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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable book chronicling the issues, politics and personalities of the Revolutionary period in Rhode Island.
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...
Published on May 21, 2006 by Paul Tognetti

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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 Stars, Lost One for Repetition, Lost One for Style
While there is a lot of interesting information in this book, much of it is redundant and repetitious, while the presentation leaves a lot to be desired. In the end this is the story of two brothers who spent their lives on opposite sides of the slavery issue. Moses who originally was involved with the outfitting of ships that went to Africa, later became a Quaker and a...
Published on November 16, 2008 by Grey Wolffe


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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable book chronicling the issues, politics and personalities of the Revolutionary period in Rhode Island., May 21, 2006
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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.

In any event, in the years following the "Sally" debacle John Brown and his brother Moses would pursue entirely different paths. John was first and foremost a businessman and lobbied for laws and policies favorable to the merchant class. For the rest of his life John Brown would continue to oppose any measures that would outlaw slavery and restict commerce in any way. Moses Brown on the other hand would renounce his Baptist heritage (his great grandfather Chad Brown was the first pastor of the First Baptist Church in America)and become a Quaker. Quakers were among the earliest and most vocal opponents of slavery and the simple Quaker lifestyle held much appeal for Moses Brown. Moses Brown would divest himself of much of his fortune and become one of the leading abolitionists of his day.Although John and Moses Brown would continue to collaborate on a number of projects over the next quarter century they would nonetheless find themselves on opposite sides of any number of important issues.

In his extraordinary book "John Adams" author David McCullough gets much of his source material from the voluminous letters between John and Abigail Adams. Likewise, much of the material for "Sons of Providence" appears to be culled from letters between John and Moses Brown. As such this book provides tremendous insight into the thought processes of those on both sides of so many of the important issues of that era. "Sons of Providence" is exceptionally well-written and meticulously researched. This is a must read for history buffs and a great choice for general readers as well. Highly recommended!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Rate Popular History, November 29, 2007
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
5.0 out of 5 stars eye opening, May 9, 2006
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Northern Slave Traders vs. Abolitionists, March 24, 2010
By 
Alan Mills (Chicago, Illinois USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution (Paperback)
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. As the economic base (and I suspect the voting franchise--an issue Rappleye doesn't discuss) expanded, the traders lost ground, and abolition became the trend in the northern states, eventually leading to the abolition (at least on paper) of the slave trade nationally.

Rappleye has given us a fascinating perspective on the American Revolution--a perspective not usually covered. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read and very engaging book, December 2, 2014
By 
MMH (Minneapolis, MN, USA) - See all my reviews
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This book is very well written and provides an excellent, detailed description of the important cultural events affecting this family. A great source of geneaological information as well!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great RI history book, October 31, 2012
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This review is from: Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution (Paperback)
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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sons of Providence, September 23, 2012
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I realy liked the book; it is part of my family history, the Potter's, Taylor's, Brown's and Hopkins are a part of the tree that I am researching.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slavery, Politics and the dirty side of our Revolution - fascinating, March 15, 2014
By 
Joanna Walters "mamasafari" (Truckee, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution (Paperback)
As a Brown alum, I was fascinated by all the shenanigans the Brown brothers got into. The rivalry between Newport and Providence is hard to imagine in Rhode Island today.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3 Stars, Lost One for Repetition, Lost One for Style, November 16, 2008
By 
Grey Wolffe "Zeb Kantrowitz" (North Waltham, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution (Paperback)
While there is a lot of interesting information in this book, much of it is redundant and repetitious, while the presentation leaves a lot to be desired. In the end this is the story of two brothers who spent their lives on opposite sides of the slavery issue. Moses who originally was involved with the outfitting of ships that went to Africa, later became a Quaker and a fighter for the end of slavery and the slave trade.

John Brown spent a lifetime cheating everyone he could, lying and cheating everyone he came in contact with (including his family). But Rappleye never calls him to task. Prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution, John instigated the burning of a British man-of-war. He was arrested and sent to Boston for trial. Moses went to Boston and was able to secure John's release on the promise that John would stay out of politics. John never did and just went on his merry way. During the war he built privateers which he armed with his cannons from is foundry, but delayed the launch of a Continental Frigate in Boston by constantly delaying delivery of canon he had promised.

During the war John was very happy to deal with the Continental Congress but did all he could to charge outrageous prices on goods he sold to both the Continental Army and Navy. After the war he convinced the Congress to buy a ship that he had built that never sailed well and was called 'the worst ship in North America'. During most of his life he continued to invest in ships that dealt with the slave trade while constantly promising that he would stop. While a member of the US Congress he was able to get Bristol RI declared a separate 'Revenue District' so that his friends could continue to pursue the Slave Trade after it was outlawed by the Congress and the State of Rhode Island.

His brother Moses worked for twenty-five years for manumission of all slaves in RI, but could never convince John to do the same. So John was not cantakerous, he was crooked and Moses was a fool for always expecting his brother to live up to his promises. When John died, he left an estate of over $250,000, but he also left debts of over $150,000.

Zeb Kantrowitz
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7 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars shocking, May 13, 2006
By 
southern girl (West Palm Beach, FL) - See all my reviews
uncovers what the history books have been trying to hide. america almost ended slavery at the very begining
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Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution
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