Kristin LoweCorningU.S. History-Period 111 November 2010 Slave Owners and Christianity in America Religion has been used to justify many things throughout history. It has beenapplied to numerous beliefs to verify truths, but also to falsify information. Peoplehave used their religious beliefs and practicesto validate their actions. For example,today someMuslims believe that a suicide bombing is an act of faith, and justified bythe concept of Jihad, the religious duty of Muslims. The Koran is the primary sourceof the Islamic practices and faith, and it is where the concept of Jihad has beenformed.Christianity, like the Islamic faith, justifies their acts of the faith by their holybook, theBible.Some abolitionists in the antebellum United States argued thatChristianity created an effective defense for slavery, and that the Bible does notsupport the use of other humans as slaves. Yet throughout the 19th and 20th centuries,slave owners were able to use Christianity as an effective defense of slavery due tothe Bible. The slave masters believed in the enslavement of people as an institution,which had been established in Biblical times, thatslavery was anissue of property andalso an economic issue. Throughout the 19th century, slave owners recognized slavery as an institutionestablished in the Bible, in the Old Testament, which illustrates the rights of masterspertaining to their slaves, and creates an effective defense for slavery. For example, inthe Bible it has stated that"Youshallnotcovetyourneighborshouse.Youshallnotcovetyourneighborswife, orhismanservantormaidservant, his oxordonkey, oranythingthatbelongstoyourneighbor"(New International Version, Exd.20.17).ThisclearlydemonstratestheallowanceofslaverythroughouttheBible by
Lowe 2thestatement “manservantormaidservant”. Also, this verse waspartofthe TenCommandments, whicheverypersonistoabide by, anditcondonestheenslavementofotherhumans.In Deutoronomy 5:21 itstates, "You shall notcovet your neighbors wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbors house orland, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs toyour neighbor" (New International Version). Once again, the phrase stating“manservant or maidservant” clearly shows how slavery was demonstrated and wasallowed throughout Biblical times. In the 19th and 20th centuries, slavemastersnotonlythoughtoftheenslavementofpeople as a moral orsocietalissue, but as apropertyissue.In theBible, peoplehave a righttotheirproperty,whichmeanstheyhaveownershipoverslaves.In theOldTestament, itstates “"If amanbeatshismaleorfemale slave with a rodandthe slave dies as a directresult, he mustbe punished, but he isnotto be punishedifthe slave gets up after a dayortwo, sincetheslave ishisproperty”(New International Version, Exd. 21.20-21).The rules of how aslave hadtohavebeenpunished, demonstrates how slaveswereviewed as possessions.Also, Dadsonstatesthat “EnslavedAfricanswerelegally aformofproperty—acommodity. individuallyandcollectively,Slaveswereseen as purchased ítems,andafterbeingbought, theywould use untiltheycould no longerfunction.PropertyRights“includessuchaspectsofslavery as purchaseand sale, accumulationandcollateral”(Wright). In theend, theenslavementofhumanswasmerely a propertyissue, in whichslave mastersarguedtheyshouldhavebeenableto control their personal property inwhicheverwaywasneeded. Throughoutthe colonial periodof North America, slaveownersalsoviewedtheirslaves as aneconomicissue.Throughout North America,
Lowe 3especially in thesouth, theeconomywasstableonlybecauseofitsagriculture.Duetothemajortobacco,sugar, rice,andcotton industriesthroughoutAmerica,andtosufficientlysustaintheeconomy, theneedforslaveswas vital.Slaveswerebroughtintothecoloniestoworkonfarmsandplantations. Forexample,“…they [slaves]werefrequentlyused as collateral in allkindsofbusinesstransactions”(Dadson).Thisdemonstratesthatslaveswereonlyregardedto use fortradingand planningontheir masters’ farm. Theseworkersweretotendtolivestockandcropsontheplantaions(“Introductionto Colonial African AmericanLife”).Thisalsoclearlyrevealsthatslaveswereonlyusedtohelpsustainandbenefitthegrowingeconomyof North America by being placed toworkonplantations. In conclusion, America’shistoryofenslavementclearlydemonstratesthatslaveownersdidnotonlyseeslavery as a moral issue, but as aneconomicandpropertyissues aswell.Althoughnumerousreligions use theirBiblicalsourcetodefendtheiractsoffaith,Christianity usestheirBibletoprovideaneffectivedefenseoftheenslavementofpeople.The slave ownersbelieved in the idea of slavery as an institution, which began in Biblical times, andthat slavery was also an issue of propertyand an economic issue.
Lowe 4 Works CitedDadson, Howard. “How Slavery Helped Build a World Economy” National Geographic. 3 February, 2003. Web. 27 Nov 2010.“Introductionto Colonial African American Life” Colonial Williamsburg. Web. 1 Dec 2010.New International Version Bible. Ed: Committee on Bible Translation. Biblica, 1973.Web. 26 Nov. 2010.Wright, Gavin. “Slavery and American Agricultural History” Stanford. April 2003. Web. 17 Jan. 2011.