By Walter E. Williams
Too many people believe that slavery is a "peculiar institution."
That's what Kenneth Stampp called slavery in his book, "Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South."
But slavery is by no means peculiar, odd or unusual.
It was common among ancient peoples such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Greeks, Persians, Armenians and many others.
Large numbers of Christians were enslaved during the Ottoman wars in Europe.
White slaves were common in Europe from the Dark Ages to the Middle Ages.
It was only after A.D. 1600 that Europeans joined with Arabs and Africans and started the Atlantic slave trade.
As David P. Forsythe wrote in his book, "The Globalist," "The fact remained that at the beginning of the nineteenth century an estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom."
While slavery constitutes one of the grossest encroachments on human liberty, it is by no means unique or restricted to the Western world or United States, as many liberal academics would have us believe.
Much of their indoctrination of our young people, at all levels of education, paints our nation's founders as racist adherents to slavery, but the story is not so simple.
At the time of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, slaves were about 40 percent of the population of the Southern colonies.
Apportionment in the House of Representatives and the number of electoral votes each state would have in presidential elections would be based upon population. Southern delegates to the convention wanted slaves to be counted as one person.
Northern delegates to the convention, and those opposed to slavery, wanted only free persons of each state to be counted for the purposes of apportionment in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College.
The compromise reached was that each slave would be counted as only three-fifths of a person.
Many criticize this compromise as proof of racism.
My question to these grossly uninformed critics is whether they would have found it more preferable for slaves to be counted as whole persons.
Slaves counted as whole persons would have given slave holding Southern states much more political power.
Or, would the critics of the founders prefer that the Northern delegates not compromise and not allow slaves to be counted at all.
If they did, it is likely that the Constitution would have not been ratified.
Thus, the question emerges is whether blacks would be better off with Northern states having gone their way and Southern states having gone theirs, resulting in no U.S. Constitution and no Union?
Unlike today's pseudointellectuals, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass understood the compromise, saying that the three-fifths clause was "a downright disability laid upon the slave holding states" that deprived them of "two-fifths of their natural basis of representation."
Douglass' vision was shared by Patrick Henry and others. Henry said, expressing the reality of the three-fifths compromise, "As much as I deplore slavery, I see that prudence forbids its abolition."
With this union, Congress at least had the power to abolish slave trade by 1808.
According to delegate James Wilson, many believed the anti-slave-trade clause laid "the foundation for banishing slavery out of this country." Many of the founders abhorred slavery. Their statements can be read on my website, walterewilliams.com.
The most unique aspect of slavery in the Western world was the moral outrage against it, which began to emerge in the 18th century and led to massive elimination efforts.
It was Britain's military sea power that put an end to the slave trade.
And our country fought a costly war that brought an end to slavery.
Unfortunately, these facts about slavery are not in the lessons taught in our schools and colleges.
Instead, there is gross misrepresentation and suggestion that slavery was a uniquely American practice.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, SEE THE BELOW REFERENCES
Slavery in History
Slavery’s Roots: War and Economic Domination
- 6800 B.C. The world’s first city-state emerges in Mesopotamia. Land ownership and the early stages of technology bring war—in which enemies are captured and forced to work: slavery.
The First American Colony Slave Owner Was A Black Man
- · Anthony Johnson, listed as "Antonio a Negro" in early records, first arrived in Virginia in 1619.
- · Anthony was enslaved by rival tribes in Angola, sold to the Spanish and later purchased from a passing Portuguese slave ship.
- · Anthony and Mary were married in 1625, and because they appeared to convert to Christianity, they were made indentured servants.
- · They had four children and claimed 250 acres due for five head-rights of either persons who were indentured servants on their estate, or persons from whom they purchased their head-rights.
- · By 1650, their sons acquired an additional 550 acres adjacent to Anthony’s farm.
- · On March 8, 1655, the Northampton County court ruled in the favor of Anthony Johnson when he was accused of keeping an indentured servant, John Castor, as a slave. Castor had not been purchase as a servant, but as a slave.
- · Johnson asked the court to award him John Castor as a slave, Johnson won. This case changed the American landscape because this was the first legal sanction of slavery in the New World, 1664.
See Also The Truth About Slavery video: https://vimeo.com/161376819
- White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America
- · Slavery in America, typically associated with blacks from Africa, was an enterprise that began with the shipping of more than 300,000 white Britons to the colonies.
- · Thousands of whites endured the hardships of tobacco farming and lived and died in bondage in the New World
- · These white slaves in the New World consisted of street children plucked from London's back alleys, prostitutes, and impoverished migrants searching for a brighter future and willing to sign up for indentured servitude.
- · Convicts were also persuaded to avoid lengthy sentences and executions on their home soil by enslavement in the British colonies.
- · The much maligned Irish, viewed as savages worthy of ethnic cleansing and despised for their rejection of Protestantism, also made up a portion of America's first slave population, as did Quakers, Cavaliers, Puritans, Jesuits, and others.
- · Contemporary slavery, also known as modern slavery, refers to the institutions of slavery that continue to exist in the present day. Estimates of the number of slaves today range from around 21 million to 46 million.