Christa Dierksheide argues that "enlightened" slaveowners in the British Caribbean and the American South, neither backward reactionaries nor freedom-loving hypocrites, thought of themselves as modern, cosmopolitan men with a powerful alternative vision of progress in the Atlantic world. Instead of radical revolution and liberty, they believed that ameliorationdefined by them as gradual progress through the mitigation of social or political evils such as slaverywas the best means of driving the development and expansion of New World societies.
Interrogating amelioration as an intellectual concept among slaveowners, Dierksheide uses a transnational approach that focuses on provincial planters rather than metropolitan abolitionists, shedding new light on the practice of slavery in the Anglophone Atlantic world. She argues that ameliorationof slavery and provincial society more generallywas a dominant concept shared by enlightened planters who sought to "improve" slavery toward its abolition, as well as by those who sought to ameliorate the institution in order to expand the system. By illuminating the common ground shared between supposedly anti- and pro-slavery provincials, she provides a powerful alternative to the usual story of liberal progress in the plantation Americas. Amelioration, she demonstrates, went well beyond the master-slave relationship, underpinning Anglo-American imperial expansion throughout the Atlantic world.
About the Author
Christa Dierksheide is Historian at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello.
Table of Contents
Part I Virginia 23
Chapter 1 "The Great Improvement and Civilization of That Race" 25
Chapter 2 "The Desideratum Is to Diminish the Blacks and Increase the Whites" 57
Part II South Carolina 89
Chapter 3 "Rising Gradations to Unlimited Freedom" 91
Chapter 4 "The Enormous Evil That Has Haunted the Imaginations of Men" 123
Part III The British West Indies 153
Chapter 5 "We May Alleviate, Though We Cannot Cure" 155
Chapter 6 "A Matter of Portentous Magnitude, and Still More Portentous Difficulty" 180
Conclusion: Amelioration and Empire, ca. 1845 211