Cornerstone of the British Empire
The reason for England’s ending of the slave trade in 1808 was not so much a regaining of morals and the efforts of Wilburforce, but because French West Indies commercial dominance using slave labor depressed British markets. Add to this the loss of the American colonies which were well-stocked with African slaves brought on English and New England slave ships to enrich the mother country. Like the British, New Englanders elevated themselves to lecturing their former customers on the immorality of slavery after profiting handsomely in human flesh, then blaming all on the American South. It is noteworthy that no slavers at this time or ever were flying the flag of the Confederate States of America, often referred to as a painful reminder of slavery.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Wilmington, North Carolina
Cornerstone of the British Empire:
“Reynal estimates the whole number of Negroes stolen from Africa before 1776 at nine millions; Bancroft at something more than six millions. Of these, British subjects carried at least half: and to the above numbers must be added a quarter of a million thrown away by Englishmen into the Atlantic on the voyage. As the traffick continued in full activity until 1808, it is a safe estimate that the number of victims to British cupidity taken from Africa was increased to five millions. The profit made by Englishmen upon the three millions carried to America before 1776, could not have been less than four hundred millions of dollars.
The Negroes cost the traders nothing but worthless trinkets, damaged fire-arms, and New England rum: they were usually paid for in hard money at the place of sale. This lucrative trade laid the foundation, to a great degree, for the commercial wealth of London, Bristol and Liverpool. The capital which now makes England the workshop and emporium of the world, was in large part born of the African slave trade. Especially was this the chief source of the riches which founded the British empire in Hindostan. The South Sea and the African Companies were the prototypes and pioneers of that wonderful institution, the East India Company; and the money by which the latter was set on foot was derived mainly from the profitable slave-catching of the former. When the direct returns of the African trade in the eighteenth century are remembered; when it is noted how much colonial trade has contributed to British greatness, and when it is considered that England’s colonial system was wholly built upon African slavery, the intelligent reader will be convinced that the slave trade was the corner-stone of the present splendid prosperity of that Empire.
(A Defence of Virginia and the South, Robert L. Dabney, Sprinkle Publications, 1991, pp.29-31, originally published 1867)