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La Slave History Essay

3648 words - 15 pages

A Gumbo of Influences: Louisiana’s Slave History, 1763 to Statehood
The state of Louisiana has a very diverse and rich heritage and unique history. The history that will be referred to in this essay is that of Louisiana's slaves and slave laws. Much of the country’s slave history is easily traceable through the original thirteen colonies before the Revolutionary War and declaration of the states’ independence from British rule. But what about the slave territories that were later added to the Union? Being the eighteenth state to join the Union, Louisiana’s slave history originates from a different colonial super-power; but which one? Many are lead to believe that to be the French. While ...view middle of the document...

So when did this system first set foot into Louisiana, and who brought it? The French had been in the New World for nearly one hundred years before they really started expanding economically into the Southern parts of the Louisiana territory. Much like the original thirteen colonies, Southern economic expansion of Louisiana started off as a colonial experiment. Much of France’s colonial success came from sugar production in St. Domingue and other West Indian sugar-producing possessions. When attention was finally given to Louisiana, many of the same obstacles that the British were facing, France was facing as well. The obstacles that retarted Louisiana’s growth were: the lack of ready wealth and easy access, hostile Indians, and even inclement weather. Growth was slow, but slavery did begin to take root and evolved along its own lines, developing its own customs and practices. Striving to reap the economic possibilities from this territory, the French employed the services of John Law and his Company of the West. Around that same time, the French shifted their settlement to the Mississippi River, leading to the founding of New Orleans in 1718, which later became the colony’s capital.
This lead to the first “transfer of hands” during Louisiana’s developing slave system. In 1719 The Company of the West received complete control of the colony: administration, defense, and development. Just as the British did in efforts to colonize its colonies, Law propagandized the territory to attract settlers. Few people responded to his efforts, so Law obtained prison convict, salt smugglers, prostitutes, and orphaned young women. Europeans also began to settle the territory, but not in any great numbers. Later in 1719, Law changed the name of his company from The Company of the West to the Company of the Indies and began his importation of African slaves for the much needed labor.
With this addition of labor, came the rise of Louisiana’s infrastructure and superstructure. Karl Marx defined an infrastructure as the productive forces of a society, and a superstructure as its realm of ideas. Besides working towards the production of cash crops, slaves – the infrastructure – built levees, cleared fields for planting, and constructed drainage ditches. In 1724, the Code Noir – the slave superstructure – made its way to Louisiana. This Code detailed the ideas for slave behavior as well as the behavior of the masters.
The next transfer of hands for the territory came in 1731 when The Company of the Indies surrendered Louisiana back to the French Crown. This transfer also signified a shift in the Louisiana slave system: a milder form of bondage emerged. Even though masters theoretically owned there slaves and whatever they produced, they knew that their domination had its limitations. Many planters saw the added benefits of allowing their slaves some form of leniency. To save costs on feeding and clothing their slaves, masters granted them free time – Sundays...

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