Slavery in the American History
There are no reasons for modern civilized person to humiliate and enslave another individual. However, severe environment of colonial period, which could be compared with pre-historical time, has forced modern society to act severely and primitively, enslaving and using human beings. At the beginning of seventeenth century, huge lands of the New World turned into colonies, bringing severe challenges to the newcomers.
There are several reasons that made white American colonists of the seventeenth century transform the black servant from a human being to a piece of chattel property. First of all, pre-historian conditions of the New World made white newcomers handle with starvation and indigence. Moreover, huge uncultivated lands were the only chance for white colonists to survive. Unprepared Europeans were exhausted by long-term transportation. The only chance to obtain food was a work on plantations. However, several hundred people could not handle huge territories and, thus, enslavement appeared the answer.
The second important reason to enslave black people was psychological barrier of religion. The Church did not accept human nature of black non-Christians. “In the year 1610, a Catholic priest in the America named Father Sandoval wrote back to a church functionary in Europe to ask if the capture, transport, and enslavement of African blacks was legal by church doctrine” (Zinn, par 2). Catholic Church could not permit the enslavement of Christians and, as a result, poor and middle class servants worked as indentured servants, who were promised to have good working conditions and long-term contracts. However, these contracts had much in common with slavery.
Development of tobacco business leaded to the expansion in the number of servants. Each person whose material situation was bad enough to be close to the vagrancy could sign a contract to work at plantations for several years. The rights of both sides were protected by the Law? and servants worked for food and shelter. However, even by being regarded as servants, in fact, they were slaves. What is more, children and teenagers could be sent to work in colonies by their parents against their will (Zinn, 47, par. 3).
Labor was not the only aspect which was spelled out in the documents. Indentured servants were not permitted to vote and be married. When a woman who signed a contract became pregnant, her contract could be bought out by her child’s father. However, majority of servant married after the ending of the term which was foreseen by the contract.
In 1650, majority of indentured servants were Irish, Scottish, English, and German immigrants. Living without education or other intellectual background in their motherland, they took many credits, and their material situation left them no choice except of going to the New World.
Africans could be regarded as servants having further prospective like Anthony Johnson, who married and founded his own plantation at the end of his service. He was one of the first African Americans who became a landowner and slave-owner when his service was finished. When the contract term finished, servants became free. However, plenty of them could obtain their own plantation. When indentured servants were disburdened, they usually continued to work for money and settled down a married life.
The situation of dependency between the color of skin and social status of a servant was stimulated by the Church that considered only white men as Christians. The greatest threat to the elite’s control over the colonists was caused by the fact that the whites might rebel with black slaves. In this case, the number of rioters would be large enough to put slaveholders’ authority under threat. That is why elite was scared by Bacon Rebellion prospective and decided to please white contract workers. Indentured servants were treated as slaves: they often were beaten by their masters, so even being white, they were much closer to slaves than to their white masters.
“And so, measures were taken. About the same time that slave codes, involving discipline and punishment, were passed by the Virginia Assembly” (Zinn, par 2). During the Assembly, indentured servants were proclaimed superior to all black slaves. White servants were allowed to live more respectable life, and their masters were to treat them well without beating or humiliating them.
When the term of their service approached to the end, their master was to supply the servant. “In 1705 a law was passed requiring masters to provide white servants with ten bushels of corn, thirty shillings, and a gun, while women servants were to get 15 bushels of corn and forty shillings. Also, the newly freed servants were to get 50 acres of land” (Zinn, par 2).
Stono Rebellion was one of the first slaves’ uprisings. The riot march of slaves was caused by several facts: epidemic condition that influenced slaveholders in combination with hard labor that suppressed slaves and the fact that Spanish Empire lured slaves to Spanish territories by promising freedom (Morgan, 140).
These historical facts caused reappraisal of values among slaves: they felt that freedom is possible and their enslavement is only the question of their obedience. Hard burden of labor was not valued or appreciated; slaves were beaten and humiliated, while Spanish Empire was ready to set them free. This alternative was a great chance for them, so it was the reason why they decided to march.
Slaves who took part in the march were executed. However, slaveholders were shocked by the fact that slaves could protest and fight for their rights, and it caused changes in the law that regulated interrelations between slaves and slaveholders. The effects of the Stono Rebellion influenced legal and social sphere of interrelations between slaves and slaveholders. Since the moment when the riot was suppressed, slaved were deprived of living in certain autonomy, such as small agricultural possessions, possibility to gather in groups, and other privileges. However, slaves gained right to learn Christian doctrine.
One of the most important consequences of the rebellion was the certain possibility to influence the system. The whites felt how doubtable their authority was and how easy it would be to lose control, if the amount of rioters had become bigger in number.
However, enslaving men and women who had their own unique culture, free spirit, and desire to live, white people were doomed to lose their power. The great influence of intellectual development and social consciousness influenced morality and attitude to racism. As Christian religion formed morality of European arrivals, people who had another color of skin and religion, were perceived as people who could not be equal to Christians. Civilization was a physical superiority of white people: weapon helped them to enslave African Americans, but it couldn’t help to enslave their spirit.
During the colonial period, American history faced intolerance and racism. However, enslavement was not limited by the color of skin. Indentured servants were white immigrants from Europe whose life in Motherland made them sign the contract and work for food and shelter. People whose labor was close to the slavery were permitted to be married and vote. Children could be sold by their parents and had no right to refuse. The majority of servants were in a very hard material situation before becoming servants.
However, hard work could inspire white servants to upraise, demanding tolerant treatment. Elite and slaveholders could foresee this rebellion and decided to change their position. As a result of Virginia Assembly, indentured servants were identified as superior to all black people. They gained the right to be treated more respectfully and not to be beaten or humiliated, whereas rights of African American slaves were suppressed, and their life became worse. That is why racial discrimination of write servants initiated racial intolerance towards black slaves.
Stono Rebellion was the upraising of slaves who felt perspectives of freedom, when white authorities were weakened by the epidemic, and Spanish Empire promised to end slavery. Whereas the initiators of riot were executed, the right of slaves not to be beaten by their masters was entitled.
However, other privileges, such as possibility to group and to raise vegetables, were unavailable. The most important effect of the rebellion was the fact that slaves could influence the system. This experience showed that a person cannot be superior to another due to the color of skin or religion. Human being experienced one of the hardest examinations during colonization. People learned to create New World on empty land. They faced starvation, epidemic and war that made them violent and intolerant. Nevertheless, free spit of African Americans helped them to fight for equity.