Lesson 115. “What was Thompson’s theory of the relationship between sanctions and slavery?”


In this essay, I will be discussing and answering the essay question above, which states: What was Thompson’s theory of the relationship between sanctions and slavery?


John Thompson was a slave who worked on several plantations in the south of the United States of America. He and many other thousands of black slaves, were victims of the horrible slave system that was very dominant in the southern states of America. Though Thompson did eventually escape from slavery, his memories of the practice were then compiled into an autobiography, so that more people could understand the evils of slavery.

Main Body

Throughout the autobiography, Thompson describes the evils and brutality of some parts of the slave system, which clearly tells the reader that he hated the slave system. Yet, there is also a very interesting thread in the story that explains how, in some cases, slavery was more manageable.

This topic, though not formally stated in the autobiography, is the relationship between sanctions and slavery. This is revealed when Thompson describes the different slave owners he had to work under. Most of them were horrible monsters who treated their slaves very badly, using brute force to make them work. On the other hand, there were a select few slave owners who were kinder to their slaves.

Thompson points out that the slaves who worked for kinder masters, were more willing to work harder, whereas those with evil masters worked out of fear of their owners. This raises the important question, why use brutality when kindness will do the job just as well? The answer is that, no matter what types of people the masters of slaves where, they would always be tempted to misuse their power on the slaves.

Some masters chose to be more mild towards their slaves, whereas others misused their power because they could and even took enjoyment from it. Thompson understood this and pointed out that the slaves who worked for kinder masters usually worked harder than those of brutal masters.


To summarise and conclude the paper, this essay discussed and answered the essay question regarding Thompson’s theory of sanctions and slavery in his autobiography. My conclusion was, that Thompson’s theory was that instituting less harsh sanctions for slaves made them work harder. On the other hand, harsh sanctions just made the slaves work out of fear and subjected them to their masters’ brutalities.


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