Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Ruinous Influence of Arbitrary Power

This selection will be that last I will share from Slavery Unmasked. While in Charleston, author Philo Tower witnessed some disturbing scenes and according to him, spoke to some individuals that were against slavery in principle if not in practice. Those people were apparently disturbed by the violence that often comes from one person owing another. By legally owning someone a sense of superiority and tyranny arises - something that Tower described as "the ruinous influence of arbitrary power."

One woman (her name was not given) told Tower about another Charleston woman that, on the surface was well respected in the community, but at home, terrorized her slaves.

The informant said, "I have known her thus on the watch . . .scolding for more than a hour at a time, in so loud and boisterous a voice that the whole neighborhood could hear her; and this without the least apparent feeling of shame. Indeed, it is no disgrace among slave-holders, and did not in the least injure her standing, either as a lady or a Christian, in the aristocratic circle in which she moved."

This woman was apparently vicious. "This mistress would occasionally send her slaves, male and female, to the inquisition (slave pen) for more savage punishment than she could possibly inflict at her house. One poor girl whom she sent there for torture, was stripped naked and whipped so horribly that deep gashes were made in her back sufficiently large to lay my whole finger in them - large pieces of flesh had actually been cut our by the torturing lash. I have seen it in the hands of the most unmerciful inquisitors; may God have mercy on them for it, for the devil never will . . . .

This professedly Christian woman was a most awful illustration of the ruinous influence of arbitrary power upon the temper. Her bursts of passion upon the heads of her victims were dreaded even by her own children, and very often all the pleasure of social intercourse around the domestic board was destroyed, by ordering the cook into her presence and storming at him when the dinner or breakfast was not prepared to her taste, and in the presence of all her children, commanding the waiter to slap his face. . . It was common for her to order brothers to whip their sisters, and sisters their own brothers; and yet no woman visited among the poor than she did, or gave more liberally to their wants. But her own slaves must feel the power of her tyrannical arm, and know and keep their places."

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