A People’s History of the United States
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I am an English Immigrant who came to Virginia as an indenture servant in 1649 at the age of 18. After our entire estate was seized by the Parliamentarian forces during the English Civil war, my father was forced to send me to this place for five years. My master is harsh and strict when it comes to work. He forces me and my fellow servants to work from dawn to dark without any food in our stomachs. My daily chores include; house service, gardening and milking, shearing sheep, building burns, taking care of children and occasionally helping out fellow servants in the fields. Anytime I make a petty mistake, my master always whips me severely. Life in this farm is miserable, because I do not have any cloth to put on my frail body, no food to put on my empty stomach and no place to rest my tired body at the end of the day.
In my contract, it was stipulated that my master should help me get some education, education; award me with several animals and a piece of land after servitude. Therefore, I am assured of a bright future after serving my master for these five years. I will use this freedom package to better my life. For instant, I will cultivate my land and sale the proceeds to other residents. After establishing myself, I will marry the woman of my dreams and have a happy family of my own. My major future prospect is to become a successive land owner just like my hero Anthony Johnson.
European men signed indentures for different reasons. During the seventeenth century, Europe was full of poor men and women. Most of them were landless farmers and tenants, who had been driven away from their lands due to the introduction of sheep grazing, changes in agriculture, the English civil war. Others signed these indentures because their masters in England had no more use for people who used to labor on the transformed fields (Galenson, 2004). Add to this, freed prisoners as well soldiers who had been released from the navy or army were penniless. Some courts would ask criminals to choose between being executed and being deported to the colonies, and most of them would choose the later.
By signing an indenture, a poor European man or woman would be given a chance to immigrate to the New World of “Honey and Milk.” This was a big hurdle for these young men and women because crossing the Atlantic was not cheap. These men and women also signed the indenture because they were assured of a better life because of the awaiting jobs, food and shelter. The above discourse reveals that those who signed indentures did it willfully. Nevertheless, some historical forces also compelled these young men and women to sign indentures. For example, overpopulation and poverty compelled people to sign indentures. It is asserted that some colonies allowed Europe to offset their overpopulated towns and cities.
After many years of an iron-fist control of the colonies by Native Americans, the up-rise of poor whites, former indentured servants and slaves posed a major threat to the elite’s control. Led by 29 year-old Nathaniel Bacon, lower class citizens in Virginia rebelled against the elites’ control of Jamestown. This led to a conflict between the Indians and the poor whites and blacks (Zinn, 2010). The poor whites and poor blacks wanted to eliminate all elites, who comprised of Indians and supported by Governor William Berkeley. Bacon encouraged the poor to defend and take what was rightfully theirs (Public Broadcasting Service, nda, par, 1). The elites were opposed to the Governor’s policies that favored the elites at the expense of the poor.
The non-land owners and Yeoman farmers were infuriated with the Indians because they stood in the way of their expansion. After capturing and killing several captives (enemies), the elites realized that their control was coming to an end. This rebellion exhibited that poor blacks and poor whites could come together and fight for a common cause. This elicited great fear among the elites because they realized that nothing could hinder the poor from coming together to fight them. As a result, this fear led to the adoption of racial slavery in the following years. To prevent such incidents from occurring in the future, the wealthy and the rich compelled the legislature to pass laws that would punish rebellious servants (Zinn, 2010).
The institution of African slavery in colonial America was characterized with the ownership of humans as pieces of movable property or chattels. As chattels, black slaves were compelled to slavery for life. One pragmatic reason as to why black slaves were treated as chattels is because of their skin color. Naturally, the whites considered Africans as being inferior in every aspect of life. Therefore, they had to show this in actions by treating them as property. Another pragmatic reason as to why slaves were being treated as property is because of the fact that the whites used money to acquire them. Pragmatically, anything bought is rightfully yours, therefore, one has a right of doing anything he or she wishes to that thing.
The Stono Rebellion, which started on 9 September 1739, is arguably the biggest slave uprising in colonial America. Although the real cause of this rebellion is not clear, historians attribute it to the tension between Spain and England (Davis, par, 1). As a result of the animosity between the two colonial powers, the Spanish government in Florida proclaimed that all slaves who found their way to St. Augustine would be given freedom and land. The though of being free and given land led many slaves in a killing spree that lasted for almost two days. Another issue that might have triggered this rebellion was the looming Security Act (Public Broadcasting Service, ndb, par 2). This Act allowed all white men to carry guns on Sunday while going to church in reaction to an impending insurrection. This act did not augur well with the blacks, thus a rebellion culminated.
At the end of the rebellion, the Negro Act was quickly finalized and enacted. This act compelled the slaves to face the consequences of the revolt. The main aim of this act was to limit the privileges of the slaves. From that time on, slaves were not allowed to assemble in small groups, cultivate their own food, and learn to read, or even earn their own money.
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