The Counter Revolution of 1776:
How America Declared Independence To Preserve Slavery and Wage Genocide
America is founded on myth and is in fact largely run on myths. Hollywood has been nearly as important for American hegemony as the Pentagon. Trillions have been spent indoctrinating the world into an entirely false consciousness. This mythology is incredibly dangerous as it creates an almost schizophrenic duality between reality as the majority of the US population sees it and reality as it truly is. In the last 15 years alone millions have been slaughtered, tens of millions forced to flee for their lives, hundreds of millions perhaps billions have been impoverished all thanks to America's policies but many americans are as convinced as ever that their country is a force for good in the world. They believe that America was founded on freedom, they believe that we are fighting in defense of democracy, they believe that the US is fighting ( instead of funding) "terrorism." They believe that America is a "Global force for good" Others who still subconsciously believe the myth wonder where did it all go wrong. Once for example the moment was seen to be the establishment of a national security state in 1947 with the beginning of the cold war. Now doubtless the new myth is that America went bad as a result of 9/11. To hear some commentators you'd think nobody was tortured by the CIA until the Bush administration. This is why many call the US the "United States of Amnesia." It goes back to what I said at the beginning the power of Myth the belief that america somehow "lost it's innocence" a fairytale.
Thankfully Gerald Horne is here to remind us how and why the United States of America was truly founded. In his book he destroys for ever the myth of our noble "Founding Father's" who built this nation because of their love of freedom but by a strange accident forgot about the slaves in their quest to build their new democracy. Instead as he shows preserving slavery and expanding genocide were the prime motives behind the "American Counter-Revolution of 1776" It was launched to avoid the danger of a real revolution by the slaves that would have overturned the order of society. It was launched out of fear that Britain was moving towards abolition, that Britain saw the need to expand the rights of blacks in order to preserve their empire. Thus it is no surprise that the United States later became a literal Counter-Revolutionary Superpower installing fascists and overthrowing progressive democracies. Waging unrelenting war on the communist countries, and training the police and armies of the world on how to brutally suppress their own people to prevent revolutions. Nor is it any accident that America was a close ally of apartheid South Africa, and is a close ally of Israel. America was their prototype a vicious settler-colonial society founded on slavery and genocide. For Horne the the best parallel was the declaration of independence of Rhodesia (Now Zimbabwe) by Ian Smith in 1965 who modeled his closely on the 1776 Original. Smith's Counter-Revolution was aimed at preserving the settler colonial apartheid system against the wave of liberation sweeping Africa and mistrust of London's more pragmatic approach to the issue. Smith failed thanks to the heroic struggle of the ZANU-PF Guerrillas (with help from China and North Korea) who managed to liberate the country renaming it Zimbabwe. The Americans however succeeded they built a slave empire and went on to ravage the world.
In order to prove his thesis Horne begins his story not in the 1770's as is common but at the end of the 17th century. In 1688 England's so called "Glorious Revolution" opened the door to what Horne calls "Free Trade in Africans" when this setback in royal power also lead to the challenging of the Royal Monopoly on slavery that had operated under the Royal African Company. As I discussed in my February 2016 article "Capitalism & Slavery" this fueled the explosive growth in wealth and power of the English merchant class fueling the growth of capitalism and later the industrial revolution itself. England like America would owe it's tremendous wealth and power it's global empire to slavery. However as Horne points out the pressures of maintaining this global empire would force Britain to take a more progressive view of blacks for purely pragmatic reasons. First Slavery was a very dangerous and unstable system because the terrible conditions forced the Slaves to constantly rise in attempted revolts. Second in order to compete with it's rivals Britain needed to arm blacks because it's rivals were doing so to great effect. Much of the book is based on showing Britain's growing awareness of these facts by presenting a completely revised picture of 18th Century History.
Part of Horne's genius is his ability to put the history of the mainland colonies into their proper International context. The World was then deeply involved in what I have dubbed World War Zero. World War 1 erupted in 1914 when the competing Imperialist powers ran out of new territories to conquer and turned their guns on each other. World War Zero began sometime in the mid 1400's when Portugal launched it's attacks on Africa and Asia and Spain began it's conquest of the new world. World War Zero was the war of conquest Europe launched on the planet it lasted centuries for the rest of the world it was a never ending series of apocalypses. The Death Toll was doubtless hundreds of millions sadly the west still hasn't bothered to count the victims let alone care. But in addition to conquering new territories the imperialist countries were constantly battling each other to steal one another's conquests. Mainland North America South America and the Caribbean were an important theater in these wars. It Pitted the English against the Spanish and the French and briefly the Dutch. Another layer of this conflict was what Gerald Horne dubbed the "Religious Cold War" of Catholics versus protestants. Spain and France were catholic powers for example while Britain was a Protestant Power. In Yet another layer of the conflict there were ethnic divisions. These would be an important factor in the eventual need to arm blacks (and Indigenes). Spain for example had Catalonians who were not necessarily trusted by the crown leading to a manpower shortage that would make Spain the first to arm blacks. Britain had it's own ethnic conflicts between (often open wars) between the english the Irish and the Scotts. Thus tiny Britain faced a constant shortage of reliable manpower. The Irish and the Scotts having suffered brutal "dirty wars" at the hands of the British Empire were often tempted to side with Britain's rivals.
The Colonists would make skillful use of these resentments in fueling their later counter-revolution. Finally of Course there were Class conflicts. These would help fuel the rise of African slavery as a replacement for white servitude. Again the mainlanders would make skillful use of these in the ugliest manner possible. America was a "land of opportunity" the opportunity for poor whites to get rich by slaughtering the natives and importing african slaves. The whole concept of whiteness was the ideology that underlay the counter-revolution. Ethnic and religious divisions were supposedly to be ended as the new Ideology made race the supreme factor uniting the English, the Scottish, The Irish and later the French, and eventually immigrants from all over Europe against the blacks, the indigenes, and later later latin americans, asians, arabs etc as the empire marched on making more and more enemies. It occurs to me that this presaged americas increasing absorption of the formerly competing imperialist powers of Europe during World War 3 (The Cold War) and especially today during World War 4 (which began with the fall of the Soviet Union). It was no doubt manifest destiny that the US would one day lead the west in waging war on the rest of the planet. The War on Terror a racist return to form (One could write a whole book on the origins of the "war on terror" in colonialism, fascism, cold war ideology and of course Israel) The full implications of Horne's book are only beginning to be explored clearly but to avoid completely derailing this discussion I must leave them for another time.
To return to Horne's book all these contradictions and conflicts made for a dangerous and chaotic situation of almost constant war. The massive profits that could be made from the sugar plantations meant that the Caribbean islands became increasingly full of black slaves in ever greater proportions to their masters. This created an extremely dangerous situation for the plantation owners. Much of Horne's book is dedicated to resurrecting the forgotten history of these slave revolts and rebellions. These events have been deliberately erased from history as I've discussed more then once. Thus this is a good place to discuss the many forms slave resistance could take. First there was poisoning in which african women were extremely prominent in. The Africans like the Indigenes had a massive knowledge of herbal medicines and also of poisons. They were far in advance of the europeans in this knowledge. Thus slave masters and their families lived in constant fear of poisoning. Arson was another favorite weapon of the slaves. In fact slaves nearly burned manhattan to the ground twice in a plot that sent the colonists into a panic one of many "Black Scares" as Horne calls them. Worse from the colonists perspective they were joined in their conspiracy by some of the poor whites and were secretly backed by the french in Quebec. Arson was along with "murder" a common feature of escape attempts by slaves.
Escaped slaves were especially dangerous when they began to band together forming independent kingdoms. Jamaica was a scene of a series of endless counter insurgency wars which tried and failed to conquer the maroons as the former slaves were called. The Maroons were so successful the British were forced to sign treaties with them. Not Surprisingly the British started recruiting these tough fighters into their forces angering the mainlanders who were always terrified to see armed africans. But Jamaica was only the most dramatic example throughout the Americas independent black areas existed constantly waging a guerrilla war against their former masters seeking to free more slaves. Often they allied with the local natives. They could also become allies with rival empires. Florida would provide the best example for this on the mainland. To destabilize the Carolinas which Spain believed belonged to them but which the British had settled and filled with slaves the Spanish king declared that any slave who escaped to Florida would be granted their freedom. The escaped slaves allied with the seminoles and the spanish who armed them trained them and sent them back to liberate more slaves and wreak revenge for their years of slavery. Florida would be a danger zone for the english mainlanders for over a century and would later see the blacks and Indians inflict a humiliating defeat on the new republic during the Seminole Wars.
Of course one of the colonists greatest fears was a full scale uprising and the Slaves often conspired to kill their masters and turn the social order on it's head. This would have been the true revolution and it was to prevent this at any cost that the colonists would demand their independence. They lived in a constant state of paranoia over both real and imagined plots. This was because the Caribbean had become what Horne calls a "catastrophic success" for slavery. It was a success in that it generated massive fortunes but it was a catastrophe because the blacks soon came to vastly outnumber the whites and were constantly threatening to kill their masters. There were massive slave revolts in Antigua and Jamaica. In Fact as Horne points out many slave owners were forced to flee to the mainland where the ratios were lower but they brought with them memories of burning cane fields and dead masters. They quickly joined the elite of the new society spreading their fears throughout the land. But they also brought with them their slaves who with their knowledge of the successful revolts spread rebellion throughout the mainland. The mainland was constantly importing more and more slaves and so the dangers of slave revolts continuously grew. To give only one example as the book is packed with these various plots and failed uprisings there was Stono's Revolt. Again Florida would play a role the Colonists later executed a Spanish priest who they believed had been responsible for provoking this plot by spreading the news via a black servant who spoke excellent english that any slaves who killed their masters and escaped would be welcomed in Florida. 29 Settlers were killed by the rebelling slaves near the Stono River and the colonists were reduced to outer panic. Often these plots were only narrowly foiled and the colonists only solution was to introduce cruel new tortures. Horne gives one horrifying example a slaves ear would be nailed to a post for an hour then sliced off then the other ear would receive the same treatment.
Many Slaves revolted before they even reached the Americas and shipboard slave insurrections were also common. In one particularly memorable example the Slaves seized control of their vessel while it was still in african waters, they then managed to capture another slave ship freeing the slaves and enslaving the crew who later managed to escape. Thus thanks to Horne we have a truly global view of this African front in World War Zero. A war for freedom by Africans conducted from the coasts of Africa, throughout the islands of the Caribbean and in what was to become Slavery's greatest stronghold the future United Staes itself. To understand the wars of the 18th century it is important to understand the geography of the American Theater of conflict. On the Mainland the main threats were from the french in Quebec to the north and even more dangerously Florida with the City of St. Augustine home to Spanish allied blacks and indigenes. Actually Canada and Florida would continue to pose problems after the revolution as both offered sanctuary to escaped slaves. While we are discussing geography I should note that the northern colonies were deeply involved in the Slave Trade even though they had fewer slaves then the southern colonies. Newport Rhode Island was a major competitor of Bristol and Liverpool for control of the Slave Trade. Off the coasts were the islands especially Cuba from which the Spanish could also spread subversive ideas of black rebellion and where it had armies of black troops with black officers ready for invasion and ready to spark slave uprisings. I'm reminded of the more recent Story of Robert F. Williams who was forced to flee Jim Crow America for Cuba where for a time he was given Cuban support as he tried to spark a black revolution. This Global perspective is one of the major themes in Horne's work which charts the many alliances blacks have made in their struggle for freedom Spain, England, Japan, Kenya, Ghana, Russia, Cuba, India, Canada, and Mexico, are only some of the alliances he has charted. Horne is one of the most prolific historians of our times having written more then 30 books on a wide range of topics.
Thus the colonies faced the ever growing danger of slave revolts, arson, and poisoning. Horne quotes frequently from the records, letters, and journals of the time driving home the reality of this constant "black scare". Worse from their perspective France and Spain were also constantly threatening invasion and were coordinating these plans with efforts to instigate slave revolts and even to arm train and then send back former slaves to wreak havoc on the colonists. Worse still both the africans and the rival empires were also forming alliances with what Horne calls the Indigenes i.e. the Native Americans. This was their ultimate nightmare an invasion from abroad, combined with a slave revolt internally, combined with attacks by the Indigenes. As Horne points out their worst fears were actually frequently realized and actually they faced complete ruin on a number of occasions. Most Notably the French and Indian War (aka the 7 Years War) the american counter-revolution, and the war of 1812. As Horne explains in his book "Negro Comrades of the Crown" during the war of 1812 blacks rebelled joined the British and looted and burned the white house forcing the president and first lady to flee like refugees. Slavery was the source of the colonists wealth and power but it was also their Achilles heel. Both they and their enemies knew it.
This brings us to why the British were forced to adopt a more progressive attitude towards blacks. They needed to exploit them in a different way if they were to compete with the Spanish. The Spanish had relied more on creating a buffer between the slaves and the whites for one thing by creating a large class of "free People of Color". The Spanish system was based as much on class as race and allowing for free blacks and mulatos as well as slaves who could be bought off with privileges to side against the oppressed. The American Colonists were moving in the opposite direction they wanted to expel or re-enslave any free blacks. London was beginning to see that the Spanish system what Horne Calls the "Havana Model" was more stable. Plus it allowed the Spanish to arm Africans to wage it's wars. Tiny Britain seeking to rule the world but having huge tensions with the Irish, the Scotts and the catholics needed to start arming africans as well if it was going to compete and it did so. The white colonists were unreliable recruits they wanted to wage their war at home on the Indigenes and also were afraid to leave their dangerous slaves unsupervised. They often offered violent resistance to attempts to conscript them for England's imperial wars. Greedy Capitalists they also refused to foot the tax bill even though these wars were waged in their defense. As if that wasn't bad enough they were smugglers constantly trading with London's enemies the french and the Spanish. To skip ahead London's victories in these wars culminated in the 7 years war which ejected the French and Spanish from North America and proved another catastrophic success. This was because by eliminating these dangerous adversaries they eliminated the colonists need for the protection of the British empire. They began to dream not just of their own independence but in the conquest of the Americas and the Caribbean the creation of a massive slave empire. Dreams that in many ways came true incidentally as Horne discusses in his books on Cuba and Brazil. After gaining independence the United States would seize control of the lucrative slave trade and oversee a massive expansion in slavery in Cuba and Brazil. They would seize half of Mexico to impose slavery.
While the colonists were dreaming of expanding slavery the British were already thinking of ending it. Constantly having to send redcoats to the caribbean to put down never ending slave revolts was getting in the way of their conquests in South Asia especially India. Abolition was a way to sabotage the increasingly wealthy french sugar colonies like what is now Haiti. Three main events would signal this to the colonists and inspire their rebellion. First there was the Somerset case which seemed to abolish slavery in England itself. This happened in 1772 and it outraged the colonists. James Somerset was born in Africa captured by slave traders and brought to Virginia where Charles Steuart purchased him taking him first to Boston the London. But in England Somerset constantly tried to escape his master who decided to sell him in Jamaica. Luckily for him some english abolitionists heard about his plight and intervened and a major court battle ensued with Somerset's case being argued by Lord Mansfield. Mansfield's eloquent condemnation of Slavery energized the abolitionists and enraged the colonists. They were outraged that their sacred right to property (enslaved Africans) was being challenged in fact slave holders in the islands and colonies paid the legal fees for their fellow slave master. The Americans including famous future founding fathers both northerners and southerners argued in the press on behalf of slavery. When Somerset won his case slavery became de facto outlawed in Britain and the colonists became terrified that Britain might extend this abolition throughout the British empire which step by step actually would happen in the next century with the Somerset case widely seen as the beginning of this process which would next outlaw the slave trade in 1807 and would abolish slavery in 1833.
Another important controversy that drove the colonists into revolt was the Gaspee Affair. The colonists had a talent for smuggling and as Horne remarks their greed often drove them to break the law. They carried on a lucrative smuggling trade with the French and Spanish colonies against the wishes and laws of London. The British decided to send their navy in to crack down on smugglers enraging the colonists. Just days before the verdict in the Somerset case John Brown led a mob of 500 colonists in an attack on the british ship killing some of the crew and burning the british ship when it tried to stop and board the Gaspee returning from Africa. This John Brown was not the radical abolitionist but instead one of the biggest slave traders in Rhode Island in honor of whom Brown University is named. The mob had foolishly forced a black man Aaraon Briggs to join them and he decided to testify against the mob. The Idea that a black man would be allowed to testify against a white further enraged the racist colonists. It seemed to imply that Africans were human beings with legal rights an idea that threatened their entire slavery based economy. Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry vigorously attacked this dangerous idea of a black being allowed to testify in court. Do I even need to add that this refusal to grant equal legal rights to blacks continues to this day in the american injustice system. The Colonists viewed the case as a dangerous provocation and it drove them further towards revolt.
But the most dangerous outrage from the colonists perspective, and the greatest opportunity from the blacks perspective came in November 1775 when fed up with dealing with the insults and disobedience of the colonists Lord Dunmore issued an edict offering freedom to slaves who would agree to fight to put down the counter-revolution. Dunmore had first been briefly beloved for his ruthless war against the indigenes but then fell out of favor when he blocked settlers from conquering more Indigenes Territories which he feared could provoke new wars with the Indigenes. Then he further enraged them by raising taxes on imported slaves although his only real motive had been to reduce the danger of a slave uprising. This made him hated and subject to constant death threats and insults. Finaly he announced the plan that he had long contemplated of arming the blacks to put down the colonists insurrection. This would prove a disaster for the British as the white colonists united in horror at the concept plus the danger that the British would also make alliances with the indigenes against them. It could have been a great success and the constant train of slaves escaping to British lines proved a major drain on the colonists embittering them for years to come as they endlessly demanded the return of their "property" long after the war ended. Unfortunately an army of black troops that could have proved decisive were struck down with smallpox or the war could have ended much happier for the africans. Nonetheless the blacks would prove fierce fighters especially brave since they knew capture meant re-enslavement. As Horne discusses in "Negro Comrades of the Crown" These black troops would later prove vital in protecting Canada from the schemes of the americans to conquer it. Horne points out that Canada with it's Socialist Health Care is a bit more progressive then the Counter-Revolutionary United States. Sadly it is waging an ugly dirty war on it's Indigene population which nearly everyone ignores, supports fascists in Ukraine, and helps arm Saudi Arabia against Yemen but of course in comparison to the United States, Canada is a small time criminal.
Dunmore's Edict would win England the friendship of US Blacks for more then a century. Since by a lucky coincidence I just listened to Gerald Horne discuss his new book on Paul Robeson I'm reminded that it was England that made him Robeson a star and England which forced the state department to finally return his passport allowing Robeson to travel the world once again thus ironically nearly 200 years later Britain still remained ahead of the backwards americans. England offered a more sophisticated and subtle brand of racist imperialism then the ugly brand practiced by their more reactionary american "cousins." They had a global empire to take care of and had to be more flexible. However what would prove more decisive was the hatred Dunmore's edict inspired in the white colonists. They saw their worst nightmare about to come to pass Britain allying itself with the Indigenes and the Slaves against them and deploying armed africans to suppress their rebellion. According to Horne this is what unified the colonists against the British. In order to defend slavery the source of their ever expanding riches they decided to ally with Britain's enemies and the mainlanders long time customers the Spanish and French empires who still resented their recent defeat in the 7 years war little over a decade earlier.
Unfortunately for the Africans the Indigenes, and their many future victims the counter-revolution eventually emerged victorious. The United States was born a country founded on the principle that all men were created unequal some were destined for genocide and slavery. It set out to conquer the world on behalf of slavery. Ironically it was their frantic slave trading that would contribute to the Revolution in Haiti by dangerously increasing the ratio of Slaves to masters on the island. They would flood Brazil and Cuba with slaves as well. They would steal half of Mexico to introduce slavery and earlier they attempted to conquer Canada nearly bringing about their own destruction when Britain retaliated. This is what lead to the war of 1812 which they nearly lost because of the number of blacks who sided with the British against their hypocritical masters. Britain would seize on the issue of slavery to discredit this american counter-revolution and the issue of slavery nearly brought the two countries to war more then once. Britain used it's navy to try to stamp out the slave trade while the US became the worlds biggest slave traders.
For blacks the victory of the counter-revolution of 1776 would prove disastrous and the effects are still being felt to this day. As Horne observes blacks came to be perceived as dangerous internal enemies an attitude that remains to this day. This is why the police act like an occupying army in the black community, why courts offer far harsher sentences to blacks, and consider their testimony far less credible. To bring up yet another 20th century example the gagging of Bobby Seale during the Chicago conspiracy show trial in the late 60's is a logical extension of the Gaspee affair. Above all the ever increasing mass incarceration the wide scale use of psychological torture (solitary confinement) The brutal beatings by police and prison guards it all follows from the nations origins in the counter-revolution of 1776. Racism is the inevitable result of the Settler Colonial mindset a process on horrifying display today in Israel.
For the rest of the world the results were equally disastrous the creation of counter-revolutionary superpower that continues to be motivated solely by greed and racism. It is still prepared to inflict untold suffering in the name of property rights and still uses hypocritical talk of "freedom and democracy" in order to defend exploitation and inequality. It has overthrown untold numbers of governments to prevent even minor reforms from being put in place. From a Slaveocracy it eventually evolved into a capitalist oligarchy but it has become even more dangerous then before. But since this is my usual topic I'll end leave it at that. For Horne there is another lesson to be learned he believes only a return to black internationalism as practiced by people such as Paul Robeson, William Patterson, Robert F. Williams, and Huey P. Newton. Only by bringing outside pressure to bare can this racist society be forced into making even minor reforms. Blacks should look for friends in China, Russia, Africa and any place that dares to defy the empire. I'd advise the victims of American propaganda to emulate the British constantly reminding the world of the brutal and racist nature of american society in no position to judge anyone. American Blacks and their allies should bring their plight constantly before the United Nations. As Horne points out the success of the Civil Rights movement was because American Blacks succeeded in gaining allies in newly independent African Nations. Of course I would expand Horne's call for a new Black Internationalism to both a third (and 4th ) world internationalism like that of Sukant Chandan, and even further to good old fashioned communist internationalism. The people of the world must unite to smash the imperialism of the American-NATO empire. Only then without the counter-revolutionary super-power dominating the planet will another world be possible.
I highly recommend Gerald Horne's "Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and The Origins Of The United States of America." I also Recommend Horne's "Negro Comrades of the Crown: African Americans and The British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation" which carries the story forward to 1865.
I First Learned about this book thanks to this interview with Gerald Horne conducted by Solomon Comissiong of Your World News
A Lecture by Gerald Horne on the "Counter-Revolution of 1776"
A Review of "The Counter-Revolution of 1776" By T. P. Wilkinson
Another Review By T. P. Wilkinson on "Negro Comrades of the Crown"
Also Check out my related Articles First Revolution in Haiti
And Next Capitalism and Slavery