Slavery in the Eighteenth Century as Illustrated Term Paper

  • Length: 5 pages
  • Subject: Literature
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #3950623

Excerpt from Term Paper :

slavery in the eighteenth century as illustrated in the autobiography "The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African."

Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano was an eminent writer from the colonial period. Equiano was actually born in Nigeria, who became the first black slave in America to write an autobiography. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African was first published in 1789. The book is an autobiography where Equiano tells us about the country he was captured from and also about the horrors and cruelties he had to bear because of his enslavement in the West Indies. Equiano, had converted to Christianity, but he was treated by fellow Christians in a very cruel "un-Christian" fashion.

From his famous autobiography, written in 1789,we learn that Olaudah Equiano was born in 1745 in Nigeria. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery when he was only eleven years old. He was bought by a captain in the Royal Navy, and later sold to a Quaker merchant. It was through his second master he learnt about trading and saving that eventually led to his emancipation. As a seaman, he traveled around the world, from the Mediterranean all the way to the North Pole. It was after moving to London, that he became so closely involved in the movement to end the slave trade, and also motivated him to write and publish The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African. The book was an instant bestseller proved to be highly persuasive in ending slavery. This book was written nearly thirty years after he was emancipated from slavery.

By 1797, his book had nine editions, and had been translated in different languages for the European readers, since it was no doubt a best seller. This book had a powerful influence in bringing the human trade to an end, especially in England.

The 1500's, a time of discovery, was when the Europeans came to dominate most of the New World. The Europeans traveled to Africa and captured Africans to help develop their land and satisfy their need for power. As Europeans settled their land and began to build houses, farms and plantations, they realized that they needed servants to assist them in their farming. So people would travel to Africa capture blacks and then sell them to merchants and plantation owners. They would then beat them and put them to long, grueling work. They figured that since the blacks were black and appeared to be less advanced then they must be less significant.

The treatment of the Africans by the Europeans was completely unjustifiable. While the Africans were less technologically advanced and the Europeans were uneducated, in this particular field, nothing can compensate for the actions of the Europeans.

In the movie Roots, there's a part in the movie where they were on a ship and a man brings in a black woman, who was a slave. The man offered her to the ship's captain and referred to her as a belly warmer. The man who was offered the girl you can imagine what must have been going on in that man's head as he said that. This appalled me to a great extent to see how men could treat women as such low characters. People have feelings and cannot be treated as objects. Maybe the Europeans did not realize that these people were, in fact people, and that drove them to this awful conclusion that they could treat people this way.

The next generation whose parents owned slaves and grew up thinking slaves were okay is understandable. But nothing could justify treating the slaves they way they did. They had absolutely no respect for them. They would savagely beat them to get them to work harder than humanly possible and they would rape the women. I don't think that I will ever know how any one could do such a thing.

In the eighteenth century, slave labor and the slave trade played very important roles in the economic and political expansion in Great Britain and in the West Indies. The reason for this was because the sugar colonies of the West Indies and in the port cities of Bristol and Liverpool, the entire economy was dependant on the trafficking of slaves from Africa.

There were also many people who had nothing to do with plantation but became extremely wealthy from running the business of slave trade making huge fortunes. The problem of slavery has been widely written about in many books authored by various writers in the eighteenth-century for eighteenth-century literature.

Equiano in his autobiography tells us about the cruelty endured by the slaves. He also proves that Africans are equal to Europeans in intelligence and otherwise. There are also some parts where he uses criticism and arguments to make his point clear. His main objective was to prove that slavery should be abolished because of its inhuman nature.

The autobiography of Olaudah Equiano contains huge evidence of the cruelty and injustice suffered by the victims of the slave trade. In the eighteenth century, the white people did not want to bring an end to slavery because it was their way of making their fortunes, especially because it was more profitable than wage labor. Slavery led to the beginning of white superiority. Equiano uses many arguments to make points to disapprove the justifications. He even states that slavery is the exploitation of labor, which is incompatible with the capitalist system, incompatible with religious rights of equality, and incompatible as an institution because it that brings out the worse in human beings.

Equiano's main argument against slavery is from an economic perspective because he has written the book with an objective of illustrating the negative impact of slavery on the capitalist system. He also used this system to emancipate from slavery. He implies that harsh treatment of slaves did not reap any sort of benefits for their owners because he believed that if slaves were treated in more human ways, they would not only work harder, but would also be less likely to run away. This meant that the slave owners could benefit from the profits, because slaves would not have to be replaced, and the productivity would be higher as well. This argument of his is true because Equiano himself belonged to the same system. He had many opportunities to run away, but he chooses to stay with his masters and save money so he can buy his way out of slavery. Equiano believes firmly in the system of capitalism, even though he has faced nothing but torture from it. He also advocated that wage labor would strengthen the business world and provide slaves with more justice.

The second economic argument against slavery is where he states that Africa has the resources for starting business other than the slave trade. In his book, he gives us this image that Africa is the source of human supply for Britain. This is how he uses his argument to arouse the interests of the men in the slave trade in Britain, away from slaves and towards businesses that would benefit Africa. He also believes that if blacks were not sold out of Africa, the population would rise, and so would the demand for manufactured goods. Using this concept, he states that the theory of supply-demand would be more profitable than the slave trade for the slave businessmen.

Apart from his economic perspective, Equiano also highlights the social aspects of white superiority as a justification for slavery. He uses every moment he can to prove that blacks can be just as intelligent and equal to whites in every aspect. He attempts to explain the sociological perspective of race issues, in which…

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