6 March 2013
A Slave Owner’s Cry for Freedom
In the years from 1600 to 1783 the thirteen colonies in North America were introduced to slavery and underwent the American Revolutionary War. Colonization of the New World by Europeans during the seventeenth century resulted in a great expansion of slavery, which later became the most common form of labor in the colonies. According to Peter Kolchin, modern Western slavery was a product of European expansion and was predominantly a system of labor. Even with the introduction of slavery to the New World, life still wasn’t as smooth as we may presume. Although the early American colonists found it perfectly fine to enslave an entire race of people, they found themselves being controlled in every facet of life by the British Empire. After the French and Indian War in 1765, the American Colonists began to notice that ironically enough they were, in some form, enslaved by Great Britain. From being unrightfully taxed, i.e. The Stamp Act, to being denied entry into the military ranks of Britain, the American colonists soon figured out that they were not as free as they once thought. Boycotts, protests, and riots, including events such as The Boston Tea Party and The Boston Massacre painted the landscape of rebellion in the early colonies which led to the era in American History known as The American Revolution. The institution of slavery and the ideology of the American Revolution intersect in that the thirteen colonies struggled with Great Britain for their independence even though the colonists were neglecting the independence and equalities of the African slaves. The ideals I interpret throughout this essay were drawn from reading the following primary documents: “The Boston Massacre”, “Parliament Debates the Stamp Act, 1765”, “Colonists Respond to the Stamp Act, 1765-66”, “An Enslaved African-American in the Revolutionary Army, 1777-1783”, “African-American Fights for the Loyalist in Return for Freedom during the Revolutionary War.”
As Kolchin stated, “Colonial America was overwhelmingly agricultural and depended on the crops—mainly tobacco and rice—to provide the basis for much of their wealth.” He later goes on to say, “Cultivating these crops, however, required labor; in an environment where land was plentiful and people few, the amount of tobacco or rice one could grow depended on the number of laborers one could command” (Kolchin). In short, the more laborers one could command, the more crop one could grow, and the more profit one would make. The Colonist’s desire to develop commercial agriculture under conditions of population scarcity gave rise in North America to institutional slavery, in fact, initially the demand for labor was color-blind. Africans were unwillingly brought by ship to the British New World. The first Africans that arrived in Jamestown in 1619 on a Dutch trading ship, were not slaves but they were also not free. Instead, they served time as indentured servants until their obligations were complete. Despite the lack of a slave tradition in England, eventually slavery replaced the common cultural idea of indentured servitude. Before the 1680’s Colonists preferred non-Indian indentured servants because they did not have to go through prolonged adjustment to alien conditions. In time, slavery became the most common form of labor throughout the colonies. Beginning in the 1680s the mainland colonies underwent a massive shift from indentured servitude to slave labor. Colonists learned that African slaves were a better investment than indentured slaves and preferred slave as to servants because slaves were held permanently and female slaves passed their statues on to their children. At this point in American history slavery was not frowned as immoral but a necessary evil in order to progress as a growing nation (Kolchin). The mother land, Great Britain, began to tighten the reigns that wrapped around the the New World’s...