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Slavery Effects on Enslaved People and Slave Owners Essay

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Updated: Apr 13th, 2022


Slavery had many negative effects on the enslaved people as discussed by Douglass in the book, “Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass” and McPherson in the book, “What they fought for 1861-1865”. Reflecting on the life of Douglass Frederick and written in prose form, the narrative defines the thoughts of the author on various aspects of slavery from the social, economic, security, and the need for appreciation of human rights perspectives.

On the other hand, the book, “What they fought for 1861-1865” is vital in understanding history of America and how wars change the social and political systems. Thus, this analytical treatise attempts to explicitly compare and contrast the views of Douglass and McPherson on effects of slavery on enslaved people and slave owners.

Effects of slavery on enslaved people

Across the first six chapters, Douglass explores several instances when slavery created an unequal social and economic environment between the slaves and those who enslaved them. To begin with, unlike the white children, Douglass and other blacks were not allowed to know their date of birth.

The children of the slaves were separated from their mothers by the slave owners at a tender age. The female slaves were subjected to sexual abuse by their owners and the children, out of these sexual exploits, were forced by the law to become slaves (Douglass, 13).

The slaves were subjected to vicious attacks by their mean masters. For instance, Aunt Hester was violently whipped by the Captain in what Douglass described as a hellish encounter. Besides, Mr. Gore, who is a ranch foreman, promptly shot a slave called Demby for refusing to vacate the creek after enduring physical attack by the mean and proud supervisor (Douglass, 31).

The slaves were never given beds and had to survive on bare minimal allowances consisting of a single piece of linen, pork and hardly enough corn. The freedom of speech and expression were not part of the master-slaver relationship. For instance, Colonel Lloyd was very mad at the honesty of one of the slaves that he had to sell him for speaking the truth.

Same as Douglass’ views on the effects of slavery on enslaved people, McPherson’s book defines the American conflict as greatly contributed by the inhuman treatment of slaves. He states that the “confederates fought for independence, for their property and way of life, for their survival as a nation” (McPherson, 27).

McPherson captures the memoirs of the soldiers and their resentments on brutality, sexual harassment, and denial of freedom of expression as the underlying factors which inspired them to go into the battle field.

McPherson underlines the ideological commitment and patriotism of the soldiers as a result of deep convictions to seek independence, freedom, and basic human rights for the slaves. Reflectively, “a large number of those men in blue and gray were intensely aware of the issues at stake and passionately concerned about them” (McPherson, 4). The author represents human interaction and belonging to a particular ideology as elevating visions of human society as free of slavery.

Due to unstructured relationship between the slaves and their masters, harmony balance was threatened by sudden changes in the social systems as influenced by the capitalist oriented slave owners. This brought questions on how people need to stay together and to attain their needs equitably, without involving in overindulgence, selfishness, and myopia.

Many soldiers endeavored to comprehend the revolutionary implications of the conflict as it continued to evolve in an ordinary arena of ideological expression within their scope of view (McPherson, 31).

Understanding the position of the slaves, in the then human society, requires critical analysis of cognitive values attached to practices, beliefs, and social dynamics which controlled and aligned the society towards astute of simultaneously interacting functions.

State of anarchy as a result of the conflict brought threat to the peaceful coexistence as a result of life interference brought about by slavery. Unlike Douglass who lived through the experience, McPherson adopted the passive voice in reporting the thoughts and views of the soldiers on slavery (Henretta and Brody, 21).

Effects of slavery on slave owners

Douglass reflects on cheap labor, abuse of power, exploitation of humanity, expansion of profits, and entertainment as the benefits that slave owners had. To begin with, the slaves were treated as a commodity and provided cheap and abundant labor to the slave owners operating as a human exploitation cartel.

Captain Anthony, Gore, and other slave owners become very successful since they expanded their farms by exploiting the free labor provided by the slaves. The slaves were also objects of entertainment, sexual exploits, and part of assets which would quantify a slave owner’s wealth. Douglass, Demby, and other slaves are reminded of their position as servants of the powerful slaver owners (Douglass, 21).

The author identifies the need to expand dominance as factor which influenced the slave owners to buy slaves for their expansive ventures. Douglass is successful in linking the social, economic, and cultural elements of the slave owners to the establishment of a tight system of selling and buying slaves at will, irrespective of age or choice.

The growing interest from both ends of the divide spurred the slave trade relationship. This trade was protected from external interferences by the laws that slave owners and other agencies quickly created, especially when a situation demanded for such (Douglass, 21).

On the other hand, McPherson highlights the great economic leap experienced by the slave owners who capitalized on weak laws, influential organizations, and intimidation to reap maximum benefits, without having to incur any major costs of production. He explores the social class structure and how economics influenced the nature of the relationship the soldiers had with past experiences.

The author is successful in establishing the basic elements of social class structure as determined by the ability to organize unwilling human beings as commodities of sale in the form of slaves (McPherson, 23).

In unison, Douglass displays the ungratefulness and cunning nature of the slave owners towards their slaves despite getting free labor and maximum returns (Douglass, 31). Excessive harassment by the slave owners spilled into conflict as the soldiers were determined to restore their lost right (McPherson, 13).


The authors display a ferocious literature that identifies the aspects of racism and stereotyping in the early society of America as a result of slavery and slave trade. Slavery is presented as having imprisoned the blacks and half casts who are traded in the labor market as a commodity. The unfair treatment of slaves by the slave owners inspired conflict as the soldiers were determine to restore their rights and those of the slaves.

Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass. New York, NY: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.

Henretta, James, & Brody David. America: A Concise History. New York, NY: Bedford, 2009. Print.

McPherson, James. What they fought for 1861-1865. New York, NY: Anchor Books, 1995. Print.

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