Slaveholders Who Stood in Defence of the Slaves

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The US Supreme Court decided that all persons of African descent were not US citizens and therefore could not use the constitution to defend their liberties. They had no liberties. Slaves had not rights in America until The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The case of Dred Scott proved that the courts protected slavery and all levels of racism in America. Racism was not only limited to the American public but was fully supported in the courts. Most often the jury, lawyers and those who covered the case for historical reasons used undertones of racism.

Slaves could win their freedom through lotteries as in the case of Denmark Versey or through acts of the slaveholder. Even as a freed man the constitution would prove that a freed slave did not have the same rights as a US citizen. Whitemen could use the courts when they had disputes over personal property and land. The Bill of Rights allowed them to have certain inalienable rights that the blackman did not have. Life in america for the slave was hard. They could be treated poorly and even killed without any legal protections.

Most people have visions of grand plantations where slaves were treated well as long as they obeyed their owners. But the truth is a lot of poor whites owned slaves too. “Every historian of the Old South knows’, as James Oakes pointed out, that the “typical” slaveholder did not necessarily own the “typical” slave.” Both the wealthy and poor slave owners would have the law on their side allowing them to treat the blackman as property and not as a human being.

Some slave owners leaned on their Christian values in how they treated their slaves. Even the good christian man expected their property to obey them and had no problems with causing grief to the slaves, they would separated husbands from wives and mothers from children. The life of a slave was never considered. It didn't matter to the owner if the slave had a good life, the slave was there to insure the slaveholder had an easy life. Slaves were bought and sold for profit with no regards to any human rights.

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The slaveholders of the South would acquire great fortunes through the forced labor of slaves while the slaves themselves would get by with what little they had. Most of the time the slave was lucky to be alive. Although poor whitemen didn't get rich from slavery the fact that they owned slaves meant that they wouldn’t have to do the hard work themselves. In america slavery was a good thing for anyone who was protected under the constitution. Either you got rich or you got others to do your work.In my research I tried finding cases where slaveholders were brought to trial for crimes against slaves, but was unable to cite any case. I did read a case where a slave owner was accused of extreme cruelty, but this case was in Latin American. It stated in the article that the laws in Lima were greatly different from the laws pertaining to slaves in America. The article also mentions how slavery was a building block to the “Creation of Legal Rights in Cuba.”

There are many cases in Americn history where persons of African descent tried to fight for their personal rights under slavery. Whether it was a case of master cruelty or a freed man captured and returned to slavery, the law always weighed on the side of the slave owners. White slaveholders were always right when it came to the courts. It would take a long time for our country to right the wrongs of people owning people.

When Denmark Vesey won his freedom in South Carolina he became an advocate for ending slavery. He was under constant surveillance by the whites around him. Vesey was eventually accused of plotting a slave revolt in 1822. Vesey, along with others, were rounded up, executed and hanged. There was an unfair trial and no higher courts to defend the case. In every case including slaves or freed slaves the laws would always go back to stating “no citizenship, no rights.”

In 1841 the historical case of The Amistad slaves were accused of mutiny and due to be executed brought many leading legal minds together to defend the captives. Former President John Quincy Adams were among the men who defended the actions of the slaves. The case went all the way to the appellate court and it was determined that the slaves fought in self defense and were ordered freed. The case of “La Amistad” would be a landmark decision that would give hope to anti-slavery movements in America.

Before 1863 and the post civil war amendments to the constitution rights of men in America were determined mostly by the color of a humans skin. White slaveholders had to abide by the laws of the land just as non slaveholding Americans. Both white slave owners and white non slave owners followed the same laws. Both white slave owners and white non slave owners were prosecuted according to the laws they broke. Slaves were not always lucky enough to have great men like John Quincy Adams defend them in court, most times the trials were quick and went unnoticed by the public. Unlike whitemen who were always afforded a proper trial with a jury of their peers.

In america the lives of the slaveholder seems to have been a life of business with no regard for fellow human beings. The white slave owner was ruled by making money or turning a profit. The fact that most whitemen of the time were devout christians, it wasn't until centuries later that the meaning of all men are created equal would include “all men.”

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