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‘Laws Kept by the Indians of New Spain’
A Comparison of English and Aztec Slave Laws

The most trivial thing, at this point in our inquiry of Plantation America, is to speak of “whites” or even “Europeans” and also of “Indians” and “Native Americans” as groupings of humanity that made sense to those people to whom we refer. By Indians of New Spain the understanding was that these were speakers of related languages and practitioners of related religions, living in what is now Central America, people that were, or had recently been living under the rule of the Aztecs. Likewise, the slave laws of what would eventually become the United States were entirely English institutions with their roots in biblical laws put down in Leviticus, Nordic thralldom and Feudal serfdom. In other words, the cultural package brought to these shores by English planters were a layering of ancient Israelite, Romano-Breton and pagan Nordic customs.

According to the standard narrative, American Indians never held slaves in bondage and were not able to survive as slaves, but wilted like summer flowers in winter. However, actual historic records indicate that all native societies practiced slave-holding and that where agricultural surpluses permitted, mass slave-holding societies soon grew up, just as they had in the Old World of Biblical Testament.

I find it useful to compare Aztec and English law, for the Aztecs are the most reviled folk of the ancient Americas, with even passionate Amerindian advocate Ron West pointing out some of the dehumanizing aspects of their culture and that Anglo-American institutions formed the basis for the system we now live under in the postmodern United States of America.

Below Find Aztec Slave Laws with English Correlations

Sourced from the Pre-Columbian Mind by Francisco Guerra, M.D., P.H.D., D. Sc. 1971, Seminar Press, London, pages page 22

Aztec Law: A son who gambles away his father’s estate, if a chieftain, is secretly strangled, if an ordinary man is sold as slave.

English Law: In English law, either man might be sold for his crime, the law being paramount over honor. Only Royalty escaped debt crimes under English law.

Aztec Law: If one stole a fishnet, he paid in cloth. If he was destitute he was sold as a slave

English Law: Thieves were either hanged of sold into slavery.

Aztec Law: If one stole a canoe he paid for it with an equal value of cloth or was sold into slavery.

English Law: Thieves were either hanged or sold into bondage.

Aztec Law: If someone had use of a slave girl before she came of age, he became a slave.

English Law [Virginia & Maryland]: This was not a crime under English law unless the rapist [a slave girl had no sexual agency and was not permitted to willingly give her body, only the consent of her master made sex legal] was himself a slave, in which case his term was extended.

Aztec Law: If a man sold a girl at the market place for clothing and then wished to go back on the deal, he lost the deed to the slave girl.

English Law: A slaver could not be enslaved for any lapse in ethics, unless he was found to be culpable in selling a slave while in conspiracy with that slave in order to abet his escape, thus defrauding the purchaser.

Aztec Law: If an orphan was sold by relatives, the judges fined the relatives and bought back the slave and freed him.

English Law: There was no recourse for wrongful sale of a person. In fact, when King George of England took up the cause of Jemmy Angelsey, who had been sold into slavery by his uncle, the courts blocked the King’s petitions and Jemmy saw no restitution before his death, the institutions of debt and slavery being sacred above God in English law. Indeed, many under-aged slaves were sold into bondage by older sisters, older brothers or by a widowed parent. Any English parent or guardian of a child or youth was permitted to sell that person into bondage with no restrictions. Indeed, what the Aztecs saw as a crime, was, among the English, regarded as a useful allocation of labor resources.

Aztec Law: If a runaway slave sold himself to another owner, and was later found, his new owner lost out.

English Law: In this matter English and Aztec law agreed, new owner being regarded as not having researched his purchase at the least and to possibly be guilty of fraud. Luring away the slaves of a competitor was a common habit among 17th Century Virginia planters.

Aztec Law: If a slave girl was impregnated by a man who did not own her, the man who impregnated her became a slave if she died in childbirth. However, if she delivered a child, the child was freed and given to the father.

English Law: In Catholic Maryland, Anglican Virginia and Quaker Pennsylvania, the rapists of slave girls were absolved from all guilt, [in Maryland and Virginia] the woman was whipped after delivering the child, her servitude was extended and the baby was sold by the church wardens [in Virginia] to live as a slave for 31 years and given over as a slave to the mother’s masters in Pennsylvania until age 21. Maryland law is unclear, other than that the mother is to be tied to a post and whipped after safely delivering the child.

One must cite Aztec law, in this instance, as being far more humane than English law.

Aztec Law: If someone sold a child as a slave [as most children were sold out of England] and afterwards it was recognized [as with Peter Williamson and Jemmy Angelsey], all involved became slaves, one given as a slave to the duped buyer and one to the mother of the slave.

English Law: There was no statute for the punishment of kidnappers and slave traders under English law. Rather, goalers were literally licensed as freelance slave traders in Plantation America, at liberty to abduct and sell any undocumented [unowned or not bearing freedom papers] person. Indeed, Peter Williamson, when publishing pamphlet back in Scotland exposing his childhood abduction and sale, was himself jailed and put on trial. Kidnapping of children of a certain age was technically illegal, but such crimes are not known to have been punished. [1]

Aztec Law: Murders committed by poison were punished by the poisoner being beaten to death, except, if the victim were a slave, then the murder was sold into slavery [which marks slavery as a living death in the eyes of the Aztecs.] this law was almost identical to ancient Babylonian law., which placed higher value on affluent persons than upon wronged slaves.

English Law: No killer of a slave or servant in Plantation America was ever punished worse than being barred from buying more slaves. Again, Aztec law placed more value in the life of a slave than did English law. [3]

Aztec Law: The thief who stole sacred relics from a temple or broke into a home, was made a slave for the first offense but hanged for a second offense.

English Law: According to the testimony of James Revel, this Aztec law was almost identical to the English practice, his more experienced gang mates being hanged for the same crime he was sold for. [2]

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English References


Stillbirth of a Nation: Caucasian Slavery in Plantation America: Part One


Into Wicked Company


America in Chains

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