African Slavery in America

Thomas Paine is recognized as one of the earliest and most influential advocate of the abolition of slave trade. His detest of slavery was clearly evident in this article which he wrote in 1774. This article was addressed to all Americans and in an article he stated his feelings and thoughts against African slavery. The article was first published one year later in 1775, in the Weekly Advertiser and then in the Pennsylvania Journal. Paine then went on to become a founding member of the very first anti-slavery society in the US. He is commonly known as the author of the American Revolution, a man who had the audacity and tenacity to speak of things that were only punishable by death.    

Paine captures the evilness and wickedness of slavery in this article with magnificent ease and calls a spade a spade and not a big spoon. It is  evident from the go that he is against slavery as a whole and not just African slavery. He refers to slavery as a savage, wicked practice which should not be condoned, let alone supported by civilized people not just Christians. The fact that Christian people approve of the practice, is all too bizarre to him. I think that Paine is not only against the practice of slavery, but he is disturbed even more that the practice is condoned and approved by Christians. To him, such an immoral enslavement and ownership of another human being, should not only be admonished by Christians, but be punishable by death to those who practice it. He associates slavery with the ‘infidel cavilers who would endeavor to make them appear contrary to the plain dictates of natural light, and the conscience in a matter of common justice’. The issue of Christians supporting slavery is supported by the reasoning that such a practice was permitted to the Jews. This argument is as weak as it is false and cannot be used to state that the sacred scriptures allow for slavery. Paine states that the kind of slavery practiced by the Jews in Bible is not the same as the one practiced in America. The Jews were only allowed to keep slaves that they had captured in the war and thus were not allowed to capture people who had not done anything wrong to them. He asserts that  the Bible did not allow  slavery. The Bible taught Christians ‘to account all men their neighbors; and love their neighbors as themselves; and do to all men as they would be done’ and thus the practice of stealing and enslaving another human was not the best expression of loving thy neighbor (Thomas, 1775).

In conclusion, Pain raises a number of valid questions that the American people ought to consider with all decency and reasoning. In asking these questions, it is clear that he considers the American people to be hypocrites who are selfish and lack honesty in themselves. This opinion is born from the terrible consequences that arise from slavery. I think what Paine wonders is what the American people would if they were subject to the inhuman nature of slavery that they so openly advocated for. He looks at those consequences that occur when husbands are separated from their wives, children from their parents leading to a breach of sacred and natural ties which opens an avenue of adulteries, incest, hatred and many other shocking consequences. He argues that American people should not dare to compare their practice of slavery with that of other countries, stating that the difference is that these countries only enslave people they capture from war, while Americans capture innocent Africans, with whom they were not at war, and who were inoffensive and quite. He describes this as the height of outrage against humanity and justice.

He raises a number of questions which he calls sentiments of humanity and justice. He asks Americans as to why they go up in arms whenever any other person tries to enslave them and yet they hold so many in slavery under the pretence of authority; He wonders as to what would be a suitable punishment for Americans who practiced slavery; he also questions the role of the society in denouncing slavery and finally bringing it to an end. If slavery was to end, what would happen to those already enslaved and as such, would Africans abhor Christianity after suffering so much under its believers? Thomas Paine was indeed a rare mind in a time when everybody appeared to think on a straight line. This article represents a human being who believed in human rights and equality in the simplest sense of the word.

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