Reader Response Essay - Slave Purchases and Breeding: Unruly Slave

Reader Response Essay - Slave Purchases and Breeding: Unruly Slave

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Reader Response Essay - Slave Purchases and Breeding: Unruly Slave


My initial response to G. B. Wallace’s letter was one of confusion. As I reread the piece given the title “Slave Purchases and Breeding: Unruly Slave, Wallace, G.B” I realized that it was nothing more than a business letter between a slave owner and an associate of his that could presumably help him out of his situation. The language of the letter created a small barrier, since it was out of date in comparison to contemporary American language, but with a little effort, I could see the author’s intentions. For example, I have never heard the word “aforesaid” used before. Using the context of the letter, I could deduce that it simply means mentioned earlier or said beforehand. This reaction doesn’t surprise me because I rarely read literature from this time period, and anything you don’t do often takes a little time to get used to. I adjusted to the language easily, because the letter was short and simple, thus requiring little patience to understand.

As far as my reaction to the actual subject matter of the letter, I was not overly shocked or repelled by the inhumanity concerning the slaves. I don’t support slavery or reconcile any prejudices. I think human property is very wrong. Americans should be ashamed to bear its disgraces as part of our history. The truth should be known, though; that is part of our history, and many horrible things happened because of it. This short letter, however, did not arouse any of the anger that comes with the portrayal of such injustice.

I am a sensible person, but I am also very sympathetic and sensitive to the needs of others. When extreme prejudices occur, such as slavery, and I read stories or watch movies about it, it really does sadden me. I didn’t feel this way at all after reading this letter about slave trading. Maybe it is because nothing in the letter, such as the tone or word usage, led me to believe that these slaves were being mistreated. Obviously, slavery in itself is mistreatment, but it was also part of the southern culture of that time period. I mean, just because someone owned slaves doesn’t necessarily mean he is a horrible person. People do things that I consider to be immoral all the time, but I don’t condemn them as bad.

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Take premarital sex, for example. I think that it is wrong. A lot of people don’t think it is wrong (or just do it anyway). Does this make them untrustworthy? Definitely not. They just have a different moral code than me; it doesn’t me we can’t e friends or that they’re not loving, generous, caring people. Thomas Jefferson is quite possibly the most important figure in the history of the United States of America. He was the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, the father of the Constitution, and the owner of slaves. I guess recognizing some of his achievements takes some of the wickedness out of that negative connotation that accompanies slave owners.

Maybe as an optimist I try to see the brighter side of the situation, giving G. B. Wallace the benefit of the doubt that he treated his slaves with a degree of respect. The “unruly negro girl,” as Wallace describes her, could truly have been a threat to his other slaves or to his own family. Maybe disposing of her was the only solution; he didn’t kill her (a waste of money, if not due to his compassion). This piece doesn’t really give me enough information to react strongly one way or another, leaving me pretty indifferent and uninterested. I need more background before I can come to a logical opinion. I don’t want to judge irrationally; I generally remain open minded, giving humanity a fair chance before judging personal character.
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