontaneity and energy would build many supporters.  His effectiveness in selling the need for roads in rural Louisiana–which at the time the need was hotly debated–still, today, makes him the patron saint of road building in the state.

His “antics” would eventually, to put it mildly, earn him less praise.  His speeches, though effective, would be labeled as buffoonery in the national media.  Because of his popularity as a speaker, he would endure many partisan smears and attacks on his character.  Eventually, Governor Long went to Washington, bringing his popularity with him.  He had large support, and was a strong contender for the presidency.  His speeches continued to make him popular, and there was fear that, if elected President, he would bring about a wave of social policies at the national level.

Combined with corruption allegations and charges of running a dictatorship back home in Louisiana, Huey Long would never get the chance. He was assassinated at age 42, with his last words being “God, don’t let me die. I have so much left to do.”

a great article: Huey Long: A Man of the People

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What/Who Is A Luddite?

Who Were the Luddites?

The "Leader of the Luddites"

The “Leader of the Luddites”

“Few groups have been more misunderstood and have had their image and name more frequently misappropriated and distorted than the Luddites,” according to literary scholar Kevin Binfield.  In his book, Writings of the Luddites, he describes them as “artisans…primarily skilled workers in the textile industries” who, for over two years starting in March 1811, rioted over a large area of England against factory owners and machines.

Binfield believes that Luddites resented the use of steam-powered looms and new stocking frames because these machines replaced much of the need for human labor while producing “large amounts of cheap, shoddy stocking material that was cut and sewn into stockings rather than completely fashioned (knit in one piece without seams).”

Luddites were also infuriated at the use of “colts,” who were less-skilled laborers that had not completed required seven-year apprenticeships.  The experienced cloth workers felt that their employers were actively trying to “drive down their wages and to produce inferior goods…thereby damaging their trades’ reputations.”  Their desperation was exacerbated by famine and rises in food prices, which required more and more of their dwindling earnings.   The machines would become “simply the most accessible targets for expressions of anger and direct action.”

The rioting started on March 11, 1811 in Nottinghamshire, with an attack on knitting frames.  Attacks occurred almost nightly for several weeks; this first wave, reported in the Nottingham Journal, was successful and none of the attackers were apprehended. The tensions would die down over the summer, but a bad harvest in the fall caused tempers flare once more.  The government was asked to provide military support, for “2000 men, many of them armed, were riotously traversing the County of Nottingham.”

Negotiations with the workers and their employers failed, and frame breaking continued. [1] In February 1812, it was proposed by the government that machine-breaking should become a capital offence, punishable by death. Although it was opposed by Lord Byron in the House of Lords, Parliament passed the Frame Breaking Act and 12,000 troops were ordered into the areas where the Luddites were active.  In February and March, 1812, factories were still being attacked by Luddites in Huddersfield, Halifax, Wakefield and Leeds.

Luddism gradually spread to Yorkshire, where one of the worst outbreaks of violence would occur.  Textile workers known as “Croppers” were suffering unemployment and decreased wages, and blamed that upon the gig mill, a machine which made it easier to shear cloth.[2]  The owner of Rawfolds Mill, had been using cloth-finishing machinery since 1811 and after local croppers began losing their jobs to this new technology, he suspected trouble, hiring guards to protect the factory.  The attack on Rawfolds Mill took place on 11th April, 1812.  Led by George Mellor, a young cropper from Huddersfield, the Luddites tried to force their way into the factory but were repelled. Seven days after the Rawfolds Mill incident, another local mill owner was attacked and killed.  In time, over a hundred suspects were rounded up; sixty-four were indicted.  Three men would be executed for the murder of mill owner, while fourteen were hung for the attack on Rawfolds Mill.  Days later, a mill near Manchester was set on fire and twelve were arrested on suspicion.  Four of the accused were executed, including Abraham Charlston, only twelve years old. Even though riots, executions, and deportations still took place throughout the summer, Luddism began to wane after the failed Rawfolds Mill attack; by 1817 the Luddite movement was no longer active in Britain. [3]

The true meaning of the movement is lost to most as, media historian Matthew Lasar writes in his article: You know the name, but just who were the Luddites? He acknowledges that “the popular image of them as an anti-technology movement fumbles upon a close look at their lives.”[4]  Luddism was, more than anything, a labor movement; frustrated workers, as Binfield puts, “wrecking the offensive machines and terrorizing the offending owners in order to preserve their wages, their jobs, and their trades.”[5]  They weren’t anti-capitlists by any means: they made their goods to be sold in the market.  They were upset by wage reductions, competition for jobs brought by unapprenticed workers, and new technologies that weakened the quality of their craft. According to Lasar, “what these artisans fought was a completely unregulated economy that regarded their destruction as a minor blot on the larger page of progress…(they) didn’t oppose technology; they opposed the sudden collapse of their industry, which they blamed in part on new weaving machines.”[6]




Binfield, Kevin. Writings of the Luddites. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004. Extract: http://campus.murraystate.edu/academic/faculty/kevin.binfield/Luddites/LudditeHistory.htm (accessed December 31, 2009).

Lasar, Matthew. “You know the name, but just who were the Luddites?” Ars Tecnica, http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/10/if-you-are-reading-this-post-you-are-not-a-luddite.ars (accessed December 31, 2009).

Spartacus Educational. “The Luddites.” http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRluddites.htm (accessed December 31, 2009).



[1] Kevin Binfield, Writings of the Luddites (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). Extract: http://campus.murraystate.edu/academic/faculty/kevin.binfield/Luddites/LudditeHistory.htm (accessed December 31, 2009).

[2] Lasar, Matthew. “You know the name, but just who were the Luddites?” Ars Tecnica, http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/10/if-you-are-reading-this-post-you-are-not-a-luddite.ars (accessed December 31, 2009).

[3] Spartacus Educational. “The Luddites.” http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRluddites.htm (accessed December 31, 2009).

[4] Lasar.

5 Binfield.

[6] Lasar.

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REVIEW: “The Life of a Slave Girl”

Slavery: A Corrupting, Futile Exercise

Amazon Thrift Edition or Free Text from Project Gutenberg


In her account of a servants in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs works in great detail to share with the reader the cold realities of institutional slavery, examining the morally corrupting influence it has upon the master and the degradation in the spirit of the slave; both human, but separated by color in a relationship that bears tragic consequences to both parties.

In her life as a possession, Linda, the character of which this story is centered around, grows up, at first, unaware of her role as a slave under white masters.  She is raised early on by her parents who protect her from the harshness of their situation, providing a loving and nurturing relationship.  It is from those early recollections she finds herself as capable as any other, longing for the normalcy of having her own home and family, and it is her persistence in this dream that carries her through the rougher moments of her servitude at the hands of an ill-willed and villainous master, Dr. Flint.  She takes pride in the levels of independence she is able to attain for herself, maintaining her own strong will and protection/control of her body by her knowledge and cunning.  Her hopes for herself become put on hold after motherhood, for the chance that her children will be able to have a piece of freedom, family, and shelter for themselves.  She sacrifices years of her life in hiding so that they will have an easier existence away from the control of Dr. Flint.

“I should never know peace till my children were emancipated.”  Linda

The antagonist of this narrative, Dr. Flint, is a morally bankrupt individual, lacking s any redeeming qualities. He is thoroughly one-dimensional, totally corrupted by the power that the slave system grants him. He sees no reason not to use and abuse his slaves in any way he chooses, and he never shows any signs of sympathy for them or remorse for his crimes. If he expresses kindness, it is invariably a ruse to try to get Linda to sleep with him. It often seems that forcing Linda to submit to him is more important to him than simply sleeping with her. He is infuriated by her defiance, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of breaking her will. Rather than simply raping her, he persists in his efforts make her acknowledge his mastery.  Dr. Flint seeks to lock Linda up in an isolated cottage in the woods so he can sleep with her freely.  When Linda escapes, he pursues her relentlessly, putting himself hundreds of dollars in debt to chase her to New York. After his death, his spirit lives on in the form of his son-in-law, Mr. Dodge.

“If I have been harsh with you at times, your willfulness drove me to it,.  You know I exact obedience from my own children, and I consider you as yet a child.”  Dr. Flint

This book shows the futility of such a practice.  It makes both the slave and the master less of a human.  Dr. Flint is cruel, hypocritical, and conniving, and he never experiences a moment of guilt, self-doubt, or sympathy for his victims. He never questions his right to do whatever he pleases to his slaves. Dr. Flint represents the cruelty, callousness, and treachery of the entire slave system.  He symbolizes the defining qualities that the system of slavery prerequisites: a lust for power, moral corruption, and a brutal nature. When Linda defies him, she threatens the legitimacy of slavery itself, and it is this defiance that propels his insistence on “mastering” her.

2008 – American History

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