Rise and Fall of Old South

Topics: Slavery, Atlantic slave trade, Indentured servant Pages: 5 (1888 words) Published: October 25, 2013


By the time the first English settlers established Jamestown, slavery was already a well-established mechanism of providing cheap labor. However, the image of slavery in the plantation sense was not how it first presented itself in the American South with the first British colonists. In the 1580’s there is a huge population boom in England, which becomes a drain on the crown and the land. In an attempt to repurpose the criminals and citizens who may have needed to work off debts, the Queen allows for some of the surplus population to travel to America and work as indentured servants. The need for these indentured servants became abundantly clear after so many of the initial settlers were dying off due to an inability or lack of willingness to work the lands in a way that would be useful to those trying to live and work in this new land.

After the Indians started getting tired of sharing their food and knowledge with the English, the pitfalls of living in a land the settlers were not prepared to handle began to take a toll. From a military perspective the settlers had set themselves up in an ideal location, however, the land was not ideal for farming, the water was brackish at different times during the year, and the bugs and disease were rampant. “As at this time were most of our chiefest men either sick or discontented, the rest being in such despair, as they would rather starve and rot with idleness, then be persuaded to do anything for their own relief without constraint: our victuals being now within eighteen days spent, and the Indians trade decreasing.”1

By 1607 the best answer for making the colonies work in America was to attempt a new approach. So, a corporate colony approach was taken, where not one-person funds the whole venture, but a joint stock corporation takes the reigns. With this new approach came John Smith. “Much of what we know about early seventeenth-century Virginians, both Native Americans and Europeans, come from him.”2 John Smith, the son of a farmer and soldier of fortune writes detailed accounts of his journeys. We learn about how the settlers would barter with the Indians through his accounts as well as the Idleness of soldiers in Virginia, they were very dependent on the Indians and there was little to no reciprocity in the “trade” with the natives. “For the country was to them a miserie, a ruine, a death, a hell, and their reports here, and their owne action there according…”1 While he did his very best to motivate/force the settlers to take control of their own land and destinies, once he left the colonies, many went back to their former ways and the death toll again began to rise.

In an attempt to “restock” the settlement The Virginia Company sends hundreds of new settlers to the settlement and they enforce martial law. Making many actions, including: desertion (going to the Indians), mutiny, stealing provisions and disrespect of company officials punishable by death. They launch a war against the Powhatan Indians and help themselves to all their food.

Since it appeared that the tactics they were employing were not leading to any gain of wealth for the crown, and if anything, adding to struggles with the natives, a plan is put in place to plant a cash crop which would make money and provide a commodity to be sold from the American south. John Rolfe finds creates a hearty Virginia tobacco, which is a hybrid of the “sweet Caribbean tobacco”. Now the English must convince people to move to Virginia and maintain this profitable venture. So by drawing on the already existing system of apprenticeship the indentured servants are shipped to America with the promise of head right once the time of indenture is complete. At this time, there is also an attempt to enslave the Native Americans, however this does not turn out to be a long-term solution. Mostly because this is their land and it was very easy for them to escape back to their tribes. They also were of...
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