On this day in 1607, Bartholomew Gosnold—one of the prime movers of the Virginia Company of London and, with John Smith, an original settler of Jamestown—died. Bad water was quite possibly the culprit, and according to George Percy, “he was honourably buried, having all the Ordnance in the Fort shot off with many vollies of small shot.”
Exactly 180 years later, George Mason delivered a speech before the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia condemning the foreign slave trade. James Madison was there taking notes (observers wondered whether the overly diligent Madison even took privy breaks!) and wrote the following:
Slavery discourages arts & manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They prevent the immigration of Whites, who really enrich & strengthen a Country. They produce the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a Country. As nations can not be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes & effects providence punishes national sins, by national calamities.
Where have I heard that before? Oh, right. Thomas Jefferson made almost exactly the same argument in Query XVIII of Notes on the State of Virginia, as the comments to yesterday’s This Day post demonstrate. But you can also find this idea of God punishing the nation in … this morning’s Post! Granted, writer Dana Milbank is being ironic, but, as he suggests, there are still many politicians and religious leaders (among them this Virginian) who worry that God may, in fact, be out to get us.
IMAGE: Top deck of French slave ship, nineteenth century (The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas)