What was Thompson’s Theory of the Relationship Between Sanctions and Slavery

John Thompson(born 1812), was born a slave on a plantation in Maryland. During a few years of his childhood he lived with his parents and seven siblings. But some of his family members may have been sold, passed away, or he had been sold, hence why I only stated that he lived with his family as a whole for a few years. Later in Thompson’s life he managed to escape from slavery, which is why he eventually wrote an autobiography on how his life was as a slave, his beliefs, his escape, etc. Even though his autobiography did not become famous, or he became famous as an author, his autobiography is still a pretty valuable historic account on slavery. But because Thompson’s autobiography is also an account on his beliefs, what was his theory on the relationship between sanctions and slavery?

When Thompson was a slave he witnessed and experienced much hardship and pain. He included many of these stories, including some about slaves from other locations in his autobiography. Because of his life experiences as a slave he developed a “theory,” on the relationship between sanctions and slavery. This theory in my opinion came in two parts; negative, and positive sanctions.

Negative sanctions: Thompson stated often in his autobiography that he believed if a slave owner whipped their slaves in general, or whipped their slaves with no good reason would automatically reduce the productivity or work ethic of the slaves. This was due to the fact that the severe punishment would in fact cause resistance and resentment. Because the slave owner now had slaves who despised him, this would put the slave owner at risk, because who knows maybe a slave uprising may occur. Also because the slaves were now resentful and angry at the slave owner for his wrongdoings toward them, will in turn make the plantation a far less productive one. Also Thompson believed that if anyone treated a slave wrongly would get some form of severe punishment, which is shown in some of the life stories that are portrayed in the autobiography.

Positive sanctions: Thompson also stated the opposite of negative sanctions; positive sanctions. He believed and stated that if a slave owner did not whip or mistreat the slaves, that this will help raise the productivity and work ethic of the slaves. Which in turn would benefit the slave owner. Basically in short Thompson believed that if a slave owner was decent and treated his slaves decently, he would in turn receive some sort of benefit.

In conclusion, Thompson’s theory on the relationship between sanctions and slavery, came in two parts: negative sanctions and positive sanctions. In the part of negative sanctions, Thompson believed that if anyone mistreated a slave they would receive some form of severe punishment. But if a person treated a slave fairly, that person would receive some sort of benefit, hence the positive sanction. Thompson’s autobiography so far has been a rather interesting and insightful read on slavery, and the immorality of it.


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