No God But Gain

No God But Gain:The Untold Story of Cuban Slavery, the Monroe Doctrine, and the Making of the United States

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From 1501 to 1867 more than 12.5 million Africans were brought to the Americas in chains, and as many as 100 million Africans died as a result of the slave trade. The U.S. constitution set a 20-year time limit on U.S. participation in the trade, and on January 1, 1808, it was abolished. And yet, despite the spread of abolitionism on both sides of the Atlantic, despite numerous laws and treaties passed to curb the slave trade, and despite the dispatch of naval squadrons to patrol the coasts of Africa and the Americas, the slave trade did not end in 1808. Fully 25 percent of all the enslaved Africans to arrive in the Americas were brought after the U.S. ban--3.2 million people.
This breakthrough history, based on years of research into private correspondence; shipping manifests; bills of laden; port, diplomatic, and court records; and periodical literature, makes undeniably clear how decisive illegal slavery was to the making of the United States. U.S. economic development and westward expansion, as well as the growth and wealth of the North, not just the South, was a direct result and driver of illegal slavery. The Monroe Doctrine was created to protect the illegal slave trade.
In an engrossing, elegant, enjoyably readable narrative, Stephen M. Chambers not only shows how illegal slavery has been wholly overlooked in histories of the early Republic, he reveals the crucial role the slave trade played in the lives and fortunes of figures like John Quincy Adams and the "generation of 1815", the post-revolution cohort that shaped U.S. foreign policy. This is a landmark history that will forever revise the way the early Republic and American economic development is seen.


  • Stephen Chambers brings a bright searchlight to a dark corner of history: the illegal slave trade that was so central to the rise of American capitalism. The book is especially valuable in a historical moment when the legacy of race and slavery haunts American politics.

    Marcus Rediker, author of The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom
  • With deep research and narrative style, Stephen Chambers challenges a significant misunderstanding about the so-called Era of Good Feelings. As he shows, the apparent ‘end’ of the slave trade in 1808 did little to stem the growth of slavery in the United States. Through huge investment in Cuba, American interests, including northern interests, deepened their dependence upon slavery and the slave trade, at exactly the moment it was supposed to be in decline. No God But Gain is an important corrective to the historical record.

    Ted Widmer, author of Brown: The History of an Idea
  • Detailed attention to the political machinations between New England, Cuban slavery, and Washington results in Chambers’s historic lessons echoing across two centuries, which often read as if they are taken from today’s headlines. The skillful telescoping from specifics to larger and more universal points makes this an engaging read for non-specialists.

    Matt ChildsNew West Indian Guide