English 1, Lesson 110 – Sanctions and Slavery

Write 500 words on this topic: “What was Thompson’s theory of the relationship between sanctions and slavery?”

    John Thompson, author of the book Autobiography of John Thompson, had an interesting view on sanctions. Particularly negative sanctions. He believed that slaves who received unnecessary or over-the-top punishments were more likely to be rebellious, while slaves who were allowed some freedom and were not punished for little or no reason were more likely to be compliant and do their work well.

    Thompson offers a few stories as proof of his theory. One story of negative sanctions leading to rebellion was that of a slave named Ben. One day, Ben’s overseer hit him for not driving a cart fast enough, to which Ben responded by beating him near to death! Of course, the overseer reported this and Ben was forced to flee. 5 white men eventually discovered Ben and beat him badly. Ben later told Thompson he wished he had killed the overseer and been hanged!

    Another story tells of Thompson himself, and the master who did not like that he was a Methodist and not a Catholic. Thompson enjoyed humming Methodist hymns while he worked, which made the Catholic master even more upset, leading him to treat Thompson the worst of all his slaves. One day, Thompson was blamed for an infraction of another slave, but his master couldn’t flog him because he was a strict Catholic. So he beat Thompson instead! Thompson responded by choking his master near to death! When his master ran to get his gun, Thompson fled for the woods, where he hid and came to the slave quarters at night to eat. He decided he would kill the master if he tried to hit Thompson again, and even planned where he would hide the body. However, he did not have to implement his plan, as the master soon died in a barn fire.

    He also talks of some plantations where the slaves and their masters both got along and even enjoyed each other’s company. On these plantations, the slaves were allowed to visit their friends and family, and they were not punished, especially for small things such as not driving a cart fast enough. Because they liked their masters, the slaves were much more productive, as they were not injured or spiteful or rebellious.

    Thompson believed and proved that negative sanctions only hurt plantations, with slaves planning and wishing to kill their overseers and rebelling against their masters. He also showed that if a master treated his slaves like humans, they were much happier, more productive, and much more compliant.

4 thoughts on “English 1, Lesson 110 – Sanctions and Slavery

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  3. Hi there! This post couldn’t be written much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!


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