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The Corrupting Power of Slavery
Jacobs takes great pains to prove that there can be no “good” slave masters. She argues that slavery destroys the morality of slave holders, almost without exception. Slave holders such as Dr. Flint become inhumane monsters. With no legal checks on their behavior, they inflict every conceivable kind of torture on their servants. Most slave masters view slaves as little more than animals or objects, never acknowledging their humanity. But even “kindly” slave holders, such as Mr. Sands, show themselves capable of betraying their slaves when it is convenient or profitable. Mr. Sands promises to free his slave children and may even intend to do so at first. However, in the slave system, such good intentions are easily forgotten. If a slave owner such as Mr. Sands encounters financial problems, he will likely be tempted to sell his own children to get himself out of trouble. Thus, slavery distorts even the most basic emotional instinct: the love of a parent for a child.
Slaves also suffer from the influence of the slave system on their moral development. Linda does not condemn slaves for illegal or immoral acts such as theft or adultery, saying that they usually have no choice but to behave this way. However, she also points out that slaves have no reason to develop a strong ethical sense, as they are given no ownership of themselves or final control over their actions. This is not their fault, but the fault of the system that dehumanizes them. Slaves are not evil like their masters, but important parts of their personalities are left undeveloped.