English 9, Lesson 110 – John Thompson’s Theory of the Relationship Between Sanctions and Slavery

For the past week I have been reading John Thompson’s autobiography.  Thompson was an escaped slave and his book is set in the pre-Civil War era.  In his book he describes his masters and how life was like for slaves.  While reading the book I noticed that he had a very interesting theory concerning the relationship between sanctions and slavery.  In this essay, I am going to talk about this theory and my opinion of it.

Thompson’s theory was that when a master gives a harsh punishment it does not make the slave ‘behave’, but instead makes the slave resist even more.  But when a master gives a slave light or no negative sanctions, the slave is cooperative and puts in 110% when working.

I think that everyone reading this can agree that this theory is true.  When I think about the theory it reminds me of raising children.

For example, when a child (or teenager) misbehaves and a parent punishes them harshly, they usually do not comply that easily.  In most cases, the child does the same thing again or something even worse in an act of rebellion. 

When you look at slavery, I think this is the same case.  According to Thompson’s book, a lot of slaves were whipped for no reason other than to entertain their masters.  This bred resentment and resistance in the slaves and they would not work as hard.  But masters that were kind to their slaves and treated them as actual humans and not objects to be used, had happier and hardworking slaves who actually loved and cared for their masters.

Thompson made it very clear that he hated slavery because he thought that the system was giving white people (specifically white men) too much power, creating tyrants and sadists.  Thompson did not exactly say this, but I got the impression that he would not mind being a slave if he was treated with kindness from his masters.  I think it is safe to say a lot of other slaves had the same feelings.

As you can see, Thompson had a very logical theory about how sanctions and slavery worked.  I think that his theory is completely true.  Like Jessica said in her essay “it’s a two-way street.”[i]  If slaves were treated well, they would treat their masters well.  But if slaves were treated poorly, they would treat their masters poorly.

[i] “Sanctions and Slavery – English”. Farm Kid’s Blog. 16 February 2018. Web. 27 September 2021. https://rpcfarmkid.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/sanctions-and-slavery-english/

Author: sophiaelahirpc

Part-time 9th Grade student in the Ron Paul Curriculum. Full-time teen writer living in Singapore.

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