Research Paper on Colonial AmericaServitude/Slavery during Colonial America
In determining whether a statement that servitude and slavery promoted democracy is true, it is important to take a look at Afro-American history. Although there are no evident records, first Afro-American people, who came to Southern States, are believed to have been “indentured servants” (McColley, 1988). However, there is no evidence of them not being slaves as well. It is known that Englishmen at those times had a different understanding of the word “servitude”. When Afro-Americans came to the Land of Opportunities, they were embarrassed by unexpected working conditions. Instead of working in gardens and orchards, they were forced to go to plantations. Such skills as weaving and carpentry were greatly valued (Galenson, 1981). Theoretically, black people sold their labor. In reality, however, servants were much like slaves, violently treated by their owners.
What is the difference between servitude and slavery? Theoretically, the answer to this question is quite clear: servants were supposed to serve for several years and receive money for their work, while slaves were exploited throughout their lives. They used to work hard on rice, sugar or tobacco plantations, facing different dangers, including swamps and poisonous snakes (Balagh, 1895). The slave-owners’ ideology lies in the social relationships in the Southern States and severe criticism of capitalism in the Northern States. The supremacy of private property and exploitation was considered an essential part of any society. The main problem was to decide what form of exploitation was the most suitable. In order to compare capitalism with slavery, it is important to distinguish the differences between the life conditions of slaves and servants, and those of capitalists and plantation owners.
Many supporters of slavery claim that servants were much like slaves, living in worse conditions. Servants are believed to have had no stability in life, being under constant threat of job loss. For this reason, they had to accept even low-paid jobs. In case of illness or physical disability, they were left without any sources for livelihood. At the same time, slaves were guaranteed a lifetime protection of their owners.
Speaking about the contribution of slavery into the development of democracy, it is important to consider an economic factor. Slavery greatly improved economy of Southern States, and strengthened transatlantic commercial relations. Some researchers believe that only black slavery can guarantee democratic rights to the whole white population. The elimination of slavery would inevitably lead to disrespect of white people, and they would have to do the work of black slaves. According to some researchers, such a situation took place in the Northern States. On the other hand, the hard work of Southern slaves is believed to have increased the social status and self-esteem of the lower classes of white population. It formed an opinion that all of them represented a ruling class. Only owing slavery, political rights and freedoms could be expanded among the white population. According to this point of view, only a slave-owning society gave democracy a chance to survive. Such views have much in common with racism, proclaiming the superiority of white race (Pappas, 2006).
Nowadays the nature of slavery and servitude has changed. Despite the fact that in the USA all representatives of both races are now equal before the law, there are still a lot of conflicts, concerning racial differences. And the nature of slavery has actually turned into a more complicated problem. The expansion of slave-trade becomes a disaster of the twenty-first century and concerns not only black population, but white people as well. It suggests that the neither racial conflicts, nor slavery can be exterminated, but we should seek compromise.
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