Imagine yourself at the mercy of another human being. You are dependent upon this person for food and shelter. This person controls your life in every way possible. You are told when to wake up, what to do, how to do it and when to stop doing it. If you do not cooperate you will be beaten severely and possibly killed. Imagine a society of people that live like this! How would human character be affected by this power? How would religion be influenced by this institution? How would family life be affected by these activities? I will attempt to answer these three questions in the following essay.
Fredrick Douglas was born in Maryland, he does not know the date of his birth, as did most slaves. He never really had a chance to know his mother, only having seen her four or five times. Fredrick taught himself how to read and write despite it being against his slave-owners wishes. He could not let knowledge be known to anyone except for other slaves. Fredrick saw his knowledge of words both as a blessing and a curse.
In words of John Cotton, "Let all the world learn to give mortal men no greater power than they are content they shall use---for use it they will." "Limitations of Government" (1655). This statement is proven true in the institution of slavery. White men were given supreme power over their black slaves and it corrupted their character. Otherwise noble men were forced to be torturous towards their slaves in order to keep them "in line".
As Douglas recalls an incident where a slave named Demby, was being whipped by a Mr. Gore. After receiving his lashes, Demby proceeded to run into the river, not to escape but to relieve the pain. Mr. Gore gave Demby to the count of three to come out of the river. When Demby did not comply, he was shot dead. It is my belief that no sane man would b compelled to shoot another without good reason. The institution of slavery gave these men a good reason.
That is an extreme of slavery can cause. Most slave-owners were not so brutal, but they were not distant from the behavior. They had to become fairly evil to keep the slaves in line. Brutality had to take the place of consent in slaves and without limitations man was bound to exercise the power.
Slavery not only affected the male slave owners but the women also. Mrs. Auld wasn't raised with slaves, "She has been in a good degree preserved from the blighting and dehumanizing effects of slavery." (Page 46) When she first married into the family she began to teach Fredrick the ABC's. Soon after, Mr. Auld found out and put a stop to it. To his belief it was unsafe to teach slaves to read. Before long Mrs. Auld changed, "The fatal Poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced its infernal work." (Page 46)