The American Promise
Masters versus Slaves in Virginia during the 1600s
CHOOSE A TOPIC: – Start by selecting ONE TOPIC below, based on readings on the syllabus, Week 4 or 5, regarding American history. – Use the required primary source document (Virginia Laws, OR Puritan Court Records) and The American Promise textbook (Ch. 3, 4, or 5) to analyze a specific historical challenge or controversy faced by colonial Americans in the area of either: Topic 1: Virginia Laws, OR Topic 2: Puritan Court Records. (See required outline below for paper.) – We will have topic sign-ups and a class where you must bring a draft to show, to keep you on schedule (see syllabus). – Each student must have their own approach to a topic and do their own work; copied or plagiarized work = 0/F. – Please see me if you have any questions about the assignment.
Topic 1: Required Essay Outline: Virginia Servant and Slave Laws, 1600s
– 1st or Introductory Paragraph / Main Argument: (at least 3 sentences for this paragraph) Make an argument about the extent to which the “Virginia Servant and Slave Laws” reveal the dominant efforts of masters to profit from their servants and slaves and the economic system of colonial America, and briefly explain why this is historically significant. (Define what kind of economic system in your essay.)
– 2nd Paragraph: Explain and analyze 2 specific examples from “Virginia Servant and Slave Laws” of masters’ possible goals of profiting from their servants and slaves (1 example quoted and cited, plus 1 example paraphrased or quoted). In addition, explain and analyze 1 specific example from The American Promise (quoted and cited) regarding possible goals of masters to profit from exploiting servants and slaves. Use all evidence to support your main argument.
– 3rd Paragraph: Explain and analyze 2 specific examples of what the “Virginia Servant and Slave Laws” reveal about possible goals or rebellions of servants and slaves against masters, and if successful, or not (1 example quoted and cited, plus 1 example paraphrased or quoted). In addition, explain and analyze a specific example from The American Promise (quoted and cited) regarding possible goals of servants and slaves and the extent to which they were were able to successfully rebel against the economic system, or not. Use all evidence to support your main argument. >> 4th Concluding Paragraph: Conclude paper, restate main argument in an interesting way,>> Show relevance and also restate why historically significant to a current event
Topic 2: Required Essay Outline: Puritan Suffolk County Court Records, 1600s
– 1st or Introductory Paragraph / Main Argument: (at least 3 sentences for this paragraph) Make an argument about the extent to which the “Puritan Court Records” reveal the dominant efforts of Puritans to restrict diverse religious views (different from their own) in colonial America, and briefly explain why this is historically significant. (Define what kind of religious views in your essay.)
– 2nd Paragraph: Explain and analyze 2 specific examples from the “Puritan Court Records” of Puritans’ possible goals of restricting others’ diverse religious views (1 example quoted and cited, plus 1 example paraphrased or quoted). In addition, explain and analyze 1 specific example from The American Promise (quoted and cited) about possible goals of Puritan leaders to restrict others’ religious views. Use all evidence to support your main argument.
– 3rd Paragraph: Explain and analyze 2 specific examples of what “Puritan Court Records” reveal about possible goals or rebellions of people against Puritan restrictions on diverse religious views, and if successful, or not (1 example quoted and cited, plus 1 example paraphrased or quoted). In addition, explain and analyze a specific example in The American Promise (quoted and cited) about possible goals of people and the extent to which they were able to successfully rebel against Puritans restricting religious views, or not. Use all evidence to support your main argument
Masters versus Slaves in Virginia during the 1600s
The Virginia Servant and Slave Laws that existed in the 1600s indicate that the masters dominated over their slaves, both economically and socially, in order to maximize on the profits they received. For example, a slave who became a Christian still operated as a slave even though some religious activities, such as baptism, signified the release of people from bondages. Moreover, all their economic activities were geared towards benefiting their master. Under the colonial economic system, the white people were superior to the Indians and the blacks. Virginia was still under the rule of Britons who determined the level of imports and exports in the region. The operation of the economic system at the time is of high significance as it indicates how people from different continents became Americans. Moreover, one gains insights on concepts of slave trade, slave labor, social classes, and struggle for freedom. In the 1600s, as the masters targeted at acquiring profits from the servants and slaves, the people in the inferior group embraced various means of rebelling against their superiors.
The masters had three possible goals of profiting from their slaves and servants, which entail optimization of available cheap labor, increment of cheap labor, and improving one’s political influence in the society. From the ‘Virginia Laws Governing Servants and Slave’, one of the possible goals masters had of profiting from the slaves and the servants was so that they could optimize cheap labor. The Law Punishing Runaway Servants, 1661, states that, “the people who often absent themselves from their masters service…and in the long run could not be found… had to double their times of service soe neglected” (“Virginia Servants and Slave Laws”, in Handout Set, p.2). Possibly, the masters complained that they incurred losses when a slave ran away since they had to spend time looking for them. Moreover, there was reduced labor, thus reduced profitability. Absenteeism, due to either sickness or running away, had to be repaid for with increased labor, thus increased profits. The laws also offer evidence that the masters targeted at optimizing their profits through increasing the amount of cheap labor. According to the ‘Law Specifies That Baptism Does Not Free Slaves, 1667’, the children born by black parents were slaves by birth. Even though they were baptized, they were still under the rule of their master. If the masters were to only claim the people they purchased as their slaved, they could not have a claim over their family members. Their children, however, were to serve them as their parents did. Consequently, cheap labor increased in the fields, thus improving on profitability. According to Roark in ‘The American Promise’, the whites targeted at improving their social standing through exploitation of the slaves and servants. Their hard work would enable them to be more influential in both the social and political environments. In Virginia, “only adult white men who owned at least one acres of unimproved land or twenty-five acres of land with a house could vote” (Roark, The American Promise, p. 65). Possibly, the masters could make their slaves to work from early in the morning to dawn so that they could generate profits that could enable them to purchase more land. As a result, they could take part in voting.
The servants, on the other hand, developed different strategies of rebelling against their masters in an effort to gain freedom. One of the ways they rebelled was through running away. Form the Law Punishing Runaway Servants, 1661, one can deduce that there was increased number of people who ran away or tried running away from the settlement. This could be due to the slave labor they were subjected to and their thirst to be free men. This rebellion resulted to those captured during escaped to be submitted to harsher working conditions. Another way the slaves and servants could have rebelled is through being violent against their masters. The Law Makes Killing a Slave Legal, 1669 states that, “punishment of refractory servants resisting their master, mistris or overseer cannot be inflicted upon negroes, nor the obstinacy of many of them by other then violent means supprest” (“Virginia Servants and Slave Laws”, in Handout Set, p.3). Evidently, the rebellion resulted in the masters feeling threatened. To increase fear among the slaves and reduce chances of attack, those who tried attacking the master were killed. In ‘The American Promise’, the author indicates various ways the slaves were rebellious against their masters. In South Carolina, there was the Stono Rebellion, where slaves wanted an end of slavery. It started when twenty slaves attacked and killed two storekeepers, stole ammunition, enticed others to join them, and engaged in activities such as burning plantations. Although they caused uproar, the whites suppressed this rebellion quickly before more slaves were influenced. Since the law dictated that any violence against the master could result in death, these slaves were possibly killed. Moreover, the State “enacted a draconian slave code to punish with the utmost severity enslaved negroes from the coast of Africa who were generally barbarous and savage disposition” (Roark, The American Promise, p.69). Fear was instilled among other slaves and servants. Thus, during the century, there was no other uprising advocating for freedom.
while the master’s efforts to exploit the slaves and servants to engage in
activities that could enable them to benefit, the slaves often plotted and
sought for ways of regaining their freedom. The masters profited in numerous
ways. They acquired cheap slave labor. They developed rules to grant them
ownership of the children born by the slaves so that the could benefit from
more labor. Thirdly, they overworked the servants and slaves to acquire more
wealth, which could enable them to have political influence in the society.
Instead of the slaves accepting their fate, they engaged in rebellious
activities such as trying to run away, becoming violent towards their masters,
and launching an uprising. However, these activities rarely bore positive
fruits but they became more succumbed to punishment and a risk of losing life.
Roark, James et al. The American Promise. Boston, Massachusetts: Bedfort, 2015.
Virginia Servants and Slave Laws (1600s) from the Handout Set.