This article appears in the January 8, 2021 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
THE PROPRIETORS OF CAROLINA
John Locke and the Introduction of Mass African Slavery in the Americas
To Undermine ‘Republican’ Culture
Dec. 21—Given the amount of impassioned, and often under-informed discussion that is taking place on the issue of slavery, we feel it is necessary to publish this report, to help elevate the discussion to the level that Dr. Martin Luther King called “The Mountain Top.”
A new study of American history will unveil new heroes, while often discrediting established ones, but not necessarily in the way you might expect. It’s not a matter of toppling physical statues, except the ones that exist in your mind! In Jonathan Swift’s great 1726 novel, Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver is led to a magical place, Glubbdubdrib, where scenes in history are re-enacted before him, without lies, and exactly as they occurred in real life. He is especially appalled at the history of the previous 100 years, and reports:
I found how the world has been misled by prostitute writers, to ascribe the greatest exploits in war to cowards, the wisest council to fools, sincerity to flatterers ... truth, to informers. How many innocent and excellent persons had been condemned to death or banishment, by ... the corruption of judges, and the malice of factions. How many villains have been exalted to the highest position of trust, power, dignity, and profit? ... Here I discovered how a whore can govern the back stairs, the back stairs a council, and the council a Senate.…
[He seeks unsung heroes and] was told, “their names were to be found on no record, except a few of them who history hath recorded as the vilest rogues and traitors.” As to the rest, I had never once heard of them.
The Advent of Mass Black African Slavery
While it is true that every ethnic group in the world has been enslaved at some time or other, Lyndon LaRouche once said that the evil idea that anybody who had a black skin was fair game, was something new, and was introduced to counter the Renaissance. Slavery had always been evil, but this was a new level of evil, designed to combat a new level of good.
The great 15th Century Renaissance was an effort to uplift mankind to the level of free citizen. The idea of the importance of the individual soul and mind began to replace hereditary serfdom. The colonization of the New World, far away from the entrenched European oligarchy—as envisioned by Nicholas of Cusa, Thomas More, Shakespeare, Rabelais, Paolo Toscanelli, and Cervantes—was a major part of that effort and was meant to lead to a new and better society. There was a conception of economics that went with it.
The oligarchy sought to counter that Renaissance conception with a new level of dehumanization. It began a campaign to export black African slaves en masse to the New World.
At that time, African slaves had to be shipped first to European capitals, and were only then sent to the New World, usually a few at a time. A long campaign took place to change that. There was opposition in European Christian civilization.
At the height of this battle in 1508, the German artist, Albrecht Dürer, drew the portraits of an African man and woman shown on this page. He drew them as loving human beings, not caricatures. Was this part of the anti-slavery effort?
In 1518, the King of Castile and Aragon, and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, opened the floodgates, and authorized the shipment of 4,000 black slaves directly from Africa to New Spain. This was something new and dreadful in the world.
And just as Swift’s Gulliver discovered, there would come in the next, 17th Century, a full-bore defender of slavery and slave traders, “a villain who would be exalted to the highest position” as the supposed inventor of the “American idea” of the political rights of the individual. His name was John Locke. He would be exposed for what he really was, in a once widely known literary debate with Gottfried Leibniz, the actual originator of the idea of “the pursuit of happiness” in the American Declaration of Independence and the idea of “the General Welfare” in the U.S. Constitution’s Preamble. But that debate would in time be erased from common knowledge as John Locke and his “social compact” were celebrated as the core of democracy by English publicists and historians.
Americans may need a trip to Glubbdubdrib to see “scenes of history re-enacted without lies.”
Examples of the New World
Santo Domingo (today’s Dominican Republic) first started growing sugar in 1505, and soon became a major slave labor center for Spain. The Portuguese colony of Brazil set a record, importing over 4.5 million black African slaves over 250 years. The usual excuse made for this was the need for labor, especially for sugar plantations. Was it in fact designed to poison republican efforts to build a “New World,” with profits as only a secondary motive?
To seek an answer to this question, we must conceptualize two irreconcilable and competing notions of “profit.” All republican economic theories saw profit as coming from advances in the power of labor, through enhancing the creative capabilities of every person, in a form of civilization where those capabilities could be socially realized. Let us cite a few examples.
Thomas More wrote his Utopia in 1516, as the battle over mass exportation of African slaves raged. In More’s utopia, people were allowed to apprentice in, and learn more than one trade, and then practice whichever trade they preferred. If a laborer should demonstrate some great skill in his recreational intellectual efforts, he could become exempt from his work if he desired, and concentrate solely on that.
Unlike in Europe, working people in Utopia were not forced to toil for unconscionably long hours each day. The Utopian day was broken into twenty-four hours; Utopians only worked for six hours per day, three before lunch and three after (though nobody was allowed to lounge around while on the job), but they were more productive than Europeans working much longer hours. This was because European populations also had a far larger percentage of people who did no productive work at all, and, because the Utopians had a happier existence!
This left them with a great deal of free time, which they were free to do with as they willed, as long as they did not spend it in debauchery or idleness. Most people used their free time to engage in intellectual pursuits. They also involved themselves in music, gardening, and physical activity. Those people who demonstrated a keen love and aptitude for intellectual pursuits were identified early and, as long as they were diligent in their studies, they were exempt from physical labor. Thomas More calls it: “The pursuit of pleasure.” A careful reading demonstrates that he does not mean hedonistic pleasure, but something more like “The pursuit of Happiness.” It’s a happiness, that is both individual, and social, at the same time.
Though slaves existed in Utopia, they were never bought or kidnapped. Utopian slaves were criminals, who had committed a horrible crime within Utopia, or had committed crimes in other countries and been condemned to death, and had been saved from their fate by the Utopians. Slavery was not hereditary. The children of slaves were not born into slavery.
Puritan leader John Winthrop arrived in Salem in 1630, and pronounced the colony a city upon a hill, a model for all the world. He soon had a colony of 2,000. By 1650 it would grow to 20,000 people. Winthrop got King Charles I to sign a charter for the Massachusetts Bay Colony that basically gave them independence. Winthrop recruited all the skilled people he could find, and two months after King Charles signed the charter, 300 skilled colonists set sail to plan towns, build infrastructure, warehouses, ships, fortifications and sawmills. In 1647, the fully automated Saugus iron works was built with the support of the General Court (legislature). It produced eight tons of wrought iron per week, outdoing any mill in England.
Early on, the Crown tried to revoke Massachusetts’ charter, and return control to England. Governor John Winthrop also served as a colonel in a 1,000-man militia, and in 1638 wrote what sounds like a declaration of independence:
Lastly, if our patent be taken from us, the common people, will here conceive that his majesty has cast them off, and that hereby they are freed from their allegiance and subjection, and will therefore be ready to confederate themselves under a new government, for their necessary safety and subsistence.
By 1708, there were 550 black slaves in Massachusetts, mostly domestic servants. We shall soon see how that compares with Carolina.
In 1663, French finance minister Jean Baptiste Colbert (whom Alexander Hamilton credited with building up the French economy to a point where it was strong enough to help win American independence), saw that New France (Canada) had been neglected, and was in bad shape. He sent over Jean Talon, who sought to diversify the economy by introducing new crops such as flax and hops for making beer, by starting a shipyard and lumber industry, and by encouraging mining. He also encouraged the development of the fishing industry along the St. Lawrence River. Patriotic young ladies known as “Les Filles du Roi” volunteered to come over and form families. In three years, Talon succeeded in doubling the population. In Acadie, he sought to improve relations with neighboring New England.
Slavery was never part of the package. “Republican” ideas of economy always focused on reducing the need for labor-intensive methods and ending servitude.
During the years of Cromwell’s Commonwealth and Protectorate in England, little was done to control its North American colonies. But as soon as the 1660 Restoration took place under King Charles II, the oligarchy moved to reverse the republican ideas of freedoms and industrial development in the Americas. Massachusetts was a special concern. Historian Graham Lowry documents this campaign against Massachusetts in his How the Nation Was Won: “In 1664, Charles II issued secret orders demanding to bring ‘that people to an entire submission and obedience to our government’.”
The Restoration also sought to reverse the artistic greatness that had led to freedom of thought from Shakespeare through Milton, with an imposed banality. Shakespeare’s plays disappeared; Nahum Tate rewrote King Lear with multiple happy endings, including Cordelia marrying Edgar, and Lear regaining the throne.
Shaftsbury, Locke, and the Carolina Example
Anthony Ashley Cooper, later Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper (1630), later, Lord Ashley (1661), and later, the First Earl of Shaftesbury (1672)—henceforth called Shaftesbury—was involved in the attempt to suppress Massachusetts. In 1660, King Charles II set up the Council on Foreign Plantations. Four of its members would soon become Lords Proprietors of Carolina. In 1660, the year of the Restoration, Shaftesbury was given the assignment of unifying that council with the Council on Trade. He succeeded in 1672 and served as President of the new Council on Trade and Plantations. He appointed John Locke as its secretary. Shaftesbury also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1661 to 1672.
Shaftesbury has been acknowledged by his biographer, K.D.H. Haley, as the nascent British Empire’s first de facto colonial minister:
Shaftesbury was ... appointed to almost every committee of the Privy Council on any commercial or colonial subject.... As such he was the nearest thing to a Minister for colonial affairs that England had yet seen.
He specialized in the Western Hemisphere, and served as leader of the Carolina Lords Proprietors, Deputy Governor of the Hudson Bay Corporation, Governor of the Somers Isles Corporation (which ran Bermuda), and became a Lord Proprietor of the Bahamas. Several of Shaftsbury’s fellow Carolina Lords Proprietors participated in all of these institutions.
The question of Massachusetts came up immediately before President Shaftesbury’s new Council. One attendee of the meetings is quoted:
Our fear there, was of their altogether taking from dependence on this nation.... Some of our council were for sending them a menacing letter ... which those who understood the touchy and peevish nature of that colony were utterly against.
Council Secretary John Locke’s position on this is not known.
The first few years after that 1660 restoration of the Stuart monarchy under Charles II were critical for Shaftsbury, the slave trade, and Locke. The slave-trading Royal Africa Company was formed that same year, headed by Charles II’s brother, later King James II. (The export of African slaves to Barbados had been escalating for almost two decades.) In 1663 King Charles granted the Charter for Carolina to a small group of eight powerful men known as the Carolina Lords Proprietors, men who had helped restore him to the throne; they were led by Shaftesbury.
The Dutch colony of New Amsterdam was handed over to England in 1664, the year that Charles II issued the aforementioned secret orders on Massachusetts, demanding to bring “that people to an entire submission and obedience to our government.”
The Carolina Lords Proprietors petitioned King Charles for a large tract of land in America, which would stretch all the way to the Pacific Ocean, and south to Florida (in this case, the Monarchy had no objection to the westward expansion of a colony). What was their design for Carolina? They adopted the Spanish/Portuguese sugar plantation model and launched mass black African slavery in their continental American colony, in order to undermine the republican philosophical, economic, and moral basis of those colonies they thought might be taken “from dependence” on the Monarchy.
Slavery Jumps from Barbados
The Carolina Lords Proprietors, with Secretary John Locke, had started earlier with Barbados, in imitation of the nearby Spanish colony, Santo Domingo (today’s Dominican Republic). Sugar production began about 1640, and soon expanded. By the 1650s, Barbados was called “the richest colony in English America,” and was the world’s leading sugar producer.
At first, the labor force was small. When Shaftesbury was part owner of a plantation in 1646, it had only 205 acres, and was attended by 21 white indentured servants and 9 black African slaves. As the sugar plantations expanded, they became more lucrative, and brutal. They required a labor force averaging 100-150 slaves per plantation. A slave, once on the plantation, could expect to live only seven to ten years, because of the exhausting cycle of sugar cane production. Later, in the American South, a slave had financial value. Not so in Barbados. The super-rich slave owners could make fabulous profits only if they could ensure a steady replacement of slaves. As a larger labor force was needed, more black slaves were imported in greater numbers from Africa. They soon replaced indentured servants and outnumbered the white population of Barbados. Small landowners were squeezed out as the plantations grew in size, and between 1643 and 1666, the total number of landholders was reduced from 8,300 to 760.
Barbados did not even produce its own livestock! It imported food, because slave sugar was so lucrative that the owners would not allow land to be used for anything else.
Prior to 1650, three-quarters of those in Barbadian servitude were of European (for example, Irish) descent. But by 1685, there were four times as many black African slaves in Barbados as there were European settlers. The settlers became so fearful of being outnumbered, that slaves could be branded with a hot iron in the face for the mildest opposition to a “Christian.” The Proprietors and planters had vivid memories of slave rebellions in both Barbados and Santo Domingo.
In a short 50 years, an English colony had completely changed its nature, and become a nightmare. The Carolina Lords Proprietors included plantation owners from Barbados, such as Sir John Colleton. The plan for Carolina, from the start, was to bring over sugar planters from Barbados, with their slaves, and build up a slave-based plantation economy. As soon as the Carolina Charter was granted in 1663, a group of 200 Barbadian planters formed the “Corporation of Barbados Adventurers,” led by Sir John Colleton’s son, Sir Peter. They had a ship named Carolina ready to go. They paid plantation owners who brought over their slaves, in sugar!
By 1671, over half of the population of Carolina was Barbadian, and most of them were slaves of African descent. Sir John Yeamans, a particularly cruel Barbados plantation owner, became governor of Carolina. They requested dictatorial powers of self-government. You will request dictatorial powers, if you are planning to set up a plantation economy where the slaves outnumber the owners. Fear of slave revolts was to become a dominant feature of South Carolina politics and culture as it had been in Barbados, and the culture remained marked by it until well after the American Civil War.
Profits or Culture?
Was it all about money? As Barbados soon came to lack any room for expansion, efforts were made to secure sugar plantations throughout the Caribbean, including in Guyana and Jamaica. But Carolina was too far north to grow sugar. Why the effort if it were not as profitable?
Rice became the main crop in South Carolina. But wait a minute! According to some historical accounts, it was not introduced to the area until 1685, more than 20 years after the plantation from Barbados! If greed was the incentive, how, back in 1663, did they plan to make money? The plan for a rice-based economy may have predated that, however. The slaves brought into Barbados were from the Rice Coast of Africa. They were known as the Gullah people, and had far more knowledge about producing rice than their white owners. As Carolina grew, the Gullah people continued to be the main source of slave imports. They knew how to grow rice.
But there would still be a waiting time for profits to appear. The instant sugar profits from Guyana and other places should have put Carolina on a back burner if profit was the main concern. Some reports say that for the first decade or more, the African slaves were employed as cattle drivers. You don’t need thousands of black slaves to drive cattle!
Could it be that the primary reason for transporting the Barbadian model to the American colonies was not economic, but political control? Was it primarily designed to undermine the economic growth, morality, and threatened independence of the American colonies? King Charles II himself answered the question, when discussing the profit motive, in the subjugation of the Massachusetts Bay colony: “All designs of profit for the present seem unreasonable and may possibly obstruct the more necessary design upon their obedience and loyalty.” [emphasis added].
The argument is often made that the reason for the spread of mass black African slavery was capitalism, and profit. Yet, Massachusetts, the most industrialized colony with the highest economic rate of profit, and the highest overall standard of living, by 1708 had only 550 black African slaves, mostly domestic servants. It is not surprising that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the first to abolish slavery (although the problem of racism persisted in the “Blue Blood” elites).
During the same period, Virginia followed the South Carolina plantation model. The crop was tobacco, not rice, but the slaves came from the same place, Barbados. That may be surprising. The colony had a strong tradition. But one of the eight Lords Proprietors of Carolina was the governor of Virginia, Sir William Berkeley, who hated the idea of an educated populace. He even opposed the printed word. The slave population increased dramatically in Virginia, as in South Carolina. In 1640, thirty-three years after its founding, there were no more than 300 black slaves in Virginia, mostly servants (the number of white indentured servants in the Appalachians may be another story!). By 1680, there were 3,000 black slaves, and by 1710, out of a total population of 78,000, there were 23,000.
The laws institutionalizing slavery in Virginia were passed between 1661 and 1705. Before that, there were no clear laws distinguishing indentured servants from slaves. Some blacks lived as freemen, and slaves had a right to a hearing if abused.
All of that changed with the introduction of the plantation economy. Laws were passed that slavery was life-long, and hereditary. In 1682, a law establishing the racial distinction between servants and slaves was enacted, and by 1705, a brutal law was passed in Virginia:
All servants imported and brought into the Country ... who were not Christians in their native Country ... shall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion ... shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resist his master ... correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction ... the master shall be free of all punishment ... as if such accident never happened.
Governor Spotswood arrived in 1710 and set out to redress the situation by expanding westward away from the Tidewater slave plantations.
Locked into Evil!
Shaftesbury’s sidekick was John Locke, supposed father of our rights! Locke met Cooper in 1666, moved into his residence the next year, and was later appointed by him as Secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations, Secretary to the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, co-author of The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, and on Shaftesbury’s advice, invested in Royal African Company, in order to escalate the shipment of black African slaves to the American colonies.
He was on board with the expansion of slavery every step of the way.
Locke, with Shaftesbury, drafted The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, with its strange combination of hereditary aristocracy and slavery. Though they were careful to appeal to certain American sentiments, they created new titles for the hereditary aristocracy, some drawn from Native American tradition, such as Cazique, in order to disguise their reactionary intentions.
Here are a few items from The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, a document which scholarly purveyors of John Locke’s huge reputation would hope could be forgotten:
9. There shall be just as many landgraves as there are counties, and twice as many caziques, and no more. These shall be the hereditary nobility of the province, and by right of their dignity be members of parliament. Each landgrave shall have four baronies, and each cazique two baronies, hereditarily and unalterably annexed to and settled upon the said dignity….
22. A leet-man (landless serf) shall be under the jurisdiction of the respective lords of the said signiory, barony, or manor, without appeal from him. Nor shall any leet-man or leet-woman have liberty to go off from the land of their particular lord and live anywhere else, without license obtained from their said lord, under hand and seal….
23. All the children of leet-men shall be leet-men, and so to all generations.
Locke’s Fundamental Constitutions is lauded for offering religious freedom, but ...
107. Since charity obliges us to wish well to the souls of all men, and religion ought to alter nothing in any man’s civil estate or right, it shall be lawful for slaves, as well as others, to enter themselves, and be of what church or profession any of them shall think best, and, therefore, be as fully members as any freeman. But yet no slave shall hereby be exempted from that civil dominion his master hath over him, but be in all things in the same state and condition he was in before….
110. Every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his negro slaves, of what opinion or religion soever.
The Fundamental Constitutions would have given the Lords Proprietors of Carolina dictatorial and hereditary control. The Lords Proprietors accepted them in 1669, very early on in the venture. Fortunately, the colonists rejected them.
By 1708, 31.5% of the population of South Carolina were black African slaves. By 1724, 69.5% of the population were black African slaves. In 1729, the colony divided into North and South, but the swampy marshes of the south made it the heart of the slave-based plantation economy. In 1696, as the rice plantation system was beginning to take root, the colonists adopted the Barbados slave code that defined slaves as property and allowed a slaveholder to administer unbridled discipline. The Carolina slave codes were the harshest in the American colonies.
Leader of the Rebellion
During the Revolutionary period, it was South Carolina that protested most against the understanding that “All men are created equal.” The state threatened to align itself with the British Empire if, for example, a paragraph in the Declaration of Independence drafted by Jefferson and Ben Franklin, denouncing the British monarchy’s slave trade, were not rejected.
The Civil War was initiated by secessionist forces firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, held by Federal troops. Lest anyone believe the nonsense that the Civil War was not about slavery, please read these excerpts from the South Carolina Declaration of Secession, issued upon the election of Abraham Lincoln:
Those [non-slaveholding] states have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the states and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other states. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing.... A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the states north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of president of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common government because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
In 1671, Shaftesbury had reorganized the Royal African Company (RAC) so that it would have a monopoly over the African slave trade. Shaftesbury invested £2,000, thereby becoming the third-largest stockholder. On his advice, John Locke invested £400. Other investors included Carolina Lords Proprietors the Earl of Craven, Sir George Carteret, and Sir John Colleton’s son, Sir Peter. Carolina Lord Proprietor George Monck signed the papers. They were making sure that the supply of black African slaves needed to expand the institution of the plantation economy into their continental American colonies would be sufficient. By 1680, the RAC monopoly was shipping 5,000 slaves a year. By 1700, England led the world, shipping 20,000 slaves per year! It centered upon the American South. As mentioned before, by 1724, 69.5% of the population of South Carolina were black African slaves.
There were republican networks in England, who recognized this as an effort to undermine the progress of the American colonies.
James Edward Oglethorpe was a civil libertarian and member of Parliament. He led an effort to free people from debtors’ prisons, where they often were moved to the smallpox area, contracted the disease, and died. He opposed the “press gangs,” which kidnapped civilians into naval service. He formed the Trustees of Georgia, and petitioned King George II to allow him to establish a new colony. The music of Handel played an indirect role. Viscount Percival was somewhat indifferent to human rights, but his love of Handel’s music allowed Oglethorpe to recruit him to sponsor the Georgia project (when Oglethorpe brought native American leaders to England, they attended concerts of Handel’s music.)
Oglethorpe and Ben Franklin were reported to have held each other in high esteem. Oglethorpe himself showed a unique quality of personal leadership. He was a Classical scholar who knew Plato and Shakespeare, and led by personal example. In Savannah, he slept in a tent for months. He would not be housed until everyone else was. No other Georgia Trustee, nor any Carolina Lord Proprietor, ever set foot in the New World.
Oglethorpe personally founded Georgia explicitly to counter the South Carolina model of mass slavery, which he felt was undermining the American colonies. Under Oglethorpe’s leadership, the British Parliament banned slavery in Georgia in 1735! It was for Georgia only, and was passed for none of the right reasons, but he got it through, almost a century before England banned slavery!
Oglethorpe personally organized a settlement of Highland Scots in Georgia to issue “The Darien Petition.” Some historians recognize its fifth article to be the first public acknowledgement of the rights of African Americans in the New World:
It is shocking to human Nature, that any Race of Mankind and their Posterity should be sentanc’d to perpetual Slavery; nor in Justice can we think otherwise of it, that they are thrown amongst us to be our Scourge one Day or other for our Sins: And as Freedom must be as dear to them as it is to us, what a Scene of Horror must it bring about! And the longer it is unexecuted, the bloody Scene must be the greater....
The slave system was not economically advantageous. Any economic system that degrades man will fail. The Darien Scots understood that it was a system based on usury. In Article 3 of their petition against slavery, we find this:
We are not rich, and becoming Debtors for Slaves, in Case of their running away or dying, would inevitably ruin the poor Master, and he become a greater Slave to the Negroe Merchant [slave trader—ed.], than the slave he bought could be to him.
Later, many farmers desperate to stay on their land, mortgaged their crops to buy slaves, in the hope that they could harvest the crops before foreclosure. It often failed. Farms were abandoned, real estate companies collapsed, and the slaves were then returned to the auction block to be resold by the banks.
The slave-based economy left the South in an economic shambles, with little industry, and in no condition to fight and win a war.
With regard to Georgia, Oglethorpe was outgunned and soon defeated, but all of this should serve today, to remind us that the spread of mass black African slavery was not an American phenomenon, but rather, meant to undermine the progress being made in the New World, and some very good people understood it that way, and fought, tooth and nail, against it!
When Oglethorpe retired to England, he became friends with Samuel Johnson, who regarded Oglethorpe as the finest man he had ever met. On the subject of John Locke, Dr. Johnson observed: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?”
Oglethorpe ought to be rightly recognized as a founding father. If new statues are to be built in the Garden of American Heroes, let him be among them.
Did John Locke Have an Epiphany?
The first sentence of John Locke’s 1689 Two Treatises of Government reads:
Slavery is so vile and miserable an estate of man, and so directly opposite to the generous temper and courage of our nation; that it is hardly to be conceived, that an Englishman, much less a gentleman, should plead for it.
That might seem like quite an about-face, and we might expect some contrition to follow. Might we not expect John Locke to express regret over his personal role in creating such a “vile and miserable” state of affairs—over the thousands of souls he condemned to the level of chattel?
No such apology was forthcoming! African slaves are not mentioned, nor is his role in importing them for the Carolina Proprietors, which was his only experience in his subject—“Government.” Locke wrote that he composed these treatises to justify the coup the previous year against King James II by William of Orange, in the so-called “Glorious Revolution.” In Locke’s meaning here, “slavery” only refers to Englishmen living under an absolute monarchy.
Professor John Quiggin gets it right when he says:
Locke’s intention, in this passage, was to demolish the idea of Sir Robert Filmer that Englishmen (including English Americans) could voluntarily agree to submit to a government with the absolutist claims of the Stuarts—it was this submission to which the term “slavery” referred.... it is more appropriately understood as an early rendition of the jingoism expressed in the sentiment that “Britons never, never, never, shall be slaves.”
Will we solve the problem by tearing down a statue? It is over 300 years since the death of John Locke, and Americans have so far done an extremely poor job of tearing down the statue of Locke that exists in their minds, despite ample exposure of this bum!
Tearing down that mental statue, requires a journey we do not wish to make, into philosophy. Most of us are practical people. It takes all our time to hold our families together. Yet, at this point, a philosophical inquiry becomes even more practical and necessary. We must examine our axiomatic assumptions: things that seem so self-evident, that we take them for granted, without question.
Another statue that should be built in the Garden of American Heroes is of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. He was a scientist, philosopher, theologian, and great political organizer. Leibniz pulled together circles from Russia, China, England and the New World, in order to build his “Grand Design” for a world where reason finally replaced slavery and servitude. Leibniz recognized what was wrong with Locke’s philosophy, enough so to write a 500-plus page refutation of him.
Locke’s first false axiomatic assumption is the primacy of property!
The great end of men’s entering into society being the enjoyment of their properties in peace and safety.... to preserve their lives, liberties, and fortunes, and by stated rules of right and property to secure their peace and quiet.... For the preservation of property being the end of government, and that for which men enter into society ... to preserve the members of that society in their lives, liberties, and possessions.... The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property....
The first draft of the Declaration of Independence cited life, liberty, and property as inalienable rights. For Locke, those who develop the land own it, by virtue of their work. It is their property. Sounds good enough, but when it involves Native American lands, he justifies expropriation of them. Hunting and gathering does not make land your property, says Locke, only farming or mining does:
Thus the grass my horse has bit; the turfs my servant has cut; and the ore I have digged in any place, where I have a right to them in common with others, become my property, without the assignation or consent of any body. The labour that was mine, removing them out of that common state they were in, hath fixed my property in them.
Despite the First Treatise of the Two Treatises opening with a call against slavery, the Second Treatise suggests that it is only wealthy landowners who are exempt from slavery. While Locke meekly claims that since you own your own body, it is your property, he also writes:
These men having, as I say, forfeited their lives and, with it, their liberties, and lost their estates, and being in the state of slavery not capable of any property, cannot in that state be considered as any part of civil society, the chief end whereof is the preservation of property.
Which is to say, if you become the property, you have no part of any rights at all.
A new Navigation Act was passed in 1696, and Locke was appointed as a Commissioner of Trade to help enforce it. That act explicitly prohibited colonial trade with Scotland and Ireland, along with all foreign countries, “unless the same have been first landed in the kingdom of England ... and paid the rates and duties ... under the penalty of the forfeiture of the ship and goods....”
Locke’s Navigation Act was quickly followed by the Woolen Act of 1699, prohibiting the export of all woolen products from America, along with other measures designed to suppress colonial manufacturing, and force the colonies to remain a source of cheap raw materials for the mother country.
Since 1667, Locke had spent his life repressing both the freedoms and true economic expansion of the American colonies on behalf of the restored English Crown. The Crown tried to revoke the Massachusetts Charter, failed, and later imposed a Royal Governor on the colony, forbade colonies to expand west of the Allegheny mountains, and imposed a backward, slave-based plantation economy on the South. All of this was done to undermine the development of the New World. Locke did not change his stripes, and his notion of property was meant to enforce keeping the colonies as “hewers of wood, and drawers of water.”
The Slavery of Locke’s Empiricism
Again, we must challenge the axiomatic assumptions that shape every aspect of our lives. In 1690 Locke wrote his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. He asserted that when we are born, our minds are like a blank sheet of paper, with nothing written on it (Aristotle’s tabula rasa). There are no innate ideas—no idea of right or wrong, good or bad, etc. Man learns only through his senses. The senses never give us anything but instances, i.e., particular or singular truths, but not universal truths.
For Locke, gravity is only a matter of probability:
Thus, it is possible to know that white is not black whenever one has the ideas of white and black together (as when one looks at a printed page), and it is possible to know that the three angles of a triangle equal two right angles if one knows the relevant Euclidean proof. But it is not possible to know that the next stone one drops will fall downward or that the next glass of water one drinks will quench one’s thirst, even though psychologically one has every expectation, through the association of ideas, that it will.
Let’s hope he never experimented by dropping a baby! This method is known as empiricism, knowledge added to the blank slate through sense perception.
Be clear on this. For Locke, even a parent’s love for a newborn child is not innate. Nothing is innate: not a sense of wrong or right, not an inner moral drive, not even the sense that something cannot be both true and false at the same time. Does that reduce us to animals? No! Animals have innate ideas: They are called instincts, like “Try not to get eaten.” They do not need the sense impression of a nearby predator taking a bite out of them to access the idea. We are not reduced to animals; we are reduced to nothing—an 8-and-a-half by 11 sheet of white paper!
Leibniz summed up the different approaches as follows:
There is the question whether, as Aristotle and Locke maintain, the soul in itself is completely blank like a page on which nothing has yet been written; everything inscribed on it comes solely from the senses and experience; or whether, as Plato held, the soul inherently contains the sources of various notions and doctrines; none of these comes from external objects.... Why must we acquire everything through awareness of outer things? Why can’t we unearth things from within ourselves? Is our soul in itself so empty that unless it borrows images from outside it is nothing?
We wonder how Locke would have responded to Ludwig van Beethoven composing the most beautiful music the world had ever heard, while completely deaf? Or, how he might have imagined Helen Keller, while deaf, blind, and unable to speak as a child, went on to become a genius? Yet millions honor Locke when they say, “Seeing is believing.” Observe the night sky, and you will “see” Mars move backwards. It takes reason to figure out the reality.
Leibniz’s most devastating refutation of Locke is one he adopted from Plato. In his Meno dialogue, Plato made the most efficient refutation of slavery, two millennia ahead of his time. Socrates decides to see if a slave boy can solve a problem in geometry. The kid has no education whatsoever. Socrates only questions him, and never gives him answers. The slave boy eventually figures out how to double the area of a square (try it—it’s not so easy!) Socrates never gave him an answer. The scene showed that a recognition of proportion is innate, the ability to measure is innate, and most important, the power to reason is innate, to every human being.
We should not wonder that Leibniz used the example of a slave boy to refute Locke’s notion of the mind being a blank slate; for Locke’s notion is perfectly coherent with his role in fostering slavery.
That’s the History—Now the Lies
Liberal academics will go to astounding lengths to try to save Locke’s reputation.
Holly Brewer holds the Burke Chair of American History and is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland. In a September 2018 article for Aeon magazine she wrote:
Implicating Locke in the causes of slavery and colonialism has cast a shadow over Western liberalism, and indeed democracy itself.
Implicating? So, the future of “democracy itself” depends on whitewashing John Locke? His Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina called to avoid a too numerous democracy.
Locke has been labeled a hypocrite by some scholars for designing Carolina and then continuing to be associated with the venture after writing the famous indictment of slavery. While The Fundamental Constitutions contains an article establishing slavery, one can find no references to slavery in the detailed planning documents over which Locke had the most control. Thus, while Locke and Ashley Cooper anticipated that Carolina would have slaves, as did most other colonies, it is unlikely that they anticipated that it would become fundamentally dependent on slavery (i.e., a “slave society”) as later happened.
What? Didn’t anticipate? Later happened? They had 200 Barbadian “adventurers” and a ship ready to go, and the promise of land and money for any plantation owner who brought his slaves to Carolina, at the very time of the proposal in 1663. Their intention was to rapidly create a slave society, and they succeeded. It was already well underway in Barbados. Is Holly Brewer aware that by 1671 half of the population of Carolina was Barbadian, mostly planters and their slaves? How could she not be? Has her mind drawn a blank on the fact that Shaftesbury reorganized the RAC so that by 1680 it was shipping 5,000 slaves a year, and by 1700, led the world, shipping 20,000 a year, mostly to the American colonies?
On Locke’s authorship of The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, Brewer writes:
Locke was a secretary—he drafted a legal document as a lawyer drafts a will. He composed it for the eight men who owned the Carolinas (given to them as a reward by Charles II). These men desired “that the government of this province may be made most agreeable to the monarchy under which we live.” They sought to “avoid erecting a numerous democracy.” The principles it espoused—including hereditary nobility and slavery—both predated Locke’s involvement, and reflected the ideals of the owners. It is a deep error, therefore, to contend that Locke’s role in the Carolina constitutions should guide interpretation of his later work.
Excuse me? He was just following orders? For almost thirty years? Wasn’t that the argument made by leading Nazis at the Nuremberg Tribunal? We did not accept it then for those who committed horrific crimes against humanity, nor should we. The leading Nazis never apologized for their role in promoting mass murder. Neither did John Locke, for his role in reducing human beings to easily-disposed-of “property.” “Known or should have known” was the standard we applied at Nuremberg. John Locke knew the consequences of every bill he ever signed.
‘The Pursuit of Happiness’
The wording of the Declaration of Independence was changed from Locke’s “Life, Liberty, and Property” to Leibniz’ “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” most likely under the direction of Benjamin Franklin. That does not mean substituting a selfish notion of happiness for a selfish notion of property. Leibniz’ “happiness” could be stated in today’s terms as maximizing every citizen’s potential to contribute to breakthroughs that will benefit all of humanity. As President Kennedy identified it:
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade ... because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.
We did it, most of the world was proud and happy, and the Moon is no one’s property.
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