The Forgotten Black Settlers Who Helped Settle the American Midwest

The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers & the Struggle for Equality

Anna-Lisa Cox

Hatchette Book Group (2018)

Book Review

This is a fascinating book about the freed African American slaves who helped settle the Northwest Territory* and the vicious white backlash that deprived many of them of their farms and, in some cases, their lives. Interesting how the vital role of African Americans in settling the Midwestern United States has totally vanished from modern history books.

African American scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois was the first to note, in 1906, the important role role of freed slaves in settling, defending and clearing the dense forests of the Northwest Territory.

The 1787 Northwest Ordinance both banned slavery throughout the Northwest Territory and allowed African Americans to vote in local and territorial elections.

Cox’s book traces the gradual prohibition of slavery in all northern states after the the trans-Atlantic slave trade ended in 1807 (except New Jersey, where slavery persisted until the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation). In nearly every case, legislation ending slavery followed on from favorable court rulings when slaves sued to win their freedom.

Cox also examines the pressures leading slaves, having purchased their freedom, to migrate to the Northwest Territory. Southern Blacks were fleeing the constant threat of whites kidnapping and re-enslaving them. Northern Blacks came to escape deadly mob violence (in which white mobs burned Blacks out of their homes, churches and schools) that plagued Northern cities with large African American populations.

The white backlash that eventually stripped Black Northwest Territory settlers of civil rights they had enjoyed for decades was driven by a number of factors: 1) the 1799-1815 Napoleonic Wars, during which France sought to reinstate slavery in all  its colonies, 2) the rabidly racist leadership of Ohio’s first governor William Henry Harrison (who unsuccessfully campaigned to make Ohio a slave state), President Andrew Jackson and his Vice-president Martin van Buren (who openly encouraged white mobs to attack Black farmers in Ohio and Indiana), and the outright greed of land developers who sought to profit from slave labor in converting Northwest and Louisiana Purchase territory into prime agricultural land.

In the end, all Northwest Territory states (except Wisconsin) enacted Black Code Laws that required African American settlers to post $500 bond – which they forfeited if white farmers attacked them. As each of them achieved statehood, their new state constitutions stripped Black settlers of their right to vote and their right to testify against whites in court. The latter made it impossible to convict whites for mob violence. Eventually Indiana, Ohio and Illinois banned all new immigration of Black settlers.

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and 1857 (Supreme Court) Dred Scott decision made life for freed slaves in the Northwest Territory even more precarious. The former made it possible for whites to kidnap free African Americans in the North and sell them into slavery in the South. The latter decreed that no person of African descent could ever be considered a US citizen.


*The Northwest Territory encompassed most British pre-war colonial territory west of the Appalachians, north of the Ohio River and south of the Canadian border  – ie the modern day states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and the eastern part of Minnesota.

 

 

Hidden History: There Were 15 (not 13) Colonies in the Revolutionary War

The Lost History of America

First Documentary (2018)

Film Review

This documentary traces the hidden history of St Augustine (Florida), the first permanent European settlement in North America. It was founded in 1565 by Spanish colonists, 42 years before the English founded Jamestown (Virginia), the first “official” North American colony. History textbooks gloss over the fact that England had 15, not 13 North American colonies at the time of The Revolutionary War. They always neglect to mention East and West Florida (which were transferred from Spain to England by the 1763 Treaty of Paris. For two main reasons 1) because the Florida colonies fought for the British rather than the colonists and 2) because under Spanish rule, both East and West Florida outlawed slavery and offered sanctuary to runaway slaves.

After the war, the US ceded East and West Florida to Spain as a reward for Spanish financial and military support. However the land came the condition, imposed by Secretary of State (and slaveholder) Thomas Jefferson, that both colonies would cease to provide sanctuary for slaves from northern states.

The Seminole tribes ignored Jefferson and continued to shelter runaway slaves in Florida swamps where slave catchers couldn’t pursue them.

In 1812, the governor of Georgia raised a private army, assisted by the US Navy, to invade Florida in a military action known as the Patriot’s War. A coalition of Seminoles and freed slaves attacked the new plantations opened up by northern settlers, burned them and freed their slaves. In 1818 General Andrew Jackson launched the infamous Seminole War in retaliation.

In 1821, Spain officially ceded Florida to the US, forcing most of the free African families who had founded St Augustine to flee to the Bahamas – where the British had banned slavery.

The Lost Science of Money – Wars Are Won By Bankers, Not Armies

The Lost Science of Money: The Mythology of Money – The Story of Power

by Stephen Zarlinga

American Monetary Institute (2002)

Book Review

This book, by co-author of Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s HR 2990 to abolish the Federal Reserve (see HR2990: Historic Bill to Abolish the Federal Reserve), is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. At 775 pages, the lowest price I could find for a used copy was $225 from Alibris. Fortunately it’s also available in PDF format at The Lost Science of Money

It’s clear from Zarlenga’s extensive documentation and footnotes that the research for this book took decades. He essentially rewrites western history dating back to the ancient Sumerians. His goal is to expose and correct all the distortions and myths introduced into official history historians in the pay of merchants and bankers. Both are fiercely committed to perpetuating our current global monetary system in which private central banks create and control the money supply.

Among many others, two of the myths Zarlenga explodes are that the Roman Empire collapsed due to barbarian invasion (he demonstrates very convincingly that Rome collapsed due to a debasement of their currency) and the often repeated claim that excessive government printing of money was responsible for the deadly inflation in the early years of the Third Reich – as Zarlenga points out, it was actually the privately owned central Reichsbank that issued the money and created the inflation.

The Concept of “True Money,”

Zarlenga begins by establishing a clear difference between “true money,” which he defines as money with a fixed value set by law and “commodity money,” in which private merchants and banks issue and control the value of money. In the rare historical periods where governments have issued and controlled money by law, the result has been long periods of political stability and flourishing industry and culture.

The Romans enjoyed the longest continuous period (200 years) of monetary stability. Roman leaders maintained control of their money by prohibiting silver and gold coinage for domestic use – issuing fixed value copper and bronze coinage instead. In this way they prevented foreign merchants from capturing control of their money supply and manipulating the value of their currency.

He Who Controls the Money Controls the World

Zarlenga carefully traces how after the fall of the Roman Empire, control of western money shifted from Constantinople (after the 4th Crusade which sacked Constantinople – see link), to Venice, to Portuguese traders in Antwerp (after they opened the trade route around the southern tip of Africa), to Amsterdam (following the civil war splitting the Netherlands into Holland and Belgium), to London (after the Dutch prince William of Orange seized the English throne). In each case, control of the money supply was far more important than military strength in consolidating political control.

Zarlinga also clarifies, though careful research, the historical role played by the Knights Templar and Jewish merchants and money lenders in the development of global monetary centers.

The Dutch Usurper Who Chartered the Bank of England

One of the sections that interested me most concerned the founding of the Bank off England – which set the global standard for all private central banks – in 1694. Previously I hadn’t realized that the Bank of England was started by a Dutch king (William of Orange), who usurped the English throne from James II. Nor that his purpose for chartering the Bank of England was to advance the interest of the Dutch merchants and bankers who initially controlled it.

“True Money” in the Americas

I also enjoyed the detailed section outlining the history of government issued money in the US. Again Zarlenga presents extensive and convincing evidence that it was the ability of colonial governors to issue their own money that enabled commerce and industry in the 13 original colonies, as well as enabling them to organize a successful war of independence against England.

Zarlenga also describes in detail the battle Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and their allies fought against the creation of a privately controlled central bank, as well as the immense popularity of the Greenback Congress issued during the Civil War – and the immense national uprising (the populist movement) launched at the end of the 19th century to save them.

The Federal Reserve Engineers the Great Depression

Obviously the book wouldn’t be complete without a chapter on the criminal conspiracy that lead to the formation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, the Federal Reserve’s role in engineering the Great Depression 26 years later, and Roosevelt’s prolonged battle with Wall Street to implement the New Deal recovery.

Hidden History: The War of 1812

This PBS documentary offers the highly sanitized mainstream version of the War of 1812, a historical event Canadians study in school but not Americans. This was the only war in history in which the US invaded Canada and lost. The main weakness of the documentary is its failure to point out that the US money supply was 80% controlled by London banks – both before and after a pointless war that ended in stalemate (see How the US Uses War to Protect the Dollar).

The “official” justification for the US declaration of war in June 1812 was the British policy of seizing US merchant ships headed for France. Owing to their war against Napoleon (1803-1815), the British seized hundreds of US merchant ships and impressed 6,000 US merchant sailors to serve in the British Navy. The final straw occurred when the British fired on a US naval vessel, the USS Chesapeake, which was harboring four British deserters.

According to the documentary, the true motivation was the desire of President James Madison and young Congressional Republicans to seize Indian and Canadian lands for sentiment and development.

For me the most significant aspect of this war was the strong antiwar movement that arose opposing it. Northern banks refused to finance the war (it was eventually financed by London’s German-owned Baring’s Bank) and New England states, which threatened to secede, refused to volunteer their militias.

For the fist year of the war, the US government relied mainly on state militias, as service in the US army was voluntary and pay and conditions were abysmal. The poorly led US militias made three disastrous attempts to invade Canada at Detroit, across the Niagara River and north through Vermont’s Champlain Valley. The US militias were defeated, despite outnumbering Canadian forces five to one. Most of Britain’s military forces were tied up fighting Napoleon in Europe. The Canadian side relied on a few British regulars, Native American warriors led by Tecumseh and French, Scottish and British farmers defending their land.

In 1814, the British captured Napoleon, releasing 60,000 troops for service elsewhere. In August 1814, they sacked and burned Washington (including the Capitol, the White House, the Library of Congress and the Navy Yard) and the city was only spared by a freak hurricane that forced British troops to retreat.

The Battle of Baltimore and the Battle of New Orleans would spell a reversal of fortune for the US. By this point the US had more professionally trained troops, though they depended heavily on Baltimore residents to build ramparts and state militias to help defend the city. The successful defense of Fort McHenry (Baltimore) in September 1814 would inspire Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner. Congress would make it the US national anthem in 1931.

My favorite part of the documentary depicts the Battle of New Orleans in which Revolutionary War hero Andrew Jackson successfully led 4,000 irregulars – consisting of poor white farmers, slaves, creoles, and Native Americans – against 10,000 highly trained and experienced British troops.

The battle is celebrated in Johnny Horton’s 1959 ballad The Battle of New Orleans (the second video). The audio is blocked in the documentary for copyright reasons. Too bad Congress didn’t make Battle of New Orleans the national anthem. They should have.

 

 

 

How the US Uses War to Protect the Dollar

The Gods of Money

William Engdahl (2015)

The first video is a 2015 presentation by William Engdahl about his 2010 book The Gods of Money. It focuses on the use of US economic and military warfare to maintain the supremacy of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

As his point of departure, he begins with the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement, in which the Allied powers agreed to use the gold-backed US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. In 1971 when Nixon was forced to end the gold standard,* the gold-backed US dollar was replaced by the “petrodollar.” According to Engdahl, it was so named because of a secret agreement the US made with Saudi Arabia – in return for a guarantee that OPEC would only trade oil in US dollars, the US guaranteed the Saudis unlimited military hardware.

In this way, oil importing nations (most of the world) were forced to retain substantial US dollar reserves. This was the only way they could provide their economies with a continuous supply of oil.

The petrodollar remained supreme until the mid-1980s, when the collapse of the US Savings and Loan industry (a pre-cursor of the 2007 banking collapse) raised concerns in Europe that the US was failing as a super power. Fearing the US economy was collapsing, they created the euro and the Eurozone, to prevent the Soviet Union or China from filling the power vacuum.

The financial warfare unit of the US treasury responded by feeding hedge fund manager and currency speculator George Soros secret information that enabled him to lead an attack on the British pound. This, in turn, destabilized the British economy to the point the UK no longer qualified to join the euro.

In 1997 the US Treasury and Soros made a a similar attack on economies of Southeast Asia (Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines) that attempted to use currencies other than the dollar as their reserve currencies.

In 2010, after the US government had run three years of $1 trillion deficits, China, Russia and Japan announced their intention of selling US Treasury bonds (which the US government sells to finance its debt) to increase their euro reserves. Concerned this placed the US dollar on the brink of catastrophic collapse, the US Treasury and Soros attacked the Euro directly by collapsing the Greek economy. The mechanism Soros used was to direct his hedge funds to dump the sovereign treasury bonds that financed Greek debt.** When the European Central Bank announced its commitment to a Greek bail-out, the US Treasury and Soros followed up with an attack on Irish, Spanish and Portuguese sovereign bonds.


*A US economic crisis led to massive foreign demand for US dollar redemption that threatened to deplete US gold reserves.

** The immediate effect of bondholders dumping Greek bonds raised interest rates on Greek debt to a level that threatened to bankrupt their government.

 

 

The second clip is a Guns and Butter radio interview with Engdahl. It focuses on a second area the Gods of Money covers, namely the long US battle to abolish their private central bank (aka the Federal Reserve) and end the ability of private banks to create money out of thin air (see How Banks Create Money Out of Thin Air).

After a brief explanation of fractional reserve banking, whereby 97% of our money is created by private banks, Engdahl traces the history of the First Bank of the United States, created by Alexander Hamilton in 1791. The latter was the first US central bank, 80% owned by private (mostly Rothschild-controlled) banks in the City of London and 20% owned by the US government. President James Madison’s refusal to renew the bank’s charter in 1811 would result in Britain and the US going to war in 1812.

When the war ended in 1815, the American war debt was so substantial, the US had no choice but to charter the Second Bank of the United States, which once again was 80% controlled by London banks.

In 1832, Andrew Jackson refused to renew the bank’s charter, and the US had no central bank between 1832 and 1913. In 1913 when President Woodrow Wilson secretly colluded with the global banking establishment to create the Federal Reserve.

Both Lincoln and Kennedy challenged the exclusive role private banks play in creating the US money supply – Lincoln by issuing greenbacks (rather than borrowing money from private banks) to pay for the civil war and Kennedy by issuing silver certificates directly redeemable by the US Treasury. In both cases, Engdahl feels their defiance of the international banking establishment played a role in the decision to assassinate them.

Class Society and Inequality: Debunking the Myth

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

By Nancy Isenberg

Viking (2016)

Book Review

White Trash is a meticulously documented investigation of the historical roots of class inequality in the US. Despite the warm and fuzzy founding myths all American children are taught in school, the foundation for class inequality was laid during the early colonization of North America. The wealthy English elite who financed the colonies viewed the New World as a giant workhouse for England’s surplus poor (following the Enclosure Acts that drove them off the commons). British vagrants, vagabonds and convicts were both voluntarily and involuntarily transported to North America as apprentices, indentured servants and impressed* seaman. A surprising number of indentured servants, particularly in New England, were teenagers.

Most indentured servants (who functioned as virtual slaves) were promised land on completing their term of servitude. However nearly all went on to lose their land to property speculators and rigged taxation schemes, becoming squatters on the outskirts of established settlements. Comprising at least half of the population of most colonies, they were used by colonial elites as a wedge to encroach on Native American lands – only to be driven off their farms once the land was cleared and planted.

The lifestyle enjoyed by these squatters and their descendants was one of entrenched poverty and malnutrition, as well as hookworm, pellagra and other chronic illnesses associated with malnutrition. The disparaging attitude of wealthy elites and the emerging middle class towards this population clearly debunks ubiquitous corporate media claims about the “classless” nature of US society. Labels applied to them have changed over time, but the most prevalent have included “white trash,” “rednecks,” “mudsills,” and “mudeaters” (mud eating is a common symptom of hookworm). During her recent election campaign, Hillary Clinton referred to them as “deplorables.”

Isenberg reveals that post-World War II industrialization would lead many of these families migrate to northern cities, where they became “trailer trash.”

The wealthy elites have alternated between blaming white trash squatters and their descendants for their miserable circumstances and attributing their problems to genetic aberrations. The latter would lead to the eugenics movement and forced sterilization in the 20th century.

For me the most interesting parts of the book concerned the election of Andrew Jackson, the first “white trash” president, and the effects of slavery and the plantation system in creating a permanent “squatter class.” During his term as President, Jackson was repeatedly mocked by the elite-owned press for his lack of refinement – in much the same way as President-elect Donald Trump.

Isenberg assets that the creation of massive plantations maintained by slave labor created a permanent “squatter class” by driving an unprecedented number of poor white settlers off their land. She also maintains that the secession of seven states (which led to the Civil War) was more about preserving racial and class hierarchies than about preserving states rights. An astonishing number of poor southern whites either fought for the Union side, deserted or participated in food riots to protest shortages stemming from the exclusive dedication of prime agricultural land to cotton (rather than food).


*Impressment refers to the involuntary kidnapping of men, during the 18th and 19th century, into a military or naval force.

Originally published in Dissident Voice

Behavioral Economics

Mind Over Money

PBS Nova (2010)

Film Review

Mind Over Money is an intriguing Nova documentary about the new field of behavioral economics. At present, banks and governments use complex mathematical models in making decisions about lending, investment, taxation and government borrowing. These models are based on the premise Adam Smith put forward in Wealth of Nations that the “rational self-interest” of groups of individuals causes economic markets to be perfectly self-regulating without government regulation or control.

While the economic “rationalists” who subscribe to this belief acknowledge that not everyone makes totally rational decisions about money, they claim enough do to enable bankers, governments and economists to 1) predict the behavior of markets mathematically and 2) guarantee the overall stability of markets without government interference.

In contrast, behavioral economists argue that most decisions around money are based on emotional and unconscious factors. They further argue that without government regulation, waves of irrationally sweep through the stock market and mercantile exchange (where commodities are traded), causing destructive speculative bubbles and crashes as they did in in 1929 and 2008.

John Maynard Keynes was the first economist (during the Great Depression) to raise concerns that destructive booms and busts result from irrational investing behavior. Because he could offer no clear explanation why this was happening, his views were largely dismissed.

Economist Robert Shiller echoed Keynes concerns in his 2005 book Irrational Exuberance, in which he predicted the 2008 global economic crash.

Thanks to a pressing need to understand the 2008 downturn (and prevent another one), social psychology research into spending and investing behavior is enjoying its own boom. The documentary describes a number of fascinating experiments that validate Keynes’s original claim that these decisions are largely controlled by emotional and unconscious factors.

For my own part, I question why we need to produce absolutely scientific certainty for something that’s blatantly obvious. In contrast to economists, Wall Street traders all readily agree that Wall Street volatility is driven by waves of emotion. It strikes me that Wall Street economists refuse to accept the behavioral basis of market activity because they have a vested interest in continuing the high priesthood of complex mathematical models.

The film implies that more market regulation is needed to prevent this type of market volatility. I disagree. In my mind, the best way to strip Wall Street of this vested interest is to strip banks of the power to create money out of thin air and restore money creation to public control (as Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln attempted to do.) See An IMF Proposal to Ban Banks from Creating Money