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					                                                                             Siobhan Burns
                                                                             Analytical Essay
                                                                             Section 3

       The issue of slavery served as the basis of many debates throughout the United

States. Those who supported slavery would argue that slavery was needed in order to

keep the agriculture industry going. Those who opposed slavery would argue, that while

slave labor may be the reason that the agriculture industry was booming in the United

States, it did not justify holding a human being in captivity under such cruel conditions.

Being opposed to slavery, granted the title of abolitionist to the person. Abolitionists

made their case against slavery in a variety of ways. They used religion to argue for the

abolition of slavery, they played on the emotions of the people, and used the past

experiences of the pro-slavery colonists against them.

       Those who supported slavery would sometimes use the Bible in support of their

actions. Claiming that the bible sanctioned slavery in many verses, slaveholders claimed

that this therefore justified their actions as slaveholders. They often referred to the story

of Canaan being prophesized to become enslaved to his brothers.

       However, abolitionists also used religion to point out their own side of the

argument. One abolitionist who did so quite eloquently was Angeline Grimke. While

also commenting on the story of Canaan, she instead says that while the Bible may have

prophesized the enslavement of Canaan; it did not prophesize the enslavement of human

beings in the future. (pg 1). Grimke also makes the case that if slaveholders were to use

the Bible to justify their actions in this way, then the actions of the slaveholding

Egyptians would also be justified through the story of Canaan. Even if something is

foretold in the Bible, it does not necessarily make it just. (Angeline Grimke 1). Those

who had a part in the crucifying of Jesus were heavily persecuted even though it was
foretold in the Bible. The Egyptians, as well were punished for their actions against their


          The reasons for enslaving someone in the Bible and according to Hebrew law are

very different than the reasons for the slaveholders of the South enslaving people.

(Grimke 1). According to Hebrew law people became enslaved when they were severely

in debt, had committed a crime, or were sold into slavery because their parents were in

debt. (Grimke 1). Slaves in the South however, were enslaved merely to produce more

profit to the agriculture industry. Also according to Hebrew law, the masters were

supposed to protect their slaves and treat them with decency as well as letting them go

after their period of servitude without conflict. (Grimke 1). Law did not protect slaves in

the 1800’s. Not being able to testify against their masters in court, or protect themselves

against the harmful will of their masters, slaves were utterly helpless under the law. This

is in complete contradiction to the laws of slavery described in the Bible. Abolitionists

also made the case that while religious people believed themselves to be righteous, they

were in fact the opposite of righteous. The Bible says that people should treat others, as

they would wish to be treated and that every person should love their neighbor as they

love themselves. The institution of slavery goes against these very simple principals.

Therefore, by using religion, and the word of the Bible abolitionists were able to convey

the fact that human being were not to be treated in the horrible ways that slaves were

being treated under the institution of slavery.

          Not only did abolitionists shake the very foundations of religion through their

arguments, the shook the emotions of the people. By using the life stories of many slaves,

and exposing the horrors these slaves had to endure, the abolitionists hoped that people
would begin to see the evils of slavery. Fredrick Douglass, who was a former slave,

gives an account of his trials during the course of his enslavement through his book

Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, An American Slave. Describing what it was

like for him to witness the sever whippings of other slaves owned by his first master,

Douglass evokes an emphatic emotion from his readers. This was the main goal when the

narrative was first published as well. The “dehumanizing character of slavery” made the

slaves feel like animals as they were made to sleep on cold damp floors and beaten at the

masters’ discrepancy. (Fredrick Douglass 14). After seeing a slave brutally murdered by

an overseer and the only result being a master becoming frustrated for having to pay for

the grave, Fredrick Douglass soon learned of the dehumanizing and “soul killing” effects

of slavery. (Douglass 25-26). “Slaves are reared for market as horses, sheep and swine”.

(Douglass 1). Slaves were not only sold like animals, they were also branded like

animals so they could be more easily recognized if they were to run away. (Douglass 1).

Abolitionists also often pointed out the fact that slaves could not protect themselves from

the brutality of their masters without being punished. This fact becomes clear in an

account from Josiah Henson. He explains seeing his father come home with his ear cut

off and having gashes all over his back, covered in dried blood for trying to protect his

mother from the cruelties of their master. (Pg 1). Henson also recounts his sleeping

quarters while in enslavement; he describes them as being little better than the horse

stables and cold when they were only given minimal clothing. By using stories such as

these, abolitionists hope to use the emotions of the people to ignite anti-slavery sentiment

among the masses.
          Some of the worst horror stories of slavery came from female slaves. Female

slaves were subject to the very common sexual abuse of their masters. Harriet Jacobs

describes the fear and shame she experienced while he master was sexually abusing her.

This fear and shame was common among most female slaves. Masters instilled fear in

their female slaves to make them subdue to their will, while other slaves may look at

them in shame because they had now been damaged. (Harriet Jacobs 1). Jacobs gives an

account of how her master, and many others thought of their power over their female

slaves: “He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things”.

This exact sentiment is the kind of sentiment that abolitionists were trying to fight. A

slave owner should not be able to sexually abuse his slave and try to justify it by calling

her property. By exposing this kind of act committed by slaveholders, the abolitionists

were hoping that the masses would feel the injustice and call fro the emancipation of


          The story of Celia could have been used in the same was as the story of Harriet

Jacobs was used. Celia’s story exposed the actions of the masters for what they truly were

horrible, cruel and gruesome. Being subjected to repeated sexual abuse by her master,

Celia was driven to kill her master through the pleadings of her lover and out of her own

fear. Abolitionists could have used this case to state that slave women were human beings

too and did not deserve the treatment they were receiving. Celia’s case could call out to

all women in country and tug at their emotions to hopefully get more people involved in

the antislavery movement. The case of Celia could even be used as a cautionary tale to

slave masters if abolitionists so wished to turn it into one. They could make the case that

actions such as sexual abuse could cause an uprising among the slave community. Instead
of waiting for the inevitable, abolitionists could have said that slaves should be

emancipated and treated like human beings before the effects become violent on both

sides. By using cases like Celia’s, and Harriet Jacobs, abolitionists are tugging on the

heartstrings of society making slaves human again in the face of enslavement.

       While calling on the experiences of slaves to make their case, abolitionists also

call on the past experiences of the colonists. Benjamin Banneker asks Thomas Jefferson

to look back to when he was under the tyrannical rule of the British. The colonists often

referred to their treatment by the British as enslavement. (Banneker 1). The colonists

sought freedom and therefore should know what their slaves were going through.

Because Jefferson had written the line that “all men are created equal”, many abolitionists

sought to have him on their side as a powerful voice to the people. By having such an

influential person as Jefferson calling out to the people to remind them of their own past

and telling them why they should end slavery, the abolitionists would have had more

power in their actions.

       Abolitionists used many different strategies to create their case against slavery.

They used religion for their case to counteract those using it as an argument for slavery,

they played on the emotions of society to make slaves human in the face of all the

conflict and used the past experiences of the colonists to make them see how their past

related to the future of slavery. By using different strategies the abolitionists were able to

reach a good amount of people.

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