Question 1 you are an indentured servant in Virginia colony 1650, describe your background, current conditions, and future prospects
As an indentured servant in Virginia colony 1650. I am a man originally from England. There are not many women living here in Virginia at this time. I left England due to all of the religious and political turmoil that was happening there I felt that it would be better for me to start over someplace different. A second chance, I could have a good life open a business, have a family. I was wrong, life is horrible. I and many of the others I know are beaten with whips or canes for the slightest cause. The servants are forbidden from marrying or from having sexual relationships while being indentured, because bearing a child would diminish the woman’ s work capability. This does not prevent many masters from raping their female servants. Many families were separated a member of one such family wrote the members of their family back home "Whoever is well off in Europe better remain there. Here is misery and distress, same as everywhere, and for certain persons and conditions incomparably more than in Europe." (Zinn, PersonsConditions)
We have tried going to the officials, but this almost always ends badly for us. This usually results in us being whipped by the court for being insubordinate. Many of us speak of rebelling, but we realize that the outcome would not be favourable to us. There was once a man in New England, who had a servant who, according to him "laid violent hands upon his master, and threw him downe twice and feching bloud of him, threatening to breake his necke, running at his face with a chayre" One maidservant was brought into court for being "bad, unruly, sulen, careles, destructive, and disobedient." (Zinn, PersonsConditions). Both of these individuals were ordered to be whipped by the judge.
Life does not get much better after our time of servitude is over. Many of us leave the home in which we worked for many years with little or no money. This means that we must quickly find employment. For many of us this transition is difficult and many of the non-indentured people see us as a blight upon the community saying that we are "men and women who were dirty and lazy, rough, ignorant, lewd, and often criminal," who "thieved and wandered, had bastard children, and corrupted society with loathsome diseases," (Smith, cited by Zinn PersonsConditions). Although there were a number of formerly indentured people like Anthony Johnson, a black man who had worked as an indentured servant/slave on a nearby tobacco plantation. He married a woman named Mary and had four children. Eventually they were able to buy their way out of servitude. They then were able to buy some land on which they built a home and raised livestock (Anthony Johnson). According to early Virginia records Anthony Johnson and his wife Mary now owns 250 acres of land. This is something that is almost never accomplished by a former servant. Anthony and Mary sold their Virginia land in 1665 and moved to Maryland, where they purchased 300 acres. After Anthony died five years later and Mary was able to obtain a 99-year lease. (Anthony Johnson). This unfortunately was not the outcome for most indentured servants that were released from their servitude.
Question 2why would and European man or woman sign and indentured, was it a choice or were they compelled by historical forces
In the seventeenth century, many of the men and women who came to America as indentured servant had done so under duress. Many were exiled by the English government, some by kidnapping, lies, many were lured into what they felt would be a better life because they were desperate to escape the one they were in. Upon signing the agreement to be an indentured servant, which would have stated that the person agreed to work for the master for 5-7 years in exchange for the master paying their fare to the United States. In many cases there were then imprisoned in the ship in order to guarantee that they would not run away. Whatever the reason for the people becoming indentured servants, they became a great source of profit for “the merchants, traders, ship captains and later their masters in America” (Zinn, PersonsConditions). In Colonists in Bondage Abbot Smith wrote "From the complex pattern of forces producing emigration to the American colonies one stands out clearly as most powerful in causing the movement of servants. This was the pecuniary profit to be made by shipping them." (Zinn, PersonsCondition)
Question 3 what was the greatest threat to the elite’s control over the colonists -fear that was realized in the bacons rebellion? What tactics did the wealthy adopt to prevent another Bacon Rebellion?
According to “People and Events: Bacon’s Rebellion” in 1676 Virginia a group of men that included white frontiersman, along with many servants and slaves led a rebellion that forced the governor to flee after the rebels had set fire to Jamestown, which at that time had 40,000 people. King Charles I sent a thousand soldiers to Jamestown hoping to quell the situation and establish order back into the colony of Jamestown. This uprising was led by Nathaniel Bacon and would later become known as Bacon’s Rebellion.
Bacon was a wealthy Englishman living in the Virginia backcountry who was extremely anti-Native American and felt that they must be viewed strictly as enemies. Bacon’s views were shared by many other Virginia residents and he banded many of them to his cause. However, the governor of the Virginia colony, William Berkeley saw things differently. Berkeley wanted to live peacefully with the non-hostile Native Americans in order to avoid a war in which "all the Indians against us.” (Bacon’s Rebellion). Not trusting Bacon’s intention Berkeley refused to permit him the authority to lead soldiers.
Bacon then took a group of men and convinced the Occaneechees, who were a friendly tribe to capture the warriors from an unfriendly tribe. Once the Occaneechees returned with the warriors Bacon and his followers gunned them all down. As a result of Bacon’s actions Berkeley had him charged with treason, but when Bacon returned to Jamestown, Berkeley ha him pardoned rather than having him executed. This may have been due to the fact that Bacon had brought fifty men into the city with him and Berkeley was afraid of the damage they may have done. Bacon continued his crusade against the Native Americans and eventually he returned to Jamestown with 500 men forcing Berkeley to give him permission to lead soldiers (commission). Berkeley would later declare it void, which would cause Bacon to return to Jamestown setting the city the city ablaze and causing Berkeley to flee. English soldiers eventually arrived to quell the rebellion and Bacon and a number of the rebels were executed.
The elite, who realized that how dangerous whites and blacks uniting could be, feared that the poor people they were oppressing would rise up against them. This fear contributed strongly to the chance in perception of blacks as servants to blacks as slaves. This was coupled with the fact that Virginia needed people to work the plantations in order to grow corn for the people to eat and to grow tobacco to export. Many people were starving and the Virginia government and the elite feared that they would make trouble. In order to try to prevent this the Virginia Colony had two companies of English soldiers remain to guard against future trouble, and their presence was defended in a report to the Lords of Trade and Plantation saying: "Virginia is at present poor and more populous than ever. There is great apprehension of a rising among the servants, owing to their great necessities and want of clothes; they may plunder the storehouses and ships." (Zinn PersonsCondition). The Virginia colony also passed laws that made it impossible for people to travel from one state to another without papers stating that they were free men. Any person without this documentation were rounded up and extradited back to their home state. (Zinn PersonsCondition).
Question 4 explain the pragmatic as well as the psychological reasons that led white American colonists of the 17th century to transform black servants to slaves
“People & Events: Virginia's slave codes” tells of how blacks living in Virginia were systematically changed from servants to slaves during the latter half of the 1600’s. In 1705 the Virginia General made this transformation certain when he declared "All servants imported and brought into the Countrywho were not Christians in their native Countryshall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominionshall be held to be real estate. If any slave resist his mastercorrecting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correctionthe master shall be free of all punishmentas if such accident never happened." This declaration proceeded the Virginia slave codes which stated that slaves could not own property, did not have to pay fines as they could not own property, slaves had to receive written permission to leave the property. The codes also imposed harsh punishments for crimes such as associating with a white person, which would result in being branded, maimed or whipped. A slave that was found to be guilty of rape or murder would be executed by hanging and a slave caught committing a serious but rather low level crime like stealing “would get sixty lashes, be placed in stocks and have their ears cut off”. (Virginia Slave Codes). These codes meant that the white master could do whatever they wanted to the slave without any repercussions.
This shift was caused by a number of factors. Between 1609-1610 in what is known as the “starving time” five hundred colonists were reduced to just sixty (Drawing the Color Line). In 1619 the Virginians needed laborers to grow crops, primarily corn and tobacco. According to Zinn, there were not a large number of white servants and the ones who had only contracted their labor for a set number of years and the free white settlers were disinclined to perform labor of any sort. The answer to this issue was the enslavement of all the black people. This for many colonists made sense. Blacks were being enslaved in other parts of the world, in fact, by “”1619 a million blacks had been brought from Africa to South America and the Caribbean, to the Portuguese and Spanish colonies, to work as slaves (Zinn Drawing the Color Line). On top of this in 1610 Father Luis Brandon responds to Father Sandoval’s question about the legality of slavery according to church doctrine. In a letter dated March 12, 1610 Father Luis Brandon replies saying:
“Your Reverence writes me that you would like to know whether the Negroes who are sent to your parts have been legally captured. To this I reply that I think your Reverence should have no scruples on this point, because this is a matter which has been questioned by the Board of Conscience in Lisbon, and all its members are learned and conscientious men. Nor did the bishops who were in SaoThome, Cape Verde, and here in Loando—all learned and virtuous men—find fault with it. We have been here ourselves for forty years and there have been among us very learned Fathers never did they consider the trade as illicit. Therefore, we and the Fathers of Brazil buy these slaves for our service without any scruple” (Zinn Drawing the Color Line).
For the colonists this endorsement of slavery by Father Brandon made the enslavement of the blacks was relatively easy. Black servants were already subjected to unfair treatment and harsher punishments than their white counterparts. In 1639 a law was passed saying that "all persons except Negroes" were to get arms and ammunition (Zinn , PersonsCondition). Then in 1640 when three servants ran away, 2 white and 1 black. The white escapees only receive an extension on their service, while the black servant was ordered to serve his master and his family for the rest of his life ((Zinn, PersonsCondition).)
The unfair treatment of the Black servants coupled with the fact they were outsiders torn from their people and culture living in an unfamiliar country. A country without the sense of community that they would have been used to living in Africa, where they did not speak the language and were separated from their families. The slave owners and colonists would continue to separate the slaves from their culture by forbidding them from engaging in anything that would be reflective of their culture. (Zinn Drawing the Color Line) contributed to the plantation owners being able to subdue them. The horror for black slaves did not begin when they reached American, but started as soon as they were taken from their tribes by the slave traders. The African men and women would be chained and forced to walk up to a 1000 miles (Zinn Drawing the Color Line) by men carrying whips and weapons. In many of these death marches a large number 2 out of every five people died. Once they had reached the coast, they were locked in cages until they were sold after being sold they would be crammed into pens the size of coffins and chained together at the bottom of the ship. The slaves unable to move lie in their own excrement, many starve to death, or suffocate, some if they can throw themselves overboard (Zinn Drawing the Color Line.
The slaves did not make things easy on the slave traders or their new masters. In fact, the institutional subordination slaves took over a hundred years and in some cases never really took despite the threats and violence that were perpetrated on them. Many early slaves ran away, committed act of violence against and even murdered their masters (Zinn). In order to curb this rebellious behavior slave owners began subjecting their slaves to discipline and psychological attacks intended to break their spirit. The slaves were beaten for even the most minor of offenses. They were constantly reminded of their inferiority with statements such as "know their place," (Zinn).
Slaves were systematically told that blacks were inferior. That their skin was a sign that they were dirty, evil, disgraceful, and ugly. They were taught that because of this they were destined to be subordinate to whites, who in their own opinions were the epitome of righteousness. Blacks were taught that in order to gain forgiveness for the sinful nature, they were born with they needed to separate themselves from their own desires and destroy their own needs. The slave owners accomplished this by breaking up family units, banning the practice of religion or forcing their slaves to practice Christianity. Slave owners also sought to create tensions between slaves in order to prevent rebellions by separating them into two different groups., Field slaves, who worked long hours under the threat of a whip in the field and House slaves, who had slightly easier jobs, and were not subject to the elements or the whip. Although this does not mean that the existence of a house slave was any less violent than that of a field slave. (Zinn)
Question 5 what were the causes and long term effects of the Stono Rebellion
1739 in Stono, South Carolina, twenty slaves rebelled. They killed two warehouse guards and stole guns and gunpowder from the warehouse. The twenty rebels then went south, killing and burning people and buildings as they went. By the time the rebellion was ended by the militia, a total of about eighty slaves that had joined the rebellion. During the battle between the rebels and the militia, fifty rebels were killed alongside 25 militiamen.
People and Events: Anthony Johnson. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p265.html
People and Events: Bacon's Rebellion. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p274.html
People and Events: Virginia's Slave Codes. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p268.html
Zinn, H. (n.d.). Drawing the Color Line. Retrieved January 31, 2016, from http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinncolorline.html
Zinn, H. (n.d.). Persons of a Mean and Vile Condition. Retrieved January 31, 2016, from http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinnvil3.html