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Slavery in America

The issues, related to slavery, have been vitally important not only to historians and politicians, but actually most people all around the world could not remain indifferent to them. Slavery brought a lot of human sufferings, economical and political changes to America as well as other colonies. In this paper we are going to discuss the very roots of slavery, as it was brought to Britain and America, and how it was developed in the countries. For the United States slavery played a very important role for the whole history of the country, for its political, economical and cultural development. It appeared in the English colonies and spread towards Maryland in the southern part of the country. The end of slavery came only after the American Civil War and the period of Reconstruction after it.

In 1619 the first slaves arrived to English-American colonies – they were brought by some Dutch trader on a pirate ship. Slaves were sold to colonists for food and services. Negro slaves were not a new practice for the West Indies, where they were used for hard work. Charles V. of Spain even issued the special license to Fleming for importing certain number of Negro slaves annually to the West Indies. The Queen Elizabeth of England was also said to take financial part in slaves’ traffic to England.

The situation continued to develop also after the revolution of 1688, at this moment the greatest slave dealers at power were considered to be King Philip V. of Spain, and Queen Anne of England.

As soon as slave trade and slave market started to rapidly develop, there appeared even legislations concerning slaves, as for example the law of 1663 of Maryland, stating, that children, born to slaves, are automatically slaves also or another law, according to which even free-born white women, who married slaves, became slaves of the master of their husband and so on.

During the middle of the eighteenth century the institution of slavery occupied such a strong position in America, that it developed even its unique features. Most of the slaves were concentrated in the South; there were black slaves up to ten times more than white people. In the Northern colonies black people lived in small groups and formed the minority of the whole population. Another important distinctive feature of the United States in this relation was the mortality and birth rates of slaves. In other countries, such as Cuba or Saint-Dominique slaves died more, than were born, in America the situation was the opposite.

Southern and Northern parts of the country differentiated not only in number of slaves, but also in perception of slaves. In the North most of the factories were situated and the work of slaves was not so vitally important for economical development. Whereas in the South, where huge plantations of cotton and farming were the major activities, the slaves’ labor was extremely needed. The need for cotton was growing rapidly, as Northern and European manufacturing enterprises had the increasing demand for it.

Thus in the South more and more lands were cultivated for the sake of growing cotton. Most of the Southern population was concentrated in the rural areas, instead of towns, if compared to the Northern part. “The South also increasingly lagged in other indications of modernization, from railroad construction to literacy and public education” (Berlin & Miller, 2007).

This is evident, that abolition of slavery was not painful for the North and started there. The ideology of the South was absolutely different, white politicians and ministers could find numerous reasons, why slavery could never be abolished. Certainly the economic necessity was on the first place, further were various religious and cultural arguments, like for example, that slavery was adopted by God as a way of civilizing primitive people and so on. Social arguments were also skillfully used by supporters of slavery – they usually compared the conservative, harmonious and religious society in the South with heretical and turbulent people from the North. “This defense represented the mirror image of the so-called free-labor argument increasingly prevalent in the North: to the assertion that slavery kept the South backward, poor, inefficient, and degraded, proslavery advocates responded that only slavery could save the South from the evils of modernity run wild” (Blassingame, 1979).

Overall, we have briefly studied the historical facts about appearance and development of such social phenomena as slavery, its influence upon the cultural, economic and political life of colonial America up to the moment, when the Civil War broke out.



Berlin, I., Miller, S.F. (2007). Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation. The New Press

Berlin, I. (1998). Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. Harvard University Press

Blassingame, J. W. (1979). The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South. Oxford University Press