Robert Carter III and his deed of gift

The Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society has been honoring those manumitted by Carter since 2008. A highlight of the 2016 ceremony was the unveiling of a highway marker, which the society secured funding for. Here, Regina Baylor, a descendant of nine WIlson family members who Carter freed, and Carter descendant Charles Belfield pose with the sign.

It was 232 years ago Sunday that Robert Carter III, the patriarch of one of the wealthiest families in Virginia, quietly walked into a Northumberland County courthouse and delivered an airtight legal document announcing his intention to free, or manumit, more than 500 slaves. He titled it the “deed of gift.” It was, by far, experts say, the largest liberation of Black people before President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act and Emancipation Proclamation more than seven decades later.

On September 5, 1791, when Carter delivered his deed, slavery was an institution, a key engine of the new country’s economy. But many slaveholders – including founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who knew Carter – had begun to voice doubts.

That was the extent of their umbrage.

Chattel slavery was wrong, the men said, but they supposedly worried it was not practical to abolish the institution without societal and economic consequences. “As it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other,” Jefferson wrote a fellow politician almost 30 years after Carter’s deed of gift.

Yet Carter had provided them a blueprint, not only for freeing their slaves but for ensuring the freedmen could sustain themselves, even prosper and integrate into society. Washington freed his slaves after death. Jefferson freed only 10 people of the hundreds he enslaved.

Comment: This CNN article is from two years ago. I read it back then, made a note of it and never got around to doing a post on it. The article itself gives a good summary of how Robert Carter III freed his slaves in a deliberate, but measured process. Much of that measured process was shaped by “An act to authorize the manumission of slaves” passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1782. The means to rid ourselves, at least in Virginia, was present well before the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. It was the will that was lacking. In hindsight, the elimination of slavery in the United States over the course of several decades in line with Robert Carter III’s Deed of Gift may have saved us all a great deal of misery, especially in the states that became the Confederacy. We could have avoided the Civil War, the myths of the noble cause and the entire Jim Crow era, not to mention the stain of the institution of slavery itself.

As the CNN article points out, this has been a lost story until fairly recently, even in Virginia. It was an inconvenient truth much like William Mahone and the Readjusters. Carter’s Deed of Gift blows a gaping hole in the premise that there was no practical way to end slavery in the United States, that it was a necessary evil. Andrew Levy wrote a biography of Robert Carter III in 2007 called “The First Emancipator” in which he pointed out this inconvenience. 

“If Carter is the anti-Jefferson,” Levy wrote in his book, “the man who did not lack the will to free his own slaves but who did lack the vision and clarity to make his love of freedom eloquent, then the Deed of Gift is the anti-Declaration of Independence, a document that makes liberty look dull but which is so absent of loopholes and contradictions that no result but liberty could prevail.”


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83 Responses to Robert Carter III and his deed of gift

  1. babelthuap says:

    I recently found out Brazil had more slaves than the US.

    • TTG says:


      Slavery has been present throughout history and geography. It was certainly not a unique American institution.

    • Whitewall says:

      As did the island of Cuba.

    • Billy Roche says:

      Check out slavery in China, Rome, the Muslim world, west Africa, Caribbean, Middle America usw. usw. Work had to be done. W/o animal power or fossil fuel the only recourse was human slavery. That’s why early American colonies literally dragged the streets of Europe for what would be indentured servants. They were slaves for a time. Up to 1860 slavery in Russia was called serfdom but there was little difference. American slavery is not an original idea and was abetted in no small part by African slavers along the coast of western Africa who procured slaves for European slavers. Slavery is an evil. Do you think it has been excised from the world today; right now?

      • Stefan says:

        Indentured servitude was never chattel slavery. This canard has been a hallmark of the extreme racist right in the West for decades.

        • English Outsider says:

          For some indentured servants it was worse. After they’d served their time they had to be released. So for their masters they weren’t a long term investment and thus not worth looking after,

          It was a rough tough time for many, that early colonial period. Those termed the “poor whites” got the short end of the stick. That they did certainly didn’t excuse the barbaric institution of slavery, nor the barbaric practices that accompanied it. But attempting to arrive at an accurate picture of the period scarcely merits the term “extreme racist right”, It’s merely attempting to arrive at an accurate picture of the period.

        • Billy Roche says:

          No indentured servitude was often worse then outright ppty slaves. Indentured slaves had an expiration date and so were used more callously as that date approached. Who, exactly, is this racist “right” in the west? Are there racist any where else in the world?

          • Stefan says:

            Yes, that is exactly the point that the racist right makes. You got the talking points down well. I suggest you read the book “They Were White and they Were Slaves”. One of the “must reads” for those who sell long debunked canard that indentured survitude was worse than chattle slavery.

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    Nice post TTG.

    Carter’s Deed of Gift blows a gaping hole in the premise that there was no practical way to end slavery in the United States..

    How so? How exactly would this practical scheme to turn rare voluntary acts of manumission into comprehensive abolition have worked? Carter was forced to leave Virginia and there seems little chance his selfless act could have been used to pressure/embarrass his peers into similar behavior. His son and executor George bought slaves for his estate the day Robert died.

    As it was, the practical scheme to achieve abolition through non-voluntary means that came 70 years later did incur significant “societal and economic consequences” – the very thing Jefferson feared. The blame for the failure of imagination and statesmanship that led to that outcome must be shared by every president up to and including Lincoln.

  3. English Outsider says:

    TTG – what is Jefferson saying here?

    “I thank you, Dear Sir, for the copy you have been so kind as to send me of the letter to your constituents on the Missouri question. it is a perfect justification to them. I had for a long time ceased to read the newspapers or pay any attention to public affairs, confident they were in good hands, and content to be a passenger in our bark to the shore from which I am not distant. but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once concieved and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper. I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way. the cession of that kind of property, for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me in a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected: and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other. of one thing I am certain, that as the passage of slaves from one state to another would not make a slave of a single human being who would not be so without it, so their diffusion over a greater surface would make them individually happier and proportionally facilitate the accomplishment of their emancipation, by dividing the burthen on a greater number of co-adjutors. an abstinence too from this act of power would remove the jealousy excited by the undertaking of Congress, to regulate the condition of the different descriptions of men composing a state. this certainly is the exclusive right of every state, which nothing in the constitution has taken from them and given to the general government. could congress, for example say that the Non-freemen of Connecticut, shall be freemen, or that they shall not emigrate into any other state?”

    Is he saying, slavery’s wrong but we’re stuck with it now? If so, he’s selling the pass, isn’t he? You can say something’s wrong but it’ll take a while to put right. That’s realistic politics. But to say it’s wrong and that’s how it’s got to be for good is debased politics. I’m unable to work out Jefferson’s position.

    So for me the context is unclear. But wrenching Jefferson’s remarks right out of context, if that’s permissible, this sentence speaks to us all now, as we look at the high ideals of the past and contrast those ideals with what national level politics in the West has now become:-

    “I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves, by the generation of ’76. to acquire self government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons.”

    • Billy Roche says:

      Seems clear to me. He is saying each state has the ability to prohibit slavery w/i their borders. This, of course, was untrue and of all people Jefferson s/h known better. Slavery was recognized in the federal constitution and would require an amendment to it to eradicate; the thirteenth. This was the point of the Missouri Compromise/Dred Scott case. No law of Congress had the power to change the Constitution by eliminating slavery in any region of the country. Although much maligned, the Dred Scott decision was correct.

    • Whitewall says:

      Sadly true. High ideals are no match for human nature, democracy eventually commits suicide and Republics tend not to survive. The rich and powerful don’t care to be beholden to us ‘lower orders’ for too long.

  4. Stefan says:

    There was a way to end it but, no will, as you say. It was about putting the freedom of people before your own profit. 99 times out of 100 people will not do the right thing of their own accord and put people ahead of profit. Look at the behaviour of the founding fathers, who should have known better. There is no longer slavery, but the concept remains the same. This is how you get employers who refuse to pay a living wage because of profit, refuse to give their employees healthcare and leave and blame it on profit. They all have ability to do so, but lack the resolve because of profit to self and shareholder. Many businesses can, and do, and show the others the way. Profit gets in the way of those who refuse. It is the same old issue and unfortunately, absent laws forcing them to do the right thing, many will not. These types will still claim having the wolf by the ear and claim they cannot hold it nor release it.

    • Billy Roche says:

      I just understood your post. Private sector employers are guilty of wage slavery. Free markets exist for products/svcs/and labor. No one is compelled to accept a job which does not offer health care. There is no slavery. Private businesses pay lots of taxes and hopefully, still make a profit. Profit is good b/c it keeps business open, jobs and products available, and taxes paid. W/O profit businesses close. After all, who would continue to risk their money, work long hours, and make payrolls and taxes w/o a reward for them. If law is substituted for free will some businesses will not make a profit. The Marxist idea of wage slavery has been repudiated by 70 years of experimentation in eastern Europe. But I know, the socialists will “get it right” this time.

      • Stefan says:

        Private business also take in BILLIONS in corporate welfare. A fact that is regularly ignored by fiscal conservatives. No one is compelled to take a job that doesnt offer health insurance? Tell that to someone who very well might loose unemployment benefits if they turn down a job without health benefits. The fact of the matter is many of the jobs that do not offer health insurance are jobs for manual labourers and those without a skill set. I have traveled and lived all over western Europe. They have shown that they can have a standard of living similar to the US and still be able to provide healthcare for all. It is a basic hallmark of civilisation these days. Another hallmark the US is missing.

        • Billy Roche says:

          I too have worked. My early jobs d/n offer health care. But I took them to make money. Greedy bastard I was and I made as much money as I could. I was quite the brute as a younger man and most of my work was manual labor. As I became more skilled my work did too. Cleaning floors and toilets was more skillful then handling a shovel. Parking cars req’d a driver’s license etc. etc. Later jobs offered health care and I took those too. You referenced welfare. Small business is rarely incorporated, publicly or privately, so what “corporate welfare ” do you have in mind. Is this welfare offered to those small businesses that employee 60% of American labor.

        • Peter Hug says:

          Having an adequate social safety net in the US (by which I mostly mean health insurance and pension) would be the single most powerful method possible to encourage entrepreneurship and the starting of innovative new companies.

    • Whitewall says:

      You must have had or have quite a business of your own to come up with all that ‘give’, ‘provide’, no will to do right. You want laws to force doing the right thing? Pay a living wage? What is that? If a wage doesn’t suit, then free people can arise and go find better employment. No press gangs put them in their oppressive jobs. In America and elsewhere, people can and do create their own jobs.

      Slavery existed for so long because it was profitable from the African slave hunter to the slave keeper to the shipping crews that hauled them across the water. Everyone knows how profitable the institution was once landed in the western hemisphere. Same thing centuries before Europeans, African slave traders plied their business off the East coast of Africa across the Indian Ocean and across Arabia. Africans have centuries of blood on their hands for enslaving and selling their own people for massive wealth. Right and wrong never slowed them down.

  5. F&L says:

    Slavery … Slay vary, …, Slay very …

    Shocking video shows Neo-Nazis marching outside Disney World chanting ‘We Are Everywhere’.
    Neo-Nazi groups rallied across Orlando, Florida, over the weekend spouting antisemitic and racist speech while also destroying LGBTQ Pride flags in front of the entrance to Walt Disney World.

    Shocking videos on social media show the Neo-Nazi groups marching in north Orlando Saturday, waving swastika flags and shouting, “Heil Hitler” and “We are everywhere.”

    • TTG says:


      Some on the hard right are insisting these guys are part of an FBI pseudo gang operation. I doubt it. The FBI would have a hard time pulling off an undercover operation on this scale. I think it’s more likely many on the right are looking in the mirror and don’t like what they see.

      • Billy Roche says:

        I’m not sure the FIB d/n have a hand in pulling off the riots on 1/6! But NAZI’s (or other totalitarians like commies) marching in the streets is protected free speech. Remember Muskogee? I despise what you say but will fight to the death for your right to say it. That’s classical liberalism. Does the left still agree w/that? Its been destroyed in today’s Socialist (nee Democrat) Party.

        • TTG says:

          Billy Roche,

          The Nazis were allowed to march in Orlando. Nobody stopped them.

          • Billy Roche says:

            correctly so. However revolting they have the same right to their speech as, for example, BLM. I wonder, did the NAZIs destroy buildings, injure people, and burn cars also.

        • Stefan says:

          ” I despise what you say but will fight to the death for your right to say it. ”

          Exactly what allowed the NSDAP to take power in Germany. These days the extreme, violent elements on both sides are suppressed in western Europe by the state. In the 1960s-1980s it was mostly the far left that was suppressed. These days it is mostly the extreme right that is suppressed. “Freedom of speech” is not a license to call for hate and violence. One can argue that such laws could lead to misuse by the state. But they would be hard pressed to show actual events in places like the UK, Germany and France which have banned both far left and far right organisations, that support such worries. So sorry it is illegal to throw a Nazi salute in Germany. So sorry it is okay to advocate another Holocaust in France. So sorry that membership in certain extremist groups that have murdered people in the UK is illegal.

          Should marches and speech be allowed which include chants calling for “Six million more”? I think not. Such speech is easily seen as a call, a siren, for extreme violence. This chant is regularly heard at extreme right rallies and marches in the US.

          • Billy Roche says:

            I am confused. Are you referring to killing 6 million more Ukrainian farmers by the communists? I don’t like talk like that either but talk is cheap and it is a slippery slope for the state to assume the job of deciding what speech is or is not allowed. The National Socialist in Germany, Fascists in Italy, and Communist in Russia all decided what people could say. Giving that power to gov’t always ends ill.

          • English Outsider says:

            “So sorry it is illegal to throw a Nazi salute in Germany. “

            All that’s a bit of a fake. Illegal in Germany. Legal, together with all the “kill the Untermenschen” stuff, for the people the Germans supported in Kiev. So the pious “Nie Wieder” pose in Germany is fake as hell.

            It’s an unhealthy sort of country, when people aren’t allowed to say things their own government supports saying elsewhere. An unhealthy country, where most daren’t even ask who blew up their gas pipes. A very unhealthy country where late at night in the Bundestag, the Government slips laws banning disagreement onto to the Statute Book. Similar law in prospect in Poland, I gather. Europe is scarcely First Amendment friendly.

            Have no truck with all that, Stefan. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Better to have all the weird stuff out in the open, where it can be argued with and maybe laughed away, than festering away quietly in corners and gaining the false glamour of the forbidden.

          • Barbara Ann says:


            “One can argue that such laws could lead to misuse by the state”

            I can and would argue that the power of censorship always leads to misuse by the state and that this power in state hands is a critical threat to a democracy. We have a situation today that Goebbels could only have dreamed of. But because the word ‘censorship’ has negative connotations, we are told of the need to curb mis/dis and mal-information. Wonderfully Orwellian language to thinly disguise the fact that the government now has the power to outsource its censorship to the private sector. The First Amendment as been rendered largely irrelevant, in an era where the citizenry conduct interpersonal communication almost exclusively via privately owned electronic forums – social media and so on.

            The incumbent administration already has its Reichstag fire (J6) and the entire opposition has, by association, been branded with the label of dangerous extremism. I think it would be naïve in the extreme to consider that the power of censorship that now exists will not be used for political purposes.

          • Stefan says:

            Had common sense laws against extremism speech been practiced the Nazis, Communists and fascists might have all been prevented from gaining power, saving some 100 million+ deaths. The simple fact of the matter is that sunlight is NOT always the best disinfectant. Sometimes locking people up is, or if you have to, taking more harsh matters. Communists? Nazis? They both deserved a common fate back then, they deserve the same fate today. An ideology which openly calls for genocide is not one that deserve political protections.

          • jld says:


            An ideology which openly calls for genocide is not one that deserve political protections.

            You mean like Surate 191?

      • F&L says:

        I doubt it too? Almost. I don’t doubt that the FBI has on occasion infiltrated groups such as these for honorable purposes, not only because I’ve read several books on that organization’s history but because I can’t see any other way they can perform their duties without doing so, though with the current technological developments their job gets easier in some ways. What worries me are reports I’ve read over the course of the last 2 decades of the development of significant sympathy for these neonazi and other ultra racist groups with the US law enforcement and security apparatus especially on local levels. The FBI itself even said or allowed itself to be cited as saying that local police departments exist which were themselves little more than biker gangs with Aryan nation members in uniform. Closed shops essentially. I read that stuff during pre-Trump years and at the time it was considered a still marginal problem but worrying if neglected. I don’t know the real situation now, but in my opinion it figures to be worse if anything. See the above video, see Trump himself and the ongoing lawlessness which always adds to the appeal of lunatic fringes. The indiscriminate arming of the country via the ongoing promotion of 2nd amendment purists who are opportunitists who are always right-wing is very discouraging in this regard as is the fact that this stuff above is taking place during an epoch here during which several people such as Douglas Valentine and his interviewees who were ” former” CIA Officers during the Vietnam war (who designed an implemented the Vietnam Phoenix program), think that the US has been operating sine 911 with a domestic Phoenix program instituted for purposes of dominating the domestic scene.

        A person has to be able to tell the difference between a context in which these displays take place repeatedly because “free speech is honored here and that’s what’s most important” and “these displays could be stopped tomorrow or have been years ago by well known methods, so it’s something to scratch your head over though that they haven’t been … especially when 700+ mass shootings occur every year not to mention questions as above about fragmentation of police forces in some regions which are not confined any longer to the deep south.”

        • LeaNder says:

          Any idea, F&L, what could have inspired the logo

          Another one of the curious US brand of conspiracy entrepreneurs?

          The Goyim Defense League, cute. Dislike of ADL, and yes of course the SLPC already caught them on their radar. Another one of their declared enemies, I would assume.

          Does he sell these shirts along with other stuff, leads a business like Alex Jones? Looks like a rather coherent marketing strategy.

          So far, SPLC registered him only in the wider context of ex-Marine Christopher Alan Pohlhaus.

          What happened to SST’s Tyler, I’m wondering? Were you already around then?

          • F&L says:

            Which or what logo?

            I have a difficult time understanding your posts, Leander. Language problem? I went to great lengths answering another recently only to receive a non sequitur in reply – a strange question question about donating hoodies. Your question about the SLPC??? “Declared enemies?” I guess a neonazi might be something they oppose. But that’s presumptuous of them in your opinion. Yes I remember Tyler vaguely, and the whole crew here who were so proud of the little boy who received a copy of mein Kampf for Christmas or a birthday. There’s nothing particularly mysterious about this place or quite a few of you for that matter. If you’ve reached the ages you’ve reached and can’t be unambiguous about things like this or an absolute imbecile like Heidegger then there’s no redeeming any of you at this point and I’m wasting my time.

            First response to that tape here — “Free speech!” Yes, really mysterious, profoundly difficult to grasp.

          • LeaNder says:

            Yes, I sometime cut and paste too much, rearrange and in our case here: I added something I shouldn’t have squeezed in …

            That’s ALL about Jon x.He reminded me of a very, very crazy yahoo group. Lot of the members strongly dislikedthe ADL. Forget the colorful rumors they told (cia drugs)…

            Jon x may be familiar with those colorful stories about the ADL too. Just as I assume he dislikes the SLPC. I received their print publication for a while over here.
            “Dislike of ADL, and yes of course the SLPC …. Another one of their declared enemies, I would assume.”

            I am assuming, maybe wrongly, that the html strike tag does not work here: Testing.
            already caught them on their radar.

            Ok, sorry and … Thanks. 😉 If PL was still around he would surface to tell us, maybe: Tyler is still around. 😉

            But yes, I am here English to learn tomorrow I start Kentucky Steak House.

  6. Fred says:

    How many slaves did the Emancipation Proclamation free in Deleware or Maryland or parts of Kentucky? I believe the correct number is zero.

    • TTG says:


      All slaves in Maryland were freed in 1864. The rest were freed in 1865 with the 13th Amendment. What’s your point?

      • Fred says:


        That the owners did not obey a proclamation from Lincoln that was applicable only to states in rebellion.

        • TTG says:


          The Emancipation Proclamation was far more a wartime strategy than a moral proclamation. Robert Carter’s deed of gift was purely a moral act, an act despised and feared by many of his contemporaries. What I find truly amazing was the Virginia General Assembly’s 1782 decision to allow the voluntary manumission of slaves. That doesn’t look like a political or economic decision, but a moral one that paved the way for Carter’s act.

    • Billy Roche says:

      What was the old saying … Lincoln freed the slaves he couldn’t, but d/n free the slaves he could. His proclamation was also that of a monarch as he neither sought nor rec’d congressional approval for it. Then, he never sought nor rec’d congressional approval for the War of Northern Aggression in the first place. There is much about Lincoln that is unknown.

  7. scott s. says:

    The general problem that was raised (probably as a scheme) was the risk of “servile insurrection” pointing to Haiti as example. So manumission had to be done on the “down low” to avoid criticism. Nat Turner being used as the prime example. Too, slavery in MD/VA supported tobacco culture and as land got played out from tobacco, demand for slaves there decreased while the cotton gin made short-staple cotton culture viable creating massive demand in So Carolina upcountry and then westward as SC inheritance laws created incentive for westward migration. The sale of slaves southward became an important economic factor for the upper south.

    As far as the universality of slavery across time and culture, that of course is true but I think we need to consider the uniqueness of US chattel slavery that became known as a “peculiar institution”, rather than a “universal” one.

    • Billy Roche says:

      Why was US slavery any different then slavery elsewhere? How was it unique?

      • Mark Logan says:


        I varied greatly from state to state. Texas, for example, banned the very existence of free blacks.

        This was very different from Virginia and most of the slave states. The old prof at U of Washington had a collection of letters from plantations around Jeff Davis’s to illustrate that in the old South slavery could vary vastly from plantation to plantation. On one hand you had Jeff Davis who treated is slaves almost as family, and right up the road there was the setting for “12 Years A Slave” conditions. Because the power of the master over the slave had to be absolute, right up to the power of life and death, so the nature of the master determined the issue. There is no blanket description, not even covering neighboring slave farms.

        I understand this seems tangential to your question, but it is indeed a way to address what was unique. The institution here was justified by designating a particular race unfit for the rights of “real” human beings. These days we would call it a war on blacks, if not genocide. I have seen that word used to describe the taking of children from Ukraine. Chattel slaves had no right to their own children, and some today say that indentured servants “had it worse”. I can only assume they do not view black people as fully human even now, incapable of loving their own children or caring for their fate.
        That was tongue in cheek there, Billy. I think we all know that designating blacks as sub-human was a greed-induced rationalization.

        • Billy Roche says:

          Mark; thank you for your reply but it doesn’t suggest to me that there was anything unique about American slavery. I’ll bet slave holders in Han China differed from region to region in how they treated slaves. Designating any group of people as less than human has always been a justification by some for greed induced inhumanity. I still don’t understand why you are singling out slavery in America as uniquely evil. I read that slavery is still practiced in the Sudan. I wonder if the Sudanese follow a uniform code on slave practice or does treatment vary from slave holder to slave holder.

          • F&L says:

            It’s not necessarily uniquely evil but it did have some unique characteristics which make it’s legacy probably more tenacious than not.

            For one – Am slaves were black, and thus immediately recognizable. Their descendants are black and thus immediately recognizable too, and that’s really proved to be non-trivial up to the current day.

            Another – the venerated “founding fathers” wrote into the highly venerated constitution that slaves (which meant blacks with almost zero exception) were only 3/5 ths (60 %) human. Pretty stark. Yes the constitution has been amended, but it’s still stark because look what it took.

            750,000 dead and 3 to 4 times as many maimed within a population of 25 million in 1860. Or upset er limit 3.75 million “casualties.” If you divide by 2 for males only that’s 12.5 million. If you take an active age segment one third of that you get 4.16 million or if two thirds to exclude only ancients and children, 8.32 million.

            So 3.75 out of either 4.16 or 8.32 … so between 90% and 45% of all the persons liable to reasonably be expected to carry arms had to pay as dearly as possible to change a 60% human legal denotation to 100% human for many millions of the subjects of the US power. And we all know that the entire confederacy didn’t want to at all and neither did a large percentage of the north. And in the sections of Genesis devoted briefly to the humiliation of Noah by his sons, and the prologue to ‘1001 Arabian Nights’ and even the Book of Ezekiel, we discover some but not quite all of the real reasons which, as with most things that get down to “the real nitty-gritty,” you can’t discuss.

          • Billy Roche says:

            FnL: the legacy of American slavery is more lasting in America b/c it was white on black. American slavery itself was not markedly different than slavery where/whenever. It is always wrong. It was a wrong thing and was recognized as such up to the writing of the constitution. That Northerners were more keen to abolish it was mostly economic vice versa Southerners. I cant deny your arithmetic. Many men on both sides of Mason Dixon were killed/injured to change the constitution. We had a conversation recently on force/morals/competition etc. I said everything in life involves competition and comes down to force. It was so in 1860. Lincoln made war w/o address to that “venerated” constitution (I don’t know why you put the constitution and the founding fathers in quotes. I still venerate them. I know you like history. Do a little research on what happened to many of the founders. They were no b/s artists). War was never declared, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was never authorized by congress, and southern states were never given a legal constitutional explanation of why they were forced to remain in a contract that they had abandoned. Hence the War of Northern Aggression was exactly that. Lincoln changed slavery, the constitution, and the relationship of federal and state gov’t at the point of a bayonet. It was pure force. Call me cwazy but Lincoln, he ain’t no fren’a mine. He changed the federal state to a central gov’t state and we are seeing the consequence of the federal leviathon today. The socialists (whoops, I meant progressives of course) like this. I don’t. I am one NY’er who understands the loss of liberty to all colors of men by the imposition of a socialist state.

          • Mark Logan says:

            I’m not singling it out as uniquely evil, you only asked if it was unique. The purely race-based nature of it here is rather rare in the history of slavery, exemplified by the situation in Texas where being a free black was illegal. How would you feel about that if you were black?

  8. srw says:

    The Brits peacefully abolished slavery even though the economic consequences had to be bad for the slave owners pocket book.
    Slavery Abolition Act, (1833), in British history, act of Parliament that abolished slavery in most British colonies, freeing more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa as well as a small number in Canada. It received Royal Assent on August 28, 1833, and took effect on August 1, 1834.

    • Fred says:


      The Brits are also the ones who created slavery in their North American colonies.

    • Jovan P says:

      Before that the Brits together with the Portugese organised most of the slave trade (transport, but also abduction and other logistics of destroying lives of these ,,savage” people) and probably killed most people they enslaved (just how many died on the ships). At that time the British argument was that the Arabs started it.

      • Billy Roche says:

        I always wondered how European slavers got all the slaves they transported to the Americas. Landing along an African river and going ashore w/big nets seems inefficient would subject the Europeans to African diseases. I’ll bet if Africans caught those European sailors with the nets they would have enslaved them! I guess the slavers would have to depend on good luck to find enough Africans in the bush to make their trip worthwhile. Unless there is another part of the slave trade story that has been left out?? Supposedly European slavers brought trade goods along but why. Who were they going to trade with since the Europeans simply “found” Africans and captured them for sale. There must be more to it then people are commonly told.

    • Billy Roche says:

      The American agricultural south was “built” on the cost of cheap labor which was reflected in their prices for indigo, tobacco, and cotton. The fabric industry in Europe and later the American N.E. could have purchased Indian and Egyptian cotton if that was “morally” more acceptable to it. They d/n. They bought slave cultivated American cotton. It cost less so they made more money. BTW the American and European textile industry had their own slaves of a “sort”. They were little children and woman who worked for pennies.
      Emancipation had zero impact on Canada. Perhaps there were 7 slaves in all Canada? Slavery in the British Caribbean was extensive for sugar cane cultivation. The numbers of Brits who owned slaves were few compared to the American south. Many slaves in the American north were sold into the deep south just b/f northern states emancipated them. Northern slave holders d/n want to lose any money don’t ‘cha know. Animal muscle could not be harnassed for all jobs so b/f gas/oil the only other option was human labor. Slavery’s impetus was always about cheap labor.

  9. Master Slacker says:

    Just a little perspective on the institution – The Koreans maintained slavery continuously within their culture for 1500 years. It was finally ended with the Japanese annexation in 1910. Karma.

    • Billy Roche says:

      Interesting. I guess that was Yellow on Yellow slavery which wasn’t as bad or unique, or oppressive as White on Black slavery. Slavery is slavery to me, bad, immoral, and against any measure of goodness but some on this thread have a color hang up on slavery.

      • Barbara Ann says:

        Billy Roche

        I was once accused of sanctimony here by Col. Lang for describing the institution of slavery as “disgusting”. He saw much in ante bellum Southern culture to admire and was equally disgusted by the way the South is condemned in totality by association with that one institution. 150 years on and America is still not ready to have an adult conversation about a war fought to emancipate one group and simultaneously deny another the right to self determination. And so it is necessary that the Confederate flag be equated with hate and statues be torn down.

        2,500 years ago another slave-owning people wrote of the inevitability of the coming together of competing ‘goods’. They called it ‘tragedy’. Perhaps one day we’ll rediscover that wisdom.

        • Billy Roche says:

          America is still not ready for an adult conversation about slavery, translates to “the south still wont say the north was right for destroying it”. So southern statues and monuments must be torn down by northerners who continue to behave like bullies 150 years later. The north still compels southern society to behave according to northern sensibilities by force. Why? B/C the north can. All “justice” is no more than force, violence, compulsion. Lincoln is the personification of northern mythology. The older I get the more a see him as no more than a despot.

  10. Billy Roche says:

    How would I feel about Texas law on slavery prior to the War of Northern Aggression if I were Black. Unhappy; but I would be consoled knowing that that was no longer the case anywhere in America today. You seem hung up on skin color. How would you feel if you were black and sold as a slave by Brown Muslims in Sudan. How would you feel if you were a white Slav sold into slavery by Brown Ottomans in 1500 or a white Lithuanian sold into slavery by white Vikings to Brown Muslims in 850? Maybe you would have strong feelings if you were black and knew that “red” Cherokees kept black slaves, or that red Indians kept other Indians as slaves? But let’s cut to the chase. How would you feel living as a black Christian in Northern Nigeria where Muslims often kill Christians? Shall we call that black on black killing, African on African killing, or dress it up as inter religious violence? Enjoy stewing in white guilt if you must but I don’t share it.

    • Mark Logan says:


      It’s most definitely not white guilt, at least for myself, anyway. It was your question of what makes the US situation different. There can be no dodging the issue of race when addressing that question. Why even try?

      • Billy Roche says:

        I think I just gave you good examples of why race is not the driving factor in slavery. I think it has always been and remains about greed and evil which is part of human nature but I don’t buy into race. You are looking at slavery only in the U.S. I am looking at slavery. But keep in mind Indians kept white slaves and red slaves. Central American Indians used slaves for labor and ceremonial death. African tribes kept slaves captured from other tribes. Rome was a race indiscriminate slave civilization as were many others. I guess w/just disagree on this.

        • TTG says:

          Billy Roche,

          Race is not the driving factor in the worldwide phenomenon of slavery, but it is the predominant characteristic of slavery in America.

          • Billy Roche says:

            Of course; slaves were black and owners white. But the driver for slavery in America was cheap labor. Through all my verbiage that was my point.

          • tim s says:

            There were Irish slaves, and native american slaves (attempted at least), so no, it wasn’t primarily a black/white race issue.

            Arabs were enslaving Africans centuries before the NAST. Not only that, they castrated the males. Where’s the outrage in those countries? The vast majority of NAST slaves went to South America, primarily Brazil. Why the guilt trip primarily in white western countries?

            The only reason it’s framed as a black/white race issue today is because only whites seem to be susceptible to being guilted and profit/benefit made on that note.

            There were black slave owners in America. Anthony Johnson was if not the 1st, one of the 1st slave owners here. Many black slave owners in Louisiana.

            Very tiresome.

          • TTG says:

            tim s,

            All those examples prove is that slavery in the US was not exclusively a black/white phenomenon. It was still primarily black slaves and white owners here in the states. It doesn’t have to be a guilt trip, either. Why can’t Robert Carter’s action be seen as a point of white pride? His deed of gift was pretty admirable. It’s just an acknowledgement of history.

          • tim s says:

            TTG – to your comment below:

            Modern mainstream slavery discussion is ALWAYS about white guilt and what whitey is supposed to do to about it now. It’s been the same drum beat for decades now, and we see that whatever’s been done has not been enough, and hasn’t even worked if you get down to it. It’s time for whitey to throw off their chains.

            The vast majority of people of European descent have had nothing to do with slavery. Who owned the ships? Who controlled the majority of slave markets? NOI’s done some pretty interesting research into that….

            Whites have more to be proud of than ashamed of.

            Admire an act of good intent? Definitely. Take it for more than what it was? Not so much.

        • Mark Logan says:

          Billy, we don’t disagree at all on that.

    • English Outsider says:

      Agree 100%!

      Plenty of historic crimes to go round, Bill. With the possible exception of Iceland there’s no country on earth that doesn’t have a charge sheet as long as your arm.

      Manufactured guilt over crimes way back in history, and resentment over those past crimes, keeps us angry and occupied and above all divided.

      The guilt industry. It’s huge! No idea whether it’s deliberate, or guided. But preoccupation with the sins of our fathers keeps us busy, if we’re that way inclined and most of us seem to be. Busy enough to divert attention from the sins of today.

      How does this obsessive search for historical guilt work to our benefit? What on earth use is it to me or my family, or anyone else, when Starmer or Pelosi take the knee?

      • Billy Roche says:

        Ok you have finally convinced me of something. I don’t blame the English for conquering the Irish. The Normans who, after conquering the Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, and threatening the Scottish, needed something else to do and Ireland was just sitting there. But I do blame the English from Cromwell on!!! BTW, speaking of old animosities, what are the chances, IYHO, of Northern Ireland returning to the Republic”. On the first tee, Rory McElroy represent the Republic of Ireland”??

        • English Outsider says:

          Bill – the then eminence grise of the EU, Selmayr, is said to have observed that the price of Brexit for the UK would be Northern Ireland.

          That’s apocryphal. What isn’t apocryphal is that Berlin/Brussels homed in on the issue of the customs border like some malevolent cruise missile. And Mrs May, for reasons that are unclear to me, let them get away with it.

          That’s what Northern Ireland was to the EU. A “price”. A counter to be played in the convoluted game of preventing or obstructing Brexit.

          What Selmayr meant in practice was that the price of Brexit for the UK would be peace in Northern Ireland. Behind all the pious talk Berlin/Brussels didn’t give a damn if the place blew up again and neither did Varadkar.

          That’s also the case with “I’m Irish” President Biden. For him, Northern Ireland was and is merely a card to be played in the game of internal American politics.

          Now, Irish unification is one issue. It’s an issue to be taken very seriously in its own right. But right now, the most important thing is to prevent the factions in Northern Ireland shooting at each other. None of the politicians so far involved have worried about that. Time they did.


          As an aside, a few months ago I was in the pub with a stout Irish Nationalist. In border country, Irish side, so I don’t venture to discuss the NI issue there.

          Some time into the second round he laughed and said, a propos of nothing we were talking about so right out of the blue, “You Brits are trying to palm Northern Ireland off on us. And we don’t want it!”

          I think what he meant is that now is not the time. The subsidy is in the order of ten billion a year. Dublin couldn’t afford that and the EU won’t. The security problems there are still demanding. The Irish don’t have the manpower to keep the lid on it all and again, if the EU tried they’d make a pigs ear of it. And tempers still run high after the customs fiasco.

          Let the place settle down a little before far reaching changes like that are on the table. Let’s see those peace walls come down first.

          My view, for what it’s worth.

          • Billy Roche says:

            EO stay on the subject if you will pls. How is trade handled today, 2 years after Brexit, b/t Ulster and the Republic? From what I read, directly after Brexit inter Ireland trade was supposed to be completely messed up. Is it?

  11. ked says:

    American slavery was unique because America – it’s people, conditions & values – were unique. America represents the end-stage of slavery as developed in the West. It was a slavery that was industrialized – “capitalized” in the context of our modernizing economy. saved by the Cotton Gin & huge landholdings crying for workers… really cheap workers. then there’s the deeply racist nature of America’s flavor of slavery. I’m disappointed no one noticed. in America, slavery of blacks was rationalized on the basis of their intrinsic inferiority. that belief BEGAN as a fundamental component of Southern culture – supported as Christian doctrine – a value, a duty, in the South. that knotted hypocrisy has become embedded in our religious life. which drives politics even today – add Jesus to your excuses & you’re home free… even if the slaves aren’t.
    brilliant of the Southern states demanding a greater proportion of each human soul as a fractional asset for political calculation only. shall we overlook the Sunday after-church lynching picnic as social entertainment? this discussion itself may offer a clue. is there a more clear example of America’s Peculiarity? well yes, there are many. we have claimed such Providential exceptionalism in mankind’s history… seems to be obvious with slavery as much as Manifest Destiny. it’s kinda depressing to go on & on about slavery, it’s Originality, it’s Sinfulness, America’s Ownership.

    • TTG says:


      Lynchings were a Jim Crow era thing, not a slavery era thing.

      • ked says:

        traditions flow w/ the times. Jim Crow was a socio-political evolution of slavery. no Civil War … no Lost Cause. no slavery… no Jim Crow.

        • ked says:

          could’ve added the Union occupation of the S, the attacks on black elected officials, the Election Deal of ’76, the rise-to-power of the KKK (& less well-known CCCs)… one can go on & on to the present …race-based gerrymandering breaking out all over the S (since Fed Courts stepped aside), targeting of CRT, Mom’s Against Libraries. it’s pathetic… past racism ain’t past – it transcends rural health care, clean water & decent public education… esp for poor & working class whites. single-party rule works so well down he’ah.

    • leith says:

      Ked –

      Industrialized slavery was not unique to the US. It was done much earlier in Cuba, in Brazil, in Jamaica and Barbados. We were 2nd fiddle, nothing but copycats, plagiarists.

      • ked says:

        I completely disagree… it’s a huge topic.
        timing was due to proximity of the islands to Africa & the competition for them between Britain & Spain. then there’s the ease of setting up plantations on islands largely cleared of the indigenous people. btw, Spain brought African slaves to FL in the early-mid 1500s. not the mercantilists the Brits were… so Spain was blown-out once Britain straightened itself out – getting real serious about Empire. w/ Independence, America did it’s thing (to my point)… scaling rapidly in land & population to meet demand, which our plantation system easily met; be it tobacco, indigo, rice, or cotton. establishing American financial institutions – gotta get a bigger piece of ALL the action. perhaps I should’ve pointed more specifically to technology rather than industry per se. America was/is unparalleled in the creation of “useful art” to address opportunity & supply gizmos in quantity. it saved the plantation economy while drilling slavery ever deeper & wider into our social fabric, our religion, our enterprises & our self-governance. in retrospect, maybe it “had” to be that way, given the forces then at play. an awful truth that the Peculiarity remains a living wound.
        {yes, I have multi-generational roots in the Deep South, lived here (w/ lotsa travel & work away) since the late ’60s.}

        • leith says:

          Ked –

          I would posit that the technology improvements in 18th century sugar mills in the Caribbean had similar effects as the cotton gin. Pressing sugarcane became so much easier so plantations grew and slavery increased massively. This happened throughout the sugar islands after triple roller mills came about and were powered by steam or windmills etc. Previously it had been an extremely slow process of manual labor turning a capstan or windlass to press the cane.

        • Mark Logan says:


          I don’t view slavery as the factor per se. It was the particular nature of it here, the inculcation of belief that blacks were not fully human that did the lion’s share of the damage. Perhaps a necessary rationalization for the 18-19th century Europeans who had developed a very dim view of the institution, but the side effects were terrible. Without those attitudes the slaves would’ve been easily assimilated into the general population. Instead the slaves had to struggle to get out from under Jim Crow a hundred years down the road.

          • ked says:

            I’m confident there are historians who have deconstructed our particular institution from its deep & long-standing integration in American culture. I suspect comparison & contrast to other flavors is the technique. I’m all for pursuing that, though unsure that approach alone can capture the whole story. America’s story is unique, & the story of slavery in America is tightly coupled to that uniqueness.

        • Billy Roche says:

          ked: Was Muslim slavery of white Slavs also unique. Although slavery was NOT an original condition (as there are documented examples of it through out time and place in the world) certainly the culture of Islam and the Christianity of Slavs must have brought original aspects.

          • TTG says:

            Billy Roche,

            Muslin slavery of white Slavs and black Africans was unique and it lasted a lot longer than in the West and in the Americas. It’s uniqueness is that it avoided the plantation slavery model common in the Americas. They had a bad experience centuries ago with a 15 year slave revolt in southern Iraq where slaves were used in large numbers on plantations. From then on, the concentration of slave was generally kept low. I think the fear of a slave revolt is one of the distinguishing features of slavery in the US. The Haiti slave rebellion scared the bejeezus out of our white planter class. I also think that fear continued long after emancipation.

    • Billy Roche says:

      ked; any collection of people, a civilization, society, nation collectively do some things that are good and some that are bad. The bad done by America is no secret. Aware of the country’s goods and bads I remain a proud American. I challenge you to take 100 countries in the world over the past 300 years and show me 10 that have consistently been beyond reproach.

      • ked says:

        you are quite right, Billy. it is because I give more of a damn about OUR collective sins than those of others. I hold the USA to a higher standard than I do any other nation state or civilization in history. we still claim exception yet leave it at homily. maybe “no secret” to you & I. for some reason (guilt? manipulation? racism?) truth is now actively suppressed by political leaders & think-tanks via legislation propagandizing public education. I am convinced America can handle truth – even (especially!) our kids (+ in my case, gkids) & be a far stronger nation because of it. when we forget or deny painful history we reveal insecurity and weaken hard-won glories… our nation’s virtues become empty platitudes w/o the context of all experiences. historical truth drives wise policies – history denied out of shame, ignorance, comfort or selfish opportunity is one sure path to a failed civilization. it can be difficult to process all of our nation’s history, but that’s what it takes to be coherent, healthy & long-lived.

        • Billy Roche says:

          To be sure I understand you; b/c you hold America to a higher standard, you cannot find even 10 countries in the past 300 years that have exceeded your standard of reproach? If so I’d say my America remains quite a place.

  12. ked says:

    well, Billy, that’s a lot of homework on a Friday… & Happy Hour beckons.
    over a Martini I’ll be contemplating the recent years slippage in our nation’s standards of constructive self-critique. we may be progressing to the mean at the rate we’re going. cheers,

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