By Marie Seva
Slave codes were laws set to govern the relationship between the owners and the enslaved in the United States. It defined the privileges of the owners and the limitations of those in servitude. Slave codes varied in each state, but because slaves were considered property, the codes were not fit to be implemented on human beings.
Below are 10 of the most absurd slave codes that were enforced in the 1800s and earlier:
- Slaves were not allowed to attend church or any social or religious gathering.
- Because they were regarded as property themselves, slaves could not own any property.
- Because they were thought of as “chattel,” slaves were not to receive wages for their services and hard labor.
- Slaves were prohibited from being educated. They were not allowed to go to schools, nor were they allowed to study, read or write. In fact in some states, if one was caught teaching a slave to read or to write, he would be subject to a fine of $100.
- Slaves were prohibited from getting married. Since they were not recognized as legal entities, they could not engage into a legal contract of marriage. Their marriage would not be recognized by law. If they had children, the children would likewise be owned and could be sold to other owners. Slaves had no marital right, parental right or any legal right.
- Enslaved men and women could be merchandised as a property. They were sold, purchased, and bartered. They could also be given up as security or for payment of debt, and passed on from an inheritance.
- If slaves tried to escape from his or her owner or master, the owner had the right to look for, reclaim, and kill him or her for the crime, if he chooses to.
- Because they were considered property, slaves could not file a complaint, nor a suit against their masters.
- They were not allowed to work for their freedom, nor were the owners allowed to grant them their freedom.
- There were no restrictions on what an owner could demand of a slave, or what the owner could do to the slave. Even if it constituted abuse or resulted in the death of the slave, owners could enforce their limitless power over their slaves in any way they saw fit.
It is difficult to believe that people of earlier times had succumbed to such inhuman practices, treating others as animals or objects. Thankfully, men had become more civilized, which resulted to the abolition of the slave codes. Yet, today, crimes and violence are still existent, resulting in the hurt, abuse and even death of some. When will man ever learn that true power and wisdom comes not with exercising power over others, but with having the choice to employ power but choosing to do otherwise, because of having something much greater, something that does not only manifest strength from the outside, but more importantly, strength from within? True strength should not be skin deep, but rooted deeply in one’s being. It is shown not in the use of force, but rather, in one’s magnanimity of spirit.