The Patriots' Dilemma: White Abolitionism and Black Banishment in the Founding of the United States of America

Regular price $ 26.95

by Timothy Messer-Kruse

Pluto Press

4/24/2024, paperback

SKU: 9780745349671


Timely and controversial, The Patriots' Dilemma confronts longstanding interpretations of U.S. history that emphasize a fundamental conflict between pro-slavery and anti-slavery interests. By 1776, influential American patriots acknowledged that slavery was incompatible with the ideals of the republic. But a republic for whom?

As Timothy Messer-Kruse argues, their real motivations have been misinterpreted for more than 200 years. The Framers were primarily concerned with the protection and betterment of the white community, not the liberation of enslaved black people. The conundrum was that slavery had to end because it created what they saw as a dangerous population, but it could not be abolished without endangering their (white) republic.

Their solutions included schemes to banish former slaves to the western frontier or overseas, to exclude them from the category of 'citizen', to make their emancipation gradual, and to tightly police African American communities.


"A stunning achievement. Masterly. Finally, an analysis of slavery and republicanism from the left, not seeking to excuse inhumanity by referring to stale recipes about "bourgeois democracy." As the progressive movement in the U.S. begins increasingly to discuss impending fascism, finally we have an account that provides historical foundation for this chilling conception. Brilliant. Insightful." - Gerald Horne, author, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism

"In explaining the role of self-interest in the abolition work of the founding generation, Timothy Messer-Kruse broadens debates that generally focus on the motives and efforts of those who supported African recolonization to show that the rhetoric attributed to colonizationists permeates the work of early abolitionists in general. Messer-Kruse takes away the illusion of altruism and replaces it with an honest examination of the role of self-interest in the first generation of antislavery."  - Beverly Tomek, author of Colonization and Its Discontents: Emancipation, Emigration, and Antislavery in Antebellum Pennsylvania

About the Author:

Timothy Messer-Kruse is professor of ethnic studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He is the author of numerous books, including The Yankee International: Marxism and the American Reform Tradition, 1848-1876, The Haymarket Conspiracy: Transatlantic Anarchist Networks and The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists: Terrorism and Justice in the Gilded Age, which was named 'Best Labor History Book of 2012' by the journal Labor History.