Massachusetts Recognizes Slavery (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: The granting of formal status to slavery makes it an institution in the British colonies.
Summary of Event
From its outset, the Massachusetts Bay Colony endorsed the idea of unfree labor. One hundred eighty indentured servants arrived with the original colonists. Subsequent food shortages led to the surviving servants’ being set free in 1830. Unfree labor, however, continued on a private basis, and some white criminals were made slaves to court-appointed masters. Captives from the Pequot War of 1636-1637 were given over into slavery. Some of these captives were subsequently transported to a Puritan enclave off the coast of Nicaragua, and black slaves were introduced from there to the Massachusetts colony. The colony, however, remained without a formal endorsement of slavery until the promulgation of the Body of Liberties in 1641.
The Body of Liberties was controversial in many respects. It evolved out of the gradually weakening authority of Governor John Winthrop and his first Board of Assistants, and the emergence of the General Court as a representative body of freemen. The document was crafted and adopted by Elizabethan men who had grown up in the age of Shakespeare and the King James Bible. They were not democrats, but they had a strong sense of destiny and a healthy fear of absolute authority. In a larger sense, the document came to reflect the classic and ancient struggle between...
(The entire section is 1367 words.)
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