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    Slavery and the Making of America

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    The practice of slavery between the Africans and Europeans were different in that African slavery, a slave would have to pay off their debt or a crime that they have committed. Unfortunately, with African slaves they would lose the protection of their place and status in their community and ultimately the protection of their family. The upside of the enslaved according to Bristol, is that, “eventually they or their children might become part of their master’s family and become free”. In European slavery, enslavement was known as “chattel slavery”. In Chattel slavery, a slave has no human rights and is considered a “piece of property”. The length of service for slaves changed drastically between 1642 and 1705. In March of 1642, King Charles I of England set forth Act XXVI, 1:257 that states, “If the slave is above 20 years old, regardless of male or female, the slave will serve four years. If the slave is between 12 years old and 20 years old, the slave will serve five years. If the slave is under 12 years old, the slave will serve 7 years”.

    Now in 1705 there was a law that was passed, Chap XXIII, 3:333, that condemned any slave to considered “real estate” and could no longer be of personal property to their Masters or even be passed down to the heirs of their Master’s as a part of “inherited real estate”, in the sudden event of the Master’s passing away. At times, fornication happened between white master’s and their enslaved women. In 1662 Virginia passed 2 laws that pertained solely to enslaved women and their illegitimate children. The 1st law stated, “Women servants who produced children by their masters could be punished by having to do two years of servitude with the churchwardens after the expiration of the term with their masters”.

    The 2nd law spoke specifically about the birthright of enslaved women. The law stated that, all children that were born in the country are to be free or held bond depending on the state of their mother. The law also goes on to state that if a Christian commits fornication with a black woman they (meaning the slave) would have to pay double the fines that were imposed by the former act. Because of these laws set in place, enslaved women would either kill their own child so that they wouldn’t become slaves themselves or even kill their masters who would force them to have sexual relations.

    Slaves belonged to the poorest and lowest ranks of society. Slaves were not allowed to participate in labor or any wage-earning trade. They were therefore, denied any rights to own property. Slaves were provided with the basic needs by their master just to survive; shelter, food, clothing, etc. Even though indentured slaves lived a less luxurious life, they were able to enjoy greater freedoms than any black slaves in later periods would. The laws in this time period took away all rights of the slaves and they were dependent on their Masters for their well-being, making them objects or belongings of their Masters.Jefferson described slavery as “a cruel war against human nature.”. The funny part about this statement is that Jefferson was a lifelong slaveholder.

    Throughout my readings on Jefferson and his view on slavery, personally I believe that he was conflicted on the issue. Jefferson wanted to abolish slavery, but he also profited from having slaves. Jefferson wrote in his “Notes on the State of Virginia” that, “he suspected black people to be inferior to white people” and that “white Americans and enslaved blacks constituted 2 “separate nations”. Jefferson also believes that “all men are created equal.” No matter how conflicted or his stance on slavery, Jefferson did play a huge role in the abolishment of slavery by actively being involved in legislation that would eventually abolish slavery. Some of the roles Jefferson played, was drafting a law in Virginia that would prohibit the importation of any enslaved Africans (1778) and later on in 1784, a proposed ordinance that banned slavery of the territories in the Northwest. Because of Jefferson’s active role in the abolishment of slavery, the 13th Amendment was passed on January 31, 1865 and ratified on December 6, 1865.

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    Slavery and the Making of America. (2022, Dec 05). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/slavery-and-the-making-of-america/

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