American Negro Slavery: A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime

By Ulrich Bonnell Phillips | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII ECONOMIC VIEWS OF SLAVERY: A SURVEY OF THE LITERATURE

IN barbaric society slavery is a normal means of conquering the isolation of workers and assembling them in more productive coördination. Where population is scant and money little used it is almost a necessity in the conduct of large undertakings, and therefore more or less essential for the advancement of civilization. It is a means of domesticating savage or barbarous men, analogous in kind and in consequence to the domestication of the beasts of the field.1 It was even of advantage to some of the people enslaved, in that it saved them from extermination when defeated in war, and in that it gave them touch with more advanced communities than their own. But this was counterbalanced by the stimulus which the profits of slave catching gave to wars and raids with all their attendant injuries. Any benefit to the slave, indeed, was purely incidental. The reason for the institution's existence was the advantage which accrued to the masters. So positive and pronounced was this reckoned to be, that such highly enlightened people as the Greeks and Romans maintained it in the palmiest days of their supremacies.

Western Europe in primitive times was no exception. Slavery in a more or less fully typical form was widespread. When the migrations ended in the middle ages, however, the rise of feudalism gave the people a thorough territorial regimentation. The dearth of commerce whether in goods or in men led gradually to the conversion of the unfree laborers from slaves into serfs or villeins attached for generations to the lands on which they wrought. Finally, the people multiplied so greatly and the land-

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1
This thought was expressed, perhaps for the first time, in T. R. Dew's essay on slavery ( 1832); it is elaborated in Gabriel Tarde, The Laws of Imitation (Parsons tr., New York, 1903), pp. 278, 279.

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