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The Christian Principle and Views Against Slavery

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David Walker authors the work, Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829) which informs of the system of Chattel slavery in America. In scathing terms, Walker refutes slavery on all points basing his objections on the Bible principles and the American Constitution. Like the American Constitution, Walker’s essay is divided into articles. He satirizes the U.S. Constitution because the very document which gives liberty to all men also discriminates and enslaves. The slaves are not considered citizens of The United States therefore they are citizens of the world – rejected, alienated, ostracized. The tone of the essay is very abolitionist, argumentative, militant and pro-active. Walker decidedly agrees that slaves ought not accept a voiceless, and passive role in the struggle. Walker argues against Christian hypocrisy which fuels, supports and perpetuates slavery. Christianity validates humanity, equality and kindness however, chattel slavery is practiced and enforced by Christians. Even accounts of Egyptian, Greek and Roman slavery recorded in the Bible and historical archives are mild as compared to the evils of chattel slavery against African Americans. Walker observes that these pagan nations still maintain a basic humanity and respect for slaves while in Christian America, slaves are degraded, dehumanized and severely ill-treated. Walker opposes Thomas Jefferson treatment of slaves in Notes on Virginia where Jefferson characterizes black slaves as inferior, animalistic, and base and draws distinction between white blood and black blood. The ban on interracial relations is scorned by Walker.

John Woolman in his document, Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes (1754) discusses the Christian principles of love, brotherhood upheld only in theory in America which contrasts with the practice of cruelty, systematic oppression, inhumanity and hostility. Woolman argues that a Christian should never be a slave-owner for doing so put at detriment his own soul and contravenes the founding principles of his faith. He urges the equality and brotherhood of Negroes and Whites according to the Christian doctrines. Woolman wonders at White Christian hypocrisy. To add force to his arguments, he quotes numerous scriptural texts from the Bible from the words of Christ, Paul and Isaiah. To enslave one’s brothers is not only unchristian but also unethical. God’s unconditional and impartial love is a perfect example of the love that man must have for his brother. Woolman laments greed, selfishness and prejudice that have poisoned the heart and turned it from human compassion. Vices such as sloth, lassitude and materialism are other adverse effects of slavery on slave-owners while virtues such as peace, humility, integrity and honesty are ignored. The fixation on earthly possessions does not accord with the expectations of the Christian. Heavenly inheritance is more important and more lasting in nature than passing earthly material goods.

Dehumanization is crucial in the process of colonialism for enslavement of their mind comes first and then the enslavement of the body and person. The colonized individual’s will must be broken, set at nought and then the colonial is at liberty to dominate, exploit and commodify the human being. Commodification converts the ‘sacred into the profane’ (Marx 1848). The Spanish conquistadores were the colonists of their day and once they constructed the Aztecs or Amerindians as inferior, or below their culture, dehumanization becomes easy and an almost natural step. “The bitterest servitude” was imposed and ‘cruel aggressions’ (De Las Casas were perpetrated against the indigenous Indians. Brutality, demonization and savagery are justified for the indigenous peoples are not fully human. They are ‘savages’ (Cortes). Thus when the Indians are wholly in their power through mass carnage and bloodbaths, European colonizers profited from servility, and subjugation. Through force, coercion and duress the European colonizers ‘demanded gold'(Broken Spears) and succeeded in getting it. Colonizers treated Aztecs of Mexico like ‘beasts…like excrement'(De Las Casas). De Las Casas said that the colonizers ‘deprived Indians of lives and souls’ hence one observes a clear process of systematic dehumanization for the purpose of subjugation and exploitation.

Abolitionist and Anti-Abolitionist forces clash and tensions culminate in the Proclamation of Emancipation of Slaves (1863), and the American Civil War (1860 – 1865). In the wake of The Declaration of Independence (1776), slaves and abolitionists struggle and claim human equality, freedom, and dignity. Euro-Americans justify racism on the basis of Christianization and civilization however abolitionists argue otherwise. Slave breeding, and the invention of the cotton gin fuel slavery. Growing literacy among Blacks give rise to writer of renown like George Moses Horton, Frances Harper, James Whitfield, and James Madison Bell. The slave narrative and Black poetry which emerge become potent tools in the argument against slavery and discredit Black inferiority.

Chattel Slavery is an institution which generates income for capitalist America and Europe. “In a country controlled by white men’s interests (the negro) had no master with an interest in him to safeguard” (17). Indeed, slavery is commonly known as The Slave Trade and this term underlines its economic connotations. In The Known World, instances of slave commerce recur repetitively. Henry Townsend and William Robbins, chief slaveholders, take inventory of their slaves entering in a log the physical description, birth, marriage, cost price, selling price, and death of each slave they own. In the business world, chattel slavery dehumanizes the slave by commodifying him. He is reduced to property, an asset, a means of production and even a “legacy”(74) according to Maude. Family ties, civil rights, justice and human dignity are trodden underfoot and give way to the almighty dollar. In the economy, slavery becomes such a business that insurance covers the mutilation, escape and accidental death of slaves. In business, nothing is for free. To purchase his freedom, the slave, at the discretion of the master, has to pay sums of money beyond the reaches of his pocket. For several years, Augustus Townsend earns money to redeem himself and his entire family from slavery. Robert Colfax, William Robbins and Counsel Skiffington build their sprawling empires on the backs of slaves. Slave speculators like Stennis and Darcy kidnap and sell free and enslaved blacks to the willing buyers of the South. Henry and Caldonia own an extensive cotton field – cotton being a product much in demand on the world market.

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The Christian Principle and Views Against Slavery. (2018, May 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-christian-principle-and-views-against-slavery/
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The Christian Principle and Views Against Slavery. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-christian-principle-and-views-against-slavery/> [Accessed 23 Mar. 2023].
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