Louisiana Territory and Slavery

The Louisiana Territory nearly doubled the overall land mass of the early United States. Purchased from France in 1803, for $15 million, the acquisition of this terrain not only propelled the American destiny westward, but invigorated a swelling debate whether the institution of slavery should be permitted in these virgin lands. A succinct inquiry ascertains impact of this realm, in regards to slaves and freed blacks.

Slave owners envisioned a tremendous supply of staple and cash crops to enlarge the economy, through use of this land. Though at first slaves were employed in tobacco and hemp production as well as the cultivation of livestock, by 1860, “the average slave owner in Missouri held only one or two slaves.” (Greene, 1) Despite the harsh beginning, the Missouri slaves were utilized to perform an assortment of tasks, ranging from “valets, butlers, handy-men, field-men nurses, maids, and cooks.” (Greene, 1) These slaves developed specialized skills, however, laws such as the territorial slave code of 1804 and the State Constitution of 1820, “constantly reminded the black man he was property, not a human being.” (Greene, 1)
It was determined illegal to teach a Negro to read or write, even freed Negroes, due to the prevalence of the fear that literacy would inevitably lead to rebellion. A person caught teaching them would be subject to a fine and imprisonment. Negroes were determined incompetent to stand trial where a white person was being charged. Furthermore, even religious services were designed to remind the Negro of his inferiority. Finally, even a freed man was subject to ultimate segregation by being buried in inferior burial plots, separated from free whites.

Thus, the prevalence remained, that “Slavery was a way of life, and those who benefited from it would go to any length to preserve it.” (Greene, 1) The Louisiana Purchase, though instrumental in the advancement of a great nation, did not expand upon the freedoms of those whose toil it was regrettably built upon.

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