Week in Review
Why did the Europeans become the dominant people in the world? Why did their colonies become some of the richest and most affluent nations? Because when the Europeans entered those ships to cross the oceans they were farmers. Having given up their hunter and gatherer past long ago (see DNA analysis solves the mystery of how Europeans came to be farmers by Steve Connor posted 4/24/2014 on The Independent).
It was the biggest cultural shift in European prehistory but the Stone Age transition from a lifestyle based on hunting animals and gathering wild berries to one built on farming and livestock was largely a mystery – until now.
A detailed analysis of the DNA extracted from the bones of 11 prehistoric Scandinavians who lived thousands of years ago around the Baltic Sea has shown that the transition from hunting to farming was more of a one-way takeover than previously supposed.
The genetic makeup of the people who lived through this cultural revolution has revealed that the incoming migrant farmers from southern Europe subsumed the indigenous hunter gatherers of the north, rather than the other way round, scientists said.
Farming people are more advanced than hunters and gatherers. Because it takes knowledge and organization to master their environment and not live at its mercy. Which is what hunters and gatherers must do. As they travel across great expanses looking for food. Food they can only eat if nature provides it. And they can find it. Whereas farmers can grow food and raise livestock. On small farms. And they can grow a surplus. To carry them through winters. And bad growing seasons. While hunters and gatherers can only go hungry. And die.
So farming societies are more advanced than hunter and gatherer societies. Their knowledge and organization created food surpluses. And economic activity. Which created wealth. This is why the Europeans went on to dominant the hunter and gatherers they met in the Americas, Australia, etc. And why the transition from hunting to farming was a one-way takeover. For advanced people have the knowledge, organization and wealth to dominant less advanced people who must live at the mercy of their environment.
Tags: advanced people, Europeans, farmers, food, food surplus, hunter and gatherer, knowledge, mercy of their environment, organization, tools, wealth
(Originally published May 15th, 2012)
To encourage Risk Takers to Travel Halfway around the World Mercantile States granted Monopoly Charters
The modern world began because Europeans had a penchant for silk and spices. Something they enjoyed during Roman times. When the Romans ruled the world. And the Mediterranean Sea was nothing more than a Roman lake. But when the empire stopped conquering new lands and sending the spoils of war home they had to turn to other means to pay for the cost of empire. Taxes. To pay for the Roman government and their public spending. And the Roman legions. This excessive government spending led to the fall of the western half of the empire. But the eastern half lived on for another 1,000 years or so. Why? Because the capital of the Byzantine Empire was Constantinople. On the Bosporus. Trade crossroads of the world.
This city was so rich everybody wanted to conquer it. So they could have all those riches. For everything that came along the Silk Road from China crossed into Europe at the Bosporus. Soon Muslims fought Christians in the Holy lands. Then more Christians came. The Crusaders. Those who didn’t die went back to Europe with some of those Chinese luxuries. Spices. Silk. Porcelain. Etc. Sparking a renewed interest in these finer things in Europe. Especially the spices. For European cooking was horribly bland at the time. The Ottoman Turks eventually took Constantinople. Renamed it Istanbul. And controlled that lucrative trade. Making those much sought after Asian goods rather expensive in Europe. Which they had no choice but to pay. Because if you wanted those luxuries you had to go through Istanbul. Until the Portuguese sailed around Africa and found a direct route to those cherished goods, that is.
It was the Commercial Revolution. A new age of international trade. A trade even more profitable than what the Ottoman Turks controlled. Because big ocean-going vessels can carry more cargo than anything coming over land on the Silk Road. And these new European maritime powers wanted that wealth. And the power it would provide. To encourage risk takers to get into those wooden ships and travel halfway around the world they granted monopoly charters. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) was one of the largest. And one of the wealthiest. But this was not your typical company. The VOC established overseas colonies. It waged war. Established treaties. Even coined its own money. Because of this thousands of VOC ships stuffed full of valuable cargoes sailed to Antwerp and Amsterdam, making the Dutch very wealthy. And powerful.
The Tea Act allowed the Company to Ship their Tea Directly to America and exempted them from any Duties
Of course the Dutch weren’t the only ones doing this. They had competition. Portugal. Spain. France. And England. Who would bump into each other numerous times fighting for control of this trade. And those colonies. The English and the Dutch would fight 4 wars. Which is how Dutch-founded Manhattan became part of the British Empire and, subsequently, one of America’s greatest cities. The English East India Company gave the VOC a run for its money. Parliament even passed legislation to give the English a monopoly on all trade with their American colonies. The Navigation Acts. Which stated that all trade to and from America had to be on English ships. And all trade had to go through an English port. Where the ships were unloaded and the cargoes inspected. And taxed. Then they could reload their cargoes and continue on their journey. All tenets of mercantilism. This kept the lower-priced Dutch goods out of America. And prevented the Americans from selling to the Dutch directly for higher prices. So it shut down the Dutch from all American trade (except for a prosperous black market). And brought in some lucrative tax revenue for England. While extending shipping times and increasing prices for the Americans. Which they were not happy about in the least.
The English East India Company (the Company) was similar in structure to the VOC. And soon made the Indian subcontinent a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company. But it wasn’t cheap. Waging war was costly. As was managing those conquered territories (something the Romans had also learned). Then a famine in Bengal in 1770 claimed about one-third of the local population. Making laborers more scarce. And more expensive. All at a time when the sales of their imported goods were falling in Europe. There were warehouses full of unsold Chinese tea that they couldn’t sell. Making for a bad time for the Company.
Higher costs and lower sales spelled trouble. And that’s what the Company had a lot of. Trouble. So the Company turned to Parliament for help. And Parliament helped. By allowing the Company to ship their tea directly to America without having to unload it in a British port. Or pay a duty on that tea. Which would greatly reduce their costs. And allow them to sell it in America cheaper than they did before. So Parliament passed the Tea Act in 1773. Making life better for all involved. But the Tea Act left in place another tax in the previous Townshend Acts. Which was a bigger problem than getting cheaper tea (which they could get on the black market from the Dutch). These taxes on the British subjects in America were unconstitutional. Because there were no Americans sitting in Parliament. This was taxation without representation. A much bigger issue than cheap tea. So they threw that first ‘cheap’ tea into Boston Harbor. The Boston Tea Party being a major step towards war with the mother country. And American independence.
Britain became the Lone Superpower after Abandoning their Protectionist Mercantile Policies and Adopting Free Trade
The American Revolutionary War was not the only headache the British got from their mercantile policies. Part of those policies required maintaining a positive balance of trade. So there was always a net inflow of bullion into the mother country. That’s why raw materials shipped into Britain from America. And finished goods shipped out to America. Finished goods are more valuable than raw materials. So the Americans had to make up for this balance of trade in bullion. Resulting in a net inflow of bullion into the mother country. Very simple. As long as you can manufacture higher valued goods that other people want to buy.
And this is the problem they ran into with the Chinese. For though the British wanted those Chinese spices, silk and porcelain the Chinese didn’t want anything the British manufactured. Which meant Britain had to pay for those luxuries with bullion. Including all that Chinese tea they craved. Which resulted in a net outflow of bullion to the Chinese. The British fixed this problem by finding the one thing that the Chinese people wanted. Indian opium. Grown in Bengal. Of course, this turned a lot of Chinese into opium addicts. The addiction problem was so bad that the Chinese banned opium. But the British were able to smuggle it in. They sold so much of it that they used the proceeds to buy their tea. Thus reversing the bullion flow.
Not the finest hour in the British Empire. The Chinese and the British would go on to fight a couple of wars over this opium trade. The Opium Wars. Which the British did all right in. Even gaining Hong Kong in the bargain. They didn’t build any long-lasting love with the Chinese people. But Hong Kong turned out pretty nice under the British. Especially after they abandoned their protectionist mercantile policies and adopted free trade. Which made the British the lone superpower for about a century as they modernized the world by leading the way in the Industrial Revolution. And the Chinese in Hong Kong were very happy indeed to be there when the communists took over the mainland. And caused a famine or two. For they lived comfortably. In a state founded on mercantilism. That achieved its greatest prosperity during the free trade of capitalism that followed Britain’s mercantile ways.
Tags: America, American colonies, balance of trade, black market, Bosporus, Boston, Britain, British, British Empire, bullion, Byzantine Empire, China, Chinese, Chinese luxuries, Chinese tea, colonies, Constantinople, Dutch, Dutch East India Company, empire, England, English, English East India Company, Europe, Europeans, free trade, Hong Kong, Istanbul, mercantile, mercantile policies, mercantilism, monopoly, opium, Opium Wars, Ottoman Turks, Parliament, porcelain, Revolutionary War, Roman, silk, Silk Road, spices, taxes, tea, Tea Act, trade, VOC
The Europeans built Larger Ships and used Advanced Navigational Skills to sail from Europe to the Far East
The Anatolian peninsula (roughly the area of modern day Turkey) has long been a trade crossroads. It’s where the Black Sea (and the rivers into Europe and Russia) met the Mediterranean Sea. It’s where Europe met Asia. Where East met West. All important long-distant trade traveled through the Anatolian peninsula. Right through the Bosporus. The straits between East and West.
The Greeks, the Persians, the Romans and the Ottoman Turks all coveted this region. When the Western Roman Empire fell the great Italian city-states rose. They dominated the Mediterranean. And the trade through the Bosporus. Where the Silk Road for centuries brought riches from the Far East into Europe. The Italian merchant banks controlled that trade. Until the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) fell to the Ottoman Turks. Which, lucky for the Europeans, happened at the time of the Renaissance. Bringing an end to the Middle Ages. And ushering in the modern era.
It started in Italy. And then spread into Europe. A rebirth (hence Renaissance) of all that Greek learning. Which shifted the trading center from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. Where the Europeans built larger ships and used advanced navigational skills to sail from Europe to the Far East. Bypassing the Silk Road. And the Ottoman Turks in the Anatolian peninsula. Making the Europeans the new rich traders. Knowledge and wealth created more ships for trade. And advanced armies and navies. Making the Europeans the masters of the world.
Peter the Great pulled Russia out of the Middle Ages by making it more European
While the Mediterranean and European nations were ushering in the modern world not all of Asia followed them. Russia in particular remained in the Middle Ages. A vast land full of disparate peoples. Not a unique and singular Russian people. Until Ivan the Terrible came along. The Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547. Then Tsar of All the Russians. Ivan the Terrible united Russia by conquering it. But at a cost. Continuous wars killed a lot of Russian people. Which left a lot of farmland fallow. Giving Russia a chronic problem they would have for centuries. The struggle to feed themselves.
Tsar Peter the Great (1682 – 1725) modernized Russia. To be a more modern country like those in Europe. He even went to Europe incognito to learn as much as he could about advanced European ways. And had Europeans help him pull Russia out of the Middle Ages. He made his army to be like European armies. Learned about shipbuilding. And built a Russian navy. Which was a problem as the only access to the sea Russia had was the Arctic Ocean via the White Sea. Which meant, of course, war and conquest. He fought the Swedes for access to the Baltic Sea. And he fought the Ottoman Turks for access to the Black Sea.
The disparate people of Russia were not all that happy with his ideas or the money he spent. So he brutally suppressed any discontent. Peter built his navy. And a new capital on the Baltic Sea. Saint Petersburg. A European cultural center. And the Imperial capital of Russia. He also attacked the Ottoman Empire. And lost. Losing his Black Sea ports. But Russia would return to fight the Ottoman Turks. Under Catherine the Great.
The Bolsheviks killed Tsar Nicholas and his Family and ushered in the Oppressive Soviet Union
Catherine the Great ruled during Russia’s Golden Age. Continuing the work started by Peter the Great to modernize Russia. Making Russia a great European power. Through military conquest. And diplomacy. She was even an international mediator. And established the League of Armed Neutrality to protect neutral shipping from British attacks during the American Revolutionary War.
Catherine pushed Russia’s borders out largely at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. And the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. These conquests cost, though. And she turned to the nobility to pay for them. In return she supported the nobility. But the wealth she got form the nobility came from the serfs (basically slave laborers) working their land. Which took a lot of work to pay for her conquests. Leading to a peasant uprising or two. But serfdom would continue in Russia. Tsar Alexander I advanced the status of Russia with his defeat of Napoleon. They even called him the Savior of Europe. But serfdom remained as the Industrial Revolution took off in Europe. Halting the modernization of Russia.
Tsar Alexander II emancipated the serfs in 1861. Ending the landed aristocracy’s monopoly of power. Serfs left their lands. And moved into the cities. Selling their labor. Industrializing Russia. Still, their freedom favored the landed aristocracy. Who were compensated for their serfs’ freedom with a tax paid by the freed serfs. Which little improved the life of the freed serfs. And did little to ease the revolutionary fervor long simmering in the Russian people. Especially those outside the nobility.
When Tsar Nicholas II entered Russia into World War I things did not go well for Russia. Military losses, food shortages, fuel shortages, inflation and striking factory workers made the nation ripe for revolution. Tsar Nicholas went off to command the Russian Army personally. Leaving his wife Alexandra to run the country in his absence. Who turned to Grigori Rasputin for help. Which didn’t help quell the revolutionary fervor simmering in the Russian people. They didn’t like Rasputin. Or the Tsar. And made Tsar Nicholas the last emperor of the Russian Empire. Which the Bolsheviks made permanent. By killing Nicholas and his entire family. Which ultimately ushered in the Soviet Union. One of the most oppressive regimes of all time.
Tags: Anatolian peninsula, aristocracy, Asia, Black Sea, Bolsheviks, Bosporus, Catherine the Great, East, Europe, Europeans, Far East, Greek, Italy, Ivan the Terrible, Mediterranean, Middle Ages, modern era, nobility, Ottoman, Ottoman Empire, Ottoman Turks, Peter the Great, Rasputin, Renaissance, revolution, revolutionary fervor, Roman Empire, Russia, Russian Empire, serfdom, serfs, Silk Road, Soviet Union, trade, Tsar, Tsar Alexander, Tsar Nicholas, Turks, West
(Originally published October 18th, 2011)
We can Ultimately Blame Neanderthal’s Demise on the Hunter and Gatherer System
We’re Homo sapiens. Neanderthals were here before us. By a few hundred thousand years. Give or take. We have fossil evidence of their existence. And we’ve been able to put them into the historical timeline. But we’re not sure what happened to them. For they were stronger than us. And they had a similar brain size as ours. Stronger and just as smart, you’d have to give them the edge when Homo sapiens met Neanderthal. Yet here we are. Homo sapiens. Wondering what happened to Neanderthal man.
There are theories. Neanderthal was adapted to live in the cold. And he hunted cold-adapted mammals. But then an ice age came. And the temperatures fell. It became too cold even for the cold-adapted. The climate change pushed the 4-legged mammals south. In search of food ahead of the advancing glaciers. And Neanderthal followed. Moving into what were at one time warmer climes. Bumping into warmer-clime Homo sapiens.
The climatic change was rather sudden during this period. One theory says that this rapid changing changed the environment. Creating different plant and animal species. And Neanderthal was unable to adapt. Another theory says that as the glaciers advanced they just forced more people into a smaller area. And they fought over a smaller food supply. When the glaciers retreated, Homo sapiens then followed Neanderthals north. And expanded into their hunting grounds. Until they displaced them from the historical timeline.
Whatever happened one thing is sure. We can ultimately blame their demise on the hunter and gatherer system. Because this system requires large hunting grounds for survival. Advancing glaciers reduced those hunting grounds. Putting more people together in a smaller area. Competing for limited food resources. And they ultimately lost that competition.
The Hunter and Gatherer Culture Continued to do things as they had During the Stone Age
We can see a more recent example of the demise of a hunter and gatherer people. In North America. During the European colonization of that continent.
The North American continent is huge. Much of it remains uninhabited to this date. But it wasn’t big enough for the North American Indians and the Europeans. Why? The Indians were hunters and gatherers. They needed a lot of land. Each tribe had ‘braves’. ‘Warriors’. Soldiers. Because they were a fighting people. They had a warring culture. They followed food. Taking land from other tribes. And protecting land from other tribes. So they needed large numbers of warriors. Which required large amounts of food. And great expanses of land to hunt that food.
The Europeans, on the other hand, were farmers. They could grow a lot of food. And grow large populations on very small tracts of land. They had higher population densities on their land. They were better fed. And they had a middle class thanks to a healthy food surplus. Which created new technologies. And provided tools and equipment to advance their civilization. While the hunter and gatherer culture continued to do things as they had during the Stone Age.
Food Surpluses Created a Middle Class which allowed Advanced Civilizations
Hunters and gatherers live at the mercy of their environment. Whereas farmers have taken control of their environment. Creating food surpluses. Which led to a middle class. And to advanced civilizations. Which is why they became the dominant civilization. And displaced hunter and gatherer people from the historical timeline. Simply by being a much more survivable people. Because they took control of their environment.
Tags: advancing glaciers, civilization, climate change, climatic change, environment, Europeans, farmers, food, food supply, food surplus, glaciers, historical timeline, Homo sapiens, hunters and gatherers, hunting grounds, ice age, Indians, middle, Neanderthals, tools
(Originally published January 11th, 2012)
The Modern Container Ship is Powered by Diesel Engines making Ocean Crossings Safe, Reliable and Efficient
Trade required a way to move heavy things in large quantities. Railroads do a pretty good job of this. Ever get stopped by a mile long train with double-stack containers? These are the hot-shot freights. They get the right-of-way. Other trains pull aside for them. And they get the best go-power. They lash up the newest locomotives to these long freights. Carrying containers full of expensive treasures like plasma televisions, smartphones, computers, clothing, perfume, cameras, etc. Unloaded from great container ships days earlier. And hustled out of these great container seaports to cities across the U.S.
These goods came into the country the way goods have for millennium. On a ship. Because when it comes to transporting large cargoes there is no more cost efficient way than by ship. It’s slow. Unlike a train. But it can carry a lot. Which really reduces the cost of shipping per unit shipped. Keeping sale prices low. And profits high.
Diesel engines power the modern container ship. That either turn a propeller directly. Or by turning an electric generator. Which in turn powers an electric motor that turns a propeller. Makes crossing the oceans pretty much a sure thing these days. And timely. Day or night. Wind or no wind. With the current. Or against the current. But travel on water was not always this safe. Reliable. Or efficient.
Galleys were Fast and Maneuverable but Decks full of Rowers left Little Room for Cargo
Earliest means of marine propulsion was a man using a pole. Standing in a boat with his cargo, he would stick the pole through the water and into the riverbed. And push. The riverbed wouldn’t move. So he would. And the boat he was standing in. A man kneeling in a canoe could propel the canoe forward with a paddle. By reaching forward, dipping the paddle into the water and pulling. By these strokes he would propel himself forward. And the canoe he was kneeling in. We transfer the force of both poling and paddling to the vessel via the man-vessel connection. The feet. The knees. Or, if sitting, the butt. A useful means of propulsion. But limited by the strength of the man poling/paddling.
The oarlock changed that. By adding leverage. Which was a way to amplify a man’s strength. An oar differs from a paddle because we attach it to the boat. In an oarlock. A pivot point. An oar is similar to a paddle but longer. It attaches to the oarlock so that a short length of it extends into the boat while a longer length extends outside of the boat. The rower then rows. Facing backwards to the boat’s direction. His short stroke inside the boat transfers into a longer stroke outside of the boat (the leverage). And the attachment point allows the rower to use both hands, arms and legs. He pulls with his arms and pushes with his legs. The force is transferred through the oarlock and pushes the boat forward. So a single stroke from an oar pulled a boat much harder than a single stroke of a paddle. And allowed more rowers to be added. We call these multiple-oared boats galleys. Such as the Viking longship. With up to 10 oars on a side. Or the Phoenician bireme which had two decks of rowers. Or the Greek trireme which had three decks of rowers. Or the Carthaginian/Roman quinquereme which had five decks of rowers.
Of course, decks full of rowers left little room for cargo. Which is why these ships tended to be warships. Because they could maneuver fast. Another means of propulsion was available, though. Wind. It had drawbacks. It didn’t have the quick maneuverability as a galley. And you couldn’t just go where you want. The prevailing winds had a large say in where you were sailing to. But without rowers you had a lot more room for cargo. And that was the name of the game when it came to international trade.
The Carrack opened the Spice Trade to the European Powers and Kicked Off the Age of Discovery
Our first civilizations used sailing ships. The Sumerians. And the Egyptians. The Egyptians used a combination of sail and oars on the Nile. Where the winds and current were pretty much constant. They used wind-power to sail upstream. And oared downstream. Both the Egyptians and Sumerians used sail to reach India. The Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans used sail to ply the Mediterranean. Typically a single square sail on a single mast perpendicular to the keel. Then later the triangular lateen parallel to the keel. A square-rig square sail worked well when the wind was behind you. While the lateen-rig could sail across the wind. And closer into the wind.
The wind blew a square-rig forward. Whereas the wind pushed and pulled a lateen-rig forward by redirecting the wind. The lateen sail split the airstream. The sail redirects the wind towards the stern, pushing the boat forward. The wind going over the outside of the sail curved around the surface of the sail. Creating lift. Like an airplane wing. Pulling the boat forward.
It was about this time that Europeans were venturing farther out into the oceans. And they did this by building ships that combined these sails. The square rigging allowed them to catch the prevailing winds of the oceans. And lateen rigging allowed them to sail across the wind. One of the first ships to combine these types of sails was the carrack. The Portuguese first put the carrack to sea. The Spanish soon followed. Christopher Columbus discovered The Bahamas in a carrack. Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa and on to India in a carrack. And Ferdinand Magellan first sailed around the world in a carrack (though Magellan and his other four ships didn’t survive the journey). It was the carrack that opened the spice trade to the European powers. Beginning the age of discovery. And European colonialism.
Tags: boat, canoe, cargo, carrack, container, container ship, crossing the oceans, current, Europeans, galley, keel, lateen-rig, marine propulsion, oar, oarlock, ocean, paddle, paddling, pole, poling, prevailing winds, propulsion, rower, sail, ship, shipping, ships, square-rig, trade, wind
Paid-Laborers are Rented as Needed while Slave-Laborers are Owned even when not Needed
There is a common misconception that slave labor was free labor. The argument goes that the United States got rich because of all their free slave labor. They’ll say this despite knowing of the immense suffering of African slaves on the slave ships. Who came to the New World where slave traders auctioned them off. This was the slave trade. The key word in this is ‘trade’. African slave traders sold them to European slave traders. Who auctioned them off in New World slave markets. To feed a labor-hungry market.
People bought and sold slaves. And anything you buy and sell is not free. So slave labor wasn’t free. It was a capital cost. Let’s explain this by comparing leasing and owning. Businesses can buy buildings. Or lease them. If they buy them they own them. And are responsible for them. They add a large asset on their balance sheet that they depreciate. And add new debt that they must service (making premium and/or interest payments). They also must pay expenses like taxes, insurance, maintenance, supplies, utilities, etc. Things owners are responsible for. When they lease a building, though, they don’t add an asset to depreciate. And they don’t pay any expenses other than a lease payment. The owner, the lessor, pays all other expenses. When you lease you pay only for what you use. When you buy you pay for what you use now. And what you will use for years to come. We can make a similar comparison between paid-labor and slave-labor.
For this exercise let’s take a factory today with 125 employees. We’ll look at the costs of these laborers as paid-laborers versus slave-laborers. We assume that the total labor cost for everything but health care/insurance is $65,000 per paid-laborer. And an annual health care expense of $5,000. Bringing the total annual labor and health care/insurance costs for 125 paid-laborers to $8,750,000. For the slave laborers we assume 47 working years (from age 18 to 65). But we don’t multiple 47 years by $65,000. Because if we buy this labor there are a lot of other costs that we must pay. Slave traders understand this and discount this price by 50%. Or $32,500 annually for 47 years. Which comes to $1,527,500 per slave-laborer. Bringing the annual total cost for all 125 slave-laborers to $4,062,500. And, finally, because they own these laborers they don’t have to offer premium health insurance to attract and keep employees. So we assume health care/insurance expense is only half of what it is for paid-laborers.
Slave-Labor Overhead included Food, Housing, Clothing and Interest on Debt that Financed Slave-Laborers
If we stop here we can see, though not free, slave-laborers are a bargain compared to paid-laborers. But if they own these people they have to take care of these people. They have to provide a place for them to live. They have to feed them. Clothe them. As well as pay interest on the money they borrowed to buy them. And the building to house them. For if they are not fed and protected from the elements they may not be able to work.
A slave-owner will try to keep these overhead costs as low as possible. So they won’t be feeding them steaks. They will feed them something inexpensive that has a high caloric content. So a little of it can feed a lot of people. In our exercise we assumed a $1.25 per meal, three meals daily, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. For a total of $170,625 annually. We assumed a $500,000 building to house 125 slave-laborers and their families. The depreciation expense (over 40 years), taxes, insurance, supplies (soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc.) and utilities come to $24,100 annually. For clothing we assume a new pair of boots every 5 years. And 7 inexpensive shirts, pants, tee shirts, underwear and socks each year. Coming to $10,094 annually.
Then comes one of the largest expense. The interest on the money borrowed to buy these slave-laborers. Here we assume they own half of them free and clear. Leaving $95,468,750 of debt on the book for these slave-laborers. At a 4.25% annual interest rate the interest expense comes to $4,057,422. We also assume half of the debt for the housing still on the books. At a 4.25% annual interest rate the interest expense comes to $10,625.
George Washington was Greatly Bothered by the Contradiction of the Declaration of Independence and American Slavery
These overhead expenses bring the cost of slave-laborers nearly to the cost of paid-laborers. Almost making it a wash. With all the other expenses of owning slaves you’d think people would just assume to hire paid-laborers. Pay them for their workday. Their health insurance. And nothing more. Letting them go home after work to their home. Where they can take care of their own families. Provide their own food. Housing. And clothing. Which they pay for out of their paycheck. Of course, this wasn’t quite possible in the New World. There weren’t enough Europeans living there to hire. And the Native Americans in North, Central and South America were more interested in getting rid of these Europeans than working for them. Which left only African slaves to exploit the natural resources of the New World. But that slave-labor could grow very costly over time. Because when you own people you own families. Including children and elderly adults who can’t work. By the time of our Founding this was often the case as some slave owners owned generations of slave families.
In our exercise we assume an equal number of men and women working in the factory. Assumed these men and women married. And half of these couples had on average 3 young children. We’ve also assumed the current working generation is a second generation. So their surviving parents live with them. We assumed half of all parents are surviving. These children and the surviving parents cannot work. But they still must eat. And require medical attention. Using the costs for the workers these non-workers add another $845,469 to the annual labor cost. Brining the cost of the slave-laborers greater than the cost of the paid-laborers.
George Washington was very conscious of history. Everything he said or did was with an eye to future generations. And their history books. One of the things that greatly bothered him was the contradiction of the Declaration of Independence declaring all men equal while the institution of slavery existed. But to form a new nation they needed the southern states. And they wouldn’t join without their slaves. So they tabled the subject for 20 years. Sure by then that the institution would resolve itself and go away. Washington believed this because he had many generations of slaves on his plantation. And desperately wanted to sell them and replace them with paid-laborers. Because he was feeding so many slaves that they were eating his profits. But people wanted to buy only those who could work. Not the children. Or the elderly. Unable to break up these families he did what he thought was the honorable thing. And kept using slaves. To keep these families together. Making less money than he could. Because slave-labor was more costly than paid-labor. Contrary to the common misconception.
Tags: African slaves, debt, Declaration of Independence, Europeans, Founding, George Washington, health insurance, institution of slavery, interest, interest expense, labor, labor cost, New World, paid laborer, paid-labor, slave, slave labor, slave traders, slave-laborer, slave-owner
(Originally published December 7th, 2011)
African Slaves came to the New World because the Colonists needed Laborers
The Europeans didn’t invent slavery when they introduced it to the New World. It’d been around since the dawn of civilization. And it’s been a way of life in many civilizations for thousands of years. Where no one was safe from the slave traders. Some were born into slavery. Some were simply soldiers captured in battle. Even children were bought and sold. Perhaps the saddest story is the Children’s Crusade of 1212. When about 50,000 poor Christian kids walked from Central Europe to free Palestine from Muslim control and return it to the Christians. They got as far as boarding ships in Italian ports. But those ships did not deliver them to Palestine. They delivered them instead into the Muslim slave markets of Northern Africa and the Middle East. Where they were never heard from again.
African slaves came to the New World because the colonists needed laborers. They tried enslaving the Native Americans. But it was too easy for them to escape back into friendly territory. And blend in with the indigenous population. Not the case with black Africans. Who didn’t know the surrounding country. Or the languages. What they knew was an ocean away. Also, the locals had a tendency of dying from European diseases. Especially smallpox. Whereas the Africans were long exposed to smallpox. And built up some resistance to this scourge of European colonialism.
So the New World colonies began with slaves harvesting their crops. Slaves that the Europeans bought from African slave traders. Who had long been selling captured Africans to the Arabs. And had no problem selling them to the Europeans. And so began the problem of slavery in America.
With the Cotton Gin Separating the Seed from the Cotton Fiber became not so Labor Intensive
When the British American colonists started talking about liberty the slavery problem was the elephant in the room that they were reluctant to talk about. When Jefferson wrote that all men were created equal they knew that meant those enslaved against their will, too. Yet here they were. These liberty-seeking people were enslaving people themselves. But there was a problem. To form a united country the Founding Fathers needed the southern states. Who used slaves as the basis for their economy. And they weren’t going to join a union without their slaves. So they wouldn’t talk about the elephant. Instead they tabled that discussion for 20 years. With the population growing they didn’t need slaves anymore. There were few in the North. And the South should follow suit. It was inevitable. Leaving just one problem to solve. What to do with their slaves as they transitioned to paid laborers. Which the Founding Fathers were sure the southern slave owners could solve within those 20 years.
Slave-labor was not efficient. George Washington wanted to sell his slaves and replace them with paid laborers. Because paid laborers cost less. You only paid them for their labors. And then they went away. And if you changed your crops you could easily hire new laborers skilled in the new crop. Not quite so easy with a large slave labor force. So those in the North had good reason to believe that slavery would slowly give way to paid laborers. Even in the South. Or so they thought. But one of the staple crops of the South started to shape events. Cotton.
Cotton was a labor-intensive crop to harvest. And separating the seed from the cotton was even more labor-intensive. Until someone mechanized this process. With a cotton engine. The cotton gin. Patented in America by Eli Whitney. A hand-cranked device that used hooks to pull the cotton fiber through a screen. The holes in the screen were small enough to let the cotton fiber through. But not large enough for the seeds to pass. With the cotton gin separating the seed from the cotton fiber became not so labor intensive. In fact, these little machines could clean cotton faster than the slaves could harvest it. Which meant, of course, there was a lot more cotton that could be grown and harvested. Which created a new slavery boom. And dashed all the hopes of the Founding Fathers.
Cheap Cloth Unleashed a lot of Economic Activity which Improved the Quality of Life
Many blame the cotton gin for extending the institution of slavery in America. And the bloody American Civil War that ended it. But apart from this the cotton gin was a fundamental step in modernizing economies everywhere. And helped to spur the textile industry forward. By creating an abundant source of material for weaving looms everywhere.
The textile industry was important because everyone wore clothes. And we made clothes from cloth. Once upon a time people made their own clothes. Or spent a lot of money for store-bought clothes. Leaving them with little time or money for other things. So cheap cloth unleashed a lot of economic activity. Which improved the quality of life. The Chinese started this process. By giving us an advanced loom that used foot-power to lift thread. And the spinning wheel to make yarn. All the weavers needed were abundant sources of fiber to feed these machines. Such as American cotton.
The Chinese also made some beautiful silk tapestries with complex patterns. Which were very difficult to reproduce by hand in the West. Until the French automated this process. When Joseph Marie Jacquard improved on the works of Basile Bouchon, Jean Baptiste Falcon and Jacques Vaucanson. And created the Jacquard loom. This automated the pattern process coming from those Chinese looms. By using punch cards to automatically lift the proper threads to reproduce that complex pattern. An impressive advance. But one that did not impress the French. Who were busier with revolution than fancy weaved patterns. But the British were interested. And they used the Jacquard loom in their booming textile industry. Fed largely by that abundant American cotton. Until the American Civil War, at least.
An Advanced Automated and Mechanized Economy has no Room for Slavery
The British also used this punch card idea to automate their shipbuilding industry. To speed up the riveting process. By automating riveting machines. To make ships that carried immigrants to the new world. Who swelled the American population. Making the census taking more and more complex. And another punch card system made counting these people simpler. The tabulator. Where an operator punched holes in a card to represent information for each person. Age. Marital status. Country of origin. Etc. IBM would use this idea of punching information into a card later. To program some of the first computers. Machines that increased efficiencies further. By replacing ever more people with machines.
So it is an interesting turn of events. Eli Whitney created the cotton gin in America. A machine that was part of a series of technological developments that increased efficiencies and reduced the number of workers needed to perform once labor intensive tasks. All during this process fewer people were able to do more things. Except one thing. Planting and harvesting cotton. That would take first a civil war. And then steam-powered farming equipment. To automate farming. Which came later to the South than it did in the slavery-free North. And other parts of the world.
Life got better for everyone the more advanced the economy became. Sure, a lot of people lost jobs. But that’s progress. A few lost jobs is a small price to pay when the masses can enjoy a better life. Thanks to automation and mechanization. And that includes slaves. Or, rather, former slaves. For an advanced automated and mechanized economy has no room for slavery.
Tags: African slaves, Africans, American Civil War, automation, British, cloth, clothes, colonialism, colonists, cotton, cotton fiber, cotton gin, Eli Whitney, European colonialism, Europeans, fiber, Founding Fathers, Jacquard loom, looms, machines, mechanization, New World, North, paid laborers, punch card, slave, slave markets, slave traders, slavery, South, textile industry
As Muslim displaced Christians from the Lands of the Roman Empire Sugar moved West
There is a war on sugar. It’s making us fat. And it’s making us sick. Because it tastes so damn good. We crave it. And always have. Since the first days we chewed on sugarcane. Sucking out the juice. Which was where that sweet delight was. It was so good that the people in New Guinea (just north of Australia) learned how to plant it and raise it themselves. Instead of just looking for it in the wild. Around the eighth millennium BC. From there it spread. North. To Southeast Asia. Southern China. And into India. Where they took sugar to the next level. They didn’t just chew on sugarcane to suck out the juice in India. They refined it into a crystallized substance. Around 350 AD. Concentrating that sweetness. And making it portable. Then the Arabs entered the picture.
The Arabs took the Indian sugar-making technique and made it into big business. They established plantations to grow it in tropical climes. Where the two things that made sugarcane grow best—heat and water—were plentiful. They built the first sugar mills to refine the cane. Basically presses to squeeze out the juice. Which they then boiled the water out of. Leaving behind sugar crystals. And added it to their foods. As Muslim Arabs displaced Christians from the lands of the Roman Empire sugar moved west. The Arabs introduced sugarcane plantations as far west as southern Spain. When Christian Crusaders returned from fighting Muslims in the Holy Land they brought back crystallized sugar to Europe. And they quickly fell in love with those white crystals. By the late 13th century even England had grown a sweet-tooth. Who would go on to consume so much of the stuff that they would rot their teeth away.
Then the Europeans entered the sugar business in the 15th century. At first it was just the wealthy that enjoyed sugar. Then it spread to the common people. As demand grew they established new plantations to meet that demand. In southern Spain. The Atlantic island of Madeira. The Canary Islands. The Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa. All had good growing climates for sugarcane. And each plantation had its own processing plant. For a ship’s hold full of crystallized sugar was far more valuable than a ship’s hold full of harvested sugarcane. Making these plantations labor intensive endeavors. And working the fields was backbreaking work. To step up production required a larger labor force than was available. And to meet that demand they turned to using African slaves.
Sugar was a Turning Point from an Agrarian World of Slaves and Indentured Servants to the Modern Industrial World
By the 16th century the Europeans were taking sugarcane across the Atlantic. And African slaves. The Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French and British brought sugarcane and slaves to Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Barbados, the Virgin Islands, Guadaloupe, Saint-Domingue (present day Haiti) and elsewhere in the Americas. With the Caribbean Islands becoming the sugar capital of the world. France’s Saint-Domingue being the single largest producer in the world. Until their slave uprising. It was France’s wealthiest possession in the Western Hemisphere. And its loss changed French ambition in the New World. For Napoleon had his eyes on rebuilding the French Empire in North America that was so rudely interrupted by France’s loss in the Seven Years’ War. But with the loss of Saint-Domingue and all that sugar wealth Napoleon lost all interest in the New World. And sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States. To prepare for war with Britain. Again.
The British and the French both had lucrative sugar plantations in the West Indies. When the American Revolutionary War turned into a world war the British and French squared off once again. Especially in the West Indies. Where they wanted to protect their possessions producing that valuable sugar. And take the other’s possessions. So they could expand their holdings. And their wealth from the sugar trade. As well as put down any slave uprisings. Such as would later happen in Saint-Domingue. Some say the reason the British lost the American Revolutionary War was because they diverted too much of their military resources to the Caribbean. But the French were diverting a lot of their military resources to the Caribbean, too. Which is one reason why the war lasted 8 years. As the French were more interested in taking the British possessions in the West Indies than American independence. Their first efforts fighting alongside the Americans (Rhode Island in 1778. Savannah, Georgia, in 1779) did not help the cause. It was only when the French fleet could be spared from the action in the West Indies that they joined General Washington in trapping General Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781. With Cornwallis’ surrender effectively ending the war. Even though they wouldn’t sign the final peace treaty until 1783.
By the end of the international slave trade Europeans sent approximately 10 million Africans to the New World. Mostly to Brazil and the Caribbean. To work in the sugar plantations. Where slave ships left Africa. They unloaded slaves in the New World. Loaded the sugar these slaves grew. Shipped the sugar back to the Old World. Unloaded the sugar and loaded on finished goods. Then sailed back to the African slave stations. Where they traded their finished goods for more slaves. There was big money in The Trade Triangle (trade from Africa to the New World to the Old World and back to Africa). But sugar also helped to kick off the Industrial Revolution. For the iron industry grew to make the machinery of the sugar mills. As each plantation processed their sugarcane into crystallized sugar that was a lot of cast iron gears, sprockets, levers, axles, boilers, etc. Basically a turning point from an agrarian world of slaves and indentured servants. To the modern industrial world and wage-earners.
There is a Correlation between America’s Obesity Problem and the Switch from Cane Sugar to Corn Sugar
By the 19th century technology was making better sugar at lower costs. The British designed a low-pressure boiler. As water boils at a lower temperature when at lower pressure they were able to refine sugar with less energy. Cutting production costs. And waste. As higher temperatures caramelized some of the sugar. Though caramelized sugar can be delicious on crème brûlée you don’t want it when you’re producing crystallized sugar to sell. Then the Americans improved this process by creating the multiple-effect evaporator. A multi-stage device where the pressure is lower in each successive stage. They use steam to boil water in the first stage. This vapor then provides the energy to boil water in the next stage. Which is at a lower pressure. And, therefore, has a lower boiling point. That vapor then boils water in the next stage which is at a lower pressure. And so on. Where one energy input creates a lot of useful work cost-efficiently.
With the advance in refining equipment refinery plants grew more complex. And expensive. So instead of building one on every plantation they built fewer but larger ones. And shipped raw product to them. Modern ships and economies of scale made this the new business model. Companies grew and opened other refineries. And expanded vertically. Growing sugarcane as well as refining it. One of the best at this was the American Sugar Refining Company. That at one point controlled 98% of the sugar processing capacity in the United States. Which earned it a spot on the original Dow Dozen. The first 12 industrial stocks the Dow used in calculating their Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896. And remained a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average until 1930.
Eventually the Americans couldn’t compete with foreign sugar producers any more. They enlisted the help of Congress to impose tariffs on cane sugar imports. Forcing Americans to pay more for their sugar. Then they started making sugar out of government subsidized corn. High-fructose corn syrup. Which pretty much sweetens anything manufactured in the United States today. That some say causes more health problems than cane sugar. Including obesity. Those in the high-fructose corn syrup business vehemently deny this. But there is a correlation between America’s obesity problem and the switch from cane sugar to corn sugar. Because of the different way the body metabolized corn sugar it did not satiate our appetite. Leading us to over consume. Such as with sugary drinks. Which have gotten so large in size that New York City Mayor Bloomberg tried to make these large sizes illegal. Because America’s over consumption of sugar was making us obese. While Britain’s over consumption of cane sugar only rotted their teeth away. It didn’t make them obese. Which makes the case that corn sugar is less healthy than cane sugar. Despite what the corn sugar lobby says.
Tags: Africa, African slaves, American Revolutionary War, Arabs, Brazil, British, Caribbean, Christians, crystallized sugar, Dow Jones Industrial Average, Europeans, French, high-fructose corn syrup, India, Muslim, Muslim Arabs, Muslims, New World, obesity, Old World, plantations, refinery, Roman Empire, Saint-Domingue, slave trade, slaves, sugar, sugar crystals, sugar mills, sugar trade, sugarcane, sugarcane plantations, West Indies
The Roman Citizens welcomed the Barbarian Invaders as Liberators from the Oppressive Roman Regime
The Roman Empire pushed its borders out for centuries. And when they did their legions conquered new territories. And other civilizations. Allowing them to send a lot of spoils back to Rome. Providing the necessary funds for the empire. With this lucrative stream of wealth flowing back to Rome they could leave the economy alone. And did. Economic activity was pretty much laissez-faire. Then something happened. The Romans had conquered pretty much all of the known civilized world. And they stopped pushing their borders out. Putting an end to that lucrative stream of wealth flowing back to Rome.
This created a problem. For the empire was never larger. With a greater border to protect than ever before. And more territory to administer. Which meant more soldiers. And more civil servants. Neither of which worked for free. Which changed how the Romans handled the private sector economy. They began to tax and regulate the hell out of it. To raise the funds to pay the costs of empire.
Things got so bad that some people just started disappearing. So the Romans introduced something that would evolve into European feudalism. They forbade people from leaving their jobs. Ever. They even forbade the children from leaving their father’s profession. While they were doing this they were debasing their coins. The gold a little. As it paid the soldiers and the civil servants. And the silver a lot. The money of the common people. Who weren’t as important as the soldiers and the civil servants. Until their silver was nothing but worthless slugs. Causing prices to soar. And the economy to collapse back into the barter system. Hastening the fall of the Roman Empire. As the Roman citizens welcomed the barbarian invaders as liberators from the oppressive Roman regime.
The Spanish brought back so much Gold and Silver from the New World that it actually Depreciated the Money Supply
Europe met Asia on the Bosporus. The straits that connected the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. And it was where the Silk Road brought the exotic goods of the Far East into Europe. Which the Europeans just couldn’t get enough of. Making the Mediterranean powers the dominant powers. For they controlled this lucrative trade. Until, that is, the European nations made better ships. Ships that could cross oceans. And were bigger than the ships that plied the Mediterranean. So they could bypass the Mediterranean powers. And sail directly to the Far East. Fill their large holds with those goods the Europeans couldn’t get enough of. Getting rich and powerful. And shifting the balance of power to these European nations.
But the Europeans just didn’t go east. They also went west. And bumped into the New World. The Dutch, the French, the British, the Portuguese and the Spanish all had colonies in the New World. It was the age of mercantilism. Colonies sent raw materials to their mother country. Who manufactured these raw materials into finished goods. And shipped them from the mother country on the mother country’s ships through the mother country’s ports. For the name of the game was balance of trade. Which meant you imported lower-valued raw materials and you exported higher-valued finished goods. And because the value of their exports was greater than the value of their imports there was also a net in-flow of gold and silver. Which was what mercantilism was all about. Trying to accumulate more gold and silver than your trading partners.
And the Spanish hit mercantile pay-dirt in the New World. Gold and silver. Lots of it. So they loaded it up on their ships. And sent it back to Spain. Where it entered the European money supply. And none too soon as the Europeans were cash-starved. Because of all those exotic goods the Europeans couldn’t get enough of. While those in the Far East had no interest whatsoever in European goods. Which meant that European gold and silver went to the Far East to pay for those exotic goods. Leaving the Europeans starving for gold and silver. But thanks to the New World, they were able to reverse that net outflow of gold and silver. In fact, so much gold and silver arrived from the New World that it actually inflated the money supply. Which actually devalued the currency. And because the currency lost purchasing power prices rose. Making food more costly. And life more difficult.
President Andrew Jackson joined the Hard-Money People and refused to renew the Charter of the BUS
Responsible nations have chosen gold and silver as their currency as it is difficult to increase the money supply and cause inflation. Because mining these precious metals, refining them and minting coins is very costly. Unless you discovered a New World with gold and silver paving the streets. But that didn’t happen every day. The irresponsible government, though, figured out a way to make that happen every day. By just getting rid of the responsible gold and silver. And replacing it with paper notes. Fiat money.
Fiat money dates back to 11th century China. To the Song Dynasty. Which allowed the government to spend more money than their taxes raised. Especially during war time. But printing money devalued the currency. And when you make the currency worth less it takes more of it to buy the things it once did. Reducing purchasing power. And unleashing price inflation. Making food more costly. And life more difficult. During the American Revolutionary War there was so little gold and silver available that the Continental Congress turned to printing money. And they printed so much that they unleashed a punishing inflation. Causing prices to soar because the money became so worthless. People wouldn’t accept it for payment. So the Continental Army had to take the provisions they needed. Leaving behind IOUs for the Continental Congress to make good on. Later.
Of course, not everyone suffered during times of inflation. Speculators did very well. For their friends in the government’s central bank could print money and loan it to them on very favorable terms. The speculators then used this cheap money and bought and sold assets. Pocketing handsome profits in large part because of that inflation. As the currency depreciation raised prices. Including the prices of the assets they were selling. So the rich got richer during periods of inflation. While the working class just lost purchasing power. Which is why President Andrew Jackson joined the hard-money people. Those who favored gold and silver over paper currency. And refused to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States (BUS). Being one of the first world leaders not to choose destructive inflationary policies. Instead choosing policies that favored the people. Not the state.
Tags: Andrew Jackson, bus, civil servants, coin, colonies, Continental Congress, currency, debasing, devalued, Europe, Europeans, Far East, fiat money, gold, gold and silver, hard money, inflation, Mediterranean, mercantilism, money, money supply, New World, prices, purchasing power, Roman citizens, Roman Empire, Romans, silver, soldiers, Spanish
The French claimed great Territories in the New World but they did not Settle them nor could they Defend Them
In the Age of Discovery the Old World discovered the New World. The Portuguese bumped into Brazil while sailing around Africa. And they stayed awhile. Which explains how the language from tiny Portugal is one of the top ten spoken languages in the world today. Because of Brazil. Population 205,716,890 in 2012. The Spanish pretty much discovered and settled the rest of South and Central America. Working their way up the Pacific coast of North America. And into Mexico, Texas and Florida. Because of this Spanish is now the 4th most spoken language in the world. The British discovered and settled North America east of the Appalachians between Maine and Georgia. They also settled parts of Canada south of the Hudson Bay. And some of the Maritime Provinces. Today English is the 2nd most spoken language in the world. The French also came to the New World. But they weren’t as successful. Today French is only the 10th most spoken language in the world.
The Age of Discovery was also the age of mercantilism. Which is why the Old World was racing to settle the New World. So they could establish colonies. And ship back raw materials to the mother country. And in Spain’s case, all the gold and silver they could find. Which they found a lot of. Mercantilism is a zero-sum game. To maximize the export of manufactured goods. And to maximize the import of raw materials and bullion. To always maintain a positive balance of trade. And whoever had the most overseas colonies sending raw material back to the mother country won. And as they expanded throughout the New World they eventually began to bump into each other. As well as the Native Americans. Who weren’t mercantilists. But hunters and gatherers. Like all Europeans were some 5,000 years or so earlier. Before they became farmers. Moved into cities. Where they took control of their environment. And became more efficient. Growing ever larger populations on smaller tracts of land. Which proved to be a great threat to the Indians. For when these Europeans took their land they also increased their numbers. Greatly. And this fast growing population had the latest in war-fighting technology.
Soon they were stepping on each others’ toes in the New World. The British and the Spanish north of Florida. The British and the French between the Mississippi River and the Appalachians. In New Brunswick. And large parts of Ontario and Quebec. A lot more territory was in dispute between the British and the French. And that’s because the French claimed so much territory in North America. Their claims included the lands around the St. Lawrence Seaway. All the land around the Great Lakes. And pretty much the total watershed into the Mississippi River. The French had profitable business in the fur trade. They used the rivers in North America for that trade. With a few forts scattered along the way. Where they traded with the Indians. But the big difference between the French and everyone else is that the French claimed the land. But they didn’t settle it. Which made the Native Americans tolerate them more than the other Europeans in the New World. But in the days of the mercantilist empires that was a problem. Because everyone wanted everyone else’s land. And if it wasn’t settled with large and growing populations, someone else was just going to take it.
The Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774 tried to make Peace with the Indians but Inflamed the Americans
And that’s what happened in the French and Indian War (1754–1763). The European powers came into conflict with each other over their North American territories. The British came out the big winners. And the French were the big losers. Losing pretty much everything east of the Mississippi to the British. And everything west of the Mississippi to Spain. The various Indian tribes fought alongside the various European powers. But it is the fighting on the side of the French that we know them for in this war. Where their fighting against the British Americans was some of the cruelest fighting in the war. For the Indians liked the non-settling ways of the French. While they didn’t care for the settling ways of the American colonists at all. Who kept encroaching on their hunting grounds. So at the conclusion of the French and Indian War the Native Americans were restless. Something the British were keenly aware of. And after the long and expensive war they just fought they didn’t want a return to hostilities. So King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Setting the border between the British American colonists and the Indian lands along the watershed of Appalachia. Lands where the rivers flowed to the Atlantic Ocean were the American colonists’ lands. Lands where the rivers flowed into the Mississippi River and its tributaries (east of the Mississippi) were Indian lands.
This did not go very well with the American colonists. For they planned to expand west until they could expand west no further. At the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Especially Virginia. Who wanted to expand into Kentucky. And into the Ohio Country (across the Ohio River from Kentucky). Before the Proclamation of 1763 could even go into affect the Indians rose up in the Great Lakes region, the Illinois Country and Ohio Country. Where the British displaced the French. Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763–66). A rather nasty and brutal war where the Indians killed women and children as well as prisoners. And the British used biological warfare against the Indians. Giving the Indians smallpox-infested blankets. In 1774 Parliament passed the Quebec Act. Which did a lot to further annoy the American colonists. Especially that part about extending the province of Quebec (the former French territory from Labrador all the way to the Great Lakes region) south into the Ohio and Illinois country. Many lumped the Quebec act in with the Intolerable Acts of 1774 which were to punish the colonists for the Boston Tea Party. All these acts of Parliament and proclamations of the Crown failed in one of their main objects. Maintaining the peace on the frontier. One year later there was another shooting war in North America. And this one did not end well for the British.
The American Revolutionary War evolved into a World War. Once the Americans defeated a British army at Saratoga the French joined the American cause and declared war on Great Britain. Eager to get back their North American territories. The Spanish would join the French in alliance and declared war on Great Britain. Primarily to settle some old scores in the Old World as opposed to helping the American cause. They had the lands west of the Mississippi and control of that same river. They had no desire to see the Americans advance any further west. In fact, they wanted to expand their territory at the expense of both the Americans and the British. The Indians, meanwhile, saw the Americans as the greatest threat and allied with their two-time past enemy. The British.
The Indians were Little More than Bystanders while the Europeans Traded their Land with each Other
The war in the frontier lands of the West was as nasty and brutal as ever. The British coordinated their war effort against the Americans from their frontier outposts. Where they traded with their Indian allies. Some even paying the Indians for each scalp they brought back from their raids. And so the Indians crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky. Throughout the war. And attacked these frontier settlements. While the Americans fought a defensive war. Until one man arose. Who believed the strongest defense was a strong offense. And he took the war to the Indians and the British in the West. Saving Kentucky. And conquered the Northwest Territory.
George Rogers Clark’s plan for conquering the Northwest was bold. First take Vincennes (in southern Indiana near the Illinois border). Travel up the Wabash River. Down the Maumee River. And then on to Detroit. After taking Detroit head north to Michilimackinac (on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula). The Virginian authorities liked the plan. And commissioned him colonel in the Virginian forces. And authorized him to conquer the Northwest. For Virginia. So Clark led his men down the Ohio River. And traveled all the way to Kaskaskia near the Mississippi River in southern Illinois. Not far from St. Louis. Took it. And marched to Vincennes. And took Fort Sackville at Vincennes. Shortly thereafter Henry Hamilton (who had a reputation for buying scalps from the Indians), governor of Detroit, Left Detroit and headed to Vincennes. Gathering Indians along the way. Recaptured Vincennes. Then Clark returned and in one of the most fabled actions of the entire Revolutionary War took back Vincennes. Despite the British and Indians greatly outnumbering Clark’s force. Detroit lay open. But Clark did not have the men or provisions for that conquest.
Meanwhile the Spanish were looking to cash in on their alliance with France. And moved against British outposts from New Orleans. Taking Baton Rouge. Natchez. Mobile. And Pensacola. To turn back the Spanish Governor Sinclair of Michilimackinac gathered a force and headed to the Spanish outpost St. Louis. With the ultimate goal of taking New Orleans. It did not go well. The following year the Spanish launched an offensive of their own to take Detroit. They got as far as St. Joseph on the other side of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Around the bottom of Lake Michigan from Chicago. A lot of land changed hands in the Northwest. But thanks to Clark much of it remained in American hands at the end of the war. Who came out the big winners in this war. The British ceded all their claims east of the Mississippi to the Americans. Including all of the Illinois and Ohio country. Including Michigan and the lands surrounding the Great Lakes south of Canada. The French did not drive the peace as they had hoped. And recovered none of their North American territories. The Spanish emerged with pretty much what they had when they entered. Only with the Americans across the Mississippi instead of the British. Who were much more interested in westward expansion than the British. But they didn’t have to worry about the Americans crossing the Mississippi. For Napoleon strong-armed the Louisiana Territory from the French in exchange for some land in Tuscany. Who would later sell it to the Americans. While being rather vague on the exact boundaries. Which the Spanish would have to worry about in the years to come as the Americans headed west. Towards Spanish country on the west coast.
Of course the Indians were the greatest losers. For they were little more than bystanders while the Europeans traded their land with each other. Making the Native Americans ever more restless. And unwilling to give up their hunting and gathering ways. Which sealed their faith. For while they retreated west the American population exploded. Due to their efficient use of the land. It was the New World against the Very Old World. Modern farming civilizations displaced the hunters and gatherers everywhere in the world. A trend that started some 5,000 years earlier. And the history of North America would be no different. The Indian ways since then have been fast disappearing. The Indian languages were so rarely spoken in the 20th century that the code based on it was the one code the Japanese couldn’t crack during World War II.
Tags: Age of Discovery, American cause, American Revolutionary War, Americans, Appalachia, Appalachian, Britain, British, British Americans, Clark, colonies, Detroit, English, Europeans, France, French, French and Indian War, frontier, frontier outposts, George Rogers Clark, Great Britain, Great Lakes, hunters and gatherers, hunting grounds, Illinois country, Indian allies, Indians, Kentucky, Louisiana Territory, Lower Peninsula, mercantilism, Michilimackinac, Mississippi, Mississippi River, Native Americans., New Orleans, New World, North America, Northwest Territory, Ohio Country, Ohio River, Old World, Parliament, Proclamation of 1763, Quebec, Quebec Act, Quebec Act of 1774, Revolutionary War, Spain, Spanish, St. Louis, Vincennes, Virginia
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