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Black History and Blacks in U.S. History
A Nation Divided
(1840-1861)

Slavery and the Law



Slavery and the Law
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.96

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    knell, manumission, polarize, recourse, corrupt, legislation, barred, better, status, segment, affecting, federal, bondage, virtual, radical, shun
     content words:    American Revolution, Sierra Leone, United States, Thomas Jefferson, Missouri Compromise, Fugitive Slave Law, Underground Railroad, Civil War, Fugitive Slave Act, Emancipation Proclamation


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Slavery and the Law
By Mary L. Bushong
  

1     Imagine agreeing to work for someone for a set period of time. In return for that work you will do, they pay for you to immigrate to a new country, a trip you could not have made otherwise. That is the basic idea behind being an indentured servant. But what would happen if your "contract" was lost? You could easily find yourself in a position many of the first slaves found themselves. That problem did not affect just them, but their children as well.
 
2     In a time of severe labor shortage, it became convenient to declare the black arrivals slaves, not indentured servants as the first had been. After the American Revolution, the legal position of slaves was not debated. Generations of whites had lived in virtual slavery in Europe under the feudal system. Human bondage in many forms had been common up until then, and was generally accepted. When the U.S. Constitution was written, the phrase "all men" did not apply to slaves.
 
3     Slave owners were not required to give a minimal amount of care. Since slaves were considered no better than animals, a slave owner could do whatever he wanted with his "property." Some slaves were starved, some were beaten, and many slaves were worked to death. As people began to move to new territories, they took their slaves with them.

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