Deep Empire Part 2: Fathers of the Revolution

It is no coincidence that, hot on the heels of the monopoly on money creation handed to the bankers were the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, which both took off in the 18th century. These revolutions were driven in large part by the Empire’s embroilment in perpetual warfare financed by the private banks and their creation, the Bank of England.

The aristocracy whose key asset was land, played a significant role, particularly in the early stages. They didn’t play this role personally of course, as they mostly leased out their land to tenants and delegated its management to stewards, while they spent the majority of their time in London and urban spas. On the whole however, they were quite shrewd and invested capital into the new innovations in agricultural methods and the increased use of farm machinery. They also poured their money into exploiting the mineral resources, especially coalthe premier fuel of the industrial revolution, under their territories, and the infrastructure such as mines, roads and railways that went with such exploitation.

Around half of this investment came from their own resources and the other half from the Bank of England, and the Private Banks that owned and controlled it.

This is how the aristocracy in Britain survived. Having descended from “noble” pirates and bandits who had stolen land through conquest and plunder, they sat as the entitled ones at the top of a hierarchical society and constructed temples to themselves. Despite all this they had weathered the storms of uprisings such as the Peasants Rebellion and the English Civil War to remain at the top of this pyramid in the hearts and minds of the masses. Now they had entered into an unholy marriage between old money and new money.

But, as we shall see, it was the Enclosure Acts, passed by a pliant Parliament in accordance with their wishes that would, in time, paradoxically pose the greatest threat to the aristocracy.

The acts, passed under the pretence of efficiency, allowed the few remaining, collectively owned common fields to be privatised by wealthy farmers and aristocratic landowners. This, along with the near doubling of farming output from 1750 to 1850 and resultant surge in population, drove the poor farmers and farm workers, the necessary workforce for the new factories and mines, off the land into the ever-increasing squalor, pollution, filth, infestation, and misery of the overcrowded cities and towns.

The industrial revolution, the manufacturing industry, the urban building, the canals and the railways, was left largely in the capable hands of the entrepreneur. Called by Thomas Malthus, the “shock troops” of the industrial revolution, mostly well-educated and made up of the new middle-class capitalists, financiers, works managers, merchants, and salesmen, they ranged from small players to the great captains of industry.

Perhaps the prime exemplar of these great captains was Matthew Boulton, who had married into the family of a wealthy merchant from Lichfield, and chosen, rather than living the life of a gentleman, to become an industrialist. He used his new-found fortune to expand his business and build Britain’s first factory in Birmingham in 1766. Powered by a water mill, it was the envy of other businessmen, employing over 500 people and turning over £30,000 a year.

Lunatics and Lightning Snatchers

Boulton was friends with Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin, and most probably the true originator of the theory of evolution. Together they formed the Lunar Society of Birmingham in 1768, the premier think tank of the industrial revolution. On each night of the full moon, they and other members including James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, Josiah Wedgwood, the pottery manufacturer, Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of Oxygen,  James Brindley, the canal builder, Thomas Day, the political campaignerand Samuel Galton Jr, the gun manufacturer,met to dine and discuss dangerous new ideas of philosophy and science.

Other great figures, though visiting less frequently, corresponded with the society, most prominently, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin had visited Birmingham in 1758 where he met and befriended Matthew Boulton, conducting experiments together on electricity and sound, and visited again in 1771, spending time with other Lunatics and introducing new members. His influence infused the society with his promethean spirit.

Such a spirit entertained the possibility of steam power and encouraged Boulton who, in partnership with the inventor James Watt, patented “the foundation of industrial technology“, the  steam engine, in 1775.

At first, Boulton and Watt’s steam engines were mainly sold to mine owners who used them to pump water. Then, in 1781, they developed the rotary-steam engine which could drive a variety of types of machinery. This replaced the water mill powering the machines in Boulton’s factory, which had been vulnerable to drought and diversion to the canals.

Richard Arkwright who had introduced the world to his revolutionary spinning frame from Derbyshire in 1771, and had used water mills to power his factories, used the rotary-steam steam engine in 1781 to power his machinery and spin cotton on a scale previously unimagined. Others, such as the ironmaster John Wilkinson who used them to power the first machine tool,  followed suit and in 15 years there were over 500 steam engines pumping Britain’s mines and factories.

It is poetry in motion, that the dawn of the steam age coincided with the first anti-colonial democratic revolution in world history. 13 British colonies in North America rebelled against the Crown in 1775 and declared their independence as the United States in 1776, same year that Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations.” After having helped draft the declaration, Franklin’s negotiations with France led to an alliance in 1778, transforming a civil war into an international conflict and independence was finally won in 1783.

As the French philosopher/scientist Jacques Turgot was to write:

He snatched the lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants.”

Franklin himself was influenced by another associate of the society, Samuel Johnson, the writer of the first dictionary. Johnson took Franklin to a school for black children and convinced him that there was no difference in learning between African and white children, counter to the assumptions of the day and those of Franklin himself, who had owned slaves. This revelation would lead him to renounce his own sceptre. Other members also wrestled with their conscience.

And so, it wasn’t just scientific and industrial innovations that these men brought to civilization, they also contributed mightily to social change. Thomas Day, as well as writing and campaigning against political corruption and for extending the vote to the working class, stood with his fellows, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood and Joseph Priestley in the fight against the trade in human beings.

Lords of War

The other face of the society represented by another member – Samuel Galton Jr, recognised how members themselves had profited from this trade. Galton was the head of a gun-making family, based in Birmingham, that had grown enormously wealthy through arms-sales and founded their own bank based on this war-profiteering. This bank would later merge with HSBC. The Galtons were also Quakers. Indeed, two of the other Four Horsemen of Perfidious Albion, Barclays and Lloyds, were also both originally Quaker banks, and connected to the Galton’s shameful trade in arms.

The paradox of a member of a Christian sect that preached pacifism profiting from industrial-scale violence, is representative of the contradictions that beset the emerging entrepreneurs of this age. When his fellow Quakers and Lunar Society members objected, he argued that, at the heart of Britain’s manufacturing base, whatever trade he would engage in would inevitably contribute to war. His line of reasoning reveals how war was a hidden, driving force in the Industrial Revolution and the expanding Empire.

Guns, gunpowder, cannons, swords, knives, clothing, buckles and so on, all were needed for the industrialization of warfare and all immensely lucrative to those who were willing to capitalize on it. And war was being waged constantly, if not always by the Crown, then by its partners, the monopoly-chartered private companies with exclusive rights to “trade” (plunder) in their allotted corners of the globe, such as the Royal African Company, the Hudson Bay Company and the East India Company, all financed and run out of the City of London.

The Flesh Debt

The arms trade was also a key component of the slave trade, which also drove the industrial revolution, in turn driving the Empire’s war machine.

On the West African coast, countless numbers of merchant ships laden with muskets, shackles, cutlery and brass rods crossed the Atlantic to Africa where the slave traders, having gone beyond merely kidnapping slaves with their private mercenary armies, would inveigle African tribal leaders through debt into exchanging war captives in return for weapons of mass destruction. These arms had planned obsolescence built into their design as they only lasted about a year which meant there was a greater demand for them. Eventually in this African arms race, all pretense of self-defense was discarded and tribes engaged in raiding purely for slaves, becoming cogs in an engine of human extraction. The merchants even colluded with African rulers to trap their own subjects in debt. These debt-ensnared subjects were forced to sell their own dependents, children, wives, sometimes even themselves into slavery. Legends arose in Nigeria of the “flesh debt” enforced by a secret society of cannibalistic witches who slipped bits of human flesh into innocent neighbours’ food. The society visited the unfortunate debtors at night informing them that they had to hand over members of their own families for the witches to consume. The truth was not far off from this morbid tale.

The human produce of this perpetual destabilisation was shackled in holds and transported to the Americas under the cruellest conditions in human history. There slaves were sold on to the slave owners who worked them to early death, or a fate worse than one, on their plantations. The world’s first slave society in service to a nation’s capitalist industry.

Again, we can look to African folklore, particularly from the diasporic religion of Voodoo, for insight into zombies. Familiar to nearly everyone now, the term has its roots in Haitian rural folklore as dead persons physically revived by the act of necromancy. A zombie remains under the control of the necromancer as a personal slave, having no will of its own. Another tradition holds that the soul of a living person can be captured to enhance the power of the necromancer and render the remaining body subservient, forcing it into slave labour.

Similar stories occurred in South Africa. After rail lines were built to transport migrant workers, stories emerged about “witch trains”. These trains appeared ordinary, but were staffed by zombified workers controlled by a witch. The trains would abduct a person boarding at night, and the person would then either be zombified or beaten and thrown from the train a distance away from the original location.

Professor Amy Wilentz links the concept to the influence of Haitian slavery. According to her, slave drivers on the plantations, who were usually slaves themselves and sometimes voodoo priests, used the fear of zombification to discourage slaves from committing suicide.

Anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston believed that affected persons were given a powerful psychoactive drug.

Ethnobotanist, Wade Davis argued that a living person could be turned into zombie through two special powders introduced into the bloodstream. Together these powders were said to induce a deathlike state, in which the will of the victim would be entirely subjected to that of the sorcerer. Davis’s suggestion that Haitian witch doctors can keep “zombies” in a state of pharmacologically induced trance for many years, has not escaped criticism.

However, one need only to observe how modern pimps can turn vice girls into sex slaves – prostitutes, by means of crack cocaine, to understand how “zombie slaves” could be kept in such a prolonged state. One does not have to look far either, to find the real witchdoctors…

They are of course, the merchant-banking, slave-trading, arms-dealing, drug-peddling, sugar barons.

What then was their magic drug that they used to render their slaves soulless and subservient?

Cruelty, scientifically applied by sociopathic and psychopathic networks of human parasitoids.

The morphic memes of torture and trauma-based mind control injected into the psyches of these poor, unfortunate victims, paralyzing their free will and rendering them zombies.

These legions of abject, abducted Africans laboured at gunpoint to produce one of the earliest raw materials for the Industrial Revolution – cotton. It had an advantage over wool, previously Britain’s major industry, as it could be processed through machinery more efficiently.

All the fruit of this shameful labour – sugar, tobacco and cotton, was then shipped to Britain to complete the vicious triangle. At the heart of the international trade in human cargo, was the reliance on bills of credit. The first Lords of Capital, the merchants in London, by financing merchants in Liverpool and Bristol who financed merchants in Africa, ran the slave trade on debt. The products of the slave triangle had enabled these arms dealing, slave trading, sugar barons to evolve into the bankers that brought the Bank of England into being. They then financed the aristocrats and entrepreneurs of the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. Revolutions fuelled by paper contracts written in blood and tears.

Sceptre Snatchers

Yet, a few of these influential entrepreneurs and inventors, the founding fathers of our modern world, denounced this debt-based, slave-driven war machine. The term “middle class” refers to a wide swathe of people, some more wealthy and influential than others. Nonetheless, they brought with them a new set of values along with the social and political changes that came about as industry and trade expanded along with the empire. These values emphasised free-market competition, self-reliance, prudence, thrift, hard work and individual achievement in stark contrast to inherited privilege. They ascribed inequality to moral rather than economic causes, referring to the deserving and the undeserving. The middle-class culture promoted the narrative of great men arising from nothing and forging their own destinies and great fortunes. Indeed, this is the story of the illustrious members of the Lunar Society, most of whom had originated from humble backgrounds. They believed that everyman deserved the opportunities afforded to themselves. It was members of the society and other conscientious figures that in their shame and concern for social progress, instigated the anti-slavery movement.

However, there was another face to the middle class – the newly moneyed financial elite who monopolised the networks of credit and who were central to entrepreneurial success. Without access to such supportive networks and social contacts, businessmen could not compete with those who possessed such friends. It was “who you know” not “what you know.” Some entrepreneurs, those with the right connections, business acumen and sociopathic tendencies, accumulated great wealth and bought land and stately homes becoming as rich or richer than the aristocracy, but most scraped by. The power and influence shifted, or seemed to shift, from rural Britain to urban Britain, from the old landed aristocracy to urban businessmen. By owning a sizeable share of the new industrial sectors of business – factories, coal mines, and railways, and importantly, the financial sectors of banking and insurance, the new “middle class” muscled their way into politics alongside the aristocracy.

As the more powerful and influential members of the “middle class” morphed into the privileged “de facto aristocracy” they gradually inveigled themselves into the ranks of the old aristocracy. Banking families such as the Barings and Rothschilds being prime examples of this marriage between old money and new. Such families proved dominant and had considerable interests in financing and profiting from the slave trade and the industrial revolution both at home and abroad.

Deep Empire Part 3: Children of the Revolution

One thought on “Deep Empire Part 2: Fathers of the Revolution

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s