My reading assignment for this week was another Autobiography from the late 19th century. This was John Thompson’s autobiography, and what I heave read from it has struck me hard.How I pity those lost souls, by which I mean the owners of slaves, who thought it a blessed thing to beat another human as if they were animals. If you read what I have, you’d know what cruelty went on in that day. It’s time to answer the question presented to me this time. The question is: “What was Thompson’s theory of the relationship between sanctions and slavery?”
First, let me define the sanctions. A very common practice of punishment was to whip a slave that had done wrong. By law, no more that forty lashes could be administered. This, however was not always followed, leading to excessive violence that they, the owners, claimed was necessary for keeping them in line. Not only that, sometimes, if they were ‘dastardly enough’, they would whip for absolutely no purpose other than to satisfy themselves. It may sound surreal, but this was in fact, common back then.
So, with that in mind, here is what Thompson, a slave once himself, believed was a better, and if not, inevitable course of action. He believed that this excessive beating was immoral, and I absolutely agree. He also thought that if slave owners were less hard on them, treating them with more kindness, then all would prosper, and things would be better in general. But, he also believed that those who inflicted unjust acts upon slaves would receive their ‘just reward’ from the Almighty. An eternal sanction for immoral ones. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. And, a few of them did receive this.
So, there is my answer, as plainly as I can put it. now, there’s one last sanction I didn’t mention. Some of the slaves, if desperate, would resort to murder in order to be executed for it. This was actually a way of escaping that some men considered. If what Thompson theorized as the alternative had been implemented, it would have made a major difference in history.