Moral Commerce: Quakers and the Transatlantic Boycott of the Slave Labor Economy

Moral Commerce: Quakers and the Transatlantic Boycott of the Slave Labor Economy 1012 The Journal of American History March 2018 While Sven Beckert and Walter Johnson hav“e market-oriented” alternatives to slav labor e- wrestled with this problem directly, coining goods in the early national period (p. 73). Two the terms “war capitalism” and “racial capital - chapters follow, on the important writings of ism” respectively, many in this volume have two Quaker women, the Briton Elizabeth - Hey rick and the American Elizabeth Margaret punted, arguing that, since America’s planta - Chandler. Chapter 6 takes up the often-tense tions depended on an international market, relationship between new abolitionist organi - Marx and the Marxists who followed Dobb zations such as the American Anti-Slaver - y So might have erred. That makes me wonder if ciety and the free-produce movement, which the apostrophe in Slavery’s Capitalism might be many leading abolitionists, including, -even rendered as a question mark. tually, William Lloyd Garrison, came to feel Scott Reynolds Nelson prized a spirit of self-sacrifice over concrete University of Georgia steps to end chattel slavery. The final two chap - Athens, Georgia ters take up efforts to find free-labor alterna - doi: 10.1093/jahist/jax455 tives from Texas to India. Along the way, H - ol comb explores the important abolitionist and free-produce associations as well as the fascinat - Moral Commerce:  Quakers and the Transat- ing but understudied Requited Labor Conv - en lantic Boycott of the Slave Labor Economy. By tion (in Philadelphia in 1838) and the World Julie L. Holcomb. (Ithaca: Cornell University Antislavery Convention (in London in 1840). Press, 2016. xiv, 252 pp. $39.95.) Throughout the book, Holcomb exposes tensions among free-produce advocates and al - Moral Commerce is the most carefully c - on lies that affected the “possibilities and limita - textualized, thorough history of the “free- tions of consumer activism” long beyond this produce” movement, which boycotted goods pioneering movement (p. 3). Holcomb shows made by slave labor and pushed to market that the quest for purity could be solipsistic or free-labor-made products. Building on the social. “Renunciation of slave-labor products work of Carol Faulkner, Stacey Robertson, was a visible sign that an individual upheld and Claire Midgley, among others, Julie L. the traditional Quaker testimony on plainness Holcomb traces the movement from its roots and simplicity,” she writes (p. 85). Yet many in the early eighteenth century through the abolitionists saw the movement as a distrac - Civil War, painstakingly situating it within tion from the concrete politics of antislavery. long-term and transatlantic developments in The question of whether abstention was an Quakerism and abolitionism. Her book has “individual decision, a matter of spiritual dis - less to say about economic questions and the cipline,” “a political statement against slavery,” history of consumer activism but does make or both, was always present (p. 87). small contributions in these areas. Holcomb Holcomb’s history yields valuable insights. highlights the contributions of women to For example, she writes, “free produce was - as the movement, as theorists and activists, and sociated with the strategies and tactics of an the discrimination they faced, even within a outmoded form of antislavery activism” (p. milieu of militant Quaker activism. She also 134). This important perspective challenges emphasizes the crucial contributions and the views of scholars (including myself ) who leadership of African American free-produce see the emergence of free produce in the 1820s supporters, as advocates and entrepreneurs. as radically new M . oral Commerce persuasively Holcomb starts the story prior to the mo - ve argues for the historical importance of the tiny ment, with the lives of several eighteenth- free-produce minority within the minority of century Quakers (including Benjamin Lay and abolitionists. John Woolman) who eschewed slave-made Lawrence B. Glickman goods as a personal statement and who later Cornell University became moral examples. She then turns to the Ithaca, New York sugar boycotts that swept through England in the 1790s. Chapter 3 examines the search for doi: 10.1093/jahist/jax456 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/104/4/1012/4932633 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of American History Oxford University Press

Moral Commerce: Quakers and the Transatlantic Boycott of the Slave Labor Economy

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Abstract

1012 The Journal of American History March 2018 While Sven Beckert and Walter Johnson hav“e market-oriented” alternatives to slav labor e- wrestled with this problem directly, coining goods in the early national period (p. 73). Two the terms “war capitalism” and “racial capital - chapters follow, on the important writings of ism” respectively, many in this volume have two Quaker women, the Briton Elizabeth - Hey rick and the American Elizabeth Margaret punted, arguing that, since America’s planta - Chandler. Chapter 6 takes up the often-tense tions depended on an international market, relationship between new abolitionist organi - Marx and the Marxists who followed Dobb zations such as the American Anti-Slaver - y So might have erred. That makes me wonder if ciety and the free-produce movement, which the apostrophe in Slavery’s Capitalism might be many leading abolitionists, including, -even rendered as a question mark. tually, William Lloyd Garrison, came to feel Scott Reynolds Nelson prized a spirit of self-sacrifice over concrete University of Georgia steps to end chattel slavery. The final two chap - Athens, Georgia ters take up efforts to find free-labor alterna - doi: 10.1093/jahist/jax455 tives from Texas to India. Along the way, H - ol comb explores the important abolitionist and free-produce associations as well as the fascinat - Moral Commerce:  Quakers and the Transat- ing but understudied Requited Labor Conv - en lantic Boycott of the Slave Labor Economy. By tion (in Philadelphia in 1838) and the World Julie L. Holcomb. (Ithaca: Cornell University Antislavery Convention (in London in 1840). Press, 2016. xiv, 252 pp. $39.95.) Throughout the book, Holcomb exposes tensions among free-produce advocates and al - Moral Commerce is the most carefully c - on lies that affected the “possibilities and limita - textualized, thorough history of the “free- tions of consumer activism” long beyond this produce” movement, which boycotted goods pioneering movement (p. 3). Holcomb shows made by slave labor and pushed to market that the quest for purity could be solipsistic or free-labor-made products. Building on the social. “Renunciation of slave-labor products work of Carol Faulkner, Stacey Robertson, was a visible sign that an individual upheld and Claire Midgley, among others, Julie L. the traditional Quaker testimony on plainness Holcomb traces the movement from its roots and simplicity,” she writes (p. 85). Yet many in the early eighteenth century through the abolitionists saw the movement as a distrac - Civil War, painstakingly situating it within tion from the concrete politics of antislavery. long-term and transatlantic developments in The question of whether abstention was an Quakerism and abolitionism. Her book has “individual decision, a matter of spiritual dis - less to say about economic questions and the cipline,” “a political statement against slavery,” history of consumer activism but does make or both, was always present (p. 87). small contributions in these areas. Holcomb Holcomb’s history yields valuable insights. highlights the contributions of women to For example, she writes, “free produce was - as the movement, as theorists and activists, and sociated with the strategies and tactics of an the discrimination they faced, even within a outmoded form of antislavery activism” (p. milieu of militant Quaker activism. She also 134). This important perspective challenges emphasizes the crucial contributions and the views of scholars (including myself ) who leadership of African American free-produce see the emergence of free produce in the 1820s supporters, as advocates and entrepreneurs. as radically new M . oral Commerce persuasively Holcomb starts the story prior to the mo - ve argues for the historical importance of the tiny ment, with the lives of several eighteenth- free-produce minority within the minority of century Quakers (including Benjamin Lay and abolitionists. John Woolman) who eschewed slave-made Lawrence B. Glickman goods as a personal statement and who later Cornell University became moral examples. She then turns to the Ithaca, New York sugar boycotts that swept through England in the 1790s. Chapter 3 examines the search for doi: 10.1093/jahist/jax456 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/104/4/1012/4932633 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018

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The Journal of American HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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