Discrimination and Slavery
When the New World first started to colonize, it was used as an exploitation society. The English who were coming to the colonies wanted to exploit America for all it was worth and bring the wealth back to England. When the English arrived, they did not find gold and silver like the Spanish and Portuguese; however, they did discover agricultural products like tobacco, sugar, and rice that could be produced on a large scale to yield huge amounts of profit. In order to mass-produce these products laborers were needed. Whites and blacks alike were taken advantage of and put into a system of indentures where they were the scum of society. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, due to predisposed discrimination towards the black people, the conditions for white servants improved, while those of the black servants deteriorated and eventually lead to slavery.
All three authors, Degler, Handlin and Morgan, believe that the black people were predisposed to slavery for one reason or another. Degler stated that, “This absence of a status for black men… made it possible for almost any kind of status to be worked out” (Degler, 51). He also claims, “the fact that inferior and onerous service was established for the Indian makes it plausible to suppose that similar status would be reserved for the equally different and pagan Negro (Degler, 53).” Handlin states that the black man was, “Farthest removed from the English, least desired, he communicated with no friends who might be deterred from following. Since his coming was involuntary, nothing that happened to him would increase or decrease his numbers (Handlin, 211).” From this, one can infer that the blacks were the most likely choice for slaves because it would have the least affect on all other people who coincidentally consisted of all white Christians. In the introduction of Morgan’s argument, he admits “Englishmen who colonized America and their revolutionary descendants were racists, that consciously or unconsciously they believed liberties and rights should be confined to persons of light complexion (Morgan, 7).” Although all three authors argue a different theory on the origin of slavery, it would not be wrong to assume, through these quotes, all of them agree that discrimination on the non-white Christian people of the new world existed. The divide between white and black servants increased as time passed, regarding land, labor, and laws. Initially, blacks were treated almost as equals to the white indentured servants. Anthony Johnson, a slave who gained his freedom in the 1640’s, eventually owned 250 acres, a small herd of cattle, and two black servants. He lived the life equal to a free white man with a family and property. Ten years later when Johnson died, racial prejudice had since increased. Whereas any white farmer would have been able to deed his land to his children, “a jury of white men in Virginia declared that because Johnson “was a Negroe and by consequence an alien” the 50 acres he had deeded to his son Richard” was awarded to a local white planter (Nash, 51&52). Two years after Johnson got his freedom, Virginia passed a law settling limits to the terms of servants without indentures. This was done to promote more immigrants coming to America. The law extended to all Christians but not blacks. The shorter indentures were never applied to the blacks since they were forced to come to America anyway (Handlin, 210&211). Laws in Virginia were also created that “specifically exonerated the master who accidentally beat his slave to death, but they placed new limitations on his punishment of “Christian white Servants”(Morgan, 26).” These limitations occurred after the famous Bacon’s Rebellion that caused all of Virginia to fight amongst themselves. The freed servants, black and white, wanted shares of the gentry’s land. The end result was much stricter laws for blacks and leniency towards white Christian servants (Morgan,...
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