Thursday, February 23, 2017

Slavery and Freedom by J. S.

The focus of the paper, “Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox”, was to show that some of the founding fathers were not as hypocritical as they seem. He used first used Thomas Jefferson as an example by showing his distrust towards debtors and non-landowners. He distrusted debtors, despite being one himself, due to their inability to be truly “free”. He thought that being in debt gave the debtor control and therefore a debtor could not be free. He also distrusted those who lived in the city and did not own land. He feared that if they were to lose their job they would have nothing to fall back on, and could only rely on charity. The author also pointed out how they couldn’t only worry about slaves in the early times. In the early days before slavery was as popular, indentured servitude was popular due to the promise of being gifted land after your work period of over.  This in turn backfired when the tobacco buyers wouldn’t buy small amounts of barrels, leading the previously indentured servants to rebel in Bacon’s Rebellion.  This led to an increased rate of slavery since the slaves had a much harder time rebelling and could be punished more harshly.

The point of view for this paper was not of someone from today, but was attempting to be a point of view like how those living during the time would have had. You can first see this with how he talks about how Thomas Jefferson was not as racist as we would assume today. The next time we can see the point of view is when they talk about the fear of rebellions of servants and slaves alike, and how this evolved into a large fear of the slaves by many owners. This point of view is also shown when talking about Sir William Berkeley and his immense fear of rebellion due to his history regarding the English civil wars.

Our discussions in class touched on a lot of topics and questions coming from the reading, and surprisingly, outside it as well. We talked a lot about where the fear of slaves and servants came from and how it came to be. We also talked about how relationships(both consensual and unconsensual) were somewhat common between slaves and their masters, most prominently, we talked about Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemmings, with whom he is believed to have had 6 children. We also talked about how the rebellions of slaves in Haiti fueled the fear of owners in the colonies.

We are left wondering whether the author is correct in his assumptions that masters lived in fear of their slaves. Another possible question could be whether the founding fathers were truly hypocritical and hiding it or whether they were just fearful and trying to do the best for their people. Another question I personally have is if the slave owners were fearful or if a large part in the fear was to gain stricter laws and make sure their slaves stayed complacent and in line so the farms would stay in operation.