This is the essay for lessons 106-110 in the Autobiographies course from the Ronpaul curriculum. In this blog post, I will be telling you: What was Thompson’s theory of the relationship between sanctions and slavery?

John Thompson was a slave who spent 25 years in slavery and was then able to escape. He wrote an autobiography about his ordeal. Thompson had a theory on the relationship between sanctions and slavery. What he meant by sanctions, were the punishments that were put on slaves for disobeying rules.

The first part of Thompson’s theory was that if the sanctions were extremely harsh, then the plantation would be less prosperous. This came from the fact that with harsh sanctions, the slaves would work less, they would be less loyal to their owners and maybe even put sanctions on their overseers and owners. A slave’s sanction was to kill the slave owner or an overseer. They did this because they would rather die than receive the sanctions. 

The reason a lot of slave owners didn’t try to make their plantation prosperous was that they saw slaves as their property. They also thought that they had complete sovereignty over their slaves. This led to them becoming tyrannical. These tyrannical slave owners would commonly put severe sanctions on a slave for the smallest mistakes. There one thing that stopped the slave owners from being even more tyrannical was that there was a law on the maximum amount of whippings allowed for a single mistake. This limit was 39 whippings. Thompson hated that the slave owners thought of themselves as being sovereign. This is because Thompson was a Methodist. He believed that God was sovereign over his people and would enact sanctions on them for their mistakes. He believed that eventually, God would be able to put enough sanctions on the slave system, that it would be abolished. When one of his slave owners died in a fire trying to save his crops, Thompson saw it as one of God’s sanction on slavery. 

One of the other things slave owners gave out sanctions for was the slave’s religion. The slave owners were mostly Episcopalians and they wanted the slaves to share that religion. But, the slaves found it too complicated and instead believed in Methodism. At first, the slave owners tried to stop the Methodist gatherings by putting sanctions on it. But the violence didn’t affect the Methodist gatherings because it made the slaves believe in Methodism more. What did work, was hiring a fiddler to make music for the slaves. This kept the slaves distracted from religion for about 2 years, after which the fiddler left and the Methodist gatherings came back again.