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Evolution Of Slavery In Justice Essay

1388 words - 6 pages

Slavery is immoral. Why? Because we hold this truth to be self-evident: that all men are created equal? Because life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness are unalienable rights endowed by our Creator? (“Declaration of Independence.” 1776.) Well, not all men are created equal. At least according to our Founding Fathers, African tribes, 18th century Europeans, the ancient Romans and Greeks, and … the Bible. As a matter of fact, slavery has not been immoral from humanity’s (also to be interpreted as America’s) standpoint but for only 150 years. Why then can we so firmly and undeniably declare that slavery is immoral? The answer lies in the writings of great political visionaries like Solon, Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Marx, and Lincoln. Individually they all have differing opinions about slavery. Taken together, however, their works reveal a timeline that shows how slavery has evolved from an accepted to a depraved custom. Slavery’s immorality is not limned in a constitution. Slavery is immoral because time has proven it to be immoral.
Beginning as early as 2000 BC there have been laws protecting slaves. The Babylonian king Hammurabi enacted the Code of Hammurabi sometime during the eighteenth century BC. In the law code Hammurabi delineated three distinct levels of crime. The highest was the proverbial eye for an eye, which was the punishment for injuring a citizen. The second tier called for a fine of one gold mina if you injured a man who had been emancipated. Lowest on the totem pole was a crime committed against another man’s slave. The payment for such crime called for one-half of the slave’s value. Had an ox supplanted the slave under the same circumstances, the owner of the ox could file no claim against the man who injured his bovine. (“Code of Hammurabi.” 1772 BC.) The significance of the bottom tier crime is that it entitles the enslaved person to a certain right. This thought says something profound about the nature of humanity. Humans value another man’s well-being much more highly than the well-being of an animal, no matter if the human is kin or a member of a conquered tribe. Acknowledging the sanctity of human life was the first step towards the abolition of slavery.
With the sanctity of human life comes Moses, Exodus, and the Ten Commandments. Moses delivered the Israelites from slavery and together they journeyed to Mount Sinai where God gave Moses the sacred stone tablets. These tablets were inscribed not only with the Ten Commandments, but also with new ethical laws that the Israelites were to obey. What tends to be lost in translation, however, is the specific laws regarding slavery. Hebrew men were allowed to purchase other Hebrew men as slaves, but they may only enslave them for a total of six years. The families belonging to the enslaved party will be handed over to the purchaser unless the slave was married beforehand. Men who bought Hebrew women as slaves did not have to release them after the six year period. Instead the...

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