Slave Trials In The American South

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An important factor that influenced the outcome of criminal slave trials in the American South was whose interests were being protected. This factor is crucial because it links back to the other determinants of the trial outcomes, e.g. the influence exerted in the court based on the magistrates’ prior stance, the perceived aftermath of the criminal slave trials and the backlash some interests groups might have created with certain outcomes of the trials. ‘The fact that slaveholders could influence these trials meant that they were eager to include the state in the punishment of slave crime.’ P.74 In criminal slave trials where the slave was being prosecuted by someone other than a slaveholder, we see how hard the slave owner would ensure the…show more content…
The political climate from state to state is also essential to understanding why these trials were not only being conducted differently, but what their eventual outcomes were and why there were pleas for appeal (the potential backlashes). The increasing scale of slave rebellions created fear amongst the slaveholding elite but also made them weary of the impending criticisms from the North about the unsuitability of such a system in constant turmoil. Violent crime in particular was believed to show the collapse in slave discipline and in Richmond for example, slave convictions rose sharply in the 1850s. The criticisms from the North were constant, ‘judge john belton o’neal protested that ‘no jurisdiction ever did exert which is liable to more abuse than that exercised by magistrates over slaves.’ P. 543 Criminal slave trials which often got much attention, now needed to be executed in a way that could minimise the negative criticisms and instead support the superiority of the system. Much of the negative perceptions of the slave criminal trial system undermined advocates of slavery that genuinely believed slaves were getting a fair trial. Despite the fact that slave insurrections were infrequent and posed little threat to slavery, slave-owners continued to use the violent nature of the revolts to garner support for slavery amongst whites including those that opposed the institution. The possibility that ‘southern whites simply made more frequent charges of rape against blacks as other regions of US society condemned the torturous treatments of blacks.’ P. 1 illustrates how the outcomes of the slave trials and the fact that the number of criminal slave trials were increasing at all was due to the slaveholders needing to control the

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