Development of the Labor Movement: Slavery and Indentured Servants

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Emma Hoffman
Development of the Labor Movement
Shawn Taylor
Paper 1
Enslaved in America
People of America never got off on the right foot. The colonial elite began tormenting those in the lower classes the minute they arrived, as “…huge numbers of white servants didn’t live to see the day of freedom. In the early days, the majority of servants died still in bondage”(Jordan and Walsh 111). The indentures, enslaved, and non-elite were set in bondage and many did not live to see freedom. They were treated like animals, not humans. The elite kept power and control over the lower class and enslaved them. They did this by torturing them and making examples of them. Although we like to believe our country was founded on truth, liberty, and equality, the elite members of society used law enforcement, monetary authority, and physical dominance, such as whipping, years in bondage, loss of body parts, and torture, to keep control over the non-elites.

Enslavement of these non-elite groups became a common norm amongst society, but the elite tormented everyone including those who were poor and free. The poor free whites were treated just as any other indenture or slave. They would use the same horrible strategies to keep control over them. The colonial leaders believed “…only pain and terror could motivate the poor” (Taylor 132). They would torment and brutally harm the poor white people in order to keep control amongst society’s classes. They believed that harming the poor would motivate the rest of their class because they did not want to be harmed.

African Slaves were treated with the same manor as the poor whites. The author proves this with a similar quote. “As Slaves became more numerous and more conspicuously African, masters became convinced that only pain and fear could motivate them” (Taylor 155). The masters of African slaves became aware that there was power in numbers. Colonial elite saw Africans as more of a threat, because they had the confidence to rebel. They used the same tactics to keep control of blacks as the tactics they used for the poor whites. “Chronic runaways had their toes chopped off or suffered castration. The colonial authorities held no master liable for the death of a slave from excessive punishment” (Taylor 155). The authorities made it okay to perform such torture through legislation. The masters would attempt to keep control over their slaves by punishing them and sometimes killing them to make an example of them. African Americans would take the risk and try to run away or rebel because of how poorly they were being treated. They saw nothing worse than what they already had to endure. The torturous consequences meant nothing to the slaves. They saw the chance of freedom worth any repercussions.

Pain is a common factor in all types of control. Inflicting pain is a way of showing who has the upper hand when it comes to power and authority. For example, when children do something bad their guardian may enforce power to remind them that rebelling against the rules has consequences. These parents are practicing what the elite did over the less fortunate. The elite had complete control over the servants. One example of such torment included a laborer that stole oatmeal from the kitchen to cure his hunger. “The leaders had a long needle thrust through his tongue, to keep him from ever eating again. Chained to a tree, the convict slowly starved to death, a vivid and lingering example to terrify his fellow colonists” (Taylor 132). The man was put through excruciating physical and mental torture to be set as an example to his fellow colonists. This tactic showed the non-elites who held control and power in any circumstance. The elite could get away with such torture just because of the class they were in.

In addition to pain, the elite also killed slaves to maintain control. These types of maintenance are exemplified with the Algonquain Indians. When the elite colonists...
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