By Mario Salas
We always hear about Crispus Attucks, a black man that fought in the American Revolution for the slave owners, but we never hear about the thousands of blacks that fought for the British between 1808 and 1816. Three events led to the American Revolution and all three were based on slavery and black resistance to the slave system of Virginia and other colonies. They were:
- The Somerset Case: In 1772, a slave owner named Charles Stuart bought a slave from Virginia to England named James Somerset. Stuart was trying to send Somerset to Jamaica for sale. An English abolitionist sued for his freedom arguing that slaves became free when brought to England. The Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield, ruled that slavery had no basis in nature or under English law. Somerset was set free and back in America the American slave owners went ballistic. Even though white Americans thought themselves champions of freedom they were angered by the British ruling of freedom for James Somerset.
- About the same time as the Somerset Case, an event would take place that would drive the Americans insane with anger. A British ship was burned and the captain killed. The only witness against the Americans was a black man named Aaron Briggs who would testify against the Virginians. Briggs was about 16 years old, but hatred against him was racial. This hatred was generated by Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry who led the way. Historians believe that this was a crucial moment prompting the Americans to revolt against England. In writings and speeches, Briggs was referred to as the “Negro-Indian witness.” This incident, of a black man testifying against whites, led to the formation of the Continental Congress and the Committees of Correspondence. This event was greater than the Boston Tea Party in popularity, but white supremacy suppressed this incident. Thus, 1772 became the cornerstone of the American rebellion. The Gaspee Affair led straight to the 1776 Revolution, and later to fasten slavery upon America. The leaders of the attacked ship were slave owners (John Brown and Abraham Whipple). As was typical throughout history, the black witness was made into a liar by the Virginia colonists.
- Lastly, Lord Dunmore called for blacks to escape slavery and join the British army with a promise of freedom and to smight their brutal owners. In November of 1775, he offered freedom to slaves and indentured servants if they would help fight the American rebels. In early 1776, about 800 enslaved men flocked to the British camps and Dunmore organized them into a unit he called the “Ethiopian Regiment.” To discourage black slaves, Virginia slave owners brutally beat blacks in the public square and often cut off an ear in revenge. They sometimes cut off heads and stuck them on polls and lined the streets with skulls. In 1781, Lord Cornwallis led a British army to Richmond, Virginia which attracted over 4,500 runaways including 23 from the Thomas Jefferson slave plantation, and 16 from George Washington plantation.
Blacks Burn White House
During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, black soldiers called the Colonial Marines, who were former slaves that escaped American slavery, attacked Washington, DC. These black troops defeated American forces at Bladensburg, Maryland, on August 24, 1814, and arrived as the sun went down in Washington, where they burned the White House and the U.S. Capitol down.
Escaped black slaves formed a military unit called Britain’s Royal Navy Corps of Colonial Marines. After the War of 1812 these former soldiers established Trinidad’s “Merikin” communities (Merikin is short for American), which became free communities after the British refused to return slaves to America. These marines in the British Navy were first organized in 1808 to support Britain’s Caribbean bases. During the War of 1812, British Rear Admiral Alexander Cochrane formed the Colonial Marines. Although they were of direct African descent many more were formerly enslaved people in the Americas. These troops received the same training and benefits as their white Royal Marine counterparts. This would anger the American slave owners and explains why Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner with the 3rd Verse attacking blacks.
Colonial Marines were part of the British troops that attacked Americans outside of DC and drove them back into the city, setting the White House on fire. One of the Americans who witnessed it was Francis Scott Key-a pro-slavery man. Key also witnessed continuous British bombardment of Fort McHenry. After seeing the White House burn, Key became so angry at blacks that he wrote a poem that became the national anthem. In the third verse, Key had a special message for the enslaved people who had dared to fight for freedom:
The Hidden Third Verse
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
This is hardly ever mentioned in American History courses; it is purposefully ignored to mythologize American history along white supremacist lines. In April of 1814, Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane made the British position official: “All those who may be disposed to emigrate from the United States, will, with their Families, be received on board of His Majesty’s Ships…. They will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Forces, or of being sent as FREE Settlers to British possessions, … where they will meet with all due encouragement.” Afterwards, Cochrane ordered Rear-Admiral George Cockburn to form the black Colonial Marines, units made up of refugee slaves that hated their American masters.
The Colonial Marines saw military action from across North America between 1814 and 1816. These former slaves often had extensive local knowledge of creeks, wetlands, and river valleys during that period as a result of being slaves and contact with Native Americans. They participated in numerous battles and raids during the War of 1812. They supported the British forces who burned Washington D.C. in 1814 and who were later repulsed by US troops at Baltimore, Maryland. The Colonial Marines assisted Britain’s Southern Coastal Campaign by guarding the British Army’s right flank during the invasion and subsequent Battle of New Orleans in 1815. When the 1814 Treaty ended the War of 1812, the Colonial Marines was transferred to British bases in Bermuda and later to Canada, Nova Scotia, and Trinidad.
The Negro Fort
Interestingly, free black people in 1683, built a settlement at St. Augustine while the Spanish were still in control of Florida (Robison, 2003). This settlement later became Fort Mose, which served as a lightning rod for slaves on the English plantations of Mississippi, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Though the fort would be destroyed by James Oglethorpe in 1740, it was rebuilt and established a safe haven for runaways. Because Florida remained on the British side when the 13 colonies went to war with England, Spain was allowed to repossess Florida thus allowing for a greater influx of slaves. Thus, Fort Mose would serve as precedence for another fort that would come to be known as “Fort Negro.”
These black marines fought at Prospect Bluff, Florida in 1816 and were ordered to defend a Spanish-fortified structure at Prospect Bluff. This fort was part of a complex of river and road communication networks extending into Georgia and Alabama. The fort had previously been under the protection of Spanish authorities in Florida and became a sanctuary for runaway slaves, Creeks, and black Seminoles. It became known as the Negro Fort. It would be guarded by the black Colonial Marines
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In an editorial on Rep. Will Hurd’s page he announced it’s time to serve his country in a different way.
August 1, 2019 Editorial (https://hurd.house.gov)
There are many reasons why I love America. I have learned over my three terms in Congress, by representing people that voted for me, didn’t vote for me or didn’t vote at all, that America is better than the sum of its parts. Serving people of all walks of life has shown me that way more unites our country than divides us. This understanding has allowed me to win elections many people thought I couldn’t, especially when the political environment was overwhelmingly against my party.
In this experiment called America we strive to create a more perfect union. Our founding principle of a right to free speech has given us the freedom to disagree, and the resulting competition of ideas has produced policies tackling a variety of problems. As has happened many times throughout our history, we now face generational defining challenges at home and abroad.
We are in a geopolitical competition with China to have the world’s most important economy. There is a global race to be the leader in artificial intelligence, because whoever dominates AI will rule the world. We face growing cyberattacks every day. Extreme poverty, lack of economic opportunity and violence in Central America is placing unbearable pressure on our borders. While Congress has a role in these issues, so does the private sector and civil society.
After reflecting on how best to help our country address these challenges, I have made the decision to not seek reelection for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.
I left a job I loved in the CIA as an undercover officer to meet what I believed to be a need for new leadership in Congress on intelligence and national security matters. I wanted to help the Intelligence Community in a different way by bringing my knowledge and experience to Congress. I’m leaving the House of Representatives to help our country in a different way. I want to use my knowledge and experience to focus on these generational challenges in new ways. It was never my intention to stay in Congress forever, but I will stay involved in politics to grow a Republican Party that looks like America.
As the only African American Republican in the House of Representatives and as a Congressman who represents a 71% Latino district, I’ve taken a conservative message to places that don’t often hear it. Folks in these communities believe in order to solve problems we should empower people not the government, help families move up the economic ladder through free markets not socialism and achieve and maintain peace by being nice with nice guys and tough with tough guys. These Republican ideals resonate with people who don’t think they identify with the Republican Party. Every American should feel they have a home in our party.
While I have 17 months left in my term, I’m very proud of the last 55. There were times when it was fun and times when it wasn’t. When people were mad, it was my job to listen. When people felt hopeless, it was my job to care. When something was broken, it was my job to find out how to fix it.
When border patrol agents weren’t getting the tools they needed to do their job, I stepped in to help. When I found an opportunity to expose more students to computer science, I partnered with non-profits to train local teachers to incorporate coding into math class. I made sure taxpayer money was used more efficiently by changing how the government purchases IT goods and services.
It was never about the size nor difficulty nor sexiness of the problem; It was about making a difference. My philosophy has been simple. Be honest. Treat people with respect. Never shy away from a fight. Never accept “no” or the status quo and never hesitate to speak my mind.
NoTwo centuries ago, I would have been counted as three-fifths of a person, and today I can say I’ve had the honor of serving three terms in Congress. America has come a long way and we still have more to do in our pursuit of a more perfect union. However, this pursuit will stall if we don’t all do our part. When I took the oath of office after joining the CIA, I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all its enemies. I took the same oath on my first day in Congress. This oath doesn’t have a statute of limitations. I will keep fighting to ensure the country I love excels during what will be a time of unprecedented technological change. I will keep fighting to make certain we successfully meet these generational challenges head on. I will keep fighting to remind people why I love America: that we are neither Republican nor Democrat nor Independent; We are better than the sum of our parts.
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