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Written by John A. Braithwaite

The following DBQ is based upon the accompanying documents and your knowledge
of the time period involved. This question tests your ability to work with historical
documents. Your answer should be derived mainly from the documents, however,
you may refer to historical facts, materials, and developments NOT mentioned in the
documents. You should assess the reliability of the documents as historical sources
where relevant to your answer.


What were the economic, social, and political motives for the creation and maintenance
of slavery in America? Discuss these issues at some significant length and be sure to
touch upon all facets of slavery-racial, gender, and child slavery.

1. Formulate a thesis statement.

2. Use documents provided as well as your own outside knowledge of the period.
3. Deal evenly with each part of the assessment.
4. Be sure to cover the time period given.
Document A

Source: Donald Wright, African Americans in the Colonial Period.

In the spring of 1727 an English barque, the John and Betty sailed up Chesapeake Bay and
into the mouth of the Rappannock River with 140 African slaves on board.

The cargo was smaller than many straight from Guinea, so it was not of extraordinary value.
Still, it was early in tobacco-growing season and demand was high. Also, a number of the
Africans were from Senegambia and the Gold Coast, the areas Virginia planters favored most.

What occurred on the Rappahnnock in 1727 took place in varied fashion over several
centuries along the Atlantic side of the New World, from the British colonies in the north to
Brazil in the south. The colonies were part of an enormous economic system that linked the
continents bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The system relied on European management, capital,
and shipping, and involved New World production of goods for European consumption. By the
seventeenth century those in control of the system preferred African slaves for the colonial
labor force.

The idea of importing labor from some distance for intensive work on export crops was an old
one. From the thirteenth century a plantation system had existed in the eastern Mediterranean,
geared to provide a European market with sugar. Like the Atlantic plantations of half a
millenium later, capital management came from Europe and labor to grow the cane was
human property. Mediterranean shippers brought in workers from southern Russia (thus the
word slave, from Slav), the eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa. For over two centuries
the plantations made profits and the institution spread. By 1450, on the even European
expansion into the South Atlantic, sugar plantations existed in the western Mediterranean and
even on nearby Atlantic islands.

Economic reason for slavery’s creation- slavery not necessarily racially motivated because
whites were also enslaved in the past- slavery primarily economically motivated
Document B

Source: Map of Africa as it appears in Donald Wright's African Americans in the Colonial
Era. Pg. 10. Courtesy of Harlan Davidson Publishers.
Document C

Source: The Presidents Speak, speech of Franklin Pierce. [Davis Newton Lott, The
Presidents Speak New York: Henry E. Holt & Company,1994, pp. 125-26]

.... .1 believe that involuntary servitude, as it exists in different States of this Confederacy,
is recognized by the Constitution. I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and
that the States where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional
provisions. I hold that the laws of 1850, commonly called the "Compromise measures", are
strictly constitutional and to be unhesitatingly carried into effect, I believe that the constituted
authorities of this Republic are bound to regard the rights of the South in this respect as they
would view any other legal and constitutional right.
Political- south viewed it as a conflict between states’ rights and enumerated powers

Document D

Source: Kenneth M. Stampp, A Peculiar Institution. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
1956, p.
385. The following was a printed quotation from anonymous Alabamian in (1853)

"I think of no investment so sure as a plantation and Negroes."


Document E

Source: Donald Wright, African Americans In the Colonials Period. Harlan Davidson.
1990, p. 17.

"In rough terms, over 11.5 million people were exported from the Atlantic coast of black Africa
and nearly 10 million of these people arrived in the New World. Annual averages of Africans
brought to the New World grew from about 2,000 in the late 1500's, to a peak of 80,000 in
1780. No enterprise of such proportion could have existed through casual contact or chance
capture. The Atlantic slave trade was carefully planned big business.
Economic- creation/maintenance
Document F

Source: Number of slaveholders in the United States in 1850. Atlas of Historical Geography
of the United States. (Used by permission from the Carnegie Institution of Washington).

Holders of 1 Slave 68,820

2 - 4 Slaves 105,683
5 - 9 Slaves 80,765
10 - 19 Slaves 54,595
20 - 49 Slaves 29,733
50 - 99 Slaves 6,196
100 - 199 Slaves 1,479
200 - 299 Slaves 187
300 - 499 Slaves 56
500 or more Slaves 11
Total Number of Slaveholders 347,525
Social-owning slaves was so common and so expected that one was viewed as inferior if one
did not
Document G

Source: A Century Of Population: From the First Census of the US to the Twelfth, 1790-1900

Slave Population 1790-1860

Year Total Population

1790 697,624
1800 893,602
1810 1,191,362
1820 1,538,022
1830 2,009,043
1840 2,487,355
1850 3,204,313
1860 3,953,760
Economic maintenance- Even after 1808, when slave importation was banned, slave
population continued to grow enormously- slaves were no longer just used in the
fields- they were being used as breeders, as economic ends in themselves

Document H

Source: Richard D. Brown. Slavery in American Society. (Lexington, Mass: D.C. Heath
& Company, 1969.)

"Every slave state made it a felony to say or write anything that might lead, directly or
indirectly, to discontent or rebellion. In 1837, the Missouri legislature passed an act ‘To prohibit
the publication, circulation, and promulgation of the abolition doctrines.’ The Virginia Code of
1849 provided a fine and imprisonment for any person who maintained 'that owners have no
right of property in their slaves' Louisiana made it a capital offense to use 'language in any
public discourse, from the bar, the bench, the stage, the pulpit, or in any place whatsoever'
that might produce 'insubordination among the slaves'. Most Southern states used their police
power to prohibit the circulation of incendiary material through the United States.”

Document I

Source: The Wilmot Proviso.

“Acquisition of any territory from the republic of Mexico by the United States...neither
slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory..."

Document J

Source: Article IV, Clause 2, and Constitution of the United States.

"No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping
into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such
service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to who such service or labor
may be due."

Document K

Source: Fugitive Slave Act, 1850

The federal official was "hereby authorized and required to employ so many persons
as he may deem necessary to overcome such force, and to retain them in his service so long
as circumstances may require. The said officer and his assistants, while so employed, are to
receive the same compensation, and to be allowed the same expenses, as are now allowed
by law for transportation of criminals, to be certified by the judge of the district within which the
arrest is made, and paid out of the treasury of the United States.”

Economic maintenance- many bounty hunters could make a fortune off capturing escaped
Document L

Source: James McPherson, Ordeal By Fire. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 34-38 & 51.

Economic historians have demonstrated that slavery was profitable. But profitable for whom?
Another way to look at the economics of slavery is to ask whether the institution promoted or
inhibited Southern development. (p51)
Slavery formed the foundation of the South's distinctive social order. . ."Break down slavery,"
said Governor Wise of Virginia, "and you would with the same blow destroy the democratic
principle of equality among men." Here was the central paradox of American history: slavery
became for many whites the foundation of liberty and equality.
For the slaves there was no paradox: slavery was slavery, and freedom was it opposite.
Chattel bondage gave the master great power over his slaves to buy or sell, to punish without
sanction of the courts, to separate families, to exploit sexually, even to kill with little fear of
being held legally responsible. As a form of property, the slaves had few human rights in the
eyes of the law.

Social reason for maintenance

Document M

Source: Henry Steele Commager, Documents of American History. Volume I. "Chrittenden

Peace Proposal" December 1860.

"In all the territory of the United States now held, or hereafter acquired, situated north of
Latitude, 36*30', slavery or involuntary servitude... is prohibited...
Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction...
no power to abolish slavery with the District of Columbia so long as it exists in the adjoining
States of Virginia and Maryland, or either, not without the consent of the inhabitants, nor
without just compensation first made to such owners as do not consent to such abolishment...
no power to prohibit or hinder the transportation of slaves from State to another...
... and no amendment shall be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or give
Congress any power to abolish or interfere with slavery in any of the states by whose laws it is,
or may be, allowed or permitted.
Document N

Source: Excerpt from a long poem by William Grayson. Praises Negro slavery over
wage slavery.

The Hireling
Free but in name--the slaves of endless toil...
In squalid hut--a kennel for the poor,
Or noisome cellar, stretched upon the floor
His clothing rags, of filthy straw his bed,
With offal from the gutter daily fed...
These are the miseries, such the wants, the cares, The bliss that freedom for the serf

The Slave
Taught by the master's efforts, by his care
Fed, clothed, protected many a patient year,
From trivial numbers now to millions grown,
With all the white man's useful arts their own,
Industrious, docile, skilled in wood and field,
To guide the plow, the sturdy axe to wield....
Guarded from want, from beggary secure,
He feels what hireling crowds endure,
Nor knows like them, in hopeless want to crave
For wife and child, the comforts of the slave,
Or the sad thought that, when about to die,
He leaves them to the cold world's charity.
Document 0

Source: James 0. Randall & David Donald, Civil War & Reconstruction. New York: D.C. Heath
& Company, 1961, PP 52-53.

Comments On Slavery

The historical background of American slavery must be sought in the early slave trade
of Europe. The introduction of slavery came rather as an incident of the long process of
discovery and colonization.
By the year of independence the number of slaves in North America increased to 500,000.
The heyday of the slave trade brought from 40,000 to 100,000 Negroes taken from Africa each
year. and the ultimate toll of the trade upon the native African populations was of colossal
Many died on the way from thirst, famine, or exhaustion. On arriving at the coast, the Negroes
were selected and purchased by the traders and then subjected to the horrors of "the middle
passage" The realities of the middle passage were in fact so revolting that a writer of the
present day hesitates to give such details to his readers.... an eye witness spoke of "400
wretched beings... crammed into a hold 12 yards in length and only 31/2 feet in height." There
were "Fifty four crushed and mangled corpses lifted up from the slave deck". In a forty-day
period 175 slaves died on the ship while many others died after being landed. Slaves were
branded with a hot iron like cattle. They were held in chains and ruled by fear.

Document P

Source: John Randolph and Roanoke: 1773-1833. Richard Randolph explains Act of

"To make retribution, as far as I am able, to an unfortunate race of bondmen, over whom my
ancestors have usurped and exercised the most lawless and monstrous tyranny, and in who
my countrymen... have vested me with absolute property... I could not exercise the right of
ownership necessary to their emancipation and ... obliged to keep them on my land... I do
hereby declare that it is my will and desire, nay most anxious wish that my Negroes, all of
them, be liberated. . .”
Document Q

South Carolina Department of Archives, "Lucy Andrews Petition To Enter Slavery. (1859).

"To the Honorable, the Senate... The humble petition of Lucy Andrews, a free Person of color,
would respectfully represent unto your Honorable Body... That she is dissatisfied with her
present condition being compelled to go about from place to place to seek employment... no
one caring about employing her... Slaves are far more happy and enjoy themselves far better,
than she does, in her present isolated condition of freedom... Your Petitioner therefore prays,
that your Honorable Body, would enact a law, authorizing, and permitting her, to go voluntarily
into Slavery...”

Social reason for slavery b/c Lucy is unhappy with her life as a free women b/c now she
has to provide for herself and realizes it is very difficult. this view was pushed by many
supporters of slavery, that blacks were incapable of taking care of themselves and
facing the difficulties of life and therefore they were better off in slavery
Document R
Source: Winthrop Jordan, "Englishmen and Africans" quoted from his award winning book
White Over Black, as it appears in abstract form in Roberts & Olson, American Experiences:
Readings in American History [pp.54-74].

The Elizabethan English were race conscious and very explicit about sex and Negroes. It is
certain that the presumption of the power of sexuality in the black men was far from being an
incidental or casual association in the minds of English. [Southerners were so pro-English that
they fit into the very same cultural stereotype.]

How very deeply this association operated is obvious in Othello, a drama which loses most of
its power [and] points because the black man was the hero... Shakespeare was writing both
about and to his countrymen's feelings concerning physical distinctions between peoples; the
play is shot through with the language of blackness and sex. Iago goes out of his way to talk
about his own motives:
"I hate the Moor,"
"And it is thought abroad that twixt my sheets, he has done my office."

And then, Iago told the agitated Brabantio that

"An old black ram, is tupping your white ewe" and alluded to "Your daughter is covered with a
Barbary horse."

Social reason for creation of slavery- Southerners, coming from England, were hard-wired to
view blacks as inferior and therefore treated them as such
Document S

Source: Philip Burnham, a Washington based journalist who specializes in issues and
concerns of minorities. As quoted in John A. Garraty, Historical Viewpoints. Vol. 1, New York:
Harper Collins, pp 295-310.

But in the hundred and fifty years that followed, many other black slave owners imitated
Johnson's example, and for a variety of reasons. According to U.S. Census records, 3,775 free
blacks-living mostly in the South owned a total of 12,760 slaves. Though vast majority of these
owned no more than a few slaves, some in Louisiana and South Carolina held as many as
seventy or eighty. Nor was the South the only region to know about black Slave-owners. Their
presences were recorded in Boston, by 1724 and in Connecticut 1783. As late as 1830, some
blacks still owned slaves in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York....

Social b/c blacks continuing to support slavery over other blacks b/c they saw others doing it
and thus did not consider it wrong

End of DBQ Examination Question