In 1619, we had a great event in world history and a great event in American history
In 1619 in Germany, Johannes Kepler published his fabled third law of planetary motion. This law asserts that the square of the time of revolution of a planet is proportional to the cube of the distance the planet is from the sun. The proportion is the same for all the planets! Isaac Newton later utilized Kepler's three laws of motion in combination with Galileo's law of falling bodies to prove the laws of universal gravitation.
Also in 1619, the English colony of Virginia set up the first democratically elected legislative assembly in North America. They called it the Virginia General Assembly. The idea of democracy and representation in government later spread to all 13 English colonies and then to the United States Constitution.
But alas, the New York Times 1619 Project is not about these events. The NYT 1619 Project is about 20 indentured servants from a Dutch ship brought to the English colony of Virginia in 1619.
Indentured servants were already in Virginia in 1619, they had been brought there shortly after the colony was founded in 1607. But the earlier indentured servants were white Europeans, while the 1619 indentured servants were black Africans. From 1619 until the 1660s, white and black indentured servants worked side-by-side. The servants typically worked for seven to 14 years, then gained freedom and a plot of their own land. A great source for this time period in Virginia is American Slavery, American Freedom by Edmund Morgan.
One such early indentured servant was Anthony Johnson. Johnson was brought to Virginia in the early 1620s. Johnson worked for many years, then gained his freedom and a plot of his own land on the eastern shore of Chesapeake bay. He married his wife Mary and had many children, bought many more hundreds of acres of land, and owned the contracts of hundreds of indentured servants.
Anthony Johnson was black man and lived until 1670. After his death, his lands were gradually stolen from his descendants until they disappear from the historical record. His demise was caused by the rise of racism and slavery in Virginia.
Johnson does have one great legacy today, his last name of “Johnson”. His descendants and the people from his plantation used the name Johnson after his death, since the Johnsons were known to be free blacks. Then other free blacks said their name was Johnson. And runaway slaves said their name was Johnson. Today, many thousands of black people proudly carry the name Johnson.
History of slavery
Unfortunately for Anthony Johnson, conditions had changed after 1660. In England, the monarchy was restored, and in Virginia, the system of indentured servants transitioned to slavery by 1680. After 1660, white indentured servants were phased out and black slavery was transitioned in. In 1680 Virginia now had slavery. The rise of racism in Virginia can be dated to the 20 years from 1660 to 1680.
Slavery is a sin upon the human condition and dates back to ancient history. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans had slaves. The Bible describes widespread slavery. The Arabs of the Middle Ages herded black slaves across the Sahara desert into North Africa.
The Middle East had slavery. The largest slave revolt in history was the Zanj Rebellion from 869-883, where the entire area which is now Iraq was in revolt. This revolt dwarfed in size the famous Spartacus revolt in the earlier Roman Republic.
The Ottoman Empire had slavery. The Ottomans imported three million slaves through the Black Sea port of Jaffa between 1475 and 1790. These were white Slavic people and these Slavic slaves formed the basis of our English word “slave”.
The Western Hemisphere had slavery. The Indians had slavery before Columbus. After 1492, Europeans started bringing slaves and indentured servants from Africa, about 12 million of them by the 1800s. Of the 12 million, about 250,000 went to the English colonies in North America.
In most of South America, Central American, and the Caribbean, slaves were worked to death and replaced, a horrible atrocity. Not so in North America. By 1860, these original 250,000 black people had grown to 4.5 million African Americans, of which about 500,000 were free.
The New York Times
The NYT 1619 Project is not meant to teach history. 1619 is not an important year in the history of slavery. The NYT 1619 Project is really a twisted attempt to make people in 2019 feel guilty about an evil that happened long before we were born. Not even the Founding Fathers had been born in 1680, let alone 1619. The NYT 1619 Project does not explain why slavery arose in Virginia between 1660 and 1680, or why slavery was later wiped out. The NYT 1619 Project is a blanket attack against the founding of Jamestown colony, our Founding Fathers, and modern conservatives. It misses on all points. The NYT 1619 Project is just another hate-Trump idea cooked up by high-browed liberals!
Why slavery was wiped out
Despite slavery, and because of democracy in Virginia, a later generation of Founding Fathers developed ideas of liberty and took steps to end slavery in North America. These great Virginians include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.
- In 1776, the Declaration of Independence said all men had the right of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
- In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance banned slavery north of the Ohio river in the modern day states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
- After 1788, the new US Constitution led to the banning of slavery in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania.
- In 1808, President Jefferson banned the slave trade.
- The 1820 Missouri Compromise banned slavery in the modern day states of Maine, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, North & South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.
- The Civil War and the 13th Amendment ended slavery in the remaining areas.
Science and the Industrial Revolution
Along with the ideas of liberty, there was another important reason why slavery was wiped out; the rise of science and industry.
Science, which got a big boost from Kepler in 1619, led to free thinking and the Enlightenment, ideas utilized by great Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson.
Science also led to the steam engine and the rise of industry, and a gigantic increase in the overall wealth of society. Without excess wealth and a lot of people living above subsistence level, it is doubtful slavery would have ended. Prior to the industrial revolution, most people were worrying about staying alive and feeding their families, and had little time to worry about unfairness against other people.
I encourage all to research for themselves the history of slavery and others ideas presented in this short article. A great book is Inhuman Bondage by David Brion Davis. Arm yourself with knowledge and defend yourself against the fake news of the New York Times.
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