Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xvi

Without question, this book must be dedicated to Peter Onuf. Without his patience, his uncanny skill as a “conceptualizer,” or his genuine belief in my ideas and abilities, this project would have been half as good, if completed at all. I am deeply grateful for his continuing support and friendship; his...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-22

From the bottom of the map flow two great rivers, and from those run dozens of tributaries next to which are written the names of Wilberforce, Franklin, Rush, Pinckney, and Jefferson. And two tributaries—those of Granville Sharp and the Pennsylvania Quaker William Dillwyn—connect...

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I. Virginia

During the imperial crisis with Britain, many Virginia colonists resisted the perceived imposition of “tyrannical” British policies—including slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Although nearly 40 percent of Virginia’s population was enslaved when the...

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1. “The Great Improvement and Civilization of That Race”

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pp. 25-56

In the spring of 1801, Thomas Jefferson described the implications of the republican “revolution of 1800.” He declared that “our revolution and its consequences,” which had “excited” the “mass of mankind,” would “ameliorate the condition of man over a great portion of the globe.” After...

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2. “The Desideratum Is to Diminish the Blacks and Increase the Whites”

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pp. 57-88

At age eighty-one, Thomas Jefferson was convinced that progress was spreading westward. “I have observed this march of civilization advancing from the sea-coast, passing over us like a cloud of light, increasing our knowledge and improving our condition,” he wrote to William Ludlow...

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II. South Carolina

As in Virginia, antislavery amelioration emerged in South Carolina during the imperial crisis. At the onset of the American Revolution, about 60 percent of the population was enslaved in South Carolina; most slaves worked under the aegis of the “task system” on...

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3. “Rising Gradations to Unlimited Freedom"

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pp. 91-122

There are no reminders of the scores of slaves who once worked there, or of the endless acres of rice planted in alluvial fields. There is no evidence of a great house that once stood in Georgian splendor at the end of an avenue of oaks. And other than a terraced graveyard, there is little...

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4. “The Enormous Evil That Has Haunted the Imaginations of Men”

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pp. 123-152

In 1835, the jurist and politician William Harper spoke eloquently before a crowded hall at the South Carolina Society for the Advancement of Learning in Columbia. His oration, however, was as much about the citizenry’s “duty” to effect “moral and intellectual cultivation” within their...

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III. The British West Indies

Unlike Virginia and South Carolina, the British West Indies did not break with the British Empire in 1776. Rather than embracing independent nationhood, many West Indian planters proclaimed their loyalty to Britain and continued to depend on imperial systems...

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5. “We May Alleviate, Though We Cannot Cure”

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pp. 155-179

Venus arrived in Jamaica by way of Angola. The “sable” goddess rode in a scallop-shell throne of “burnish’d gold” atop the “curling seas,” holding the “azure rein” of the “winged fish.” Encircled by plume-bearing cupids, her “scepter” commanded the attention of the “tropicks” of “either...

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6. “A Matter of Portentous Magnitude, and Still More Portentous Difficulty”

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pp. 180-210

By 1828, John Gladstone owned over a thousand slaves as well as several sugar plantations in the British Caribbean colony of Demerara, on the northern coast of South America, and in the eastern portion of Jamaica. Yet Gladstone had never set foot on any of his profitable estates at...

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Conclusion: Amelioration and Empire, ca. 1845

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pp. 211-224

In the mid-nineteenth century, southern planters and British antislavery exponents were empire-builders. They sought to create plantation empires that satisfied global demand for agricultural goods like sugar, cotton, coffee, spices, and tea. Their efforts to settle and colonize new lands...

Notes

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pp. 225-248

Bibliography

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pp. 249-268

Index

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pp. 269-279