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Origins and Development of Slavery in Britain’s North American Colonies

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    The founding of the majority of American colonies was either for an economic profit or religious freedom. To make the colonies founded for an economic profit, a large workforce was needed. For many religious colonies that turned into huge economic powers, they used the Protestant work ethic. Other colonies decided to use indentured servants originally, but this ended up turning into a large use of slaves for their work force in some colonies.

    Despite slavery in Britain’s North American colonies originally about only the economic aspects of the societally developed into an essential part of society and it was maintained for racial, social, and economic reasons. Slaves were used economically because they were cheap labor. Socially, it was respectable in some colonies to be a slave owner. Minorities were thought of lesser people by the whites, so slavery also showed racial superiority. This essay will discuss the racial, social, and economic reasons for the development of slavery in Britain’s North American colonies from 1607-1776.

    Slavery was driven by racial inequality. The colonists thought of the minority races of Africans and Indians as lesser people, and many people didn’t have a problem with enslaving them for their workforce. During the triangular trade, slaves from Africa were brought to the Americas. The majority of slaves went to the Caribbean, but some ended up in Britain’s North American colonies. Slaves were quite easy to obtain because they could be bought or traded for material items. African slavery became the workforce for hard labor and plantations. Before the Africans arrived in the colonies, the colonists also used Native Americans. The Indians occupied the territory that the colonists wanted to settle, so they saw them as a threat and the Indians were an easy target to enslave. At the beginning of the period, it was said that neither blacks nor Indians were slaves by documents found in Virginia. By 1640, many blacks and Indians were being used as slaves by the colonists. And after 1660, slavery was regulated and his codes for slaves. This shows that during the period, the number of minority slaves rose greatly.

    As the period progressed, slavery became more and more of a normal thing. After Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, there were fewer indentured servants and more slaves. After the Rebellion, indentured servitude kind of phased itself out, and slavery became more prominent. There were differences between the Southern and the Northern colonies’ views of slavery. In Georgia, James Oglethorpe originally banned slavery in 1733, but changed his mind in 1751. Many people thought of slaves as a more worthwhile investment than indentured servants, because they could be kept for life. There were codes written that stated that the master had complete control of his slaves, which was very attractive to some people. The Declaration of Independence condemned slavery in some form, but slavery was still widely practiced. Towards the end of the period, some people were beginning to condemn slavery, but it was still widely practiced throughout the colonies.

    Owning slaves made plantation owners very profitable, because over time the slaves were a small price to pay for all of the labor that they would complete throughout their lifetime. Indentured servants were more widely used at the beginning of the period. Indentured servitude came to an end because of the various problems that people encountered. The first Africans were brought to Jamestown in 1619. In the beginning of the period, they were used for tobacco fields in Virginia, harvesting rice and sugar in South Carolina, and working the indigo fields throughout the Carolinas. Planters preferred slaves to indentured servants because they could have more control over them. The slaves were used to do the labor needed to harvest the cash crops which sustained the colonies’ economies. Towards the end of the period, slave owners realized that slaves were a much better investment than indentured servants. The number of slaves throughout the period increased because plantation owners and farmers realized how much profit they could get by owning slaves and using them to harvest the cash crops. It was a very slow-moving development, but once it was widely known, slaves were used much more than indentured servants.

    Britain’s colonies in North America went from a society with slaves to a slave society. Owning slaves became a key part of everyday life for many plantation owners by the end of the period. Throughout the period, the focus shifted from indentured servitude to slavery because slaves proved to be more profitable. Slavery in the colonies stayed so popular because it was based on racial, social, and economic values. It changed the way that plantation owners did things, and they wanted to keep their profits going.

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