The Slaves of Virginia
The introduction of slaves into Georgia was the hardest blow to Oglethorpe’s dream, and he returned to England, disgusted with the entire enterprise. Like most other even modestly enlightened individuals, Oglethorpe regarded slavery as evil. Yet it persisted—even in a would-be utopia—and would persist until it tore a nation apart. just as Georgia was a latecomer into the British colonial fold, so it had adopted slavery late in the scheme of things. In 1619, just 12 years after Jamestown got its shaky start, Dutch traders imported African slaves at the behest of the Virginia tobacco farmers. The first 20 or so were landed at Jamestown and were not racially discriminated against, but were classed with white indentured servants brought from England under work contracts. Indeed, many years passed before African slaves were brought to the colonies in large numbers. At first, they were purchased primarily to replace indentured servants who had either escaped or had served out the term of their indentures.
As the plantations of the southern colonies, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, expanded, demand for slavery grew, as did commerce in slaves. The so-called “triangle trade” developed: Ships leaving England with trade goods landed on the African west coast, traded the merchandise for African slaves, transported this “cargo” via the “Middle Passage.” to the West Indies or the mainland English colonies, where the slaves were exchanged for the very agricultural products—sugar, tobacco, and rice—slave labor produced. The final leg of the triangle was back to England, laden with New World produce. Nor were the northern colonies untouched by the “peculiar institution” of slavery. Although a later generation of New Englanders would pride themselves on being fierce abolitionists, fighters for the freedom of the slaves, their forefathers had profited from the trade. New England ports became a regular stop for vessels about to return to Old England. The sugar and molasses acquired at southern ports was often unloaded here in order to manufacture rum, an important New England export.