Why slavery developed through law and race-based issues - Essay Example

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The custom of slavery developed in the mainland colonies with the arrival of Atlantic Creoles as free labor in the early seventeenth century. These poor, exploited men of…
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Why slavery developed through law and race-based issues
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In its earliest years, colonial labor was defined by a nonracial-specific system of indentured servitude. The custom of slavery developed in the mainland colonies with the arrival of Atlantic Creoles as free labor in the early seventeenth century. These poor, exploited men of mixed European and African blood belonged to the Dutch West India Company and were company slaves, or indentured laborers, who were brought there to build the infrastructure of the colony. The Dutch went on to bring in Creole or African women to be sexual partners to these laborers. These slaves worked hard at manual and skilled labor. They had the right to earn and keep their wages. Slavery had no legal structure in the colonies. Slaves had legitimate marriages, adopted Christianity and were part of the military. These slaves negotiated for greater freedom. The Dutch West India Company gave them ‘half freedom,’ under which they could live on ‘free negro lots,’ farm their own land and pay a tribute to the company. The company retained the right to their services when necessary. Africans in New Amsterdam were now a mixture of slaves, half-free and free men.
Slavery now developed in the British colonies. The tobacco country in Chesapeake, Virginia and Maryland was in need of cheap labor in the early 1600’s. This led the British in these colonies to adopt the indentured labor system. Indentured labor made tobacco the colonys most profitable export. Both white and African indentured labor were hired for a prescribed period, had no rights, were treated badly and could become free at the end of the indenture. Initially, they were treated equally. 1640 was a turning point at which indentured Africans began to be treated worse than indentured whites. Race began to assume increased significance. Indentured African slaves who attain freedom were not treated on par with free whites. The nonracial-specific system of indentured servitude that defined colonial labor in its earliest years came to an end.
By 1665, Virginia, New York and Maryland legalized slavery by law and custom. All the British colonies became slave societies. All children of indentured women became slaves by law. As Virginia planters perceived the advantages of race slavery in expanding their tobacco holdings, they introduced laws in 1691 forbidding free blacks from living in certain counties. African-Americans were denied education, freedom of movement and the right to hold property. The indentured Africans’ avenues to freedom and recourse to law were progressively shut off. Slavery replaced indentured servitude as the labor system of choice. By the beginning of the 18th century, British law made slavery a racially based institution under which people were considered property, or chattel. Racial slavery became the center of economic production.
Colonial planters quickly adopted the race-based system of chattel slavery as it provided them with permanent, cheap labor. Many white planters came from Barbados, and brought with them the plantation slave system which generated profit for the British in the Caribbean. As the labor intensive rice plantations took hold in Carolina, the racial slave system became entrenched. The African slave trade boomed. Some of the colonial planters were also invested in the slave trade of the Royal Africa Company and slave trading became a profitable part of the international economy, with auxiliary industries such as ship-building and insurance. As the elite colonial planters derived profits from the slave system, they reinforced the laws which meted out inhuman punishments to rebelling slaves. After the Stono Slave Rebellion of September 1739, the separate laws governing slaves were integrated into the ‘Black Codes.’ By 1750, a quarter million enslaved blacks made vast wealth possible for their plantation masters. The colonies were heavily dependent on slave labor. The slaves did not have to be paid and the masters owned their children when they were born. Every aspect of the lives of slaves was regulated and the chain of race-based chattel slavery was decisively forged.
Works Cited.
Slavery and the Making of America. Part 1 and 2. The Drop Squad History. YouTube. 25 Mar.
2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013. Read More
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