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An Analysis of Slavery and Freedom

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The rise of liberty and equality in this country [America] was accompanied by the rise of slavery, (Slavery and Freedom: An American Paradox, page 5). This statement holds true as a paradox. A paradox is defined as statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth (Dictionary.com). Edmund S. Morgan specifically states that the developments of freedom and equality arrived hand and hand with slavery and occurred simultaneously in his article Slavery and Freedom: An American Paradox. Freedom and slavery are thought of as opposites, like the North and South Pole. With the history of this country and its development of independence the act of slavery and the preaching of freedom, equality, and independence is contradictory. Although it is contradictory slavery and freedom did occur simultaneously. I do agree with Morgans argument, historians have considered slavery as an exception to the rise of freedom, but what was really occurring was racism and the claim of being superior to blacks.

The central principle of American foreign policy was based on the statement, Free ships make free goods. This phrase was attempting to enforce a state of free seas, mostly of shipping goods. This was another technique of preaching the idealism of freedom and equality, but once again this was also contradictory seeing as how the goods that they were supporting freedom for, were produced mostly through the measures of slavery and the labor that slaves provide. A specific product, that was the most profitable crop at the time, which was produced by slave labor as well, was tobacco. Tobacco was such a large crop involved with foreign affairs that some historians claimed that to a very large degree it may be said that American bought their independence with slave labor.

Virginia was the largest tobacco producing colony, and therefore involved around forty percent of slavery in the Americas at this time. Virginia also possessed three well-known and famous spokesmen of freedom: James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. Each of these three lead spokesmen in preaching and supporting freedom, were also slave owners, and they remained so throughout their lives. Thomas Jefferson, above all, led the most contradictory life style. He was able to hold on to his life style as a slave owner and still support freedom and equality among white men. In Jeffersons defense, although contradictory, he had a rather unique perspective of freedom. To Jefferson freedom would remain in the hands of a man as long as was able to hold on to some sort of property, such as land. If a man were able to hold onto property, he would not have to rely on another man, or be dependant.

Although Jefferson speaks of property as land in terms of freedom, the only way he could not find himself to be a hypocrite, would be if he believed that slavery of African Americans were to be considered as property as well. African Americans were not considered as human beings or individuals. They were treated as property, throughout slavery. They were traded, bought, and trained to do a specific job as a craftsman, to be an artificer.

Indentured servants were treated much the same as slaves. Indentured servants were not always willingly brought to the colonies. Some were forced, or tricked into being shipped to the Americas. A difference between slaves and indentured servants was that indentured servants had a chance at freedom after their contract was up. Contracts lasted from four to seven years, and some masters would accuse the indentured servant of thievery, disobeying, or any other accounts that would keep the indentured servant longer. Most indentured servants were not as luck to have survived the full four to seven years, but if they were able to do so, depending on the colonies rules, were to be freed with some sort of property, usually of land. Most indentured servants were not expected to live past the time set of their contracts, so the masters did not really begin worrying about indentured servants until the surviving rates rose.

The rise of the American colonies and American history has truly been a paradox based on modern opinions and definitions. When slavery was legal, and enforced as a trade, the view point on blacks and their lack of freedom did not appear to be contradictory to the white individuals of this time. Blacks were considered to be property, a way to work the land better, quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently. Back then, blacks were not viewed as individuals or human beings and so they did not appear to deserve the same liberal rights of freedom and equality that were being supported.

Edmund Morgans argument rings true in some aspects, but there is no definite answer to the question: Was this a paradox? Morgans argument can be taken up from numerous sides, but this can only be done based on the different definitions each person holds. Thomas Jefferson would say that his slaves dont have rights, because he views them as property, but Barack Obama, the current African American United States President would beg to differ. In Jeffersons time, slaves were not considered as individuals, they were considered as items that could be bought and traded. Today, slavery still exists in different forms, but still remains illegal. Although some Americans and individuals remain racist, for the most part we are considered free and equal for a lack of better terms.

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