When the British abolished the slave trade in 1807, world financial markets and investors called it “econocide”.
Contrary to abolitionist claims about the economic superiority of free labor, the facts show that slave labor has always been more productive. It accounted for three centuries of New World settlement, expansion, and development. It also established the model for the factory assembly line, the first stage in globalization.
Slavery is Profitable
The slave trade itself returned about ten percent to its investors. When the British made it illegal in 1807, they led the world in plantation production. They abolished the trade, but concealed their inattention to slavery itself. The British Empire essentially owned the growing world markets for sugar and coffee that were being supplied by slaves in its Caribbean colonies. Following abolition of trade in 1807, about three million slaves Africans, one-quarter of the total ever exported, were still shipped off to the Americas.
Although serfdom and slavery gradually disappeared from Western Europe in the late Middle Ages, free labor was almost unknown in the rest of the world for all of human history. The word “slave” and all the words used for it in the languages of Western Europe derive from the Latin word sclavas, which means Slav.
Slavery’s Long History
Since about the end of the first Millennium, slavery in the Christian Mediterranean had been associated with Slavic victims from Eastern Europe, Russian, and Central Asia who were kidnapped and sold in Muslim and Christian markets. By 1490, the Latin sclavi negri was being applied to people stolen from Africa and exploited in the sugar-producing Atlantic islands.
By 1850, there were almost six million slaves laboring in the New World, equaling nearly one-third of all those held in Africa and Asia. The Civil War, Lincoln’s Emancipation Declaration, and the 13th Amendment put an end to slavery in the U.S. Brazil outlawed it in 1888. By then, more than one hundred years had passed since the first abolitionist societies were founded in London and Philadelphia. Without them, there would have been no Civil War.
By 1833, almost one and a half million abolitionist petition signers, of whom some thirty percent were women, managed to emancipate 800,000 slaves. Twenty-seven years later, they persuaded the South to secede and to declare war on the North.
The great achievements of the abolitionists provide a model for ridding the world of evil. Yet, slavery endures. The places of emancipated slaves were simply filled by “Coolies” from Asia and other indentured servants. The institution was resurrected in the Twentieth Century by the Soviets in their Gulags and by the Nazis in a Germany that, until Hitler came along, appeared to civilized and progressive. Today’s sex slaves serve to refute all claims about human moral progress.
- Davis, David Brion, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 1999
- Meltzer, Milton, Slavery: A World History, Cowles, New York, NY, 1971