When the United States left the 20th century, major slavery issues had been resolved and substantial progress had been made in solving related racial matters. However, it entered the 21st century with stubborn pockets of racial resistance that defied resolution.
Many Americans believe that slavery in North America began during the 16th century, after several new colonies were established by a group of European nations, primarily Portugal, acting independently, and ended with the American Civil War in the 19th century. Actually, slavery dates to the 18th century BC in China and continues to this day, though in a different form.
The issuance of The Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln and the conclusion of the United States Civil War provided the basis for ending forms of slavery which had existed in the Americas long before the arrival of Columbus. With the settlements in the Americas based primarily on agrarian economies, the need for cheap field labor was resolved by enslaving native Africans, such that the selling and buying of slaves became a profitable business unto itself.
Tribal wars in Africa provided an endless supply of prisoners sold by the victorious tribal forces to slave traders who shipped them to the Americas where they were sold to plantation owners for field labor. It wasn’t long before the slavers found that their cargoes had other, more sophisticated, abilities: Some were accomplished tool-makers, others were capable of building construction, and still others were cooks and artists. These newly found capabilities led to a premium sub-culture in the slave markets and intensified the search in Africa for higher quality slaves.
The Civil War’s end changed everything and the United States found itself with a huge increase in the unemployed labor market: The soldiers of both the North and the South forces discharged from their respective armies plus the addition of a substantial number of the approximately 4 million former slaves became the new labor force. It wasn’t all bad news. The land west of the Mississippi River offered many opportunities for those settlers willing to accept the risks of living in a hostile land. The vast tracks of virgin forests and potential farmlands attracted many thousands. The Union army absorbed thousands more of both experienced soldiers and new recruits to fight in the endless Indian wars. The North required large numbers of industrial help to expand their industries in an effort to make up for the losses experienced by the South and the South was in need of total rebuilding to become a contributing member of the Union.
Then there was the land in the South which before the war consisted of high production plantations using slave labor at low cost. All gone! The vast fields of cotton producing land, the major crop of the Confederacy, no longer existed. The lush fields of Southern farmland now lay fallow or burned out by the Union armies. Gone also were the South’s cotton gins and related equipment which deprived the South of the ability to rebuild their plantations even on a severely reduced level. But most of all, gone was the low cost slave labor force that fueled the pre-war Confederate economy.
The future of the Southern states was, at best, bleak. Worse, the carpet baggers from the North were descending upon the South in droves, allegedly to help the South rebuild, but actually were devoting most of their time and effort to buying plantation lands at bargain prices from owners who were discouraged and destitute.
In an effort to retain part, at least, of their lands, plantation owners devised a tenant plan where the now freed slaves could stay on the land as freemen, farming the plantations. In lieu of cash payments, which the owners were unable to make, the freemen would be allowed to share the crops with the owner retaining a percentage of the farmed crops for them to consume or sell. Depending on the size of the land farmed, the freemen would gain title to a section of the land in 5 to 20 years, depending on their effort and the size of the plot farmed. As you would expect under the circumstances, not all agreements were honored as they should have been and disputes were frequent. The agreements did help solve the post-war problem of what to do with the large surplus of relatively uneducated field workers.
In the closing months of the war, Congress began working on amendments to the constitution which would reflect the Presidents views of “forgive and forget” during reconstruction. Lincoln felt that the North should help rebuild the South and enable it to rejoin the Union as a partner contributing to the economy. Not all in his administration agreed with him. In particular, Vice-President Johnston wanted the South punished.
Congress prepared three reconstruction amendments which would become the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. First of the three amendments, the 13th, applied to the individual citizen, and used language from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which failed to pass Congress, but was adopted in December 1866 after passing the Senate and the House in April 1864 and January 1865, respectively.
“Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crimes
whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States,
or any place subject to their jurisdictions.”
After the Civil War ended in 1865, an attempt was made by Congress to protect the rights of Blacks by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1866 enabling Blacks to file lawsuits against Whites and to sit on juries. The 14th and 15th Amendments, applying only to the States, were ratified in 1868 and 1870, respectively, and will not be considered here. The new legislation opened a period from the end of the war to 1970, known as the Civil Rights Era.
President Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, after the 13th Amendment was passed by the Senate in April 1864 and the House in January 1865. While he never had the pleasure of seeing his version of the post-war United States starting to take form, after passage in the House he must have known it would become law. Under the Johnston administration passage would be in doubt. Johnston was all that Lincoln wasn’t: His approach to reconstruction was to punish and subjugate the South – to treat the South as a conquered nation.
In 1875, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which prohibited racial discrimination in most public places, and in a massive blow to Negro’s civil rights, the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional. Adding to the damage was a Republican led decision to end Reconstruction in 1877 causing all federal troops to be withdrawn from their stations in the South.
Shortly after the end of Reconstruction, the White elite had returned to power in the Southern Legislatures and had reinstated the racial policies of the South, setting back the hopes of equality for Southern Blacks for decades. As if the civil rights of Blacks had not been damaged enough, in 1896, the Supreme Court, in Plessey v Ferguson, ruled that segregation was legal; that the use of poll taxes and literary tests did not deprive the Negro of the right to vote, and those “separate but equal” rights for Blacks would adequately protect their civil rights.
The Negro slave population was estimated at 4 million in 1861 when the war started. Allowing for the Negros who joined the post-war army, the shift of population to west of the Mississippi River, tenant farming and the flood of former slaves to the industrial North relieved some of the pressure on the South. Still, they had a massive labor surplus to consider. Much midnight oil was burned in an initial unsuccessful effort to find a solution.
We will never know for certain who solved the problem or how they arrived at the solution, but in 1896, or thereabouts, with the arrival of Plessey, the South experienced an epiphany of sorts and what was left of the Negro world collapsed in ruins for seventy years.
The ratification of the 13th Amendment was meant to provide the protection needed by the southern Negros to live in the United States, in particular, the southern United States. It was not intended to permit the Negro immunity from abiding by the law, and so the words “. . . except for punishment for crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, “were included.
The intent of the added text may have been an attempt to have the state retains its rights over the population to maintain law and order, but the South read it differently. To the South the cited words were an open door to bypass Negro civil rights.
Black codes “to keep Blacks in their place,” were developed throughout the South. Offenses, such as: loitering, unemployment, indebtedness, voting, having sex with white women, and a host of other “crimes” were declared felonies under which a Negro could be arrested, charged, tried, found guilty by White juries, and be imprisoned. Under the Black Codes, most Blacks in the post-war South lived under the thumb of their White masters. Abject poverty was common. The codes deprived the Blacks of any say in the social and political arenas.
Once confined, their future was bleak and hopeless. In a typical case, the convicted Negro would be sentenced to a number of days confinement, fined, assessed court costs and handed over to the prison authorities. Most Negros was penniless and unable to pay the assessed sums and other fees. The state would adjust their sentences at a rate of one additional day of confinement for every so many dollars of fees, charges and other assessed costs. The change would increase jail time over that originally sentenced by the magistrate in court. While confined, the Negro would be charged room and board at a fixed rate per day adding costs to the dollar sum which the Negro was unable to pay in the first place. The room and board costs, if not paid, would be converted to additional jail time as previously des- cribed. This created an insidious circle of charges converting room and board into additional jail time with increased costs over which the convicted Negro had little or no control. Unable to comply with the court’s sentence, the Negro found himself with jail time well above his original sentence.
In prison, the prisoners would be divided into two general groups: Group 1 to include older or less strong prisoners, group 2 to include younger or stronger prisoners. Group 1 prisoners would be assigned light duty tasks inside the prison, such as, cleaning, maintenance, painting and other light work. Control over these prisoners was maintained by threatening to place recalcitrant prisoners into Group 2.
Group 2 prisoners were assigned to the chain gangs to perform heavy duty tasks, road work and heavy field work, such as forestry, outside the prison under heavy guard and usually shackled. Control of Group 2 prisoners was high and tight. Obviously, the group favored by the prisoners was Group 1.
Escalating costs caused the administration to seek relief. During the closing years of the 19th Century the South was still rebuilding and with a low unemployment rate, was always seeking labor, especially skilled labor. Some of the imprisoned Negros had skills that the South needed. A plan was devised whereby the authorities would rent these specialty skilled prisoners to farms, mines and industrial plants for a daily rental fee per prisoner plus other costs, such as transportation and security paid to the State. The program was a huge success and was expanded to include all levels of labor. Compensation was paid the prisoners at some minimal rate similar to that described earlier. The bottom line profit of the prison system was increased considerably and the industries of the South benefitted greatly.
The period from Plessy through the Herbert Hoover Administration changed little, but in 1938 newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt directed his Attorney General to review Plessy and the “separate but equal” doctrine as was applied to civil rights. By 1941 changes favoring the Negros began to surface. By the Civil Rights Movement of the 1970s major changes were made under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, greatly increasing the rights of the Negro and eliminating the “separate but equal” provisions.
Progress in civil rights has continued since the post-WW-II period and is continuing. The end of the 20th Century found the United States with major successes in civil rights, but it entered the 21st Century with stubborn pockets of resistance that defied solution.
Simply stated, contemporary slavery is slavery as we know it today and includes the quite, hidden, mostly illegal use of the human being in illicit ways.
Originally, it had been my intent to include a complete inventory of the many forms of contemporary slavery, but it soon became evident that this was not possible. What has been included is a select schedule of different forms of contemporary slavery providing the reader with a shopping-list for review and evaluation, supporting the view that slavery is doing well world-wide, despite the substantial progress in civil rights since the end of the American Civil War.
Part of the introductory material of this essay includes an edited version of the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery index report of October 2013 and of the United Nations Trafficking Protocol. It is strongly recommended that the reader read the full report and protocol to understand the horror that exists in today’s world.
Slavery traps nearly 30 million people worldwide. Some native-born slaves never leave their own villages, spending their entire lives in servitude.
There are approximately 29.6 million people in various states of forced servitude, including sexual exploitation, debt bondage and forced marriage. Mauritania and Haiti have the highest proportions of slaves, but the highest number of absolute slaves is: India with 14 million, Pakistan with 3 million, and China with 2 million. The ten countries with the highest number of enslaved or exploited workers, according to the Walk Free Foundation are: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, Thailand, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Much of this slavery is heredity, a harsh reality in many parts of the world, especially in parts of West Africa and South Asia, where generations have lived and died without ever tasting freedom. At the bottom of this list, the countries with the least number and proportion of slaves and slavery are: Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland. However, inclusion on the latter list doesn’t prevent the country from contributing to slavery elsewhere, Ireland, for example which acts as a transfer point for trafficking people. They note in their report that the forms of bondage violate international decrees, including the 1926 Slavery Convention, an international treaty, and the United Nations Trafficking Protocol.
Child Slavery. Unquestionably, child slavery tops the list and, within that list, child soldiers
must be the very worst. There are Asian, Middle East and African nations which have impressed children into their militias and armed forces. We’re talking about youngsters between the ages of 4-5 years and 14-16. Usually, the 17 years old and older have enough street knowledge to avoid conscription and have the ability to support themselves, not always legally, but those who have been caught in the web of military service find themselves ever more dependent upon their masters with the passage of time.
The suggestions by the experts at the 2002 CETO seminar dedicated to solving the child soldier problem appear to ignore or overlook some military and population trend facts originated with the United Nations and reported in the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
“The International Labor Organization estimated in 1996 that as many as 200 million children under the age of 15 were out of school in less developed nations and working to support themselves and their families. Working youngsters in African cities, many of them ‘street children,’ represented as much as 20% of the urban child population.” In three countries alone, there existed an estimated 500,000 child prostitutes.
“The HIV/AIDS pandemic not only caused the death of large numbers of parents in the less developed world but also affected those who might otherwise provide substitute care for orphans. According to the World Health Organization, by the year 2000, 10 million children would be without one or both parents as a result of AIDS. In Uganda alone, at least 150,000 children were orphaned by AIDS.”
Britannica goes on with a 1996 Special Report on the future in which it states, “The conditions that caused children to live in especially difficult circumstances did not appear likely to diminish, and few new resources would be devoted to remedying such problems.”
The Britannica Year in Review 2001 notes that “Wars between nations and within nations convulsed a large swath of Africa stretching across the continent from Ethiopia to Sierra Leone…In May the UN adopted an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child that set 18 as the minimum age for combat service.” By the end of 2001, only three states had ratified it. Ten ratifications were needed.
Also reported in 2001 was that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found there were 22.3 million refugees around the world in 1999 of which approximately 41% or about 9.1 million were children under 18 years old. And these figures do not include the humanitarian crises that occurred in 1999.
What does all this mean and what does it have to do with children soldiers?
Consider the lonely and hungry child. No parents or foster parents to take care of him, living where he can -- mostly in the streets, fighting to stay alive. Along comes his benefactor who promises food, companionship and shelter. All that he is expected to do is to fight for his new master, something he was doing anyway. Now multiply this one child by the tens of thousands of others, and you have the child army.
Add to this the battle techniques used by warring countries: Iran in the recent Iranian-Iraqis War where they marched unarmed children in advance of the regular army troops to help clear mine fields; Hitler’s Germany where they conscripted children, especially during the final stages of the war; North Korea where they used refugee columns of women and children to hide their combat soldiers; and, of course, the Vietnam War where children were used for all conceivable military purposes.
In 1991, the United Nations, Geneva, published a Fact Sheet No. 14, on slave labor. Excerpts follow:
“Child labour is in great demand because it is cheap, and because children are naturally more docile,
easier to discipline than adults, and too frightened to complain. Their small physique and nimble
fingers are seen as assets by unscrupulous employers for certain kinds of work. It often happens
that children are given jobs when their parents are sitting at home, unemployed.
“There are children between seven and ten years of age who work twelve to fourteen hours a day
and are paid less than one-third of the adult wage.
“Child domestic servants not only work long hours for a pittance but are particularly vulnerable to
sexual as well as other physical abuse.”
“At the extreme fringe, children are kidnapped, held in remote camps, and chained at night to
prevent their escape. They are put to work on road-building and stone-quarrying.
“Child labour, often hard and hazardous, damages health for life, deprives children of education and
the normal enjoyment of their early years.
“Non-governmental organizations have proposed an international timetable for the wiping out of the
worst forms of child exploitation. They suggest that:
· All forced labour camps be eliminated within 12 months;
· Children be excluded from the most hazardous forms of work, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the ILO, by 1995;
· All forms of labour for children under 10 outlawed by ILO Convention No. 138 be eliminated, and that those regarding children in the 10-14 age group be halved by the year 2000.”
So, as is typical of United Nations declarations, after considerable effort by the members of participating nations, the final product is filed and hopefully not forgotten, but the actions of the member nations of the United Nations deem otherwise. Of the four proposals cited above, none have achieved their goals:
· The elimination of forced labor camps proposed to end in 1992 – 23 years late.
· Exclusion of children from hazardous work by 1995 – 19 years late.
· Elimination of all labor for children under 10 – 23 years late.
· Child labor in the 10-14 age groups to be halved by the year 2000 - 14 years late.
The current year is 2014 and children of all ages are still in the military, are still performing long hours of stoop labor in the fields harvesting crops, are still engaged in manufacturing plants fabricating bricks and many other products, are still performing road-building and heavy construction, to name but a few. So, if the compliance of world nations over the past twenty years or so is any indication of the extent of their future compliance, sadly, nothing will ever be accomplished and the various reports and recommendations will continue to be ignored while gathering dust in their file cabinets.
India. India’s challenges are immense. India exhibits the full spectrum of different forms of modern slavery, from severe forms of inter-generational bonded labor across various industries to the worst forms of child labor, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced and servile marriages. The leading cause of servile marriage is gender inequality, where girls and women are perceived, because of cultural or religious beliefs, to be commodities unable to make proper decisions about who and when to marry, reports the U.N.
Women Slavery - India. Where child slavery is clearly defined, women slavery is found in different forms of which forced marriage is just one. An unfortunate fact is that public awareness of forced marriage is limited primarily to stigma and a general reluctance of the public to acknowledge its existence. In Asia, in general, and in India, in particular, otherwise modern and progressive communities will routinely place their young girls in forced marriages or sell them outright. The British have researched the marriage of children and young girls and found that from slightly over 30% to in excess of 50% of girls living in developing countries will be sold or married before the age of 18. Every two seconds, a child becomes a victim of this practice. A number of African developing nations, and to a lesser extent some of the middle east and South American nations are active participants in this practice. It is particularly widespread in South Asia and sub-Sahara Africa. It should be noted that that the percentages provided above do not include the estimated thousands of victims over 18. http://www.plan-uk.org/early-and forced marriage .
There is an old Hindu custom in India called Sati where the widow of a deceased husband will throw herself on her husband’s fiery pyre at his funereal and be burned alive. Custom inferred that it was a voluntary act of a distraught widow wanting to join her husband in death, but all too often it was a matter of the dead husband’s family demanding the “proper” respect for the dead and often forcing the fiery suicide. While not common throughout all of modern India, it has survived in the North and in some remote areas. The Indian government has been striving to ban Sati since 1829, but the custom persists. In its present form, the ritual has retained all of its horrible details and requirements.
To perform Sati, the dead husband would be arranged on a wood funeral structure with a narrow walkway around the perimeter for the widow’s final walk. The funeral pyre would be lit and the widow would ascend the walk and while walking around the burning pyre, chant some religious material. When her chant is concluded, she would turn and throw herself into the flames.
There may be some who will ask how this act of voluntary suicide could be considered an act against women since in the described form of the act all that the widow does is voluntary. The fact of the matter is that very few widows voluntarily commit Sati. Most are forced into Sati by the dead man’s family and the balance is trapped into Sati by contract or kidnapping.
In mountainous and isolated Northern India, a rich, elderly man with aging wives or without a wife might approach the parents of a young village girl that he has taken a fancy to with an offer of marriage and in return offers to provide the parents with riches well beyond any sum the parents could possibly earn in a lifetime. Or he might offer jewelry, if the parents so desire. Assuming the parents agree to the arranged marriage and sign a contract, the girl will know that this aging man will die in a year or two and she will be expected to perform Sati while still young. Or in a second case, the aging man will die and his favorite wife would perform Sati. His remaining wives, disgraced for not being the privileged wife, would commit suicide.
Sometimes, brigands would kidnap young women for use as slaves or for an undisclosed purpose. They might be approached by a woman with an aging husband who was expected to die soon. Not interested in performing Sati, she might arrange for a price to have one of the kidnapped girls perform Sati in her stead. Naturally, the girl is not interested and will protest. In such a case the reluctant girl will be doped, heavily veiled and tied to a wooden platform or chair at the pyre. The chant would be performed off-stage and at the appropriate time, the girl would be dumped into the fire. While this may fool few, Sati has been performed and to the satisfaction of all interested parties.
Women Slavery – China. During the 1960-70s China expressed concern with skyrocketing birth rates which was causing scattered pockets of starvation mostly in rural areas. The authorities decided that tight control over births would be necessary. In the late 1970s (1979?), a law was passed stipulating that every couple may raise only one child. Rural couples and the rich were not required to comply: farming families were permitted additional children to raise cattle and crops and rich families had the means for raising additional children.
In the Chinese culture, it is customary for the eldest son to take the lead in caring for aging parents. With the new law the only child permitted could be a female, an unwanted female. Under family pressure, a couple having a female birth as their only permitted child, the family would press to have the birth aborted, if the sex was known prior to birth, or discard the child as so much trash if the birth is allowed to go to term.
Chinese authorities report that there have been 336 million abortions and 222 million sterilizations since the law was implemented. There are no formal records as to the number of children discarded.
The Chinese government did not condone abortions so it wasn’t long before “back room” abortion clinics began to make their appearance under less than sanitary conditions. According to The New York Times, a reporter found a woman who had an abortion forced by members of the family. She described how she had been bound to a surgical table and injected with a lethal drug into her abdomen.
“For two days she writhed on the table, her hands and feet bound with rope, waiting for her body to eject the murdered baby. In the final stages of labor, a male doctor yanked the dead fetus out by a foot and dropped it into a garbage can. She had no money for a cab and had to hobble home, blood dripping down her legs a staining her stockings.”
Shortly after the birth law was passed, there was an increase in Chinese female suicides such that China had the highest rate of female suicides worldwide. While a direct connection between the law and the suicides has never been established, suspicions have been raised. It wasn’t long before the female population of China dropped significantly which raised another unanticipated problem. A major effect of the birth law was to skew China’s population sex ratio to 118 males for every 100 females. There was no indication in the statistics that this would change for the better as long as the law was in force. Eventually, the male population protested: Males who wanted to marry were unable to find women to marry and the very structure of Chinese family life was threatened. In defense of the birth law, China’s authorities shifted the cause of the population shift from the law to the deferment of the rich from the law.
Recently, there has been an easing of the requirements of the law in some provinces, but the law still remains in force. Since the law was passed there has been a growing group in China who believe that the one-birth law has damaged their society and that it will take decades to correct. China appears to be shifting to an increased female fertility rate in an aging population, but only time will tell which force will prevail.
United States. The United States isn’t immune to slavery’s scourge. The relative wealth of Canada and the United States, their demands for cheap labor and their extremely porous common land borders, makes them prime destinations for human trafficking. Walk Free estimates there are 59,000 people enduring exploitation in the United States, but because of strong legal prohibitions against slavery, the risk of becoming enslaved is relatively low.
My first impulse when writing about slavery in the United States at any level was to question whether slavery exists for women. If we are discussing slavery as it was in the 19th century, the answer is no. If we are discussing slavery in the 20th century we must recognize the 20th century as a transition century with two distinct parts centered on WW-II: The first part, the pre-war part, included much of 19th century slavery issues mitigated by the newly elected President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, while the second part, the post-war part, showed a decided improvement for women’s rights, though there was much room identified for improvement.
The 21st century has uncovered an effort on the parts of some trying to “keep women in their place,” as they once did with the 19th century Negro, and pockets of old-time slavery, like the news stories of the three women held in bondage for ten years periodically surface, but, in general, the improvement in women’s rights appears certain to continue being supported by most with a small minority acting the part of King Canute attempting to hold back the sea of women’s rights.
Bond Servant. The bond servant reviewed in this part of the essay is not the bondservant discussed in the New Testament of the bible. While a bond servant is defined by Webster as one who is bound to service without wages, the colonization of North America and Australia was accomplished to a great extent by bond servants.
During the 17th century, England sent banished prisoners to the colonies, then known as the plantations, but it was a very flexible arrangement with the courts cooperating with the needs of the colonies. There were many times where the crown would make known its need for additional colonists and the courts would oblige with an increase in prosecutions and banishments. In other instances troublesome Irish and Scots would find themselves enroute to a new life in the New World permitting the crown some relief from the agitators.
A time came when the needs of the colonies exceeded the ability of the crown to provide more manpower. A simple solution was devised where the crown would give land grants to a select few. The recipient would seek out individuals willing to represent the owner on his lands in the New World. The usual arrangement would have the representative accepting a small share of the land and a portion of the profits as his pay. The owner would remain in England with his bank accounts. But this would require manpower to work the land, manpower that was becoming more difficult to locate. The solution was the bond servant or indentured slave.
The owner would hire a number of individuals who would seek out men down in their luck and willing to go to the colonies. The owner, acting as an investor, would pay to outfit and transport a group of individuals to his land, to work under the management of the owner’s representative. Other groups would be formed by the crown and sent to the colonies, only these groups would be auctioned to the highest bidder. Both groups of men, and sometimes women, would be expected to work for their new owners as bond servants, serving without pay until their debt was paid. Thus bond labor became a major part of the New World development.
As you might expect, the bond servants were at the mercy of their owners and while many were treated well, others suffered badly. The purpose of bonded labor for the individual holding the debt is to get a cheap source of labor. In most cases the terms of the contract were so unfavorable to the indentured servant, that getting out of it would take most of their lives, if it could be done at all. In most situations, if the slave died before the debt was repaid; the rest of the family would have to continue working for the debt holder until the debt was determined to have been paid off. What recourse did the bond servant have in a dispute? Little, if any, since all of the decisions for settlement would be made by owners or owner representatives.
The 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery defines debt bondage as a form of modern slavery and seeks to abolish it. Most countries agree, but the practice is still prevalent in south Asia. India legally abolished debt bondage in 1976, but it still prevails.
Convict Labor. Convict labor systems are discussed at length in the Gale Encyclopedia of US History. What follows is an edited excerpt of the practice of transportation where the English courts would banish convicts to the colonies.
“In 1718 the British government decided that "transportation," the banishing of convicts to work in the colonies, created a more effective deterrent to recidivism than the standard punishments of whipping and branding. This change in policy was favored because of high demand for labor in the colonies, and because facilities for long-term imprisonment were lacking. Between 1718 and 1775, approximately 50,000 British convicts were sentenced to long-term labor contracts, transported to America, and sold to private employers. They represented a quarter of all British and half of all English arrivals to British North America in this period. Most were convicted of some form of property crime, including horse and sheep stealing. While transported convicts were predominantly English and male, approximately 13 to 23 percent were Irish and 10 to 15 percent were female.
“Convict transportees were given one of three possible sentences—namely seven years, fourteen years, or a lifetime of banishment—that became the length of their labor contracts. Among those transported, 74 percent had seven-year sentences, 24 percent had fourteen-year sentences, and 2 percent had life sentences. Once convicts had served their sentences (contracts), they were free to return to Britain or to stay in America. The number who eventually returned to Britain is unknown. Convicts caught returning to Britain before completing their sentences were hanged.
“To minimize the cost of transportation, the British government channeled convicts through the existing transatlantic market for voluntary servant labor, which served those who wanted to emigrate but lacked sufficient cash to pay the cost of passage. Emigrants could secure passage to the colonies of their choice by negotiating long-term labor (servant) contracts that they would fulfill in America as payment for their passage. The typical voluntary servant negotiated a four-year contract. By contrast, British courts fixed the length of convict labor contracts and turned the convicts over to private shippers who would transport and dispose of the convicts for profit in the colonies chosen by the shippers. The typical convict was sentenced to a seven-year contract. Colonists mockingly referred to arriving convicts as "His Majesty's seven-year passengers."
“Shipper’s carried both voluntary and convict servants, and upon arrival, auctioned both to the private employers who bid the highest. The monies received defrayed the shippers' transportation expenses. By law, shippers had to show employers the conviction papers that stated each convict's sentence and crime. While convicts sold for higher prices than voluntary servants, on average for 11 versus 8.5 pounds sterling, in most cases profits from shipping convicts did not exceed what was earned shipping other immigrants. The higher sale price was matched by the higher costs involved in chaining convicts during shipment and paying delivery fees to county jailers in England, who played one shipper off another. The British government subsidized one shipper in the London market and he was the only one to realize excess profits on transporting convicts—at least before factoring in the cost of political bribes.
“The vast majority of convicts were landed in Virginia and Maryland, and were employed in agriculture or at iron forges, often alongside slaves and other servants. Post-auction, with the exception of having a longer contract, convicts were largely indistinguishable from voluntary servants. A convict lived in the employer's house and ate at the employer's table. Criminal conviction, however, carried a stigma for which employers demanded compensation, in the form of price discounts received from shippers in the convict auction relative to what was paid to shippers for comparable voluntary servant labor. Per year of labor, the typical convict sold for a 21 percent discount, and convicts guilty of crimes that signaled greater destructive potential or professional criminality, for example arsonists or receivers of stolen goods, sold for even greater discounts. Convicts also ran away from their employers more often than did voluntary servants, at a rate of 16 versus 6 percent.
“Convict sentences were not rigidly tied to particular crimes. For example, highway robbers received seven-year, fourteen-year, or life sentences (38, 50, and 12 percent, respectively). Per given crime, a fourteen-year versus a seven-year sentence signaled the British courts' perception of the severity of the harm inflicted by, and the incorrigibility of, the convict. American employers responded to this information by demanding greater discounts. Per year of labor, convicts sentenced to fourteen years and to life, as opposed to seven years, for the same crime, sold for an additional 48 and 68 percent discount, respectively. Employers also paid premiums or received discounts for certain convict attributes. For example, convicts who were significantly taller than average sold for a 20 percent premium, and female convicts who had venereal disease (8 percent of the females) sold for 19 percent less than females without disease.
“While individual colonies tried to legally prevent convict labor from being imported, the British government disallowed such laws. However, with independence, the United States legally stopped convict importation. The resulting penal crisis in Britain was solved by shifting convict transportation to Australia in 1788. Australia eventually received more than three times as many convicts as colonial America.”
Today, every country has a law against slavery, but not all countries enforce their laws equally. For example, the Christian Science Monitor noted that in 1850, the cost of a slave (in today’s dollars) was $40,000. In modern slavery the price of a slave is $30. It is no wonder that contemporary slavery exists at these bargain prices. The United Nations ranks the profits of contemporary slavery among the top three revenue earners for organized crime, after drugs and arms with sufficient room in the bottom line for payments to corrupt officials.
A final note on disparity in modern slavery statistics made by The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns report, April 2006:
“Due to its clandestine nature, accurate statistics on the magnitude of the human trafficking problem at any level are elusive and unreliable. Figures that are available range from the actual number of victims rescued or repatriated to estimates of the total number of trafficked victims in existence. The lack of reliable statistics can be attributed to a number of factors… [One of these problems] is the tendency to, often unknowingly, mix data related to human trafficking, migrant-smuggling and irregular migration, which convolutes the true human trafficking picture. In addition, data is often collected only on cases of trans-border human trafficking and not on internal human trafficking.”
Walk Free Foundation: Global Slavery Index 2013. (Executive Summary).
Encyclopaedia Britannica , Multimedia Edition DVD
Encyclopaedia Britannica Year in Review 2001.
Gale Encyclopedia of United States History.
United States Constitution, Amendment 13.
United States Department of State: Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007.
United States Department of State: The Facts about Child Sex Tourism – 2005.
United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
Polaris Project: National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index Report of October 2013.
1926 Convention on Slavery.
1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery.
1991 United Nations Fact Sheet No. 14.
2001 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
2001 United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
2006 United Nations Office in Drugs and Crime, Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns.
2002 CETO Seminar.