The counter-revolution of 1776: slave resistance and the origins of the United States of America - Gerald Horne

The counter-revolution of 1776: slave resistance and the origins of the United States of America  - Gerald Horne

The successful 1776 revolt against British rule in North America has been hailed almost universally as a great step forward for humanity. But the Africans then residing in the colonies overwhelmingly sided with London.

In this trailblazing book, Gerald Horne complements his earlier celebrated Negro Comrades of the Crown, by showing that in the prelude to 1776, the abolition of slavery seemed all but inevitable in London, delighting Africans as much as it outraged slaveholders, and sparking the colonial revolt. In the prelude to 1776, more and more Africans were joining the British military, and anti-slavery sentiments were deepening throughout Britain. And in the Caribbean, rebellious Africans were chasing Europeans to the mainland. Unlike their counterparts in London, the European colonists overwhelmingly associated enslaved Africans with subversion and hostility to the status quo. For European colonists, the major threat to security in North America was a foreign invasion combined with an insurrection of the enslaved. And as 1776 approached, London-imposed abolition throughout the colonies was a very real and threatening possibility--a possibility the founding fathers feared could bring the slave rebellions of Jamaica and Antigua to the thirteen colonies. To forestall it, they went to war. The so-called Revolutionary War, Horne writes, was in large part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their liberty to enslave others--and which today takes the form of a racialized conservatism and a persistent racism targeting the descendants of the enslaved. The Counter-Revolution of 1776 drives us to a radical new understanding of the traditional heroic creation myth of the United States.

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Comments

Gregory A. Butler
Jan 29 2015 01:03

So, the first democratic republic in the world was "counter revolutionary" and the British crown was the great friend of Black slaves?

Sorry, but Dr Horne is full of shit.

The only reason that Queen Victoria abolished slavery in 1837 was because of the political climate sparked by the American Revolution of 1776, which in turn sparked the French Revolution of 1789 which in turn sparked the Haitian Revolution of 1804

Also, nobody was taking opinion polls in 1776 and Black slaves in America were forbidden to read or write - so we have no idea of what they thought at that time

Tyrion
Jan 29 2015 02:49

Not really much of a democratic republic when most of the adult population couldn't vote.

Gregory A. Butler
Jan 29 2015 06:35
Quote:
Not really much of a democratic republic when most of the adult population couldn't vote.

Sigh

Where do I start?

You DO know that Europe was all monarchies at the time, mostly absolute monarchies?

You DO know just how limited the franchise was, even in England?

As late as 1918, (132 years after the American revolution) 40% of British men didn't have the right to vote

Men didn't get universal adult suffrage in the United Kingdom until 1918

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representation_of_the_People_Act_1918

Women didn't get universal adult suffrage until 1928

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage_in_the_United_Kingdom

The United States Constitution was the most advanced democratic document in the world when it was ratified in 1791

You have to look at these things in the context of a world where most people couldn't vote and most countries were monarchies.

Hell, even to this day, the UK still has a monarchy and an unelected upper house of it's legislature and only just got a supreme court a few years ago.

augustynww
Jan 29 2015 09:19
Tyrion wrote:
The so-called Revolutionary War, Horne writes, was in large part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their liberty to enslave others

I think the same could be said about all revolutions in the past that weren't fully libertarian socialist/communist/anarchist. Including bolshevik revolution in Russia which Horne probably likes very much being authoritarian marxist. They are "in part counter-revolutionary" because they stop at some point and create new elites exploiting ruled class (or classes)

Mike Harman
Jul 4 2018 16:51

There are several questions here, the blurb reads really badly though:

1. Were there genuine abolitionists in Britain?
2. Were British parliamentarians making noises about abolition (not necessarily genuinely of course)?
3. Did US slaveholders pay attention to either #1 or #2?
4. Did slaves pay attention to #1, #2, or #3 and act on that information, even if it was false/incomplete?

Cedric Robinson in Black Marxism also talked a bit about slave revolts in 1776, including slaves leaving plantations and fighting for the British. That history, and the history of maroon communities in the US and Caribbean (and Brazil) has only really become accessible the past few decades (since the '30s mostly).