Professor Kelly Hopkins
June 18, 2012
The Growth the Chesapeake and Barbadian Colonies
Many great examples of how pioneers blazed trails and discovered unchartered territories outline the fabric of American history. We put a man on the moon in the sixties and discovered cures for some of our modern diseases. These are valuable accomplishments, but there is another that is just as significant in the course of American history; the colonization of our nation. Detailed accounts decorate our history with the hardship and suffering of our forefathers. And although some historical accounts paint a bleak picture of early settlements and show that diseases, starvation and other factors were difficult to overcome, we need to recognize that there were successes. It would be unfair to only focus on the challenges without acknowledging their ability to thrive and prosper. To overlook the strategies that the Chesapeake and Barbadian societies used to grow and prosper would be a mistake, because we can contribute many of their decisions and actions to the structure of today’s political system and economy. Some historians may analyze these two societies and argue that their evolution was a result of learning from the mistakes of previous settlements. However, there is considerable evidence to show that the Chesapeake and Barbadian colonies successfully grew and progressed as a society due to the use of slaves as workers in the colonies, the acquisition of land, and agricultural exports to England to obtain wealth. The purpose of this paper is to examine the events responsible for the advancement of the Chesapeake and Barbadian societies in the mid 1700’s. The creation of the slave trade in America is arguably one of the major factors that led to the evolution of the Chesapeake and Barbadian colonies. The import of slaves caused a large population explosion in both colonies. The number of blacks in both settlements increased significantly and outpaced that of the white population each decade between 1730 and 1760. In 1730 the black population in the Virginia colony was 30,000 and doubled to 60,000 in 1740 and continued to increase steadily through 1770.1 The Maryland colony showed similar population increases with the number of blacks almost doubling in size from 24,031 to 43,450 from 1740 to 1750.2 The profile of the population in the Barbadian colony was also significant. Unlike the Virginia and Maryland colonies, blacks outnumbered white almost 4 to 1 and were the majority in the population between 1655 and 1770. For example, slaves were 83 percent of the population in 1760 at 86,600 while the white population was 17,800.3 What is the significance of this population growth and their evolution? The colonies created a formula that would secured their future for generations. When Chesapeake experienced economic growth large plantations became more common. This created a need for workers. In turn, slavery led to great wealth for the colonies and became one of their greatest resources for economic growth. Over the course of several decades more slaves were brought to America to fulfill the demand for workers to plant and harvest tobacco and other crops. The colonist understood the value of slave labor and the economic growth using slaves would provide. Most importantly, they also understood that the performance of the slaves influenced their profitability. We cannot discuss population growth in the colonies without acknowledging the ugly truth about slavery. Clearly one group of people suffered while another benefited. Many can criticize the colonies for implementing such a cruel system for economic growth, but we must ask ourselves did slavery help them reach their goal of prosperity. After all, slaves and indentured servants were a productive labor pool that helped them prosper economically during the early and middle years of colonization. Without needing to take a position on...