While doing some research for a Civil War diary, I found a document which says a lot about slavery in a very small space. It's a receipt issued in "Augusta" [Georgia]?, September 20, 1864, for the purchase of a woman known only as Susannah, and two children, probably Susannah's, for the price of $7,500.
Have a look at this:
What is extraordinary about this is the ordinariness of it. It's a pre-printed form, which states:
Received of ____ ___Dollars, being in full for the the purchase of ___ Negro Slaves named ______ the right and title of said Slaves _ warrant and defend against the climes of all persons whatsoever, and likewise warrant ___ sound and healthy in mind and body, and slaves for life.Note what appear to be decorative features on the left side also double as rather primitive anti-forgery features. Receipts like this were important legal documents which proved ownership, in this case of human beings, and were just as susceptible to forgery as any similar documents.
We all look for the big events in history, D-Day, moon landing, etc. But for me it is the mundane detail that shows more. Ordinary pre-printed legal forms are the mark of a stable legal system. In this case of course the legal system had stabilized around the keeping of human beings as chattel.
When one combines this observation with the realization that this was no accident, but was in fact contemplated within, and protected by, the 1787 constitution of the United States, a rather different understanding emerges as to the meaning and history of the American experiment.