By Nancy Spannaus

Sept. 17, 2021—I am pleased to announce that the first class in my current series on Why American Slavery Persisted has now been posted on the You Tube channel of AmericanSystemNow (click here).  This is the first of four classes, which happily are being video-recorded by Shepherd University, where I am presenting my work under the auspices of the Lifetime Learning program.

Class Series Now on You Tube

This first session discusses the establishment of slavery in the American colonies and the early resistance, which ranged from Massachusetts to Georgia. Such a short presentation (approximately an hour, followed by discussion) necessarily omits and condenses a great deal, so I encourage you to get in touch with me through this blog with any additional material, or corrections.

New Discoveries

As I mentioned in my announcement of the class series a few weeks ago, the work on this class has introduced me to a treasure trove of material that I did not know existed. The degree of debate and discussion over the issue of slavery in the period leading up to the Constitutional Convention is almost overwhelming.

My recent posts on South Carolina and Georgia have highlighted two of the subjects which I take up in this first class. But there are many more, two of which I will summarize here.

Class Series Now on You Tube
Crusader for abolition Benjamin Lay (portrait by William Williams in 1750)

Ever hear of Benjamin Lay? He was a Pennsylvania Quaker, born in England, who became one of the fiercest early campaigners against slavery starting in the 1730s. Having spent a period of time in Barbados, one of the most brutal slave colonies of Great Britain, Lay had no toleration for the Quakers’ participation in this horror. His agitation included going to Quaker meetings and spurting “blood” on the attendees, dramatizing the fact that they had blood on their hands.

And what about Benjamin Franklin, whom historians have concluded was a latecomer to the anti-slavery fight?  It turns out that Franklin published anti-slavery tracts from the 1720s on (including Lay’s 1738 book “ALL SLAVEKEEPERS that keep the innocent in bondage APOSTATES”) and then played a vital role, including internationally, in expanding the argument against slavery to include its devastating effects on the economy.

Resolving the Paradox

When considering this subject, you are encouraged to keep the following in mind: Could the United States have tapped this anti-slavery sentiment to eliminate that evil, bring prosperity to the entire nation, and avoid a Civil War? Indeed, many argue that such an outcome was impossible, given the economic “realities” of the time.

It is my conviction that such a positive outcome was possible, should the principles of the American System which Alexander Hamilton initiated have been carried forward. The class will take up that issue, of course, but you will find useful back-up in my book, Hamilton Versus Wall Street: The Core Principles of the American System of Economics.

The importance of this matter today cannot be overestimated.


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