Essay: Slavery

Slavery was introduced in Virginia in late August of 1619; a Dutch warship arrived in Jamestown, Virginia with about twenty or so Negroes onboard. The shipment that was exchanged was the ship with the Negroes on it in exchange for food. They were first introduced as indentured servants. An indentured servant is a person under contract to work for another person for a definite period of time, usually without pay but in exchange for free passage to a new country. The popular conception of a racial-based slave system did not develop until the 1680’s.
The number of African American slaves was very small at first. By the 1680s, the slaves had become essential to the economy. The popular conception of a racial-based slave system did not develop until the 1680’S. The first twenty slaves arrived in Jamestown from the West Indies in 1619. By 1625, ten slaves were listed in the first census of Jamestown.

Millions of Native Americans were enslaved as well; in the American colonies in 1730, nearly 25 percent of the slaves in the Carolinas were Cherokee, Creek, or other Native Americans. The Pilgrims settled at Plymouth Massachusetts. “. Plymouth, for the most part, had servants and not slaves, meaning most black servants were given their freedom after turning 25 years old–under similar predetermined arrangement as English preparations. The Dutch, who entered the slave trade in 1621 with the creation of the Dutch West Indies Co., import blacks to serve on Hudson Valley farms. According to Dutch law, the children of freed slaves are bound to slavery.

In 1641 Massachusetts legalizes slavery and then the following year Virginia colony enacts law to fine those who harbor or assist runaway slaves. For centuries the issue of equal rights presented a major challenge to the states. Virginia, after all, had been the main site for the growth of black slavery in America. By the 1650s some of the indentured servants had gotten their freedom.

Slavery spread fast in the American colonies. At first the legal standing of Africans in America was poorly defined, and some, like European indentured servants, managed to become free after several years of service. From the 1660s, however, the colonies began enacting laws that defined and regulated slave relations. Central to these laws was the provision that black slaves, and the children of slave women, would serve for life. This idea, combined with the natural population growth among the slaves, meant that slavery could survive and go on for a much longer time. It could survive and continue to grow.

After 1691, freed black slaves were banished from Virginia. They were to leave and never come back; they served no purpose in Virginia. A Virginia law assumed that Africans would remain slaves for life. In 1662 Virginia law providing that children conceived with an Englishman upon a Negro woman shall be bond or free according to the condition of the mother. Throughout the late 17th and early 18th century, several foreign governments adopted similar rules which reversed the usual common law beliefs that the status of the child. These laws simplified the upbringing of slaves through Black women’s bodies and allowed for slaveholders to reproduce their own labor force.

Slaves were mostly for sugar plantations, diamond mines in Brazil, house servants, on tobacco farms in Virginia, in gold mines in Hispaniola and later the cotton industry in the Southern States of the USA. Despite this growth in tobacco production, problems in price-stability and quality existed. In 1660, when the English markets became flooded with tobacco, prices fell so low that the colonists were barely able to survive. In response to this, planters began mixing other organic material, such as leaves and the sweepings from their homes, in with the tobacco, as an attempt to make up by quantity what they lost by low prices. The transferring of this trash tobacco solved the colonists’ immediate cash flow problems, but emphasized the problems of overproduction and decline of quality.

Bacon’s Rebellion occurred over a period of months in 1676 in Tidewater Virginia. It was brought on by a growing lack of available land and the colony’s complicated relations with both friendly and hostile tribes of Native Americans. Bacon’s Rebellion enhanced the arrangement of chattel slavery in Virginia. Although the number of indentured servants coming from England began to decrease as a result of the Industrial Revolution there, the threat of a rootless, landless class of freemen led colonial authorities to view slavery more favorably, believing that it certified a more stable free society.

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