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Slavery in North America

Slavery in North America
Slave trade is the trade in human beings where a human being was owned by another. The ownership was legal and the owner had rights over the slave. The slave was not allowed to escape and was supposed to work for his/her owner without any choice. Slaves could be bought or sold at the discretion of their owners. In ancient America, the most common form of slavery was where a person was a prisoner of war or a debtor. As a debtor, one would be enslaved to his creditor until they worked their debt off. After a war, prisoners would be taken from the defeated side and they would be made slaves of the victors or worse still, human sacrifices. Slavery and slave trade was the most inhumane way that a human being could be treated and the end of it saw the development of society.
Slavery grew in North America due to various reasons. Among the reasons was that it provided cheap and readily available labor to be utilized by the natives then to cultivate. The slaves who were mainly African, had come with a crop that was strange and new to the natives and they had the skills and the knowledge to utilize the land, especially in the swampy regions of Carolina[1]. This made their demand higher and the Europeans went to Africa to get more slaves each year. The slaves benefited the Europeans by providing cheap and available labor and ideas and assistance in the agricultural sector. The Europeans grew richer since the sold the rice for high prices and had no expenses in terms of labor costs. South Carolina for instance soon became overcrowded with slaves since the rice business was booming.
The imposition of this mass exploitation on the African slaves took massive and brutal force. Slavery also became a booming business in the north due to the growth of cotton. In the nineteenth century, cotton was a very valuable commodity and due to the British industrial revolution, the demand for cotton grew extraordinarily. With the invention of the cotton gin, the processing of cotton was guaranteed to be cheap and therefore reduction of costs was the key idea. The Europeans therefore, sourced for more and more cheap labor, through slaves and this ensured that they paid no costs in labor and they paid very little in production. However, they sold the product at very high prices and therefore made extraordinary profits. Slave trade also grew in North America since, during the industrial revolution, the prices for slaves went high due to their demand. Europeans who owned slaves started selling the slaves among themselves. This made sure that they earned abnormal profits since they could sell very small portions from the slaves they owned and earn much[2].
Slavery expanded more in the south than in the north because of one main reason; agriculture. North America did not have the flat fertile lands that the southern part of America did and therefore slavery could not develop there. This is because; the main reason why most slave owners had slaves was to use their free labor in their farmlands to cultivate. They also used greatly the slaves’ knowledge in agriculture. Due to the absence of farming lands in the northern part of the state, the slave trade diminished slowly since they had no demand. Most of the settlers in the north kept a few slaves for their personal use in the daily chores around their large chunks of land. The introduction of the industrial revolution also made slave trade unpopular in the northern part of America because, slave labor was replaced by machine work.
Slave trade also became unpopular in the north when the colonies were turned into the first states. Before all the thirteen colonies were turned into states, slaves could be found in all the colonies. When the colonies were turned into states in the year 1780, the states in the north began to outlaw slave trade led by New Jersey in 1804. During this period farming and agriculture was booming in the south with the help of free labor from the slaves. This also explains why the slave trade abolishment was received with so much resistance in the south by the settlers.
The weather conditions also made it quite unfavorable to keep slaves in the north. This is because in the north, there were colder winters than in the south. Therefore, this meant more food and clothing for the slaves lest they died of disease. This proved costly after a few tries and therefore the northerners had to do away with the slaves they had and sell them to their colleagues in the South[3]. In exchange, they received cotton, foodstuffs and tobacco just but to name a few. The climate in the south favored slavery since the winters there are warmer and this meant that there were no costs for keeping the slaves warm. Food was also ready available since it was cultivated for subsistence as well as for sale.
Two kinds of laws were made concerning slavery. Those that were made to enable it and those that were made to stop it. Black slaves were considered non-citizens in America. They held no legal right and it was a white controlled and ruled society. Among the laws written concerning slavery, there was a law that termed slaves as being non-persona in the state. This meant that slaves were recognized to have no identity no name and no title. This also meant that slaves could not own any property and therefore could not leave it to anyone and that any property they acquired by any form belonged to their master. The law excluded slaves from any civil activity, from having any rights, from marrying and rendered slaves as goods which could be sold, transferred or pawned as personal belongings.
In Virginia, laws against slaves were introduced in 1662 where black women slaves’ children were to become slaves like their mothers. They also ruled that any child born of a black woman regardless of the father was to be termed as black and therefore having no rights. The law also declared punishment and fines on any white found to have had sexual relations with a black man or woman. In 1669, another law was enacted warning slaves that they could be killed if they offered any resistance while being punished. In South Carolina on the other hand, different laws meant to oppress slaves were introduced to term slaves as personal property of their masters. The laws also described a slave as a good that could be traded in by the master in any way possible. Slaves were also warned not to try to escape or redeem themselves by changing masters. In South Carolina, the laws against slaves also restricted slaves from making any contracts and claimed a slave to be hereditary[4].
The Thirteenth Amendment to the constitution of the United States constitution is another law that addresses slavery but this time abolishing it and forbidding its practice. The law, passed in 1865 restricts slavery or forced labor except when it is administered as a punishment by a court of law for a crime committed. The Fourteenth Amendment was also another law that empowered especially the black people since it gives express rights to any person born or naturalized in America to be a citizen of America. It also restricts individual states from restricting citizens in any way or deprives them of their liberty, property or life. The law also talks of the requirements of a person when vying for a state leadership position.
Slavery is expressly mentioned in the American Constitution specifically in the Thirteenth Amendment where it is restricted and any person wishing to practice it strictly warned against it. Slavery was a societal ill. It was a system where people were ill judged and where slave owners had no value for human life. It was a system where people were viewed as having less value than others have and were treated like trade goods, commodities or personal possessions. Slavery had existed since the beginning of civilization and the greatest decision the world ever made was to put an end to it. Though other parts of the world still practice it, majority of the civilized nations in the world have eradicated it.
Slavery had numerous disadvantages especially to the slaves since it contributed in the tearing apart of families and communities. Mothers and fathers were taken away from their children who were left suffering. Slavery also depopulated the bases of labor in the regions where the slaves were acquired. This left the regions unproductive and with no people to contribute to development. This hindered the economic development, especially of the regions where slaves were acquired. The slaves were mishandled and transported in inhumane conditions while shackled together. They had meager quantities of food if any and water was a scarce resource. They did not have lavatory equipment and thus they lived in their own filth for very long periods[5].
Slaves were treated as trade commodities and they were traded for hard labor and no pay. Some Africans and other natives from slave producing regions coveted European weaponry and property and sold their fellow natives to acquire wealth. The treatment was harsh and inhumane. The trade went contrary to Christian teachings and this made the native Africans not trust the missionaries. Most Europeans who came to Africa for the slave trade, died of tropical diseases since it was a land that they knew very little of. The end of slave trade brought peace and prosperity to many nations. It also brought unity between the blacks and the whites and the efforts that have been done world over to end it have contributed greatly to world peace.
Donald, Leland. Aboriginal slavery on the Northwest Coast of North America. Fresno, CA: University of California Press, 1997.
Küpper, Stefan. Slavery in North America and the West Indies: An Attempt of Comparison. London, UK: GRIN Verlag, 2010.
Morgan, Kenneth. Slavery and servitude in colonial North America: a short history. New York, NY: New YorkUniversity Press, 2001.
Morgan, Kenneth. Slavery and servitude in North America, 1607-1800. Midlothian: EdinburghUniversity Press, 2000.
Rose, Nichols. A documentary history of slavery in North America. Athens-Clarke County, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1999.
Smith, Michael. Slavery in North America: from the Colonial period to emancipation. Volume 4. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2008.

[1] Stefan Küpper, Slavery in North America and the West Indies: An Attempt of Comparison (London, UK: GRIN Verlag, 2010).

[2] Kenneth Morgan, Slavery and servitude in colonial North America: a short history (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2001).

[3] Michael Smith, Slavery in North America: from the Colonial period to emancipation. Volume 4 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2008).

[4] Leland Donald, Aboriginal slavery on the Northwest Coast of North America (Fresno, CA: University of California Press, 1997).

[5] Nichols Rose, A documentary history of slavery in North America (Athens-Clarke County, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1999).

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