Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Takaki Chapter 3 "The 'Giddy Multitude'"

In Ronald Takaki’s Chapter 3, “The Giddy Multitude” I found the thesis to be “In Virginia, they became an even greater threat to social order, forming what the planter elite fearfully called a ‘giddy multitude’— a discontented class of indentured servants, slaves, and landless freemen, both white and black, the Stephanos and Trinculos as well as the Calibans of Virginia.” (63) What Takaki is saying here is that all of these people shared an otherness of their class. Although Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban were part of a play they were the “blueprint” of how things would later play out involving indentured whites and blacks in Virginia.

In this chapter, Takaki begins with telling of slavery begun. He states that William Towrson once told of how “five ‘Negroes’ were transported to England where they were ‘kept till they could speak the language,’ and then they were taken back to Africa as translators for English traders.” (51) This was the first step for the Englishmen to create some form of communication with the Africans. Having translators made it easier for Englishmen to get their message and/or demands across to the Africans. Takaki also states that during the times of Shakespeare, people thought Africans had a “natural infection” due to their skin color. The color of Black people or rather the color black in general was thought of to be, “deeply stained with dirt,’ ‘foul,’ ‘dark or deadly’ in purpose, ‘malignant,’ ‘sinister,’ [and lastly] ‘wicked.” (51) Whereas being white gave off the opposite message or thought. The sad part of all of these stereotypes or thoughts which Englishmen came to construe was before the introduction of Africans to Virginia or rather the Americas which was contrary to Shakespeare’s play. Further on in this chapter, Takaki tells of the struggles which both Africans and white Englishmen faced during the times of indenture servants. He tells of how a past historian named Oscar Handlin had claimed Africans weren’t enslaved until sometime at or around the 1660’s. Instead he claims prior to the 1660 they were only viewed as indentured servants and treated in such a manner. In contradiction to Handlin’s comment regarding Africans or blacks, Alden T. Vaughan’s stated that around the 1650’s “70 percent of the blacks in Virginia were serving as slaves.” (57) Takaki also states in this chapter how both Whites from England and Africans were brought against their will to work for whites in Virginia. The white indentured workers and the Africans in America held a lot of hostility and fear for one another but after working for their masters for sometime they begun to share a bond and begun working together. Many of the white indentured workers and the Africans came together and came up with plans to escape. Many of them were caught and although both, indentured whites and Africans, were punished the Africans got the more harsher punishment with a much greater addition of “commitment” of working for the white masters added to the time they already had to serve. Takaki later states in this chapter how even though the slaves had converted from heathens to Christians, English colonists created laws which “declared that ‘no negro or Indian,’ though baptized and free, should be allowed to purchase Christians. The distinction was no longer between Christianity and heathenism or freedom and slavery, but between white and black.” (59) Based on this, Africans and Indians were allowed to share “the same God” as the English colonists but they were still not able to share the same rights and were looked upon as being inferior beings. In order to prevent further teamwork amongst indentured whites and Africans English colonists eventually freed the indentured whites of their duties as servants and gave them their own land, shillings, and slaves for themselves. There were some slave owners which felt guilt for participating in slavery and vowed that once his debt was cleared he would make the labor of his slaves easier. This person was Thomas Jefferson. His debt was never cleared so his promise was implemented. He and others realized that slavery not only affected the masters and the slaves but also the children of the slave masters. The children had no choice but to imitate what they saw which was that slavery was right.

After reading this chapter I had to question, whether the charge against Nathaniel Bacon was just? Since Bacon enlisted indentured whites to join forces with him to fight a war against the Indians he was labeled a rebel and charged with treason because it was against the warnings of Governor William Berkeley and his council. I find it amazing that this type mentality still exists in today’s society. Our government today still punishes those individuals who do not follow direct orders. For example, in the marines or army or etc if an individual is told not to do something or even if they are told to do something if they do not follow through with the necessary task they will be discharged even if the outcome of their actions results in something positive or the necessary goal. Berkeley I believe felt as though if people of his own kind wouldn’t follow his orders how could he expect those “lesser” than him to do the same. It is because of this I believe he “declared Bacon a rebel and charged him with treason, an act punishable by death.” (64) Based on this chapter and this incident I have come to realize that the English colonist used slavery as not only a means economically but also as a way to obtain power and control.

Within this chapter I have learned a lot of new information. I did not know of the giddy multitude. I never knew that at the beginning of slavery or being indentured servants, both blacks and whites, that both races came together to help the each other end the torment of work they had to endure everyday and to end the treatment of being treated less than a human being. Although, I hate reading Takaki this was a chapter that caught my attention for the most part and allowed me to broaden my thoughts about the beginning of slavery, the teamwork or whites and blacks, as well as the guilt that some masters felt in regards to slavery including Thomas Jefferson.

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