The Real Cause of the Revolutionary War: Preserving Slavery

The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Black Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

Professor Gerald Horne

In this lecture about his 2014 book, African American history professor Gerald Horne exposes important events that triggered the so-called War of Independence. He makes a compelling case that the decision of the 13 colonies to declare independence in 1776 was a direct result of George III’s 1775 decision to establish all-black Ethiopian regiments to fight colonial regiments in Virginia (the colony that produced Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other high profile members of the independence movement). Odd, isn’t it, that white historians neglect to mention this important fact in our high school textbooks?

According to Horne, there was a clear precedent for arming African troops in North America. In the 18th century, both the French (who occupied Quebec) and the Spanish (who occupied Florida) armed escaped slaves to attack the English colonies. Collaboration between the armed Africans and black slaves led to several major slave revolts in the 18th century. Two of the most important were the 1712 slave uprising in Manhattan (backed by the French) and the  1739 Stono’s Revolt in South Carolina (led by a coalition of Spanish armed Africans from St. Augustine Florida and Portuguese-speaking slaves from Angola).

Horne also believes the timing of the 1776 “War of Independence” also related to Britain’s decision to abolish slavery in 1772 – and fears King George would extend the ban on slavery to the 13 colonies.

In summing up, Horne traces how this willingness to go to war over the diabolical (but immensely profitable) institution of slavery would shape the ruthlessly greedy and mean-spirited character of the American nation. Unlike the US, Canada, which never adopted slavery nor fought two wars to preserve it, has made a genuine effort to look after its poor and underprivileged. Horne gives the example of the universal single payer health system.

Horne believes this hidden history also accounts for the special persecution of the descendents of slaves, as opposed to non-US natives with black skin.

There is a very long introduction. The actual talk starts at 9:24.

19 thoughts on “The Real Cause of the Revolutionary War: Preserving Slavery

  1. Lies our teachers told us, huh! Of course, ‘Great’ Britain had already funded its industrial revolution and much of its empire-building on proceeds from the Triangular Trade, ie slave-trading. “Well, we did it, but we know it wasn’t nice, so no one else should do it. Of course we’re not making financial reparation to anyone. That would be just silly.”

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    • I don’t know if you watched the film, Alan, but at the end, Horne calls for a truth and reconciliation commission (like South Africa’s) to address the generational misery caused by slavery and Jim Crow. I get the sense he envisions financial reparations as part of that process.

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  2. Well, I can add this to my long list of “history” tales about this fraud called Merica.

    I have read so many versions over the last twenty years, that, as with the never-ending causes for global climate change/warming, I’m not willing to fully believe any “expert’s” testimony today.

    Having said this, I would not be a bit surprised that this had something to do with it. But the English still rule this country, in a sense, so does it really matter?

    This country was a mistake that became a curse on the world, that’s my version of history at the moment!

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    • I guess all we can do to evaluate the truth of what Horne says is to read his book and examine the quality of his sources. I haven’t laid my hands on the book yet, but I’ve researched the events he describes and they definitely happened.

      I totally share your sense that the US was a “mistake that became a curse on the world.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent talk from a learned man, sporting a prominent “flesh-colored” band-aid even (for effect?). The reference to John Brown and Brown University was interesting. Rhode Island was the center of the triangle trade. Producing rum in Rhode Island (with church help), trading it in Africa for slaves brought to Barbados to work the fields, then bringing sugar and molasses to RI to produce the rum

    http://web.bryant.edu/~ehu/h364proj/fall_98/stump/triangletrade.html
    http://www.tracingcenter.org/blog/2014/11/a-museum-dedicated-to-the-slave-trade-in-a-cathedral-in-providence-r-i/

    So there was an important economic (capitalist) component to freedom from Britain.

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      • Professor Gerald Horne: kneel on floor to apologize, whitey band-aid on forehead, –he’s articulate in many ways including speech. I guess he had some notes, but he sure didn’t read anything it appears to me.
        I just researched black band-aid. A NY entrepreneur manufactured and marketed “Ebon-Aides” about fifteen years ago, but they didn’t sell well he claims because of poor store placement. Pity.
        Regarding Brown, the Founding Fathers were no paragons of virtue either. (I just finished reading Howard Zinn’s Peoples’ History.) But yes Brown stands out, like that other John Brown but in an opposite way. Too bad Zinn wasn’t exposed to Horne as we are — thanks for that.

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  4. The beloved song “Amazing Grace” was written by a slave ship captain after enduring an Atlantic storm. (At least HE endured it.)

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  5. History is dense and over-determined in the minglings of its political currents. And the manifold cultural excrescences of the past are not easily shed or transcended once having crystallized into practice. All of the murder and oppression that was and continues to be committed primarily in the name of money, power, and privilege sustained, as it is, upon a pillar of widespread and instilled ignorance.

    Today I’m in a pessimistic mood. As Professor Horne implies, our greatest tragedy, our present social and cultural disarray, is rooted in a time not our own but that nevertheless determines us in our being. He rightly echoes Faulkner’s line, that “[t]he past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

    And so it isn’t.

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  6. A couple of thoughts: The “1739 Stonewall’s Revolt in South Carolina (led by a coalition of Spanish armed Africans from St. Augustine Florida and Portuguese-speaking slaves from Angola)” was actually the Stono Rebellion, led by native Africans who were likely from the Central African Kingdom of Kongo. Some of the rebels spoke Portuguese. Their goal was to reach Spanish Florida, where they were promised freedom by the Spanish in an attempt to destabilize British rule.

    Sommersett v Stewart (1772) held that chattel slavery was unsupported by common law in England and Wales, and that slaves in those two areas could not be removed from England against their will. This case is generally seen as having decided that slavery did not exist under English law and emancipated remaining slaves in England and Wales. Scotland followed suit in 1778. However, slavery was not abolished in the remainder of the empire (except India) until 1833. There may have been some concern that abolition might ensue across the British Empire following Sommersett v Stewart, but given the many years it took William Wilberforce and others just to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire, beginning in the 1780s, it seems unlikely that this was a serious concern in the colonies.

    From what I can discern, the “Ethiopian Regiment” was the name given to a British colonial military unit organized in later 1775 by the last Royal Governor of Virginia, composed of slaves who had escaped from Patriot masters and led by British officers and NCOs. Five hundred Virginia slaves joined the unit and saw military action in 1775-76. The unit was disbanded in 1776, though some members continued to fight for the British.

    I don’t know that white historians have deliberately neglected to mention the idea that the “decision of the 13 colonies to declare independence in 1776 was a direct result of George III’s 1775 decision to establish all-black Ethiopian regiments to police white settlers in Virginia” so much as the idea, while interesting, doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. The colonists had plenty of other reasons by 1776 to want to break with Great Britain; it’s not clear from what I’ve been able to uncover that the Ethiopian Regiment (singular) was devised to police white settlers, but to fight colonial forces.

    Still, an intriguing hypothesis.

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    • CBC, that you for your most enlightening comment. I have made 2 corrections in the original post based on your information. I still haven’t read Horne’s book yet and misheard “Stonewall” for “Stono.”

      I’m assuming the book is much more nuanced than the talk. I don’t think Horne meant to imply that the British decision to arm Africans was the sole cause of the Revolutionary War. I think his intention is to suggest is that it was an important one and that the decision of white historians to omit this significant event is quite serious, in view of the immense economic importance of slavery to development of American capitalism.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have to admit I was unaware of this theory until I read your post; I am interested in learning more about Horne’s hypothesis. Just because it seems unlikely to me doesn;t mean it’s not plausible, certainly. Thanks for highlighting an interesting talk.

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