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Peonage by Lafayette M. Hershaw, 1915

The Negro was kidnapped from the shores of Africa and brought into the Western Hemisphere at the beginning of the sixteenth century in order to meet the conditions growing out of an acute labor problem. The greedy and adventurous Spaniard had come to these shores in quest of gold, and after years of experiment he discovered that the Indian, who lived in the islands and on the coast of the New World, either would not or was not physically able to perform the heavy labor of extracting gold from the mines. To meet his greedy quest, it was then necessary to look elsewhere to find the man who was feeble enough in will and strong enough in body to meet the conditions which then presented themselves. The African was that man. It is not the purpose of these reflections to deal with the institution of slavery other than to point out that what slavery is appears altogether from the point of view of the one who discusses it. It is common nowadays to refer to it as a practical institution by means of which the savage African was brought under the beneficent influences of Christianity, taught the English language, and the joy of intelligently directed labor. But before the beginning of the institution as a means of meeting the needs of work, the moralist considered it as the sum of all villainies, the reformer termed it the negation of all right. But the economist looks at it as a system of labor, and the historian and philosopher, as a step in the progress of the human race from the time when savages were put to death when taken in battle to the time when men realized that they could eat bread by the sweat of other men’s faces.

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Source: Project Gutenberg, Occasional Papers, No. 15. The American Negro Academy. Peonage by Lafayette M. Hershaw, Washington, DC: Published By The Academy, 1915.