Differences in slave laws in British North America and Colonial Brazil
Slavery as it existed in colonial Brazil contained interesting points of comparison and contrast with the slave system existing in British North America. The slaves in both areas had been left with very little opportunity in which he could develop as a person. The degree to which the individual rights of the slave were either protected or suppressed provides a clearer insight to the differences between North American and Brazilian slavery. The laws also differed greatly between the two areas and have been placed into three categories: term of servitude, police and disciplinary powers, and property and other civil rights.
Point One: In both systems of slavery, the term of servitude was for life and the child's status was inherited from its mother. Inherited lifetime slavery was the norm. Manumission or granting freedom was very infrequent in British North America. Sometimes masters who fathered slave children would later grant them their freedom. In Brazil, manumission was more frequent. The practice was a highly favorable social sanction and masters often celebrated national holidays by freeing one or more of their favorite slaves. The law also defended the right of the slave to purchase his own freedom and he also had the right to demand that his master set a fixed price for his purchase which he could pay over a period of years.
Point two: The general thrust of the laws outlining police and disciplinary powers in North America was to entrust complete jurisdiction to the master. The master generally acted as judges, juries, and dispensers of punishments. The court also assumed that it was irrational for a man to destroy his own property and therefore that it was impossible for a master to commit a harsh crime or premeditated murder against one of his own slaves. However, in Brazil, the court exercised much more jurisdiction over the slave. Crimes committed by slaves...
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