Chapter(SugarNexus)

Chapter(SugarNexus) - CHAPTER FOUR SWEET NEXUS: SUGAR AND...

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Unformatted text preview: CHAPTER FOUR SWEET NEXUS: SUGAR AND THE ORIGINS OF THE MODERN WORLD (1600—1800) THE PROBLEM It will be no exaggeration to put the tale and toll of the Slave Trade as twenty mil— lion Africans, of which two—thirds are to be charged against sugar. —N0el Deerr1 I pity them greatly, but I must be mum, For how could we do without sugar and rum? Especially sugar, so needful we see. What, give up our desserts, our coffee and tea? —-William Cowper, (173171800), “Poor Africans” We live in a world of commodities. Virtually every tool we use, every— 1. Noel Deerr, The History of Sugar (London: Chapman & Hall, 1949), quoted in L. A. G. Strong, The Story of Sugar (London: Weiden- feld & Nicolson, 1954), pl 102. thing we eat, every piece of material we use to clothe or house ourselves has been produced for us by people we will never know, often by people who are very distant from us geo- graphically and culturally. There is no more concrete way to understand our intimate connection to the global mar- ket than by following back to its point of origin every component of every item we touch or consume each day: soap, clothing, gasoline, a banana, a candy bar, a compact disk, the book you are holding in your hand. That we do not stop to think about and wonder at the processes that make this global nexus of commodities possible shows how thoroughly integrated we are in a profit—based international market in which people produce what they do not consume, and consume what they do not produce. Even in the poorest parts of the world, where hundreds of millions of people continue to supply their own basic daily needs, the global market is ever present. [92] The exchange of commodities through long—distance trade is an an- cient part of the human experience. But in most times and places, the goods that passed along these routes were so valuable that they could be consumed only rarely; usually their use was restricted to the elites of hier— archical societies. Only in the nine- teenth and twentieth centuries, beginning in the industrialized parts of the world, did mass consumption of commodities produced for a global market become commonplace. But the international political and economic structures that guided that develop— ment had their origins somewhat ear— lier, in the mercantilist economic systems of the seventeenth and eight- eenth centuries. Historians have therefore focused on the early modern period as a key to understanding the development of the commodity—based capitalist world economy. Some historians of the early modern “world system” have focused on the division between areas of accumula— tion and areas of exploitation. Those national economies that managed to combine commercial capitalism with military expansion and colonial con— quest (e.g., England, France, and Holland) accumulated capital by ex— ploiting the land, labor, and natural resources of other societies. In this View, northwestern Europe became the “core” of a modern world econ- omy, building its accumulation of wealth at the expense of the "periph- ery” in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. If we use the entire world system as our unit of analysis, however, we tend to lose sight of the role of individuals in this story and of the social and cul- tural changes that accompanied the economic transformation. Some histo- rians have found that following the story of a single commodity is a way to keep the larger economic picture in View while also involving a broader range of historical factors. Particular attention has been paid to what Ken- neth Pomeranz and Steven Topik refer to as “the economic culture of drugs”: The fact is that historically, goods con- sidered drugs, that is, products in— gested, smoked, sniffed or drunk (to produce an altered state of being, have been central to exchange and produc— tion. . . . In the seventeenth century af- fluent people all over the world began to drink, smoke and eat exotic plants that came from long distances. Coffee, tea, cocoa, tobacco and sugar all became popular at roughly the same time. . .. Before long, most of the drug foods were being produced in new, distant parts of the world that Europeans had colonized. . . . Colonial empires were built on the foundation of drug tradest2 Today we would not classify a candy bar or a cup of sweetened coffee as a “drug” product, but the point is still a good one: A growing taste for rare and stimulating commodities had a transformative effect on the world and its people. In this chapter we focus on the role of sugar in the development of the modern world economy, with an em— phasis on Great Britain in the seven— 2‘ Kenneth Pomeranz and Steven Topik, The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture, and the Wurer Economy, 1400 to the Present (London: M. E. Sharpe, 1999), pp- 77478- [93] W Ema} Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins of the 7 Modern World (1600—18oo) teenth and eighteenth centuries. Your task will be to use the documents provided to follow the “trail” of sugar backward from the consumer, through stages of trade and manufacture, to the growing of the cane itself, and fi— nally to the original supply of labor on which the great sugar enterprises of BACKGROUND The story of sugar takes us from South Asia to the Caribbean. Greek con- querors encountered sugar in north- western India in the fourth century B.C.E., but it remained little more than a vague rumor to ancient Europeans, who called it "honey from reeds.” Sugar was better known in China, but it was only with the Muslim expan— sion after the seventh century that its global importance began. With the rise and expansion of Islam came the closer integration of the trade worlds of the Indian Ocean and the Mediter— ranean. Sugar was one of the luxury goods introduced to the markets of Western Asia and Europe in the later Middle Ages; plantations were estab— lished near the Persian Gulf and on Mediterranean islands such as Cyprus and Sicily. Even at this early stage, we can identify four aspects of cane sugar production that would be of enduring importance. First, sugar cane grows best in hot, moist areas. Second, sugar production is exceptionally labor- intensive, requiring labor to be avail— able year round. Third, sugar is this era were built. In the process, you will learn something about how and why European capital, American land, and African labor came to be com- bined in a single international eco— nomic enterprise meant to satisfy what is still in today’s world a seem- ingly insatiable demand for sweets. commercially viable only when it is produced on a relatively large scale. Fourth, production of sugar for the market requires an initial stage of pro— cessing, making it, at least partially, an industrial enterprise. For all of these reasons, the plan- tation was the characteristic form of sugar production even before it spread to the New World. Large—scale organization, the massed use of co— erced labor, and significant capital in— vestment set sugar production apart in a world where most agricultural goods were produced on a relatively small scale by peasant farmers. Fi- nally, since sugar can in no way es- tablish itself as a central source of carbohydrates in the human diet, it is a crop with very limited potential for local consumption. Sugar by its nature requires export outlets if it is to flourish. Before the Crusades, sugar was vir- tually unknown in Europe, except perhaps as a very rare medical sub- stance. Increasing contact with the eastern Mediterranean made sugar, while still very exotic, a bit more familiar. The Venetians established themselves as the principal intermedi- aries in the sugar trade between areas [94] of production in and around the Mediterranean and consumers else— where in Europe. Christian conquests in the Mediterranean in the late me- dieval period both stimulated de- mand for sugar and for the first time put Europeans in control of produc- tion. By the fifteenth century, sugar was being grown in southern Spain and in Portugal. European mariners were therefore quite familiar with the crop as they began the ocean voyages that would ultimately lead to the circumnavigation of Africa and, of course, the creation of a transoceanic connection with the Americas. The beginnings of Atlantic sugar production were modest. Columbus had brought sugar cane to Hispaniola on his second voyage, but because of a shortage of manual labor to work the crop, little was produced at first. The most important initiatives in the At- lantic sugar complex were taken by the Portuguese, who brought the sugar plantation economy from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, to is— lands like Sao Tome. There they used enslaved African labor, in which they had begun to trade in the late 14005, to work the crop. Black labor, white sugar: that connection had now been made. From the Atlantic islands, the slave—based sugar complex made its way to Brazil, the dominant producer of the sixteenth century, and then to the islands of the Caribbean. As the Dutch, British, and French displaced the Spanish and Portuguese as the dominant economic actors in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they came to control what had now become an integrated sugar produc— tion system, drawing together the re- sources of three continents in a single Atlantic economy. The world econ- omy, and the Western diet, would never be the same. The fantastic growth of sugar pro— duction in the New World in the six— teenth through eighteenth centuries, the fortunes that were made and the misery that was endured, would not have been possible without the seem— ingly infinite demand for sugar (and associated products like molasses and rum) that developed in Europe. At first, limited supplies meant that only the elite could have their demand for sugar from the New World satisfied. Queen Elizabeth I of England was no— toriously fond of sweet foods, and the tooth decay she suffered as a result was an early sign that sugar could be in some ways unhealthy. But even royal consumption was very limited by later standards, and sugar was still thought of primarily as a medicine or a spice, to be used in very small quantities. It was not until the Restoration of the Stuart line in Eng- land in 1660, coinciding with a rise in Caribbean production, that the use of sugar spread more widely among the aristocracy and the emerging mid- dle class of merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans. In the eighteenth century, when sugar consumption spread to the lower classes and the use of sugar as a sweetener of newly popular bever- ages (coffee, cocoa, tea) became com— mon, the transition from elite luxury to mass commodity was completed. The trend began in the coffeehouses frequented by middle—class London- ers in the late 1600s, but it was the in- troduction of tea from Asia and its [95] sew Chapter 4 Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins of the Modern World (16004800) association with sugar that put Eng— land at the forefront of world con- sumption. The East India Company became a powerful vested interest in British society, and tea was the key to its success. By the late eighteenth cen— tury, sweetened tea was essential to )he diet of all classes of British society. The implications were immense. Though some social commentators scorned the poor for wasting their money on sugared tea, it seems that the poor were making a logical choice given the economic circumstances of the time. While a switch from an after— noon refreshment of beer to one of sweetened tea might seem healthy, the fact is that the traditional beer was much more nutritious. Sugar provides quick calories, but nothing else. Sweetened tea provided the illusion of a hot meal when there was no time or money to fix a proper one, and this made a diet of plain bread seem more palatable. In what was becoming one of the most powerful nations in the world, dominant in global commerce and experiencing the first stirrings of the industrial revolution, the growth of tea and sugar consumption among the average citizens showed not their wealth but their poverty and lack of adequate nourishment. In the period when the sugar trade rose to predominance, the British and the French, increasingly combative, saw trade as a zero-sum game in which economics mirrored political and military competition. The estab— lishment of colonies and trade mo- nopolies backed by military force was therefore characteristic of the so-called triangular trade. In fact, there were really two different but related "trian- gles” involved in the Atlantic trade. The first sent African slaves to New World plantations, tropical commodi- ties such as sugar and tobacco from the Americas to Europe, and finished goods like iron and cloth from Europe to Africa. The second triangle, frowned upon by British authorities, sent rum from New England to Africa, slaves to the West Indies, and mo- lasses back to New England (from which more rum could be manufac— " tured.) Because rum distillers in Boston were getting their sugar duty free, the British government. at- tempted to use the Navigation Acts to restrain unauthorized commerce be- tween the North American colonies and the West Indies, creating one of the tensions that would lead to the American Revolution. Powerful vested interests became associated with sugar, as planters, traders, and manu- facturers (as well as the politicians they patronized) tried to protect their economic interests. The plantations themselves, as both consumers of labor and providers of commodities, were the focal point of this system. There was some variation in how plantations were organized; the British, for example, preferred to feed their slaves, whereas the Por— tuguese more commonly had the slaves provide their own sustenance from small plots given them for that purpose. Nevertheless, the organiza- tion of sugar plantations, and the tech- nology on which they ran, was very consistent throughout this period. On a typical Caribbean plantation, a "great house” was occupied by the owner and his family, or stood empty waiting for their occasional arrival. [96] On the other end of the social scale, African slaves planted, weeded, and harvested the cane. It was nasty and brutal work. As difficult as it is to cut sugar by hand, involving as it does the risk of having your limbs cut by the tough and fibrous cane, the most diffi- cult tasks were probably planting the cane and weeding the fields, an end— less stooping drudgery These two extremes of the social and economic life of the plantation, master and field slave, were common to all commodity—producing slave economies of the period. What set sugar apart was its character as an agro-industrial enterprise. Agriculture, however the labor system is organ- ized, usually follows a seasonal pat- tern that allows for at least some “down time.” The commercial pro— duction of sugar, however, was organ— ized more like a modern factory, where profitable operation requires that the assembly line is always rolling and raw materials are con- stantly at hand. The reason was that cane sugar was much too bulky to be a profitable export. The initial stages of processing had to take place on or very near the plantation. Sugar cane had to be planted year round, so that THE MET OD The sources in this chapter approach the topic of sugar from a variety of dif— ferent angles. Your ultimate goal is to better understand the "commodity chain" that connects consumers, mer- it could be harvested year round, so that the complex machinery that crushed the juice from the cane and began the initial processing could be constantly employed. In this way, early modern sugar production antici— pated later industrial patterns, Sugar was also at the cutting edge of an emerging global economic sys- tem. While the initial processing of cane into sugar took place in Brazil or the West Indies, the final stage of man- ufacture, in which the most value was added to the product, was completed in Europe or North America, This pat- tern brings to mind "core—periphery” economic relationships, in which the production of raw materials or of commodities that had been partially processed to a stage where they could be profitably transported (e.g., rough brown sugar or molasses) was charac— teristic of the economic periphery. The most profitable stages in the commod— ity cycle, such as the refining of pure white sugar, packaging, and retail— ing, took place in the more developed core. In spite of the early appearance of factory production in the West In— dies, therefore, the profits from sugar were highly concentrated not there but in Europe. chants, manufacturers, organizers of production, and laborers into a single social and economic system. Each source can be thought of as describing one or more links in this chain. An- other important set of questions has to do with how the participants in this nexus of sugar themselves regarded the [97] EMethod Chapter 4 Sweet Nexus: Origins of the Modern World 7 (1 600—1800) economic, social, and political impli— cations of the system. Keep the follow- ing questions in mind as you read: 0 If the author of the source mentions sugar in a positive way, what does he consider to be the benefits of sugar consumption, exchange, or production? Make note of all the positive elements of sugar men- tioned in these documents. 0 Are any negative aspects of sugar consumption; exchange, or produc- tion mentioned? How do the au— 'thors of theSe pieces include (or exclude) information about slavery in their observations? What are the different effects of sugar on Eng— land, the West Indies, and Africa? 0 If the subject of slavery is men- tioned, is it treated more as an eco— nomic or as a moral issue? If the author thinks it necessary to justify slavery, how does he do so? If the source indicates opposition to slav— ery, what are the grounds for that opposition? . Taken together, how do these sources represent the economic, so— cial, and political consequences of sugar in a trans-Atlantic context? In the following paragraphs, some background is given for each source. You will want to refer back to this sec- tion when reading the evidence Source 1 is from an essay written in 1711 by the well-known essayist Joseph Addison for The Spectator, per- haps the most prominent British jour- nal of its day. Addison’s essay describes the London Exchange as a meeting place where both commodi- ties and cultures were brought to- gether, and sets a context for the documents that follow. While sugar itself is mentioned only briefly (in connection with preserved fruit and tea), this document helps us to un— derstand London’s emerging role in world trade in the eighteenth century and the increasingly global nature of British consumption patterns at that time. The accent is also on the positive in Source 2. A Vindication of Sugars against the charge of Dr. Willis, other physicians, and common prejudices, dedi- cated to the/ladies was written in 1715 by Dr. Frederick Slare, a prominent member of the College of Physicians. While Slare had a very positive atti- tude toward the increasing consump- tion of sugar in England, not everyone did. The Dr. Willis to whom the title refers had published a well-regarded medical encyclopedia in 1685. In that book, Willis connected increasing sugar consumption with declining health. He wrote: I so much disapprove things preserved, or very much seasoned with sugar, that I judge the invention of it and its im- moderate use to have very much con- tributed to the vast increase of the scurvy in this late age. . . . A certain fa- mous author had laid the cause of the English consumption [tuberculosis] on the immoderate use of sugar amongst our countrymen.3 3. Dr, Thomas Willis, The London Practice of Physick: Or the whole practical part of Physick con- tained in the work of Dr. Willis (London: Thomas Basset and William Crooke, 1685). [98] In the thirty years between Willis’s warnings and Slate’s response, sugar consumption in England had in- creased dramatically. Slare’s Vindica- tion goes beyond the medical debate to show the importance that sugar had attained in the daily life of the English. The drawing by E. T. Parris repro— duced as Source 3 shows the end of that process in the mid—nineteenth- century, when the English were the great sugar consumers of the world. His drawing of a near-empty sugar, barrel in front of a grocer’s shop has f ’ much totell us about English attitudes toward sugar consumption by that 1 time. Another difference between 1685 and 1715 was that by the latter date sugar had created additional power— ful vested interests in British society and politics. Source 4 is a letter to a member of Parliament in 174 5 from an individual who was lobbying politi— cians on behalf of sugar interests. The question had to do with how much the British government should tax sugar at the point of its arrival in Eng- land, i.e., how high the “duties” should be. The huge profits that were generated by the sugar industry made a tempting target for a government that was trying to raise revenue to fight its increasingly expensive wars with France. This author warns that raising the tax would do more harm than good, and in the course of his ar— gument shows that sugar had become closely tied up with economic, politi- cal, and military policies by the mid— eighteenth century. Source 5 gives a visual sense of how a late-eighteenth-century Englishman conceptualized the economic rela— tionship between three continents. “Europe Supported by Africa and America," published in 1796 by the great poet and graphic artist William Blake, can perhaps best be read in conjunction with this short passage taken from a description of the French sugar islands from approximately the same period: I do not know if coffee and sugar are es- sential to the happiness of Europe, but I know well that these two products have accounted for the unhappiness of two great regions of the world: America has been depopulated so as to have land on which to plant them; Africa has been de- populated so as to have the people to cultivate them.4 William Blake saw himself as a prophet using his art to restore ancient moral virtues to Britain, an attitude that informs this engraving. Source 6 moves us away from Eng— lish consumption patterns and trade policies and focuses our attention on where and how this commodity was produced. These statistics show the total number of slaves imported into the British West Indies (Barbados, Ja- maica, and the Leeward Islands) be- tween 1640 and 1700, as well as the total black population of each of these 4. I, H, Bernardin de Saint Pierre, Voyage to the Isle de France, the Isle Lie Bourbon, the Cape of Good Hope, with New Observations on Nature and Mankind by an Oflicer of the King (1773), cited in Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York: Penguin, 1 98 5), trontispiece. [99] The Method 7 i fighter 4 Tweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins of the Modern War? (1 1500—18—00) areas in 1670, 1680, and 1713. You should consider what these statistics tell us about the demographics of slav— ery. When interpreting these numbers, remember this simple statement about African slaves in the Caribbean from historian Patrick Manning: "Most of the slaves died early and without progeny.”5 Source 7 takes us more directly into the world of sugar production. Richard Ligon’s True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes (1673) is a fas— cinating account of all aspects of sugar production on Barbados in the late seventeenth century, when that island was just establishing itself as a princi- pal supplier of the expanding British market. Ligon was himself a sugar planter, and his book shows us both the early establishment of sugar in the British West Indies and its develop— ment into one of the great sources of wealth for the British Empire. Ligon gives us a close—up look at the com- plex, time-sensitive organization of labor and machinery required to pro- duce sugar for profit, as well as a view of the "Masters, Servants, and Slaves” who made up plantation society. The two pictures that make up Source 8 are taken from William Clark’s Ten Views of Antigua (1823). While these representations were made more than a century and a half after Ligon described the process of sugar production on Barbados, we can still correlate the two sources, since no fundamental changes had taken place 5. Patrick Manning, “Migrations of Africans to the Americas: The Impact on Africans, Africa and the World," The History Teacher, 26 (May 1993» p- 295‘ in that time. These pictures both illus— trate the world that Ligon describes and give us a chance to see how Eng- lish artists presented that reality to their audiences. Source 9 is also a visual one, but it takes us in a different direction. In the late eighteenth century there was a growing abolitionist movement in Eng— land. We can see the connection that some abolitionists made with sugar when they organized themselves into an Anti-Saccharite Society. Here we see an advertisement appealing to that market from a maker of sugar bowls for the English table. Finally, Source 10 gives us an African perspective. The Life of Olaa— dah Equiano, first published in 1789, is one of the most important slave narra— tives available to us. At that time, Equiano was forty-four years old, liv- ing in England, and playing an active role in the abolitionist movement. The story tells of his youth in Africa (he was from an Ibo-speaking part of what is now eastern Nigeria), his kid- napping and transportation to the coastal slave market, and his experi— ence of the horrors of the terrible Mid- dle Passage. He landed at Barbados, where his most likely fate was to work (and die) on a sugar plantation. Things turned out very differently for Equiano, however. Through a combi— nation of intelligence, fortitude, and some very good luck, he managed to avoid the harsher forms of bondage associated with plantation work. In- stead, he served his master on a ship, and eventually managed to save enough money through private trad- ing on the side to buy his own free- dom. His narrative reminds us that [100] the combination of forces necessary to produce sugar on a commercial scale in the eighteenth century included African children having nets thrown over their heads and being carried lies forever. If you read the whole book, however, you will find that Equiano’s narrative also suggests that, even under the worst possible condi— tions, human creativity and ingenuity away from their homes and fami- can flourish. THE EVlDENCE Source 1 from Iaseph Addison, The Spectator, no. 69, May 19, 1711, reprinted in The Specta- tor, by Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and others, ed. with notes by Donald P. Bond (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 196 5), pp. 292~296. 1. From Joseph Addison, Essay in The Spectator, 1711 There is no Place in the town I so much love to frequent as the Royal—Exchange. It gives me secret satisfaction, and, in some measure, gratifies my Vanity, as I am an Englishman, to see so rich an Assembly of Country-men and Foreigners con- sulting together . . . and making this Metropolis a kind of Emporium for the whole Earth. . . . I have often been pleased to hear Disputes adjusted between an inhabitant of japan and an Alderman of London, or to see a subject of the Great Mogul entering into a League with one of the Czar of Mascooy. . . . Sometimes I am justled among a Body of Armenians: Sometimes I am lost in a Crowd of Iews. . . . I am a Dane, Swede, or French—Man at different times, or rather fancy my self like the old Philosopher, who upon being asked what Country-man he was, replied, That he was a Citizen of the World. . . . Nature seems to have taken a particular Care to disseminate her Blessings among the different Regions of the World. . . that the Natives of the several Parts of the Globe might have a kind of Dependence upon one another, and be united together by their common Interest. Almost every Degree produces some— thing peculiar to it. The Food often grows in one Country, and the Sauce in an- other. The Fruits of Portugal are corrected by the Products of Barbadoes: The Infusion of a China Plant sweetened with the Pith of an Indian Cane. . . . Our ships are laden with the Harvest of every Climate. . . . Our Morning’s- Draught comes to us from the remotest Corners of the Earth: We repair our Bod— ies by the Drugs of America, and repose ourselves under Indian canopies. My Friend Sir Andrew calls the Vineyards of France our Gardens . . . the Persians our Silk—Weavers, and the Chinese our potters. Nature indeed furnishes us with the bare Necessities of Life, but Traffick gives us a great Variety of what is Useful, [101] The Evidence Chapter 47 Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Qrz‘gins of L118 Modern World T (16oo~18oo) and at the same time supplies us with everything that is Convenient and Orna— mental. . . . For these Reasons there are not more useful Members in a Commonwealth than Merchants. They knit Mankind together in a mutual Intercourse of good Offices, distribute the Gifts of Nature, find Work for the Poor, add Wealth to the Rich, and Magnificence to the Great. . . . Trade, without enlarging the British territories, has given us a kind of addi— tional Empire: It has multiplied the number of the Rich, made our Landed Es- tates infinitely more Valuable than they were formerly, and added to them an Accession of other Estates as Valuable as the Lands themselves. Source 2 from Frederick Share, A Vindication of Sugars against the charge of Dr. Willis, other physicians, and common prejudices, dedicated to the ladies (London: Timothy Goad— win, 1715). 2. Frederick Slare Defends Sugar, 1715 The making an apology for SUGAR might seem either needless or impertinent, especially in England, where the general use of it does so much commend and justify its goodness. But having met with great opponents to so useful a bless— ing, and finding not only the mouths of many opened to defame and cry down, but their pens also employed to blacken and calumniate the noble subject of this discourse, even at the same time they are eating and drinking it; this makes it re- quire and justly deserve a vindication. To you, Ladies, on several accounts I address this, my appeal, in vindication of injured and defamed SUGAR. Nature, who has given you more accurate and refined palates, had made you more competent judges of taste; as not being de— bauched by sour or uncouth wines, or drams, or offensive smoke, or the more sordid juice of the Indian . . . tobacco; or vitiated by salt and sour pickles, too much to the delight of our coarser sex. . . . I have frequently commended the ladies’ well chosen morning repasts, called breakfasts, as consisting of good materials; namely, bread, butter, milk, water and sugar; chocolate and tea are also endowed with uncommon virtues, when warily and discretely used. Nor do I decry and condemn coffee . . . especially where they join with it a quantity of fine sugar. Out of respect to the fair sex, especially those that love their beauty, or fine proportions, as well, if not better than their lives, I shall suggest one caveat, or caution, to those that are inclining to be too fat: namely, that sugar being so very high a nourisher may dispose them to be fatter than they desire to be, who are afraid of their fine shapes; but then it makes them amends by supplying a very wholesome and goodly countenance, and sweeten peevish and cross humors, where they unhappily prevail. The West Indian merchant, who loads his ships with this sweet treasure, will [102] certainly be pleased with this defense made in the behalf of sweet Indian Cane. By this commodity have numbers of persons, of inconsiderable estates, raised plantations, and from thence have gained such wealth as to return to their na— tive country very rich, and have purchased, and do daily purchase great estates. The grocer, who retails what the merchant furnishes by wholesale, is also con— cerned for the credit and good name of his defamed and scandalized goods, out of which he has also made his fortune, his family rich and wealthy. In short, there is no family throughout the kingdom but would make use of it, if they can get it, and would look on it as a matter of great complaint and a grievance to be debarred the use of it. . . . There has been a great and popular outcry against sugar, as if it contained in it a secret acid, or some dangerous sharpness which causes scurveys, consump- tions, and other dreaded distempers. The design of this discourse is to vindicate sugar from such an undeserved and unjust censure. . . . I have heard many ladies of the better rank, who read books of some learned persons, condemn sugar, and have denied their poor babes very injuriously. . . . But I have a strong . . . argument to recommend the use of sugar to infants, of which to defraud them is a very cruel thing, if not a crying sin. The argument I bring from nature’s first . . . intended food for children so soon as they are born, which is that fine juice or liquor prepared in the mother’s breasts . . . of a fine, delicate sweet taste. This sweet is somewhat analogous, or a taste agreeable to sugar. . . . Is it not therefore reasonable to conclude that this excellent and pleas— ant sweet, which imitates our first and most natural food and nutriment, should be with praises embraced and used? If we but examine the preserving quality of sugar, how it prevents many cor- ruptible and perishing fruits and juices for months, such as will not keep 24 hours from turning sour . . . this both shows the great use, as well as the healthy and salubrious quality of sugar. . . . I have also inquired of such as have lived in the Indies and have seen sugar made in their own work house, to inform myself what property the sugar had in its primitive juice, which they told me was pleasant and wholesome; and that the worst of the scum and sediment would fatten hogs, and that the scum or sediment of the second boiling was given the slaves for food. . . . I will set down an experiment I had from a friend. He was a little lean man who used to drink much wine in the company of strong drinkers. I asked him how he was able to bear it? He told me that he received much damage in his health, and was apt to be fuddled before he used to dissolve sugar in his wine, from that time he was never sick, nor inflamed, nor fuddled with wine. I do declare that I cannot charge sugar with one ail or injury that it ever brought upon me. . . .I am, God be praised, free from any disease, have no symptoms of scurvy or consumption, and though near Sixty—seven yet few will allow of it by my countenance or activity that I present that age; notwithstand- ing my having indulged myself in such quantities of sugar. I have lived to bury [103] W Chapter 4 Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins of the k Modern World (1 60071800)7 above fourscore fellows of the College of Physicians that were my seniors since my first admission, and a vast number that were my juniors; many of this num- ber were bitter enemies to that most delicious and curious preparation, fine sugar. . . . I may justly attribute a great deal of the healthful constitution which I now enjoy to the nourishing virtue of sugar. Source 3 from L, A. G. Strong, The Story of Sugar (London: Weidenfeld {a Nicnlson, 1954). Photo: Ceritrefar the Study of Cartoons and Caricature, University ochnt, Canterbury. 3. E. T. Parris Cartoon Showing English Attitudes Toward Sugar Consumption Source 4 from A Letter to a Member of Parliament, Concerning the Importance of our Sugar-Colonies to Great Britain, by a Gentleman, who resided many Years in the Island of Jamaica (London: ]. Taylor, 1745), 4. A Letter to a Member of Parliament, 1745 Sir, You will remember, that when I had the pleasure of your company, One evening last week, the subject of our conversation was chiefly about the laying on an Additional Duty upon SUGAR, which I told you would be a great hard— ship on the sugar planter in the West Indies, and very little if any benefit to the revenue, whilst you were of a different opinion . . . you desired me to commit my arguments to writing. I come now to answer your request, and for the sake of method, will lay out the reasons and arguments that I have to advance on the subject, under three principal heads: First, In the first place, I will endeavour to convince you, that whatever addi— tional duty shall be laid on sugar, it will be at the cost of the sugar planter, at least for some years. Secondly, I shall show, that such an additional duty will be an oppression and discouragement and an unequal load upon our sugar colonies at this juncture especially, and will render abortive the very scheme itself which is intended by it, of advancing the revenue. And Thirdly, I shall set forth the great advantages that this nation receives from the sugar colonies, and especially from the island of Jamaica, and the great ad- vantages that it will continue to receive, if due encouragement be given to the sugar planter. The principal of our home manufactures which are taxed are leather, soap, candles, salt, malt, beer, ale and spirits. . . . The commodities are such as people can’t live without . . . and every family in the parish is an immediate purchaser from the manufacturer. Now the case of the sugar planter is, that he is at a prodigious distance from the market, does not know what the consumption may be, nor what quantity of sugar may be sent from the other islands, and being already in debt, as the greatest number of the sugar planters are, and having already established his sugar works . . . he must be ruined if those are not kept employed, and he can have no other way to employ them but in making sugar, and makes as much as he can, and sends it to market, upon distant hopes it will fetch a price in pro- portion to the expense and trouble he hath been at, and when it is at market he must sell it for what the sugar baker and grocer will please to give him. After that he hath been at the charge of making it, and at the expense of the extraordinary high freight and insurance, and the duty, and many contingent charges . . . and it being a heavy wasting perishable commodity, and the owner in debt, the factor [agent] must sell it, he can’t keep it long by him; and instead [105] am Chapter; Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins of the Modern World (16004800) of having every consumer for his purchaser, as I mentioned before to be the case of our home manufactures, he has but two purchasers, that is, the sugar baker and the grocer. We have no foreign market worth notice, but Holland and Hamburg, and now in time of war the planter will have no chance of a better market at those places, because the Dutch will buy the French sugar, at the French colonies at a low price, and carry it securely to Holland in their own ships. And it is well known that the French at their colonies can sell their sugar much cheaper than we can in our colonies, because they have better sugar land in their islands, and nearer the seaside than we have, and also some other advantages. . . . We have also another fact, which we have yearly experience of in the West In— dies trade, which demonstrates that every additional charge upon a perishable commodity transported to or from such a distance as the West Indies does not fall on the consumer, but on the owner or manufacturer . . . for if there be a glut- ted market, which because of the great distance the adventurer can’t foresee, he must sell at any rate, and the purchaser or consumer . . . will give him many times but half the value. . . . To explain the second heading, Sir, I must observe, that the sugar planter is at a vast deal greater expense to make sugar, and bring it to market now since the War than before. His Negro slaves, which is the principal article, the best Gold Coast slaves were sold at Jamaica at £35 per head . . . since the war with France they have been advanced to £50 per head. . . . The sugar planter pays double the freight for his sugar home that he did before the War, and double the freight out for all his utensils for making sugar, and all his furniture for his house use and family, and slaves. . . . I hope, Sir, that from the premises you will easily conclude, that unless the price of sugar here at market do advance very considerably, the sugar planter can’t go on, but will be ruined. . . . If the planter, to all his other advanced charges, hath a further duty laid upon his commodity, he will be disabled from purchasing every year a fresh supply of Negroes, mules, and cattle; and as his present stock drops off, he will be disabled from making the quantity of sugar he does at present . . .by which means the scheme for raising more money upon that commodity, by advancing the duty, will be rendered abortive. . . . I come now to my third and last heading, under which I shall set forth the great advantages which this nation reaps from our sugar colonies, and espe— cially from the island of Jamaica. . . . The principal charge which the sugar planter is at, to raise and carry on his work, is Negroes; and those are purchased in Africa by the English merchants, chiefly with the produce and manufactures of this nation, such as woolen goods. . . . At the same time that they are purchasing the Negroes on the coast of Africa, with those cargoes of British manufactures, they purchase also a great deal of gold, elephants teeth, and some very valuable dying woods. And after that these Negroes are thus purchased, and carried to the West In- [106] dies for a market, the sugar planter having furnished himself, the surplus are disposed of on the Spanish coast for gold and silver; and, together with the Ne- groes, are also introduced into the Spanish settlements, a good quantity of our British manufactures; so much, that for these many years past we have seldom received less, by the trade from Jamaica to the Spanish coast, than two hundred thousand pounds a year, in gold and silver; which has been transmitted from Ja- maica to England. For strength to carry on his sugar work, next to the Negroes, the planter must be furnished with mules, cattle, horses, etc. Of cattle the most part are raised in the colonies; some horses are raised in the colonies and some are supplied from North America. . . . Then for his utensils. . . . The whole, to settle a middling sugar works, will cost him at least 500 pounds. Add to this, the great quantity of nails, locks, hinges, bolts, and other sorts of iron ware; and lead that he must have for his buildings. And for his field work he must have great quantities of bills, hoes, axes, iron chains; also gear for his mill and his cattle . . . and all this of English manufacture. . . . Besides this extraordinary expense . . . he must have a house to live in, and furniture, and clothes, and other necessaries for himself and family, servants and slaves. To build his house he must have materials from England . . . and his furniture and clothing entirely from England. And as the climate is excessively hot, for the convenience of their wives and children, those who can afford it have coaches, chariots, chaises and other such conveniences to accommodate themselves; and all from England. And for their food, they have a great deal, as cheese, bacon, pickles, some flour and biscuits, when cheap, and beer, ale and cider, in great quantities from England; salted beef and butter from Ireland; and salted fish, flour, biscuits and sundry other kinds of provisions for their Negroes from North America. There are in the island of Jamaica only, a hundred thousand Negroes, a few more or less; every one of these . . . do make use of the value of twenty shillings a year, in goods from England. In clothing they make use of a vast quantity of Manchester goods . . . and many other implements, all of British manufacture. I believe . . . it amounts to a hundred thousand pounds a year in British manu- factures, consumed by the Negroes in Jamaica only. And now, Sir, if you’ll be pleased to take a View of the whole process of the sugar manufacture, from the beginning to the time of delivering the commod— ity into the hands of the consumer; that is to say, from purchasing the Negroes on the coast of Africa, and transporting them to the West Indies . . . I am sure that you will be amazed to consider, what a prodigious number of ships, of sailors, of merchants, of tradesmen, manufacturers, mechanics, and labourers, are continually employed, and reap a profit thereby. . . . And should the sugar colonies be so much discouraged, by the laying on of an additional duty, or by any other ways or means whatever, which may disable them from carrying on their works, and making the quantity of sugar which [107] The Evidence Chapter 4 Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origiris of the Modern World (1600—1800) they do at present, or have done for some years past, you see plainly how very much our trade and navigation, and how many of our manufactures would be affected by it, and that would not be the worst of it neither, because . . . in pro- portion as our sugar colonies should decline, those of our neighbors, our ene- mies and rivals in trade and navigation would advance. Source 5 from I‘ G. Steadmim, Narrative of a five years’ expedition, against the Revolted Ne- groes of Surinam (London: ]. [uhrzsnri and ]i Edwards, 1796); reprinted in Sidney Mintz, Sweet- ness and Power: The Place of Sugar inModern History (New York: Viking Press, 1995). Photo: Courtesy of the fumes Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota. 5. William Blake, "Europe Supported by Africa and America,” 1796 [108] Source 6 from Richard Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624—1713 (New York: Norton, 1972), pp. 230, 312. 6. Importation and Population Statistics for the British West Indies in the 18th Century Leeward Islands- Total Black Population Islands: Slave Leeward Imports Jamaica: Total Black Population Slave Imports Jamaica: Barbados Total Black Population Slave Imports Barbados: Year 2,000 18,700 1 640—1 650 1670 30,000 7,000 3,000 8,000 10,100 50,000 15,000 9,000 51,100 1651—1675 1680 [109] 32,000 77, 1 00 64,700 1 6764 700 1713 30,000 55,000 45,000 Note: The British Leeward Islands consisted of Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, and St. KittsaNevis: The Evidence Chapter 4 Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins of the Modern World i l1600718oo) Source 7 from Richard Ligon, A True & Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes (London: Parker 8 Guy, 1673). 7. From Richard Ligon, The True 59‘ Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes, 1673 [In 1647, Richard Ligon landed at Barbados, and decided to stay. He describes how early experi- ments with the growing of tobacco and indigo with indentured labor quickly gave way to a focus on sugar production, and explains the complicated process of sugar production in detail] But when the canes had been planted two or three years, they found that to be the main plant, to improve the value of the whole island, and so, bent all their endeavours to advance their knowledge in the planting and making of sugar, which knowledge, though they studied hard, was long a learning. . . . And now, seeing this commodity, sugar, hath gotten so much that start of all the rest of those, that were held the staple commodities of the land, and so much over—topped them, as they were for the most part slighted and neglected. . . . [The] work of sugar making . . . is now grown the sole of trade in this island. . . . The canes with their tops or blades, do commonly grow to be eight foot high. . . . The manner of cutting them is with little hand bills, about six inches from the ground; at which time they divide the tops from the canes, which they do with the same bills, at one stroke; and then holding the canes by the upper end, they strip off all the blades that grow by the sides of the canes, which tops and blades are bound up in faggots, and put into carts, to carry home. . . . The place where they unload, is a little platform of ground, which is contiguous to the mill house . . . done about with a double rail to keep the canes from falling out of that room; where one, or two, or more . . . make a stop there, are ready to unload them, and so turning them back again, they go immediately to the field, and there to take in fresh loading; so that they may not unjustly be compared to bees. . . . We work them out clean, and leave none to grow stale, for if they should be more than two days old, the juice will grow sour, and . . . their sour- ness will infect the rest. . . . The manner of grinding them, is this, the horses and cattle being put to their tackle, they go about, and by their force turn (by their sweeps) the middle roller; which being cogged to the other two, at both ends, turn them about. . . . When the canes are put in between the rollers, it is a good draught for five oxen or horses; a Negro puts in the canes of one side, and the rollers draw them through to the other side, where another Negro stands, and receives them, and returns them back on the other side of the middle roller, which draws the other way. So having passed twice through, that is forth and back, it is conceived all the juice is pressed out. . . . There are young Negro girls that carry them away and lay [110] them on a heap . . . where they make a large hill. . . . Under the rollers there is a receiver, as big as a large tray; into which the liquor falls, and stays not there but runs underground in a pipe or gutter of lead . . . which . . . carries it into the cis— tern. . . . But it must not remain in that cistern above one day, lest it grow sour; from thence it is to pass through a gutter (fixed to the wall) to the clarifying cop- per. . . . This liquor is removed as it is refined from one copper to another; and the more coppers it passeth through the finer and purer it is, being continually drawn up, and keeled by ladles, and skimmed by Skimmers, in the Negroes’ hands. . . . But as they remove the last part of the liquor . . . they do it with all the celerity they can; and suddenly cast in cold water, to cool the copper from burning. . . . And so the work goes on from Monday morning at one a clock, till Saturday night (at which time the fire in the furnaces are put out) all hours of the day and night, with fresh supplies of men, horses, and cattle. . . . We lost an excellent Negro . . . who . . . not knowing the force of the liquor he carried, brought the candle somewhat nearer than he ought, that he might bet- ter see how to put it into the funnel, which conveyed it into the butt. But the spirit being stirred by that motion, flew out, and got hold of the flame of the candle, and so set all on fire, and burnt the poor Negro to death, who was an ex— cellent servant. . . . [Ligon also describes the inhabitants of the island, first the indentured servants, then the slaves, and finally the plantation owners] The island is divided into three sorts of men, viz. Masters, Servants, and Slaves. The slaves and their posterity, being subject to their masters forever, are kept and preserved with greater care than the servants, who are theirs but for five years, according to the law of the island. 80 that for the time, the servants have the worser lives, for they are put to very hard labour, ill lodging, and their diet very slight. When we first came on the island some planters themselves did not eat bone meat above twice a week. . . . But the servants no bone meat at all, un- less an ox died and then they were feasted as long as that lasted. And till they had planted good store of plantains, the Negroes were fed with. . . food . . . which gave them much discontent. But when they had plantains enough to serve them they were heard no more to complain; for tis a food they take great delight in, and their manner of dressing and eating it is this: ’tis gathered for them . . . upon Saturday, by the keeper of the plantain grove; who is an able Ne~ gro and knows well the number who are to be fed with this fruit; and as he gath— ers, lays them all together, till they fetch them away, which is about five a clock in the afternoon, for that day they break Off work sooner by an hour, partly for this purpose and partly for the fire in the furnaces to be put out, and the Inge- nio [machinery] and the rooms made clean; besides they are to wash, shave and trim themselves against Sunday. But ‘tis a lovely sight to see a hundred hand- some Negroes, men and women, with every one a grass—green bunch of these fruits on their heads. . . . Having brought this fruit home to their own houses, [111] Chapter 4 V Sweet Nexus 7 Sugar and the Brights of the lt/lodem World (1600—1800) and pulling off the skin of so much as they will use, they boil it in water, mak- ing it into balls, and so they eat it. One bunch a week is a Negroe’s allowance. To this, no bread nor drink, but water. Their lodging at night a board, with noth- ing under, nor anything a top of them. They are happy people, whom so little contents. Very good servants, if they be not spoiled by the English. . . . As for the usage of the servants, it is much as the master is, merciful or cruel. Those that are merciful treat their servants well, both in their meat, drink and lodging, and give them work such as is not unfit for a Christian to do. But if the masters be cruel, the servants have very wearisome and miserable lives. . . . I have seen an overseer beat a servant with a cane about the head, till the blood has followed, for a fault that is not worth the speaking of; and yet he must have patience or worse will follow. Truly, I have seen such cruelty there done to ser— vants as I did not think one Christian could have done to another. But as more discrete and better natured men have come to rule there, the servants’ lives have been much bettered; for now, most of the servants lie in hammocks, and in warm rooms, and when they come in wet have shift of shirts and drawers, which are all the clothes they wear, and are fed with bone meat twice or thrice a week. . . . It has been accounted a strange thing, that the Negroes, being more than dou- ble the number of Christians that are there, and they accounted a bloody people . . . that they should not commit some horrid massacre upon the Chris- tians thereby to enfranchise themselves and become masters of the island. But there are three reasons that take away this wonder: the one is, they are not suf- fered to touch or handle any weapons; the other, that they are held in such awe and slavery as they are fearful to appear in any daring act; and seeing the mus- tering of our men and hearing their gun shot (which nothing is more terrible to them) their spirits are subjugated to follow a condition, as they dare not look up to any bold attempt. Besides these, there is a third reason, which stops all de- signs of that kind, and that is they are fetched from several parts of Africa who speak several languages, and by that means one of them understands not an- other. For some of them are fetched from Guinea and Bonny . . . some from An- gola, and some from the river of Gambia. And in some of these places where petty kingdoms are, they sell their subjects, as such as they take in battle, whom they make slaves; and some mean men sell their servants, their children, or sometimes their wives; and think all good traffic for such commodities as our merchants feed them. When they are brought to us, the planters buy them out of the ship, where they find them stark naked, and therefore cannot be deceived in any outward infirmity. They choose them as they do horses in a market; the strongest, youngest, and most beautiful yield the greatest prices. . . . And we buy them so the sexes may be equal; for if they have more men than women the men who are unmarried will come to their masters and complain, that they cannot live with- out wives. And he tells them that the next ship that comes he will buy them wives, which satisfies them for the present; and so they expect the good time: [112] which the master performing with them, the bravest fellow is to choose first, and so in order, as they are in place, and every one of them knows his better and gives him precedence, as cows do one another in passing through a narrow gate; for the most of them are as near beasts as may be, setting their souls aside. . . . At the time the wife is to [give birth], her husband removes his board (which is his bed) to another room (for many several divisions they have, in their little houses, and none above six foot square) and leaves his wife to God, and her good fortune, in the room, and upon the board alone, and calls a neighbour to come to her, who gives little help to her delivery, but when the child is born (which she calls her Pickininny) she helps to make a little fire near her feet. . . . In a fortnight this woman is at work with her Pickininny at her back, as merry a soul as any there is. If the overseer be discreet, she is suffered to rest herself a lit- tle more than ordinary; but if not, she is compelled to do as others do. Times they have of suckling their children in the fields, and refreshing themselves; and good reason, for they carry burdens on their backs, and yet work too. . . . The work which the women do is most of it weeding, a stooping and painful work; at noon and night they are called home by the ring of a bell, where they have two hours time for their repast at noon; and at night, they rest from six till six a clock the next morning. On Sunday they rest, and have the whole day at their pleasure; and the most of them use it as a day of rest and pleasure; but some of them who will make benefit of that day’s liberty go where the mangrove trees grow and gather the bark, of which they make ropes, which they truck away for other commodities, as shirts and drawers. . . . What their other opinions are in the matter of religion, I know not . . . they be— lieve a resurrection, and that they shall go into their own country again, and have their youth renewed. And lodging this opinion in their hearts they make it an ordinary practice, upon any great fright, or threatening of their masters, to hang themselves. But Colonel Walrond having lost three or four of his best Ne~ groes this way, and in a very little time, caused one of their heads to be cut off and set upon a pole a dozen foot high; and having done that caused all his Ne— groes to come forth and march around this head, and bid them look on it, whether this were not the head of such a one that hanged himself. Which they acknowledging he then told them that they were in a main error in thinking they went into their own countries after they were dead; for this man’s head was here, as they all were witness of; and how was it possible, the body could go without a head. Being convinced by this sad yet lively spectacle they changed their opinions; and after that, no more hanged themselves. . . . Though there be a mark set upon these people which will hardly ever be wiped off, as of their cruelties when they have advantages, and of their fearful— ness and falseness; but no general rule but hath his exception: for l believe, and l have strong motives to cause me to be of that persuasion, that there are as hon- est, faithful, and conscionable people amongst them as amongst those of Eu— [113] The Evidence Chapter 4 Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins of the Modern World £60m18oo) rope, or any other part of the world. . . . And this is all I can remember concern- ing the Negroes, except of their games, which I could never learn because they lacked the language to teach me. . . . Now for the masters, I have said but little, nor am able to say half of what they deserve. They are men of great abilities and parts, otherwise they could not go through with such great works as they undertake; the managing of one of their plantations being a work of such a latitude as will require a very good headpiece, to put in order and continue it so, I can name a planter there, that feeds daily two hundred mouths, and keeps them in such order as there are no mutinies amongst them; and yet of several nations. All these are to be employed in their several abilities so as no one be idle. . . . After weeding comes planting . . . canes are to be planted at all times, that they may come in, one field after another; otherwise the work will stand still. . . . This work of planting and weeding the master himself is to see done; unless he have a very trusty and able overseer; and without such a one he will have too much to do. The next thing he is to consider, is the Ingenio [factory] . . . which is the primum mobile of the whole work. . . . If anything in the rollers . . . be at fault, the whole work stands still; or in the boiling house if the frames which hold the coppers . . . from the violence of the heat from the furnaces . . . crack or break, there is a stop in the work till that be mended. Or if any of the coppers have a mischance, and be burnt, and a new one must presently be had, there is a stay in the work . . . for all these depend upon one another, as Wheels in a clock. . . . But the main impediment and stop of all is the loss of our cattle, and amongst them there are such diseases, as I have known that in one planta- tion thirty that have died in two days. . . . So that if any of these stops continue long, or the cattle cannot be recruited in a reasonable time, the work is at a stand; and by that means the canes grow over ripe and will in a very short time have their juice dried up, and will not be worth the grinding. Now to recruit these cattle and horses. . . who are all liable to these mis- chances and decays, merchants must be consulted, ships provided, and a com— petent cargo of goods adventured, to make new voyages to foreign parts to supply those losses; and when that is done the casualties at sea are to be con- sidered, and those happen several ways, either by shipwreck, piracy, or fire. A master of a ship, and a man accounted both able, stout, and honest, having transported goods of several kinds from England to a part of Africa, the river of Gambia, and had there exchanged his commodities for Negroes, which was that he intended to make his voyage of . . . did not, as the manner is, shackle one to another . . . but having an opinion of their honesty and faithfulness to him, as they had promised; and he being a credulous man, and himself good natured and merciful, suffered them to go loose, and they being double the number of those in the ship found their advantages, got weapons in their hands, and fell upon the sailors, knocking them on the heads, and cutting their throats so fast as the master found they were all lost . . . and so went down into the hold and blew all up with himself; and this was before they got out of the river. These, [114] and several other ways there will happen that extremely retard the work of sugar making. Now let us consider how many things there are to be thought on, that go to the actuating of this great work, and how many cares to prevent the mis- chances. . . and you will find them wise and provident men that go on and prosper in a work that depends upon so many contingents. . . . The next thing is of their natures and dispositions, which I found compliable in a high degree to all virtues that those of the best sort of gentlemen call excel- lent. . . . So frank, so loving, and so good natured were these gentlemen one to another . . . that l perceived nothing wanting, that might make up a firm and lasting friendship amongst them. . . . Colonel Thomas Modiford has often told me that he had taken a resolution to himself not to set his face for England till he had made his voyage and employ- ment there worth him a hundred thousand pounds sterling; and all by this sugar plant. . . . Now if such estates as these may be raised by the well ordering of this plant, by industrious. . . men, why may not such estates, by careful keeping and moderate expending, be preserved in their posterity t0 the tenth generation, and by all the sweet negotiation of sugar? [115] The Evidence Chapter 4 Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins of the Modern World (1600—1800) Source 8 from L. A. G. Strong, The Story of Sugar (London: Weidenfeld 6* Nicolson, 1954). Photos: The British Library. 8. From W. Clark, "Ten Views of Antigua,” 1823 [116] Source 9 from W. R. Aykroya, The Story of Sugar (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1967), plate 9. 9. Advertisement for East India Sugar Basins Source 10 from Olaudah Equianu, The Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustvas Vassa, the African (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 1999; originally published by [ames Nicholls, Leeds, 1814), pp. 24—251‘27’3335‘35 10. From Olaudah Equiano, The Life of Olaualah Equiano, 1814 One day, when all our people were gone out to their work as usual, and only I and my sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our walls, and in a moment seized us both; and without giving us time to cry out, or to make any resistance, they stopped our mouths and ran off with us into the [117] The Evidence Simmer 4 The Evidence Sweet Nexus: . nearest wood. Here they tied our hands, and continued to carry us as far as they 3 d m OLLéfmlan—he' could, till night came on, when we reached a small house, where the robbers we halted for refreshment and spent the night. We were then unbound, but were WEWM unable to take any food; and being quite overpowered by fatigue and grief, our the merchants and travellers. They lie in those buildings along with their wives, who often accompany them: and they always go well armed. From the time I left my own nation I always found somebody that understood me till I came to the sea coast. The languages of different nations did not totally (1600—1800; only relief was some sleep, which allayed our misfortune for a short time. The next morning we left the house, and continued travelling all the day. For a long time we had kept the woods, but at last we came into a road which I believed I knew I had now some hopes of being delivered; for we had advanced but a lit- tle way before I discovered some people at a distance, on which I began to cry out for their assistance; but my cries had no other effect than to make them tie me faster and stop my mouth; they then put me into a large sack. They also stopped my sister’s mouth, and tied her hands; and in this manner we pro— ceeded till we were out of sight of these people. . . . . . . The next day proved one of greater sorrow than I had yet experienced; for my sister and I were then separated, while we lay clasped in each other’s arms. It was in vain that we besought them not to part us; she was torn from me, and immediately carried away, while I was left in a state of distraction not to be de— scribed. I cried and grieved continually; and for several days did not eat any thing but what they forced into my mouth. At length, after many days’ travel- ling, during which I had often changed masters, I got into the hands of a chief- tain, in a pleasant country. This man had two wives and some children, and they all used me extremely well, and did all they could to comfort me; particu- larly the first wife, who was something like my mother. Although I was a great many days’ journey from my father’s house, yet these people spoke exactly the same language with us. The first master of mine, as I may call him, was a smith, and my principal employment was working his bellows, which were the same kind as I had seen in my vicinity. . . . I was there, I suppose, about a month, and they at length used to trust me some little distance from the house. I employed this liberty in embracing every opportunity to inquire the way to my own home: and I also sometimes, for the same purpose, went with the maidens, in the cool of the evenings, to bring pitchers of water from the springs for the use of the house. I had also remarked where the sun rose in the morning, and set in the evening, as I had travelled along: and had observed that my father’s house was towards the rising of the sun. I therefore determined to seize the first opportunity of making my escape, and to shape my course for that quarter; for I was quite oppressed and weighed down by grief after my mother and friends; and my love of liberty, ever great, was strengthened by the mortifying circumstance of not daring to eat with the free—born children, although I was mostly their companion. . . . . . . However, in a small time afterwards . . . I was again sold. I was now car— ried . . . through many dreary wastes and dismal woods, amidst the hideous roaring of wild beasts. The people I was sold to used to carry me very often, when I was tired, either on their shoulders or on their backs. I saw many con— venient well—built sheds along the road, at proper distances, to accommodate [118] differ, nor were they so copious as those of the Europeans, particularly the English. They were therefore easily learned; and, while I was journeying thus through Africa, I acquired two or three different tongues. In this manner I had been trav- elling for a considerable time, when one evening, to my great surprise, whom should I see brought to the house where I was, but my dear sister? As soon as she saw me she gave a loud shriek, and ran into my arms. I was quite overpow- ered: neither of us could speak; but for a considerable time, clung to each other in mutual embraces, unable to do any thing but weep. Our meeting affected all who saw us; and indeed I must acknowledge, in honour of those sable destroy- ers of human rights, that I never met with any ill treatment, or saw any offered to their slaves, except tying them, when necessary, to keep them running away. When these people knew we were brother and sister, they indulged us to be together; and the man, to whom I supposed we belonged, lay with us, he in the middle, while she and I held one another by the hands across his breast all night; and thus for a while we forgot our misfortunes in the joy of being to— gether. But even this small comfort was soon to have an end, for scarcely had the fatal morning appeared, when she was again torn from me for ever! I was now more miserable, if possible, than before. The small relief which her pres- ence gave me from pain was gone, and the wretchedness of my situation was re— doubled by my anxiety after her fate, and my apprehensions lest her sufferings should be greater than mine, when I could not be with her to alleviate them. . . . I did not long remain after my sister. I was again sold, and carried through a number of places, till, after travelling a considerable time, I came to a town called Tinmah, in the most beautiful country I had yet seen in Africa. . . . Here I also saw and tasted, for the first time, sugar—cane. Their money consisted of little white shells, the size of the fingernail. I was sold for one hundred and seventy— two of these, by a merchant who lived at this place. I had been about two or three days at his house, when a wealthy widow, a neighbour of his came there one evening, and brought with her an only son, a young gentleman about my own age and size. Here they saw me; and, having taken a fancy to me, I was bought of the merchant, and went home with them. Her house and premises were . . . the finest I ever saw in Africa: they were very extensive, and she had a number of slaves to attend her. The next day I was washed and perfumed, and when mealtime came, I was led into the presence of my mistress, and ate and drank before her with her son. This filled me with astonishment; and I could scarcely avoid expressing my surprise that the young gentleman should suffer me, who was bound, to eat with him who was free; and not only so, but that he would not at any time either eat or drink till I had taken first, because I was the eldest, which was agreeable to our custom. Indeed every thing here, and their treatment of me, made me forget that I was a slave. The language of these people resembled ours so nearly, that we understood each other perfectly. They [119] Chapter 4 Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins of the Modern World (1600—1800) had also the very same customs as we. There were likewise slaves daily to at- tend us, while my young master and I, with other boys, sported with our darts, and bows and arrows, as I had been used to do at home. In this resemblance to my former happy state, I passed about two months; and now I began to think I was to be adopted into the family, and was beginning to be reconciled to my sit— uation, and to forget by degrees my misfortunes, when all at once the delusion vanished; for, without the least previous knowledge, one morning, early, while my dear master and companion was still asleep, I was awakened out of my reverie to fresh sorrow, and hurried away even amongst the uncircumcised. . . . All the nations and people I had hitherto passed through resembled our own in their manners, customs, and language: but I came at length to a country, the inhabitants of which differed from us in all these particulars. . . . Thus I contin- ued to travel, both by land and by water, through different countries and vari- ous nations, till at the end of six or seven months after I had been kidnapped, I arrived at the sea coast. The first object that saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo. These filled me with astonishment, that was soon converted into terror, which I am yet at a loss to describe, and much more the then feelings of my mind when I was carried on board. I was immediately handled and tossed up to see if I was sound, by some of the crew; and I was now persuaded that I had got into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me. Their complexions too, dif- fering so much from ours, their long hair, and the language they spoke, which was very different from any I had ever heard, united to confirm me in this be- lief. Indeed such were the horrors of my views and fears at the moment, that if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with the meanest slave in my own country. When I looked round the ship too, and saw a large furnace or copper boiling and a multitude of black people, of every description, chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate; and, quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck, and fainted. When I recovered a little, I found some black people about me, who I believed were some of those who brought me on board, and had been receiving their pay: they talked to me in order to cheer me, but all in vain. I asked them if we were not to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces, and long hair. They told me I was not. . . . Soon after this the blacks who brought me on board went off, and left me abandoned to despair. I now saw myself deprived of all chance of returning to my native country, or even the least glimpse of gaining the shore, which I now considered as friendly; and I even wished for my former slavery, in preference to my present situation, which was filled with horrors of every kind, still height— ened by my ignorance of what I was to undergo. I was not long suffered to in— dulge my grief. I was soon put down under the decks, and there I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life: so that, with [120] the loathsomeness of the stench, and with my crying together, I became so sick and low that l was not able to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste any thing. I now wished for the last friend, death, to relieve me; but soon, to my grief, two of the white men offered me eatables; and, on my refusing to eat, one of them held me fast by the hands, and laid me across, I think, the Windlass, and tied my feet, while the other flogged me severely. I had never experienced any thing of this kind before, and although, not being used to the water, I naturally feared that element the first time I saw it, yet nevertheless, could I have got over the net-tings, I would have jumped over the side, but I could not; and besides the crew used to watch us very closely, who were not chained down to the decks, lest we should leap into the water. I have seen some of these poor African pris— oners most severely cut for attempting to do so, and hourly whipped for not eating. This indeed was often the case with myself. In a little time after, amongst the poor chained men, I found some of my own nation, which in a small degree gave ease to my mind. I inquired of these what was to be done with us. They . gave me to understand we were to be carried to these white people’s country to work for them. I was then a little revived, and thought if it were no worse than working, my situation was not so desperate. But still I feared I should be put to death, the white people looked and acted, as I thought, in so savage a manner; for I had never seen among any people such instances of brutal cruelty: and this is not only shewn towards us blacks, but also to some of the whites themselves. One white man in particular I saw, when we were permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a large rope near the foremast, that he died in con- sequence of it; and they tossed him over the side as they would have done a brute. This made me fear these people the more; and I expected nothing less than to be treated in the same manner. . . . . . . At last, when the ship, in which we were, had got in all her cargo, they made ready with many fearful noises, and we were all put under deck, so that we could not see how they managed the vessel. But this disappointment was the least of my grief. The stench of the hold, while we were on the coast, was so intolerably loathsome, that it was dangerous to remain there for any time, and some of us had been permitted to stay on the deck for the fresh air; but now that the Whole ship’s cargo were confined to— gether, it became absolutely pestilential. The closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, being so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us. This produced copious per- spirations, so that the air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died, thus falling victims to the improvident avarice, as I may call it, of their purchasers. This deplorable situation was again aggravated by the galling of the chains, now become insupportable; and the filth of necessary tubs, into which the children often fell, and were almost suffocated. The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered it a scene of horror almost in— conceivable. . . . [121] The Evidence Chapter 4 Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins of the Modern World (1600—1800) . . . At last we came in sight of the island of Barbadoes, at which the whites on board gave a great shout, and made many signs of joy to us. We did not know what to think of this, but as the vessel drew nearer we plainly saw the harbour, and other ships of different kinds and sizes; and we soon anchored amongst them off Bridge Town. Many merchants and planters now came on board, though it was in the evening. They put us in separate parcels, and examined us attentively. They also made us jump, and pointed to the land, signifying we were to go there. We thought by this we should be beaten by these ugly men, as they appeared to us; and, when soon after we were all put down under the deck again, there was much dread and, trembling among us, and nothing but bitter cries to be heard all the night from these apprehensions, insomuch that at last the white people got some old slaves from the land to pacify us. They told us we were not to be eaten, but to work, and were soon to go on land, where we should see many of our country people. This report eased us much; and, sure enough, soon after we landed, there came to us Africans of all languages. We were conducted immediately to the merchant’s yard, where we were all pent up together like so many sheep in a fold, without regard to sex or age. As every object was new to me, every thing I saw filled me with surprise. What struck me first was that the houses were built with bricks in stories, and were in every other respect different from those I had seen in Africa; but I was still more astonished at seeing people on horseback. I did not know what this could mean; and indeed I thought these people full of nothing but magical arts. While I was in this astonishment one of my fellow prisoners spoke to a countryman of his about the horses, who said they were the same kind they had in their country. I understood them, though they were from a distant part of Africa, and I thought it odd I had not seen any horses there; but afterwards, when I came to converse with different Africans, I found they had many horses amongst them, and much larger than those I then saw. We were not many days in the merchants’ custody before we were sold after the usual manner, which is this:—On a signal given, such as the beat of a drum, the buyers rush at once into the yard where the slaves are confined, and make choice of that parcel they like best. The noise and clamour with which this is at- tended, and the eagerness visible in the countenances of the buyers, serve not a little to increase the apprehensions of the terrified Africans, who may well be supposed to consider them the ministers of that destruction to which they think themselves devoted. In this manner, without scruple, are relations and friends separated, most of them never to see each other again. I remember in the vessel in which I was brought over in, in the man’s apartment, there were several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots; and it was very moving on this occasion to see their distress and hear their cries at parting. 0, ye nominal Christians! might not an African ask you, "learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you? Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends, to toil for your lux- ury and lust of gain? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your / [122] avarice? Are the clearest friends and relations now rendered more clear by their separation from the rest of their kindred, still to be parted from each other, and thus prevented from cheering the gloom of slavery, with the small comfort of being together, and mingling their sufferings and sorrows? Why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which, while it has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery.” QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER Now that you have read the evidence, the challenge is to put together the pieces of the sugar puzzle, to figure out how these different perspectives can fit together to give us a more com— plete understanding of the economic, social, and political ramifications of the plantation system and the Atlantic economy of the seventeenth and eight— eenth centuries. First of all, what were the main ben- efits of this system, and who were the main beneficiaries? Imagine a conver- sation between Joseph Addison, the author of the letter to a member of Parliament, William Blake, and Olau— dah Equiano. How might they discuss this question, given the attitudes dis- played in their writings and engrav- ings? How might they discuss the benefits of sugar production from a global, national, individual, or moral point of View? What was the over— all importance of sugar to Britain in this period? From the standpoint of sugar con— sumption, how might an advocate of sugar like Dr. Frederick Slade respond to Source 9? Do you think it was fair in the eighteenth century to hold con- sumers responsible for the conditions under which commodities like sugar were produced? What message does the advertisement for the sugar bowl convey in these terms? Do you think Equiano, as an abolitionist, would have approved of that advertising campaign, or thought it sufficient to address the problem of slavery? What connections might we find when we look at sugar from the stand- point of capital? Drawing from Ligon and other sources, what self-image did the sugar planters seem to have? How do the advocates of planters and merchants present their activities as valuable not just to individuals, but to a wider community? What special pressures did the sugar planters face, and what were the consequences for their workers? How does the same world look from the standpoint of labor? Draw— ing from Ligon, Equiano, and other sources, what seem to have been the main characteristics of sugar produc- tion in terms of who did what work and how that work was organized? What do the statistics in Source 6 tell us about slave mortality? What condi- tions led to that outcome? How do these descriptions reinforce or challenge Views of slave labor you might have had before reading these selections? What does Equiano’s de- [123] Questions to Consider Chapter 4 Sweet Nexus: Sugar and the Origins 15f age Modem World (160071800) scription of how labor was acquired for the plantations tell us about the effects of this system not just on the enslaved Africans, but on African so— - EPILOGUE The connection between slavery and sugar was broken in the nineteenth century. The Haitian Revolution led by Touissant Louverture in the 17905 led to a steep decline of production on what had been the most important French sugar island in the West Indies. The abolition by the British of the slave trade (1808) and of slavery itself (1834) in the British Empire ended the connection between slaves and sugar in places like Jamaica and Barbados. As in Haiti, the freed slaves left the plantations as soon as they had a chance to do so, Slave—based sugar production continued in Cuba and Brazil, the last two places in the Amer- icas to abolish slavery, but by the mid- dle of the nineteenth century new means had been found to supply the still-increasing demand for sugar in world markets. First, the sugar beet was developed within Europe itself as an alternative source of sugar. Second, new areas of plantation production of cane sugar were opened up in such places as Hawaii, Fiji, and South Africa. Inden— tured labor, which had largely disap- peared from the Caribbean by the eighteenth century, made a comeback as part of this new sugar plantation complex in the late nineteenth cen— tury. Millions of workers from Japan, cieties themselves? How do the tradi— tional forms of slavery he describes in Africa differ from those of the New World plantations? China, and India agreed to contracts that moved them across the seas to toil for low wages on sugar estates in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. Sugar production has since been mechanized, and alternative sources of sucrose have been developed, Satis— faction of the world’s sweet tooth no longer depends on as harsh a form of exploitation as it did in the days of slaves and indentured workers. That does not mean, however, that the exer- cise you have undertaken in this chap— ter does not have contemporary applications. Just a few miles from where this chapter is being written, at the port of Long Beach in southern California, giant container ships ar- rive to unload commodities from around the world for the American market. To witness that process is to feel like Joseph Addison in the Lon— don of 1711, witnessing "a kind of Em— porium for the whole Earth.” Like sugar, those commodities arriving at the port can be traced back to the ori— gins of the materials from which they were made and the labor that pro- duced them. What different attitudes might we have toward the goods we buy if we knew the full story about how they were produced? Even more than in the days of the old sugar trade, humanity is united by the global mar— ket, not just economically, but socially, politically, and culturally as well. [124] ...
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Chapter(SugarNexus) - CHAPTER FOUR SWEET NEXUS: SUGAR AND...

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