Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Slavery Definition:

When a person (called master) has absolute power over another (called slave) including life and liberty.

Related Terms: Peonage, Manumission, Emancipation, Villeinage, Negro

The slave has no freedom of action except within limits set by the master.

"Blind, unquestioning obedience is the law of tyrants and of slaves."

These were the words of the English court in Christie v. Leachinsky.

The slave is considered to be the property of the master and can be sold, given away or killed. All the fruits of the slave’s labor belongs to the master.

1855 slavery posterA slave had stay and do whatever his master told him to do. Escaping often resulted in brutal punishment or death (see poster pictured).

For example, the 1740 South Carolina Slave Code, infamous legislation which regulated the use of slaves and became the model for slavery in other states, until repealed as an effect of the American Civil War:

"All NegroesIndians ... and all their offspring ... shall be and are hereby declared to be and remain forever hereafter slaves; and shall be deemed ... to be chattels personal in the hands of their owners."

Slavery was once very prevalent in the world but is now illegal in most countries.

The event of freeing a slave from being chattel to being an independent person at law is called emancipation or manumission.

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