Tuesday, April 21, 2009

America: Prisons, Slaves, and Religion (short version)

America: Prisons, Slaves, and Religion


When Cristobal Colon’—alias Christopher Columbus—with his ninety or so assorted crewmen, set out for the new world, it was with the intent to get away from what he considered to be the conditioned minds of a people by the Orthodox Church and the tyranny of the government. Columbus viewed the beliefs of the Orthodox Church as nonsense and felt these beliefs were astray from the true God. And although he mislead his intentions to the Royal Family in order to get needed support and to cover the cost of very expensive ships and cargo, his dream was to find a new world in which the powerful conditioning forces of organized religion were abandoned and there could be spiritual freedom to walk with God without the tyranny of the Church and the power and control of royal authority.

What Columbus did not realize was the power of conditioning and the fact that, although many shared his dream of spiritual freedom, over time the masses would come and they would bring their orthodox fears and conditioning with them. Although Columbus was not without conditioning himself and was accustomed to harboring humans as slaves, the unfortunate result of the conditioning of others was to affect the very spiritual freedom that Columbus had at least conceived, and to begin to inject into society the same nonsense of orthodox beliefs from which they had hopefully escaped. Basically the same thing, in varying degrees, was being set up over here.

Another interesting fact about this voyage of discovery was that some of the crews were made up of convicts. How many former prisoners made up the crews of these ships will never be known because of the secrecy from which they were selected. The conditions on these ships however were not a far cry from a prison cell, because once they were on the open sea they were subject to flogging and other punishments if any man were to get out of line, and the cramped vessels were as isolating as an iron cage and nobody was free to go or to do as they please.

On the moonlit morning of October 12, 1492, at two o’clock in the morning, Rodrigo de Triana, a watchman on the Pinta, spotted land on the horizon and shouted, “Tierra! Tierra!” The other ships were notified and at dawn an armed search party stepped from a boat and waded onto the island, which turned out to be simply one link in a chain of islands. Having mistakenly believed he had found the fabled Passage to India, Columbus named this chain of islands the “Indies,’ and when a band of mostly naked, tawny-skinned natives appeared, they were called “Indians.”

These friendly natives or “Indians” as they were now called, would share anything that they possessed and the well-proportioned and receptive woman mingled easily with the bearded men. Columbus and the Spanish people soon realize that they were intelligent and learned quickly, and that they would make good slaves. In fact after bringing some natives back to the Spanish ports, these exotic-looking “Indians” were now bein g referred to as “slaves.” Other voyages would bring back hundreds of Indian captives and Columbus reported them as “a wild people fit for any work, well proportioned, and very intelligent, and who, when they have got rid of their cruel habits to which they have been accustomed, will be better than any other kind of slaves.” The natives that were left on the islands contracted measles, smallpox and other infections and diseases left behind by the whites that would spread among their villages with fatal effect. Spain’s discovery of precious ore deposits led to further exploitation of the natives and it is estimated that war, disease, overwork, and suicide brought about the deaths, according to historians, of at least 300,000 natives, and one recorded estimate from a Catholic priest who lived during that time figured that fully three million Indians had died between 1492 and 1508, comprising one of the worst genocides in recorded history.

On one of his voyages of as many as seventeen ships with as many as fifteen hundred men, many being convicts, Columbus set out to start a major slave trade. At first, the Spanish Crown rejected his appeal to open a major slave trade, but the government did order the enlistment of three hundred convicts, thirty of them women, and gave authorization for the justices to ship away any condemned criminals who might be convinced to go. Many of these convicts and others that made up his crews were left behind on islands or abandoned abroad. He also had to deal with a settler’s revolt and to head off an even more dangerous Indian rebellion. But Columbus got his due, for in 1500 the Spanish sovereigns dispatched a new commissioner, who arrested Columbus on corruption charges and hauled him back to Spain to face inquisition. He entered Cadiz still in chains and was taken to Las Cuevas monastery in Seville, where he was kept locked up for months until finally being stripped of his powers and released. Like his idol, Marco Polo, w ho had written his epic journal in prison, Columbus had “discovered America and they put him in jail for it.” Oddly, the lands he had discovered came to be known to Europeans, not as “Columbus,” but as “America,” in honor of another Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci of Florence, who claimed to have reached the New World a year before him, but who really had not done so till a year later. Not only was Amerigo a bad liar, but many claimed that he also had a criminal past, prompting Ralph Waldo Emerson to comment, “Strange…that broad America must wear the name of a thief.”

In an effort to save the natives, Bartolome de Las Casas, who was horrified by what was happening to them, vowed to devote the rest of his life to securing “the justice of those Indian peoples, and to condemn the robbery, evil and injustice committed against them.” Unfortunately his attempt to save the Indians was by diverting the attention of the slave trade to the Negroes, arguing that “the labor of one Ne gro was more valuable than that of four Indians.” The king agreed, and in 1517 the first asiento was arranged, enabling four thousand blacks to be imported to the West Indies over the next eight years. African slaves started arriving a few months later, and by 1540 an estimated thirty thousand men, women, and children had been taken to Hisponiola alone. In his old age, Las Casas came to realize he had made a terrible mistake. Black slavery did not save the Indians but merely added another oppressed race—and the colony became even more dependent on slavery for its survival. From their base in Hispaniola, Spanish conquistadors under the fanatical Christian leader Hernando Cortes plunged into Mexico and liquidated the golden Aztec empire, destroying any and all foms of knowledge, believing, as the bible teaches, that if it is not from the bible it is of the devil. More conquerors sailed up to Florida and fanned out into the Texas panhandle, Santa Fe, Mississippi, the Grand Canyon, and California. Among their earliest constructs in North America, Spanish soldiers in 1570 erected the first substantial prison, at St. Augustine, Florida.

By then a few brave Spaniards had begun to criticize the slave trade publicly. Bartolome de Albornoz attacked it as morally and legally wrong, but his views were officially suppressed. Tomas Mercando condemned the trade as being based upon deceit, robbery, and force. Alonso de Sandoval declared, “God created man free…Slavery is not exile, but also subjection, hunger, sorrow, spiritual death, insult, prison, perpetual persecution, and, in short, is a Pandora’s box of all the evils.”

Nevertheless, more explorers of the New Word brought more convicts, and Africans and Indians whom they held as prisoners. Many Spanish and French accounts used the terms “prisoner” and “slave” interchangeably when referring to the captives. The conditions only got worse over time and the treatment of the slaves decade with the abuse of woma n and children and with adult male captives often being tortured to death. In the minds of these so-called civilized Christian masters, these “slaves” were looked upon as being no more important that the proverbial slug in the garden or that insect that sucked their blood.

Before long, other European nations began competing with Spain and Portugal in overseas exploration, and they too utilized convicts to fill out their crews. Jacques Cartier of France combed the jails for fifty convicts, men and woman, whom he employed on his expedition to Newfoundland in 1542. Pierre du Guast, Sieur de Monts, and Samuel De Champlain used convicts as sailors on their northern voyages. Blacks accompanied French explorers into Canada and the Mississippi River Valley.

During the 1560s, John Hawkins and Francis Drake started trafficking slaves between England, Africa, and Spanish America, and Richard Hakluyt later called for a large-scale conscription of criminals as a better way to sett le the New World. But England’s colonization efforts waned until 1606, when policies abruptly changed. Sir John Popham’s venture at Kennebec, or Maine, was stocked “out of all the gaols [jails] of England,” prompting one critic to complain, “It is a shameful and unblessed thing to take the scum of people, and wicked and condemned ones, to be the people with whom you plant.”

That same year, the Virginia Company, a Christian based organization that would practically monopolize the slave industry, landed several hundred miles to the south. One of its voyagers, Captain John Smith, was captured by the Indians as he foraged for food. As he later told the tale, just as he was about to be executed, the Indian emperor’s favorite daughter “got his head in her arms, and laid her own upon his to save him from death.” The Virginia Company authorized its colonists to seize native children wherever they could “for conversion…to the knowledge and worship of the true God and their redeemer, Christ Jesus.” One of those abducted—Smith’s rescuer, young Pocahontas—was ransomed, taken as a wife by one of the Englishmen, and brought as a trophy to London and displayed for money, where she soon died.

This was a time that most voyagers that headed up these expeditions were Bible believing Christians, and some of them had a peculiar habit of actually reading the through the entire Bible and others would often listen as another would read. Something we see little of in our society today, as now most prople read only specific verses out of the bible, and yet claim it to be the Word of God.. In these readings they would learn the implications that God had upon those that did not believe in “Christ” and the subsequent orders to torture or kill those that did not accept or follow this belief system. More slaves were being beaten and tortured, often to death, at the hands of the company officials and at times by the colonist themselves. The scriptures they read not only justi fied this cruelty, but also they specifically directed this inhuman treatment of these people.

Company officials ignored the colonists’ urgent pleas for better living conditions, insisting instead that greater discipline was needed. In 1610 a tough new governor, Lord Delaware, arrived and imposed a dictatorship. His successor, Thomas Dale, was even more severe. Under his regime, Virginia’s colonists were literally held as prisoners, and punishments became more and more harsh for the slaves, and now often included the colonist themselves. For uttering “base and detracting words” against the governor, Richard Barns was ordered to be “disarmed and have his arms broken and his tongue bored through with an awl and [he] shall pass through a guard of 40 men and shall be butted by every one of them and at the head of the troop kicked down and footed out of the fort; and he shall be banished out of James City and the Island, and he shall not be capable of any privilege of freedom in the country.” Men caught trying to escape were tortured to death in front of others as an example. Seamstresses who sewed their lady’s skirts too short were whipped. Governor Dale pronounced his methods justified and the company backed him up. Back in London, an official said that the Virginians were “dangerous, incurable members, for no use so fit as to make example to others.” This nightmare of power, dominance, and control meshed with these bizarre bielfs systems had turned on its own people.

Having learned about the use of tobacco from the Indians, the trade in tobacco began on a very evil air of success. The use of this one product shows the difference between the spirituality of the Indians and that of western man. The Indians used tobacco in an extremely moderate fashion, using it on occasion and usually for special circumstances, whereas those of European decent used tobacco habitually and it became an obsession for them. By the early seventeenth century tobacco smok ing had become so popular in England that many a young nobleman’s estate would be altogether spent and scattered to nothing but smoke, and he would waist whole days, even years, in a constant habit of smoking, even to the extent of smoking in bed. Soon the leaf’s value equaled that of silver and the cultivation of tobacco in the New World, especially in the vast area of the fertile soils of Virginia, would be the center of colonization and growth.

Eventually, however, the Virginia Company underwent a shakeup that put Sir Edwin Sandys in control. Under his direction the company launch an intensive promotional campaign to attract more investors, settlers, and servants. Publicists wrote enticing broadsides, promising everything from daily sustenance to eternal bliss to anyone who would go to Virginia. Drummers marched from village to village, beating up interest. Hustlers combed the fairs and groghouses, enlisting recruits. Minstrels sang seductive ballads. From Parliament to p ulpit, Virginia’s colonization was depicted as a noble effort of Christian reformation, for, as one pious supporter asked, “What can be more excellent, more precious, more glorious, than to convert a heathen nation from worshipping the devil to the saving knowledge and true worship of God in Jesus Christ?” Sandy’s offered a promise of something that was generally not available in England: an opportunity for upward mobility. Piece by piece, he and his image makers created their illusions of the American Dream.

The reality was that this upward mobility would be based on selfish ambition under the disguise of the strange yet, for the most part, unquestioned beliefs of the Christian religion. Many more convicts were brought from the prisons of England when it was decided that the overcrowded prisons often made criminals more dangerous to society. The English prisons were breeding grounds for typhus (“goal fever”) and other diseases, which often spread beyond the walls, endangering the whole popula tion. Sir Francis Becon described goal fever as the “most pernicious infection, next to the plague.” Thousand of lives were lost and this helped give rise to the notion that all prisoners were dangerous and that their diseases, as well as their criminality, might contaminate any one around them. This reinforced images of prisons as “schools of crime” in which younger pupils became corrupted by older, more hardened offenders. It was believed by many Christians that Satan motivated the criminal mind. In fact, many believed criminal behavior to be of demonic inheritance. In any case there was little hope of recovery or for the prospects of change for a criminal in the minds of most Christians.

From this perspective even quarantine seemed insufficient; banishment out of the country appeared more sensible. Surely such rabble were of no use to society in a civilized society. In America, on the other hand, criminals could at least be put to use earning a profit for company and crow n, and they could possibly serve the interest of Christendom at the same time. Having already established the “reformative” control of colonization for heathen savages, it required no great leap to apply this standard to others.

Thus it was that the royal commission concluded that any felon, except those convicted of murder, witchcraft, burglary, or rape, could legally be transported to Virginia or the West Indies to become servants on the plantations. Those prisoners who were physically able to work, or whose “other abilities shall be thought fit to be employed in foreign discoveries or other services,” were henceforth authorized for banishment beyond the seas. The plan to transport “notorious and wicked offenders that will not be reformed but by severity of punishment, in order that they may no more infect the places where they abide within our realm,” was the subject of a royal proclamation dated December 23, 1617. Almost immediately prisoners were selected from county ja ils and prisons “to yield a profitable service to the Commonwealth in parts abroad.” The economic purpose of this policy was clear from the start. In one case, a man convicted of manslaughter and condemned to death was reprieved “because he was a carpenter and the plantation needed carpenters.”

Soon afterward Sandys commanded the sending over of maids as breeders, “that wives, children and family might make them less movable and settle them, together with their posterity in that soil.” The costs of passage could be paid for by the planters who took them as “wives.” A scandal arose from allegations that some maids were being taken by force or bought from their parents for a few pieces of silver; some even whispered that King James himself had receive a kickback (“royalty”) for the scheme.

The king had also begun sending children away as servants as well. Sandys reported to the Crown that the council had “appointed 100 children from the superfluous multitude to be trans ported to Virginia, there to be bound apprentices for certain years, and afterward with very beneficial conditions for the children.” More and more children were transported, but he was careful to request legal authorization that would enable him to coerce the youngsters.

Once the procedure had been worked out, roundups became routine. Soon the Virginia Company’s request for another 100 children was quickly approved and another batch was swept up and sent away. It is unclear how many boys and girls were taken, but company records indicate that additional cargos were authorized, at least in 1620 and 1622, and a letter of 1627 mentions 1,400 to 1,500 children as being shipped to Virginia. The policy of allowing, even encouraging, private companies to forcibly apprehend, detain, transport, and sell into service lower-class children was legitimized by every branch and level of government and praised by the highest church officials. This seizure (or “napping”) of children (“kids” ) for shipment to America as servants became so well known that the practice acquired a new name: “kidnapping.” Its original practitioners and defenders included government officials, corporate executives, clergymen, and, although often reluctantly, parents.

This process continued and increased over time and many women were seized as well. Once persons disappeared, their relatives or friends had little chance of finding them again. Even if a victim managed to tell somebody that she had been taken against her will, she was not likely to be freed. Officers of the law were expected to apprehend persons, not release them. Moreover, England lacked a professional system of police, so that the powers of law enforcement, especially arrest, belonged to those with the right political connections—in short, to those who were behind the scheme to kidnap human beings. The line between kidnapping and arrest was literally paper-thin.

The number of maids and children combined did not rival the number of prisoners and slaves being brought to America. Starting in the early seventeenth century and continuing for 150 years, an organized, international prisoner trade, of which the African slave trade was just one important part, provided the foundation for England’s colonial wealth and America’s identity. To the extent that American history is the story of immigration, then American colonial history is largely the story of the immigration of prisoners and the importation of slaves.

It was during the Restoration (which began in the summer of 1660) that the prisoner trade really became a moving force of English colonial policy. People were captured and imprisoned by an army that was composed primarily of “common cheats, thieves, cutpurses and such like persons.” The return of Charles II to the throne inaugurated an age of great monopoly in which the prevailing powers ruled by using kidnapping, violence, and imprisonment on a massive scale. Plans were made for e xpanded trafficking in felons and Africans, and the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa dispatched its first forty ships in search of gold and slaves. It was a system that would thrive for more than a century. General James Edward Oglethorpe, the “prison reformer” who founded Georgia in 1732-33 with colonists obtained from English prisons, was a director of the Royal African Company.

England’s trafficking of prisoners would continue for generations, outlasting most of the kings and businessmen who temporarily controlled it. Without the seizure, imprisonment, shipment, and sale of human beings to America, immense fortunes would not have been made from tobacco, sugar, and rum.

Prisons were an essential part of the prisoner trade, whether the captives were Africans, servants, convicts, or pressed men. After a person was taken into custody he or she was brought to a holding place near the shore to await shipment abroad. At that time some prisons from the twelft h century were still in use in England. The way a prisoner was treated was all based on how much money he or she had, and those with no money were placed in the prison’s “common side” with rogues and rabble, and often new prisoners would start out in shackles, iron collars, or fetters until they paid a special fee to ease their irons. Those wanting to receive visitors had to pay and those wanting any form of special treatment better have the means to pay for it. Just like the modern prisons of today, it was mostly about selfishness, greed, and money.

During the time after the English Civil War, there had arisen several new forms of religious movements. One of the more radical religious sects that formed during this era was a group of persons who called themselves Friends and whom others called Quakers because they “quaked and shook with zeal.” Its founder, George Fox, spent much of this time locked up for his beliefs, and it was in prison that he convinced many others to joi n his sect.

In 1652 a group of Fox’s converts, the Valiant Sixty, began to spread his message aggressively, hoping eventually to convince the whole world. Quakerism spread among the middle class with astonishing speed. The converts met in remote homes and open fields, attracting anywhere from a few dozen to a couple of hundred people. By the winter of 1655-56, Friends were meeting in almost every county, despite severe repression. The more they were imprisoned, the stronger their resolve; the stronger their resolve, the more converts they gained; the more members they attracted, the more threatening they were considered and the more of them that were imprisoned; and the more they were imprisoned the more converts they made. Thus it was that the prisons became their primary meeting places and suppliers of most of the new members. Fox himself was frequently shifted from one prison to another in an attempt to head off his efforts, but these efforts had little effect on his cause. The more he and his followers were mistreated, the more they seemed to thrive. Thrust into a dark cell among toadstools and rats, young Ann Audland wrote glowingly to another Friend, “This is indeed a place of joy, and my soul doth rejoice in the Lord.” Shortly before he died of his own ordeal, William Dewsbury exulted that he had “joyfully entered prisons as palaces, telling mine enemies to hold me there as long as they could; and in the prison house I sung praises to my God and esteemed the bolts and locks put upon me as jewels.”

If nothing else convinces us of the unbalanced illusions of religion, the attitudes of these people should.

There seemed to be no better place to find ready converts than in the prisons. They also attracted streams of visitors, some of whom asked for permission to trade places with their captive sisters and brothers. As their deaths in prison mounted, word of their martyrdom spread like wildfire. Some captives composed reams of writs and tes timonies about their suffering, and tracts were taken out by visitors and passed on, hand to hand, to waiting printers. Fox himself saw published several books that he had dictated in prison.

Other sects began to form, and the next two hundred years would see some two hundred and fifty sects, some more radical and bizarre than others, that could be counted. Some of these sects became very popular and profitable and many of them are still in existence today. It has been noted by some historians that the easiest way to get rich quick during this time was either to rob a bank or start and new Christian sect. Some of the leaders of the more radical sects would preach the end of the world and it was taken so seriously at times that people would quit their jobs or stop planting their crops and feeding their livestock. Where life was so uncertain and so difficult that the gullibility of the masses was abundant and stifling, and the confused and conditioned minds that existed in per petual fear could be easily manipulated, especially through the use of organized religion.

Over the course of time more and more “real” punishments were intentionally painful, and the criminal law of the period often resulted in the death penalty for minor offenses. Outcries for such policies were almost non-existent, except from some of the radical sects such as the Quakers and the Tories, and support for the death penalty for so many crimes, some as trivial as damaging trees or stealing a silver spoon, or poaching fish, may have been as strong or stronger among the lower classes as it was among the rich. The public seemed to feed off the misfortunes of others and public executions remained immensely popular with the masses.

Just as in London, a hanging day in America would start with the somber toll of church bells. Visitors streamed in for the occasion, drawing pickpockets from miles around, and hawkers would sell the day’s “last dying confessions” to throngs who l ined the winding route to the gallows. Capital punishment might have been viewed differently if the government strictly enforced the capital laws. But it did not. Seventeenth-century courts continued to recognize the benefit of clergy, so that a convicted felon was entitled to “call the book”—if he was able to read a passage out of the Bible, he might escape death and have his thumb branded instead. Some illiterates in a last attempt to save their own lives would drop to their knees and recite the “neck verse,” usually the first verse of the Fifty-fist Psalm. Accordingly, Parliament later removed the literacy requirement, but made a list of twenty-five felonies not subject to clerical intervention.

Outside of this process of quoting scripture from the bible, the working of this process of “mercy” could be extremely complex and mysterious, at times occurring behind closed doors. Above all it became a system of discretion, and, in fact, many of those condemned to death in the eighteenth century did not go to the gallows, they were pardoned. Loyalty, patronage, and influence were integral, as a man without them discovered with his hopeless demise. For without a person of consequence to speak in his behalf, a condemned felon’s doom could be quickly and irrevocably sealed.

With the new established laws the threat of execution was held over a large portion of the population. With mandatory death sentences for a wide array of offenses, the effects of class distinctions grew less and less. The spectacle of public trials riveted attention on individual transgression and gave the impression that it treated every defendant impartially. Pomp and solemnity filled the air. Everyone in the hushed courtroom sprang up as the judges, bedecked in wigs and robes, paraded in, and everyone sat after the judges had ascended to their perch. Great pains were taken to make the law seem magisterial and the courts incorruptible, impartial, and venerable. Knowing that the judges had the power of life or death in their hands, defendants strained to appear cooperative, penitent, and even thankful during the proceedings. They clung to etiquette even as they were being sentenced to death, in the hope that their good behavior would ultimately help to spare their lives, which, on rare occasions, it did.

The entire legal system in America was based on the English system and the laws passed by Parliament. Technically the judges were not empowered to grant pardons; they simply could recommend clemency. A pardon had to be sealed with the Great Seal and issued by authority of the king or the Privy Council. If a judge was not disposed to recommend a pardon, his conscience could always be eased by the belief that a convict might still petition to a higher authority up until and at the moment of execution. In this way neither the lawmakers, the judges, the king or Privy Council, nor any other authority would have to accept personal accountability for an ex ecution. They held solace in the belief that everything happened for a reason and, as the Bible said, it was all part of God’s plan.

Jails were among the first public structures built in colonial America. Besides being an essential part of the prisoner trade and a useful receptacle and staging place for arriving reluctant emigrants, they were an integral part of the system of servitude and slavery. As such the various kinds of jails were a key component of the system for disciplining unfree laborers and convicts. The conditions in the jails were horrendous, and many lost their heath and other died because of the cruel environment and conditions of these jails.

Benjamin Franklin’s brother, James, printed an early newspaper. One edition carried an article that was deemed seditious, and when he refused to reveal its author he was committed to Boston’s stone jail. He remained there for months until a physician certified that his health had suffered from confinement. Writing from the same stoned jail thirty years later, another incarcerated journalist complained, “If there is any such thing as a hell upon earth, I think this place is the nearest resemblance of any I can conceive of.” Many inmates from the jails of this era complained about the cold conditions. Many suffered severely and many more died from the effects of hypothermia. That same winter in New York the debtors issued a public appeal that they had not “one stick to burn” and were freezing to death.

Several Christian sects had developed from the Puritans and among those Puritans thought to be the most threatening and dangerous were those that claimed supernatural powers. They would come to be called “witches” and they were dealt with harshly. Margaret Jones of Charlestown, who claimed to have healing powers, was hanged in Boston in 1648 after it was claimed that she “had a malignant touch…and that her harmless medicines produced violent effects.” It was a strange time indeed, and as it is still true today, a time when most of the people professed a belief in the Bible, yet at the same time, religious radicals were judged harshly and more and more severe laws were enacted against the “heretics.”

Many forms of torture were performed against the “radicals” and if not torture, fines and other punishments were bestowed upon them. Boston’s government proclaimed that any Quaker male or other “heretics” who returned there after being banished “shall for the first offense have one of his ears cut off… and for the second offense shall have his other ear cut off.” It is strange that the radical acts of these “religious fanatics” were being met with even more fanatical and radical behavior. It is even more interesting to understand that scriptures in the Bible gave support to these bizarre behaviors.

America was “discovered” by a self-serving individual that was a liar and a manipulator, and this country was named after another liar that was in all likelihood a criminal. America was infiltrated by men of greed and flooded with convicts and slaves, and men, women, and children that were taken against their will. I am not putting down this counrty. These are true and simple facts.

Because so many people were brought to this country in a haze of secrecy with no records made, there is no way to know just how many convicts were transported to America. A more recent study by A. Roger Ekirch concluded that well over 30,000 convicts were transported from England to America between 1718 and 1775; he set the number sent here from England at 36,000. Adding more than 13,000 shipped from Ireland and another 700 sent from Scotland during this same period, Ekirch put the number transported from Britain at 50,000 and concluded: Convicts represented as much as a quarter of all British emigrants to colonial America during the 18th century. But even these numbers are low, since they may underestimate the numbers actually sent as well as the numbers sent from Britain before 1718, ignored debtors, and do not inclu de criminals transported by the French, Spanish, and Dutch.

In any event, the convict trade to America was big business and our country was infiltrated with criminals. Some of the larger convict traders also dealt in indentured servants, sometimes carrying them and dry goods in the same ships. On their return voyages, convict vessels often brought colonial exports like tobacco, wheat, and pig iron back to Briton. Some ships were also engaged in the African slave trade. Jonathan Forward’s Anne and Eagle carried slaves, servants, and convicts during the same period. So did some of Samuel Sedgley’s ships out of Briston and James Gildart’s from Liverpool. Profits sometimes exceeded 30 percent. One leading convict trader wrote to his partner that their business “if properly managed will in a few years make us very genteel fortunes.” The reality is, as much as historians have attempted to dismiss this reality, we are largely a race of convicts.

We also come to the realization that our mentality, for the most part, comes from belief in the Bible and this concept of God. One cannot study the history of America or the history of religion without coming to the reality of this observation. The only books that were allowed inside the jails and prisons were Bibles. The hardened criminals were often not allowed to communicate with anyone except the chaplain. Clergymen would often be present along with the politicians in the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new prisons. In the early 1820’s the legislature authorized prisons to furnish the inmates with Bibles. Yet in the same breath, prisoners were treated worse than animals and were kept in the direst of conditions and often tortured. The conditions of prisons would take toll on the health of the prisoners. According to one prison physician, their “sedentary life in the prison, as it calls into aid the debilitating passions of melancholy, grief, etc., rapidly hastens the progress of pulmonary disease.” Many prisoners break down at the onset of being incarcerated by the very fight or flight mechanisms of the body, and become sickly because of the shutting down of the immune system do to this process, and never fully recover from it. Many prisoners have simply gone insane due to the treatment and long periods of incarceration. Records have shown cases where prisoners cell doors were opened and the prisoners leaped from upper story levels onto the stone or concrete pavement below. Others have bashed their heads against the masonry walls and others have slashed their wrist or hung themselves in their prison cell. None of the realities of how the prison setting can affect a human being are considered by the Christian society that institutes the caging of human beings for such long periods of time.

Then there are those that it seems are not affected at all by being incarcerated. They seem to have the mentality that accepts their fate and in some cases the inmate will willingly confess that this is were he belongs and he will be obnoxiously happy living in this caged invironment. This is what makes incarceration such an unfair punishment, when one person suffers so severely by the process of being caged and having lost his or her freedom, and another person actually seems to enjoy the prison environment they are placed in and actually thrives in it.

Our culture has beat to the heartbeat of the chaos of religious beliefs for over fifteen hundred years. There have been some ten thousand battles in the last thousand years in the name of Christianity. The pages of history are stained blood red from the behaviors that have been spawned out of this belief in this wretched book called the Bible, and our conditioned fear prevents us from reading and learning what this book really says. (Can you imagine that? It is the “Word of God” but I’m afraid to read it and see what it actually says!) We incarcerate more people that any other country including Russia, and our system of injustice is a tragedy, yet the general population looks with blinders or cataracts on their eyes and do not see it or they are afraid to look or they are apathetic. In America, our media is so superficial that they will rarely print anything that deals with the reality of the state of our country and the neurosis that stems from the religion we believe in. Some 86 to 92 percent of americans in this county when asked their religion will say they are Christian. (But other polls taken have shown that if a person is asked by the statement, “I'm not a Christian, but I believe in God. Are you a Christian?" Many will give some form of answer to the negative.)

We are a rip-off society and everywhere we turn there is another scam and more corruption. Collectively individuals tout their beliefs in Jesus Christ while simultaneously being deceptive in business or even running scams. We have the highest rate of homicide, the highest rate of child molestation, the highest rate of rape, the highest rate of violence, the highest crime rate, the highest rate of child abuse, the highest rate of domestic violence, the highest rate of alcoholism and drug addiction, and the highest rate of suicide—and, don’t kid yoursself—we have one of the most corrupt (in)justice systems of any other democratic country—all in the name of a religion that is a fairy tale and based on a very strange set of false beliefs.

Sex is made into something so bizarre because out of these false belief systems that it is nothing short of sickening, and yet our culture is eaten up with it. It is actually against the law and a crime to have sex in some states in this country if you are not legally married, and Georgia is one of those states with this strange law on the books. That means when a man makes love to a woman or a woman makes love to a man, and they are not “legally married” they are breaking the law and committing a crime! Many other laws come straight from the many demented scriptures in the Bible.

As I surrender to this energy behind all creation, I surrender the illusions of self with all its fear, and God allows my mind to question those things that man has claimed to be from God. Our Founding Fathers were, for the most part, Deist, and they believed in God, but they did not endorse any specific religion, and gave us the freedom to worship our Creator as we choose, or even to be free from such worship. Christianity in of itself is a violation of this very freedom because imposition itself is the very makeup of this religion. The greatest thinkers throughout history have warned against organized religion and the very aspects of religious dogma. George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine, were all Deist and in many of their works they questioned the divinity of Christ as well as the Bible. Abe Lincoln was also a devout believer in God, but rejected the Bible as being infallible and the messianic religion connected to it. But society and the public always had to be fooled into believing they were dutiful church going, Bible believing Christians, in order to get elected to office. These beliefs for most of these men of greatness were kept private, and those that came public with them, just as the destruction of other great thinkers throughout history, would never be elected to office, and were ridiculed and tormented by those that had these strange beliefs.

In fact Thomas Paine, who believed in our Creator the same way that I do, was imprisoned and ridiculed until his health failed him and he went to his grave being branded an atheist by the Christian fundamentalist. But many historians and the public alike always want to slant things to please themselves and mold these great men into minds of mediocrity and ignorance. Plus, as John Elton Trueblood, the most popular and one of the richest Christian writers of this century made clear late in his life—that he accepted this belief only with constant doubt and that we tend to accept what is popular and go where the money is. Or, on the other hand, those with the motives to win the popular vote, make these men of integrity into minds of mediocrity in order to secure the popularity of the masses. Most of us tend to be skeptical of such beliefs at some point in our lives, but the pressure of others upon us and the pressures of society upon us often cause us to give in to them. It is difficult to stand alone, but the root meaning of the very word alone is “all and one”, and the definition of alone means, “single; solitary; separate from others or from the masses; without the presents or aid of another.” We tend to run in herds, like cattle or sheep. If we could each understand who we are and if each one of us can learn to stand alone and become our own authority, we will understand what it means to be united and to stand together.

The Revolutionary War was brought about for the same reasons that Columbus originally set sail—to get away from the imposition of orthodox religion and to be mentally and spiritually free from the tyranny of government and that of the Church. Our Founding Fathers sought to free our country from the tyranny of a government and to be free from a country that was embodied in the imposition of a specific religion but, at the same time, was so cruel against human nature itself. A clause of Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence included a passage that attacked the Crown for waging “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.” But this section was deleted at the request of South Carolina and Georgia. The final version cited a “long train of abuses and usurpation,” some of which plainly involved the prisoner trade. They included complaints that the Crown had obstructed the administration of justice, sent swarms of officers to harass the people, deprived many of the benefits of trial by jury, transported persons beyond the seas for fabricated offenses, and committed countless other injustices. Having failed by peaceful means to gain an end to these oppressions, the “Representatives of the United States of America” solemnly declared their colonies as “Free and Independent States.”

The one thing that our Founding Fathers did not take into consideration was the power of the conditioned mind and the fixation of habit. Our new country was full of people that were already programmed to certain beliefs and traditions, and lets face it, slavery was still part of the plan. Virginia’s Patrick Henry, patriot and slaveowner, rose to advise his fellow legislators. Standing with his head bowed and his wrists crossed, as if to imitate a manacled slave, he asked: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” After a pause, he shouted: “Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take. But as for me—give me liberty or give me death!” Benjamin Franklin, Richard Henry Lee, and some others argued against slavery, but the motive for Lee and many others was to protect their investment and prevent new slaves from coming in so that the slaves they owned and that they were being taxed for, would retain or go up in value. John Dickinson talked of freedom and liberty, yet he had been one of Philadelphia’s leading sla veholders. No wonder that Dr. Samuel Johnson asked, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?”

Just before the signing of the Declaration of Independence Washington and other leaders of the independence movement openly asserted that the British government was attempting to implement a deliberate plan to enslave the colonies and bring them under arbitrary control. John Adams described his fellow colonist as “the most abject sort of slaves.”

Look at how we treated the American Indians with such vile acts of arrogance and cruelty. There is a story of about how an officer asked a Cherokee Indian Chief about his belief in God. The Chief replied with a story of how the Great Spirit was the energy behind that squirrel, that rabbit, that deer, the butterfly and the flower. He said that it was unknown and mysterious and yet we have learned to live with it. The officer laughed a loud boisterous laugh and said something like—What you bel ieve is fable! Let me tell you about the Lord Jesus Christ, the one true God, that died for our sins and was resurrected and that was born of the virgin and was God Almighty in the flesh!— I can only imagine what this great Chief thought about the mental state of this man.

The famous speech by Chief Seattle in 1854 has long carried a deep significance to many that read it. In a moving excerpt from one of the several different versions of his speech the Chief said, “It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not be many. The Indian's night promises to be dark. Not a single star of hope hovers above his horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail, and wherever he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter...A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours. But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? ribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. All things are connected. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see.”

We are living in a time that organized Christianity and what many now refer to as “Corporate Christianity” is being imposed upon society. The Politicians are all making sure the public believe them to be Bible beliving “Christians” and they are portrayed as regular churchgoers. The Christian religion is being injected into every walk of life, and a person who rejects such beliefs is thought to be without character and of an immoral or even criminal mind. We can’t sit in a restaurant without having to listen to songs on the jukebox or on the radio about Jesus or the devil. Our government is now waging a cruel war against human nature itself, violating the most sacred rights of life & liberty, often without any due process of law, and often with the tactics of vile corruption and obstruction of justice. I submit to you, history shows us with undoubting accuracy that it is the Christian religion and those that believe in this demented book called the Bible are the true criminals and the true obstruction to freedom and to the art of living. The intelligence of man can never come into operation under the stranglehold of religion.

We should simply learn what it means to be nothing and to live a life that dies to self and brings about goodness and love with the creative intelligence that comes out of it. Out of this examination of the self and the understanding of oneself comes intelligence and then there is no substitution of something else. The moment you substitute religion for it, religion becomes another means of self-expansion, another source of psychological anxiety, and a means of feeding oneself through false beliefs. So when we die to ourselves there is intelligence and there is no substitution; and when there is intelligence, then nationalism, patriotism, identity through organized religion, which is a form of stupidity, disappears.

I would like to ask you to close your eyes and observe the fact that thought has created, invented all the religions of the world. Upon picturing this reality, at this moment you will free yourself from the conditioning of all false religions and you will look into the very eyes of this energy behind all creation, which is this energy behind all creation. This brings about the insight that is the intelligence that goes beyond self, and that walks with death and life together, which is the only way to a life that has it foundation in goodness and love, and this is the most sacred thing in life. Without goodness and love one is not educated, no matter how much knowledge you have. We are not going to change society until we each change inside our own hearts and learn what it means to die to self, without suppositions or beliefs. In the dying is the living. This is not a product of effort and we cannot achieve it by any religious practice. It is a natural state, and the moment you attempt to achieve it by any method, you will not succeed. It is the truth that frees, not your effort to be free. This is the only true revolution.

Our society is latent with corruption and everyone is seeking pleasure through his or her own ambition. We much join together and stand up for life, liberty & freedom. United we will learn. Divided we fail. Together we prevail.

We have come to be where we were in 1761 and where we don’t want or need to be. We have come full circle. It’s time to take a non-violent stand. It’s time for a revolution.



Put together/written by Kerry Walker
July 31, 2005


Note: Much of the info in this post was pulled from With Liberty For Some--If I may I would like to suggest this great book by Scott Christianson, entitled “WITH LIBERTY FOR SOME—500 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT IN AMERICA.”

To read A COUPLE QUESTIONS at the link below and learn the truth about the bible...


http://guestmonkey.blogspot.com/2007/08/couple-questions.html

38 comments:

Ahma Daeus said...

A “SINGLE VOICE PROJECT” is the official name of the petition sponsored by: The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP)
THIS PETITION SEEKS TO ABOLISH ALL PRIVATE PRISONS IN THE UNITED STATES, (or any place subject to its jurisdiction)

The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) is a grass roots organization driven by a single objective. We want the United States government to reclaim sole authority for state and federal prisons on US soil.

We want the United States Congress to immediately rescind all state and federal contracts that permit private prisons “for profit” to exist in the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction. We understand that the problems that currently plague our government, its criminal justice system and in particular, the state & federal bureau of prisons (and most correctional and rehabilitation facilities) are massive. However, it is our solemn belief that the solutions for prison reform will remain unattainable and virtually impossible as long as private prisons for profit are permitted to operate in America.

Prior to the past month, and the fiasco of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and now the “Big Three” American Automobile manufacturers, the NPSCTAPP has always felt compelled to highlight the “moral Bottom line” when it comes to corrections and privatization. Although, we remain confounded by the reality that our government has allowed our justice system to be operated by private interests. The NPSCTAPP philosophy has always been “justice” should not be for sale at any price. It is our belief that the inherent and most fundamental responsibility of the criminal justice system should not be shirked, or “jobbed-out.” This is not the same as privatizing the post office or some trash pick up service in the community. There has to be a loss of meaning and purpose when an inmate looks at a guard’s uniform and instead of seeing an emblem that reads State Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons, he sees one that says: “Atlas Prison Corporation.”

Let’s assume that the real danger of privatization is not some innate inhumanity on the part of its practitioners but rather the added financial incentives that reward inhumanity. The same logic that motivates companies to operate prisons more efficiently also encourages them to cut corners at the expense of workers, prisoners and the public. Every penny they do not spend on food, medical care or training for guards is a dime they can pocket. What happens when the pennies pocketed are not enough for the shareholders? Who will bailout the private prison industry when they hold the government and the American people hostage with the threat of financial failure…“bankruptcy?” What was unimaginable a month ago merits serious consideration today. State and Federal prison programs originate from government design, and therefore, need to be maintained by the government. It’s time to restore the principles and the vacated promise of our judicial system.

John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shinning”. Well the sun may not be shinning but, it’s not a bad time to begin repair on a dangerous roof that is certain to fall…. because, “Incarcerating people for profit is, in a word WRONG”

There is an urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of cynicism, indifference, apathy and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.

It is our hope that you will support the NPSCTAPP with a show of solidarity by signing our petition. We intend to assemble a collection of one million signatures, which will subsequently be attached to a proposition for consideration. This proposition will be presented to both, the Speaker Of The House Of Representatives (Nancy Pelosi) and the United States Congress.

Please Help Us. We Need Your Support. Help Us Spread The Word About This Monumental And Courageous Challenge To Create Positive Change. Place The Link To The Petition On Your Website! Pass It On!

The SINGLE VOICE PETITION and the effort to abolish private “for profit” prisons is the sole intent of NPSCTAPP. Our project does not contain any additional agendas. We have no solutions or suggestions regarding prison reform. However, we are unyielding in our belief that the answers to the many problems which currently plague this nation’s criminal justice system and its penal system in particular, cannot and will not be found within or assisted by the private “for profit” prison business. The private “for profit” prison business has a stranglehold on our criminal justice system. Its vice-like grip continues to choke the possibility of justice, fairness, and responsibility from both state and federal systems.

These new slave plantations are not the answer!

For more information please visit: http://www.npsctapp.blogsppot.com/ or email: williamthomas@exconciliation.com

To sign the petition please visit: http://www.petitiononline.com/gufree2/petition.html


THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
National Community Outreach Facilitator
The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons
P.O. Box 156423
San Francisco, California 94115

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