Capitalism Without Slavery: Documents from an Alternate History of the Americas

June 6, 2021



These pages have been placed in a sequence to convey how capitalism developed in the new world. This carefully selected collection of diary entries, letters, newspaper reports, and government documents aims to tell the full story from the early failings of sugar production to the rise of the industrial powerhouse of Britain and the sister republics of Louisiana and United States. There is throughout no statement of past things wherein memory may err, for all the records chosen are exactly contemporary, given from the view and within the range of knowledge of those who made them.

Letter, James Vrins, Barbados to Sir Thomas Fairfax, London

20th of May, 1642

Dear Lord Fairfax —

It is with great regret that I write to you so soon. The venture charted by you and your partners has utterly and decisively failed. I have supervised Mr. Moor, who you had put in-charge of managing the plantation, with great care and he has done everything in his power to propel the venture to prosperity. The problem simply lies in the outside conditions. As to not bore you with the complexities of sugar harvesting, I will only give a brief overview. The production of sugar is both labour and capital intensive. However, you have well provided for the capital, and the only problem was labour. This proved to be the decisive blow to the whole venture. The problem is quite simple to describe but impossible to solve. Our two options for labour are one, hiring for a wage the few on the island who lack property and have decided to remain or two, bring British labour as indentured servants. The problem is that prospects are a lot better for them elsewhere. Tobacco and Indigo plantations in Virginia are less strenuous and the prospect of buying land which is readily available on the continent ensure our supply of labour is insufficient for the growing of sugar.

From my time in Brazil, where I learned much about sugar production, and this firsthand experience I can confidently declare investment for the purpose of sugar plantations complete folly in the Caribbean. The way planters in Brazil have succeeded is by using a sharecropping system. Here owners sublease land to smaller planters in exchange for part of the sugar produced. Under this system the small planters quickly accumulate enough money to buy their own land further from the coast. This promise of prosperity has enticed immigration and has been modestly profitable for planters and the Portuguese crown.

As for the end of your business Mr. Moor has arranged with some of the laborers to rent land for the purposes of herding. They will pay the land off in installments until ownership will be completely theirs.

Your humble servant, James Vrins

Memorandum by Jean Talon, Count d’Orsainville, Intendant of New France

On the Population of the American Colonies

3rd of November 1663

I have observed in my time in the Americas the vital importance of colonization. I am of the opinion, and I hope that his Majesty the King is as-well, that the future of your kingdom lies in the colonies. More specifically, with the continued failure of sugar ventures in the Caribbean islands, it is vital we look towards the vast lands claimed by your majesty on the continent. These lands require little capital investment and are ready at once to be harvested. Friendly relations with the Indians which we have worked hard to establish will ensure no interference comes from them. Our only worry in the colonies are the British settlers. They outnumber us ten to one according to recent estimates. In any conflict this would place us at a great disadvantage. Therefore I gratefully ask His Majesty to consider the plans enclosed for the population of New France. Our first priority should be to increase the number of women in the colonies. This will provide a twofold benefit as it will increase the number of families which will lead to more children being born in New France as well as attracting more men who will not only be compensated with land and but also have the opportunity to marry and start a family. However, this is not to say that we should discourage intermarriage with Native women. On the contrary, it strengthens our ties to the natives while integrating them into civilized society. If we continue on this road they will be civilized before the end of the next century and we should consider making them full subjects of His Majesty which would greatly increase our population base and control of the region.

As for the plans, the first is to send Filles du Roy, named in your honor, about 1000 of them in the first wave. We can provide them with all travel costs and a dowry. All these women will have to provide a letter from their parish priests to establish their good character as to ensure we promote marriage, the formation of families, and the birthing of good children. Additionally His Majesty should consider sending lesser criminals who repent as-well as political dissidents to finish out a shortened sentence working in the fields. These plans should serve as our foundation and should be expanded upon to ensure our continued dominion in the New World.

From “The London Gazette ” 30th of March 1673

Lord Proprietors Lose Rights to Carolina

LONDON – Following a year of unrest Parliament has passed an act taking control of Carolina as a royal colony. The Lord Proprietors attempt to to establish a system of order based upon that found in their home country failed decisively due to the breed of people emigrating there. They have found very little people willing to come and be obedient peasants like those found in England. The few colonists that do make their way there are described for example by the third son of the Honorable Duke of Albamarle as indolent and violent. His attempt at establishing an estate in the Carolinas ended when a mob of workers burned down his manor after a disagreement on working hours. Scenes like this have dissuaded many second sons of the Nobility from traveling to the American Colonies and have instead joined the navy and military.

The Lord High Admiral has issued a petition to parliament to commission more warships to expand opportunities for command and further protect British trade routes.

From the Dairy of André Bernadeu, Travels through New France

La Haute-Louisiane, August 1st 1700—

I find myself in a land much different from Canada. Upon waking and packing up camp I continued traveling down the Mississippi. While signs of civilization are few and far between, their frequency is increasing. I met a party of fur traders, two French two Indian, traveling upstream and passed a trading post before noon. after the trading post I passed by a small village, if I am correct it should have been Vieille Kasaskie, where I saw small corn and wheat fields. It appeared the harvest was coming along well. I passed a barge loaded up with wheat which was also traveling downstream. It appears to be headed to Saint Louis. I will write again when I get there.

La Basse-Louisiane, September 21st 1700—

I’m approaching Nouvelle-Orleans, I should be there by the end of the week. I passed a number of midsized plantations and I feel almost like in France again. I stopped along the way and talked to one of the workers who was chewing some tobacco by the shore. He told me he was getting paid 10 livres a week and was about to get married to a “Madame” who had just come over from France and brought with her a dowry that would allow him to buy his own plot of land up north. What a wonderful place of opportunity the land seems to be! In less than a year a poor peasant from the metropole can become a respected landowner. I shall write more about the condition of this country once I get to the ports of Orleans. If what they say is true it will soon rival the great Marseilles with its commerce. I must see it for myself if I am to believe it.

From the Journal of Louis Antoine de Bougainville, Aide de Camp to Lieutenant General de Montcalm

Siege of Quebec, 13th of September 1759 —

I was woken up by a servant before sunrise as the British had began to land their troops upstream. Having been expecting this, we all slept in our uniforms and boots. We had a brief meeting at headquarters were we established the plan of defense. We had already come to the conclusion that if the approaches to the city were not defended, the city would have to surrender. Thus we prepared the columns to march to the Plaines d’Abraham where we planned to engage the British. The first column of Militia and Natives encountered an advanced guard British regulars early in the morning. Their British position was quickly reinforced by the the center of the army with our troops under Captain Berne retreating to the main line. Our main column engaged the British around midday to stop their advance. Our right flank under Captain La Sarre was able to break through the British line. The death of British General, a General Wolfe, around the same time cause the British line to falter. This was exploited by the cavalry who charged the retreating British column. With the British broken we pushed all the way to the landing ground where their rear-guard fought valiantly during the retreat. It is unlikely that the British will mount another expedition. Canada is securely in our hands. The recent victories in Louisiana also mean all continental possession are almost restored. General Montcalm is planning to retake the forts Richelieu and Chambly before next year.

Royal Navy Report by First Lieutenant Smith Child

Evacuation of Guadalupe and Martinique
2nd of February 1763
Following orders from the High Admiralty, squadron is preparing to evacuate Guadalupe and Martinique in preparations for peace signed in Paris. Admiral is ready to leave the islands as soon as peace is made official and orders are given.
The islands are of no value besides being a safe port for privateers. In case of future war Admiral has drawn up plans for a blockade and possible landing sites. Little resistance can be expected from militia as the colonies are light populated by small farmers and herders.

From “The Boston Independent ” 29th of October 1779


The American-French Advance Halted in Carolina

Colonies will have their independence! A month after British troops broke the siege o f Charleston, General Washington has negotiated a truce with General Clinton. The French Commander, the Marquis de Lafayette, was also present and an honored guest of Washington. He was among the first French army officers to volunteers and cross the Canadian border with the secret supply wagons at in late 1776 when our United States where most in peril.

A crucial part of this truce was the official recognition of independence by the British Government. This decision was approved by King George III for whom the war has become a great liability as public opinion has turned and the coffers are running empty. Negotiations of a final treaty are already underway in Paris. It is expected that the British will keep their hands on the colony of Georgia and part of Carolina which they still occupy.

In the coming months this mostly empty land will be filled with loyalist refugees who have fled south. The King has already issued a proclamation stating he will grant all those who stayed loyal land. He has not commented on what will happen to the current inhabitants of the lands, but its expected the British Army, once freed from the American border, will help enforce land claims against the Natives, which while full citizens have an uncertain claim to their land under British Law. French Colonial officials in Louisiana have already stated they will welcome any and all refugees who are willing to work in plantations for at least five years. This option has already attracted a large number of Natives who prefer working on a field then staring down the end of a bayonet.

Advertisement in “La Gazette,” 1785

Don’t lose out on the investment of the century! The cotton farms of Louisiana are a perfect place to invest. The colonial economy is booming because wages are being reinvested locally. His Majesty the King has declared all transatlantic shipping under the protection of his Marine Royale so your investment is will safely reach its destination. To benefit from this opportunity write to Messieurs Labout at No. 4 Rue Royale.

Letter, Emil Watteau, Ville d’Arcanses to Dr. Harpe, Montpellier

16th of November, 1786

Dear Friend,

I received your last letter on the 23 of September with great delight. I want to apologize in advance for the delayed response. I have been very busy since I last sent you a letter. But before I tell you about my expedition, let me congratulate you …

Now let me begin with my trip. Soon after I last wrote to you I went with the family of the late General Marquis de Levis to Mississippi. I went immediately to their plantation where I planned to stay for a week before proceeding to Nouvelle-Orleans to continue studying. During the first few days I heard of the extreme difficulty of ginning Cotton, that is, separating it from its seed. There were a number of Messieurs at Madame de Levis who all agreed that if a machine could be invented which would clean the cotton fast, it would be a great thing for the inventor and all planters of the colony. As you know when I’m presented a problem I cant help but become obsessed with solving it. I constructed a plan in my mind of the machine which I confided in M. Aubry (who is agent to the Executors of the late Marquis and lives with the family, a man of respectability and property) who was much interested and pledged to cover the whole expense if I were to pursue this venture. I would loose nothing but my time if I fail, and if I succeed we would share the profits. In about a week I made the first model and decided to continue perfecting it. Madame de Levis told me I could stay as long as I wanted, she is too kind. For my initial model I was offered 240 livres if I would give up all the rights and title to it. At the end I succeeded in speeding up the ginning of cotton by factor of 50. My final machine required only one man to turn it which clean ten times as much cotton as he can in any other way. The machine can also be turned by water or with a horse which makes it do the work of fifty men with the old machine.

As I was leaving I spoke to one of the plantation workers, a M. Henri, from Artois who had heard of my invention. He asked to buy a copy of the machine in two months when he hopes to have saved enough wages to buy a small farm up north. He told me most of the workers had similar plans and would surely be interested in my cotton gin.

I will now be headed to Saint Louis for the purpose of obtaining a patent form the Governor and producing the machine on a larger scale. How I will fare in this business I do not know. But, I am told by many it will make me a fortune and I will not be tempted by any amount of money to part with my rights to this machine.



Letter, Private John Slater, Buffalo to Francis Cabot Lowell, Boston

27th of February, 1805

My Dearest Friend,

I write to you with a great business proposition. While at first you might find it strange that a solider on the front lines of Napoleons little war might propose a business, I promise it makes total sense. Two weeks ago my unit entered the camp at Buffalo where two American and one British regiment were already stationed. I befriended one of the British engineers, George Cobbler, who used to work as an engineer in one of the textile mills in Manchester. He claims to have completely memorized the designs of a machine he called a power loom which mechanizes the process of weaving. One trained weaver can oversee 10 power looms which can each produce as much as 50 weavers by hand! He also knows the newest innovations of the Spinning Jenny. He told me all this once I told him I had friends with sizable capital and influence among the Boston merchants. He is willing to work as a partner and would share in the profits. I propose we get further backing from Nathan Appleton and Israel Thorndike, who I think would be very interested in expanding into textile manufacturing. For all those who want to be part of this venture I propose we create the Boston Manufacturing Company to pool our capital together. If anything good comes from this alliance with the British let it be this.

I eagerly await your reply,

John S.

Account On the State of Cotton Production in Georgia by Lieutenant-Governor John Clark

13th of September 1809

Cotton production in the past ten years is on a steady increase. The sharecropping system implemented by many landowners has greatly increased production. Because of the large number of immigrants cotton plantations have no problem finding labour. With the occupation of lands east of the Mississippi and Florida we can expect a five fold increase in production. We are already challenging Native American land claims and selling land to planters who are not worried about the uncertainty of war. Assurances have been made that this land would be integrated into the colony upon the conclusion of the war. We are inline to surpass cotton production from India within the next few years.

One crucial aspect to note is the level of infrastructure development. We need to secure investment into the streets and ports in anticipation of increased production. Mobile and Charleston with their existing infrastructure should be the focus of this expansion. We should also prepare for the possible interdiction of French-American cotton smuggling. We have reports of French cotton being smuggled across the border and on Dutch and Swedish ships to end up in American factories in Boston. This completion to London textiles should be of increasing concern for the crown. We have curtailed shipping of Georgian cotton to America as best as possible without destroying the fragile trust build up between the two nations. A complete ban should be implemented after the war. French cotton will fill the void which we will preempt by increasing the garrison on Key West and imposing a toll on passing cotton ships.

From “The Times” 16th of June 1815


French Delegation Affixes Signatures in Louisbourg, British and Americans Follow.

Following a historic negotiation at Louisburg, the French and Spanish delegations have agreed to the terms set by the Americans and the British. The French have formally ceded all lands east of the Mississippi which have been occupied by the allied powers for a time. Lands above the 35th parallel have been turned over to the United States increasing its land area by a third while the rest went to Britain.

French and Indian refugees have been streaming across the Mississippi with the Governor of French Louisiana pledging to help. While the treaty stipulates that French and Indian land claims will be respected, settlers in both the American and British territories during the past two years have disregarded them. Local governors have ignored the rise in violence against French and Indian people thereby giving their tacit support to this persecution.

Additionally, the French gave up their last islands in the Caribbean leaving the British with almost full control over the region. French and Spanish colonial trade routes are now fully at the mercy of the British who have emerged as the dominant naval power. The restored Spanish Bourbon Dynasty demanded the return of Florida which had been occupied by the British since 1807. British commercial interests prevailed however, and the delegation rejected their demands and offered the French cattle colony of Saint-Domingue as compensation. This offer was accepted by the Spanish.

As for the new American territory, a proclamation by the President is expected any day as Congress already passed the Ohio Ordinance. This ordinance laid out the territories which will eventually join the Union as full states.

From the Diary of the Marquis de Lafayette

Nouvelle-Orleans, 3rd of April 1815 —

“Joseph Montgrand, you have been sentenced to death for the murder of Monsieur Bonaparte. Do you have any final words?”

These were the first lines I heard spoken as I exited my caleche and stepped onto the square. It was quite a wonder my driver was able to get this close with the big crowd closing all around us.

I slowly made my way to the front rows to get a better look at our poor little friend. However, I could not go all the way and risk someone recognizing me. Before I was able to get a look at him I head him speak—

“I only have one thing to say, what I have done I have done for the republic, for my people. It is a shame I shall not live to see our great republic reborn, but I have faith in you my brothers” — in this moment I locked eyes with Joseph— “you will restore the republic, and so I die a happy man. Vive la France! Vive la République!”

When he finished a man behind me cried out “Vive la France!”. As if on a cue the crowed replied, “Vive la République!” Even as I’m writing this I cant help but feel the chill that went down my spine.

The marshal continued his show as if nothing had happened — “Apprêtez armes” — the solider raised their muskets — “en joue” — they pointed their muskets at Joseph’s heart —

Letter, Marquis de Lafayette, Louisiana to Jacques Sabés

*originally in encoded*

6th of April, 1816

Dear Jacques,

You should make your way to Louisiana as soon as possible without arousing suspicion. Our vast network of republican sympathies is almost fully established. Throughout the revolution Louisiana seems to have absorbed a great number of generals with our political leanings. It has been a slow process tracking them down but with the help of General Houchard and others it has been most successful. It is a great pleasure that most Frenchmen here are of a republican sentiment. The prospect of trade barriers with the United States is especially troubling for southern cotton planters who rely almost exclusively on New England factories as buyers. These barriers are son to be established as the British hold a lot of influence at the moment and hope to continue their textile monopoly. Some of their class has already joined in our conspiracy and they have pledge enough funds to supply a continental army if the need arises.

All the royalists seemed to have followed the Duc d’Orleans to Canada. Some are remaining in Canada while the majority are returning to the metropole. I hope to see you join us soon, at any moment an opportunity may arise for us to step out of the shadows into the spotlight once more. Once you arrive in Nouvelle-Orleans a man will approach you with further instructions. We cannot risk anything more over a letter.
Vive la République,

From “The Daily Continental,” 19th of January 1823


Four New Republics Recognized by European Powers

January 10th will be a historic date remembered in all of the American Continent. After two years of negotiation France and Spain have given up all claims besides Canada and the Caribbean islands, respectively.

With British and American support, the Republic of Louisiana, the Federal Republic of Central America, Gran Colombia and the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata are all full fledged republics with international recognition and respect. The age of democracy is approaching. The only exemption to this is the Mexican Empire whose independence from Spain was also firmly established in the conference but still remains under an emperor.

Between all these countries trade is already flourishing and we are entering a never before seen era of peace and prosperity. British textile imports are already up tenfold into the Gran Colombia and the FRCA. Meanwhile the Republic of Louisiana and the United States have signed a free trade agreement on textiles and cotton. President Lafayette signed the documents seconds after President Monroe. After the signing both president attend the ceremony in which they honored the late President Washington, who commanded both of them more than half a century ago during the American Revolutionary War as part of the Continual Army.

From the Journal of Samuel Bugle

Cincinnati, 28th of February, 1825—

Today I woke up the most exited I’ve been all year. After moths of building we are about to finish laying the last tracks on the outskirts of Cincinnati. What started two years ago as a dream of connecting the two great republics with a railroad is about to become reality. Going all the way from Saint-Louis on the shores of the Mississippi to Boston on the shores of the Atlantic this transnational railroad is a marvel of engineering. As supervisor of construction on the American, first thing I did was walk across the field to the French crew and greeted them with a hearty good morning. They all appeared to be as exited as I was and started shouting and cheering. The workers on our side replied with their own greetings and cheers before both groups returned to work. Around midday reporters from started coming form the city to witness the final piece of track being laid out. As soon as that was placed, we all headed to the city where a grand celebration was planned. It already began with a parade and now I await the dinner ceremony.

The first train with cargo will pass by tomorrow morning. It will be carrying cotton that traveled up the Mississippi and will end up in the factories of Boston. Not having to round the Florida Peninsula will remove days from the shipping time of cotton and mark a new level of efficiency never seen before.

Memorandum on North American Textile Manufacturing by Foreign Secretary George Caring

8th of August 1827

The situation regarding textile manufacturing in North America has been brought to my attention by interested parties from Manchester and Lancashire. American competition means securing oversees markets for products is of upmost importance. The innovations in agricultural technology in particular have driven a great number of people from the land and into the cities. North Louisiana and the area surrounding Saint Louis and Massac in particular have seen an increase in factories stemming from this movement. However, cotton supply is expanding even faster in the souther Louisiana providing enough cotton for French and American factories. A rift between these who countries is highly unlikely. Our best course of action is denying these manufacturers foreign markets. A treaty is in development with General Jose Paez of Venezuela who in exchange for support for independence from Gran Colombia will grant us a monopoly on textile imports. This should be the example followed for future market expansions. The vitality and health of our manufacturing industry numbers among our top priorities as it represents the future of the Kingdom.

From “Le Garde ” 4th of November 1841


Emperor Executed; Republic Has Been Declared!

At exactly four thirty six on the second of November the Emperor of Mexico was executed for treason. Under a new decree by the National Assembly he was condemned for working against the interest of the people and suppressing their voice. The National Guard put quickly put down the small counterrevolution attempt by General Santa Ana to overthrow the Assembly. With a republic finally established representatives from Louisiana and the Untied States where given a triumphant entrance into Mexico City.

The National Assembly as one of its first acts rescinded the decree issued by the Emperor which granted a monopoly to British textile imports in exchange for funds and their support in the Chiapas and Soconusco Border dispute with the FRCA. It then proceeded to pass a favorable trade deal with the Sister Republics, who many speculate provided support for the republicans.

From “The Globe” 29th of March 1867


A PROCLAMATION for Uniting the Provinces of Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida into one Dominion under the name GEORGIA. For uniting the Possessions of Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, the Windward Islands, and Trinidad and Tobago into one Dominion under the name WEST INDIAN CONFEDERATION.


From the Diary of the Eugene Scott

Boston, 5th of June, 1870—

Today I entered grand city of Boston. After having been to London, Nouvelle-Orleans, and Bordeaux I never thought I would see another such immense and bustling port anywhere. But Boston is fit for the group. As the steamer I was on entered the harbor we passed ship after ship filled with cargo. The steam ships entering the city seemed to be filled with cotton, tobacco and every other good imaginable to man. You could see the line of ships stretching into the horizon. Ship after ship standing in line and ship after ship sitting in port, the crews working restlessly to unload all its cargo as fast as possible. The smoky sky of the steamers soon gave rise to the smokey sky of the factories which surrounded the city like hunters do their prey. We docked on the north side of the city where I immediately saw the bustling streets. Streetcar after streetcar passed by while people walked the crowded sidewalks in front of lively shops. From the corner of the street I saw a young boy selling newspapers:

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”
Things had changed so much since the last time I was here. Almost sixty years had passed. No longer could you see the blue sky, or the people leisurely strolling by. I saw a man standing in the corner impatiently looking at his pocket watch every couple seconds. Gone were the birds, gone the green trees that used to line the street. I walked a couple blocks over to the statue of Paul Revere and sat down on a bench under one of the few remaining trees holding back the emotion of being in my city again after so many years. In that time it had changed even more than I had.



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Luca Campiani '22, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Luca Campiani ‘22 is a Co-Editor in Chief and writer for The Catalyst. He covers the Features and News sections of the newspaper.

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