Archive for the ‘Revolución Americana’ Category

La Dra. Karin Wulf, directora del Omohundro Institute en el William & Mary College, pidió a un grupo de especialistas de la historia temprana de Estados Unidos que comentarán cómo  estaban experimentando el periodo de crisis pandémica y política, y cuál consideraban era la relevancia de su trabajo   y publicaciones.  El resultado es un grupo de interesantes reflexiones que comparto con mis lectores. Estas vienen acompañadas con  imágenes de las publicaciones más recientes de los investigadores consultados.

History typed on an vintage typewriter, old paper. close-upHistorians in Historic Times


The Scholarly Kitchen   January 14, 2021

A historian will tell you that every era, every group of people, every subject, and every last fragment of material about the past is historical. We are always living through history. We always benefit from rigorous historical research and scholarship.  And while history has conventionally been written from a privileged position, and about politics, wars, and economies, most of us work from more complex situations and on a more complex combination of phenomena that could any moment be reflected in the present. Historians of medicine, for example, have been working overtime explaining how socio-economic inequalities mapped onto historical pandemics and parallel what we see with COVID19. Historians of authoritarianism and white supremacy have been working overtime to show us how these movements have proliferated and been sustained over decades — even centuries. Historians of race, and particularly of slavery and Jim Crow in the United States, have been pointing to the iterative quality of politics and policy that have led to dynamics we saw play out last summer in episodes of police violence and protest. Last week’s riot and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol seems a particularly stark moment that will likely be pointed to for generations to come, either as a culmination or an origin or both.

I asked historians of the early Americas and United States who have published books in this year of pandemic and political crisis how they are feeling about living through this moment of pandemic and political crisis, and how the subject of their scholarship and/or the practice of history feels relevant and resonant. It’s a remarkable set of reflections, and I’m grateful to these scholars for taking the time and energy — when there is so little of either to spare — to contribute.

VSurviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat  Turner's Community (Women, Gender, and Sexuality in American History):  Holden, Vanessa M.: 9780252085857: Amazon.com: Booksanessa M. Holden, University of Kentucky, author of Surviving Southampton:  African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community (2021)

Like many Americans, I woke up on the morning of Wednesday, January 6th, to the news that Georgia would have at least one (likely two) Democrats as U.S. Senators as the result of runoff elections held on Tuesday the 5th. A coalition of activists and organizers had triumphed after years of hard-fought efforts to get out the vote, register new voters, and combat voter suppression. Black women and femmes knew Georgia could be blue and, after years of hard work, had realized their vision. In a state where most Americans unfamiliar with Black women’s history saw only solid red, they’d made a way out of possibility. That same afternoon I spoke with a colleague via Zoom. She was hopeful. I was cautious. “Violence,” I said, “I’m worried about the violent backlash. It has already started. It is going to get worse.” In the few seconds of silence that passed between us across computer screens my phone buzzed. My brother was texting to tell me that Vice President Pence was being removed from the senate chamber. On Twitter, raw footage of a Black Capitol police officer swatting at a white mob with a nightstick lit up my timeline. What had happened to him after he’d exited the camera frame?

Like many Black Americans I watched the day unfold while thinking of Black residents of Washington, D.C., the people of color who work as custodians, food service workers, and staff at the Capitol building, and the sharp contrast in law enforcement’s non-response to the invasion of the Capitol by white insurrectionists in comparison to militarized violent police responses across the country to peaceful protest by BIPOC and our allies. At the end of the day, photos of security standing near custodial staff (all apparently people of color) as they swept up broken glass began to circulate. Later we learned that insurrectionists smeared human excrement throughout the building.

How much had custodial staff been exposed to the deadly virus that day?

Like many historians I thought about my work. For me, completing and publishing a book about America’s most famous rebellion against slavery and enslavers, took on additional immediacy. The women, children, and men who I write about in Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community, found ways to preserve their community amidst overwhelming white violence in 1831. This year the Covid-19 pandemic brought into sharp focus systemic racial inequalities that Black historians have innovated entire historical fields to explore, document, and combat. Black death, from Covid-19 and police violence, has been ever present in our kinship networks, communities, neighborhoods, and on our newsfeeds. Survival requires labor: the day-to-day work, choices, and determination to endure. But, as I write in my book, the word survivor has more than one meaning. It is our word both for those who endure and for those who are bereaved. In Georgia, Black women and femmes did exhausting survival work to flip the Senate — work that will endure. In Kentucky, where I live, Black Lives Matter activists are raising funds to stave off the eviction crisis for vulnerable Black women and femmes even as armed militias plague the state capitol in Frankfort. When the camera moves on, what work of survival will we take up? What ways will we endure bereavement? And what of our work will endure?

Unworthy Republic : The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian  Territory (Hardcover) - Walmart.com - Walmart.comClaudio Saunt, University of Georgia, author of Unworthy Republic:  The Disposssession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory(2020)

“Unworthy Republic,” the title of my recent book on the expulsion of Native Americans from the eastern half of the United States in the 1830s, comes from a letter written by James Folsom, a Choctaw student studying at Miami University of Ohio in 1831. The United States had mistreated the Cherokee Nation, he wrote, and the American Republic would “go down to future eyes with scorn and reproach on her head.” As I was writing Unworthy Republic, the politics in the United States were changing around me, and the book’s subject — white supremacy, political cowardice, and economic opportunism — became more tightly relevant. That served as a motivating force, and I think made the work more present and urgent. In the 1830s, white supremacists threatened to take up arms to defend a grotesque vision of their rights, politicians pretended to take principled stands that were transparently self-serving, and profit-seekers disregarded everything but the dollars they coveted.  Folsom asserted that the United States would feel the legacy of injustice “in her legislative halls,” a prediction that came true on January 6. That injustice, he wrote, “never will be eradicated from her history.” I would like to think that if we had faced that history more fully, we would not have seen rioters in the U.S. Capitol building proudly bearing the Confederate flag and other symbols of white supremacy.

THE BOSTON MASSACRE: A Family History - HamiltonBook.com

Serena Zabin, Carleton College, author of The Boston Massacre: A Family History (2020)

On the night of March 5, 1770, armed agents of the state – British soldiers – shot into a crowd gathered in the street before the seat of imperial power in Boston. When the smoke cleared, five men lay dead or dying in the snow. This year, I published The Boston Massacre: A Family History for the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of an event that is often characterized as the first bloodshed of the American Revolution. By March 5, 2020, the world was already swept up in the first wave of COVID-19, and the murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and others were soon to come. I had not written my book to speak to the contemporary issue of police brutality or to address what happens when the military and the police collapse their functions into each other. Nor had I intended to weigh in on violence done in the name of liberty. The heart of my book is about the personal relationships between neighbors, and even within families, that were splintered in the political and social upheavals of the American Revolution.  And yet, this family history of the eighteenth century clearly does have something to say about the events of the past nine months, something that is no less useful for being unintentional. As I began researching this event more than ten years ago, I had to trust that readers in the present would find it relevant. I just had no idea how right I would be.

City of Refuge: Slavery and Petit Marronage in the Great Dismal Swamp,  1763–1856 (Race in the Atlantic World, 1700–1900 Ser.): Nevius, Marcus P.:  9780820356426: Amazon.com: BooksMarcus Nevius, University of Rhode Island, author of City of Refuge: Slavery and Petit Marronage in the Great Dismal Swamp, 1763-1856 (2020)

On January 6, 2021, I observed the flood of white supremacist terrorists who “stormed” the U.S. Capitol building. On Twitter, I reacted in real time. About an hour before “breaching” the Capitol ground’s outer perimeter (mere yards from the west and east entrances to the building), the mob attended a rally, led by an incumbent lame duck president, near the White House. That president amplified yet again the baseless claims that the presidential election of 2020 had been “stolen” from him and his supporters. Injuring tens of U.S. Capitol police officers and other law enforcement officials, the mob feloniously broke into the Capitol building. While inside, they paraded about, carrying Confederate flags, chanting “Stop the Steal,” and targeting U.S. legislators who scurried to evacuate as the mob broke into their offices. One woman lost her life; at least one police officer paid the ultimate sacrifice in the duty to protect the Capitol; several in the mob lost their lives. The mobs’ actions took shape on national television, as awed newscasters on stations of all stripes nationally and internationally broadcast live the mob’s figurative and literal desecration of the nation as we know it.

This mob, however, did not storm the Capitol. It did not breach the building. To say either is to imbue the mob’s actions with the connotations of protest, of a war for a valiant cause. To do that is to validate the very rhetoric that animated the mob, instigated by a lame duck president, that believed it was disrupting an “illegal” (re: totally legitimate) process of confirming the votes that the independent states submitted to Congress by way of the Electoral College. The mob’s felonious entry into the Capitol was not valiant. If anything, it was, at base, a COVID-19 superspreader event.

A few days’ reflection have reminded me that my visceral reaction on January 6th, that “it should NEVER have come to this…” was wrong. As an historian of slavery, slave based economies, and black resistance in early America, I know all too well the examples that are not known widely enough — the 3/5ths Compromise; the Federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1793; the Missouri Compromise; the several bills comprising the Compromise of 1850; the Dred Scott decision of 1857 — the list goes on. Political compromises from 1787 to 1850 did not save the nation from Civil War; postbellum political compromises did even less to quell the nation’s sordid racial history. The truth, as scholars of many stripes know all too well, is that what we observed on January 6th was our nation’s deep seeded politics of hatred, borne of the nation’s original sin — slavery. The mob’s actions were a demonstration of this very truth. And a poignant warning that, as yet, we have much with which to reckon.

Past and Prologue : Politics and Memory in the American Revolution  (Hardcover) - Walmart.com - Walmart.comMichael D. Hattem, Yale University, author of Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution (2020)

Part of the reason the power of history and historical narratives are so deeply embedded in our national political culture is because it was such an important part of the founding of the nation. We are the inheritors of that tradition, for better and worse. In just the last year, I have watched contemporary events and debates — such as The 1619 Project, the removal of Confederate monuments, the White House Conference on American History, and the 1776 Commission, to name just a few — and have been able to understand them as not just expressions of our contemporary politics but as part of our nation’s long-standing relationship between politics and history. That context that my work has offered has been important because it has not only made me more attuned to when politicians and political parties of both sides use representations of the past to manipulate their audience by drawing on their emotions and previously held beliefs, but has also made it possible for me to then ask important questions such as: who is the intended audience for specific depictions of American history, for what purposes are those depictions being used, and why do those depicting it expect it to resonate with their specific audience? Therefore, I think my work as a historian of memory and politics has made me a more critical “consumer” of history as used in the public square and I would like to think my book would do the same for its readers.
Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past: Araujo, Ana Lucia:  9781350048485: Amazon.com: BooksAna Lucia Araujo, Howard University, author of Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past (2020)

I have been studying the history and the legacies of slavery in the Atlantic World for nearly twenty years, and we know that the growing interest about the slavery past is closely associated with the persistence of racial inequalities, racism, and white supremacy. But all this could be perceived as an abstract idea. Of course, we have seen black social actors and their academic allies decrying the absence of public markers memorializing this past for several decades, but in the summer 2020 it was the first time that anti-racist public demonstrations (reacting to the assassination of George Floyd) reenacted these debates in tangible ways, not only in the United States, but also in Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, and many other countries. Living through this time is a strange experience. As these monuments became the target of demonstrators denouncing anti-black racism, it is much more evident on how these devices embody the values of white supremacy. Suddenly, the topics that I discussed in a book to be released in October 2020, were popping up on my computer screen as current events in the summer 2020. The attack by white nationalists, white supremacists and nazis on the US Capitol of January 6, 2021 is also an expression of this context. It’s the culmination of a long history of slavery and racial violence that started centuries ago, but that reemerged in recent years through the actions of white terrorists such as Dylan Roof in Charleston and the mob to defend the statue of Robert E. Lee that happened in Charlottesville in 2017. The speed of the events and the fact that we are physically and emotionally tired make the task of the historian harder. But it offers me a great opportunity to see this history of the present, on which I worked for several years, unfolding before my eyes. At the same time, as someone researching the memory of slavery, I know that working on topics close to the present poses many challenges. And in the present context, it’s very hard to see these events from a broad enough perspective. Still, scholarship and the search for truth, no matter how challenging, are the best path forward.

Remembering the Enslaved Who Sued for Freedom Before the Civil War - The  New York TimesWilliam G. Thomas III, University of Nebraska and author, A Question of Freedom:  The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (2020)

When I was researching and writing A Question of Freedom, a reckoning with the history of slavery and racism in the United States was already underway. I saw the book was one means to repair American history and confront the terrible menace of white supremacy unfolding at the time — the murder of Black church members at Emmanuel African Episcopal in 2015, the police shootings of unarmed Black men and women, and the violence of Charlottesville in 2017. I set out to write A Question of Freedom because I wanted to understand how slavery had gained sanction under the law and in the Constitution despite its obvious incompatibility with the founding principles of equality and natural rights. Slavery was a moral problem. And Revolutionary Americans knew it. What I did not realize at first was that slavery was always a dubious institution in the law. It had been fought and contested in the law from the nation’s founding and before. One of the main points I try to make is that particular families experienced slavery. Many Americans see slavery as an abstract institution, faceless and nameless. In most textbooks Black families are almost never mentioned by name. But there was nothing abstract about slavery. And Black families, like the Queens and the Mahoneys, who sued slaveholders for their freedom were at the center of the nation’s founding in a way most Americans have not acknowledged. Their freedom suits amounted to a concerted effort to bring the problem of slavery before the nation. Once I met with the descendants of these families, I wanted to tell the story in a way that made it clear that this history is still with us today, that this is palpably felt history. It affects real people, real families. In A Question of Freedom I wanted readers to experience what I was experiencing: the vibrant immediacy of the past, the heightened awareness that events 240 years ago have profound, indeed personal, consequences in our world today.

The Lost Tradition of Economic Equality in America, 1600–1870: Mandell,  Daniel R.: 9781421437118: Amazon.com: BooksDaniel Mandell, Truman State University, author of The Lost Tradition of Economic Equality in America, 1600-1870 (2020)

Quite clearly the subject of my book, American concerns about economic inequality, has been woven throughout this year’s crises in the U.S. This was particularly true of the pandemic, during which the stock market and the numbers of homeless and hungry have both skyrocketed; with the political wars, as one party pushed for massive federal assistance and the other insisted that low-wage workers should essentially be forced back to work regardless of the danger; and (perhaps a little less obviously so) with efforts to confront the racial inequalities imbedded in so many of our country’s concerns. But I was disappointed that the many speeches and extensive commentary on these issues never acknowledged that this country had a long tradition, going back to before its founding, that the health of our republic required avoiding extremes of great wealth or terrible poverty. In fact, I started on that book a decade ago because that history was never mentioned even as the widening wealth gap became a chasm with the Crash of 2007-2008. Alas my hope that the book would help revive that tradition seems, like so many other (and more significant) hopes and dreams, to be steamrollered by the crises of this moment. 

Hearing Enslaved Voices: African and Indian Slave Testimony in BritishSophie White, University of Notre Dame and author, Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana (2019); co-editor, Hearing Enslaved Voices: African and Indian Slave Testimony in British and French America, 1700–1848 (2020)

As an historian of race and slavery, I am constantly struck by lasting legacies, not least in the perpetuation of formal and informal rules aimed at continued disenfranchisement. I am just as struck by the recurring attempts to repudiate this disenfranchisement, and how this disavowal manifested itself both then and now. My research delves into the ways that enslaved individuals in colonial America spoke up, in courtroom testimony, about their subjugation. Thanks to archives that put these individuals’ words front and center, I show how, just as with the Black Lives Matter movement, they used their voices to call out inequities. And if we listen to what they had to say, we hear in their testimony a demand to be heard, to be seen, to be named, and above all, in a damning rebuttal of the premise of slavery, we see them put their full humanity on display.

Peter Alegi on Twitter: "https://t.co/LveH8EPAJP… "

Daryle Williams, University of Maryland, Co-PI enslaved.org and Editor, Journal of Slavery and Data Preservation (both launched, 2020)

2020 was a year when I spent a lot of time staring at Google Sheets. In the shorthand of morning domestic chatter, I merely needed to say “spreadsheets” in response to my husband’s query “what are you working on today?” A few dozens of those Sheets were created by me, for the Free Africans of Brazil Dataset, and many more were part of the terrific datasets published online for the launch of Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave Trade. In time, Enslaved.org seeks to reshape the fields of slavery studies and inclusive scholarly communications, unleashing the power of linked open data to more fully see and understand experiences of enslavement for named individuals and their families. This important, collaboratively produced site aims to be a space where humanists and data scientists, academics and family historians, as well as continental Africans and people of the Diaspora re/un-cover black life matters in a fullness denied them by the archives of the transatlantic trade and its aftereffects. But in a year in which black peoples and allies took to the streets in revolt against the algorithms of oppression, I also wrestle with the fact all this work relies heavily upon the historical anti-black technologies of identification, tracking, and surveillance. From the musty ledger book and nominal registry to the stultifying and disciplining tedium of the spreadsheet, I wonder often, what are we to do when we make people into data.

To read more historians contextualizing this historical moment, I recommend first the excellent Made By History series on the Washington Post. It is edited by expert historians and sometimes they publish multiple op-eds a day written by expert historians. On the events on January 6th, Megan Kate Nelson has created a round-up of ongoing writing by historians, and Lindsay Chervinsky one for historians who have been writing about the political and other fallout including impeachment. On pandemic, Monica Green and other historians of medicine (with links) included her own and other work in this recent Twitter thread. The American Historical Association has collected a bibliography of COVID-related responses by historians.

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El proceso de independencia estadounidense fue posible gracias a la combinación de una serie de factores domésticos e internacionales. No todos ellos han formado  parte del discurso y la mitología nacionales de Estados Unidos.  Uno de los factores  menos recordados es la significativa -determinante, dirían algunos- ayuda externa que recibieron los rebeldes en su lucha contra el imperio inglés. Bajo la consigna de que el enemigo de mi enemigo es mi amigo, varios países europeos ayudaron a las Treces Colonias en una movida geopolítica contra la hegemonía inglesa. Por ejemplo, los franceses concedieron préstamos y otras ayudas que permitieron a los estadounidenses superar la desventaja con que habían estado luchando contra los casacas rojas. La presencia de militares franceses, así como también de otras naciones europeas, ayudó a fortalecer y profesionalizar el ejército revolucionario. Oficiales como el famoso Marqués de La Fayette (francés), el Barón Von Steuben (prusiano), el General Thaddeus Kosciuszko (polaco) y el Conde de  Rochambeau (francés) aportaron con su conocimiento y experiencia a la victoria estadounidense.

Comparto con mis lectores esta corta nota del historiador Gonzalo M. Quintero dedicada a una de  las figuras extranjeras más olvidadas de la guerra de independecia estadounidense, el general español Bernardo de Gálvez, el héroe de la batalla de Pensacola.  Este escrito forma parte del libro Bernardo de Gálvez, un héroe español en la Guerra de Independencia de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica (Alianza Editorial, 2020).

El español que fue decisivo en la independencia de EEUU


El País 27 de enero de 2021

Las fuerzas españolas lideradas por Bernardo de Gálvez durante la batalla de Pensacola (Florida), obra de Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau (2015)

Las fuerzas españolas lideradas por Bernardo de Gálvez durante la batalla de Pensacola (Florida), obra de Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau (2015). WIKIPEDIA 

Desde principios de la primavera de 1781, fuerzas españolas llevaban asediando la plaza de Pensacola en La Florida Occidental británica. En mayo, después de haber repelido un feroz contraataque británico contra las posiciones avanzadas españolas, el general Bernardo de Gálvez confesaba a su buen amigo Francisco de Saavedra su preocupación sobre la lentitud del avance de las fuerzas de Su Católica Majestad. Saavedra había sido compañero de clase de Gálvez en la Real Escuela Militar de Ávila y estaba en Pensacola como enviado personal del poderoso ministro de Indias, José Gálvez, tío de Bernardo.

Más de dos meses después de la llegada de las primeras fuerzas españolas a la bahía de Pensacola, el agotador trabajo de los ingenieros excavando las trincheras y construyendo las baterías, y la exasperante rutina del intercambio de fuego artillero empezaban a minar la moral de las tropas españolas. Gálvez estaba preocupado. Los suministros traídos desde La Habana se estaban acabando. Las balas de cañón de grueso calibre eran tan escasas que había tenido que recurrir a pagar a sus soldados dos reales por cada bala de cañón británica encontrada en el campo español que pudiera ser vuelta a disparar contra Pensacola. Según Saavedra, “en esta situación estaba resuelto a asaltar por escalada aquella misma noche el fuerte enemigo de la Media Luna [fuerte de la Reina], cuya posesión haría rendir muy en breve los otros dos fuertes (…) y abreviaría de esta suerte el sitio que se hacía muy prolongado”.

Mapa de la bahía de Pansacola (Pensacola) de Antonio Donato Paredes (1782). WIKIPEDIA

Finalmente tuvo que abandonar su plan de lo que hubiera sido un desesperado y casi suicida ataque frontal, pues cuando las fuerzas españolas llegaron frente al fuerte británico ya había amanecido y se había perdido toda sorpresa. Al día siguiente, una vez terminados los trabajos en la batería más próxima al fuerte de la Reina, Gálvez ordenó abrir fuego resignándose a esperar otro día más en el ya demasiado largo asedio de Pensacola. Sin embargo, a las nueve y media de la mañana del martes 8 de mayo de 1781 todo cambió. Se oyó una gran explosión. Gálvez corrió hacia la batería y, viendo la destrucción en el fuerte de la Media Luna, ordenó el ataque. Las tropas españolas se apoderaron rápidamente de la posición y con Pensacola ahora bajo el alcance del fuego enemigo, el comandante británico, el general George ­Campbell, no tuvo más opción que rendirse. Esa misma noche se firmó la capitulación por la que no sólo Pensacola sino también toda La Florida Occidental volvían al seno del imperio español en América del Norte.

El 16 de diciembre de 2014, el presidente Barack Obama firmó la resolución conjunta del Congreso de Estados Unidos por la que se confería la nacionalidad honoraria a Bernardo de Gálvez. El más alto honor que el Gobierno de este país puede otorgar a un ciudadano extranjero y que sólo se ha concedido en ocho ocasiones. Su texto recoge que Bernardo de Gálvez fue “un héroe de la Guerra de la Revolución [norteamericana] que arriesgó su vida por la libertad del pueblo de los Estados Unidos”. Sus “victorias contra los británicos fueron reconocidas por George Washington como un factor decisivo en el resultado” de la guerra. En este mismo sentido, “el Congreso Continental de los Estados Unidos declaró, el 31 de octubre de 1778, su gratitud y sentimientos favorables a Bernardo de Gálvez por su comportamiento hacia los Estados Unidos” por “haber jugado un papel esencial en la guerra y en ayudar a asegurar la independencia de los Estados Unidos”. Pese a estos reconocimientos oficiales y pese al hecho de que “varios lugares geográficos, incluyendo [la ciudad de] Galveston y el condado de Galveston, ambos en Texas, y los pueblos de Galvez y St. Bernard Parrish, en Luisiana, derivan su nombre de Bernardo de Gálvez”, lo cierto es que tanto su biografía como el papel que desempeñó como la más alta autoridad del imperio español en la Guerra de Independencia de los Estados Unidos han sido pasados por alto por la historia popular en dicho país.

I Alone: Bernardo de Galvez's American Revolution: Amazon.co.uk: Garrigues,  Eduardo, Membrez, Nancy: 9781558858923: BooksLa vida de Bernardo de Gálvez puede considerarse casi como una novela de aventuras. Incluso un leve vistazo a su vida muestra que, pese a su brevedad (murió a los 40 años), tuvo una carrera militar llena de acción y desafíos. Pese a conocer muchas victorias, también supo del sabor de la derrota. Su rápido ascenso desde simple teniente a general es una historia de ambición personal y familiar, de valor y, a veces, de pura buena suerte. Era de carácter impetuoso y romántico, profundamente enamorado de su mujer, Felicitas, y apasionado en su vida privada, fuera tocando la guitarra o vitoreando la faena de un torero.

En un contexto más amplio, la vida de Bernardo de Gálvez puede ser contemplada también a través del importante papel jugado por España en la Guerra de Independencia norteamericana, donde Gálvez fue el comandante supremo de las fuerzas españolas que combatieron a los británicos en los estados de Mississippi, Alabama y Florida y, más tarde, jefe de las fuerzas franco-españolas en el Caribe. Un mapa de Norteamérica publicado en Londres en 1783 muestra cómo un tercio de la superficie de los actuales Estados Unidos estaba entonces bajo la soberanía del imperio español, al menos en teoría. En realidad España tenía muy escaso control sobre la mayoría de este vasto territorio donde la población indígena local apenas se veía afectada por esta teórica soberanía española.

Aunque a veces la participación de España en la Revolución Americana se ha presentado como una contribución a la independencia de los Estados Unidos, incluso como si se hubiera tratado de un regalo, la realidad es que la decisión española de entrar en guerra contra Gran Bretaña se basó exclusivamente en consideraciones de política imperial. Además de ser una oportunidad para vengar la derrota española en la Guerra de los Siete Años y de ser un capítulo más en la centenaria confrontación entre España y Gran Bretaña en América, los objetivos españoles en la guerra eran debilitar al imperio británico y recuperar territorios específicos, muy especialmente Gibraltar. Al mismo tiempo, el Gobierno español consideraba la independencia de los Estados Unidos como un subproducto de la guerra que podría sentar un peligroso precedente para las posesiones españolas en América. Obligada a elegir entre compartir Norteamérica con el imperio británico o con una nueva y pequeña república con un gobierno central muy débil como el establecido en los Artículos de Confederación de 1777, España se decidió por lo último. En este contexto, no es sorprendente que el Gobierno español nunca considerase a los Estados Unidos como un aliado. Para España, la Revolución Americana era simplemente una guerra imperial más entre España y Francia contra Gran Bretaña.

Mucho antes de que se declarase la guerra, Gálvez fue el principal responsable de canalizar la mayoría de la ayuda secreta proporcionada por el Gobierno español a los rebeldes norteamericanos. Aunque España nunca fue formalmente un aliado de los Estados Unidos en la lucha por su independencia, pues lo impedían consideraciones políticas, su entrada en la guerra definitivamente inclinó la balanza contra Gran Bretaña. La flota combinada franco-española superaba a la británica y el asedio a Gibraltar y las operaciones contra Menorca obligaron a Gran Bretaña a tener que combatir al mismo tiempo en lugares muy distantes. Del mismo modo, las campañas de Gálvez contra los asentamientos británicos a lo largo del río Mississippi, y más tarde contra Mobila y Pensacola impidieron que los británicos pudiesen concentrar sus fuerzas contra el Ejército Continental al mando de George Washington.

Gonzalo M. Quintero Saravia (Lima, 1964) es diplomático y doctor en Historia de América por la Universidad Complutense y en Derecho por la UNED. Este extracto es un adelanto de su libro ‘Bernardo de Gálvez, un héroe español en la Guerra de Independencia de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica’, que Alianza editorial publica el próximo 28 de enero.

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10 Myths for the Fourth of July

Ray Raphael

Journal of American Revolution   July 1, 2014



Surrender of Burgoyne by John Trumbull. Source: U.S. Architect of the Capitol

1. On July 4, 1776, the United States declared itself an independent nation.

This is almost true, but the timing is a tad off. According to the historical record, we should be celebrating Independence Day on July 2, the day Congress finally approved the motion made by Richard Henry Lee on June 7: “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”[i]

The following day, July 3, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illumination, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.[ii]Adams certainly got the spirit right, even if the date he proffered turned out to be wrong. How was he to know that even the most patriotic Americans would fail to recognize the true anniversary of independence? On July 4, the second day after it declared the United States to be an independent nation, Congress approved a document that explained its reasons. As so often happens in history, representation of the event would have more staying power than the event itself.

2. Congress initiated the move toward independence.

Historian Pauline Maier has uncovered 90 sets of instructions by state and local bodies, each telling its representatives in higher bodies (ultimately, the Continental Congress) to declare independence. Several of these documents, written in the three months preceding Congress’s vote for independence, listed the same complaints and expressed the same principles that the Congressional Declaration of Independence eventually did.[iii]

Earlier yet, on October 4, 1774, the town of Worcester instructed its delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress “to exert yourself in devising ways and means to raise from the dissolution of the old constitution, as from the ashes of the Phenix, a new form, wherein all officers shall be dependent on the suffrages of the people, whatever unfavorable constructions our enemies may put upon such procedure.”[iv] This was indeed a declaration for independence. The new government would be formed without seeking the consent of existing British authorities, and since it would be based exclusively on the “suffrages of the people,” there could be no place for monarchical prerogatives, as there had been under British rule.

In 1774 the Continental Congress was not yet ready for such rash actions. Feverishly, the Massachusetts delegates in Philadelphia cautioned their constituents back home. “Absolute Independency … Startle[s] People here,” John Adams wrote to a friend. His colleagues in the Continental Congress, he said, were horrified by “the Proposal of Setting up a new Form of Government of our own.”[v] Samuel Adams, also a delegate to the Continental Congress, likewise warned the people of Massachusetts not to “set up another form of government” for fear of jeopardizing support from other colonies.[vi] Those congressional leaders, who allegedly drove the agenda, said that “Independency” should not come too soon. In fact, it would be 21 months before Congress caught up with the people of Worcester.

3. The Signing.

Those fifty-six valiant patriots whom future generations would celebrate as “The Signers” did not step forth, with great solemnity, and affix their signatures to the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. In fact, fourteen of these celebrated heroes were not even present that day, including eight who were not yet members of Congress.[vii]

The alleged signing of the Declaration of Independence is a conscious fabrication of the Continental Congress. On July 4, twelve states (not thirteen) approved a declaration that explained Congress’s vote for independence two days earlier. That document was signed by only two men, President John Hancock and Secretary Charles Thomson, as was the custom for congressional resolutions. Two weeks later, on July 19, New York cast the thirteenth vote for independence and Congress ordered that a fancy, “engrossed” copy be “signed by every member.”[viii] On August 2, Timothy Matlack presented this engrossed copy to Congress. Members who happened to be present that day signed it, even if they had not been party to the original act. Other delegates added their signatures as they arrived for work on succeeding days, and one, Thomas McKean of Delaware, did not do so until the following year.[ix]

In the spring of 1777, the committee that printed the official Congressional Journal inserted the later copy under its entry for July 4. The deceit is easy to detect. The engrossed copy – the nicely penned version we see and celebrate so often – is titled, “Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States,” even though the Congressional Journal reveals that only twelve states voted for independence on July 2 and approved the Declaration of July 4. Our nation, as one of its first official acts, pulled off a photo op, 18th Century style. To this day, even most textbooks mistake the embellished Declaration, signatures and all, for the real deal.[x]

4. “Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor.”

This celebrated pledge of personal responsibility made for a stirring conclusion to the congressional Declaration of Independence, but it was not entirely original. In at least twenty of the ninety earlier declarations, delegates signed off by vowing to support independence with their “lives and fortunes.” Some of these added creative touches to the standard oath. Bostonians pledged “their lives and the remnants of their fortunes,” while patriots from Malden, Massachusetts, concluded: “Your constituents will support and defend the measure to the last drop of their blood, and the last farthing of their treasure.”[xi] True, delegates to the Continental Congress, gentlemen all, added some class with “our sacred honor,” but in the final analysis, loss of lives and fortunes would have been bad enough.

5. Thomas Jefferson found the inspiration for the Declaration of Independence “from deep inside himself.”[xii]

Not according to Jefferson. The “object of the Declaration of Independence,” he wrote, was “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind.”[xiii]

Jefferson’s draft of the congressional Declaration of Independence was indeed a superb synthesis of this “American mind.” Had it been merely a reflection of one man’s unique genius, its historical import would have been far less. It expresses the mood and will of a nation, so yes, read it and celebrate it – but don’t forget to place it in its historical context.

6. John Locke’s Social Contract.

The preamble to the congressional Declaration of Independence, we learn in school, was Jefferson’s clever adaptation of the “social contract” theory of government, commonly associated with the British philosopher John Locke. That it was, but the social contract theory was commonplace in Revolutionary Era rhetoric, and Jefferson was swimming in the mainstream, not setting the pace. Several of the local declarations offered succinct expressions of the social contract theory.

Consider the June 17 declaration from Frederick County, Maryland: “Resolved, unanimously, That all just and legal Government was instituted for the ease and convenience of the People, and that the People have the indubitable right to reform or abolish a Government which may appear to them insufficient for the exigency of their affairs.”[xiv]

Or George Mason’s draft to the Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, which appeared in the Philadelphia papers at the very moment Jefferson started penning his draft: “That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from the people…. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community. … and that, whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.”[xv] Mason’s version is clumsy, unlike Jefferson’s in the preamble to the congressional declaration, but the words and concepts are all there. The social contract was a central component of British-American political heritage, a theory that had legitimated the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 and was ushered forth again for this one. Social Contract 101 was core curriculum for American patriots.

7. Jefferson’s ideal of equality.

Writing the Declaration of Independence. Source: Library of Congress

What about that glorious opening to Jefferson’s preamble: “that all men are created equal”? Thomas Jefferson, we are told so often,inserted the concept “equality” with an eye to the future. While other Americans were talking about independence, Jefferson took things to the next level. He was ahead of his time. Even though one-sixth of the residents of the emerging United States were held in bondage, Jefferson gave the idea of equality prime billing as a promise, to be realized when the time was ripe.

But the ideal of “equality,” like the rest of the preamble, was not a Jefferson original.

“That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural Rights… among which are the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursueing and obtaining Happiness and Safety,” George Mason wrote and Thomas Jefferson read.[xvi] Days or weeks later, Jefferson offered his own rendition, simplifying the prose: “[T]hat all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[xvii]

While Jefferson’s variant sounds straightforward, it actually created great confusion. What does “created equal” really mean? Years later, Stephen Douglas, when debating Abraham Lincoln, protested that Negroes were not the “equal” of whites, leading Lincoln to retreat by admitting they were “not my equal in many respects ­– certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment.”[xviii] Had Jefferson stayed with Mason’s phraseology, Lincoln could have cited the Declaration of Independence with greater authority and less apology. “Born equally free and independent” establishes clearly the nature of equality among men: it lies in their rights, not in their attributes, abilities, or achievements.

8. In the aftermath of July 4, states started writing new constitutions and forming new governments.

The sequence here is backward. On May 10, 1776, the Continental Congress unanimously passed a historic resolution: Assemblies or Conventions within each colony should create new governments “where no government sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs” currently existed. Since the colonial governments under British authority were essentially defunct by this time, Congress was giving colonies free reign to start anew.[xix]

Five days later, in Williamsburg, the Virginia Convention resolved to write a constitution for a new government, without even a nod to British authority. Thomas Jefferson, attending Congress in Philadelphia at the time, wished he were back home to help. “It is a work of the most interesting nature and such as every individual would wish to have his voice in,” he wrote. Virginia should recall its delegates to the Continental Congress, he suggested, so they could take part. This was self-serving, of course. He really did want to help write that constitution.[xx]

Virginians fully understood that this was a momentous occasion, and they celebrated in grand style. A crowd gathered outside the Capitol building in anticipation of the final vote, and when it came, some plucky fellows climbed the cupola to lower the British flag, then raised in its stead the Grand Union banner used by the Continental Army. Soldiers paraded and fired cannons, and festivities continued the following day: inebriation, raucous toasts, and fireworks – a regular Fourth of July in Virginia, seven weeks before the Fourth of July.[xxi]

9. The stirring words of the Declaration of Independence helped shape the fledgling nation.

In the first days of independence, Americans staged public readings of Congress’s Declaration to mark such a momentous occasion. But was it the explanation of independence or the mere fact of it they were celebrating? Not content with Congress’s verbal renderings, they freely offered their own. Toasts upon toasts were raised: “Perpetual itching without benefit of scratching, to the enemies of America” and “May the freedom and independency of America endure, till the sun grows dim with age, and this earth returns to chaos.”[xxii]

Through the rest of the war, even at Fourth of July celebrations, the Declaration itself was rarely quoted. On the first anniversary of independence in 1777, when William Gordon delivered the oration for the festivities in Boston, he used as his text the Old Testament. When David Ramsay delivered the oration in Charleston on the second anniversary, he used a phrase more common to the times: “life, liberty, and property,” not “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as appeared in the Declaration of Independence.[xxiii]

In fact, during the Revolutionary Era, George Mason’s draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights was copied or imitated far more often than the Declaration of Independence. None of the seven other states that drafted their own declarations of rights borrowed phrasing from the congressional Declaration, but Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire (in addition to Vermont, which was not yet a state) lifted exact portions of Mason’s text, including “all men are born equally free and independent.”[xxiv]

Surprisingly, the Declaration of Independence was not often cited during the drafting of the United States Constitution in 1787 or in the subsequent debates over ratification. Notes from the Constitutional Convention make only two references to the Declaration, while the 85 essays in The Federalist contain but one.[xxv] Not until the early Nineteenth Century was the Declaration of Independence enshrined as scripture. Its ascendancy was triggered, initially, by political motivations. One of the two emerging political parties, the Republicans, seized the opportunity to promote its standard bearer, Thomas Jefferson, as the author of the nation’s founding document. That was the launch, and Congress’s Declaration of Independence has thrived ever since. Other documents were forgotten. Other patriots, authors of those documents, were forgotten. One document, and one man, would henceforth stand for the whole.

10. The Fourth of July has always brought Americans together.

Although this has often been true, there have been notable exceptions.

On July 4, 1788, while proponents of the new Constitution celebrated its recent ratification, opponents of the new rules staged separate demonstrations, toasting “the old Confederation” instead of the Constitution.[xxvi] Again in the late 1790s, the two emerging political parties, Federalists and Republicans, staged competing Fourth of July celebrations in the same cities.[xxvii] And in 1852, Frederick Douglass issued a direct challenge to the very meaning of independence. “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine,” he said. “You may rejoice, I must mourn.”[xxviii]

Tussling over the soul of the nation is not new, and the Fourth of July, while inspiring picnics and fireworks for the most part, still offers an occasion for political preaching.

Conclusion: Why does any of this matter?

Iconic events, like iconic heroes, can mask what should not be masked. The United States was born not in a moment but in an era. The process of independence took years, not minutes, and the actors were many, not few. It is this process and these patriots ­– all of them – that we should celebrate. I have no problem with celebrating independence on the Fourth of July or two days earlier or any other day, but let’s honor the folks who made it happen by telling their full story.


[i] Journals of the Continental Congress [JCC], Library of Congress, American Memory, 5:425, 507. Internet site: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwjclink.html

[ii] Charles Francis Adams, ed., Familiar Letters of John Adams and his Wife Abigail Adams, during the Revolution (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1876), 193.

[iii] Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (New York: Vintage, 1998), 47-96, 217-34.

[iv] Franklin P. Rice, ed., Worcester Town Records (1784-1800) (Collections of Worcester Society of Antiquity, volume 8), 244. A scan of the document, with context, can be viewed on the documents page of my website: http://www.rayraphael.com/documents/decloration_independence.htm

[v] John Adams to Joseph Palmer, September 17, 1774, and John Adams to William Tudor, October 7, 1774, Robert J. Taylor, ed., Papers of John Adams, (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1977-), 2:173 and 2:187-88.

[vi] Samuel Adams to Joseph Warren, September 25, 1774, Harry Alonzo Cushing, ed., The Writings of Samuel Adams, (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), 3:159.

[vii] Eight of these—Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire, William Williams of Connecticut, Charles Carroll of Maryland, and Benjamin Rush, George Ross, James Smith, George Clymer, and George Taylor of Pennsylvania—had not yet become delegates. Oliver Wolcott of Connecticut had taken leave of Congress to assume command of his state’s militia, while Lewis Morris and Philip Livingston went home when the British threatened to invade New York. William Hooper of North Carolina, Samuel Chase of Maryland, and George Wythe of Virginia were helping their states constitute new governments. (John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography [New York: Oxford University Press, 1999], 4:468; 11:146; 13:772; 15:903–04; 18:911–12; 19:73; 21:609; 23:514, 721; 24:93; Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Scribner’s, 1943], 4:235; 17:284; 18:325. Even today, all these names appear as signers of the Declaration of Independence in the July 4, 1776, entry of the Library of Congress’s Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, 5:515.

[viii] JCC 5:590-91.

[ix] JCC 5:626. At least seven signers, and possibly several others, were not present on August 2: Matthew Thornton, Thomas McKean, Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Richard Henry Lee, and George Wythe. (John H. Hazelton, The Declaration of Independence: Its History [New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1906], 210–219.)

[x] Charles Warren, “Fourth of July Myths,” William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 2 (1945): 246. Here are the original journal entries, not included in the first printed version: “July 19. 1776. Resolved That the Declaration passed on the fourth be fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and stile of ‘The Unanimous Declaration of the 13 United States of America’ and that the same when engrossed be signed by every member of Congress.—Aug. 2. 1776. The declaration of Independence being engrossed & compared at the table was signed by the Members.” (Hazelton, Declaration of Independence, 204.) The original manuscript of the minutes, in the journals of the Continental Congress, was first consulted by Mellen Chamberlain in 1884. (Warren, “Fourth of July Myths,” 245.) The printed version on the Journals of the Continental Congress that appears on the Library of Congress website, edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford in 1906, reflects the original manuscript for July 19 and August 2, but the July 4 entry is still doctored by inserting the engrossed, signed copy, the “official” one the nation has celebrated since 1777.

[xi] Peter Force. ed., American Archives, Fourth Series: A Documentary History of the English Colonies in North America from the King’s Message to Parliament of Marcy 7/74, to the Declaration of Independence by the United States (New York: Johnson Reprint Company, 1972; first published 1833-1846), 6:557, 603. Internet access:




[xii] Joseph Ellis, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), 59.

[xiii] Jefferson to Henry Lee, May 8, 1825, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1899), 10:343. See also Jefferson to James Madison, August 30, 1823, ibid., 10:268. Even while supporting the promotion of relics he had used to draft the Declaration, Jefferson again insisted that his words were to be seen as no more than “the genuine effusion of the soul of our country.” (Jefferson to Dr. James Mease, September 26, 1825, ibid.,10:346.)

[xiv] Force. ed., American Archives 6:933. Internet: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/cgi-bin/amarch/getdoc.pl?/var/lib/philologic/databases/amarch/.17205

[xv] Pennsylvania Gazette, June 12, 1776.

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Jefferson’s draft is reprinted in Maier, American Scripture, 236–241.

[xviii] Lincoln-Douglas debate, Ottawa, IL, August 21, 1858, in Abraham Lincoln, Political Writings and Speeches, Terence Ball, ed. (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), xxvii.

[xix] JCC, May 10, 1776, 4:342.

[xx] Jefferson to Thomas Nelson, May 16, 1776, in Lyman H. Butterfield and Mina R. Bryan, eds., Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950), 1:292.

[xxi] John E. Selby, The Revolution in Virginia, 1775-1783 (Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1988), 97.

[xxii] Massachusetts Spy, July 14, 1776. Reprinted in William Lincoln, History of Worcester, Massachusetts, from its Earliest Settlement to September, 1836 (Worcester: Charles Hersey, 1862), 103.

[xxiii] Philip F. Detweiler, “The Changing Reputation of the Declaration of Independence: The First Fifty Years,” William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 19 (1962): 559-61.

[xxiv] Maier, American Scripture, 165–167; Detweiler, “Changing Reputation of the Declaration of Independence,” 561.

[xxv] Detweiler, “Changing Reputation,” 562.

[xxvi] David Waldstreicher, In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776-1820 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 100-101.

[xxvii] Len Travers, Celebrating the Fourth: Independence Da and the Rites of Nationalism in the Early Republic (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997), 11.

[xxviii] Frederick Douglass, Oration at Rochester, NY, July 5,1852, Frederick Douglas, My Bondage and My Freedom (New York: Arno Press, 1968), 236.


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“Counter-Revolution of 1776”: Was U.S. Independence War a Conservative Revolt in Favor of Slavery?

Democracy Now    June 27, 2014

As the United States prepares to celebrate Independence Day, we look at why July 4 is not a cause for celebration for all. For Native Americans, it may be a bitter reminder of colonialism, which brought fatal diseases, cultural hegemony and genocide. Neither did the new republic’s promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” extend to African Americans. The colonists who declared their freedom from England did not share their newly founded liberation with the millions of Africans they had captured and forced into slavery. We speak with historian Gerald Horne, who argues the so-called Revolutionary War was actually a conservative effort by American colonists to protect their system of slavery. He is the author of two new books: “The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America” and “Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow.” Horne is professor of history and African American studies at the University of Houston.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in Chicago with our next guest. Juan González is in New York.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, next weekend, the United States celebrates the Fourth of July, the day the American colonies declared their independence from England in 1776. While many Americans will hang flags, participate in parades and watch fireworks, Independence Day is not a cause for celebration for all. For Native Americans, it is yet another bitter reminder of colonialism, which brought fatal diseases, cultural hegemony and full-out genocide. Neither did the new republic’s promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness extend to African Americans. As our next guest notes, the white colonists who declared their freedom from the crown did not share their newly founded liberation with the millions of Africans they had captured and forced into slavery.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Gerald Horne argues that the so-called Revolutionary War was actually a counterrevolution, in part, not a progressive step forward for humanity, but a conservative effort by American colonialists to protect their system of slavery.

9781479893409_FullFor more, Professor Horne joins us here in our Chicago studio. He’s the author of two new books: The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America and another new book, just out, Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow. Professor Horne teaches history and African American studies at the University of Houston.

Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. So, as we move into this Independence Day week, what should we understand about the founding of the United States?

GERALD HORNE: We should understand that July 4th, 1776, in many ways, represents a counterrevolution. That is to say that what helped to prompt July 4th, 1776, was the perception amongst European settlers on the North American mainland that London was moving rapidly towards abolition. This perception was prompted by Somerset’s case, a case decided in London in June 1772 which seemed to suggest that abolition, which not only was going to be ratified in London itself, was going to cross the Atlantic and basically sweep through the mainland, thereby jeopardizing numerous fortunes, not only based upon slavery, but the slave trade. That’s the short answer.

The longer answer would involve going back to another revolution—that is to say, the so-called Glorious Revolution in England in 1688, which, among other things, involved a step back from the monarch—for the monarch, the king, and a step forward for the rising merchant class. This led to a deregulation of the African slave trade. That is to say, the Royal African Company theretofore had been in control of the slave trade, but with the rising power of the merchant class, this slave trade was deregulated, leading to what I call free trade in Africans. That is to say, merchants then descended upon the African continent manacling and handcuffing every African in sight, with the energy of demented and crazed bees, dragging them across the Atlantic, particularly to the Caribbean and to the North American mainland. This was prompted by the fact that the profits for the slave trade were tremendous, sometimes up to 1,600 or 1,700 percent. And as you know, there are those even today who will sell their firstborn for such a profit. This, on the one hand, helped to boost the productive forces both in the Caribbean and on the mainland, but it led to numerous slave revolts, not least in the Caribbean, but also on the mainland, which helped to give the mainlanders second thoughts about London’s tentative steps towards abolition.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Gerald Horne, one of the things that struck me in your book is not only your main thesis, that this was in large part a counterrevolution, our—the United States’ war of independence, but you also link very closely the—what was going on in the Caribbean colonies of England, as well as in the United States, not only in terms of among the slaves in both areas, but also among the white population. And, in fact, you indicate that quite a few of those who ended up here in the United States fostering the American Revolution had actually been refugees from the battles between whites and slaves in the Caribbean. Could you expound on that?

GERALD HORNE: It’s well known that up until the middle part of the 18th century, London felt that the Caribbean colonies—Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, in particular—were in some ways more valuable than the mainland colonies. The problem was that in the Caribbean colonies the Africans outnumbered the European settlers, sometimes at a rate of 20 to one, which facilitated slave revolts. There were major slave revolts in Antigua, for example, in 1709 and 1736. The Maroons—that is to say, the Africans who had escaped London’s jurisdiction in Jamaica—had challenged the crown quite sternly. This led, as your question suggests, to many European settlers in the Caribbean making the great trek to the mainland, being chased out of the Caribbean by enraged Africans. For example, I did research for this book in Newport, Rhode Island, and the main library there, to this very day, is named after Abraham Redwood, who fled Antigua after the 1736 slave revolt because many of his, quote, “Africans,” unquote, were involved in the slave revolt. And he fled in fear and established the main library in Newport, to this very day, and helped to basically establish that city on the Atlantic coast. So, there is a close connection between what was transpiring in the Caribbean and what was taking place on the mainland. And historians need to recognize that even though these colonies were not necessarily a unitary project, there were close and intimate connections between and amongst them.

AMY GOODMAN: So, why this great disparity between how people in the United States talk about the creation myth of the United States, if you will—I’m not talking about indigenous people, Native American people—and this story that you have researched?

GERALD HORNE: Well, it is fair to say that the United States did provide a sanctuary for Europeans. Indeed, I think part of the, quote, “genius,” unquote, of the U.S. project, if there was such a genius, was the fact that the founders in the United States basically called a formal truce, a formal ceasefire, with regard to the religious warfare that had been bedeviling Europe for many decades and centuries—that is to say, Protestant London, so-called, versus Catholic Madrid and Catholic France. What the settlers on the North American mainland did was call a formal truce with regard to religious conflict, but then they opened a new front with regard to race—that is to say, Europeans versus non-Europeans.

This, at once, broadened the base for the settler project. That is to say, they could draw upon those defined as white who had roots from the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains, and indeed even to the Arab world, if you look at people like Ralph Nader and Marlo Thomas, for example, whose roots are in Lebanon but are considered to be, quote, “white,” unquote. This obviously expanded the population base for the settler project. And because many rights were then accorded to these newly minted whites, it obviously helped to ensure that many of them would be beholden to the country that then emerged, the United States of America, whereas those of us who were not defined as white got the short end of the stick, if you like.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Gerald Horne, as a result of that, during the American Revolution, what was the perception or the attitude of the African slaves in the U.S. to that conflict? You also—you talk about, during the colonial times, many slaves preferred to flee to the Spanish colonies or the French colonies, rather than to stay in the American colonies of England.

GERALD HORNE: You are correct. The fact of the matter is, is that Spain had been arming Africans since the 1500s. And indeed, because Spain was arming Africans and then unleashing them on mainland colonies, particularly South Carolina, this put competitive pressure on London to act in a similar fashion. The problem there was, is that the mainland settlers had embarked on a project and a model of development that was inconsistent with arming Africans. Indeed, their project was involved in enslaving and manacling every African in sight. This deepens the schism between the colonies and the metropolis—that is to say, London—thereby helping to foment a revolt against British rule in 1776.

It’s well known that more Africans fought alongside of the Redcoats—fought alongside the Redcoats than fought with the settlers. And this is understandable, because if you think about it for more than a nanosecond, it makes little sense for slaves to fight alongside slave masters so that slave masters could then deepen the persecution of the enslaved and, indeed, as happened after 1776, bring more Africans to the mainland, bring more Africans to Cuba, bring more Africans to Brazil, for their profit.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to historian Gerald Horne. He’s author of two new books. We’re talking about The Counter-Revolution of 1776. The subtitle of that book is Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. And his latest book, just out, is called Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow. He’s professor of history and African American studies at University of Houston. When we come back, we’ll talk about that second book about Cuba. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Slavery Days” by Burning Spear, here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in Chicago. Juan González is in New York. Before we talk about the book on slavery, I want to turn to President Obama’s remarks at the White House’s Fourth of July celebration last year. This is how President Obama described what happened in 1776.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: On July 4th, 1776, a small band of patriots declared that we were a people created equal, free to think and worship and live as we please, that our destiny would not be determined for us, it would be determined by us. And it was bold, and it was brave. And it was unprecedented. It was unthinkable. At that time in human history, it was kings and princes and emperors who made decisions. But those patriots knew there was a better way of doing things, that freedom was possible, and that to achieve their freedom, they’d be willing to lay down their lives, their fortune and their honor. And so they fought a revolution. And few would have bet on their side. But for the first time of many times to come, America proved the doubters wrong. And now, 237 years later, this improbable experiment in democracy, the United States of America, stands as the greatest nation on Earth.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was President Obama talking about the meaning of July 4th. Gerald Horne, your book, The Counter-Revolution of 1776, is a direct rebuttal of this, as you call, creation myth. Could you talk about that?

GERALD HORNE: Well, with all due respect to President Obama, I think that he represents, in those remarks you just cited, the consensus view. That is to say that, on the one hand, there is little doubt that 1776 represented a step forward with regard to the triumph over monarchy. The problem with 1776 was that it went on to establish what I refer to as the first apartheid state. That is to say, the rights that Mr. Obama refers to were accorded to only those who were defined as white. To that degree, I argue in the book that 1776, in many ways, was analogous to Unilateral Declaration of Independence in the country then known as Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, in November 1965. UDI, Unilateral Declaration of Independence, was in many ways an attempt to forestall decolonization. 1776, in many ways, was an attempt to forestall the abolition of slavery. That attempt succeeded until the experiment crashed and burned in 1861 with the U.S. Civil War, the bloodiest conflict, to this point, the United States has ever been involved in.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Gerald Horne, how does this story, this, what you call, counterrevolution, fit in with your latest book, Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow?

GERALD HORNE: Well, there’s a certain consistency between the two books. Keep in mind that in 1762 Britain temporarily seized Cuba from Spain. And one of the regulations that Britain imposed outraged the settlers, as I argue in both books. What happened was that Britain sought to regulate the slave trade, and the settlers on the North American mainland wanted deregulation of the slave trade, thereby bringing in more Africans. What happens is that that was one of the points of contention that lead to a detonation and a revolt against British rule in 1776.

I go on in the Cuba book to talk about how one of the many reasons why you have so many black people in Cuba was because of the manic energy of U.S. slave traders and slave dealers, particularly going into the Congo River Basin and dragging Africans across the Atlantic. Likewise, I had argued in a previous book on the African slave trade to Brazil that one of the many reasons why you have so many black people in Brazil, more than any place outside of Nigeria, is, once again, because of the manic energy of U.S. slave traders and slave dealers, who go into Angola, in particular, and drag Africans across the Atlantic to Brazil.

It seems to me that it’s very difficult to reconcile the creation myth of this great leap forward for humanity when, after 1776 and the foundation of the United States of America, the United States ousts Britain from control of the African slave trade. Britain then becomes the cop on the beat trying to detain and deter U.S. slave traders and slave dealers. It seems to me that if this was a step forward for humanity, it was certainly not a step forward for Africans, who, the last time I looked, comprise a significant percentage of humanity.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Gerald Horne, so, in other words, as you’re explaining the involvement of American companies in the slave trade in Brazil and Cuba, this—that book and also your The Counter-Revolution of 1776 makes the same point that slavery was not just an issue of interest in the South to the Southern plantation owners, but that in the North, banking, insurance, merchants, shipping were all involved in the slave trade, as well.

GERALD HORNE: Well, Juan, as you well know, New York City was a citadel of the African slave trade, even after the formal abolition of the U.S. role in the African slave trade in 1808. Rhode Island was also a center for the African slave trade. Ditto for Massachusetts. Part of the unity between North and South was that it was in the North that the financing for the African slave trade took place, and it was in the South where you had the Africans deposited. That helps to undermine, to a degree, the very easy notion that the North was abolitionist and the South was pro-slavery.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Gerald Horne, what most surprised you in your research around Cuba, U.S. slavery and Jim Crow?

GERALD HORNE: Well, what most surprised me with regard to both of these projects was the restiveness, the rebelliousness of the Africans involved. It’s well known that the Africans in the Caribbean were very much involved in various extermination plots, liquidation plots, seeking to abolish, through force of arms and violence, the institution of slavery. Unfortunately, I think that historians on the North American mainland have tended to downplay the restiveness of Africans, and I think it’s done a disservice to the descendants of the population of mainland enslaved Africans. That is to say that because the restiveness of Africans in the United States has been downplayed, it leads many African Americans today to either, A, think that their ancestors were chumps—that is to say, that they fought alongside slave owners to bring more freedom to slave owners and more persecution to themselves—or, B, that they were ciphers—that is to say, they stood on the sidelines as their fate was being determined. I think that both of these books seek to disprove those very unfortunate notions.

AMY GOODMAN: So, as we move into the Independence Day weekend next weekend, what do you say to people in the United States?

GERALD HORNE: What I say to the people in the United States is that you have proved that you can be very critical of what you deem to be revolutionary processes. You have a number of scholars and intellectuals who make a good living by critiquing the Cuban Revolution of 1959, by critiquing the Russian Revolution of 1917, by critiquing the French Revolution of the 18th century, but yet we get the impression that what happened in 1776 was all upside, which is rather far-fetched, given what I’ve just laid out before you in terms of how the enslaved African population had their plight worsened by 1776, not to mention the subsequent liquidation of independent Native American polities as a result of 1776. I think that we need a more balanced presentation of the foundation of the United States of America, and I think that there’s no sooner place to begin than next week with July 4th, 2014.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Gerald Horne, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Historian Gerald Horne is author of two new books: The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America as well as Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow. He’s a professor of history and African American studies at the University of Houston.

That does it for our broadcast. Happy birthday to Jon Randolph. Democracy Now! has two job openings — administrative director, as well as a seasoned Linux systems administrator — as well asfall internships. Check out democracynow.org/jobs for more information.



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