Measuring Worth - Measuring the Value of a Slave

Measuring Worth - Measuring the Value of a Slave: "Slavery was an ancient practice on the North American continent. Within the colonies that became the United States, slavery first appeared in Virginia in 1619.1 It was legal in all the British colonies, but it was practiced on a larger scale in what became the US South and the British Islands of the Caribbean. African slavery in the South was largely a response to the greater demand for labor on tobacco, rice, and indigo plantations. Northern farms were generally smaller, family-sized plots of land with the family supplying most of the labor. Before the American Revolution, there was no significant movement for abolition. By the early 1800s, most Northern states had passed laws in favor of abolition, but the acts called for gradual abolition. In the South, on the other hand, slavery became an ingrained economic and legal institution. Slaves and their progeny were the property of an owner, and slaves were owned until they died. They could be bought and sold; their owners controlled their lives and those of their children. When slaves were sold, the contract was a legal document, even to the extent that a buyer could sue the seller if a slave was sold under false pretenses. Even slaves themselves had some protection under the law; they could not be abandoned or executed. Before independence, the laws of the colonies could not be inconsistent with English law. Chief Justice Lord William Mansfield in the Somersett case (heard in London in 1772) held that English law did not support slavery, a ruling that eventually led to the peaceful extinction of African slavery in the British Empire. By then, the Americans were on a different path. In the Constitutional Convention discussions of 1787, it was held that slavery was not a moral issue but a matter of "interest" only. Some delegates believed that slavery was going to die out. Virginia had attempted several times unilaterally to end the slave trade to Virginia ports, but the Board of Trade lawyers in London had overruled it. The federal government prohibited the trade in slaves beginning in 1808, but statesmanship and jurisprudence could not find a way to end the institution. Within a decade of the Constitutional Convention, Eli Whitney's cotton gin appeared, which is popularly credited with sparking an explosion in cotton production in the South. This explanation may be partly true, but it is also the case that the technological improvements in spinning and weaving in England created a big increase in the demand for cotton, a cloth much preferred to wool. These events together reenergized the demand for slaves."

'via Blog this'