Slavery in the United States began in 1619 when the colonists of Jamestown Virginia acquired a cargo of Africans from a Dutch slave transport that stole the cargo from the Spanish. The economic need for more laborers in the British Colonies at the time, prompted this purchase. The laborer decrease was due to a better European economy, a lack of immigrants willing to, or needing to work, and the reduction of indentured servants. At first, the African immigrants were treated as indentured servants, with set terms of service and a severance remuneration. But, as time progressed, the sentences of servitude became longer and longer, due to the increased need for laborers, eventually becoming life sentences for all, making them slaves.
The religious portion of the Colonial region saw no problem with slavery. Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Catholic Priest and missionary, owned Native American slaves, and later swapped them in for the more durable and work-friendly African slaves. He wrote to Spain suggesting that the slave holders cease the use of Native Americans as slaves because they were unable to cope with the harsh working conditions and European diseases that were wiping them out. The Africans on the other hand were sturdier, and were better equipped to withstand European disease.1
As you can see in the previous paragraph, the church saw little problem with slavery of ...
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...eir slaves. Slave homes are to be searched every two weeks for weapons or stolen goods. Punishment for violations escalate to include loss of ear, branding, and nose-slitting, and for the fourth offense, death. No slave shall be allowed to work for pay, or to plant corn, peas or rice; or to keep hogs, cattle, or horses; or to own or operate a boat; to buy or sell; or to wear clothes finer than 'Negro cloth '.5
As you can see, these codes were anything but fair or humane towards the slaves. In fact, they were quite racist. The enactment of these codes was brought about by fear of uprising, and the apparition of necessity. The colonists feared the slaves would take after the example of Stono or Nat Turner and cause a bloody uprising. They enacted these codes to strike fear into their hearts and so that they could know the repercussions of their actions.
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