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Slavery And Freedom: The Contradiction Of The Formation Of The Constitution

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Slavery and Freedom: the Contradiction of the Formation of the Constitution and the Foundation of America.

America is seen as the formation of freedom and the foundation of a world filled with opportunities was formed from slavery. The dehumanization of Africans began with the institution of slavery which began with the formation of the United States. With the introduction of plantations, slavery became popular during the 16th and 17th centuries on Brazilian and Caribbean sugar plantations. European colonists used slaves to work unbearable hours on the plantations. One of the first accounts of slavery occurred when a Dutch slave trader exchanged his slaves for food in the year 1619. Racial based slavery was not established until 1680. Indentured servants refused to work under the grueling conditions and the long hours, and this lead to the accepted notion of slavery. Slavery was seen as a social status, colonies of high social status had slaves. Colonists who had become dependent on African Americans for their labor feared what life would be like without slaves and they also feared social upheaval from below. The numbers of slaves outnumbered the colonists and the fear that these Africans with their “brute” strength might overrun them. During the 1600’s slaves were worth as much as $27 and for the amount of work they did they were worth much more than this. According to the census of 1860 it showed that there were 4 million slaves out of 12.3 million in the fifteen slave states. This proportion of slave to white slave owner population varied depending on the area, but the largest concentration of slaves were in the Deep South. In South

Carolina and Mississippi more than half the population was slaves, and in Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia the slave population was more than two-fifths. There were about 400,000 slave owners out of 1.5 million white families (Parish 26). Slavery did not become based on race until some events such as Bacon’s Rebellion occurred. Changes in the Plantation Revolution which included switching from societies with slaves to slave societies, this also fueled racism. The mistreatment of African slaves was due to the transformation to racial slavery. The Contradiction within American society lies with the fact that even though many people espoused freedom they still justified slavery due to the adopted idea that Africans were slaves because of “their innate ability best fitted them to be slaves.” During this time there was a common belief of a majority of the nation that believed Africans were actually “intellectually inferior”. Even though the American Revolution championed freedom, slavery became more profound after the American Revolution and it had something to due with the invention of the Cotton Gin and laws such as the Fugitive Slave Law. Even though the founding fathers believed that “all men are created equal” the contradiction between freedom and slavery is apparent. This paper will explain why slavery became race related; the contradiction of the Constitution and the beliefs of many Americans, and why slavery continued to persist after the American Revolution when Africans were suppose to be given their freedom.

The dreadful transformation to racial slavery started with the decline of indentured servants. The decline of indentured servants was due to the economic factors of the English settlers. Indentured servants got increasingly frustrated by the way they were treated, colonists came up with a better source of labor and it was free. The journey to America for the indentured servants was a treacherous one; it usually took up to 12 weeks packed tightly in ships sometimes without fresh air. "Every two weeks at sea the [indentured servant] passengers received an allowance of bread. One man and his wife, having eaten their bread in eight days, staggered before the captain and begged him to throw them overboard, for they would otherwise starve before the next bread day. The captain laughed in their faces, while the ship's mate, even more of a brute, gave them a bag of sand and told them to eat that. The couple did die before the next ration of bread, but the captain charged the other passengers for the bread the two would have eaten if they had survived” (qtd. In Wannamaker). Many of the indentured servants had contracts that lasted many years and others if their parents died on the journey they had to remain indentured servants until they could pay off they debt. Even though indentured servants were treated better than slaves they still had few rights, they could not vote. They could also not do many activities without the permission from their masters, such as marry, buy or sell anything, or leave.

Indentured servants such as Elizabeth Sprigs stated the harsh living conditions they endured. In a letter to her father in 1756 Elizabeth Sprigs claimed that she was treated like an animal in the following “...I one of the unhappy Number, am toiling almost Day and Night, and very often in the Horses drudgery, with only this comfort that you Bitch you do not halfe enough, and then tied up and whipp’d to that Degree that you’d not serve an Animal, scarce any thing but Indian Corn and Salt to eat and that even begrudged nay many Negroes are better used”(Voices 47,48). Indentured servants were belittled and were treated like animals, beaten, deprived of food, and clothing. The fate of indentured servants when they arrived to America was not what they would have envisioned. Promised job opportunities and liberties, these indentured servants gladly took up the opportunity to enjoy the incentives that America had to offer. Gottlieb Mittelberger was an indentured servant from Germany and discussed just some of the atrocities that an indentured servant endures in “The Passage of Indentured Servants”. The passage of an indentured servant is a treacherous one at best; many of them, especially the young and old do not survive the journey and die on the way there. The ones that make the journey alive are brutally awakened by what is in store for them when they reach America. Gottlieb Mittelberger also discusses that if the parents of a youth die on the journey, the youth is responsible and must serve until they are 21 years of age. Gottlieb states that once they have served their term, “he or she is entitled to a new suit of clothes at parting; and if it has been so stipulated, a man gets in addition a horse, a woman, or a cow” (Voices 46). This was another reason why there was a decline in indentured servitude. Once a youth had served their term they were set free and were given opportunities to be given social status. The decline of indentured servitude

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