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Did the Slaves Steal? (Part III)

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Ladies and gentlemen of this Old South kangaroo court. As co-counsel with Mr. Fredrick Douglass in defense of the slaves, I will summarize Mr. Douglass’ points, add others he did not mention, and address a wider concept of whether the slaves engaged in stealing. Although the purpose of a closing argument is to persuasively present the substance of the facts without generating hostility, I must tell the truth, no matter how painful.

Stealing has always been a taboo in all nation’s system of values. These values derive from the experiences of family living and are shaped by contact with other people from the perspective of what is in the best interest of all to live in a civilized setting.

Because people have always had lusts of passion, appetites for something lacking, and envy for something someone else has, taking another’s belongings is a universal crime -- in all ages and in all cultures and as viewed by every victim. Stealing in ancient times was considered the purposeful taking of something without right and for an unworthy end. If violence was involved, this was called robbery.

All sacred books of all major religions have laws against stealing and robbery. For example, the penalty for man-stealing in Mosaic Law was death (Ex. 22). In the Bible, prophets warned against robbing one’s neighbor (Lev. 19:13); the fatherless (Isa. 10:2); and the poor (Prov. 22:22). Malachi protested against a man robbing God of his just due (Mal. 3:8). A rejection of the moral authority of God (lev. 19:11-13) occurred by withholding justice from the oppressed by violating an individual’s rights, and by wrongfully taking one’s property.

As Mr. Douglass has stated, the African American slave system was the off-spring of hell itself and this automatically implies a rejection of the moral authority of God.

History clearly tells us that every African brought into the African American slave system was robbed of freedom, family, culture, language, marriage partner, children, values, language, self-esteem, mental stimulation, destination in life, possessions, choices, happiness, and everything making one a human being. As if this was not bad enough for the individual slave, patterns were purposely and evilly designed to keep Black people in mental, educational, and economical bondage “forever”. The way this is set up, even when actual physical legal bondage has ended, de facto (non-legal) physical bondage will persist in Black ghettos.

Mr. Douglass said that the foundation of all slavery and oppression is the sinful pride, desire for unlimited power, and greed. These came into fashion with the rise of individualism and materialism at the end of the European Middle Ages. Traditional vices became desirable and respectable.

This occurred at the time Europeans had perfected the gun invented by the Arabs in 1304 and were able to invade the peaceful dark skinned people of the world so as to rob them of their possessions, their land, and their freedom. Now all that stood in their way was to get the church’s approval indicating these robberies were not a sin. This was easy because the church had slaves and took bribes to clear the robbers of their sins.

The final blow was to rob African slaves of their humanness. Because of their capability and willingness to kill anybody who resisted, the captors manipulated the Bible to justify all of their evil deeds. People who accept God as the creator of the loving universe will agree that spiritual law says theft, robbery, or murder forfeits their right to any claims of what they have wrongfully claimed as their possessions.

The Bible says people will “reap what they sow.” If they sow evil, they deserve like kind evilness -- and in even greater abundance. Thus, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, our defense position is that the pilfering (stealing in small quantities) and filching (stealing slyly) engaged in by the slaves were not stealings in a moral sense. In fact, slaves never did steal anything from their captors because everything the captors had actually belonged to the slaves!!!

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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