For Edmund S. Morgan American slavery and American freedom go together hand in hand. Morgan argues that many historians seem to ignore writing about the early development of American freedom simply because it was shaped by the rise of slavery. It seems ironic that while one group of people is trying to break the mold and become liberated, that same group is making others confined and shattering their respectability. The aspects of liberty, race, and slavery are closely intertwined in the essay, “Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox.” The contradictions between slavery and freedom are very apparent throughout history. America started out with the intentions of becoming separate and equal.
To become this kind of nation they needed a crop that would give them something to trade with the other countries. The most obvious choice was tobacco and to produce this demanding crop they used a lot of slave labor. Morgan states “To a very large degree it may be said that Americans bought their independence with slave labor (122).” America was so obsessed with being free and equal it looks like they would go to any length to obtain it. Another example would be certain slave owners.
Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington all owned slaves. This is interesting especially with Jefferson who had a major role in republican liberty. Another contradictory point made by Morgan is how England which prides itself in the liberties of its citizens, allows for the majority of the people in its colonies to enjoy such great opportunity and control and the treat the minority totally opposite. It is a great debate as to why they treated that small group so poorly. Jefferson felt very strongly about the freedom of an individual. His idea of freedom was that the individual was independent, and not under the control of a government for example.
Interest in American slavery has reemerged recently, coinciding with the very likelihood that the next President of the United States of America will be of "black" and "white" origin. Race has been and is a heated topic. Deeply rooted in the race issues of the United States is the history of slavery. Unlike other countries, slavery wasn't necessary about race, that is a distinction made for ...
There were two main things that Jefferson was concerned with, debt and distrust of men who were landless workers (124).
With the first he felt that while under debt a man had very limited freedom of action. The landless workers he felt were very dependent. They had to work because there was no land for backup.
In these times owning property was an important part of being a free man. Perhaps this led to slavery for those who did not own land. Many think slavery was always race based, but Jefferson’s position shows a different view. The problem with the landless workers escalated to its height in 1676 when about one fourth of freemen in Virginia did not own any land of their own (132).
Many of these men wandered about, living dangerous and non goal oriented lives. These people were causing big problems among the Virginia population.
While they needed the immigrants to work, when they were turned free they went out of control. Eventually this led to Bacon’s Rebellion. The problem was similar to that in England so they treated it the same way, with many tough restrictions of liberty (134).
In efforts to control everything the government ended up preserving the rights of Englishmen by destroying the rights of Africans (135).
This decision led to the beginning of African slavery in Virginia. This new kind of slavery proved to be cheap and grew very quickly. These are the origins of the race based slavery that we are more familiar with. Virginia made separate laws for the whites and blacks, basically punishing the black and protecting the white (137).
While Virginia was worried about the slaves attacking them they ended up being very easily controlled. The slaves were unaware of their rights and had no discontent.
They were unarmed, deprived of opportunities to associate, and subject to savage punishments (137).
... America in 1619, these twenty black West Africans were sold to farmers in Virginia, the Slave Trade had begun. In the colonial period ... for white land owners keeping slaves, in his book, "Slavery", Stanley Elkins states that, 1 "A mans social and political position in ... were roughly 800, 000 slaves in North America working in the flourishing colonies.However, the import of slaves from Africa ceased in ...
The arrival of African slavery was an easy and welcome decision to help ease the disarray in Virginia. Morgan argues that slavery is what basically turned Virginia into what it is today. Originally Virginia was unorganized and didn’t have much influence.
After the arrival of slavery Virginia gained a representative government, introduced schools and printing presses, became a plantation society, and formed political tradition with New Englanders (139).
Without slavery who knows what would have become of Virginia and if it would have succeeded as a colony. It was unfortunate that to accomplish all of this the rights of Englishmen were supported on the wrongs of Africans (139).
I feel that white Virginia did need slavery to become free.
I never thought that would be the case, but the arguments from Edmund S. Morgan shows the difficulties of the time. Virginia did try other things before slavery, but as shown when the freedmen were on their own nothing was accomplished and Virginia was becoming what the English settlers were trying to get away from. By having slaves the Virginians became a player among the New England colonies.
The slaves took Virginia from a confused and failing colony into a prosperous and organized colony. While it slavery is not a very pleasant thing, Morgan has shown that it is clearly in connection with the freedom in Virginia. Envisioning America, edited by Peter C. Man call.
Boston: Bedford Books, 1995.