The United States of America, a symbol for freedom and liberty throughout the world, was built upon the backs of millions of vulnerable slaves. By the time we became a country in 1776, slavery was engrained in many of our founding fathers minds as the source of economic wellbeing. Each state, community and individual had their own ideas about the institution and whether it was morally or constitutionally right. It is one of the highest debated topics in the history of our country. Slavery, controversial as it may be, was an integral part of the maturation of our young nation.
Slavery has been in existence around the world nearly as long as humans have. But what developed in the New World was very different from what the rest of the world had seen. The plantation based slavery that emerged in America brought large numbers of workers owned and controlled by a single person, which raised the possibility of large scale rebellion. In turn, owners oftentimes enforced their strict authority with merciless measures. Eventually, the word “slave” would be directly linked with the color of one’s skin, which wasn’t exactly inevitable.
The New World in the seventeenth century was a dangerous territory. Both the Native Americans and settlers were struck with diseases that tore through their societies. Despite the dangers they faced, many Spanish, French and English individuals braved the journey. England produced the largest number willing to emigrate due to terrible economic conditions at home. English settlers who could pay for their passage to America arrived as free persons and obtained land quickly. Those who could not pay their way entered in an agreement of indentured servitude.
Indentured servants were much like slaves in the aspect that they could be bought and sold, could not marry without permission, endured physical punishment, and were sent to court over their obligation of servitude. But unlike slaves, these servants could look forward to freedom after their contractual responsibility. Many of these indentured servants didn’t find life in the New World as comforting as they once imagined. After they obtained their freedom and recognized that their limited “freedom dues” were inadequate to acquire land, many began to show their displeasure.
Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 was major weight added to the scale that shifted Virginia’s plantation labor from indentured servitude to African slaves. Confrontation between the Native Americans and settlers in western Virginia spearheaded an uprising that demanded Governor Berkeley to provide more land to the poor whites. Berkeley stood by his decision to maintain peaceful relations with the local Native American population, which sparked a series of uprisings and massacres that grew into full rebellion against Berkeley and his men. Berkeley fled when Nathaniel Bacon and his ranks burned Jamestown to the ground, which led to Bacon’s rule over Virginia for a short while until England sent...