Process through which Christianity came to condone U.S. slavery
In An Appeal to Caesar Tourgee lays out the way through which Christianity eventually condoned the slavery of African Americans in the United States. Essentially Tourgee describes it in steps with the first being that the Christian religion began with an emphasis on liberty and equality in which no one should hold claim on another human being. However, after the end of the Middle Ages there came an era in which the exploration and conquest of new lands was highly importance. During this time when Christian voyagers came to new realms they attempted to make the natives Christian as well. “Servitude was imposed upon these subjugated heathen as a punishment for unbelief, and perhaps in some cases as an inducement for them to espouse, in the loose and merely formal manner of that day, the tenets of Christianity. From this custom undoubtedly sprung the Christian slavery of the New World” (Item 579). This was decided under the pretense that it was not lawful for one Christian to enslave another brother in the Lord. Thus, it was understood that once a slave became a Christian, it would be not right to continue holding them in bondage so they would be freed. However, this quickly became problematic in the case of American slavery in the 1800s. Even if slave masters were Christian (which many of them were) they still cared deeply about their pivotal economic situation and would choose to safeguard that over their Christian values. This meant that slaveholders wouldn’t allow slaves to be freed upon their conversion to the Christian faith. Thus, this led to the passage of laws in many states such as South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia which stated, “It is hereby enacted and declared that the baptism of slaves
does not exempt them from bondage” (Item 579). This is an interesting process to examine because it shows how throughout time the Christian faith has manipulated their beliefs in order to achieve the best economic situation for them, yet they have also utilized Christianity as their justification for their actions. Slavery was inherently wrong, until they wished to expand their empires and needed a way to reasonably take control over the natives of the areas in which they overtook. Thus, they argued that it was a concern for their wellbeing in their faith that caused them to enslave these individuals. Once Americans took slaves they consistently used the justification of paternalism, that they had a responsibility to care for an inferior race and educate them in Christianity. Yet when they achieved their so called “optimal goal” of bringing slaves to the faith, they simply enacted laws which allowed them to continue to enslave newly Christianized African Americans. In all cases you can see that they masked their wish to be economic stable with a concern for the faith of races they deemed as subordinate.