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Independence, Boycott, and Racism

Every Fourth of July, I read the Declaration of Independence and share a reflection on this blog.

This year, I’m going back to the origins of the Declaration of Independence and the Second Continental Congress, by taking a look at the Continental Association which was ratified by the First Continental Congress in 1774. The first two provisions are remarkable:


1. That from and after the first day of December next, we will not import into British America, from Great Britain or Ireland, any Goods, Wares, or Merchandises whatsoever, or from any other place, any such Goods, Wares, or Merchandises as shall have been exported from Great Britain or Ireland; nor will we, after that day, import any East India Tea from any part of the World; nor any Molasses, Syrups, Paneles, Coffee, or Pimento, from the British Plantations or from Dominica; nor Wines from Madeira, or the Western Islands; nor Foreign Indigo. 

2. That we will neither import nor purchase any Slave imported after the first day of December next; after which time we will wholly discontinue the Slave Trade, and will neither be concerned in it ourselves, nor will we hire our vessels, nor sell our Commodities or Manufactures to those who are concerned in it.

From these two initial paragraphs, I draw two observations:

  1. American Independence started as a Boycott movement. This tool of political action is popular to this day.
  2. American Independence could have ended slavery much earlier. Unfortunately they changed their minds between 1774 and 1776.