Monday, July 11, 2005

Thoughts on the Slave Trade

In the previous iteration of StoneHeads, I made a point of noting the role played by the U.S. Navy in the eventual ending of the slave trade. I am therefore reproducing my original postings of February 24 and March 1, 2005 respectively as follows:

Suppressing the Slave Trade
I was visiting the Official Site of the US Navy this evening, and was reminded of something too many Americans seem to forget.

On February 24, 1861, the USS Saratoga, attached to the United States African Squadron, captured the slaver sloop Express, freeing the slaves on board.

The United States often is excoriated, and rightly so, for its sordid history in regards to African slaves. What is usually overlooked, however, is that slavery long predated the Atlantic slave trade, and that said slave trade was only stamped out by the efforts of the Anglo-American navies.

While the Royal Navy, which began the anti-slave trade effort during the Napoleonic wars, had by far the larger role, and deserves most of the credit, the US Navy, as is shown in this example, was also active in suppressing the slave trade even before the Civil War began.

Interested readers can read a fictionalized episode in the fight against the Atlantic slave trade in C.S. Forester's masterful Hornblower Series #10 Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies.

U.S. Slave Trade Prohibited March 1, 1807
In my last historical posting, I discussed the part played by the United States Navy in suppressing the worldwide slave trade. However, I have a footnote to add to that report.

March 2, 2005, is the one hundred ninety-eighth anniversary of the outlawing of the slave trade by the United States Congress. That occasion occurred on March 2, 1807, making the United States the first nation to outlaw the slave trade, even anticipating the British actions outlawing slavery(1808) and slave trading(1834)in the British empire.

This act is particularly noteworthy, though i observe that few if any of our so-called pundits or journalists have deigned to so notice the momentous occasion. It is noteworthy because it is a direct result of the Constitution itself, which states in Article One, Section Nine, the following passage:

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight

Note that while the Constitution does not require Congress to cancel the slave trade, it does set a starting time from whence when the slave trade may indeed be prohibited. Congress, to their eternal credit, did so at the first possible opportunity.

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