As I am sure we all know, the prime reason for slave labour in America and the Caribbean was the cultivation of economic plants - cotton, sugar and tobacco. Which got me thinking about the impact of plants on world history. For example, tobacco.
By 1600 smoking had taken society by storm and knew no social barriers. However, James I (r.1603-25) was a rabid anti-smoker who in 1604 raised duty payable by a whopping 4000%. The result - smuggling. Yet this was not as drastic as Shah Sefi of Persia (r.1629-42)who punished smokers and tobacco merchants by pouring molten lead down their throats.
Tobacco was green gold and a formof curency. In 1619 the first prospective brides for the colonizers arrived from Britian - the cost of their passage, some 120 pounds weight of tobacco.
|The Old Plantation c.1790 atttib. John Rose|
Which brings us to the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). The French supported colonies because they wanted to gain direct access to the Virginian tobacco market and gave Benjamin Franklin’s a loan secured on 5,000,000 pounds of tobacco. Incidentally one of Franklin’s first purchases was another plant product - quinine, to keep his soldiers malaria free and fighting fit.
|Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851|