Blake’s engraving “Europe supported by Africa and America” portrays Europe and their descendants as dependent on America and Africa because Europe could have not done the expansion of their dominion of the New World without the aid of the African and the Native people.
Europe’s domination of the New World depended on Africa through chattel slavery as it served as “the engine that propelled Europe’s rise to global economic dominance,” according to Eric Williams, author of the book Capitalism and Slavery. Without the enslavement of millions of Africans for labor, building the foundation of a prosperous North America would have been impossible.
The emergence of colonial gentry, the very wealthy merchants in colonial America, were made possible because of the slaves who helped meet the demand of labor in the colonies. At the back of slavery, this wealthy class increased their consumption of English goods paved the way for consumer revolution which happened in England.
Conflict between the existence of slavery and the promise of the Declaration of Independence that “”all men are created equal” became a striking contradiction to the nation’s principles of equality and liberty. During the 1787 Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia, delegates from different states “were split on the moral question of human bondage and man’s inhumanity to man, but not on its economic necessity,” says Greg Timmons, a history writer and educational consultant. Slavery had become ingrained and structured in American society that nothing could topple it, even the law of the land. For them, and during this time, slavery was a necessary evil.
Slavery was crucial to American commerce especially in the labor-intensive agriculture-based economy of the South where white citizens depended on slaves to keep their economic activity going. In smaller scale, slaves helped the slaveholders to gain significant tax break through the Three-Fifths Compromise by counting them as three-fifths of a person.
There was a hope to abrogate moral corruption during the Market Revolution that slavery could be ended by technological advancement. That was when cotton gin was invented. It turned out it would not revolutionize to reduce slavery, but it accelerated the demand because of this machine’s increased capacity. Despite this tragedy, slaves helped fuel the Industrial Revolution in both the US and Europe—of what Blake referred on his art— the economic benefit Europe and its white descendants in America extracted from human slavery.
The Naturalization Act of 1791 framed American citizen as a free white person born or naturalized in United States, and so all others are excluded placing the Native and African Americans as secondary to white male citizens. White Americans, especially the Federalists, feared that equality would destroy the republic. The exclusion of Native and African Americans on the provision of the Naturalization Act of 1791 and the Bill of Rights, made the image of United States as a republic of white men. The new republic’s effort of Indian removal carried out the vision of a white nation—the emergence of a new national identity cementing the United States as an appendage of Europe separated by thousand miles of ocean.
Native Americans once controlled the vast unexplored territories of North America. Their defeat and further loss of their land became an opposite correlation as a victory and further expansion of white settlements. Such as the defeat of the Western Confederacy who lost their land to the United States, paving for territorial expansion to the west under the Treaty of Greenville of 1795. The encroachment of Europeans in North America has become a profound hypocrisy for European-American citizens, on their rhetorics against Native Americans that these “savages” impeded their territorial expansion in North America. White citizens attempted to wipe out the natives for their intrusion of “”their land”” as they have no right since they were not citizens of the republic. Native Americans became foreigners of their own lands.
Besides the never-ending hostility, white settlers made mutual relationship with the natives by the protection they could from them against the attacks of other groups of native enemies. In exchange, natives got access to new technology such as gun powder and ammunition; and trading of goods such as furs and pelts to purchase colonial commodities. The trading network between the natives and white settlers helped flourishing the economic demand of fur and other commodities of Europe.
Native Americans played an important rule for the colonies to expel Europe’s presence in North America. One of the well-known was during the French and Indian War when the outnumbered French colonists depended on Native tribes (Wabanaki Confederacy, Algonquin, Lenape, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Shawnee, and Wyandot) being defeated by the British colonists, who were also supported by other groups of Indian tribes (Iroquois, Catawba, and Cherokee). The British colonists’ alliance with the Indian tribes contributed to the expulsion of the French from the New France.
Across the history of post-colonial North America, white settlers made alliance, treaties, and amiable relationship with the Natives. This timeline also witnessed the realization of some founding fathers that all men are created equal; the moral consciousness of radical leaders who became known as abolitionists and the Northerners to support in the abolition of slavery. The American Revolution gave rise to movement that would abolish slavery, but the evolution of America further prolonged the torment of their subjugation.
Without the corrupted morality of Europe brought by the evilness of wealth-driven, power hunger mercantilism, America and Africa would have not dealt with these tragedies of colonialism. This is what Blake reiterated through his art that since Europe was dependent on and benefited from the exploitation of America and Africa, she must question her brutal and degrading treatment of them under her hands.
The narratives of the Native and African Americans under the exploitation of Europe and its descendants in America were stories of their resistance that Blake represented through his art. America and Africa helped in sailing the European ship to navigate towards global economic dominance at the expense of the lives of the Natives and African Americans.
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