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The colonization of American was one of the key events that took place in America during the 1600. During this time, Britain was much preoccupied with advancing its economic imperialism. The process of colonization of America began with the exploration activities conducted by the European explorers. The Red Indians were among the Native Americans. The arrival of the British colonists in America led to the oppression and exploitation of the native Indian communities.
The British interfered with the indigenous American civilization, subjected them to forced labor and stringent economic policies. Apart from Britain, other European powers such as Sweden and France also attempted to obtain colonies in America. This paper argues that the colonial elite gained control over natives, indentures, African Americans, and poor free whites through a combination of decrees and force.
Colonization of America
During the British rule in the American colonies, many changes occurred, and they were not in favor of the Americans’ interests. The American society became increasingly stratified under the British rule. This led to the development of inequalities, which really affected many inhabitants of the American colony.
Slavery, which had begun during the ancient period, became worse. Slavery was instituted in the Trans Atlantic region earlier than in England. The British Empire adopted slavery in the 17th century, when it occupied America. The ancient slavery was different from the one that was later adopted after European occupation of America. The latter version of slavery was based on racism than the former. For instance, black slaves were introduced in America due to insufficient laborers in the plantations.
In the second phase of the 17th century, Britain used its territories as potential markets. The English also derived some raw materials from the territories that were under their control. The British slave trade was intensified in the 18th century and it coincided with mercantilism, which was prevalent in many parts of Europe.
Vast commercial interests motivated European powers to extend their territories through colonization. Mercantilism policies became significant in most of the territories that were occupied by Britain. It was conducted through a partnership between merchants that operated in England and the government.
British mercantilism was driven by the need to gain big trade surpluses, in order to accumulate gold and silver. Consequently, mercantilism greatly influenced the Americans commercial activities in the sense that they lost their economic independence considerably due to slavery. This later sparked off the rebellion of these territories. Many merchants engaged in selling slaves because it had lucrative returns.
In America, plantation farming was particularly boosted by slaves. For example, In Virginia and Carolina, slave trade introduced new prospects for commercial development since industrial products were substituted with slaves. In this case, Virginians offered their merchandise to the Westo Indians who supplied them with captives. The Westo realized that selling war captives was more lucrative than hunting.
Thus, they devoted much of their time and resources to enslaving captives of war from vulnerable communities such as the Amerindians. The initial English colonizers mainly originated from Barbados. Their major reason for migrating to Carolina was the need to exploit the fertile land and slave labor.
In Britain, the British government arranged to get rid of destitute children by exporting them to Virginia in order provide the much-needed labor in the tobacco farms.
The English laborers were termed indentured servants. Since the indentured servants did not provide adequate labor in the plantations in Virginia, the British authorities devised new mechanisms for getting extra labor. “Copying the Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch colonies, the English enslaved Africans on the plantations both in the West Indies and on the North American mainland” (Gallay 46).
Keeping of slaves was not a unique venture since many societies also instituted slavery in their commercial and agricultural activities. “The English rationale for enslavement lay in the belief that captives taken in a just war could be offered enslavement as an alternative to death” (Gallay 46). In the 17th century, the English developed another reason for practicing slavery by declaring that the descendants of slaves were to inherit the status of their parents so that slavery could thrive in future.
In America, Interstate slave trade had a positive impact on the economy of the seaboard states that had remained poor for long. Many slaves were transferred to the Deep South especially in Virginia where agricultural production was thriving. As the demand for cotton and tobacco increased, many plantation owners acquired more slaves to expand their production activities.
Top on the planters program was the spirited scramble for laborers. “Planters or their agents were stealing servants from under each other’s noses even before they reached the colony; in England, servants who had just indentured for America were being ‘enticed’ to break the contract and indenture for the colony on better terms with somebody else” (Jordan, Walsh and Kirkland 93).
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Some indentures were encouraged to flee on arrival and align with new masters. “The burgesses decided ‘most severely to punish the seducers and the seduced’ but in the event targeted the servants alone, and they were to be made to serve the full terms contracted with both masters, one after another” (Jordan, Walsh and Kirkland 93-94).
In Chesapeake, the frontier circumstances made it possible for labor to generate more profits and wealth at a phenomenal rate for a preindustrial Britain. “The planters prospered by farming building: by clearing and cultivating new fields and by constructing new fences and buildings” (Taylor 145). The planters fulfilled their material interests at a heavy price. “The Indians unwillingly paid the highest price by losing their lives and domain to provide the lands essential to farm building” (Taylor 145).
In Europe, “many viewed the enslavement of Native Americans somewhat differently from the enslavement of Africans, though both were subject to racial prejudice by English who regarded both of them as slaves” (Gallay 47-58). Apart from Georgia, other English colonies enacted various codes that legitimized and supported the exploitation of slave labor.
Slaves were handled ruthlessly and their status was not different from that of commodities. In the plantations, “slaves that tried to dodge their masters were either punished or brutally murdered; hence, they avoided unnecessary resistance” (Shifflette). For example, “the Virginia March 1660/1-ACT XXII stipulated that if an indentured servant ran away with a black person who was considered a servant for life, the white servant had to serve additional time to compensate a master” (Shifflette).
Still in Virginia, the colonial administrators passed a statute that authorized slave masters to administer corporal punishment to their errant slaves since they were serving on permanent. This implies that slaves were handled quite differently from indentured servants. This law demonstrates that slaves in Virginia did not have any kind of legal protection. “It was also among the numerous decrees passed towards the end of the seventeenth century that reduced the personal rights of black men” (Shifflette).
The manner in which slave masters handled their subjects was not consistent. Living conditions of slaves were influenced by places where they worked. For example, slaves that operated in the farms were overworked. Slaves did not have the chance to have families because this could distract their attention, and they were not allowed to hold religious meetings because this could make them conspire to escape.
Apart from Virginia slave codes existed in various states, and they were used for guiding how slaves interacted with their masters. Black slaves that converted to Christianity were never liberated, but the Amerindian slaves that embraced Christianity had better social status.
The above discussion depicts how the English vanquishers inhumanly handled the indentured workers, slaves, and Native Americans. Therefore, it can be concluded that the inhuman practices of the conquerors in North America motivated the thirteen colonies to join forces in order to regain their lost liberty in 1776. “The American Civil War was also crucial to the life of slaves in the sense that it led to their emancipation” (Clark, Hewitt and Brown 111-155).
One of the fascinating issues about the English slavery was the fact that the English began enslaving their own members and as the demand for labor increased, they turned their attention to Amerindians and later Africans. Lastly, the English slavery practices reveal that slavery was not meant to prejudice other races, but to facilitate the English great commercial interests.
Clark, Chrsitopher. Who Built America? Volume I: Through 1877: Working People and the Nation’s History. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.
Gallay, Alan. The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717. New York: Yale University Press, 2002. Print.
Jordan, Don, Michael Walsh and Don Kirkland. White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America. New York: New York University Press, 2008. Print.
Shifflette, Crandal. Selected Virginia Statutes Related to Slavery. Virtual Jamestown, 17 September 1630. Web.
Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York: Penguin, 2002. Print.