Another example of a master whoturns corrupt due to slavery is Thomas Auld, Lucreita Auld’s husband. He cameinto possession of slaves through marriage, so he was not used to the power andresponsibility of being a slaveholder; this luxury was something “new andunprepared for” (Douglass 260). However, this power turns him into a vicious,hypocritical, inhumane man who uses his religion in order to remain blind tothe sins he commits through slavery. Douglass states, “I indulged a faint hopethat his conversion would lead him to emancipate his slaves, and that, if hedid not do this, it would, at any rate, make him more kind and humane…but afterhis conversion, he found religious sanction and support for his slaveholdingcruelty” (Douglas 260). Auld uses his newfound religion as a reason to be evencrueler to Douglass. Religion is supposed to change someone for the better; notturn them more barbaric. However, Thomas Auld is so warped by the wicked effectsof slavery that no one, not even God, can save him from falling deeper intothis web of corruption.
There is no going back because this power of holdingslaves dominates his whole being and makes him more malicious, “He was a meanman; and like most other mean men, he lacked the ability to conceal hismeanness” (Douglas 259). This was not always the case for Thomas, but his kindcharacter was irreversibly changed after a short time as a slaveholder. Slaverytransformed him for the worst. Douglass, after his emancipation, speaks withother slaves about Thomas Auld’s hypocrisy as a slaveholder. Thomas Auld usesreligion as a way to cover up his barbaric actions toward his slaves.
Douglassrecalls Thomas Auld’s dishonesty and writes in his “Letter to His Old Master”;”They have little respect for your honesty and less for your religion” (Qtd inAndrews ed. 105). Thomas Auld uses his religion as a way to justify slavery andkeep his mind at ease.
He knows deep down in the bottom of his heart thatslavery is wrong, but he uses his religion in order to hide this reality.Eventually, these lies and self-deceptions just keep building upon one anotherand ultimately turn him into a hypocrite. Thomas Auld believes that hisreligion is a God- given right to treat slaves crueler. Douglass recalls how heuses religion in order to justify his treatment of a helpless female slave: I have said my master foundreligious sanction for his cruelty…I have seen him tie up a lame young woman,and whip her with a heavy cow skin upon her naked shoulders, causing the warmred blood to drip; and, in justification of the bloody deed, he would quotethis passage of Scripture— “He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth itnot, shall be beaten with many stripes.” (Douglas 261) Thisgoes ahead to show how slavery completely disfigures slaveholders character andtheir whole being. Scripture is to be used to keep us from stumbling and alsoto identify what is moral and immoral, but we see that Mr. Auld uses scriptureto justify his barbaric ways to his Slaves.
Religious slaveholders, like Auld,believed that these physical punishments inflicted on the slaves are acceptablebecause God said so. So, under the false condition that this type of treatmentis in line with God’s will, they whip innocent slaves. In reality, this iscontradictory to the Scriptures. God’s message is one of selflessness and love,”A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you mustlove one another” (New American Bible, John 13:34). However, they interpretedGod’s will as a way to feel better about themselves when they punish theinnocent slaves.
Once again, this shows how slavery completely changes whatonce were honest human beings into fraudulent, excuse-making slaveholders.Douglass, in his speech What to the Slave is the Fourth of July, describes thehypocrisy of slaveholders and America as a whole, “Your prayers and hymns…withall your religious parade…are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety,and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation ofsavages” (Qtd in Andrews ed. 119). The Fourth of July is a joyful day to theAmerican people, but a mockery to slaves. It is supposed to be celebratingindependence, yet slaves are still treated as less than human by theslaveholders. In addition, Douglass points out that religion is simply a way tocover up this hypocrisy and make slavery seem justifiable. Douglass says thatwhen the slaveholders attempt to cover up their inhumane treatment of slaveswith religion, it makes them more phony and imposturous.
Through his own experiences as aslave, Douglass shows how slavery turns an honest, dignified human being intobarbaric slaveholder. Both Sophia Auld and Thomas Auld were previouslyunaffected by slavery, but quickly transformed into beasts. Perhaps the mostimportant lesson is that the vicious effects of slavery can trap anyone in itsweb of corruption; even those least expected.