Book Review #1
Seventeenth-Century Colonial America
EDMUND MORGAN - AMERICAN SLAVERY, AMERICAN FREEDOM: THE ORDEAL OF COLONIAL VIRGINIA
Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom goes in the dynamics of pre-Revolutionary Virginia from the unsuccessful Roanoke colony to the beginnings of revolution. Edmund Morgan discloses the changing demographics, economics, social structures, and political developments of colonial Virginia that participated to the adoption of slavery.
In the first half of the book, Edmund Morgan tries to illustrate the conditions in Virginia that led to its use of indentured servitude along with the development of concurrent political processes which allowed the wealthy part of the population to dominate. Under the Virginia Company, Jamestown passed poorly the first years due to the type of immigrants that arrived rather than from a lack of organization or political leadership, according to Morgan. Too many of the new Virginians were gentlemen. For them, work remained a disturbing activity or only for those from the lower strata. In England, they had grown used to not working much at all. The absence of labor combined with an abundance of land placed a premium on real workers. Thereby, when tobacco emerged as the colony’s saving grace the importation of indentured servants rose quickly. The practices toward servants, from the legislature and individuals, were noted for their harshness. There was a brutality exceeding the treatment received in England. Edmund Morgan points out that the Virginians’ attitudes toward the workers permitted the later shift toward slave labor.
As tobacco profits shrunk, wealthier men of the colony began using government office as means of financial support. Moreover, even if the lands had been plentiful at the beginning, by the 1660s, its availability for small tobacco farmers had shrunk significantly. The male immigrants, mostly men that had earned their freedom from servitude, found it more...
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