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  • 1. Slavery Research ReportWere conditions of slavery worse in the English colonies than in the Spanish colonies? Ben Smith Corning U.S. History Period 5 19 January 2011 1026 Words
  • 2. Smith 1 Many U.S. citizens know Christopher Columbus as the man who discovered America,but what they don’t know is that by doing so, Columbus ultimately condemned millions ofAfricans into slavery for the next 400 years by finding a land mass that could support thefarming necessary to build a new nation. During the late 15th and early 16th centuries, theSpanish were settling land in the Americas and they needed a source of forced labor to worktheir fields. Also, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the English set out on the samemission in North America. Both the English and Spanish utilized African slave labor whilebuilding their new nations in the Americas, but the conditions for slaves in the Englishcolonies were much worse than in the Spanish colonies. The living condition of the slaves inEnglish colonies was much poorer, the working conditions were much harder, and thepunishments were much more severe than for the slaves in the Spanish colonies. The English and Spanish colonies both utilized many African slaves, however, theliving conditions for the slaves in the English colonies were worse than those of the slaves ofthe Spanish colonies. English slaves had miserable lives in which they “lodged in log huts onthe bare ground. Wooden floors were an unknown luxury. In a single room were huddled,like cattle, ten or a dozen persons, men, women and children” (Lester 64). Even worse werethe beds on which the slaves were forced to sleep, which were nothing but meager piles ofstraw and old rags, with a coarse blanket to keep them warm. The slaves in Spanish colonieshad far from substantial living conditions, but Kajrtan Sveinsson states that “not to say that aslave’s life in Colombia was a good one, but slaves appear to have enjoyed more freedomthan their counterparts up north” reinforcing the fact that English slaves had living conditionsthat were much worse than those of the Spanish slaves. Although the nights were tough for slaves in both Spanish and English colonies,daytime was when some slaves encountered their worst experiences. In the urban areas of theEnglish colonies of North America, most of the slaves worked less and had easier jobs; most
  • 3. Smith 2“performed comparatively less arduous physical labor -- in shipyards, brickyards, cottonpresses and warehouses. Many were apprentices to tailors, saddle makers, butchers andmasons” (Boston). However, in rural areas of the English colonies the slaves worked fromsunrise to sunset laboring in the fields with only one fifteen minute break at noon for lunch(Lester 71). Also in the Southern English colonies, “Each slave was expected to pick at leasttwo hundred pounds of cotton a day”, and if they did not complete this amount they werepunished harshly (Lester 71). As a result of the terrible working conditions of slaves in theEnglish colonies, some slaves escaped and fled to Spanish controlled Florida because “oncethey made it to Florida, were given freedom after they converted to Roman Catholicism”(Slavery). Everyday life for slaves in Spanish colonies however, was much less arduous thanthe English slaves because “The daily labor of the slave in Puerto Rico was conducted in sucha way as to remind one of the European peasantry. However, there is one marked difference.The slave worked much less than the peasant and had fewer cares to press on his mind at thehour of rest” (Martinez). The Spanish slaves usually worked only nine hours a day and had atleast two breaks between breakfast and sunset and they also enjoyed rest days every Sundayand on holy days (Martinez). It is fair to say that the slaves in the English colonies wereforced to work under extreme conditions while the slaves in the Spanish colonies workedunder less harsh circumstances. The severity of the working conditions for the African slaves in the English colonieswas small in comparison to the punishments that they endured for failing to do their workproperly. This contrasted directly with the Spanish methods of light punishment. In anEnglish colony, “Slaves were whipped for the most trifling incidents”, which shows just howeager to punish the English slave owners really were (Lester 32). The whippings that theEnglish slaves received consisted of between 25 to 100 lashes based upon the severity of themisbehavior (Lester 72). In the Spanish colonies, the slaves were treated much more
  • 4. Smith 3humanely, because “masters who treated their slaves cruelly were liable for punishment. InColombia, a slave was equal in the eyes of god, therefore equal under the law, and “the blackman had a legal personality which enabled him to bring charges against his master for overlycruel treatment, or testify against his master in certain circumstances. Clearly he was not apiece of property as was established in North America” (Martinez). The reason slaves in mostSpanish colonies were allowed to testify in court is because the government allowed theslaves to be protected by law, for example, “Colombian authorities and slave owners weremore ready to accept slaves as human beings with – albeit not equal – at least some basicrights” (Sveinsson).Not only were the English slaves forced to work under terrible conditions,they were also punished severely for doing poor work, which was quite different from theSpanish slaves who had better working conditions and virtually no punishments. In large measure, the African people enslaved in both English and Spanish colonieshad miserable lives. The slaves in Spanish colonies endured much less suffering and as aresult enjoyed better living and working conditions and fewer punishments primarily becauseof the heavily rooted Christian influence on the Spanish governments. The Spanish colonistswere more focused on the quality of forced labor that the slaves could provide, while theEnglish were more focused on the quantity, squeezing every last drop of work out of theirslaves and punishing them harshly for failure to work hard. In conclusion, the life of a slavein an English colony was much worse than that of a slave in a Spanish colony during the 17th,18th and 19th centuries.
  • 5. Smith 4 Works CitedBoston, Nicholas. "The slave experience: Living conditions”. Slavery And The Making of America. Educational Broadcasting Corporation. 2004. Web. 17 November 2010Lester, Julius. To Be a Slave. New York: Dial, 1968. Print.Martinez, Dr. Robert A. “African Aspects of the Puerto Rican Personality”. IPOAA Magazine.Web. 24 November 2010."Slavery in the Spanish New World Colonies." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 1 Jan. 2011.Web. 19 Jan. 2011.Sveinsson, Kjartan. “Topic of the Month - Slavery in Latin America”. The Real Histories Directory. Runnymede Trust. Web. 17 November 2010.