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The Economic System of Slavery: As Told in A Respectable Trade and Amistad

Powerful Essays
The Economic System of Slavery: As Told in A Respectable Trade and Amistad

The economic system of slavery is an all-encompassing system that effects the mentalities of all who participate in the system. People in a slave society are shaped differently than people influenced by other economic systems, as this system classifies people as property, inherently going against all aspects of human nature. We see how slavery has come to shape individuals, and indeed, entire societies both in Amistad and A Respectable Trade. In these films arise the themes of economic value of different systems of slavery as well as themes of the morality of the slave trade and the devaluation of human dignity and liberty. While the two films portray vastly different contexts in which slavery exists, they have in common the struggles between profitable economic systems of the times and the social evaluations of these economic institutions.

In a slave society, there exists a control over productive resources by a specific subset of society. That is to say, the wealth of the economy is largely concentrated in the hands of a few. In a slave system, control over productive resources specifically means control over people, as it is the slaves in this economic system who are the resources, or whose labor is responsible for producing the resources. In the film Amistad, the production done by slaves is clearly delineated by the work they do on the plantations, as we do not see slave labor in the domestic realm as a prominent feature of this society. The Africans captured by their fellow countrymen are defined as property, as chattel, as soon as they set foot on the slave-trading vessels. Thus, within the system of slavery we see that huma...

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...he situation, as the British begin to see that the slave trade is not as lucrative as industry could be. The abolition of slavery in England, therefore, is not so much influenced by morality as it is by money.

Even though Amistad and A Respectable Trade vary in their depiction of the economic system of slavery (domestic servitude versus plantation labor), they share commonalities in their depiction of the overwhelmind grip that slavery had on societies. Slavery was as much a cultural system as it was an economic system, because it shaped all who participated in the system; the Africans forced into the system, the masters that owned people as chattel, and even those who opposed the system altogether. Slavery is an economic system that involves decisions of the conscience and the fundamentals of human nature, possibly more so tah any other economic system.
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