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Southern History Series: Women and Slaves In The Colonial Chesapeake

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I roll my eyes when conservative liberals talk about “American values.” This country wasn’t founded on liberalism. It became infected by liberalism like Britain and the rest of the English-speaking world and has gradually become more liberal over time.

The following excerpts come from William A. Link’s book Southern Crucible: The Making of an American Region:

“In England, women’s subordinate position was embedded into the legal, cultural and economic systems. Common law, and laws in Virginia and Maryland, institutionalized patriarchy, male control over the legal standing of their wives. Upon marriage, husbands owned all the family property; wives were prohibited from making contracts, selling land, or purchasing commodities outside of their husbands’ control. Women possessed a right of dower – one third of the estate – which protected them to a limited degree and, in theory, required that they approve land sales in the estate. But in practice the right of dower was often ignored and was made after transactions had occurred.

The Chesapeake’s social system rested on an identity that was rooted in strict hierarchy of gender. Manhood remained tied to marriage and property holding. Higher-status males were independent owners of land; land served as the basic marker of status in English society. Marriage and motherhood formed the expected part of women’s future – and their identity in the English-speaking world. Women, as wives, were expected to submit to male authority as the head of household, and to display their submission publicly. Although sexual relations outside of marriage occurred with some frequency in the Anglo-American world of the seventeenth century, strict taboos against it remained prevalent.”

Patriarchy is older than liberalism which it didn’t successfully demolish and begin the dissolution of the family until the late 20th century.

“As a social and ideological system, slavery was based on the European belief that Africans were inherently inferior. The English concept of slavery, which was vague and underdeveloped, became more highly evolved in the Chesapeake because of a well-established model of plantation labor in the Caribbean and because of the slave trade made large numbers of enslaved Africans available. But it was also much easier to accept the existence of a permanently servile population because of their skin color. The English regarded Africans as an “other,” a subhuman people who, they told themselves, were well adapted to lifelong servitude and were considered brutish, hypersexual, and suited to hard labor. …

In the wake of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 came new measures further defining the nature of racial slavery. In 1680, slaves were prohibited from bearing arms and from exercising resistance to white authority. Running away was criminalized; slaves could travel only with certificates. The legal system sought other ways to institutionalize black inferiority. Legislation followed that limited contacts between blacks and whites and penalized interracial sexual relations, what a Maryland statute of 1681 called unions that were “always to the Satisfaction of theire Lascivious and Lustfull desires, and to the disgrace not only of the English butt also of many other Christian Nations.” In 1691, intermarriage between whites and blacks and Indians in Virginia was punished by banishment from the colony, and out-of-wedlock children were stigmatized. Meanwhile, the law also recognized enslaved Africans as chattel property, which could be bought, sold, and inherited across generations.”

Doesn’t sound like American values to me.

Blacks were regarded and treated as a distinct inferior race in the Chesapeake. They were thought off as a different people. It remained that way down to the 1970s.

This is hardly a unique observation, but there used to be an older culture here that among other things governed relations between men and women and Whites and non-Whites in the South. This older culture was dismantled and replaced by liberalism. That’s really the entirety of what happened. The liberal model was substituted for the older cultural pattern.

What is wrong with the past? Why is the past a laundry list of horrors? The past is horrifying and ought to be condemned for not living up to the present day standards of liberalism.

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