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Negro Comrades of the Crown

Negro Comrades of the Crown: African Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation

Gerald Horne
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 365
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  • Book Info
    Negro Comrades of the Crown
    Book Description:

    While it is well known that more Africans fought on behalf of the British than with the successful patriots of the American Revolution, Gerald Horne reveals in his latest work of historical recovery that after 1776, Africans and African-Americans continued to collaborate with Great Britain against the United States in battles big and small until the Civil War. Many African Americans viewed Britain, an early advocate of abolitionism and emancipator of its own slaves, as a powerful ally in their resistance to slavery in the Americas. This allegiance was far-reaching, from the Caribbean to outposts in North America to Canada. In turn, the British welcomed and actively recruited both fugitive and free African Americans, arming them and employing them in military engagements throughout the Atlantic World, as the British sought to maintain a foothold in the Americas following the Revolution. In this path-breaking book, Horne rewrites the history of slave resistance by placing it for the first time in the context of military and diplomatic wrangling between Britain and the United States. Painstakingly researched and full of revelations, Negro Comrades of the Crown is among the first book-length studies to highlight the Atlantic origins of the Civil War, and the active role played by African Americans within these external factors that led to it.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-9050-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Negroes—“British in Their Hearts?”
    (pp. 1-16)

    It was mid-summer 1816 and Africans in Florida,¹ tensing for an epochal battle near the Apalachicola River, were well-armed. Among the hundreds gathered at what was called the “Negro Fort” were former slaves who had been trained by the British—a nation which only recently had fought a brutal war with the United States: the warriors also included escaped slaves from this young republic, along with a grouping of indigenes who too had unresolved grievances with Washington. Thanks to London, they had the ability to inflict severe pain on approaching U.S. troops: their weaponry included four twenty-four pound cannons, four...

  4. 1 “Huzzah for Bermuda!”
    (pp. 17-28)

    George Washington was alarmed. He had just heard of events in Haiti which portended a shock to the entire slave system—and heartrending losses for slaveholders.¹ It was a familiar tactic in the Americas² for colonizing powers to ally with the enslaved of competing powers³—to the detriment of the latter.⁴ Washington’s republic had just endured the mass discontent of the enslaved and it was foreseeable that the evolution of events in Hispaniola could spell trouble for slaveholders within the hemisphere. Thus, one scholar argues that the revolt against British rule occasioned the “largest slave revolt in the Americas.”⁵ According...

  5. 2 “Base Fools!”
    (pp. 29-42)

    Having quelled indigenous nations, imperial control of its territory and African dreams of freedom, the U.S.¹—particularly the South²—had become headstrong, wheezing with an overconfidence that was not entirely justifiable. Thus, not long after attaining independence, the new nation seemed poised to return to war with London,³ then in bitter conflict with Paris.⁴ It was heartening⁵ to London when in early 1797 their consul in Norfolk, Virginia, noticed that “hatred” toward his nation was decreasing. Nevertheless, he sighed, “the Party in favour of the French is still strong and numerous.”⁶

    The powerful Virginians actual or future presidents all: Jefferson,...

  6. 3 Can U.S. Negroes Commit Treason?
    (pp. 43-53)

    It was 1811 and Paul Cuffe, one of the republic’s most affluent men of color, was in Britain as war loomed with his homeland: yet he did not appear to be seized with the idea of rallying to the stars-and-stripes. Indeed, he continued to carry on a profitable trade with the British military establishment, which he appeared to justify because of the abolitionist work of the Royal Navy and—it is not unlikely that—his vessel bore the Union Jack. This trade did not cease with the declaration of war, which suggested that some in the republic would have deemed...

  7. 4 The Enslaved Torments the Slaveholder
    (pp. 54-65)

    Paul Jennings was stunned.

    Born in 1799 on the estate of President James Madison, he had risen to become a “body servant” of this diminutive, ill-tempered man, whose face, he confessed unashamedly, he “shaved . . . every other day for sixteen years.” As he recalled it, by the summer of 1814, “great alarm existed” because of the ill-conceived war that Madison had launched. The diminutive Madison, said Jennings, liked to be surrounded by “tall, strapping Negroes” (they were among the 100 he owned). But this curious homosocial predilection may have backfired when it turned out that this group was...

  8. 5 “A Powerful Negro Army”
    (pp. 66-77)

    Eliza Chotard Gould was worried.

    Of French descent and born in 1777, she had fled from revolutionary Hispaniola to New Orleans and by mid-December 1814, she was beset with the reason for her flight in the first place: armed Africans. Meanwhile, others in redcoats were “trying to instigate the Negroes to insurrection, as they had basely done [with] the savages [aiding their] massacre of helpless families.”

    “Our sleeping was [as] irregular as our eating,” Ms. Gould cried, and “we never went regularly to bed. We had all pieces of gold concealed about our persons in case we should have to...

  9. 6 The British, Africans, and Indigenes versus the U.S.
    (pp. 78-89)

    In mid-January 1819 Lord Castlereagh demanded that the U.S. minister, Richard Rush, make an “immediate” dash to his London abode, where Britain’s top diplomat was enduring a bout of gout. Rush was ushered into a dressing room where the man celebrated for bringing Napoleon to accountability was propped up on a couch. Yet the chilliness of that winter day may have been exceeded by the frostiness of Lord Castlereagh’s words as he upbraided Rush about the death of two British subjects in Florida. This was in the context of a war that, unbeknownst to the two men, came to be...

  10. 7 Revolutionary Implications
    (pp. 90-104)

    Charleston was astir.

    This South Carolina metropolis long had endured ideological currents flowing from the Caribbean and London. But what was occurring in 1822 was a slave conspiracy led by Denmark Vesey,¹ which was said to have been inspired by Haiti.² The rebels’ intent was to sail for Haiti based on a presumed promise that there they would receive protection. Vesey, a seafarer, had traveled widely and reputedly spoke fluent French. Some of the witnesses had the audacity to speak French at the trial, while the record revealed that “some white men” helped to fan the flames of insurrection. One...

  11. 8 Abolition of Private Property?
    (pp. 105-119)

    U.S. Consul Robert Harrison was worried, though frightened might be a better word. He had arrived in Jamaica at a nervous moment: a fierce rebellion had rocked the island in late 1831 and 1832. As a result, the cries in London for abolition were becoming ever more insistent. The number of antislavery societies in Britain multiplied sixfold from 1830 to 1831, which had given heart to Africans and was inspiring others to revolt.¹ Unrest in France near the same time created ripples of discontent in Martinique, then St. Lucia, with the enslaved seeking to immolate the plantations and their European...

  12. 9 Africans Flee from “Republicanism”
    (pp. 120-132)

    George Thompson was frightened.

    It was 1835 and this passionate British abolitionist had come to Salem, Massachusetts, to preach the antislavery gospel. On arrival, however, he was informed that a mob was searching for him. He fled—but the mob did not. More than 100 men collected in the street, hovering over the site where he had sat, demanding that he be handed over, crying out, “turn him out’ . . . turn out the Englishman,” “turn out the foreigner.” These hostile salutations were peppered with threats of extreme violence and stones were tossed at the home where he was...

  13. 10 London Sanctions Murder of U.S. Slaveholders?
    (pp. 133-147)

    The angry and well-armed African threatened to murder his white captor “if he would not take them to a British island,” so theCreole, a vessel containing scores of slaves, set sail immediately for Abaco, the Bahamas.¹

    Confirming that this derring-do was not spontaneous but planned, was the contention by the crew that one of the rebels had heard of the shipHermosa. When it recently ran aground at Abaco the Africans obtained their freedom, and thus that was exactly where the rebels wanted to go.² During the antebellum era,³ the very word “Abaco” was spine-tingling for U.S. shipmasters,⁴ for...

  14. 11 Britain to Forge a Haiti in Texas?
    (pp. 148-163)

    Ashbel Smith could barely contain himself.

    It was mid-1843 and this diplomat representing the so-called Republic of Texas was in London–not the friendliest climate for an emissary from a state founded on the principle of the enslavement of Africans. This Smith well knew, which was why he was complaining to soon-to-be U.S. Secretary of State John C. Calhoun about their mutual hostility to emancipation and the “great efforts” in London “to accomplish the abolition of slavery in Texas.” “I sincerely believe,” Smith declared, “that the ultimate purpose is to make Texas a refuge for runaway slaves from the United...

  15. 12 Declare War on Britain to Avert Civil War in the U.S.?
    (pp. 164-178)

    George W. Bush was not a fan of the United States of America.

    His father, Matthew Bush, may have been born in India, then brought to North America by a British shipping merchant before the 1776 revolt.¹ The younger Bush was born about 1790 in Pennsylvania and grew to be a formidable figure, six feet tall with broad shoulders, dark eyes, a Roman nose, and a heavy beard. He weighed around 180 pounds and was rugged in physique though not in disposition, as he was quite soft-spoken. He may have fought at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, but...

  16. 13 Canada Invades—or Civil War in the U.S.?
    (pp. 179-196)

    The men of African ancestry were born in the U.S., but as tension rose between the republic and the monarchy, the choice facing them was simple: as Civil War crept ever closer, imperiling the future of their homeland, they chose to enlist in the armed militia—of Her Majesty.

    They had fled to what is now British Columbia from San Francisco, chased away by racism and now, as Washington and London jousted over what amounted to southern Canada, they accepted the invitation of Sir James Douglas¹—also a man of color, who had made a special appeal to them—to...

  17. 14 A Paradise for U.S. Negroes in the British West Indies?
    (pp. 197-216)

    The Foreign Office was underwhelmed by the Emancipation Proclamation.

    Days after Lincoln’s words were unveiled, a “confidential” analysis found a “total lack of consistency in this measure,” as it freed the enslaved in areas where he had no control and allowed bondage to persist in areas where he did have control. Concern was expressed as to the “practical effect of declaring emancipation, not as an act of justice and benevolence” but as an “act of punishment and retaliation.” Wouldn’t that simply invite continuing retaliation by the slaveholders and their descendants against the (formerly) enslaved Africans and their descendants? Would it...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 217-344)
  19. Index
    (pp. 345-360)
  20. About the Author
    (pp. 361-361)