Slavery Effects on North America
Slaveries effects on North America Slavery was present in the United States from the moment the declaration of independence was signed. It’s presence during this critical time period of development in the United States, from the day the United States was founded and beforehand allowed for it to interweave itself in almost all aspects of America; primarily economically, politically, and socially. Slavery impacted America in numerous ways, from the political balancing act of free and slave states, to the growth of the southern slave centered economy, slaveries presence during americas infancy was extremely influencing.
Slavery was first introduced to english north america in Jamestown, Virginia 1619. A dutch slave trader made port and exchanged 20 “negars” for food.  It would take 240 years until slaveries abolishment in 1865 Nearly 12 generation of slaves would have to endure the harshness of slavery. Slavery didn’t start out as the horrible institution that it would soon become, the very first africans to arrive were treated as indentured servants no different from their white counterparts. They had the ability to gain freedom after a set period of servitude or by converting to christianity.
Slavery had a slow initial start in the colonies. At first african slaves were difficult to acquire in north america because of the Caribbean’s voracious appetite for slave labor.  African population growth in north america started off very slowly. “In 1625 their were only 23 africans present in virginia. ” 25 years later there were only 950, 3-4% of the colonies population, and they were still treated in the same manner as an indentured servant.  The main reason behind slaveries growth in america was economy based. Economic success was important for prosperity in north america.
Shortly after the founding of Jamestown the colonist realized that tobacco, an extremely profitable crop, could be grown in the soil. The only problem was that it required a lot of labor and they had a small labor force.  There was a huge imbalance between available land and workers. Tobacco growers just couldn’t find enough workers for their fields. There grew huge demand for more workers, but fewer and fewer indentured servants came to america and their voyage payments were seen as too costly, while the need for labor still climbed.
As a result the planters looked for a cheap and abundant source of labor, slavery. They first saw native americans as a prime candidate. There were plenty of them and they often caused problems for the colonists. Any captured indian could be put to hard work as a slave, but native americans were soon considered “bad slaves”. They were susceptible to disease, they were rebellious, and they could escape south to be freed in florida by the spanish, or blend in with the native population. Because indian captives often ran away, the traders preferred to ship them to New York, Boston, and the West indies and import enslaved Africans to work in the Carolinas” The next source of labor seen as viable were africans. They were hardy, immune to many diseases, and had little chance of escape in america. Another big reason behind slaveries growth was because of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. The rebellion Nathaniel Bacon led was a battle of indentured servants, small farmers, and a few slaves against Virginia’s wealthiest planters and political leaders. 4] It resulted in the torching of the virginia capital Jamestown. Seeing these men form together for a cause struck fear in the ruling class. As a result of the indentured servants actions, planters began the transition to african slavery over indentured servitude.  By the second half of the 17th century slavery was cementing itself in america, most prominently in the south. It influenced the structure of the political systems and the way constitutions were written. Laws were being created and the practice was becoming more common and established. Many colonies even began to legalize slavery.
In 1641 massachusetts colony wrote the “Body of liberties” , they were the first colony to officially recognize chattel slavery. It stated “There shall never be any bond slavery, villeinage, or captivity amongst us unless it be lawful captives taken in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold to us… ” Before long many other colonies followed suit, including Virginia. Virginia created much new legislation regarding slavery and set the precedent for future slave codes. They legally acknowledged slavery in the 1661 fugitive slave act. 3] On december 12, 1662 they created a law stating, “Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a Negro woman should be slave or free… all children born in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother… ”, meaning that slave masters who raped their female slaves would come away scot free of any problems. The child would live on the plantation as a slave. In 1705 the virginia assembly finalized the transformation to african slavery by passing the slave laws that stated “All servants imported and brought into the Country… ho were not Christians in their native Country… shall be accounted and be slaves. ” It also stated that if slaves rebelled or did not follow orders, their master could punish them however he pleased. A master could even kill the slave and receive no punishment. This was thought to be acceptable for two reasons. First, slaves did not have any money therefore they could not pay any fines that amounted. Second, slaves and all people of African heritage, were now thought of as below Europeans or whites, therefore it didn’t matter if they were whipped.
They also stated that slaves would need written permission to leave their plantation, that slaves found guilty of murder or rape would be hanged, that for robbing or any other major offense, the slave would receive sixty lashes and be placed in stocks, where his or her ears would be cut off, and that for minor offenses, such as associating with whites, slaves would be whipped, branded, or maimed.  Before this code was created in Virginia, a slave could take his/her court to court to settle a disagreement. With the slave codes of 1705, this no longer was the case.
A slave owner now knew that he could inflict any punishment on a slave, including death, without fear of repercussion. Slavery would continue to grow and become highly regulated throughout the colonial period. In 1776 Thomas Jefferson wrote in the decleration of independance “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ”  The actions of the united states after this was hypocrisy, the institution of slavery directly contradicted Jefferson’s statement.
Samuel Johnson said in response to the declaration of independence “ … how is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes? ” A meaningful question, America had created a paradox of freedom and slavery, at the time there were around half a million slaves.  A large majority of which were concentrated in the south. In the north slavery was taking a different route. Many northern colonies didn’t care for slavery, they had developed an economy not based on slavery. In the same year of the declaration the society of friends, also known as the Quakers, forbid their members from owning slaves. 5] In 1777 Vermont was the first of the thirteen colonies to abolish slavery and enfranchise, or free, all adult males.  New york followed soon after and enfranchised all free propertied men regardless of color or prior servitude.  In 1780 Deleware made it illegal to enslave africans, Pennsylvania began gradual emancipation, and a freedom clause in the massachusetts constitution freed all men regardless of race. The American Revolution ended in 1783 and the united states was officially recognized with the treaty of paris.  At least 5,000 blacks had fought for the revolutionary cause. 3] By the time the colonies held the constitutional convention in 1787 slavery was a grim reality. The census of 1790 showed that their were 694,280 slaves in the united states, comprising 17. 8% of the total population. With Virginia holding the most slaves at 292,627 while vermont held the least with none. In Philidelphia from may 14, to september 17 of 1787 the constitutional convention was held.  Slavery was a fundamental issue in the debates surrounding the creation of the constitution. It was not only an economic issue but also one affecting political compromises and fundamental political powers.
Slavery fueled much debate in the convention. Many northern delegates didn’t agree with slavery but thought it was necessary to tolerate so that the union could be formed, while southern politicians and planters stated they would never agree on a constitution that wouldn’t allow slavery. They had in mind the necessity for slavery and it’s requirement for economy in the south. One major dispute was over the representation and counting of slaves, which comprised a large portion of the population in the south.  Northerners didn’t want slaves to count towards population because it would give the south more power in the senate.
Southerners on the other hand wanted slaves to count, with many slave states refusing to join the union unless they were. It was all about political power. Finally delegate James Wilson proposed the three fifths compromise that benefitted both sides and stated: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to service for period of time, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.  Slaves would now count as three fifths towards population, and also towards taxation. They weren’t even considered a full man and they were classified as property. Another debate arose over the slave trade, seen by many as an atrocity that america should no longer promote. A few states wouldnt agree to the ban of the slave trade, the delegates decided it wasn’t worth losing states. They made a deal and decided that the slave trade wouldn’t be touched for 20 years until January 1, 1808.  The USA grew rapidly after its creation.
There was much debate over slaveries future in the newly acquired northwest territories. Ultimately The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was passed by the US Congress on june 13. Act 6 stating “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: Provided, always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.  Anti-slavery people liked it and it was even backed even by southern planters who didn’t want any more tobacco competition. It was a very important piece of legislation that served as a precedent to future land protocol and prohibited slavery north of the ohio river between the appalachians and the mississippi river and effectively banned slavery in the territories of the northwest. At this time it seemed as though slavery was slowing down, with the recent american revolution and the ideas of life, liberty, and prosperity many states were taking the path towards gradual emancipation.
But that would all change with the invention the cotton gin. In the year of 1793 Eli Whitney invented the cotton Gin. A single piece of equipment that would revolutionize the cotton industry and set the path for african slavery. It was a device that increased the ability to process cotton, easily separating cotton fibers from seed and making cotton production extremely profitable. It allowed for a huge increase in cotton production which was concentrated in the south, resulting in many large plantations forming with many making huge profits. 1] Textile mills sprung up in response to the large output of cotton. As a result of this economy based on cotton the south became increasingly dependent on slave labor. While the south was creating its slave centered agrarian economy the industrialized northern states saw slavery as economically marginal. They didn’t require the hard labor of plantations in the south. Most slave in the north would typically work at an artisan craft or in a household.  In 1793 the Fugitive Slave Act was created, it created a legal mechanism in which slave holders could recover escaped slaves.
It allowed for the slave owner to recover their slave from any state, giving any state the power to apprehend a fugitive slave and send them back to their master. It also stated that any person helping a fugitive slave would be fined.  It was a law that punished anyone who assisted a slave in their escape to freedom. If a slave were to escape to the north they were still considered a fugitive unless manumitted by their master. As a result of the act, abolitionists would later create the underground railroad; a system of safe houses and secret routes used by fugitive slaves in their escape to free states or canada.
About a thousand escaped each year.  The exact day the Slave Trade could be effected an act was passed. “… from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, it shall not be lawful to import or bring into the United States or the territories any negro, mulatto, or person of color… ”  An act with good intentions but with little effect, slave owners had everything they needed, they could “produce” slaves anytime they wanted; by reproduction. A viable option backed by slave codes throughout the south.
Slaves were also smuggled into america, an art that america was known for. At the time the slave population in the south reached almost 1. 1 million During this time states were being formed and entered into the union. There was a delicate political balancing act going on between the creation of free and slave states which was continually creating a rift between the north and the south. A balance in political power had to be maintained or the Union would fall apart. An important decision in this area was the Missouri Compromise of 1820 passed between the pro and anti slavery factions.
It was agreed that slavery would be prohibited north of the parallel 36o30′ except within the boundaries of the state of missouri, and that Maine would enter the union as a free state.  The admittance as either free or slave state would continue to create a division within the united states that would later serve as the distinction between the future confederation and union. Slaves at the time did occasionally take matters into their own hands. Their were many slave revolts, but oftentimes word would get out of the planning of a revolt and it would be squashed before it even happened, but even those that happened were all suppressed.
One of the more “successful” slave revolts was that of Nat Turner’s. Nat Turner led a rebellion in southampton virginia during august 1831. The revolt resulted in the death of 55-65 white people and the state execution of 56 blacks.  This uprising only served to toughen the harsh situation for african slaves. As a result of the uprising many blacks were killed and state legislature created laws prohibiting the education of slaves or a black free man and restricting civil rights for blacks. By the late 1800’s the USA was teetering on the brink of civil war.
Battles over slavery in new territories and states gripped the nation in the 1850’s.  The United states had just won a war with mexico. In 1848 America acquired all southwestern land owned by Mexico through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. There were bitter sectional disputes over the institution of slavery in these new territories. Southern succession was a possibility if they didn’t agree with the decision for the territory. In 1847 the Wilmot Proviso was proposed. Its goal was to restrict slavery in the newly acquired land from the mexican war. It passed through the House but failed in the Senate which held a southern majority. 1] Eventually the compromise of 1850 was proposed, and preserved the union. It was a five bill package that diffused a 4 year debate over the future of lands acquired in the Mexican-American war. New Mexico and Utah would be alowed to vote for or against slavery while California would be admitted as a free state.  The most controversial part of the bill though would be the Fugitive Slave law that was included. It allowed for a 1000$ fine with up to 6 months in jail for any person that assists in the help of a fugitive slave and greatly angered northerners. 3] In 1854 another act was created for division of land and how slavery would be dealt with there. It was the Kansas-Nebraska act. Two new territories were created, Kansas and Nebraska. The settlers in the territories were to use popular sovereignty to choose if they wanted to allow slavery.  It also repealed the missouri compromise of 1820 by allowing a slave state above the 36o30 parallel. This outraged many northerners that thought the political power of rich southern powers could buy up all the good farmland and leave the rest for common men.
Because of the popular sovereignty election many people began to gather groups and hop states to influence the votes.  These people went to great lengths to make sure the state turned out the way they wanted. Free-staters and pro slavery “Border Ruffians” clashed in a small scale civil war between pro-slavery missourians and free-soilers called Bleeding Kansas. In the end, with the help of the Border Ruffian tactics, Kansas would become a slave state. A profound step in slaves rights was made in by supreme court decision in the Dred Scott v Sandford case.
Dred Scott was an African American that sued for his freedom and his wife and two daughters also.  He believed that because he had lived in free states, including territories of the northwest ordinance while under his masters rule, that he should be given his freedom. The court ruled “… that people of African descent brought into the United States and held as slaves (or their descendants, whether or not they were slaves) were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U. S. Citizens. ” They had essentially ruled that African Americans had no claim to freedom or citizenship.
Since they were not citizens, they did not possess the legal standing to bring suit in a federal court. As slaves were private property, Congress did not have the power to regulate slavery in the territories and could not revoke a slave owner’s rights based on where he lived. And that slaves were subject to the fifth admendent of the constitution, prohibiting taking property from an owner without due process. The decision by the Supreme court outraged many abolitionists and the Republican party, creating even more tension between pro and anti slavery groups.
Just as Abraham Lincoln had said in his House Divided speech of 1858, “I believe this government cannot endure permanently half Slave and half Free. ”, tensions over slavery continued to escalate in the years leading up to his election. Southern states threatened with succession and teetered on the brink of leaving the union. In 1858 Lincoln ran for a senate seat in illinois against Stephen Douglas, a future presidential candidate he would run against too.  They had a series of 7 debates with the main issue discussed being slavery. 5] They debated in seven different cities with many spectators coming to each. The debates were mainly over slavery and it’s expansion in new territories as the main topic.  Lincoln lost the election for senate but the debates would served to propel Lincoln to national prominence. He would later go on to win the election of 1860 and lead the union through it’s hardest time yet. The impact of slavery was evident through the united states. It’s presence during the critical period of growth in america allowed for it to gain a foothold that soon became a death grip.
For example half the united states relied on the institution, the south based their economy upon it, controversial political conflicts arose anytime slavery was in the question, and divisions in society were created. Overall slavery had a profound impact on the united states. Bibliography Primary Sources -Massachusetts Body of Liberties http://www. constitution. org/bcp/mabodlib. htm -Virginia Slavery Act Virginia Slavery Act, (December 1662), in Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia, ed. William Waller Hening, vol. 2, (Richmond, Va. Samuel Pleasants, 1809-1823), 170 -Declaration of Independence http://www. ushistory. org/declaration/document/ -Treasury no Tyranny http://www. samueljohnson. com -1790 Census of Population and Housing http://www. census. gov/prod/www/abs/decennial/1790. html -United States Constitution -Northwest Ordinance http://ourdocuments. gov/doc. php? flash=true&doc=8&page=transcript -Missouri Compromise http://memory. loc. gov/cgi-bin/ampage? collId=llsl&fileName=003/llsl003. db&recNum=586 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo http://www. archives. ov/education/lessons/guadalupe-hidalgo/ Wilmot Proviso http://www. ushistory. org/us/30a. asp House Divided speech http://www. ushistory. org/documents/housedivided. htm Secondary Sources -http://en. wikipedia. org http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_colonial_United_States http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Nat_Turner%27s_slave_rebellion http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Kansas%E2%80%93Nebraska_Act -http://teachingamericanhistory. org http://teachignamericanhistory. org/library/index. asp? document=179 -http://www. slaveryinamerica. org http://www. laveryinamerica. org/history/hs_es_overview. htm -http://afroamhistory. about. com http://afroamhistory. about. com/od/slavery/a/The-Start-Of-Slavery-In-North-America. htm -http://www. helium. com http://www. helium. com/items/365359-Colonial-Early-American -AP US history Book Tindall & Shi, America:A Narrative History, edited by Jon Durbin, Eighth edition (MA, World Color Press) -http://www. pbs. org http://www. pbs. org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p274. html (Bacon’s Rebellion) http://www. pbs. org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p268. html (Virginia Slave Codes) http://www. pbs. rg/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2951. html (Compromise of 1850 and Fugitive Slave Act) -http://www. understandingrace. org http://www. understandingrace. org/history/gov/colonial_authority. html -http://library. thinkquest. org http://library. thinkquest. org/TQ0312848/quaker. htm -http://www. vermonthistory. org/ http://www. vermonthistory. org/freedom_and_unity/new_frontier/constitution. html -http://www. slavenorth. com http://www. slavenorth. com/nyemancip. htm -Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the Making of America. (Collier Books, New York) 1964. -http://www. nps. gov http://www. ps. gov/history/history/online_books/ugrr/exuggr2. htm -http://www. archives. gov http://www. archives. gov/education/lessons/cotton-gin-patent/ ——————————— [ 1 ]. Dred Scott V Sandford. http://www. ourdocuments. gov/doc. php? flash=true&doc=29 (accessed December 16, 2012) [ 2 ]. ibid [ 3 ]. House Divided Speech. http://www. ushistory. org/documents/housedivided. htm (accessed December 17, 2012) [ 4 ]. Lincoln-Douglass Debates. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Lincoln%E2%80%93Douglas_debates (accessed December 17, 2012) [ 5 ]. ibid [ 6 ]. ibid