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Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution Hardcover – May 9, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743266870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743266871
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,253,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rappleye (All American Mafioso) provides an incisive study of John and Moses Brown, two of four brothers from the Providence banking, import/export and slave-trading family. John spent his life as an unrepentant participant in the business of America's "peculiar institution." But Moses—following the American Revolution, during which all the Browns took up the cause of liberty—discovered Quakerism and abolitionism. He thereafter stood opposed to the business interests of his brother and the balance of his family. (Only Nicholas Brown Jr. joined Moses in his crusade). During 1789, Moses organized an abolitionist group in Providence that was instrumental in achieving passage of the federal Slave Trade Act of 1794 prohibiting ships destined to transport slaves to any foreign country from outfitting in American ports. John Brown—who deemed it improper to deny American citizens "the benefits of a trade permitted by all the European nations"—was the first Rhode Islander tried under that legislation. Convicted, he suffered the forfeiture of his slave ship, ironically named Hope. The tale of the Browns provides unique insight into the festering wound of slavery as manifested, with hard-edged and profitable heartlessness, during the colonial and postcolonial eras. 16 pages of photos, 3 maps. (May 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Rappleye focuses on two of four Brown brothers, John and Moses, from one of the chartered families of Rhode Island, and how their maturation reflected the conflicts and challenges of our nation in foundation. Following an initial joint venture in the international slave trade, the brothers later took opposite positions on slavery; John increased his involvement, while Moses became strongly antislavery. Both became central players in Rhode Island politics through both the political and commercial sphere. John's antitaxation, anticolonial activities helped to spur the move for independence. Although Moses evolved into a conscientious Quaker with the highest ideals, they still worked jointly in family-owned businesses and for the common good in the formation of Rhode Island's first college, now Brown University. Spanning a century, from 1736 to 1836, this work highlights regional issues that became nationwide--slavery, the fight for liberty, and protection from unfairly imposed taxations, religious principles, as well as the new nation's political ideals. The Brown family saga reflects on many issues that remain American dilemmas: the balance between commercial and religious and political ideals. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Charles Rappleye is a writer and editor who has lived in Los Angeles since 1984. In 1986 he left off a career in journalism to pursue longer-form projects, a step that led to a writing degree from USC and his first book. "All-American Mafioso: The Johnny Rosselli Story" was published to strong reviews in 1991. After a stretch of freelance journalism Rappleye in 1994 returned to gainful employment with a staff job at the LA Weekly. He left nine years later and in 2006 published his second book, a story from the realm of history. "Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution" was recognized as the year's best book on the founding era by the American Revolution Round Table Book Prize and the George Washington Book Prize. Rappleye returned to the Revolution for his next project, the biography of Robert Morris published in November by Simon & Schuster.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The tiny State of Rhode Island certainly played a significant role during the American Revolution. Few recall that when Roger Williams established Rhode Island in 1644 it was for all practical purposes the first practicing democratic state since the fall of Athens. Rhode Islanders were an exceptionally independent lot. The burning of the two masted British schooner "Gaspee" in June of 1772 by a group of leading citizens of the colony essentially struck the first blow in the nations quest for independence. In "Sons of Providence" author Charles Rappleye recalls the historic events that were unfolding in Rhode Island in those years and focuses on two brothers, John and Moses Brown, who would find themselves on opposite sides of so many of the important questions of their day. It is a compelling story.

Until recently I never realized how important the issue of the slave trade was as the nations march toward independence proceeded. It seems slavery was a highly emotional issue even in the 1770's and 1780's. John and Moses Brown along with brothers James and Nicholas were members of one of the most prominent families in colonial Providence. The Brown family was involved in all manner of commerce and in 1765 they made the decision to enter the slave trade. And so it was that they outfitted a ship they christened "Sally" to make the voyage. In "Sons of Providence" you will discover why the slave trade was such a controversial and dirty business. If you have never read about the conditions that existed on these ships then you are sure to be horrified. It turns out that roughly half the slaves that were picked up on the West Coast of Africa died during the return voyage.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By wegm on November 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is the best kind of popular history book. The author has used the tensions within the rising Brown family to highlight the tensions within the rising colonies. Rhode Island is the perfect panorama for a story like this, the home of individual rights and abolition in America, yet built on the proceeds of slavery, rum and piracy.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By yankee joe on May 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
the north caused and profitted from slavery more than history books tell. this fabulous story shows two brothers who embodied the american quest for liberty while confronting the great question that still haunts our country today. incredible circumstances find the battle between abolition and slavery contained in one family, and details how the north defended slavery during the birth of our nation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alan Mills VINE VOICE on March 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Moses and John Brown were brothers and partners in one of the most successful trading companies in pre-revolutionary America. After their first investment in the "triangle slave trade" (slaves from Africa to the Carribean, sugar and molasses from the Carribean to New England, distilled spirits from New England to Africa), the partnership broke apart. Eventually, Moses converted and became a Quaker, and one of the leading pre-revolutionary abolitionists; while John became one of the leading spokesmen defending the New England based slave trade.

Using this family split, Rappleye tells the story of the American Revolution through the lens of the slave trade. This was NOT a north-south issue, as most history books portray it. Rather, it was a split with slave traders of New England (who held political power in many of the northern colonies), who wanted unlimited right to trade in anything they wanted. Joining the northern traders were the landed gentry of the deep southern states who needed more slaves. The mid-Atlantic states had few traders, and the landed interests wanted the higher prices for their existing slaves, needed no more slaves, and thus had an economic interest in barring the import of additional slaves. Finally, there were the abolitionist--mostly religious--who wanted to abolish slavery altogether.

In Rhode Island and many other states, the pro-slavery forces initially won out (Moses was completely marginalized politically on the slavery issue for most of the period leading up to the revolution, and for several years after), and bills to bar the slave trade were first resoundingly defeated, and then once passed, not enforced.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Treno on October 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had bought this book in digital format but wanted the Hard copy for it is easier to go back and forth when researching in it. Gives a great history of the Brown Brothers Moses (whom we have a HS named after) and John (Brown University). I walk the streets of the East side of Providence daily and found the book enlightening on some of the historical names and buildings I see.
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