Letter to the Editor RTSA

We are grateful for the Feb 11 comments of David Foster, noting our view of history as one-sided. He is right – our article was not historically comprehensive. During Black History Month, our intention was/is, to offer lesser-known details relating to the role of the Black experience in our history. 

By 1770, the vast majority of slaves had been American born-and-raised for three to four generations. Likely not formally schooled, they did know the price they had been auctioned for, and that the price of a horse was far, far less. Politically, they understood their dollar value to their owners, and that the plantation could not survive without their labor. 

Meanwhile, colonial independence plotters, North and South, also knew that the colonies with large slave populations (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) probably had more slaves than horses. They knew that this very large investment had been made because farming with slaves and slave breeding were very profitable. 

Horses as main transport, all of the independence plotters were familiar with the underlying fear of all livestock owner’s: your livestock “getting out,” eating or trampling a neighbors’ prized crop or garden or worse. Likewise, all of the independence plotters recognized that owning humans as “livestock” – humans who were unpaid, forced-labor and therefore resentful humans with brains, strategies and tools – greatly amplifies that fear.

Putting all these pieces of “rural wisdom” together, it is easy to understand that the independence plotters readily recognized that a slave-rebellion was a very fragile tinderbox that could easily explode at any moment and would totally distract local resources from the united effort needed to support the Revolutionary War. 

Politics always follows money before morality. Morally, and more wisely, they could have: agreed to free the nearly 500,000 slaves; leveraged a huge troop advantage asking them to join the fight for freedom and figured out reimbursement for slave owners later. 

The war would have been won shortly – rewritten history – likely avoiding our national agonies of Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights movement, etc., etc. Embarrassingly, in reviewing Revolutionary War finances, not a single wealthy plantation owner’s name appears.

-RedHeart RedHeart, Red Wing

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