Monday, February 23, 2015

Slavery in Fact and Fiction

Slavery, an institution wrapped in controversy and political agendas.  The word slavery automatically brings to mind the slave issues of the "Civil War” and the racial animosity that exists in America between the blacks and whites.  However, as we all should know, slavery is not something that was instituted by us Southerners in order to simply take advantage of blacks.  From the earliest times in history we see slavery as a very common occurrence.  Though it definitely has many moral and social flaws and the trading of human lives is not justifiable as  means of profit, it is still important to know and understand the truths about slavery, as opposed to how it is commonly depicted in books, movies and even politically correct history.  Thought there have been definitely been cruel and tyrannical slave masters, that is not the stereotype. Most slave owners through history were kind, benevolent and even affectionate towards their slaves.  In Roman times slaves had as many legal rights as their owners and many were given opportunities to gain their freedom.  We also see that slavery and race did not have a high correlation, in fact there have been more white slaves in the course of history than there have been black slaves.  So what is the truth behind slavery in America? 

The Slave Trade and Early American Slavery

Due to the high demand for sugar, both the Spaniards and the Portuguese were importing African slaves to the Caribbean and Brazils early as 1503.  A growing demand for tobacco and cotton would eventually drive the demand for black slaves in North America.  Actual slave trading in North America began in 1637 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when they sold Indian POW’s to other Indian tribes and the the labor hungry West Indies.  Having acquired a taste for easy money, Massachusetts set out to build a fleet and in 1638 the first American slave ship, The Desire, was commissioned and brought its first load of human cargo from Africa.  The market was extremely good and the slave trade in America grew by leaps and bounds.  Between 1755 and 1776 over 23,000 slaves were brought to Massachusetts and from there sold.  However, only about 6% of all African slaves ended up in North America, as most were sent to Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Central America and other places around the Caribbean.  Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York soon joined Massachusetts in the trade and it is interesting to note that all American slave ships were from New England (well what do you know, that just happens to be in the North) and that, even after the constitutional ban on the slave trade in 1808, New Englanders continued to make an immense profit off the trade until 1860.  All the wealth they had acquired helped the North develop its industrial base.  Now, because the climate in the North was not suitable for agriculture, the northerners began to emancipate their slaves, but most found it more profitable to sell them to the South before they could be emancipated. Thus they got rid of their slaves but still made a great profit off of them.  Now, up until around 1655 most farm labor in the South was performed by English indentured servants who worked for a specific amount of time (usually 7 years) and then were set free and given land of their own.  Whereas, previously the black slave population had only been 3% of the entire Southern population it soon grew to 40%.  Alarmed at this sudden growth, and feeling that they would soon be outnumbered by blacks, southerners begged the king to stop the slave trafficking in the South (it is also important to note that only 25% of Southern families had slaves)  and when he would not listen, Virginia declared her independence from Britain in 1776, and in 1778 outlawed the slave trade.  Nonetheless, after Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin and cotton became the main export and source of income in the South, as much as Southerners had grown against the slave trade and slavery in general, they realized that ending it too quickly would be too hard financially for the South.  In 1860 the South was the richest section of the country due to their agricultural exports and slave labor was the main force of the Southern economy.  To free the slaves all at once would have meant economic disaster to the Southern states.

Southern Slavery as it Really Was

Under the Federal Writer’s Project, President Roosevelt commissioned journalists to interview former slaves on how things had been during the slave years, the war and the reconstruction.  These interviews were published under the title of the slave narratives.  What was most amazing about these narratives is that 86% of the slaves had nothing but good to say about their masters and only 5% had only negative comments.  Many ex-slaves said they wished the old days were back and the yankees had left them alone.  They stated that while they had been slaves they had had shelter, food, clothing, medical care and everything else that was necessary.  In fact, living conditions of Southern slaves were better than most white factory workers in the North.  Studying the statistics there wasn’t an immense profit individually in owning slaves and eventually it would have died out, but most former slaves stated they were better off and happier with their masters, before the war.

The Matchless Devotion of Black Confederates

Though it is not often mentioned there were at least 50,000 and as many as 100,000 African slaves AND freedmen who gallantly fought in the confederate army alongside their masters.  Many, if not most, blacks were faithful to their masters and had strong Southern sympathies and were willing to die fighting the Union invaders who were supposedly trying to “free” them.  

Time on the Cross 

Not only is it very evident that most masters took good care of their slaves providing for their physical needs we also see that they were sincerely interested in the spiritual needs of their slaves and took time to teach them the Holy Bible and have them attend church.  Also, many masters taught their slaves reading and writing and basic schooling.  Though we do not wish to encourage slavery in any way and are extremely glad that it has been abolished in the US we must see that it was not the cruel, harsh, racial issue that politically correct history portrays it to be.  There were cruel and harsh masters who committed wicked deeds against they’re slaves, but they were not the norm and we should not base our views on the exceptions to the rule.  Also, its necessary to admit that there were also fuel, vindictive slaves who committed heinous acts against their owners.  If there is ever to be racial harmony in America we must learn the truths behind slavery and the truths of the Civil War and the truth of our own Southern history.

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