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English Colonists' Relations with Native Americans and African Americans

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Native Americans and African Americans composed the largest two groups of non-English peoples living in British America. Similarly to African Americans who were viewed as slaves by Europeans from the very beginning, Native Americans were also considered to be an inferior nation. English colonists’ relations with the two groups had its ups and downs throughout the whole American history. In this paper we will discuss in what ways were the English colonists' relations with Native Americans and African Americans in the North similar to and different from the English colonists' relations with Native Americans and African Americans in the South.

On the eve of English colonization in the Northern America in the 16th century colonial planters hoped their North American colonies would allow for the recruitment of a Native American labor force which would free up English colonists to search for material wealth without the worries of crop production. Colonists soon realized that they would not be able to coerce the Indian tribes they encountered into performing their manual work. As a result, isolated conflicts began to erupt into open warfare (Grigg, 2008). At the beginning, the relations between the Whites and the Indians were rather good. According to the document B, one Native American man, Squanto, served as an interpreter for Englishmen, helped them to set corn, to fish and showed them directions to the unknown places that became profitable (Document B). But the relations started to worsen because English newcomers brought diseases to Native Americans’ places of settlement. Human pathogens carried across the Atlantic Ocean by the Europeans infected native population that had not developed biological resistance to diseases common in the Eastern Hemisphere (Campbell, 2008). The diseases that were fatal for Indians caused massive reduction of indigenous population. According to the document D, Natives almost all died of smallpox (Document D). In reality it happened not exclusively because of this disease, but also because of bubonic plague, typhus, mumps, influenza, measles and yellow fewer.

John Smith is often considered to be responsible for mistreatment of Native Americans. According to the document A, Powhatan, the king of one of the tribes, wanted to kill him, but his daughter Pocahontas saved the Englishman (Document A). Powhatan greeted the colonists with hospitality and was deeply disappointed when they did not return it. English newcomers refused to marry Indian women and this was considered to be an affront for the native population. The colonists also believed that they had a right to trade with Indians because they arrogantly asserted that they have moral and cultural superiority over the natives. The Indians were willing to trade with English but resisted settlers’ attempts to convert them to Christianity. Native Americans were concerned about the growing English population that settled on their lands, especially when it impinged on planting and hunting grounds. Because of all these reasons Indians started attacking English, killing their cattle, and burning their harvest. Englishmen did not sit doing nothing – they started burning down Indian villages. As we may observe both sides committed atrocities.

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Jamestown Massacre

In the document C we can read a description of Jamestown Massacre which occurred on March 22, 1622. During this ferocious slaughter Algonquian Indians attacked English colonists at Jamestown murdered 347 settlers, and wounded many in unexpected assault. Provoked by English incursion onto their native lands and superior behavior of whites, the attack had major implications on the future relations between Indians and the Englishmen (Campbell, 2008). After the Jamestown Massacre, according to the document C, the Whites considered that because of this violence they now have liberty to start a war, invade the country and destroy those who wanted to destroy them (Document C).  Another conflict between the Native Americans and the colonists, which was entitled Philip’s War, began in the context of struggles over trade land and sovereignty. In the document G the causes and consequences of Indians’ attack are enumerated. According to the historical data, the relations between the Wampanoag tribe and the English colonists had deteriorated because of several reasons, but the immediate cause of war was the death of John Sassamon, a Christian Indian and interpreter. Plymouth judges tried and convicted three Wampanoag Indians for his death and hanged them promoting the tribe’s attack on colonists. As it may be obviously seen from everything mentioned above, the relationship between Native Americans and English colonists in the North and in the South was marred by mistrust and conflict.

Settlers of English origin tried to make Native Americans their slaves, but with the passage of time it became clear that they were bad slaves because they were nomads or they were strong and fought back. Adding to this, they reduced in number sufficiently because of the diseases, and whites were to find another solution to the problem of workforce. At this point the idea appeared in the minds of the Englishmen to transport African Americans to a new continent as a free work force.

African American peoples

The history of African American peoples in the Northern America was greatly shaped by the experience of and reaction to slavery. Relations between the colonists and African Americans differed in the North and in the South. Pattern of slavery in the North was characterized by the fact that, in general, fewer people owned African American slaves. Slaves performed roles of domestic servants, field workers and artisans. Very often they even could earn enough money to buy themselves freedom. There were also numerous cases when the owners liberated slaves. The tendency of enacting laws against slavery was very widespread in the North.

Contrary to what was going on in this part of America, in the South the whole society’s functioning was impossible without slaves. There existed a specific classification of slaves. There were house servants, who were considered to be the top category. There existed also slaves who engaged in skilled labor, those who had veterinary skills and handled horses, as well as those who worked in the field planting and harvesting crops of cotton and tobacco. In the document E we may read about White owner’s treatment of his African slaves. As it is indicated there, he wanted to have a whole breed of “Negros” and tried to persuade Black woman to lay in bed with a “Negro” man, but she refused. Then he commanded this particular man to go to bed with her, but she kicked him out again (Document E). It should be admitted that it was a widespread tendency among White owners to increase the quantity of their slaves in this way. In the document H we read about experiences of African slave in Virginia. According to it, the slave was generally weeding grass and gathering stones on the plantation, but once the owner commanded this African American to fan him while he slept and the slave did it with fear (Document H). All the laws in the South were designed against African Americans. According to the document F, there were disputes concerning the issue of children from the Englishman and Negro woman. Should they be slaves or free? After the passage of a special law, all children were to be held bond or free only according to the condition of their mother. It also doubled the fines for those who committed fornication with “Negro” men and women (Document F).

Consequenses of the economic revolution

The reason of such a significant divide between the northern and the southern regions was the economic revolution which stipulated the development of the industrial order. Consequently, manufacturing revolution in the North was the reason of cotton cultivation expansion in the South. As cotton business was thriving, plantations’ owners in the South needed more and more slaves as a free workforce. In this way slavery, thought to be doomed at the time of American Revolution, found congenial company in the market revolutions’ growing demand for raw materials from the periphery (Martin, 2005). Slavery was eventually abolished in the North due to its limited impact on their region’s economy and society. But in the South slavery was still important and it was almost impossible for the people of that region to imagine the world without it. Some white Americans were of the opinion that slavery is to be abolished because it goes against the Christian doctrine. Even the president Abraham Lincoln considered slavery to be an issue that goes beyond politics and touches the spheres of religion and morale. But, most importantly, as he put it, the issue of slavery caused the divide of the community.

Conclusion

To conclude with, English colonists’ relations both with the Native Americans and African Americans were characterized by the superior attitude of the former and attempt to limit freedom of people from the two groups. While Native Americans were oppressed equally in the North and in the South, the situation with African Americans was slightly different. In the years before the Civil War African Americans in the North enjoyed more freedom than those from the South where the whole civilization was dependent on their work.

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