Slavery and Freedom in America: Edmund S. Morgan

The question over how the republic was dedicated to liberty for all while also being involved witha system of labor that denied human liberty on such a massive scale. He focused his study on Virginia, the largest state by population, size, power and influence, and slave numbers.Morgan began with a look at Elizabethan Britain that revealed the irony of what would come to pass in Virginia: natives and blacks allied with the British to puncture Spanish control inthe New World.

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Morgan creates a persuasive argument that early colonists looked upon NativeAmericans and the Cimarron without racial prejudices, which brought him into direct conflict with other the consensus school that asserted racism was a core value in early American culture.In fact this monograph was in itself part of the move from the traditional school of American historians to the revisionist in the 1960s and 1970s.After the vast, yet informational, survey of early colonial America, Morgan turned to address his larger thesis over how the American paradox came into being and what its greater ramifications were. He asserted the problem with the British Empire in the late sixteenth, early seventeenth centuries, was ultimately overpopulation. A remedy to this situation was beneficial double for Virginia and other colonies, as well as the British Isles because it allowed for the expansion of the plantation system while moving less productive citizens from the motherland.

The Virginia experience began as a failed experiment of simply relocating landless, jobless individuals. Morgan then explored how the minority elite class in Virginia quickly transformed the predicaments into a labor system of exploitation. In essence, by the 1670s servitude in Virginia approached closer to slavery than any other institution or practice did at the time. The well known revolt, Bacon’s Rebellion, then marked the watershed of the labor system from indentured servitude, to slavery. Morgan explains that up to Bacon’s Rebellion, African slaveswere rarer because there was already a sufficient supply of indentured servants who would work for a set amount of time to earn their passage. Of course, high mortality rates slackened over time and these servants began to outlive their contracts and Virginia again found itself in asimilar situation of discontent reminiscent of the motherland’s problem when the institution began.

The move to African slavery, Morgan contended, marked a point of unification for thewhite classes; newly freed white servants found ways to reciprocate their experiences by obtaining land and buying slaves who would work for their entire life. To Morgan, this signified a new age, or ideology, of freedom and equality uniform at rudimentary levels across Virginia. It was this crucial link between rising racial animosity and demands for freedom of the white population that was the greatest tragedy and oversight in the founding of the United States

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