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Freedom and Slavery

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Essay title: Freedom and Slavery

What is freedom? Like many other concepts floating around us in this strange universe, freedom is relative to the observer. Many of us, not only, take for granted the freedoms which we have, but are also oblivious to those which we do not. To me freedom is simply being able and unrestricted in pursuing personal happiness by any means necessary, provided that the pursuit of personal happiness for any other individual is not prevented, hindered, or put in jeopardy in any way, except if by just cause, such as self defense, self preservation, self sacrifice, or (in some cases) vengeance. Unfortunately, justification of these scenario's is based strictly on individual perception, (relative to the observer) which varies greatly and can‘t be proven (100%) to anyone other than the perceiver him/her self. The South's justification of slavery was a good example of these variations in perception, as I'm sure many plantation owners would have argued that owning slaves was necessary to "self preservation" of their way of life. So, until we can be all telepathically linked to one another and have something along the lines of a collective perception of justice in order to properly judge if any case involving some kind of "interference" in ones pursuit of happiness was in fact justified, than no system of laws can effectively be put in place to protect against violations of freedom without restricting freedom as well, and my definition of freedom is just an illusion that can never be achieved but must always be strived for in order to preserve the freedoms we are allotted. Throughout this nations history, its economy, motivation, and way of life have been dependant on this illusion of freedom for all which we call "the American Dream," but it has consistently and hypocritically limited the attainability of freedom at any level to only a select few.

Because freedom is based on perception, and ones perception is based on their own environment and experiences, it's expected for there to be many different versions of freedom in a place whose inhabitants come from as many different backgrounds as there are in America. Even in the nations infancy, when the first settlers arrived, what was considered "free" varied from region to region, group to group, and person to person depending on their background, beliefs, and reasons for being there. To Europeans, freedom meant either to live a life "free" from sin (for those who came for religious reasons), being unrestricted in seeking property and economic security, or obedience to the law and authority figures, (Foner 30-32) which is why Englishmen considered natives, who's concept of freedom most closely resembled my own, "too free for there own good" and saw their way of life as threatening. To the Africans brought over as slaves, freedom meant resisting bondage by any means, and to be free from servitude. As one would expect this diversity of ideas often resulted in episodes of violence, betrayal, and dishonor based on greed, misunderstandings, and paranoia. But, of all the groups of people that were brought together in this "new world," Africans were the only ones who were, not only, not here by choice, but also were allowed less freedom than anyone else.

When the first black slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619, the colonies economy was dependent mainly on tobacco which required a vast labor force to meet the newly formed demand for it in Europe.(Foner, 49-50) Before tobacco became the cash crop, their was no need to rely on slave labor, as the colony was originally set up to find gold (which there was none). Around the same time in Massachusetts, slaves were almost exclusively used as house servants, and considered a luxury only for those rich enough to afford them. The economy in the northern colonies was never dependent on slave labor, as they lacked any kind of an export with a strong demand and relied mainly on family farms for producing there own food, only exporting a small marketable amount of lumber, fish and surplus food.(Foner, 67)

By the eighteenth century, life for slaves in the colonies varied from place to place. In the Chesapeake region, where slavery more or less began, tobacco was still the leading export and the business continued to expand. By 1770 over 270,000 slaves populated the region. (Foner,115) With the growing slave population, the threat of an uprising made plantation owners uneasy and they began to tighten their grip on black freedoms, and began using race as an excuse for segregation more frequently. Even freed Blacks were losing there freedoms. Laws being passed in the region took there rights to vote, bear arms, or employ white servants. Virginia Law required them to pay special taxes, and eventually forced them to leave the colony upon being freed, making the colonies free black population virtually non-existent.

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