Laws governing human bondage in the English colonies did not happen overnight. As needed, laws were enacted by the colonial assemblies. The Virginia and Maryland colonies were the two most powerful mainland colonies. They lead the way in defining exactly what human bondage really meant. Lawmakers didn’t think in terms of color, but in people as a commodity. For this reason, colonial laws would apply to all races.
Using Virginia colony as an example; in a December 1662 law, women servants who became pregnant by their masters were to finish out their term and then be bound over to the local church to be sold for an extra two years of servitude. An October 1670 law pronounced that all non-Christians brought by shipping (by sea) shall be a slave for life, but if brought by land (from another colony) as children they were to serve until they are 30 years old. If they were adults and brought by land, they were to serve for only 12 years. In April 1691, all whites, bond or free were forbidden from intermarrying with blacks, mulattos or Indians. This law also stated that free white women who had an illegitimate child by a black, mulatto or Indian would be bound out by the local parish church for five years and the child bound until the age of 30.
It was a series of Virginia laws passed in October 1705 which began to define in detail what a slave was. The main points were:
*Slaves brought into the colony by land or sea (except Turks and Moors) remained slaves regardless of converting to Christianity.
*Free people who were Christians in their own country were not to be sold as slaves.
*No black, mulatto, Indian, Jew, Muslim or other infidel could purchase Christian white servants.
*White men or women intermarrying with blacks and mulattoes were to go to prison for 6 months with no bail.
*If any slave resists their master during correction, it was legal to kill them as part of the correction. Escaped slaves could be killed.
*A Christian baptism does not exempt a person from bondage, and the status of all children was according to the condition of the mother.
This was the world of our colonial ancestors regardless of color!
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