New England’s Commerce in Slaves
England prospered from its slave labor-plantations of North America; New England slave ships profited greatly from the infamous “Rum Triangle” which brought African slaves to the New World; Eli Whitney of Massachusetts perpetuated slavery with his gin invention. New England slavers were still being caught off the coast of Cuba as late as 1859. The following is an excerpt from a speech by Zebulon B. Vance in the United States Senate, January 30, 1890.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
New England’s Commerce in Slaves:
“Several hundred years ago this fair land of ours, which it would seem God had specially intended for the seat of liberty and the noblest development of man, was desecrated by the introduction of human slavery. The serpent thus entered into our political Eden. The great forests which covered the face of the earth called for labor to remove them, for more labor than the slowly coming immigration of the free races afforded. The morals of the age justified the holding of barbarous races in bondage.
The favorite place for obtaining bondsmen was the African coast. So desirable did the supplying of the newly discovered islands and continents of the West with cheap labor appear, that old Joseph Hawkins was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, as much for his successful introduction of a cargo of slaves into the West Indies, as for his exploits against the Spaniards. Even so great an good a man as Las Casa, the Spanish apostle to the Indians, once advocated the introduction of African slavery.
First and foremost in this calamitous and iniquitous traffic was New England. In fact, so anxious were the good people of those colonies for slaves that they reduced to bondage the native Indians whom they captured in war, and, not infrequently, those wicked people of their own race and blood who were guilty of differing from them in religious opinions.
The tobacco-growing colonies of the South soon followed suit in the importation of African slaves, and early found how profitable this cheap and involuntary labor was in the raising of their great staple. The introduction of the cultivation and uses of cotton soon gave a further impetus to slaveholding, and made the chief prosperity of all the Southern regions to depend mainly upon this enforced labor. Whilst the want of profitable returns gradually lessened the hold of the North upon slavery, its great profits constantly increased that hold upon the South.
The stony and sterile fields of New England called for manufactures and commerce. That commerce consisted very largely in purchasing slaves on the African coast, and selling them to Southern planters. After a time [slavery] ceased to exist altogether in the North, by reason of emancipation….and by their sales to their Southern neighbors. By this time the wrongfulness of holding slaves fully dawned upon the conscience of the Northern people. Its prickings became so active that they not only deemed it a sin to hold a slave themselves, but to permit anybody else to hold one, even though there was no responsibility whatever upon them for the transgression.
They even went so far in obeying the dictates of conscience, that they did not hesitate to stand up boldly in the sight of God, with the purchase money in their pockets, and denounce the vengeance of heaven against their Southern neighbors for holding on to the Negro which they themselves had sold them.”
Life of Zebulon B. Vance, Clement Dowd, Observer Printing and Publishing House, 1897, pp. 240-241)