“The Anti-Slavery Vanguard”
October 2, 2012
Freshmen English 101
We all know the extent to which slavery was practiced in the early days and it was this slavery which had created a divided among the people of a nation . Slaves during the eighteenth and the nineteenth century were deprived of all those rights which are considered to be birthrights of an individual and even being a slave means to be working under someone or considering oneself to be inferior to another which is wrong as every human being has the right to live life freely and has the full right to liberty. The slaves during those days were not treated equally and were considered to be inferior than others. But to revolt against such activities, there have been many activists in those days who fought against slavery and wanted it to be abolished forever. These activists were those who believed in the freedom of equality and wanted everyone to be considered equally without any discrimination based on sex, color or caste. So let us talk about some of beliefs of these revolutionaries and the struggles they faced to achieve their goal.
Let us first take into consideration the third president of the Unites states, Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was a man of great intellect, deep compassion and was also a prolific writer . He was always an antislavery revolutionist and believed that all men are created equal. His views on slavery were very apparent and he did more than anyone could have done in history for abolishing slavery and freeing the slaves. His famous quote on slavey in the Declaration of Independence “We hold these truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” also support his views and ideas. These words are arguably the most recognized words in the American history and act as a backbone to the right of freedom. His views on slavery have always been revolting and he was even indulged in the act of enslaving throughout his life. However while considering slavery a moral travesty and a hideous evil, he himself owned several slaves at his home in Monticello. Because of this reason he was called a hypocrite. But however this does not change the fact of him being an antislavery revolutionist and how he was indulged in the activity of freeing the slaves. Many people say that he did not act as per what he stated in his Declaration of Independence. He was against slavery but at the same time he believed in the divide between Africans Americans and considered whites to be superior that the blacks. But as I said, even after all this, we cannot deny the fact that he was against slavery and believed that it should be abolished soon. I personally believe that Jefferson was very firm in his ideas and believes and was a person who would like to have unity in the world without any racism. His words expressed a hatred and disdain for an institution that ran contradictory to the ideals of democracy and human rights.
Benjamin Banneker was an another antislavery personality who shared the same views and ideas as Jefferson did but he thought that Jefferson did not seem to be acting as per his statements in his Declaration of Independence. He even wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson in which he contradicts his thoughts and arguments and felt that with Jefferson’s past experiences in life, he should have an idea of the cruelty and how inappropriate slavery is. Benjamin uses Jefferson’s own quotes and sayings to argue his own perspective. By using Jefferson’s own words on Right to Life and Equality he shows that if Jefferson is against or for the act of slavery, he would be contradicting himself. Throughout the letter he tries to describe the horrors of slavery. One of his purposes of writing the letter was to question Jefferson that if he was against slavery and if he believed that all men are equal then why did he believe in American’s superiority over the African’s? But even though Benjamin wrote this letter to Jefferson to challenge him and to argue for his actions, he wrote the letter showing due respect towards him in a very calm and respectful manner. He used his words wisely to flatter Jefferson and show respect towards him. By this letter, Benjamin made a great impact on Jefferson’s thoughts and actions against slavery and his views changed to a great extent. He acknowledged Benjamin’s actions by saying that he would send the almanac to the French Academy of Science explicitly to contradict the kind of racial theories that his notes have echoed.
There was another antislavery activist who considered slavery to be a crime. His name was William Lloyd Garrison, born in an impoverished white family. He found a National Anti-Slavery society which prompted good of the slaves. The members of the society were so firm in their beliefs that sometimes the societies activities even turned violent. They thought that it was more glorious to die instantly as freemen rather than living one hour as slaves. This was the extent to which they all were against slavery. All those anti-slavery people were very few in number but their honest conviction that Truth, Justice and Right were on their side, made them invincible. Garrison was also always against the African American divide and thought that only because of their complexion, the blacks used to suffer the pangs of hunger, the infliction of stripes and the ignominy of brutal servitude. He followed Jefferson’s quote “All men are created equal” and believed that the people with black complexion should be given the equal amount of opportunities to exhibit their skills and abilities and should be able to enjoy the same amount of rights as the white complexion.. He thought that there was no difference in African slave trade and American slavery. Right to liberty is inalienable and every person has the right to enjoy it to the fullest. How can one be said that what he is supposed to do with his own body? He has the full right to do what he/she wants with his/her body and have the common advantages of the society. Garrison considered slavery to be a crime and not an article or a property to be sold. To make his views and ideas reach the public, Garrison even wrote an anti-slavery newspaper named “The Liberator” which soon became one of the most abolitionist journal in the country. In order to prove all his points and to abolish slavery from the country, he told some of his ideas that we should organize Anti-slavery societies and if possible then in every city, town and village in our land, we should circulate, unsparingly and extensively, anti-slavery tracts and periodicals and we should even enchourage the labor of freemen rather than that of slaves by giving a preference to their production. Apart from all this he believed that their trust for victory was solely in God and God was the only one who was above all these laws which were in force.
Another personality who does not fit with the title and someone who was for slavery and believed that all people in this world are not born equal neither physically nor mentally. His name was George Fitzhugh who thought that some people from birth are large, strong and intelligent whereas some are weak, small or inherited by some disease. So it is their natural inequalities which devoid them of all the rights. Some are inferior or superior to others and those who are inferior always have to work under their masters and live accordingly. In “Sociology for South”, Fitzhugh sets out to demonstrate what he perceives as the overwhelming failure of the free society. He bemoans the suffering of those free labours who, toiling under the myth of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, actually become society’s slaves. According to him the whites being superior than the blacks, slavery functions as a civilizing force that elevates the enslaved. He believed that there are some people who serve and some people who are served, as according to him nobody is equal. He quotes “There are some born with saddles on their backs and some spurred and booted to ride them” and the one who ride them are their masters and will always stay superior to those who are being rode. Contradicting Garrison he says that life and liberty are sold and should be sold as long as human nature lasts. And he proves his point with the fact that slaves are still sold in some of the countries of antiquity like China. Actually Fitzhugh’s views are exactly opposite than all activists we talked about may it be Jefferson, Banneker or even Garrison. On one side all these activists were talking about the right to Equality and Liberty and on the other side it was Fitzhugh who said that this Liberty and Equality were all historical anomalies, bizarre and destructive aberrations in social thought coined unnecessarily and were already on the verge of extinction. Addressing Jefferson he says that the pursuit of happiness is not inalienable because if it is inalienable then a person should not get punished for a crime as most of the crimes are committed in the pursuit of happiness. One even one has a natural right to alien liberty so even liberty cannot be considered as inalienable. In order to exemplify this he says that a soldier who finds death at a cannon’s mouth does so because he has aliened both life as well as liberty. So by all his statements he want to convey a message that nothing in this world is equally divided among people and its one’s destiny that plays a major role in it.
So this was what some of the activist of those times thought what slavery was and how it was infavourable for the society. Those who were against it thought that their countries would have progressed much more as it was this slavery which did not allow the slaves to perform and exhibit their skills as they were never given a chance to. And if these slaves were given the same level of opportunities as others then it would have made a major difference in growth of the economy.
-Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” (July 4,1776)
-Benjamin Banneker’s letter to Thomas Jefferson (1791)
-William Lloyd Garrison’s “Declaration of Sentiments of the American Anti-Slavery Convention (December 6,1833)
-George Fitzhugh’s “Sociology for the South of the Failure of Free Society (1854)