From the Sacred to the Profane
IN THE CENTURIES THAT FOLLOWED the arrest of the Knights Templar and the dissolution of their order, the secret society became a powerful force in world events. No longer was the secret government as organized as it had been prior to 1307, but despite its fractiousness, its power had not diminished.
Several European countries and states were in direct control of the knights of various surviving ex-Templar orders. Portugal, Spain, and the not yet united German states serve as examples. In other countries, most notably Scotland, the orders exercised control over the military. The soon to be united cantons of Switzerland preserved both the military tradition and the institution of banking that had descended from the Templar organization. Banking, international trade, statecraft, merchant guilds, and even the average worker's job would soon come under the influence of organizations that were typically closed to outsiders and often above the law.
While these secret societies, which included the Knights Templar, had rebelled against autocratic government, the power and misrule of the Church, and the hostility of the organized religions to science, they were becoming the new establishment. As such they would be as corrupt and powerful as those they sought to change.
Piracy and smuggling were more often the province of the wealthy and powerful than of the colorful individuals that history portrays. The same is true of the institution of slave trade and the trafficking of drugs. In both cases, the religious orders have played a role in the creation of these institutions, and lodges and merchant guilds continued the trades well after they became illegal. The toll that the slave trade and drug trafficking took on the world is well known. The fact that both institutions were controlled by a handful of wealthy individuals whose names were often carved in marble in libraries and at universities is America's darkest secret.
The so-called pillars of society were such a force to reckon with that even the president of the American nation was disposable when his programs threatened the profits of those with more organized power. While there is no denying the assassination of Lincoln was a conspiracy, at least two other presidents would fall victim to the cabals that desired to control the government as well as they controlled the most profitable trades.
THE SLAVE TRADERS
Antigua was barely out of sight when Captain Hopkins, the leader of the brig Sally, realized there was a problem. The small crew was getting sick with the flux, a disease later known as dysentery. The weakened state of the men was alarming, as belowdecks in the hold was a live cargo that outnumbered the skeleton crew. The cargo was a boatload of African slaves who had been captured or sold into slavery in Africa, branded, and then delivered to a coastal port for export. Beaten, underfed, and bound in chains, the slaves usually were placed aboard a British ship for the transatlantic passage. Many did not survive the journey. Those who did survive were then placed in holding pens in another port. There they were fed and bathed, as the smell of confinement was enough to make the neighboring farmers complain. The slaves were then brought to market to be resold to an American trader, beginning the process of confinement at sea yet again.
When the crew was outnumbered by as much as a hundred to one, it was never safe to allow the Africans on deck. The condition of the Sally, however, was becoming desperate. Captain Hopkins decided to take a chance; he allowed a handful of his slaves to be brought topside in order to augment the efforts of the crew. The Africans quickly realized they had the advantage, and they began freeing the others in an attempt to take the floating prison. The captain was armed and quickly killed or wounded several slaves and began ordering the others to jump overboard. After eighty men were forced into the Atlantic, order was restored.
The owner of the ship, Nicholas Brown and Company, was quickly notified of the loss, which it had the foresight to guard against with insurance. The Newport Insurance Company, the Bristol Insurance Company, the Mount Hope Insurance Company, and other large companies that dominate the New England economy got their start from marine insurance. One modern insurer, Aetna, recently issued a public apology for its role in insuring the lives of slaves. While that does not sound unlike modern life insurance, the difference is that the slaves were being insured as property.1
A myriad of rules on just what could be collected from the insurers often put a burden on shipowners. A cargo of very sick Africans rendered worthless by their passage was not covered. One enterprising captain decided to throw his sick passengers overboard, as cargo lost at sea would then be covered. The Supreme Courts in Louisiana and North and South Carolina regularly heard cases in which a shipowner's claims were denied because of mitigating circumstances. In Aetna's policies, such exclusions included slave suicide, slaves being worked to death, and slaves being lynched.
In 1781 the slave ship Zong, which was owned by two prominent merchants from Liverpool, carried 440 slaves from Sao Tome. The captain, Luke Collingwood, erred in his sailing directions and the voyage took longer than expected. When disease hit the ship, sixty slaves died and almost half of the ship became sick. The captain ordered 132 slaves thrown overboard in order to capitalize on the insurance. The insurance company, Gilbert, et al., turned down the claim and the owners of the Zong brought the insurers to court. The shipowners argued that cargo was thrown overboard to save the rest of the goods, making their claim legitimate. The Zong's owners won. Even the judge was surprised at how easily the jury accepted the concept that sacrificing the slaves was no different from if they had been animals.2
In New England owners of slave ships took any means available to hedge their bets; they organized and invested in the marine insurance companies that would provide for such losses.
Nicholas Brown and Company was also in part responsible for the early development of another New England business: banking. The company played a role in establishing the Providence Bank, which allowed it to finance its own ships, and out of this institution the modern Fleet Bank, one of the country's largest banks, developed.
The Brown family began its ascent to fame and fortune in the New England whaling business, in which ships sometimes had to be out at sea for years with the goal of transforming whales into spermaceti candles. Needing funds for his business, Nicholas Brown fitted out the first Guineaman—a name given to mean a slave ship trading with Africa— the Mary, for the slave trade. In 1736 his son Obadiah Brown signed on as the supercargo, or head trader, on what would become Providence's first venture into the slave-trading business. Obadiah soon came into his own and fitted out another ship, the Wheel of Fortune, to join in the trade. The young man then brought the entire family into the business and developed a colony-wide reputation. Virginia planters like Revolutionary War statesman Carter Braxton wrote to the company requesting to participate in a joint venture with the Browns.3
For the Browns, wealth led to greater power, and John Brown became a congressman representing Rhode Island; fellow slave trader James De Wolf represented the state as a senator. Profit from the trade brought all the trappings of wealth. When former President John Quincy Adams visited the Browns' home he called it the "most magnificent and elegant mansion that I have ever seen on this continent." Today the house still stands at Fifty-two Power Street in Providence, where it is operated by the Rhode Island Historical Society,4 which would like the family's slave trading mentioned as little as possible.
The fact that the Brown family fortune was made in the slave trade is a matter of historical record. In August 1797 John Brown became the first American to be tried in federal court for violating the Slave Trade Act. Brown's legal maneuvers and favors from cohorts did not save him from reaching the court, as his brother Moses was the person pressing charges. Moses had seen firsthand the horrors of the slave ship and subsequently quit the family business and became its greatest opponent. His efforts stopped the importation of slaves into Rhode Island, and he helped enact a federal law against it. A bill freeing the children of slaves and completely banning the trade would have succeeded, but William Bradford of Bristol removed the clause on the ban. His rum business depended on the slave trade. The business of his son-in-law, James De Wolf, depended on it more. John Brown died in 1803, before the trade was banned forever.
The profits from the slave trade helped the Brown family reach immortality. Near the Power Street house stands Brown University. Because the Browns were such great benefactors, the school originally known as Rhode Island College showed the family the ultimate gratitude by changing its name to Brown University. Although Brown University is the great monument to the profits of the Browns' slave trade, a lesser known monument to John Brown is the Fleet Financial Group of New England. Brown was one of the founders in 1791 when it was called the Providence Bank. It merged with Samuel Colt's creation, the Industrial Trust, and underwent a name change to Industrial National Bank. In 1982 the Rhode Island bank changed its name again to Fleet Financial. Finally it merged with the Bank of Boston to become the seventh largest financial holding company in the United States.
NEW ENGLAND AND THE SLAVE TRADE
There are many secrets surrounding the slave trade. The profits from dealing in human cargo built a great deal of American, and particularly New England, industry. The trade brought together a handful of tightly knit families bound by Masonic ties and intermarriage. The same families still have inherited fortunes and inherited power that dominate the economic landscape. While being a Mason was often a necessity to get hired by a shipowner or a shipbuilder, the lodges that the workers were welcomed into were not the same as the lodges that the owners joined. An elite layer had once again risen to the top of society, just as it had in the feudal period.
The French Normans did not invent the feudal system. The elite Normans, however, did thrive by controlling every aspect of the economy. They exported this type of economy to England, Scotland, and Ireland, where Norman overlords impoverished and evicted entire populations in order to establish their estates. They brought the feudal economy to Italy as well, where Norman armies had wreaked more havoc than the Celts had a thousand years before. The same Norman families that had amassed huge estates had created the Knights Templar, which became Freemasonry. Yet liberty and fraternity within the organization had its bounds; membership in the powerful lodges was centered first on the aristocracy, and only when industrial society replaced the feudal economy would a professional class come to power within the organization. The rank-and-file trade lodges, in turn, remained at lower levels in both public society and Masonic society.
Entry into the upper crust of society could be accomplished by marriage, but more often members of one shipowning family married members of other shipowning families. Only the captains of the ships had a chance of being upwardly mobile, as they shared in the profits of their voyages. The captains started as members of the lodges that included dockworkers, carpenters, wrights, and sailors. Unions, which came much later, did not invent the closed shop. The unions, however, built on the concept of the union hall and joined together in quasi-Masonic groups like the Knights of Labor. Being admitted was the all-important first step. Being accepted by the captains who did the hiring was the next step. For this a laborer had to be considered trustworthy and focused on the goals of the captain and his masters, the shipowners.
The geometric terminology employed by Masons was just as important as a secret handshake. Being regarded as "on-the-level" or "on-the-square" meant that a prospective hire was a lodge member. This showed the owners that they had the employee in their control as surely as if they were feudal lords in fourteenth-century France or Scotland. Being included meant having a job and surviving the harsh economy of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; being excluded could mean being homeless.
The irony is that where the populace had played such a critical role in igniting a war of independence and creating a democratic society, the elite were still able to retain their roles as the power behind the economy. Masonic principles of brotherhood and equality were lost as the Masonic organizations gave a handful of masters the ability to control their organization.
Americans today have a particular view of history that grants New England the moral high road. The Pilgrim myth tells how the Pilgrims landed, made friends with the Native population, and soon invited them to celebrate Thanksgiving after a particularly harsh year. The Pilgrim reality was that the Pilgrims landed in the wrong place, fought among themselves, nearly starved to death, and were rescued by a Native population. The Natives—not the savages later portrayed in books and films—instructed the Pilgrims in the science of agriculture. The survivors then repaid their hosts by subjecting them to a land grab that would not stop until the "savages" were confined to reservations.
The Puritan culture is thought to have steered America into creating a democracy, but religious freedom and tolerance were not hallmarks of the early Massachusetts colony. Citizens were placed in stocks for dancing, sent fleeing to other areas because of minor religious differences, and frequently burnt as witches not for any religious reason but instead to settle feuds with neighbors. While it cannot be denied that New England, and, one could argue, Boston, was the cradle of American democracy, the region soon became the high command of the Federalists, who replaced the values of the Revolution with those of a merchant-class elite that introduced slavery, furthered smuggling, invented child factory labor, and nearly overturned the Bill of Rights in a short-lived attempt to end dissension.
The American dream was tarnished by the unbridled power and unquenched thirst for money that led those we now call the Boston Brahmins into slave trading, opium trading, and labor abuse. In this Brahmin-like class, members preserved their status through Masonic societies that excluded the average worker and through intermarriage between New England elite and occasionally aristocratic English families. The elite class had access to both financial and political power because of the enormous wealth the trade brought. The same elite class exists today.
The basis for many of the fortunes of today's political leaders can be traced to a handful of Founding Fathers. They built fortunes in criminal conspiracies that were as illegal and immoral then as they are now. They plowed the profits into factories and railroads. When their empires were threatened, they became politicians and lawmakers. And along the way they decided that there was value in public relations, and so they endowed schools from Brown to Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.
THE SUGAR PLANTATION
The world of the Cabots, Lodges, and the rest of the Boston Brahmins would never have existed if not for the slave-trading Brown family and a more powerful but lesser known family, the Perkinses. The Browns developed their empire on the slave trade, on banking, and through the most remarkable act of industrial piracy, the textile industry. The Perkinses went even further. By starting as slave traders, they took New England to its highest level of wealth by introducing the region to the opium trade. The Perkins family united the Whitneys, the Tafts, the Roosevelts, the Cushings, the Appletons, the Bacons, and others in the criminal enterprise that would form the bedrock of New England and American wealth.
It is little wonder that the Perkins family roots were in the slave trade, specifically in Saint Domingue, an island where in the late eighteenth century thirty thousand white planters and their soldiers controlled a half million black workers. Control was maintained by harsh treatment, and this control made Saint Domingue wealthy. While it was ostensibly governed by the French, the island was made up of eight hundred sugar plantations that were often owned by Americans. The island, which would one day become Haiti, was responsible for two thirds of all France's overseas trade. Saint Domingue outranked all the agricultural exports of the Spanish Indies combined. Commerce with the mother country employed a thousand ships and fifteen thousand sailors. Cotton from Saint Domingue kept the cloth mills of France in operation. Historians estimate that in France, one person in five depended on the overseas trade for employment. This staggering wealth was the envy of all the European countries.5 The Haitian plantations maintained a higher degree of profit than any other island in the Caribbean. One third of the plantations returned to their owners 12 percent each year, compared to an average of 4 percent in the British owned islands.
The media of the day often supported business against its detractors, as happens today. While Adam Smith wrote of the superior treatment of plantation workers by the French, it was a fantasy, and the mortality rate of slaves proves it.6 One survey shows a plantation going through four times its original slave population; this means that the act of killing 80 percent of one's workforce through harsh treatment was somehow acceptable in sugar plantation economics.
Workers were poorly housed and underfed. The food for slaves was often the stock fish brought in on the four thousand or more American ships that registered in Saint Domingue. The American ships were mostly from New England and returned with sugar and molasses. The American ships also traded slaves. Industry in New England and France prospered as those who engaged in slave trading plowed their profits into the factories, the railroads, and the mines.
In order for a small population to control such a large population, violence was commonplace. For a minor infraction, whipping and the application of salt and pepper on the wounds was typical. Branding, mutilation, and death were typical as well. A runaway slave could expect to be hamstrung. The act of eating sugarcane was punished by being forced to wear a metal muzzle. Women could be raped without recourse. Documented cases exist in which disobedience was curtailed by nailing a man by the ear to an object. And in one case a slave's ears were cut off, cooked, and forced upon him as food.
Common slave tortures included spraying the slave with boiling wax or cane syrup, sewing the lips together with wire, binding men glazed with molasses in the paths of ants, and sexual mutilation. Death was a blessing to many, and hundreds committed suicide to avoid being burned alive or hanged by the planters and their overseers.7
The Perkins family plantation might have been typical of any Saint Domingue plantation. Although lucrative for the owners, it was a living hell for those forced to work for them. In the Memoir of Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Thomas Perkins spared future readers the details of the sugar plantation business and his participation in the slave trade. Instead his memoirs simply mention that the Perkins brothers had a "house," or company, in Haiti, but found the climate not agreeable and so returned to Boston.8
The "climate" Perkins referred to was a revolution of the black slaves against their white overlords, in which two thirds of the whites were killed or forced to flee and one third of the blacks were killed. It was the third in the series of revolutions starting with the American Revolution, which then spread to France and to Saint Domingue.The Perkins family and its heirs survived the carnage and became pillars of New England society.
The slave trade was not invented by the Perkinses or even by the New England merchants. Instead it had existed in Europe, Africa, and Asia for thousands of years. Europe's involvement in the African trade, however, did grow and thrive after coming under the control of the post-Templar military orders.
RED CROSS AND BLACK CARGO
Modern history attributes the beginning of the European slave trade in America to the Portuguese. The Knights Templar, reincorporated in Portugal as the Knights of Christ, were under the control of Henry the Navigator, the Portuguese grand master who saw an economic opportunity developing as the reconquista, the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, pushed the Arabs out of Iberia. Henry didn't invent the institution of slavery; it was already thousands of years old when he became master of his order. But Henry did modernize slavery so that he could incorporate it into his quest for new lands, just as he had incorporated the trade in a number of other commodities. He licensed slavery. He developed a system in which the trade would grow and he could collect royalties from it.Yet slavery as an institution is as old as civilization. Prince Henry and the Knights of Christ "improved" the trade and institutionalized the business, but neither Henry nor the Knights can shoulder the blame for inventing slavery.
Aristotle wrote that humanity is made up of slaves and masters. Plato, who believed no honest man could ever be rich, saw nothing dishonest about the slave trade and believed only in regulating its role in the marketplace. Pre-Christian Rome employed slaves in galleys and the proverbial salt mines, where they worked under horrid conditions. Roman Christianity did not question the slave trade, as yielding to Caesar's decisions was still the rule. The barbarian Alaric raided Rome with the aid of forty thousand captured slaves. Later Anglo-Saxons and Vikings traded white slaves who had been captured in raids and war. In Ireland slave girls were an actual unit of exchange or currency, and were valued more highly than male slaves.1 In an early version of enlightenment, Venice was one of the first city-states to ban slavery, in A.D. 960.
THE MILITARY ORDERS AND
THE SLAVE TRADE
Slave trading prospered all the way through the spread of Islam. While Europe participated in the age-old institution, it used mostly white slaves from European lands that had been conquered rather than African slaves. The Arabs simply made the slave trade more international. When the tide turned against Islam, the Italian merchants [Ron: ie the Black Nobility in Venice] and then the fighting crusader orders stepped into the trade. In fact, Italian shipowners had a reputation for simply selling a boatload of passengers to an Arab trader. Such acts led to Templar ships being considered safer from the passengers' viewpoint, as the Templars were more likely to protect their pilgrim passengers. Later the Templar orders and the Knights of Saint John joined the slave trade to fund their operations.
In Iberia, the Arabs used black slaves to cultivate the land and to fight against the Christians. During the reconquista, much land was given to the military orders, including those of Calatrava, Alcantara, and Aviz of Spain and the Knights of Christ in Portugal. Estates were also given to the Cistercian order of monks, who saw no moral conflict in cultivating the land with slave labor.2 With the Arab invaders mostly pushed out of Europe, the Templars' chief business became business. When the Templars were suppressed, the order underwent both a name change and a management change. The Knights of Christ re-created the Knights Templar at their worst. They became an international business cartel with the approval of the government. Henry and his intrepid explorers understood the opportunity to profit by taking over the lucrative slave-trading business. They then licensed the trade for royalties, and ships of the order and ships owned by others but licensed through the order soon plied the seas from Angola to the Slave Coast, buying or stealing slaves from the Arab merchants.
Henry the Navigator had the benefit of being highborn. As the third son of King John I of Portugal and Queen Phillippa of Lancaster, Henry was given the title of grand master of the Knights of Christ. The Knights were one of four military orders in Portugal, all of which were the remnants of the Knights Templar, which had been disbanded by the efforts of the king of France and the Catholic pope. While the French knights were arrested, tortured, and burned at the stake, the Portuguese knights simply changed their name and were born again with the blessing of Pope John XXII. The knights kept their wealth, their status, and even their regalia: a red cross on a white field.
Although he was called the Navigator, Prince Henry did very little navigating. He did, however, pilot his order from a castle in Sagres, Portugal, where he gathered all the nautical wisdom of his day. He improved on the nautical instruments, gathered maps and perfected the art of cartography, developed new vessels such as the caravel (a small, graceful, two-masted ship built to navigate shallow seas and make long distance crossings), and trained would-be mariners to sail.
Henry's navigators, possibly with the aid of ancient maps, soon rediscovered Atlantic islands such as the Azores and Madeira and then set their sails toward Africa. In 1441 Henry's first caravel reached Africa—and returned with black slaves. The trade was not new to Africa. Black tribes had enslaved each other for thousands of years. The Islamic Berbers and Arab Moors then took over the trade.
The costs of outfitting a fleet and a world-class university at Sagres were great, and the sugar trade with Madeira and the slave trade would defray some of the high costs of maintaining both. Henry also had agricultural projects, dye works, soap factories, fish pools, and coral fisheries, but he was still forced to borrow money.3 Where Henry's ships pioneered the rest of Europe followed. Lions were brought to Ireland. Parrots and monkeys were carried to Bruges. The king of Denmark was given the tusks of an elephant, and an entire expedition was launched with the goal of capturing a live elephant. The expedition was never heard from again, but Europe's fascination with Africa only increased.4
Anticipating the future criticism of capturing, buying, and selling human beings, the Knights of Christ was given spiritual jurisdiction of Guinea, Nubia, and Ethiopia. As "Master of the wealthy Order of Christ which had inherited the riches of the Temple," Henry now had a mission.5 Europe's entry into the African slave trade became official and was placed under the elite order that not only still exists but also flourishes today, with the president of the Republic of Portugal as its current grand master.
If the Portuguese were responsible for bringing the black slave industry to Europe, the Spanish were more than equally responsible for expanding the trade. Columbus had finally sailed for America in 1492 after years of negotiating for a sponsor. The marriage of Isabella, queen of Castile, and Ferdinand II, king of Aragon, united much of Spain. In the conquest of Granada, which unified a great deal of what is now modern Spain, the government was quick to employ what we would today call ethnic cleansing. The Islamic conquerors were first to go. Next were the Jews; they had thrived under a more tolerant Islamic rule and were allowed to be educators, merchants, and bankers. The third target was the heretics. Even before the 1492 capture of Granada, the Inquisition was in place, its goal to drive out pagans and Christian heretics alike. By 1492 Dominican tribunals were operating in eight major cities. Christians and conversos, the converted Jews, were regularly consumed by flames in city squares. August 2, 1492, the day before Columbus left Spain, was the final deadline for all Jews to convert or leave.
When Spain ran out of people to expel, it sent an expedition to the Canary Islands. There the Spaniards met a culture they called the Guanches.With an armed expedition, the Spaniards went to war against the isolated people and eliminated the entire population of two hundred thousand.6 The Canary adventure served as a blueprint for what would happen in the Americas.
Columbus himself is of interest more as a man of mystery than as an explorer. His first biography, written by his son Ferdinand, questions even their surname. Columbo, meaning "the dove," was a chosen name, says Ferdinand, as it was the symbol of wisdom and of Saint John the Baptist. Saint John was sacred to the Templars.7
Columbus's first service outside commercial expeditions was for the Good King Rene. Little was written regarding the Columbus-Rene d'Anjou connection. The book Holy Blood, Holy Grail claims that Rene was a grand master of the Priory of Sion, the secret organization that was behind the formation of the Knights Templar. Certainly Rene was involved in some very select chivalric orders, including the Order of the Crescent, the Order of the White Greyhound, and l'Ordre de la Fidelite. It is not known whether Rene played a role in introducing Columbus to the secret orders. More likely the circuitous route that led Columbus to a connection with the resurrected Templar order was through marriage.
In 1477 Columbus sailed north to Iceland, where the Vikings had settled hundreds of years before, and used the area as a way station between Greenland and the Americas. He sailed to Ireland, where in Galway Bay "flat-faced" natives, leading Columbus to believe they were Asians, had washed up dead. These were possibly Inuit from Greenland or North America. Columbus also sailed to the port city of Bristol, England, which was once a stronghold of the Knights Templar and later a stronghold of the English slave trade.
Columbus was more than well read; for his time he was a scholar extraordinaire. At his bedside was a book titled Imago Mundi, by Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly, which Columbus had read and reread and whose margins he had filled with notes.8 He also read Marinus of Tyre, who had divided time into twenty-four hours. Columbus found support from Strabo and Pliny, who estimated the world at one-third less than its true size. And the adventurer read Aristotle and Seneca, who believed the Indies were just a few days' sail from Cadiz.9 In Medea Seneca wrote, "An age will come when Ocean will break his chains, a huge land will be revealed."10 Columbus also owned a copy of the Book of Ser Marco Polo and an Italian translation of Pliny's Natural History.11
Like the other famous Genoese explorer John Cabot (born Giovanni Caboto), Columbus married well. After being shipwrecked in Portugal, he settled in Lisbon and attended mass at the Church of All Saints. The Moniz-Perestrelo family had come from Genoa a hundred years before and settled in Portugal to work as merchants, traders, and adventurers. By the time Columbus reached Portugal, the family had achieved wealth and status. It had also endowed the Conventos dos Santos, where Columbus met the widowed Felipa Moniz. Dona Felipa was twenty-five; Columbus was twenty-seven. Within a year they married.
How the son of a weaver married into a family of the Knights of Christ is a mystery that has never been solved. Moniz's father, Bartolomeu Perestrello, was trained by Henry the Navigator at Sagres Castle and had taken part in the exploration of the Atlantic islands. He was given the title of governor, or capitano, of Porto Santo, where he received the revenue from all trade and commerce. His son later inherited the title, the position, and the revenue.
Columbus and his new bride honeymooned on Madeira, accompanied by his new mother-in-law, Isabel Moniz. Her family also had a long distinguished history with roots in the Algarve. Although marriage into the Moniz-Perestrelo family brought Columbus status, Isabel Moniz gave Columbus something even more appreciated by the explorer: the books and charts of her husband. The successive discovery and rediscovery of the Canaries, the Azores, Madeira, and the Cape Verde archipelago revealed an ocean full of islands just as Plato had written.12 Armed with the knowledge of geography that was available to the few who could read, as well as the maps and charts of the Atlantic known to a few and protected by the secrecy of the Knights of Christ, Columbus sailed west.
The New World was not as Columbus expected. First, it was not China, then called Cathay, or anywhere else in Asia. There were no spices, which were at that time as valuable as gold.There was some gold, 194 From the Sacred to the Profane but it was around the necks of the particularly warlike Arawak tribe, who first greeted Columbus. In search of gold they were convinced could be found somewhere else, Columbus's expedition searched the Caribbean Sea.
Along the way they discovered that the Taino natives of the larger Arawak group on the island of Canoa, a province of Hispaniola, had seagoing vessels that could hold forty-five people. The Spanish called these dugouts "canoes," but they were actually as long as a European galley and eight feet wide.13 In comparison, the three ships on Columbus's expedition held ninety people total.
An Arawak group known as the Lucayans were active traders who sailed to Guatemala for beads, jade, and quartz, which they used to make pottery. The natives were also capable of smelting gold, silver, and copper.
The natives discovered the "thunder reeds" of the newcomers, from the wrong end of the rifle barrels. In March 1495 in Hispaniola, the island later split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the first battle was pitched between the Spanish people and the native population. The island's population would be reduced from 250,000 to 500 by 1558.14
NEW WORLD SLAVE TRADE
Spain's complicity in the slave trade started with Columbus bringing slaves from the New World to Spain. At first it was a handful of Taino natives, who were brought to Spain almost as a curiosity. By the time of Columbus's fourth voyage, the Spanish might have brought as many white or Moorish slaves as blacks. In 1505 fifteen black slaves were brought to Hispaniola,15 but shortly afterward the native population was reduced by smallpox at such an alarming rate that replacement workers were needed. The Spanish viewed a black as being worth the labor of four native Caribbeans and with better resistance to disease. The early Spanish slave trade may have been half white and half black. Jewish captives in the continuing war against Moorish cities and Muslim slaves were sold in the Valencia market. Black Africans would accompany the Spanish explorers both as slaves and as free men. In fact, on the Cortes exploration of Mexico, Juan Garrido, a free black born in Spain, was given the distinction of being the first European to plant wheat in Mexico.16
The Native American population collapse soon opened the floodgates, and licenses were granted even to the Catholic holy orders to import slaves—sometimes by the hundreds. Bartolome de Las Casas, scion of an old French family in Spain, saw firsthand the destruction of life that Spain was causing among the natives and recommended that blacks be put to work in America instead.17 Soon both white Europeans and black Africans were making the dangerous crossing to work as slaves for the new ruling class of the Americas. Two hundred and fifty thousand white Englishmen were transported against their will to work on the plantations of the Caribbean.18 Their treatment was as harsh; their survival was short.
When slavery is discussed today, race is usually emphasized. But slavery, as horrible an institution as it was, would not become a racial issue until after the American Revolution. Prior to this time slavery more often involved peoples who were captured or subjugated in warfare; as such it may have taken on a cultural focus, but it was not along the lines of color. Whites enslaved whites, blacks enslaved blacks, and the conquering armies and navies of Islam enslaved Europeans and Africans as opportunity allowed. The blame for slavery cannot be placed on any one particular group, as the practice was nearly universal. [Ron: But see: Black Guelph Evil Nobility by LaRouche http://abundanthope.net/pages/Political_Information_43/Black-Guelph-Evil-Nobility-by-LaRouche.shtml].
The early slave trade was an effort of the Old World as a community. The Portuguese and then the Spanish licensed the trade. The sea captains of Genoa bought the licenses. The banking and merchant families from France to Flanders lent the money that paid for the licenses and mounted the expeditions. Slavery was an equal-opportunity exploiter; everywhere, the powerful could enslave the less powerful. The early trade was a matter not of capturing slaves, but rather of buying them. The Africans themselves were an integral part of the trade; remarkably, Prince Henry's slavers even found a market for black slaves among black chiefs, who accepted the slaves in payment for ivory and gold.19
The Wolof tribe of Senegal understood that in Africa a horse had the value of seven men. They also understood that in Europe, Salic law set the price of a slave as equal to one horse. The Wolof, who were rich in slaves, soon became rich in horses, and they were no less complicit than the Europeans who came to buy. The Songhai empire in Senegambia was at least as sophisticated in trade, currency, and social status as the Portuguese. Their markets were as developed and often older than those of the traders who came to buy.
The 1520 through the 1540's saw the trade grow to heightened proportions. Conversos, or Jewish families who claimed conversion to escape death, found their way to the Netherlands, and then to the New World, where some would play a large role. Jesuits too owned slaves, traded slaves, and ran plantations. From the northern European Danes and Dutch to the Iberians and Arabs in the south, the business was conducted for the profit of those who could build and buy the ships and capture, sell, or employ the slaves.
When the Americas were invaded by the Spanish conquistadors, an early use for forced labor was in the silver mines of Peru and Cuba. The Indians had worked these mines before but not under the harsh conditions imposed by the Spanish. The cruelty of the conquerors led to a much greater mortality rate among the natives. Because the slave owners felt the Indians died too often, blacks were brought in to replace them. The black slaves were destined to work the sugar plantations first in Santo Domingo and then in Puerto Rico. Between 1529 and 1537 the Spanish crown granted 360 licenses to import slaves to Peru alone, and most of these licenses went to Francisco Pizarro and his family. The other licenses were doled out to friends of the crown, who often sold them to bankers. Selling the licenses was as lucrative as actually buying slaves in Africa and crossing the ocean to sell them in the New World.
Although every ethnic group and numerous countries participated in the slave trade, perhaps most of the blame can be laid on the doorstep of a few elite countries. Those who could afford to exploit others did, and in whatever form possible. Often the people who could afford to exploit others had powerful connections. The remnant crusader organizations were still in the best position to participate in these activities.
The Portuguese ex-Templar order, the Knights of Christ, started the trans-Mediterranean trade of Africans to finance its explorations. They later brought the trade across the Atlantic. The Spanish crown, acting through a host of military orders, licensed the rights to explore, conquer, and subjugate foreign peoples and lands. Once an empire was in place in a new region, the government took upon itself the right to sell licenses granting others the right to buy and sell slaves. These licenses first went to the elite families who financed and led for-profit expeditions to the Americas.
THE FRENCH ENTER
THE SLAVE TRADE
France was separated by the destructive wars between the Catholics and the Protestants, but both sides would soon follow in the Caribbean sugar and molasses trade. Both Catholic and Protestant participated in the slave trade as well, though usually from different ports. While the French Protestants, or Huguenots, conducted business through a more modern system that gave great power to individual mercantile leaders, the Catholic military orders that survived acted as one great company, like the Knights Templar had before 1307.
Saint Christopher, the first Caribbean island to be colonized by France, was bought by the order of Saint John of Jerusalem in 1653.20 The order soon added the islands of Tortuga and Saint Barthelemy to its holdings. The knights, however, did not enjoy the slave trade. The slave trade was a physically dirty business and most likely less profitable than the order's mainstay of piracy. The order soon transferred ownership of its Caribbean islands to the French West India Company.21 After the order paved the way for French participation in the Atlantic trade, individual companies run by Catholics or Huguenots filled the vacuum.
France was still a Catholic country and followed the lead of the pope in Rome in justifying the trade. Edicts beginning with those of Alexander II in 1493 and the Code Noir of the French king Louis XIV in 1685 instructed that slaves be baptized aboard the slave ships. Somehow the convoluted reasoning allowed the conquerors and slave merchants to believe they were "saving" their victims. They were either killing the "heathen godless pagans" or converting them. But the combined military and religious conquest had an unintended result: The religions of the Africans, as well as their own elite "lodges," were brought to the Americas.
SECRET AFRICAN SOCIETIES
AND THE SLAVE TRADE
While the elite European military societies played their part in buying slaves, transporting them, and selling them to American planters, elite African societies played another role. Secret and elite societies may have even run the other side of the business, procuring slaves to sell to the Europeans. In The Serpent and the Rainbow, Wade Davis describes captured victims of the western Yoruba being brought down the Niger and delivered into the hands of the Efik. The Efik were ideally suited at the mouth of the river to meet the Europeans. The slave ships that anchored at the river's mouth were required to pay a duty to the Efik chiefs in exchange for slaves. Order was maintained by a secret society, the Egbo, or leopard society.
The Efik chief, called an obong, often was the head of an Egbo group that maintained discipline through fear.
The weapons of the Europeans were guns first and organized religion second. The weapons of African societies were similar; first the victim population was conquered and enslaved by force, and later it was subjected to religion. Religion in early Africa was most likely grounded in superstition, as it was in the rest of the world, but it was different in that it utilized more drugs. One of the weapons of subjugation was the Calabar bean, a source of datura, a psychoactive violent herb.22 The use of such psychoactive drugs was carried to America to maintain order. On the surface it appeared that the elite of the New World required only their weapons and the martial powers of the military and the military orders to maintain order. But religion did serve a purpose; in addition to keeping order, it provided justification for the act of conquering the American Natives. And it provided an excuse for the cruelty of enslavement.
The slaves—blacks and Indians alike—did not, of course, simply forget their own religious beliefs. Their religions, which were often the products of numerous nations, regions, and languages, blended with the Catholic iconography. The result was a multitude of new hybrid religions built on a base of pagan beliefs. The religion of the saints became Santeria in Cuba and Puerto Rico, obeah in Jamaica, vodun (voodoo) in Haiti (Saint Domingue) and later in New Orleans, Curanderismo in Mexico, and Candomble in Brazil.23
The glue that Catholicism was supposed to have provided for society was actually supplied in a way for which the Church and the slave owners were not prepared. The same shamans and members of secret African societies who survived the passage brought their own cohesive structure to the New World. On the islands of Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Cuba these groups escaped into the mountains, led by religious leaders and their core elite. They inspired others to escape and join, and they roused enough fear in others that secrets were kept. Assassinations were even conducted by group members who could move around invisibly. The voodoo-inspired revolution that chased the likes of the Perkins family back to Boston was as deadly as the terror of the French Revolution.
The white traders and planters brought Freemasonry across the Atlantic. Just a few years after lodges were established in the northern colonies, they spread south. The first Caribbean lodge was established in Jamaica in 1739. The prosperous island of Barbados had a lodge of its own the next year, and by 1749 Saint Domingue too had its own lodge. The French in Saint Domingue allowed blacks into their lodges at a time when the growth of vodun was at its greatest. The rebellion that brought whites and blacks to New Orleans from the Caribbean introduced both the European lodge system and the vodun secret societies into the United States. The American vodun religion, with its symbolism, ritual clothing, and mysterious doctrines, appears to be an amalgamation of African, Freemason, and Catholic influences.
The black slave insurrection was led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Toussaint-Louverture, both active Masons. Toussaint-Louverture had declared independence for Saint Domingue in 1791, and although France's emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, attempted to suppress it, there were thirty thousand whites among 465,000 black slaves. The population had seen an increase of forty thousand blacks in the three years preceding the revolution. The independence movement eventually succeeded under the leadership of Dessalines, who then renamed the French part of the island Haiti, an Arawak name. Between 1791 and 1794 there was a reign of terror as revolutionary blacks had their own version of Robespierre, Boukman. Boukman used a network of voodoo priests and the mystery of voodoo ritual to incite the revolution. Under Boukman's rule, whites were raped, tortured, and killed; plantations were pillaged; and property was burned. In three years ten thousand whites and an unknown number of blacks fled, mostly to Louisiana. Ten thousand whites were killed, which was one third of the population.
HUGUENOTS IN THE TRADE
As Catholic France paved the way, the Huguenot slavers and smugglers played an even bigger role in the commercial activity of the new American colonies. From the same ports that the Templars once held in the fourteenth century, like La Rochelle, the sixteenth-century Huguenots organized into secret groups from which they supported each other against often larger enemies. These groups were organized through a series of Masonic lodges.
Much of the English and Scottish participation in the slave trade, in smuggling, and even in piracy was organized in lodges and cells whose members protected one another. Masons enjoyed protection that extended to the highest levels in power. Although slave trading today is statutory piracy, it used to be the prerogative of the English crown. The Duke of York organized the English monopoly of the trade, and the largest shareholders were the members of the royal families—who were often at the pinnacle of the secret societies.
The Protestant French did not always have the same blessing from the royals as did their English competitors or the Catholic slavers. The Huguenots were among the last to enter the slave trade, but they caught up quickly. In 1691 a Huguenot in the service of the French Senegal Company became the governor of Saint Domingue.24 At home in France three ports—Nantes, Bordeaux, and La Rochelle—ended up in control of 70 percent of the slave-trading business.
Nantes, which is up the Loire River from the Atlantic coast, soon controlled 50 percent of the trade by itself, thanks to the tightly knit, intermarried Protestant families of Michel, Luynes, Boutelhiers, Drouins, Bertrands, Grou, and Montaudoin. 25 Islands in the Loire provided suitable harbor for importing cotton and other goods, the final product of the trade that started with African slaves. The house of Rene Montaudoin emerged as the single largest company, controlling the majority of the trade in Nantes, the largest slave-trading city. The family business outfitted 357 ships in the eighteenth century, almost double the amount of the Luynes family, the next closest competitor.
Rene Montaudoin was a member of the Royal Academy of Science and also a Mason. His home base, Nantes, was a Masonic stronghold imbued with the ideas ofVoltaire and Rousseau. Montaudoin became close friends with Benjamin Franklin and helped supply the American cause against the British. But the rights of man had little application in the principal business of Nantes—the buying and selling of humans.
The role of the French Masons in the slave trade is a prime example of the divisive goals of Masonic groups and of the elite themselves. In 1789 there were more than six hundred Masonic lodges in Paris. They ranged from the craft worker and social groups to the more restrictive lodges with nobles, priests, and even brothers of the king. Prominent lodges included the leaders of the Enlightenment. The Lodge of the Nine Sisters was one such lodge; founded by the astronomer Lalande, the lodge was joined by Condorcet, Chamfort, Houdon, Danton, and Benjamin Franklin. They adhered to no religious doctrine outside of the deist belief that there is a supreme architect of the universe.26 They acted against the Catholic religion, however, and were instrumental in expelling the Jesuits from France. They were pledged to mutual assistance and religious toleration, which conversely allowed them to control the slave trade and force the Catholic religion on slaves.
There were also liberal Masonic groups whose membership included Lafayette, his in-laws the Noailles, Mirabeau, the duc de La Rochefoucauld, and the duc d'Orleans. Lafayette worked to end slavery and experimented by buying two Suriname plantations from the Jesuits and educating his own slaves in preparation for their freedom.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that the Masonic-inspired revolution backfired against the membership's nobles and elite. A decade before the Reign of Terror would count thousands of heads lost to the guillotine, Masonic-linked families like the Montaudoins came to the aid of the new experiment in democracy.
Rene Montaudoins family enterprise might have provided an example to the American captains of the slave and textile industries. Montaudoin donated money to build the Nantes hospital and plowed much of his wealth into factories where cotton was processed. Members of the De Wolf family of Bristol, Rhode Island, were classic imitators, financing the textile industry of New England with the money earned in the slave trade.
Although the motive of the French in the slave trade was primarily profit, their actions took on political and religious overtones. The French Huguenots had numerous enemies, and the Catholic Church presented the greatest threat. French Freemasons brought blacks into the lodges as a way of keeping the groups from becoming Catholic. When Britain went to war with American colonies, France saw an opportunity to hurt its long-term enemy.27
THE ENGLISH SLAVE TRADERS
The English were latecomers in the exploration of the New World. After a very brief effort employing John Cabot to sail the coast in 1497, the English waited more than a hundred years, until the time of Queen Elizabeth I, before conducting further exploration. Elizabeth was surrounded by a court of adventurers and alchemists, who advised the queen to participate in the conquest.
Elizabeth's reign began shortly after the death of the Catholic queen Mary I. Mary's death had ended a tense struggle between Catholic and Protestant factions over the throne. Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, had an unusual propensity for marrying and then dispensing with his wives. One of them, Anne Boleyn, was Elizabeth's mother. Boleyn was accused of the crime of fornication and was beheaded, making Elizabeth illegitimate. That status was not important to the family of the Duke of Northumberland, who wanted a Protestant ruler. The duke and his group attempted a coup to put Elizabeth on the throne instead of Henry's other daughter, Mary. The so-called Dudley Conspiracy ended badly for the twenty conspirators; they were sent to the Tower, some to be executed and others to be imprisoned. Elizabeth, however, remained physically unharmed, but the affair made her almost paranoid.
A few weeks after Mary's death, on a precise day (January 15, 1559) picked by Elizabeth's astrologer, Dr. John Dee, Elizabeth was made queen of England. She had been drawn to the occult since childhood, and it was one commonality she shared with her father. Her long-term friend and rumored lover Robert Dudley introduced Elizabeth to Dee. Dee had been hired by the Duke of Northumberland to teach science to his two sons.
Dee's reputation as a sorcerer grew from his school days, when in the middle of a Greek play at Cambridge he displayed an ability to levitate a large scarab. The year he graduated, he was imprisoned as a sorcerer. The short imprisonment did not hurt his chances at gainful employment; he soon found himself a favorite of Elizabeth's court and was given a home called Mortlake.
At Mortlake the cabalist, alchemist, and mathematician amassed a library of four thousand volumes, the largest in England. Dee's library would be used by two of England's greatest chroniclers, Hakluyt and Holinshed. To Dee there was no divide between science and magic. He displayed a magic mirror that mystified all but would not allow anyone to reveal what he or she had seen. A maid reported that she had seen a cloud of bees swarm downstairs from his chambers, plainly familiars of the doctor.
Dee introduced Elizabeth to Francis Kelly, who claimed to be able to transmute metals into gold. Elizabeth hired him to avoid taxing her subjects.
Dee persuaded Elizabeth that she was entitled to enormous areas in the New World based on claims that the Saxon version of the Greek conqueror Alexander, King Edgar, had made. Her Majesty was also a direct heir of King Arthur, according to Dee. Dee convinced Elizabeth that Britain had a destiny to rule as Britannia and that as an island the country needed a great navy. He told her that the Americas were to be the new, Greater Britannia, the virgin continent for the Virgin Queen. Now the quest was on for the new Avalon. Having been confined to her palace, Elizabeth lived her life vicariously—intellectually through Dr. Dee, emotionally through the men Dee brought to her.
In 1577 Dee wrote The Perfect Art of Navigation and dedicated it to Christopher Hatton, who financed the maritime adventures of Elizabeth's court. Elizabeth gathered together Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. Drake changed the name of his ship to the Golden Hind, which was the heraldic device on Hatton's family crest. Drake was then set loose to plunder the Spanish Main and claim lands for Elizabeth. He brought her an emerald-studded crown, a diamond cross, and a share in the 235,000 pounds' worth of plunder from Spain. Her share alone exceeded her annual royalties.
Drake is regarded as one of the greatest English sea captains of all time. His exploits as a navigator brought Britain into the world-encircling role of Britannia, the empire. Drake declared northern California to be Nova Albion, and claimed it for Elizabeth. His exploits as a privateer— a pirate with permission—helped finance further voyages and added to the coffers of the English kingdom. The Virgin Queen was quick to catch on to the ways of the world. She licensed trade, conquest, and piracy. The risks were small, unless one includes war with Spain. The Spanish were indignant over the raids on their shipping and encroachment on their new lands, and so they threatened to invade England. Elizabeth's chief conjurer, John Dee, put a hex on the Spanish Armada, which is believed to have brought bad weather and the English victory. Elizabeth gave licenses to Dr. Dee, who at one time had the patent to all American lands north of 50 degrees latitude. The queen also licensed explorers John Davis and Walter Raleigh to find a northwest passage to China and India.
Sir Walter Raleigh was a maverick. Alternately in and out of favor with the queen, Raleigh was renowned for his bravado, energy, and intelligence. For Elizabeth and the glory of Britannia, Raleigh searched South America for the legendary treasure of El Dorado. He believed that a source of gold was not far from the Orinoco River, which he called the River of the Red Cross, a reference to the Templars. Raleigh believed he was meant to play the role of the Red Cross Knight, a figure in the Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser.28
Raleigh did go down in history as the first to briefly attempt colonization in the New World, which failed. He at least managed to imprint the queen's name on the New World, on the state of Virginia.
John Hawkins, a cousin of Sir Francis Drake, introduced the English to the African slave trade. Other English captains before him had been to Africa, violating the exclusive trade claimed by Spain and Portugal. But Hawkins was given express permission by Queen Elizabeth to trade for slaves. Hawkins's backers included his father-in-law, Benjamin Gonson, the treasurer of the navy, and Sir Thomas Lodge, the Lord Mayor of London.29
Hawkins had no qualms about capturing the slaves himself or buying or stealing them from the Portuguese. His first voyage was a mild success, but his subsequent voyages made great profits, and for this he was knighted. His new crest included a female African figure.
MASTER MASONS AND THEIR SLAVES
1. Brent Staples, "How Slavery Fueled Business in the North," from the Web site www.fresnobee.com (July 25, 2000), pp. 1-4.
2. Pringle,pp. 17-18.
3. Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440- 1870 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997), p. 296.
4. Thomas Brosnahan, Kim Grant, and Steve Jermanok, New England (Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 1999), p. 346.
5. Wade Davis, The Serpent and the Rainbow (New York: Warner Books, 1985), p. 66.
6. Eric Williams, From Columbus to Castro:The History of the Caribbean 1492— 1969 (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), p. 245.
7. Davis, p. 231.
8. Thomas Handasyd Perkins, The Memoir of Thomas Handasyd Perkins (1856; reprint, New York: Burt Franklin, 1971), p. 10.
1. Jack Weatherford, The History of Money (New York: Three Pavers Press, 1997), p. 22.
2. Seward, p. 161.
3. Elaine Sanceau, Henry the Navigator: The Story of a Great Prince and His Times (New York: W W Norton, 1947), p. 255.
4. Ibid., p. 224.
5. Ibid., p. 255.
6. Sale Kirkpatrick, The Conquest of Paradise (New York: Penguin, 1991), pp. 50- 1.
7. Benjamin Keen, trans., The Life of Admiral Christopher Columbus by His Son Ferdinand (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1959), p. 5.
8. Gianni Granzotto, Christopher Columbus:The Dream and the Obsession, Stephen Sartarelli, trans. (Garden City: Doubleday, 1985), pp. 39-41.
9. Keen, pp. 16-17.
10. Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus (Boston: Litde, Brown and Co., 1942), p. 57.
11. Ibid., p. 93.
12. Granzotto, p. 44.
13. Ibid., pp. 594-5.
14. Samuel Eliot Morison, Christopher Columbus, Mariner (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1942), pp. 127-9.
15. Thomas, p. 90.
16. Ibid., p. 96.
17. Williams, p. 34.
18. James Pope-Hennessy, Sins of the Father: A Study of the Atlantic Slave Traders (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968), p. 45.
19. Will Durant, The Reformation: The Story of Civilization VI (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957), p. 194.
20. Thomas, p. 191.
21. Seward, p. 294.
22. Davis, pp. 36-38.
23. Rod Davis, American Voudou (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1999), pp. 8-9.
24. James A.Rawley, The Trans-Atlantic SlaveTrade (New York:W.W. Norton, 1981), pp. 105-6.
25. Ibid., pp. 136-8.
26. Will Durant and Ariel Durant, Rousseau and Revolution: The Story of Civilization X (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), p. 939.
27. Augur, pp. 3-27.
28. Charles Nicholl, The Creature in the Map: A Journey to El Dorado (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1995), pp. 127, 309-11.
29. Thomas, p. 155.