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Considering Travels in North America by Peter Kalm

Note to Patreon supporters: Since being on the Left Coast and working on coffee shop and bar wify, I have been unable to get on patreon so have an associate on the Leased Coast doing uploads for me. Expect the free monthly content to go up in one lump and the chapters of Sold to resume at the end of this month. Thanks for your support.


In composing the text for American Spartacus, I am working entirely offline, except for downloads and texts from my editor and comments and emails sent in by readers. I have access to no dictionary, let alone an etymological resource. In reading the 1772 edition of Peter Kalm’s book concerning his 1748 trip to America, the English usage begs closer consideration. Obviously working from a journal, Kalm, a naturalist, off-handedly remarks about the fact that one could not take a non-military vessel to English North America which was not packed to bursting with hundreds of head of human cargo. After confirming Gottlieb Mitterberger’s account, I regards to the hellish lot of the human freight and even the use of cedar shingles, Kalm, while noting the abundant wildlife of the Delaware Bay, informs the reader that the “Germans” on board were prisoners, and that only those who were ransomed by relatives and friends and those who were “bought” would be permitted to leave the ship from where he took a boat to meet Benjamin Franklin in September of 1948.

The modern academic, certainly, could spend pages describing Kalm’s ignorance of his age, of the ship he sailed, of the people he sailed with and of the language he used to communicate with his colleagues and facilitators. Despite being one of the preeminent scientific minds of his age, the man could not possibly possess the grasp of economics or freedom of the 21st century mall crawler or coach surfer. However, since I am not an academic and am indeed a crackpot, I have decided to take Kalm at is word, that these Germans were held as a purchasable commodity and would not be released unless “bought” and that furthermore, the orders of the captain to hold these people prisoner, were not misunderstood by the scientist and that he could be trusted to understand the commands of the man with whom he had shared scores of dinner conversations at the officers’ dinner table. For the record, Kalm saw this as an opportunity for the German’s and not as true slavery, as he, along with other elite Europeans of the time, saw true slavery as impossible among members of the same race. In his view, one could be a commodity forced to labor on pain of whipping and death and still not be a slave, as slavery must also include total racial, religious and cultural alienation.

Which piques my curiosity as to the term bought, in light of the fact that the term “bound” was most commonly used to describe the conducting of an abducted person into slavery.

Are the words:



-and sought related?

Are any of these words related to the word bound, which is derived from the term bond?

Since enslaved persons were often described as being “spirited” as in trafficked or spirited away, and that the phrases “soul driver” and “sold for a slave” were also commonly used to describe slave trafficking, might the word sold have a word origin derived from or related to soul and/or slave?

Likewise, might the following common words from the period be related:




and could these terms also be linked to passive, pacify, pacification, and pacific?

Editorial note:

Volume 13 must have a complete lexicon of Plantation Era terms specific to the subject, as well as an index to the first 12 volumes.

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