Monday, December 10, 2012

Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade and the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye

This book examines the regional history of Providence, Rhode Island from 1736 to 1836 and John and Moses Brown's participation in and exploitation of the slave trade, banking, education and land acquisition of that time. Their family's internal conflicts and conscience reflected the same struggles found in our young nation regarding slavery and financial independence from England and reluctance to financially support the new nation. John's role in the burning of the "Gaspee" which was one of the sparks leading to the Revolutionary War and his involvement in the anti-taxation movements against England as well as the newly formed Union is in depth. Moses' ardent opposition to slavery and the entire trade put him at severe odds with the family's business due to his embrace and conversion to Quakerism. His religious and political ideals made him instrumental in achieving passage of the federal Slave Trade Act of 1794. His brother John was the first Rhode Islander tried under that legislation and found guilty. Regardless of their deep divisions, the brothers worked jointly in other family-owned interests such as banking and in the formation of Rhode Island's first college, now Brown University.

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