The Counter-Revolution of 1776

Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

363 pages

April, 2014

ISBN: 9781479893409

$39

Cloth

Also available in

Author

Gerald Horne is Moores Professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Houston. His books include Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois and Race War!: White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire (both available from NYU Press).

All books by Gerald Horne

The successful 1776 revolt against British rule in North America has been hailed almost universally as a great step forward for humanity. But the Africans then residing in the colonies overwhelmingly sided with London. In this trailblazing book, Gerald Horne complements his earlier celebrated Negro Comrades of the Crown, by showing that in the prelude to 1776, the abolition of slavery seemed all but inevitable in London, delighting Africans as much as it outraged slaveholders, and sparking the colonial revolt.  
 
In the prelude to 1776, more and more Africans were joining the British military, and anti-slavery sentiments were deepening throughout Britain. And in the Caribbean, rebellious Africans were chasing Europeans to the mainland. Unlike their counterparts in London, the European colonists overwhelmingly associated enslaved Africans with subversion and hostility to the status quo. For European colonists, the major threat to security in North America was a foreign invasion combined with an insurrection of the enslaved. And as 1776 approached, London-imposed abolition throughout the colonies was a very real and threatening possibility—a possibility the founding fathers feared could bring the slave rebellions of Jamaica and Antigua to the thirteen colonies. To forestall it, they went to war.  
 
The so-called Revolutionary War, Horne writes, was in large part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their liberty to enslave others—and which today takes the form of a racialized conservatism and a persistent racism targeting the descendants of the enslaved. The Counter-Revolution of 1776 drives us to a radical new understanding of the traditional heroic creation myth of the United States.

Reviews

  • "Horne returns with insights about the American Revolution that fracture even more some comforting myths about the Founding Fathers. The author does not tiptoe through history’s grassy fields; he swings a scythe...Clear and sometimes-passionate prose shows us the persistent nastiness underlying our founding narrative."

    Kirkus

  • "Horne, Moores Professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Houston, confidently and convincingly reconstructs the origin myth of the United States grounded in the context of slavery...Horne’s study is rich, not dry; his research is meticulous, thorough, fascinating, and thought-provoking. Horne emphasizes the importance of considering this alternate telling of our American origin myth and how such a founding still affects our nation today."

    STARRED Publishers Weekly

  • "The underlying truth of the 'so-called' American Revolution is finally now out of the bag, and told in its fullest glory for the first time here. And what Professor Horne has discovered through meticulous research is nothing short of revolutionary in itself."

    OpEdNews

  • "The Counter Revolution of 1776 drives us to a radical new understanding of the traditional heroic creation myth of the United States.

    —, Philadelphia Tribune

  • "In The Counter Revolution of 1776, Horne marshals considerable research to paint a picture of a U.S. that wasn’t founded on liberty, with slavery as an uncomfortable and aberrant remnant of a pre-Enlightenment past, but rather was founded on slavery — as a defense of slavery — with the language of liberty and equality used as window dressing. If he’s right, in other words, then the traditional narrative of the creation of the U.S. is almost completely wrong."

    —, Salon.com

  • "Horne, Moores Professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Houston, confidently and convincingly reconstructs the origin myth of the United States grounded in the context of slavery...Horne’s study is rich, not dry; his research is meticulous, thorough, fascinating, and thought-provoking. Horne emphasizes the importance of considering this alternate telling of our American origin myth and how such a founding still affects our nation today."

    —, STARRED Publishers Weekly

  • "Horne returns with insights about the American Revolution that fracture even more some comforting myths about the Founding Fathers. The author does not tiptoe through history’s grassy fields; he swings a scythe...Clear and sometimes-passionate prose shows us the persistent nastiness underlying our founding narrative."

    —, Kirkus

  • "Every person committed to the struggle for racial justice, liberation, and equality, and who struggles every day with the difficulties of forging unity between Black and white, needs to read this book."

    —, Portside.org

  • "History books have painted a narrative of the U.S. founding that any student can recite: Colonists, straining against the tyranny of the British crown, revolted in the name of freedom, liberty and justice for all. But in recent years, historians have revisited that conventional story, examining the important role slaves played for Britain in its quest to quell colonists. Now, in a new book, historian Gerald Horne argues it was the desire to maintain slavery that was the prime motivator of the uprising....Horne revisit[s] the period leading up to 1776 to find out how slavery in North America and the British colonies influenced the revolution."

    The Kojo Nnamdi Show, DC Public Radio

  • "This utterly original book argues that story of the American Revolution has been told without a major piece of the puzzle in place. The rise of slavery and the British empire created a pattern of imperial war, slave resistance, and arming of slaves that led to instability and, ultimately, an embrace of independence. Horne integrates the British West Indies, Florida, and the entire colonial period with recent work on the Carolinas and Virginia; the result is a larger synthesis that puts slave-based profits and slave restiveness front and center. The Americans re-emerge not just as anti-colonial free traders but as particularly devoted to an emerging color line and to their control over the future of a slavery based economy. A remarkable and important contribution to our understanding of the creation of the United States."

    —David Waldstreicher, Temple University

  • "The Counter-Revolution of 1776 shows the centrality of slavery in colonial American life, north as well as south. It demonstrates how enslaved people’s  struggles merged with international and imperial politics as the British empire frayed. Gerald Horne finds among white American revolutionaries people who wanted to defend slavery against real threats. He addresses how in the United States, alone among the new western hemisphere republics, slavery thrived rather than waned, until its cataclysmic destruction during the Civil War."

    —Edward Countryman, Southern Methodist University

  • "Nearly everything about Gerald Home’s lively The Counter-Revolution of 1776—from the questions asked to the comparisons drawn—is provocative. And if Professor Home is right, nearly everything American historians thought we knew about the birth of the nation is wrong."

    —Woody Holton, author of Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in