Slavery Shaped Eighteenth-Century Colonial and Essay

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The limitation of slave movement, was an action in response to the growing threat related to fugitive slaves (Selected records relating to slavery in early Virginia, n.d.). The conditions at the time and the harsh regulations concerning black slaves made them go in search for a different life, especially in Northern states (Petition to Governor, Council, and House of Representatives of Massachusetts, 1773). Therefore, the Southerners were reluctant to offer any liberty that would somehow enable black people to gather and possibly plan insurrections or escape attempts. In addition, the tensions between the slaver states and the free ones were constantly growing because Free states were accusing slave ones of trying to use the slave population to increase its influence in the federal legislative body. In this sense, Northern states were somewhat ready to assist runaway slaves from South states.

Yet another reason, which influenced the way in which slaves were treated, was the simple segregation attitudes the white population had towards the black one. Black slaves were considered to be of inferior quality and were therefore treated as property goods and sold as merchandize (Some historical accounts of Guinea, 1771). Moreover, there were legal punishments for a black woman who committed fornication. This came to prove the moral reluctance of the white population to see black people as equal human beings, a perception that was transposed in the legal system as well.

The role slaves played in the determination of a rebellious south was important. The colonial era was a time in which new political and philosophical ideas emerged relating to the freedom of the human being, the equality among men, and the essential importance of human rights and liberties. The American Revolution was a historical example of the significance these ideal had for the emergence of the United States. Despite the fact that Republicanism advocated the spiritual and humane connection between all men who are created equal (Notes on the State of Virginia, 1788), the establishment of slavery as a common practice in the South denied slaves and indentured servants the rights enshrined in the Constitution. More precisely, taking into account the fact that the North was reluctant to actually exploit the African-American groups, the South had the financial benefits to consider and therefore advocated for an unlimited slave trade. Even so, though this ominous practice, fail to take into consideration the rights and moral values the American democracy was considered to rely upon.

The existence of slavery created differentiations in the society. In this sense, "the working class of colonial times consisted of three groups of Americans: indentured servants, enslaved workers, and free wage laborers" (Weinberg, 2002). The particular nature of the economy practiced in the North and Southern states greatly influenced the structure of the society and of the labor force. For instance, the Northern states did not need an important labor force due to the fact that most economic practices were related to individual activities such as fishery, manufacturing, that did not require additional work input. Therefore, the northern society did not encourage slavery or low paid jobs, as "In New England, about one-third of the labor force in the early years of settlement were indentured servants" (Weinberg, 2002). By comparison, on the southern plantations, profit could not be achieved but through an increasing labor force which most often came from slaves or indentured servants. In this sense, figures show that "During 1630-1680, a half-century when tobacco-growing became the main occupation in the Chesapeake area, about 75,000 English immigrants arrived of whom up to 56,000 were indentured servants," therefore the ratio between the free people and the enslaved ones was far smaller than in the rest of the country (Weinberg, 2002).

Overall, it can be concluded that slavery played a major role in the history of the United States as well as in the outburst of the American Revolution. As pointed out, slavery dehumanized people, especially in the South through ill and unequal treatments. Further, it encouraged a certain type of economy that would prove unsustainable without the free work of slaves that in turn would determine a clear desire to maintain the institution at all costs.


Africans in America. (n.d.) "From Indentured Servitude to Racial Slavery." The Terrible Transformation. Available at

Galenson, David W. (1984). "The Rise and Fall of Indentured Servitude in the Americas: An Economic Analysis." The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 44, No. 1. pp. 1-26.

Jenkins, P. A history of the United States. New York: Palgrave, 1997.

Selected records relating to slavery in early Virginia. N.d. Available at

Weinberg, Meyer. A Short History of American Capitalism. Gloucester: New History Press, 2002.

Landon Carter. Plantation Diary. 1770.

Felix. Petition to Governor, Council, and House of Representatives of Massachusetts. January 6th, 1773.

Anthony Benezet.…[continue]

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