Even when the Marxian ideas arrived, there was a split; the earlier representatives of the Marxian philosophy in America agreed with the older Union movement in deprecating any entanglement with the abolition controversy. After all, abolition represented capital. The whole movement was based on mawkish sentimentality, and not on the demands of the workers, at least of the white workers. And so the early American Marxists simply gave up the idea of intruding the black worker into the socialist commonwealth at that time.
Because of the prominence of the city [Washington, D.C.], the abolition campaign was early concentrated upon slavery in the District, and gained partial triumph when the slave trade was abolished in 1850. In 1861, a bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia was introduced by Senator Wilson, and after much opposition from the Border States, it passed the Senate and the House in April, 1862, and was signed by President Lincoln, April 16. The result of this law made Washington a mecca for free Negroes, and in a single decade, the Negro population increased 200%. These Negroes had begun their own self-supported schools in 1807.
Many things show that in North Carolina land and capital were bidding for the black and white labor vote. Capital with universal suffrage outbid the landed interests. The landholders had one recourse, and that was to draw the color line and convince the native-born white voter that his interests lay with the planter-class and were opposed to those of the Northern interloper and the Negro. The boycott on the part of the planters against Negro labor, unless it voted right, was severe. When the legislature of 1868 adjourned, 88 of the Republican members signed a bitter address to the people, which was militant labor striking back:
"Did it ever occur to you, ye gentleman of property, education, and character—to you, ye men, and especially ye women, who never received anything form these colored people but services, kindness, and protection—did it never occur to you that these same people who are so very bad, will not be willing to sleep in the cold when your houses are denied them, merely because they will not vote as you do; that they may not be willing to starve, while they are willing to work for bread? Did it never occur to you that revenge which is sweet to you, may be sweet to them? Hear us, if nothing else you will hear, did it never occur to you that if you kill their children with hunger they will kill your children with fear? Did it never occur to you that if you good people maliciously determine that they shall have no shelter, they may determine that you shall have no shelter?
"And now, be it remembered that in the late election there were more than twenty thousand majority of the freemen in North Carolina who voted in opposition to the Democratic party. Will it be safe for the landholders, householders, and meatholders to attempt to kick in to disgrace and starve to death twenty thousand majority of the freemen in this state?"
The ensuing turmoil in Florida cannot be understood unless one keeps carefully in mind just what was taking place. The planters were encouraging lawlessness and inciting the Negroes to make extravagant demands for equality in order to embarrass the carpetbaggers and excite the poor whites. The carpetbaggers and Northern capitalists were seeking to get rid of [Harrison] Reed, and bribing white and black members of the legislature in order to get through special legislation, which would help and uplift the masses; Reed was playing capital, labor and planters against each other, and in the midst of these contradictory and opposing forces, the state staggered on. The Governor informed the legislature that the past seven years of anarchy and insurrection had left nothing in the treasury, with $600,000 of debts and a large amount repudiated. The former inadequate school fund had been robbed of its last dollar to aid the Confederate forces. The railroad system, half completed, was bankrupt, the revenue laws inadequate, no schools or school systems, no benevolent institutions, no almshouses, penitentiaries, and scarcely a jail.
The economic boom of Georgia was evident. The value of total property rose steadily from 191 million in 1868 to 234 million in 1871. By 1870, the cotton crop of Georgia had surpassed the largest crop raised under slavery; a proof that Negro labor had not been demoralized by emancipation. Manufactures increased during 1860–1870, and the lumber business greatly increased. There had been 643 miles of railroad in 1850, and 1,420 in 1860. By 1870, this had increased to 1,845 miles and 2,160 in 1872.
This business and industrial prosperity of Georgia was largely at the expense of the laboring classes. The educational system was started, but it received little support. Instead of preventing crime, crime was deliberately increased by the convict lease system. The poor, the blind, and the insane were neglected, and although peasant-farmers, because of the high price of produce, were able to buy some land, there was no effort to place large numbers of small owners on their own farms. There was no real labor legislation.
Africa's being drawn into the orbit of Western Europe speeded up the latter's technological development. For example, the evolution of European shipbuilding from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century was a logical consequence of their monopoly of sea commerce in that period. During that time, the North Africans were bottled up in the Mediterranean, and although it was from them that Europeans initially borrowed a great deal of nautical instrumentation, the North Africans made no further worthwhile advances. Where the original European advantage was not sufficient to assure supremacy, they deliberately undermined other people's efforts. The Indian navy, for instance, suffered from the rigid enforcement of the English Navigation Laws. Yet the expenses involved in building new and better European ships were met from the profits of overseas trade with India and Africa. The Dutch were pioneers in improving upon the caravels which took the Spanish and Portuguese out across the Atlantic, and the successive Dutch trading companies operating in Asia, Africa, and America were the ones responsible for experimentation. By the eighteenth century, the British were using Dutch know-how as a basis for surpassing the Dutch themselves, and the Atlantic was their laboratory. It used to be said that the slave trade was a training ground for British seamen. It is probably more significant to note that the Atlantic trade was the stimulator of consistent advances in naval technology.
Many guilty consciences have been created by the slave trade. Europeans know that they carried on the slave trade, and Africans are aware that the trade would have been impossible if certain Africans did not cooperate with the slave ships. To ease their guilty consciences, Europeans try to throw the major responsibility for the slave trade on to the Africans. One European author of a book on the slave trade (appropriately entitled Sins of Our Fathers) explained how many other white people urged him to state that the trade was the responsibility of African chiefs and that Europeans merely turned up to but the captives—as though without European demand there would have been captives sitting on the beach by the millions! Issues such as those are not the principal concern of this study, but they can be correctly approached only after understanding that Europe became the center of a world-wide system and that it was European capitalism which set slavery and the Atlantic slave trade in motion.
It is often said for the colonial period that vertical political divisions in Africa made conquest easy. This is even truer of the way that Africa succumbed to the slave trade. National unification was a product of mature feudalism and of capitalism. Inside Europe, there were far fewer political divisions than in Africa, where communalism meant political fragmentation, with the family as the nucleus, and there were only a few states that had real territorial solidity. Furthermore, when on European nation challenged another obtain captives from an African ruler, Europe benefited from whichever of the two nations won the conflict. Any European trader could arrive on the coast of West Africa and exploit the political differences he found there. For example, in the small territory that the Portuguese later claimed as Guinea-Bissau, there were more than a dozen ethnic groups. It was so easy to set one off against another that Europeans called it a "slave-trader's paradise."
Obviously, if Europe could tell Africans what to export, that was an expression of European power. However, it would be a mistake to believe that it was an overwhelming military power. Europeans found it impossible to conquer Africans during the early centuries of trade, except in isolated spots on the coast. European power resided in their system of production, which was at a somewhat higher level than Africa's at that time. European society was leaving feudalism and was moving towards capitalism; African society was then entering a phase comparable to feudalism.
From the beginning, Europe assumed the power to make decisions within the international trading system. An excellent illustration of that is the fact that the so-called international law which governed the conduct of nations on the high seas was nothing else but European law. Africans did not participate in its making, and in many instances, African people were simply the victims, for the law recognized them only as transportable merchandise. If the African slave was thrown overboard at sea, the only legal problem that arose was whether or not the slave ship could claim compensation fro the insurers! Above all, European decision-making power was exercised in selecting what Africa should export—in accordance with European needs.