The Entrenchment Of Slavery Within America
Slavery became a highly profitable system for white plantation owners in the colonial South. In South Carolina, successful slave owners took advantage of the fact that at the end of the 17th century, some of the earliest African arrivals had shown English settlers how rice could be grown in the swampy coastal environment. With cheap and permanent workers available in the form of slaves, plantation owners realized this strange new crop could make them rich. As rice boomed, land owners found the need to import more African slaves to clear the swamps where the rice was grown and to cultivate the crop. By 1710, scarcely 15 years after rice came to Carolina, Africans began to out-number Europeans in South Carolina.
Slavery was rapidly becoming an entrenched institution in American society, but it took brutal force to impose this sort of mass exploitation upon once-free people.
"If you're an authority, you're constantly trying to figure how tightly you want to impose the lid with respect to people running away. How fierce should the punishments be? Should it be a whipping? Should it be the loss of a finger or a hand or a foot? Should it be wearing shackles perpetually," questioned Peter Wood, a Carolina slave owner.
Soon authorities developed laws to keep the African American population under control. Whipping, branding, dismembering, castrating, or killing a slave were legal under many circumstances. A few white men, although in the minority, balked at the cruelty toward African slaves. Francis Le Jau, an Anglican minister who oversaw a church built on land donated by the Middletons, spoke against the cruelty of slavery. Samuel Sewall, a Boston judge, wrote a pamphlet called The Selling of Joseph, criticizing slavery.
Georgia, the last free colony, legalized slavery in 1750. That meant slavery was now legal in each of the thirteen British colonies that would soon become the United States. But the conflict between those who supported racial enslavement and those who believed in freedom was only just beginning.
In the tumultuous generation of the American Revolution, protests against "enslavement" by Britain and demands for American "liberty " would become common in the rebellious colonies, and many African Americans, both slave and free, had high hopes that the rhetoric of Independence would apply to them. These hopes, however, would eventually be dashed, and it would take a bloody civil war three generations later to finally bring an end to the enslavement of black Americans.