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PART II Human Economies D 69 Introduction ANDREW O’SHAUGHNESSY Thomas Carlyle was one of the first historians to write critically about the Enlightenment. He did not treat it as simply part of the history of progress but identified negative features that culminated in the French Revolution. The objections he raised and the values he espoused find little sympathy among modern audiences, but the questions and challenges that he posed have resonated among a new generation of historians, particularly in regard to the plantation world of the Atlantic, which is the primary focus of the three chapters that feature in the second section of this book. Thomas Jefferson and his ideas about breeding are central to two of these chapters. Jefferson was very much a product of the Enlightenment. He thought beliefs should be based upon reason, he put great emphasis upon facts, he was interested in science, he was a wide reader, and he believed passionately in the freedom of the mind. Yet he was also a planter who owned more than six hundred slaves during the course of his life and who is thought to have fathered six children by his slave Sally Hemings. As Carrie Douglass and Ruth Hill show, Jefferson’s economies of horse breeding and slave breeding grimly intersect. Douglass’s argument about his interest in breeding and purchasing thoroughbred horses gives us a novel glimpse into the role of credit and debt in Virginia. Jefferson was not interested in horse racing but rather in purchasing horses that were comfortable to ride or that could draw his carriages. In ninety-two recorded instances of his buying a horse, only once did Jefferson pay the full amount. More typically, he entered into a debt agreement with the seller. It was a transitional time between a face-to-face personal economy and a more impersonal capitalist society. The planters were not able to deal in cash, which was often unavailable , nor did they have recourse to banks, so that they were reliant on personal credit networks. The practice of breeding thoroughbreds would seem relatively innocuous until read in conjunction with Ruth Hill’s essay on “breeding whites” in the eighteenth-century Americas. Hill also invokes Jefferson, who in an 1815 Andrew O’Shaughnessy 70 letter estimated the number of stages he believed were required for someone of mixed race to become white: three generations of pairings with a white person for someone of black ancestry. This thinking reflects an elaborate racial hierarchy in both the European empires in the Americas—the English and the Spanish. Various categories were invented to designate proportions of white blood, such as “octoroon” for someone with one-eighth white ancestry . Jefferson had made similar estimates for a crossbred native ram to become a pure Merino. There were parallel calculations for breeding dogs and plants in Spanish America. The same number of stages was mentioned by Spanish authorities for the Indians. The number of stages of transition from black to white was reduced from four to three by papal bulls, but by the end of the century the process was not recognized in Mexico. These racial distinctions were more important in Jamaica, where some white ancestry conferred limited privileges even among enslaved people, in contrast to in the United States. The system of slavery in the British islands of the Caribbean was generally much harsher during the eighteenth century than in the United States, as Louis Nelson, a pioneer in the study of the architecture of eighteenth-century Jamaica, definitively argues. He has shown elsewhere that the houses of the Jamaican planters were far grander than those of the Americans. His chapter in this collection reveals the exploitive and even more brutal economy that made this possible, which was based largely upon sugar plantations and a society in which almost nine-tenths of the population was enslaved. Sugar cultivation was more labor intensive than tobacco and rice crops, while the high proportion of slaves made for a harsher and more coercive environment. Nelson builds on the recent work by Richard Dunn in A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Virginia and Jamaica (2014), which represents more than forty years of research comparing the lives of some two thousand slaves on two of the best-documented plantations, Mount Airy in Tidewater Virginia and Mesopotamia in Jamaica. Nelson underscores the differences between Jamaica and America and points to the particularly high mortality rates in Jamaica. The more repressive systems of the islands...


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