Slavery: What Rights did one have as a Slave? Essay

The answer to this question is very simple, none.

Regardless of the position of the person who gave their account on slavery, the answer remained the same. Although the slaves had no rights, the pro-slavery account belittles the amount of work required of a slave, and how in England their treatment would have been crueler; however, the anti-slavery account argued that despite whether or not the life of slaves was better in America, the slaves were still denied basic human rights. In spite of the biases or the main purpose of each account, the conclusion remains the same; Slaves had not rights.Robert Beverly, who wrote about the differentiation between slaves and servants, made a case for the lack of slave rights by accident when he mentioned the rights of servants and omitted those of slaves.

Beverly was a historian of the Virginia colony and he worked in various government positions. His position in society may have accounted for his pro-slavery bias. First of all, he distinguished slaves from servants by ” the names of slaves for life and servants for a time (45). ” In this situation, a servant has the right for their servitude to end after a period of time, while the slave had no right to end his forced labor.Beverly attempted to justify slavery as less severe and cruel when he said, ” that generally their slaves are not worked near so hard, nor as many hours a day, as the husbandmen, and day laborers in England (46).

” Whether or not this statement is valid, the workers Beverly compared the slaves to still had rights within the legal system; they also had the right to decide where and when they wanted to work. In conclusion to his document, Beverly ended with a list of servants rights. This list of rights is more significant for the information which is not present.Most of these laws pertain to the protection of basic human rights, none in which slaves are mentioned. His omission of slave rights indicated the insignificance of their well being to slave owners.

For example, servants were allowed to complain to the courts if there were mistreated, and they were to receive adequate food, clothing, and lodging from their masters (46). Slaves had no right to complain to anyone about the abuses they suffered, and the slaves were not entitled to the basic necessities of life such as adequate food, clothing, and shelter.Beverly could not have cared less about the rights of slaves because the less human he made slaves seem, them more slaves could be exploited.

John Woolman, who wrote about anti-slavery, made his case about the lack of slave rights through conversations with townsmen. Woolman’s account may be bias because he was a Quaker who was against the mistreatment of people. He was also an abolitionist who felt slavery not only hurt the slave, but also the slave owner. Woolman made a point about the lack of the rights of marriage among the slaves.

Many of the white people in those provinces take little or no care of Negro marriages (49). “The slave couples would get married, but because the slaves had no rights these marriages were split apart by slave auctions. The slaves were also denied the basic human necessity of adequate food. The slaves were fed one peck of Indian corn, some salt, and a few potatoes (49). This type of diet would leave anyone on the verge on starvation and is very inhuman, especially after the amount of daily labor. The slaves were also barely clothed, which also contributed to the dehumanization of the slaves.In the end, Woolman concluded that, ” These are people who have made no agreement to serve us, and who have not forfeited their liberty as we know of (49). ” They were treated poorly and forced to labor without agreement on their part.

These people who deserved to have certain rights on the mere basis of their humanity were denied any and all rights. Beverly’s document is limited as a source because the omission of slave rights in the document can be open to interpretation. One could argue that slave rights may have been in the original book in 1705, but were taken out in the revision in 1722.The limitation of Woolman as a source is that his document came from his personal journal, which became the foundation of abolitionism. The events that occurred in his journal may have been embellished to exemplify his anti-slavery message. I believe that both of these sources are credible in proving my point about the lack of slave rights; however, Woolman’s document is the more credible of the two sources.

Woolman purposely sought to prove the lack of slave rights, while Beverly accidentally proves this point by only listing the rights of servants. His omission directly showed the insignificance of the well-being and rights of slaves.