Westward expansion Essay
The westward expansionist tradition of the country not only brought about territory, but it also spread both the tradition of slavery. Many of the cotton farmers moved west and brought their slaves with them. Historians call this period the Second Middle Passage. Many of the slaves were forcefully removed from their families and communities to work for new farms in the west. This slave exodus marked one of the most significant periods in African slavery. African slaves were subjected to psychological stress due to their forceful exclusion from their families and familiar environments. The westward movement was extremely difficult.
Aside from the psychological hardship that being away from their families presented, they were also subjected to physical difficulties. Most of them were forced to travel on foot, only stopping in temporary holding pens for slaves where further slave trade was performed. The slaves were mobilized in shackles and chains as traders feared violence ensuing from the slaves. In their destination, extremely difficult work was waiting for them. Many of the areas in the west were still undeveloped, and so the burden of clearing forests, building barns and pioneer-planting crops in the fields were placed on the slaves’ shoulders.
Alongside the exhaustion from the intense labor, unfavourable working conditions and amenities contributed to the high mortality rate of newly arrived slaves. This condition was so economically unfavourable for the slave owners that many of them resorted to temporarily renting slaves than using their own to complete the work. Many of the slaves resisted after being exposed to such dreadful conditions which ultimately gave the farmers and their overseers more reason to resort to cruelty and aggression to control slaves.
Brutalities towards the slaves were institutionalized by the court. Overseers can physically harm slaves and in some cases, even kill the dissenting slave. The owners were authorized by court to use the slaves and their families at his disposal. Members of the family can be used by the owner to pay-off debts or increase income by selling them as slaves. It is common to find slave families broken and hurt from the separation of husbands, wives and children from one another.
The slaves were given amenities and benefits like food, health care and clothing but only to a bare minimum. Disabling slaves by maiming them and executions for fugitive slaves were allowed by law. Sexual abuse and rape of the slaves was also rampant. In court, slaves were considered sub-human. If one does commit a crime, however, he is considered as an entity capable of thought and act, and thus is regarded as a rational being. With all these brutalities toward slaves, it is important to note that the treatment of slaves is dependent on skin color.
Light-skinned slaves were dressed, fed and treated better than the dark-skinned ones who worked mostly in the fields. Anti-slavery supporters coming from the north knew of the brutalities and abuses inflicted on the slaves of the south. They sought to stop the institution of slavery, and this produced much tension between the two parties. The north’s movement to abolish slavery went against the economic favourability of slavery during that time. The economy dictated the increasing value of labor intensive industries in the south, and so labourers are needed more than ever.