English Essay #20
John Thompson (1812-1860) was a slave who escaped and wrote an autobiography about his experience. Needless to say, he was against the institution of slavery and argued against it in his book. Thompson tried to show his point of view of slavery with his book, to let people know how wrong the system was. So did Thompson provide a good argument?
One thing that Thompson showed clearly was that power corrupts. He had many examples of slave owners who became tyrants because they were given absolute power over many other human beings. Since one man owned his slaves no one could tell him how to use or treat his property. This allowed the owner to do whatever he felt like doing to his slaves for whatever reason. There were examples of good owners who were able to avoid getting drunk on power and becoming cruel, but they were few.
Since one man could do what ever he felt like with his slaves it often lead to another big problem with slavery. The sanctions (punishments and rewards) were often inconsistent and usually worse than they should be. The punishments in particular were almost always out of whack. Thompson had several stories of slaves who attacked an overseer and were whipped so badly that they said they should have just killed the man so they could be executed quickly and not have to endure the pain. If you made a small mistake as a slave you might not know whether you would get completely off the hook or get almost killed for your offense.
Thompson also touched on the fact that slavery undermined the family of the slaves. Most slaves weren’t allowed to marry legally so they just made promises to each other. But the big problem was that families were split up when the owners decided to sell them.
He also believed that slavery was unfair because it made white believe people that they were superior to blacks. This attitude of white men resulted in unfair treatment and cruelty. It also caused people from both races to be closed minded toward members of the other race, making assumptions too quickly about individuals. This whole situation prevented a free black man from getting treated as he deserved and didn’t give him an opportunity to show his merits as a person or a worker.
These stories and experiences that Thompson shares throughout his book are all good evidence that slavery is wrong. In my opinion John Thompson did a great job in his argument against slavery.