Pulling the Wool Essay


The crisp contrast between William Smith’sLectures on the Philosophy and Practice of Slaveryand Frederick Douglass’sNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. an American Slaveleads to of import decisions about the huge differences in perceptual experience between those who owned and those who were owned in the period of American bondage. Smith’s work implores his fellow White landholders to pattern what he sees as a merely intervention of African slaves.

However. his disdain for emancipationists and belief that Northerners are off the grade in understanding the province of bondage in the South demo his belief that the establishment itself is appropriate. even God-driven. and that merely a minority of slave proprietors may necessitate rectification. Furthermore. what drives Smith’s philosophy-the really faith from which Douglass saw the greatest ferociousness spring forth-causes him to asseverate and confirm the necessity of bondage for both White landholder and African slave. One can non assist but be struck by the blunt contrast Smith’s work shows to the real-life experiences of the ex-slave Frederick Douglass as he recounts a life in which all of Smith’s proposals are viciously and routinely disregarded.

William Smith’sLectures on the Philosophy and Practice of Slaveryand Frederick Douglass’sNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. an American Slaveoffer a blunt contrast between the two men’s positions on American bondage. Smith. a White advocate of bondage. outlines what he believes to be a proper and merely relationship between maestro and slave. and disparages those slave proprietors who do non follow the dogmas of this relationship. However. he ne’er hesitates in saying his full support for the establishment itself.

Douglass. who bears the load of bondage firsthand. reveals to the reader a universe immensely different from the “fat. sleek. and cheerful. and long-lived” ( Smith. 1856. p. 291 ) slaves of some of Smith’s observations. His ain journey from bondage to freedom affords the reader a position into a superb head in contrast to what Smith ( 1856 ) believes can merely be the equivalent of “minors. idiots. and barbarian persons” ( p. 282 ) . It is Douglass’s history of his rousing. from a immature slave ignorant of the grounds for his bondage to a erudite adult male of unalienable dignity. which topples the full premiss of Smith’s doctrine.

Smith believes the instructions of the Christian Bible dictate the proper relationship between maestro and retainer. Smith ( 1856 ) besides inside informations what he sees as a moral jussive mood on the portion of White landholders to hold “guardianship” ( p. 277 ) over “God’s hapless. committed to [ the benevolent White maestro ] ” ( p. 309 ) . believing that they must “control and protect them for their net income every bit good as work them for [ the slave and break one’s back owner’s ] common net income. ” ( 309 ) . In Smith’s appraisal. bondage is proper and merely because he assumes White rational and moral high quality over the African slave. He ne’er confuses his call for benevolent intervention of slaves with the thought that the establishment itself may be unfair.

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Smith lays out what he believes are the rights of slaves harmonizing to both Christian philosophy and the jurisprudence of work forces in his society. He divides the responsibilities of the maestro into 3 chief classs: “the responsibility of Masterss to their slaves considered as ‘their money’ . their responsibility to their slaves considered as societal existences. and their responsibility to their slaves considered as spiritual beings” ( Smith. 1856. p. 283 ) . In the first portion. refering slaves considered as masters’ money. Smith includes all of the physical demands of the slave. Working conditions. nutrient. vesture and bedclothes. slumber and remainder. lodging. and free clip are all elaborate harmonizing to what Smith sees as ideal intervention. Woven into the model of these demands is a Christian codification that reminds the maestro that he. excessively. will hold a maestro in Eden. ( p. 277 ) .

Smith Begins by discoursing the rights of the slave in respect to labour. Interestingly. Smith ( 1856 ) first focuses on what he calls a known “idleness” ( p. 284 ) among slaves and warns slave proprietors to be duteous in doing their slaves accountable for their labour. He weaves a form that non merely offers a sense of Christian responsibility on the portion of the slave proprietor. but of the slave every bit good. It is Smith’s insisting upon the righteousness of bondage as a Christian jussive mood that continues to inform and steer his doctrine. Likewise. in all of the other physical amenitiess he asks the slave proprietor to supply the slave. he asks the slave proprietor to “give unto your retainer that which is merely and equal. cognizing that ye besides have a maestro in heaven” ( Smith. 1856. pp. 278-279 ) .

While Smith admonishes those he believes violate the Christian authorization. he shows some assurance that there is non a crisis in the intervention of slaves. In disapprobation of the attitudes of Northern emancipationists. he says that “A most overzealous spirit is abroad in the land on the topic of domestic bondage. The inhumaneness of Masterss at the South is greatly exaggerated” ( Smith. 1856. p. 278 ) . He goes on to compare the intervention of Southern slaves as equivalent to that of hired aid in the North.

Smith seems on one manus to beg the White maestro to break the fortunes of his slaves in order to salvage his really psyche from damnation. while on the other to denounce the attempts of the Northern advocators of freedom. He genuinely believes in a system of bondage wherein the slave is wholly satisfied with his batch in life. and the landholder finds himself a benevolent superintendent who will gain in life and in Eden. The other two subdivisions of Smith’s call to righteous intervention of slaves follow a vena similar to the first. He repeatedly denounces those Masterss who violate his ideal image of bondage while take a firm standing on the rightness and necessity of the establishment itself.

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While Smith’s ideal bondage leads the reader to visualize cheery grazing lands with immature Black slave kids larking and seniors express joying and singing happily. Douglass’s history of existent slave life offers a startling contrast. All of the Christian authorizations of Smith’s bondage are turned asunder. and. in fact. it is the really observation of the faith which causes some of the harshest abuses to happen. Bear a slave on a Maryland plantation. Douglass witnesses perennial Acts of the Apostless of ferociousness upon the grownup slaves in his company. The rumored boy of the maestro. Douglass is given some favour in his early old ages. although he is ne’er fed or clothed plenty. Held up to Smith’s position of bondage. Douglass’s changeless hungriness and uncomfortableness seem all the more unbearable.

If one compares the particulars. Smith’s work calls for slaves to be offered a assortment of the plantation’s nutrient. cooked good and prepared in front of clip so that slaves may bask good nutrition and take two-hour tiffins to decently digest their repast. Douglass’s world. a measly monthly supply of porc or fish and maize repast doled out uncooked. makes Smith’s ( 1856 ) vision of the “early roasting ear. the mature fruit. the melons. the murphies. the fat stock” ( pp. 297-298 ) seem like Eden for a slave. In contrast. Douglass. in chapter 3. describes a big and plentiful garden that slaves were routinely whipped for stealing from. Later. populating with another maestro. Edward Covey. Douglass and his fellow slaves are afforded 5 proceedingss to eat before returning to the field to work until midnight.

Douglass’s history of his old ages in bondage read like a response to Smith at every bend. Douglass recounts continual famishment and uncomfortableness. a universe wherein his merely vesture as a kid was a linen shirt. While Smith negotiations of coats. chapeaus. and places. Douglass speaks of kids from 7 to ten old ages old running naked in winter for deficiency of vesture. While Smith discusses the necessity for comfy beds and encourages the maestro to put up separate quarters to promote fidelity and morality among slaves he believes are less geared toward fidelity than White persons. Douglass speaks with disgust of unrelated groups of people huddled together on soil floors sharing a cover in winter. Douglass’s journey lands him in wholly different fortunes when he is taken to populate in Baltimore with household members of his maestro. and he shows a different side of slave life in the metropolis.

However. possibly the greatest indictment against Smith’s Christian ideal comes when the kept woman of the house changes her demeanour from warm. humane. and welcoming to harsh and cruel under the “fatal toxicant of irresponsible power” ( Douglass. 1845. p 18 ) . Douglass ( 1845 ) notes that “the cheerful oculus. under the influence of bondage. shortly became ruddy with rage” ( p. 18 ) . Douglass shows how. no affair what steps one may take to put a proper class for bondage. to offer the best of universes for all involved. the premiss can non but prostration under the weight of its unfairness. Puting a proper class for bondage is all of a sudden seen every bit being every bit impossible as puting a proper and merely class for slaying or treachery.

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In Douglass’s experience. the inhumaneness of bondage leads to dead psyches executing horrid Acts of the Apostless upon their topics. There is no room for benevolent intervention in a world based on the subjection and demoralisation of others. Possibly the most dramatic difference between the two men’s position comes in the narrative of Douglass’s outcast grandma. He describes how. after raising coevalss of a plantation owner’s household every bit good as her ain. she is left entirely in the forests in a hut to fend for herself. far from the attention of her drawn-out household. Smith asks the reader why it should be hard to afford the aged the soothing manus of relations in his or her concluding yearss. and he implores the maestro to see that the older slaves are given the regard and attention they have a right to. There is a sedate unhappiness in the narrative of Douglass’s grandma who. treated like movable. is offered no such comfort.

If Douglass’s history leaves the reader with anything. it is the feeling that faith and the benefit of being on the fortunate side of a barbarous world have pulled the wool over Smith’s eyes. It is difficult to conceive of that Smith’s contemplations are a mere screen for his deathless support for bondage ; he genuinely seems to believe that Christian charity. manifest fate. and the rights of everyone involved can unify to organize an ideal province of bondage. It is his deathless belief in the lower status of the African slave that finally makes him comfy with the state of affairs.

One sees. nevertheless. that it is no secret to even the least experient maestro that “if you teach [ a slave ] how to read. there would be no maintaining him” ( Douglass. 1845. p. 20 ) . That one fright alone-educating the slave-would non be a fright if the slave were genuinely the inferior animal described in Smith’s histories. And Douglass. who finally does merely what the White maestro frights. provides grounds that there can be no happy bondage. Christian or other. among human existences.


Douglass. Frederick ( 1845 ) .Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. an American Slave. Boston: The Antislavery Office.

Smith. William A. ( 1856 ) .Lectures on the Philosophy and Practice of Slavery.Nashville: Stevenson and Evans.