Describe the three slave systems that existed in British North America during the mid-18th century?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Not all textbooks talk about three slave systems in Colonial America.  One that does, however, is Eric Foner’s Give Me Liberty.  Foner argues that there were three distinct slave systems during colonial times.  These systems existed in three different parts of the colonies.  There was the Chesapeake system, the Georgia and South Carolina system, and the non-plantation system of the mid-Atlantic colonies and the North.  The differences were based largely on the sort of things the slaves were producing.

The Chesapeake system was based on tobacco.  The most prominent feature of this system, aside from what it produced, was the size of the plantations on which most slaves lived.  Most slaves in this area lived on relatively small plantations.  This means that there was a great deal of interaction between the typical slave and his or her owners and other whites.

The Georgia and South Carolina was, in those pre-cotton days, based largely on rice with some production of indigo.  Both of these crops required very large work forces to cultivate.  This meant that these slaves lived mainly on very large plantations.  They had less interaction with whites.

The Northern system was not based on any one staple crop.  There, slaves worked on small family farms to some degree but also worked in urban occupations.   A major aspect of this system was that there were not that many slaves relative to the number of white people.  Since there were so many fewer slaves in the North, these colonies did not have the same kinds of harsh restrictions on slaves that were seen in the South. 

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The three slave systems that existed in British North America were the tobacco-based slave system in the Chesapeake, the rice- and cotton-based slave system in South Carolina and Georgia, and non-plantation slavery in the Middle Colonies and New England. The original slave system in the New World developed in the Chesapeake to harvest tobacco. Cultivating tobacco relied on skilled labor to raise high-quality crops, and the production model was artisanal and small. Most of the slaves raising tobacco were men. In the deeper South, slave owners from Barbados settled on large rice and cotton plantations that required a great deal of labor. These plantations were more like factories and relied on large numbers of relatively less skilled slaves, including children and women, to harvest crops. In the Middle Colonies and New England, there were relatively few slaves, and many farmers owned only one slave. In general, the slave system of the deeper South was more brutal than that of the Chesapeake and of the North. 

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were three slave systems that existed in British North America in the mid-18th century. One system was called the Chesapeake System and was found in the colonies of Maryland and Virginia. In these colonies, slaves were used with the growing of tobacco, grain, and corn. Slaves were also sometimes used in industries such as mining and shipbuilding. However, the main use of slaves was in the area of farming.

In the Southern colonies, such as Georgia and South Carolina, slaves were used with the growing of crops such as rice and indigo. Many slaves worked on large plantations in these colonies. However, people with small farms also had some slaves.

In the North, some slaves were used for farming and raising cattle. Also, some slaves worked in the homes of wealthy people who lived in northern cities. In some cases, owning slaves in the North was a sign of social status.

There were three slave systems in British North America in the mid-18th century.