Why were children of slaves born into slavery?


This seemed to be a common trend throughout most of history, not just US history. For slave traders, wouldn’t it have been far more profitable for the children of slaves to be born free, forcing slave owners to have to buy more slaves?

I get why slaves reproducing is good for the owner, because they have an infinite labor source, but it feels bad for everyone else involved in the trade?

In a more US centric focused bonus question, with the 1790 Naturalization Act, why wouldn’t slaves born on US soil be considered citizens and be free? Technically they weren’t bought so they wouldn’t be property according to slave owners so why was it considered the owner’s right to own child slaves born on US soil?

In: Other

Because the law said that if a baby’s mother was a slave, the baby was a slave. It’s not a matter of interpretation, it was an explicit law.

**Partus sequitur ventrem** (Latin for “That which is born follows the womb”; usually shortened to partus) was a legal doctrine passed in colonial Virginia in 1662 and other English crown colonies in America which defined the legal status of all children to be the legal status of their mothers.

1) Humans reproduce relatively slowly. Best case scenario it takes roughly a year, and then several years after that before you can create a new human that’s capable of labor. So if you’re trying to expand (which is kind of the whole point of capitalism), just having your slaves breed isn’t very efficient in terms of growing your labor force.

2) Slaves weren’t seen as people. Not only did white (Southern) Americans not want them to be free, having a bunch of free Black people running around would have caused a lot of problems for them. A lot of slaves would have started asking the question “If they’re free, why am I not?” which would have made it harder for slave owners to keep control of their slaves.

I think slave owners just thought of their slaves the same way they think of the cattle or other work animals. If a cow they have has a calf, that is THEIR calf, and they get to sell it or slaughter it or whatever. In their mind, they owned the cow, they paid for the cow the feed and live while it grew the calf, and so the calf is theirs.

about the naturalization stuff, it seems like you are trying to apply 20th century logic to 18th century laws. The law didn’t recognize slaves as “people”, so the act wouldn’t apply.

It is indeed desirably for the slade traders if the slaves could not reproduce. However after the slaves had been sold to their plantation owners they were the property of the plantation owner and not the slave traders. So they would not have anything to say about the children of the slaves they had already sold. But they would absolutely not want the slaves to become free as that would still mean that they could work and take profit from them. It should also be noted that it was often cheaper for slave owners to just buy new slaves rather then let their slaves reproduce because it would cost them more money to raise the child then to just buy a new grown up slave.

As for the Naturalization Act this did not apply to African Americans because they were not considered humans in the same way as white people. At least not at the time. Later on this was amended which caused quite the rebellion.

In any society that employs slavery, slave owners will have way more political power than slave traders, given that they are usually also large landowners. Therefore the laws of such a society will be made up as to benefit the owners, not the traders.

For slavery you need to get off of human rights and think of it more as a pet or cattle.

If a farmer buys 3 cows and they all have kids why would those cows not be allowed to be slaughtered later?

If my dog has puppies I can do whatever I want with them. I can sell them or keep them or give them away I could probably even legally kill these hypothetical puppies too if I wanted, most animal cruelty laws are about pain for the sake of it not quick deaths.

Slaves were the same, except they were expensive so no one would just kill a slave, it was like buying a car or expensive machine to automate a task.