The Relationship Between Slavery and Freedom
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. 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)....