Saturday, March 7, 2020

Ordeal by Fire Essay Example

Ordeal by Fire Essay Example Ordeal by Fire Essay Ordeal by Fire Essay After reading the two books, â€Å"Ordeal by Fire† by James McPherson and â€Å"Slavery† by Stanley M. Elkins I would have to say the books are very separate on their approach to slavery before the Civil War.   McPherson’s book looked at slavery as it related to the Civil War.   Elkins book looked more at the institution of slavery.   Both looked into the economic role and its foundation in slavery.   Both agreed that in comparison Latin American slaves had a more difficult life than slaves in Southern North America.   The differences in views from these authors, that I could see, were standard views at the time at which these books were written.   McPherson’s book was written in 1982 and Elkins was first published in 1959.   I will admit though that Elkins book was obviously way before its time.   His ideals of slave personality probably helped invent the phrase â€Å"slave mentality†.   â€Å"How a person thinks about Negro slav ery historically makes a great deal of difference here and now; it tends to locate him morally in relation to a whole range of very immediate political, social, and philosophical issues which in some way refer back to slavery† (Elkins, 1959, p. 1).   In McPherson’s book he looks at how â€Å"slavery formed the foundation of the South’s distinctive social order† (p.31), and how this fit into a lifestyle in the south. When thinking of the brutality of slavery Elkins basically argued that slavery in itself was brutal.   Ã‚  With McPherson, although he did not disagree with brutal acts happening he just didn’t believed they happen often.   He believed that the owner’s power over his slaves â€Å"was often tempered by economic self-interest and sometimes by paternalism† (p.34).   He wrote, â€Å"Dead, maimed, brutalized or runaway slaves grow little if any cotton† (p.34).   There was a gentleman’s code of noblesse oblige which required â€Å"beneficence towards inferiors†.   The use of persuasions, inducement, rewards for good work and concessions between slave owner and slaves.   Overseers and masters could â€Å"not rule by the whip alone†, McPherson wrote. Slavery was a human institution along with a legal and economic one that helped to give reason for the dehumanizing of slavery.   Elkins wrote of a childlike conformity slaves were taught to keep them in line.   â€Å"Cruelty per se cannot be considered the primary key to this; of far greater importance was the simple â€Å"closedness† of the system, in which all lines of authority descended from the master and in which alternative social bases that might have supported alternative standards were systematically suppressed† ( Elkins, 1959 p. 128).   One factor that McPherson wrote about is the effect of the family structure and how it has affected African Americans throughout history in years since his book was published much has been written on that subject.   But at the time these books were written the consequence of this broken family structure was not yet fully recognized. Slavery in law was a form of property.   Human rights were something slaves did not have.   â€Å"They could not legally marry, nor own property, nor be taught to read or write in most states† (McPherson, 1982 p.34).   They were allowed to have a family, in fact after 1808 because of ending of the African slave trade; this was encouraged as natural reproduction of stock.   Some were allowed to earn money and in rare cases they could buy their freedom.   But until they were free their family and money could legally be taken from them at any time. In both books lack of education among slaves served well for a couple of reasons.   â€Å"The low level of literacy was one of the chief features distinguishing the slave from the free population of the South from the North.† (McPherson, 1982 p. 37)   There was a belief that educating a slave would cause them to have â€Å"dissatisfaction in their minds† that would cause insurrection and rebellion.   â€Å"Every Southern state except Maryland and Kentucky had stringent laws forbidding anyone to teach slaves reading and writing, and in some states the penalties applied to the educating of free Negroes and mulattoes as well† (Elkins, 1959 p. 60).   Education in the North was very strong and very weak in the South abolitionist gave this as to the reason the South kept slavery.   Saying â€Å"this one main for the ‘backwardness’ of the South and the immorality of slavery† (McPherson, 1982, p. 37) was the reason slavery was still practice d. In McPherson’s book talked of the work ethics and slavery.   He wrote of how slavery had undermined Southerners work ethics and made them lazy.   Their fight to keep the institution of slavery kept them from accepting new and better agricultural tools for use in the fields and ending the economically unsound practice of slavery.   A critic of work habits of the South and slavery, Frederick Law Olmsted, believed â€Å"that the average free worker in the North accomplished twice as much as the average slave.   Most slaves had little motivation to improve their output through harder work or greater efficiency.   They lacked the time discipline of modern work habits.† (McPherson, 182 p. 36). The church influence was a tool to keep a bond between master and slave.   â€Å"The slaves spoke the same language and worshipped the same Christian God as their owner.   Relationships of trust and affection as well as alienation and hatred could exist between slave and master.† (McPherson, 1982 p. 34).   In Elkins book he introduced the church as having moral authority over every man in every condition.   In the United States during the years of slavery the only law that was supportive somewhat of the marriage and how it related to church law was conjugal relations between slaves.   This dealt only with unions between master and slave; known as concubinage.   Unlike Latin America and other nations of slave holder’s concubinage was condemned and was not allowed.   Marriages, between slaves were permitted in these countries they were sanctified by the church and protected under law.   Many of the slaves still practiced their own religion in secret in fea r of punishment if found. The brutality of slavery was a direct result of Southerners devotion to limited government and laissez faire capitalism.   I tend to agree with Elkins theory that slavery itself is brutal.   Openly acts of brutality were not a rule but an exception it was the openly brutal social class system slaves were placed in that was the cruelest.   All one has to do is look at today’s society to see the long term affects this had on African Americans.   Both authors gave good sound argument on slavery, but if I had to choose which gave a better picture of what slavery was like I would have to say that is was â€Å"Slavery†.   I found the book was a little harder to follow, but gave a broader view of slavery.   In McPherson’s book there were only really 6 or 7 pages that really dealt with slavery.   Even though Elkins book was written in 1959, a time of civil rights, I thought he showed more to slavery than just the economic reasons for slavery.   The conseq uences of slavery have survived many generations and really only in the last fifty years the affects of this turbulent time in history has just began to be understood.   A whole culture and society was created out of slavery.   The Civil War changed a nation, slavery changed a culture.   I found the picture that McPherson gave was only superficial and in my readings gave me an understanding of why the Civil War and slavery were intertwined.   Elkins gave more meaning to what slavery was all about.

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