Land Of The Free Why Did The Majority Of Slaves, Specifically Blacks, Side With Britain During And After The American Revolution?

2292 words - 9 pages

Laurentian UniversityFinal EssayHIST 3026Zakk BartschNovember 25, 2008Zakk BartschProf. Stephen AzziHistory 3026November 25th, 2008Land of the FreeThe American Revolution was inspired and backed by men such as Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock and George Washington, with ideas of a new, free nation, one in which "all men were created equal" as their Declaration of Independence boastfully stated. However, as the war changed from a Massachusetts endeavor to a broader conflict throughout the colonies, the politics of race changed dramatically. The Revolutionary era witnessed the first major challenge to American slavery. Almost overnight, it seemed, an institution that had long been taken for granted came under intense scrutiny and debate, and thousands of black slaves took advantage of wartime turmoil to flee their bondage.Blacks had been welcomed in the New England militia, but Congress initially decided against having them in the Continental army. Congress needed support from the South if all the colonies were to win their independence from England. Since southern plantation owners wanted to keep their slaves, they were afraid to give guns to blacks. The thought of slaves bearing arms with the ability to rise up against their masters was a far more serious threat to most Americans than the losing battle to the red coats.Still, the words of the Declaration of Independence were taken literally by blacks and some whites. In, 1780, Pennsylvania became the first colony to pass a law phasing out slavery. Children born to slaves after that date were granted their freedom when they reached twenty eight. Other Northern states followed. The Superior Court of Massachusetts held in 1783 that slavery violated the state constitution, and New Hampshire also ended slavery by a court ruling. Vermont outlawed slavery and Connecticut and Rhode Island passed gradual emancipation laws. New York outlawed slavery in 1799 and New Jersey followed in 1804. The international slave trade was outlawed in 1808. This raises the matter of why then blacks would rather side with the English.Despite such improvements many of the remaining thirteen colonies still enforced the rigid slave code adopted by the colonial assembly, restricting the freedom of movement of the slaves, inflicting severe penalties for even minor offenses and denying slaves civil and criminal rights.In all other colonies slavery began soon after their founding, increased until the American Revolution when many blacks fled for the greener fields found by those who gave their allegiance to the crown. Hitherto, these increases provoked varying degrees of fears of uprisings and of harshness of slave codes. As slaves were most numerous in Maryland, Delaware, Georgia and South Carolina (where they outnumbered white two to one), the fears were greater and the slave codes more rigid. Congress ordered all blacks removed from the army, but black veterans appealed directly to George Washington, who took up their...

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