Review: Hubs of Empire

I thoroughly enjoyed Matthew Mulcahy’s Hubs of Empire: The Southeastern Lowcountry and British Caribbean. In every way, I would describe it as an Alt-South text.

The central argument of this book is that the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry ought to be considered part of a “Greater Caribbean” regional culture that includes Barbados, the Leeward Islands and Jamaica in the British West Indies. “Carolina in ye West Indies” was founded by settlers from Barbados who brought their culture from the Caribbean to the North American mainland.

I hate the way American history is taught today in our public schools. In the beginning, there were more than 13 American colonies and they were settled by different populations at different times and were founded for a variety of reasons. As we have seen, New England was founded by Puritans as a Calvinist religious utopia. It was radically different from the other American colonies to the south which were founded by mainstream Englishmen for commercial purposes.

In order to understand the origins of the Deep South, you have to go back to the beginning in Elizabethan England. In the late 16th century, England was a small and poor country, but a group of ambitious merchants and gentlemen known as the West Country men had a dream of creating an overseas English empire. They looked west and envisioned the conquest of Ireland and Spain’s American Empire. They were motivated by the three Ps: Protestantism, patriotism and privateering. In the words of Richard Hakluyt, their goal was “to 1.) plant the Christian religion, 2. to trafficke, 3. to conquer.”

In search of riches, Francis Drake raided the Spanish Main and Sir Walter Raleigh searched for the golden city of El Dorado in what is now Venezuela. The English never conquered the Spanish Main or found El Dorado, but their attacks forced the Spanish to prioritize the defense of the core of their empire in Mexico and Peru. The English were allowed to establish a foothold in far flung parts of the New World which were thought by the Spanish to be of little value like Virginia and Barbados.

In these footholds, the English set about planting tobacco as a cash crop which they had learned about from their voyages in the Caribbean and along the northern coast of South America. There was already an established tobacco market in Europe. In North America, Virginia was founded in 1607. In the Caribbean, the English settled St. Christopher in 1623, Barbados in 1627, Nevis in 1628 and Antigua and Montserrat in 1632. Unable to compete with Chesapeake tobacco, the West Indian colonists began to search for another cash crop and for about a decade experimented with cotton.

In 1640, the Barbadian planter James Drax visited Dutch Brazil where the Portuguese had built sugar plantations along the northeastern coast. This is what he would have seen:

“It was a golden period for Brazil. By the end of the sixteenth century, a narrow coastal strip boasted more than 120 sugar mills in what had now become the richest European colony anywhere in the world. James Drax, visiting around 1640, would have seen all this: the fabulous opulence of the local planters, their tables laden with silver and fine china, their doors fitted with gold locks; their women wearing huge jewels from the East, precious fabrics everywhere and an army of slaves and prostitutes always hovering. A French visitor at the beginning of the seventeenth century has described his visit to a Portuguese sugar baron, who took his lavish meals to the sounds of an orchestra of 30 beautiful black slave girls, presided over by a bandmaster imported from Europe. All was afloat on a sea of easy profit – the Dutch estimated that in 1620, the Brazilian sugar industry made the equivalent of more than half a million pounds sterling a year, an astonishing figure.”

At the time, the Dutch were occupying Northern Brazil where the sugar industry had been disrupted in the fighting with the Portuguese planters. It was the Dutch who financed the introduction of sugar plantations to Barbados. By all accounts, James Drax was the first successful sugar planter on Barbados.

Barbados in the 1640s effectively becomes the Massachusetts of the British West Indies: the plantation complex takes root in Barbados, African slaves become the labor force, white supremacy evolves as a response to demographic change, and the plantocracy rules the island and becomes fabulously wealthy. Over the next several decades, the sugar plantations continue to grow in size and scale, which force out smaller producers from the cultural hearth who move to other islands.

Barbadians moved to the Leeward Islands where they reproduced the plantation complex. In 1655, the English captured Jamaica from the Spanish as part of Oliver Cromwell’s Western Design. There were several failed attempts by Barbadians to colonize nearby St. Vincent which was populated by Black Caribs. Barbadians settled on the northern coast of South America in Suriname, but evacuated after that colony was traded by the Dutch for New York. Many of those settlers relocated to Jamaica.

In 1670, a fleet of three ships – the Port Royal, the Three Brothers, and the Carolina – arrive in North America bringing settlers from England and Barbados to found the colony of Carolina. It is the Deep South’s equivalent of the Mayflower except that these pilgrims had come from the Caribbean. They set out to recreate the slave society that they had left behind in Barbados, not to create any “City on a Hill” which couldn’t have been further removed from their intentions.

The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina which was co-authored by none other than John Locke guarantees at the outset that “every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his Negro slaves.” It envisions “the creation of an aristocratic society in the New World, complete with titled nobility and “leet-men,” agricultural laborers tied to the land in a state of neoserfdom. Aristocrats were to control two-fifths of all the land, while the rest was reserved for freemen.”

As was the case in Barbados, there were property requirements for all offices in South Carolina: voters had to own 50 acres and members of parliament had to own 500 acres. The preamble of the Fundamental Constitutions states the intention was for Carolina “may avoid erecting a numerous Democracy.” Even on the eve of American Revolution, members of the South Carolina Assembly had to “own 500 acres of land or more, at least 10 slaves or other property, and belong to the Anglican Church.”

In Hubs of Empire, Mulcahy methodically takes the reader through the historical, social and economic development of reach sub-region of the Greater Caribbean from the time of settlement until the American Revolution: Barbados, the Leeward Islands, Jamaica and the Lowcounty. He notes how Greater Caribbean residents faced common challenges like a severe disease environment, hurricanes, earthquakes and the threat posed by slave rebellions, race war and foreign invasions. Greater Caribbean became by far the wealthiest region of British America. Jamaica was the wealthiest colony in the West Indies while South Carolina was the wealthiest North American colony.

The Greater Caribbean world was far more secular, individualistic, materialistic and hedonistic than New England. The Great Awakening of the mid-18th century seems to have had little impact on the region. Nominally Anglican in religious orientation, the Lowcountry and West Indies was a country of gentlemen who enjoyed drinking, gambling, socializing, playing cards, etc. Instead of building common schools, they stocked their homes with luxury items and hired private tutors or educated their Anglican children in Britain. The most successful Carolinian and West Indian planters became absentees and returned to Britain to live as country gentry in huge mansions like the Beckfords.

There were some major differences within the Greater Caribbean: South Carolina and Georgia (which was overrun by South Carolinians after slavery was legalized in 1751) has a subtropical climate. Rice became the agricultural staple of the Lowcountry which stretched from the Lower Cape Fear region in southeastern North Carolina to the Altamaha River in Georgia. The sugar plantations used gang labor. The rice plantations used a task system. Overall, the Lowcountry had a much less intense slave system than the West Indies and wasn’t nearly as wealthy. There was also a Backcountry filling up with White settlers which led to different racial demographics and politics than in the Caribbean.

The American Revolution artificially split the Lowcountry from the British West Indies. The planters in the West Indies sympathized with the Americans and wished to avoid conflict, but they were in no position to revolt against the Crown. They were too dependent on the British Navy for their security and too vulnerable to slave insurrections that Britain incited in the South during the American Revolution. What’s more, they were dependent on the British market to export their sugar. In contrast, the Lowcountry planters exported their rice to consumers in continental Europe.

In such a way, the Lowcountry ended up in the United States with the East rather than in a more natural union with the British West Indies. Later, short staple cotton was developed as a new crop after the invention of the cotton gin. The Cotton Kingdom exploded west from the South Carolina Backcountry to East Texas. King Cotton laid the cultural foundation of the Deep South in the same way that sugar had spread out of Barbados and through the Caribbean and northern South America.

That’s a story for another day.




35 Comments

  1. The three P’s could also motivate men to fight for the Dixian Reclamation. It is unrealistic to expect an army of men to rise up and risk everything for patriotism alone. Throw in religion and some personal gain to boot and you’ve got all you need to raise a badass army.

  2. Spare me. It was a handful of frat boys making a lot of money growing Jewish shit, which is all sugar was.

  3. “I hate the way American history is taught today in our public schools.”

    My American History to 1820 teacher, deliberately taught the Southern Sweep of History. She taught us that Virginia and the Carolinas were settled by people from the British Caribbean. Her take on it was that it was in order for them to expand the size and scope of their plantations, especially tobacco and sugar. That’s why I always accepted the notion that the Southern colonies were an extension and expansion of Barbados and Jamaica. As aside, they still grow sugar cane in East Texas. They sell cane surup in grocery stores here. Imperial Sugar produce sugar from mostly Texas grown cane.

  4. No I think there is one in parliament representing a constituency in Cornwall or Devon. The niggers tried to shake him down for reparations.

  5. A few years back, the niggers tried to shake down the Russians for reparations, too. To them, all white folks are just crackers that need killin’.

    I was pulling your leg with the Hugo Drax pic.

  6. Well, they’re fairly certain that they didn’t use slaves. However, I like this mene because it aggravates certain people.

  7. Puerto Rican sex traffic rings are trying to steal black women and children in Wake County North Carolina.Blacks are armed and ready and communicating about it via social media. Post all alleged Puerto Ricans in silver vans, or those who suddenly move in across the street from you to your local thug cousins now and Conceal and Carry always. Black to the future unite.

  8. I always thought the Caribbean referred to the islands in the Caribbean Sea, not to the mainland?

  9. I think it had something to do with sound. Using certain frequencies can make 40 ton blocks of granite float in the air as light as styrofoam. Sound can also be used the cut those blocks with amazing precision.

  10. This set of photos is fascinating. They decided to allow POW and Slave labour near a secret weapon? Hmmmm…any MIC representatives care chime in on the obvious problem?

  11. Ross Douthat of the NYT writes an article titled “Trump Needs A Brain”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/trump-needs-a-brain.html

    The alt right (broadly speaking) was supposed to be that brain, and was that brain up until NPI 2016. Now Trump is adrift until some calamity or combination of calamities engulfs his Presidency.

    Now, even Trump has praised General Kelly for his work fighting illegal immigration. The ready answer is that Kelly becomes the de facto President, perhaps as “Chief of Staff”, while Trump hangs around to give pre-written speeches and pre-written Tweets and be the public face of the administration. The post General Kelly held would be filled by a lieutenant of his choosing and he would proceed to fill the Executive Branch with loyal military officers.

    Some might say, wait a minute, why cant the alt right become Trump’s brain again? Why does the cross fall on the officer corps? The alt right cannot get straight on issues such as religion and economics (some think that atheism and socialism are the way to go, is that even “right wing”?). The leadership of the alt right looks to Milo and Gawker as role models; they are at home in pubs. The Officer Corps is disciplined and is reared (literally) under the ancient Aryan curriculum of “ride hard, shoot straight, and always tell the truth”.

  12. He can watch YouTube instantly if he wishes. So can Bannon. Daily Stormer is but a click away.

  13. He’s using “Greater Caribbean” in the sense of a plantation culture that is centered on the Caribbean but also extended into North America and South America.

  14. I’m struck by the following, which commences at 12:16 of the video “Slavery in Jamaica, Part 3,” in the present blog entry:

    “A merchant charges commission at half-percent. Two-and-a-half percent is added to all the produce he sells, and two-and-a-half percent is taken from sales in invoices. He also charges interest at half-percent on what he loans, and the interest is added to the capital every year, making it bigger, with the result that the sugar is sold at a loss even before it arrives in England. Better by far for the planter to borrow from anyone, even at six percent, than from his merchant at five, because once he becomes indebted to him, he becomes dependent—possibly for life.”

    That sounds scurrilous. It suggests that Jamaica’s hardworking white plantation owners, so skilled at driving and lashing Negroes, were somehow outsmarted by mere “merchants,” descendants, no doubt, of the “merchants” by whom their ancestors were induced to participate in the noble sugar trade. It suggests that Southerners’ cultural forebears were just a pack of white–what’s the word?–schmucks.

  15. I personally believe the Mit’a system adopted by Tawantinsuyu to be superior to slavery since it eliminates the tax system, maintains produce and maintains a strong army,

  16. Well I personally believe the Mit’a system adopted by Tawantinsuyu to be superior to slave system since it eliminates the tax system, maintains produce and maintains a strong army, also fast industrialisation isn’t needed with the system just like with the old Southern system as it maintains an agricultural economy.

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