Slavery and Abolition, 1831-1841

By Albert Bushnell Hart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
CONTROL OF THE SLAVES
(1830-1860)

SLAVE labor always depends upon physical force abundant enough, swift enough, and thorough enough to compel obedience and to break down insubordination; and the slave system was backed up by a large body of statutory law and a private system for punishing offences. The slave codes included much of the law applicable to the free negro,1 with special provisions applicable only to bondmen.2 In selecting out of the mass of legislation some of the most characteristic provisions, it should be remembered that the slave codes were always more severe in the communities having the largest number of slaves--that is, in the lower south.

In part, the slave codes were intended for the protection of the slave against ill-usage. Several states had laws against Sunday work, others against undue tasks, others provided for a minimum ration, or for a mid-day rest. All the slave-holding states made the malicious and unnecessary killing of a

____________________
1
See above, chap. vi.
2
Hurd, Law of Freedom and Bondage, I., §§ 216-230.

-109-

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