American History / John Locke-Slavery

John Locke-Slavery

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Autor:  anton  20 December 2010
Tags:  slavery
Words: 863   |   Pages: 4
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The views of John Locke on the topic of slavery vary drastically from the actual events that took place in the United States. The experiences of Fredrick Douglas give truth to this statement. In Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, he expresses the freedom that all men should have as long as they abide by the common rule of the society. In actuality, slaves may have done nothing wrong, but their freedom was still taken away from them. John Locke believed slavery should be a form of punishment for those who committed a crime worthy of death and anyone who committed such a crime should become a slave. Fredrick Douglas teaches us that what really took place in the United States was an unfair practice of kidnapping, then buying and selling other human beings while abusing them and separating them from their families. Slaves were used to serve wealthy white plantation owners and committing a crime had nothing to do with the reason why they were forced into this position, most of them were simply born into slavery.

Locke and Douglas possessed distinguishable perceptions of the reason for slavery. Locke believed that the purpose of slavery was to reprimand someone for committing a crime worthy of death as the punishment. He also believed that the criminal should be enslaved until the hardship of his slavery outweighs the quality of his life. At this point, it is up to the slave to disobey his master in order to be put to death. On the other hand, Douglas expresses the fact that slavery was merely to benefit wealthy white plantation owners and their families. Slaves were either used to complete manual labor in the fields of the slave owner’s plantation or to complete tasks inside the home, such as cooking, cleaning and child rearing. Locke’s thoughts on the purpose of slavery and Douglas’s reality were drastically different.

Locke had different beliefs from Douglas about who should and who actually became slaves. Locke believed anyone who intentionally committed a crime so horrific that he or she deserved death as the punishment should be enslaved. There for, anyone could become a slave, regardless of race, gender, or ethnic background. The only stipulation was age and mental stability. Locke believed that children and the mentally disabled were unable to understand exactly what they were doing when committing a crime, and there for, should not suffer the consequences of their actions like grown adults who were able to think clearly. According to Douglas’s first hand account, only male and female African Americans of various ages were subject to slavery in the United States during this time period. Instead of enslaving individuals for a specific reason, African Americans were forced into slavery based solely on the color of their skin.

Another distinction between Locke’s theory and Douglas’s experience was the manner in which people were enslaved. Locke believed that if a man committed a crime so horrific that he deserved death as his punishment, his death should be delayed and he should first be used as a slave and be made to take orders from his enslaver. Slavery, in Locke’s eyes, only reared its ugly face when someone actually deserved it as his or her punishment. This, however, did not take place in the United States. Douglas expresses the fact that slaves were often innocent of any crimes. They were men, women, and children unexpectedly taken from their homes and sent to slave prisons. Then, they were shipped to auctions and slave-markets; most separated from their families. Often, the children of slaves were born into slavery with no chance of freedom. Locke’s theory of how criminals become slaves differs drastically from Douglas’s account of innocent people being forced into slavery for no apparent reason.

In conclusion, Locke’s ideas of slavery are significantly skewed when compared to the actuality of slavery through the eyes of Fredrick Douglas. Locke was a theorist who had idealistic views on the topic of slavery. He wrote that people should be enslaved only when they have committed a crime worthy of death as the punishment. This included almost anyone, regardless of race, gender or ethnic background. He also alleged that everyone had a natural right to freedom and when they committed a crime they were forfeiting that right. Nevertheless, they were still in control of their lives, because they had the power to decide when they would be put to death. Through Fredrick Douglas’s slavery experience, we are able to get a clear picture of the reality of slavery in the United States. He details how innocent African Americans were either abruptly taken against their will and forced into slavery like farm animals, or born into the misfortune of slavery. Despite the original theories of Locke, these people were no longer in charge of their own lives. Their natural freedom had been taken from them and they no longer had the power to sustain their wellbeing and control their future.

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